Early Reading and Phonics – Reception

Reading is a high priority for all pupils who attend Henleaze Infant School. Reading is a gateway to future learning and parental partnership is essential to support your child’s learning. We teach the building blocks of reading through phonics lessons and reading sessions. At home is where children practise the skills they have learnt in school and continue to develop their reading for pleasure by listening to stories read by you. Please read the information below about Early Reading and Phonics at Henleaze Infant School. 

We are inviting you to the Reception patio between 3pm and 3:20pm on Tuesday 21st September 2021 where you can ask the Reception Team any questions about this information. There is a phonics glossary at the bottom of this blog post should you wish to refer to it at any time. 

Phonics lessons

At Henleaze Infant School, we follow a progressive phonics scheme called ‘Unlocking Letters and Sounds’. This scheme is new to our school, therefore there are some changes that have been made and some elements will be different to previous years. We will be teaching 4 phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (letters) per week. We will start with ‘Phase 2’ and move onto ‘Phase 3’. 

Phase 2 phonemes: s a t p i n m d g o c k ck e u r h b f ff l ll s ss

Phase 3 phonemes: j v w x y z zz qu ch sh th ng ai ee igh oa oo ar or ur ow oi ear air ure er

By the end of Phase 3 the children will know one way of reading and writing down each of the 44 phonemes (sounds). 

During a phonics lesson, the children will learn the letter sounds (phonemes) and the shapes that make them (graphemes) as well as the alphabet names. Alongside this, they will learn the action to match the phoneme. We also teach the children some common exception words (CEW). These are words which are used often but can’t always be segmented into sounds e.g. ‘go’. Every phonics lesson will follow the same format:

  • Revisit the phonemes and common exception words already learnt using flashcards
  • Teach the new phoneme and common exception word/words
  • Practise blending and segmenting using the phoneme learnt. Practise the formation of the new grapheme on whiteboards
  • Applying by using the new phoneme to write a word/caption/sentence
  • Revising/recapping what we learnt during the lesson

Please check the class blog to find out when the phonemes are being taught and find fun ways to reinforce this learning when you can. We will be continually assessing children to ensure they are making progress and retaining knowledge of phonemes. If your child has some knowledge gaps, we will inform you and start doing extra practice with them either 1:1 or in a small group.


Reading involves blending the phonemes in words together e.g. c-a-t blended together is cat. All our reading books are phonetically decodable and closely follow the progression of phonics teaching. Children read books that match their level of phonic knowledge and blending skills. Your child will read individually with their teacher or teaching assistant and also in small groups. Writing words involves segmenting words into phonemes e.g. to spell cat you segment it into c-a-t. 

Guided reading groups 

Children will read in a small group with children who are reading at a similar level. The books will be at a slightly higher level than their individual levelled reading books, which enables focused teaching of reading skills.

Home reading 

Reading at home with your child should be a celebration of the skills that the children are learning at school; an opportunity to reinforce, practise and refine. Children will read books at a level where they can blend the phonemes and read words independently. In order to develop confidence and mastery of these skills, your child will bring home one reading book a week  that is closely matched to their phonetic ability and they will know all of the phonemes the book contains. Please read this book with them every day to develop their blending, decoding and fluency skills. Reading the same book daily for several days helps to develop fluency and embed phonic knowledge and skills. We ask that you record this in their reading log book which will be sent home with them when they are allocated their first reading book. Please write a positive comment everyday about your child’s reading. When your child reads with their teacher, they will look at this to see how they are engaging with their reading at home and read comments made by parents/carers. We will occasionally write a comment in the log book too. We also subscribe to Bug Club (ActiveLearn by Pearson) where you can access some online reading books for home reading. Your child’s log in details will be provided soon. 

Things to do with your child’s weekly reading book:

  • Match spoken words with written words by encouraging your child to point to each word 1:1 as they read.
  • Reread it multiple times to build confidence.
  • Encourage children to find and use the phonemes they have been learning. 
  • Blend phonemes to read simple CVC words, and later more complex words.
  • Practise reading common exception words (CEW) and spot them in their reading book.
  • Ask questions to check comprehension.

Your child will bring home one story book a week from Monday 13th September. They will continue to bring home one a week to foster their love of reading and this will support their reading for pleasure. You will need to read this book to them as it is likely that they will not have learnt the skills to read it independently. It is very important to keep reading other stories to your children!

All Reception children will change their reading for pleasure book and their phonetically decodable reading book on a Monday. We ask that you support your child to put the books you have at home in their bag on a Monday morning.


Phoneme – The sound a letter makes. There are 44 phonemes in English. Phonemes can be put together to make words.

Grapheme – A way of writing down a phoneme. Graphemes can be made up from 1 letter e.g. p, 2 letters e.g. sh, 3 letters e.g. tch or 4 letters e.g ough.

Digraph – A grapheme containing two letters that makes just one sound (phoneme) e.g. sh, ch, ai.

Trigraph – A grapheme containing three letters that makes just one sound (phoneme) e.g. igh, ear, air.

Split digraph – A digraph that is split between a consonant (a-e in make). A split digraph usually changes the sound of the first vowel. For example, compare the pronunciation between man and made. 

Oral Blending – This involves hearing phonemes and being able to merge them together to make a word. 

GPCs – This is short for Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence. Knowing a GPC means being able to match a phoneme to a grapheme and vice versa.

Blending- This involves looking at a written word, looking at each grapheme and using knowledge of GPCs to work out which phoneme each grapheme represents and then merging these phonemes together to make a word. This is the basis of reading.

Oral Segmenting – This is the act of hearing a whole word and then splitting it up into the phonemes that make it. Children need to develop this skill before they will be able to segment words to spell them.

Segmenting – This involves hearing a word, splitting it up into the phonemes that make it, using knowledge of GPCs to work out which graphemes represent those phonemes and then writing those graphemes down in the right order. This is the basis of spelling.

CEW – This is short for common exception words. These are words that are commonly used in English, but they have spelling patterns that make them difficult to read and write using the introductory phonics knowledge e.g. the, said, was. 

Vowel – The letters a, e, i, o and u. 

Consonant – Letter of the alphabet (excluding a, e, i, o and u).

CVC- A word made up of the letter that are Consonant, Vowel Consonant e.g. cat

CVCC – A word made up of the letters that are Consonant, Vowel Consonant Consonant e.g. flag.

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