St. Catherine's Guide to Phonics 


Today, children are taught to read using phonics, which is all about the sounds that make up words. Children start by learning the letters and the sounds they make, and how to put them together to make and read simple words. Then they learn how letters combine to make new sounds (such as SH), and move on to longer words and new reading skills.

This system of phonics is called synthetic phonics


But what exactly is synthetic phonics? 

It doesn’t mean ‘fake’ or man-made phonics, it means the synthesising or blending of phonemes (sounds) to read words.


Watch this YouTube clip from a specialist reading teacher to find out more about what it's all about and why we do no longer teach reading the way most of us were taught when we were at school. 

In summary, synthetic phonics teaches children: 

  • That spoken and written words are composed of phonemes 
  • How to pronounce all 44 phonemes and how each may be represented
  • How to blend phonemes together to read a word
  • How to segment words into phonemes to spell 
  • How to use their phonics knowledge as the primary approach to reading and spelling unknown words 

Once your child starts to learn to read and spell with synthetic phonics you will see it is very different from the way you learned to read… 

It’s much quicker 

Older approaches teach one sound a week, but synthetic phonics teaches a set of 4-8 sounds (phonemes) right away, and with these sounds children can read and spell up to 40 words!

It teaches both reading and spelling 

The beauty of synthetic phonics is that as you teach a child to read with a set of sounds you also teach them how to spell with those same sounds. Gone are the days of having separate spelling list from a reading list.

It’s rigorous  

Every one of the 44 sounds of the English language is taught. Many older phonics approaches only teach the basic sounds of the alphabet. By the end of a synthetic phonics programme, the most confident readers and spellers know all 44 sounds and how to spell each of these. 

It’s systematic

We don’t learn to drive by starting with a three-point turn! Likewise, reading and spelling should start very simply and gradually build in complexity. If children have only learnt 10 sounds, we aren’t going to confuse them with words that use the 26th or 42nd sound of the English language. Every single word the children will read or spell will only use those sounds they have so far learnt. This acts as a huge motivator and confidence booster for the children as they discover there is a way to crack the reading code.


Here's another video, this time from Mr Thorne Does Phonics. In this video he goes through each sound in the order we teach them here at St. Catherine's. 


Finally if you'd like to find out more about how you can support your child in learning phonics then the best way is to speak to your child's class teacher who will be more than happy to answer any questions you have. 

Please also don't forget that YouTube can be an amazing educational resource... type in Mr Thorne and you will shown a huge wealth of his phonics videos.