Letters and Sounds

Last modified 19/02/2013 14:50

Letters and Sounds


This is one of the schemes we use at Bishopston Primary School – it is not the only teaching tool we use for the teaching of reading.


Spoken English uses about 42 sounds (phonemes). These phonemes are represented by letters (graphemes). The alphabet contains only 26 letters, but we use it to make all the graphemes that represent the phonemes of English. In other words, a sound can be represented by a letter (e.g. ‘s’) or a group of letters (e.g. ‘th’ or ‘igh’)

Once children begin learning letters, they are used as quickly as possible in reading and spelling words. Children can then see the purpose of learning letters. For this reason, the first six letters taught are ‘s’, ‘a’, ‘t’, ‘p’, ‘i’, ‘n’. These can immediately be used to make a number of words such as ‘sat’, ‘pin’, ‘pat’, ‘tap’, ‘nap’


Letters and Sounds is a six-phase programme designed to help teach children to read and spell with phonics.

Phase One

The aim of this phase is to foster children’s speaking and listening skills as preparation for learning to read with phonics.

Phase Two – Four

Phase Two is when systematic, high quality phonic work begins.

During Phase Two to Four, children learn:

* How to represent each of the 42 sounds by a letter or sequence of letters.

*How to blend sounds together for reading and how to segment (split) words for spelling.

*Letter names e.g. through an alphabet song. It is generally best to leave teaching letter names until children are secure with the alphabet letter sounds, as these are what are important when learning to read with phonics.

*How to read and spell some high frequency ‘tricky’ words containing sounds not yet learnt (e.g. they, my, her, you).

The Letters and Sounds Programme suggests an order for teaching the letters, and a fast pace of one Set per week. It recognises, however, that children’s personal experience of letters varies enormously. Most importantly, it progresses from the simple to the more complex aspects of phonics at a pace that is suitable for the children.

Phase Five

Children learn new ways of representing the sounds and practise blending for reading and segmenting for spelling.

Phase Six

During this phase, children become more fluent readers and increasingly accurate spellers.


Using magnetic boards and letters is an effective way to help children learn letters and develop their reading and spelling skills in a multi-sensory way. Children find using them enjoyable and easy to understand and apply.

Other useful resources include:

  • Flash cards
  • Wall Frieze or poster
  • Alphabet puzzles
  • Alphabet games such as ‘I-Spy’, Phonics Lotto/Bingo
  • Word games such as Word Lotto/ Bingo, Word Dominoes