Letters and Sounds

Children learn to read through a Phonics system called Letters and Sounds. This is known as “synthetic phonics”, which when combined with “analytical phonics” enables a large number of words in the English language to be decoded, for example “c-a-t”. Children will initially learn phonemes, the sounds that individual and groups of letters make.

Letters and sounds is a programme that runs on into school. It consists of six phases, of which we introduce phase one and some of the letter sounds for phase two whilst the children are in their final year at Wombatz (i.e. starting reception the next September).


Phonemes – the shortest sounds a word can be broken in to – for example cat is “c-a-t”, shed is “sh-e-d”.

Graphemes – how a phoneme is written. There can be more than one grapheme for each phoneme, for example the sound “ow” can be written “ow”, “au” or “ou”.

CVC words – three letter words consisting of consonant-vowel-consonant, e.g. cat. You can also get CCVC words e.g. shed and CVCC words e.g. must.

Diagraphs – two letters together that make one sound e.g. sh, ch, ow. (this is extended to trigraphs and polygraphs).

Listening and speaking skills (Phase 1)

At the heart of phase 1 are listening and speaking skills to give children a firm foundation. Being secure in phase 1 is a firm foundation for further phases but children do not have to be able to complete all the challenges it sets before moving onto phase 2.

Phase 1 introduces children to a range of sounds, encouraging them to listen, identify and copy them. It is divided into seven aspects:

Aspect 1: General sound discrimination – environmental sounds

Aspect 2: General sound discrimination – instrumental sounds

Aspect 3: General sound discrimination – body percussion

Aspect 4: Rhythm and rhyme

Aspect 5: Alliteration

Aspect 6: Voice sounds

Aspect 7: Oral blending and segmenting

We introduce these to the children in a separate circle time (at lunchtime for the older children) through a series of games and by modelling good listening.

What can I do at home?

Encourage your child to listen to sounds around them in the environment – encourage them to identify them.

Play games that involve listening – clap out a rhythm for your child to copy or add rhythm to music that you are listening to.

Encourage your child to make up simple rhyming strings or funny alliterations (tonight for tea we’re having silly sausages, pretty peas and monster mash….).

Make funny sounds with your voice and encourage your child to copy. For children that find making some sounds hard copying whilst looking in a mirror can help.

Introducing Letter Sounds (Phase 2 onwards)

We introduce sounds in the following groups using the actions below to help the children remember them. From October half term we will be introducing them along with phase 1 games to encourage the children to use the sounds they are learning in the games.

Group 1

s           Wave hand in an s shape, like a snake, and say ssssss.

a           Wiggle fingers above elbow as if ants crawling on you and say a, a, a.

t            Turn head from side to side as if watching tennis and say t, t, t.

i            Pretend to be a mouse by wriggling fingers at end of noise and squeak i, i, i.

p           Pretend to puff out candles and say p, p, p.

n           Make a noise, as if you are a plane – hold arms out and say nnnnnn.

Group 2

c k        Raise hands and snap fingers as if playing castanets and say ck, ck, ck.

e           Pretend to tap an egg on the side of a pan and crack it into the pan, saying eh, eh, eh.

h           Hold hand in front of mouth panting as if you are shaking out of breath and say h, h, h

r            Pretend to be a puppy holding a piece of rag, shaking head from side to side, and say rrrrrr.

m          Rub tummy as if seeing tasty food and say mmmmmm.

d           Beat hands up and down as if playing a drum and say d, d, d.

Group 3

g           Spiral hand down, as if water going down the drain, and say g, g, g.

o           Pretend to turn light switch on and off and say o, o, o, o.

u           Pretend to be putting up an umbrella and say u, u, u.

l            Pretend to lick a lollipop and say l, l, l, l, l, l.

f            Let hands gently come together as if toy fish deflating, and say f, f, f, f, f, f.

b           Pretend to hit a ball with a bat and say b, b, b.

Group 4

ai          Cup hand over ear and say ai, ai, ai

j            Pretend to wobble on a plate and say j, j, j.

oa         Bring hand over mouth as if you have done something wrong and say oh!

ie          Stand to attention and salute, saying ie ie.

ee or     Put hands on head as if ears on a donkey and say eeyore, eeyore.

Group 5

z           Put arms out at sides and pretend to be a bee, saying zzzzzz.

w          Blow on to open hand, as if you are the wind, and say wh, wh, wh.

ng         Imagine you are a weightlifter, and pretend to lift a heavy weight above your head, saying ng…

v           Pretend to be holding the steering wheel of a van and say vvvvvv.

oo OO    Move head back and forth as if it is the cuckoo in a cuckoo clock, saying u, oo; u, oo (Little and long oo)

Group 6

y            Pretend to be eating a yoghurt and say y, y, y.

x            Pretend to take an x-ray of someone with an x-ray gun and say ks, ks, ks.

ch          Move arms at sides as if you are a train and say ch, ch, ch.

sh          Place index finger of lips and say sh sh sh.

th th      Pretend to be naughty clowns and stick out tongue a little for the th, and further for the th sounds (this and thumb).

Group 7

qu          Make a duck´s beak with your hands and say qu, qu, qu.

ou          Pretend your finger is a needle and prick thumb saying ou, ou, ou.

oi           Cup hands around mouth and shout to another boat saying oi! Ship ahoy!

ue          Point to people around you and say you, you, you.

er           Roll hands over each other like a mixer and say er er er.

ar           Open mouth wide and say ah.  (UK English).  Flap hands as if a seal, and say ar, ar, ar.

What can I do at home?

Reinforce your childs learning by playing games (such as sound lotto) and pointing out those letters that they have learnt on signs and in books.

When teaching your child to write their name use letter sounds and write it in small letters with a capital at the beginning.

Use messy play to promote letter writing (e.g. writing letters in shaving foam)- if your child is not ready for letters yet encourage them to retrace vertical lines and draw anticlockwise circles.

Recommended websites:

Letters and Sounds

Phonics games

Phonics Play

Government phonics information

Little Wombatz, The Library, 7 Clay St, Soham, Ely CB7 5HJ
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