Phase One Phonics 

When our children are in Nursery we begin exposing them to those early reading skills that will allow pupils to read for pleasure and with motivation in the future. Before they can learn to read, children need to develop their listening and visual skills. A crucial listening skill is phonological awareness, the ability to discriminate different sounds such as the different endings of the words "cut" and "cup." This develops naturally as children learn to listen to the sounds around them. Music, poems and nursery rhymes and everyday sounds are all key elements in developing this skill. The visual skills which help children to acquire letter knowledge include shape recognition, and the ability to visually sort and classify objects.

Ways you can support your child with Phase One:

  • Go on a listening walk... What can you hear?
  • Have a go at drumming on different items outside and comparing the sounds
  • Can you have a go at making sound shakers e.g. filled with water, lentils, rice.
  • Compare and match the sound shakers.
  • Have a go at playing instruments alongside reading a story and making loud and quiet sounds.
  • Have a go at singing songs and action rhymes.
  • Begin listening to music and developing a sound vocabulary.
  • Read a rhyming story (You can find lots online - Julia Donaldson has published lots of rhyming books),
  • Play rhyming bingo,
  • Have a go at clapping out the syllables in words and find the odd one out.
  • Play I-Spy type games focusing on what sound different items begin with Can your child begin matching objects which start with the same sound?
  • You could make a Mike using a box- children can  feed objects into a toy robot's mouth and then the grown up can sound out the name of the object in a robot voice - /c/-/u/-/p/ cup, with the children joining in.

Pre-reading skills

Children should learn to hear and experiment with sounds through play.  When a child is playing they are fully involved in their learning. Phonics gives children the opportunity to orally segment and blend sounds in words, experiment with making sounds and be able to distinguish between different sounds. 

Segment: is to split a word up into its individual sounds (phonemes) - you are ‘sounding it out’. Eg. cat would be c-a-t. 

Blend: is when you say the sounds (phonemes) together to make a word, you are pushing the sounds together. Eg. d-o-g (segment) dog (blend). 

Another aspect that is important is encouraging a child’s interest in books and reading. Experience shows that children benefit hugely from exposure to books from an early age. 

“Right from the start, lots of opportunities should be provided for children to engage with books that fire their imagination and interest. They should be encouraged to choose and peruse books freely as well as sharing them when read by an adult. Enjoying and sharing books leads to children seeing them as a source of pleasure and interest and motivates them to value reading.” (Taken from Letters and Sounds Phase 1 Information Booklet)


Here are some ideas for home:

  • Story time: Read a familiar story book and change your voice for different characters. Use loud, quiet, soft, hard voices.
  • Learn and sing familiar songs and rhymes (if you don ’t know any you could Google some or even better have a look on Youtube). This Old Man, Old McDonald, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Incy Wincy Spider etc
  • Discover your favourite rhyming story or poem.
  • Build a den (inside or outside) and use it as your story den. Make up a story about absolutely anything! Gather some family photos together and make up a story about a fantastic journey.
  • Let your imagination take over and make up a story with witches, wizards, superheroes, dogs, cats, hens, mice, run away thumbs or worms, the list is endless...

Useful Video Tips:

Top 5 Storytelling Tip - PACEY

Top tips for reading stories aloud

Watch Michael Rosen's story telling video  

The Road to Reading