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When and how do children learn phonics at school?

When and how do children learn phonics at school?

Phonics instruction is recommended for beginner readers. While different schools take varying approaches to teaching phonics for kids as they learn to read, in the UK phonics instruction follows a strict sequence of phases during Pre-K, Kindergarten, Grade 1, and Grade 2.


 Year Phase Goal
Pre-K 1 Build phonemic awareness (awareness of sounds)
Learn and distinguish different kinds of sounds (e.g. environmental, instrumental)
Develop listening, vocabulary, and speaking skills
Learn oral segmenting and blending of CVC words (e.g. cat, mat, mop, pot)
Kindergarten 2 Learn the first 19 phonemes (single letter, most common)
Read and spell some short VC and CVC words
Begin learning high frequency sight words from Dolch and/or Fry lists (e.g. a, the, an, can, is, of, you, he, and I)
3 Learn the remaining 25 phonemes
Introduce digraphs and more complex graphemes
Read and spell CVC words (e.g. cup, log)
Continue learning grade-appropriate sight words
Gain confidence with all 44 phonemes
4 Read and spell CVCC words (e.g. back)
Read and spell high frequency words
Read and write sentences
Confidently read and write alphabet letters
Learn more sight words, including have, like, some, little
Grade 1 5 Master Fry 100/Dolch Pre-K, K, Grade 1
Learn alternative spellings for known phonemes
Learn alternative pronunciations for known graphemes
Gain comfort with reading unfamiliar words
Grade 2 6 Use phonics to read and spell with confidence
Increased writing production

Deep Dive

Read our report on the Science of Reading. Research-based reading instruction must incorporate the 5 pillars of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. This report provides an easy to understand overview of each of these pillars and explains the important connection between how the brain learns to read (the Neuroscience of Reading) and how we teach children to read (The Science of Reading Instruction). It also explains why helping children build connections between letters and sounds, through phonics and phonemic awareness, is so crucial for the developing reading mind. This report is perfect for sharing with colleagues and friends!