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Letters and Sounds - Further Guidance

Our Letters and Sounds programme teaches the skills of blending for reading and segmenting for spelling. It progresses through all sounds, working from the simple to the more complex. By following the progression, children build on their growing phonic knowledge. They quickly learn to read and spell, having fun along the way. 

Full phase progressions can be viewed here.

Letter formation

Correct formation of lower case and upper case letters can be downloaded here

Pure Sounds

Pronounce each letter sound clearly and distinctly without adding additional sounds to the end e.g.

  • sss not ‘suh.’
  • a not ‘ay.’
  • t not ‘tuh.’
  • p not ‘puh.’
  • mmm not ‘muh.’

Weekly assessment

Quick weekly assessments of GPCs, blending for reading and tricky words in a whole class session. Children should be observed and any that are struggling identified and provided with additional support. When assessing:

  • Hold cards at the edges and at a good height
  • Turn cards at a fairly rapid but even pace.
  • Look at the children, not the cards. 
  • Ensure children are using pure sounds.
  • Play close attention to children who are mirroring other children, or are at risk of falling behind, and provide additional support at a later stage.
  • Ensure full participation by asking individuals, rows and then the whole class.

One-to-one summative assessments

GPCs, blending for reading, tricky words and segmenting for spelling are carried out in week 6 of each phase. It is suggested that the teacher sets aside enough time to individually test a fifth of the class on each day. Results are logged on an electronic or PDF record sheet available here. Those who are at risk of falling behind, including the lowest attaining 20% of children should be given daily keep-up lessons.

Daily keep-up lessons to ensure every child learns to read

Children that need additional practice should receive daily keep-up support, taught by a fully trained adult. Keep-up lessons should match the same structure of class teaching, and use the same procedures and resources, but in smaller steps with more repetition, so that every child secures their learning.

Reading practice sessions

We recommend children are given reading practice sessions three times a week. These should be taught by a fully trained adult in small groups of approximately six children using the relevant book matched to the focus GPC. In addition to decoding these sessions should also teach:

  • Prosody: teaching children to read with understanding and expression.
  • Comprehension: teaching children to understand the text.

Children with additional needs / inclusive lessons

Constantly gauge children’s retention of learning. Children need a great deal of repetition to move new learning into their long-term memories.

  • Keep the same routines
  • Slow the pace of teaching if necessary.
  • Ensure your mouth is visible at all times (not covering by cards).
  • Ensure children with hearing and sight impairment are close to you and have a clear view.
  • Keep the teaching area uncluttered to minimise distractions and aid focus. 
  • Think about appropriate adjustments to ensure a child can be included in the lessons. e.g. enlarged cards, weighted blankets.
  • Provide daily keep-up outside of the lesson if required. If these are carried out be additional adults please ensure they are well trained.

Guidance for online delivery

The effectiveness of online phonics teaching is determined by many of the same features which determine the success of live phonics classroom teaching. When delivering daily phonics lessons online the DfE recommend that teachers:

  • Ensure pupils receive clear and precise explanations of new learning in relation to new GPCs, new tricky words and the skills of blending and segmenting.
  • Give careful thought to teaching correct enunciation of sounds. Teachers should ensure that pupils can see the shape of their mouths when forming sounds and that they provide a good model for pupils by articulating phonemes clearly and precisely. It is important that all pupils can hear the sounds pronounced carefully and the teacher is able, wherever possible, to check pupils repeating phonemes accurately. 
  • Consider how pupils will receive feedback on learning to ensure any misconceptions are addressed early.
  • Enable pupils to practise blending and segmenting during live online lessons through interactive strategies such as phoneme counting. 
  • Allow for application of new knowledge or skills through ensuring parents have access to appropriate resources. It is essential that continued access to appropriate reading books should be considered as part of remote phonics and early reading lesson planning.

Letter formation

Correct formation of lower case and upper case letters can be downloaded here


Training is provided by our experienced training partners Dandelion Learning, Hammond Education and Herts for Learning. In-person and remote training options are available. More details available here