Phonics Terminology


It is the smallest unit of sound and a piece of terminology that children like to use and should be taught.  At first it will equate with a letter sound but later on will include the digraphs.  For example `rain’ has three phonemes, / r  / ai  / n.



A grapheme is a letter or a number of letters that represent a sound (phoneme) in a word. Another way to explain it is to say that a grapheme is a letter or letters that spell a sound in a word. E.g. /ee/,/ ea/, /ey/ all make the same phoneme but are spelt differently.



This is when two or more letters come together to make a phoneme. /oa/ makes the sound in boat.



Blending is the process that is involved in bringing the sounds together to make a word or a syllable and is how /c/  /a/  /t/  becomes cat.

To learn to read well children must be able to smoothly blend sounds together. Blending sounds fluidly helps to improve fluency when reading. Blending is more difficult to do with longer words so learning how to blend accurately from an early age is imperative.

Showing your child how to blend is important. Model how to ‘push’ sounds smoothly together without stopping at each individual sound.



Segmenting is a skill used in spelling. In order to spell the word cat, it is necessary to segment the word into its constituent sounds; c-a-t.

Children often understand segmenting as ‘chopping’ a word. Before writing a word young children need time to think about it, say the word several times, ‘chop’ the word and then write it. Once children have written the same word several times they won’t need to use these four steps as frequently.  

Children will enjoy spelling if it feels like fun and if they feel good about themselves as spellers. We need, therefore, to be playful and positive in our approach – noticing and praising what children can do as well as helping them to correct their mistakes.


Tricky Words

Tricky words are words that cannot be ‘sounded-out’ but need to be learned by heart. They don’t fit into the usual spelling patterns. Examples of these words are attached under each phase. In order to read simple sentences, it is necessary for children to know some words that have unusual or untaught spellings. It should be noted that, when teaching these words, it is important to always start with sounds already known in the word, then focus on the 'tricky' part.


High frequency words

High frequency (common exception) are words that recur frequently in much of the written material young children read and that they need when they write.


CVC words

CVC stands for consonant- vowel- consonant, so and word such as map, cat is CVC. In phase 4 we talk about CCVC words such as clip, stop.