Sounds-Write home page

What is Sounds-Write?

Sounds-Write is a linguistic phonics programme that starts from what children already know – the sounds of their own language – and teaches, in carefully sequenced steps, how each of the 44 or so phonemes in English can be represented.

The words used in the teaching of how the alphabet code works are introduced from simple to complex, in accordance with the fundamental principles of psychological learning theory. For example, at the start, simple, mutually implied (one sound, one spelling) one-syllable CVC words only are introduced.

As the programme progresses, the complexity of one-syllable words is increased through a variety of VCC, CVCC, CCVC, CCVCC, and CCCVC words, before dealing with: the most common consonant digraphs (<sh>, <ch> and <fh>, for example), the vowel digraphs, and how to read and spell polysyllabic words.

All of this is taught within a well-structured and coherent framework based on the knowledge – conceptual and factual – on which the alphabet principle is based, and the three key skills needed to enable learners to use the principle effectively. Our approach teaches the conceptual understanding needed to become an effective reader:

  • that letters are symbols of sounds: visual language is a representation of spoken language
  • that a sound symbol can be represented by one, two, three, or four letters
  • that there is more than one way of spelling most sounds: the sound /a-e/ in ‘name’ can be represented as <a> in ‘table’, <ai> in ‘rain’, <eigh> in ‘eight’, <ay> in ‘play’, and so on
  • that many sound symbols can represent more than one sound: <ea> can be the sound /e/ in ‘head’, /a-e/ in ‘break’, or /ee/ in ‘seat’.

Within this conceptual framework, we teach the factual knowledge required to become an effective reader and speller: the approximately 175 symbols that represent the 44 sounds in English, starting with the simplest one-to-one correspondences.

Reading and spelling also require expertise in the skills necessary to make use of the alphabet code and pupils need to be able to:

  • segment, or separate sounds in words
  • blend, or push sounds together to form words
  • manipulate phonemes, take sounds out and put sounds into words.

In Reception we begin teaching Sounds-Write using the Initial Code. Then in Year 1 and beyond they will teach the Extended Code.

To begin with we will introduce these sounds:

Unit 1: a, i, m, s, t

Unit 2: n, o, p

Unit 3: b, c, g, h

Unit 4: d, f, v, e

Unit 5: k, l, r, u

Unit 6: j, w, z

Unit 7: x, y, ff, ll, ss

Every week or so, we will begin a new unit and build the new sounds into what we have already introduced.

We will always be talking about sounds not letters, and you can help most effectively by not using letter names, only sounds.

Here is a link to help you say the pure sounds correctly –

What are we trying to teach?

We want the children to learn that letters are spellings for sounds, so that when they see the spellings

< m > < a > < t >, they say and hear /m / /a / /t /, ‘mat’.

To begin with, we shall be working only with 2- and

3-sound words. Your child needs to say the sounds and listen to hear what the word is. For this reason, sounds need to be said very precisely. For example, when we see the spelling <m>, we say /m / and not ‘muh’. Of course, some sounds are more difficult to say without adding a bit of an ‘uh’, but, with practice, it can be done. When your child has said all the sounds in a word and then read the word, ask them to write the word on a piece of paper or a small chalk board.

Playing games with the sounds in words can be good fun and will help your child to understand that everyday words are made up of sounds and that we can pull these sounds in words apart: ‘cat‘ can be separated into /c / /a / /t /; and we can put these sounds back together again to form recognisable words: thus, /c / /a / /t /gives us ‘cat‘. Names often make useful example to begin with: ‘Jack‘ would be /j / /a / /k / and ‘Emily‘ would be /e / /m / /i / /l / /ee /. If you are not sure, just read the word, close your eyes and say the sounds in the word to yourself.

Key to alphabetic code knowledge:

Unit 1: a, i, m, s, t

/a / as in ‘cat‘, /i / as in ‘pin’, /m / as in ‘map‘,

/s / as in ‘sip‘ and /t / as in ‘ten

Unit 2: n, o, p

/n / as in ‘not‘, /o / as in ‘pop‘, and /p / as in ‘pen

Unit 3: b, c, g, h

/b / as in ‘big‘, /c / as in ‘cup‘, /g / as in ‘get‘,

and /h / as in ‘hen

Unit 4: d, f, v, e

/d / as in ‘dog‘, /f / as in ‘fun‘, /v / as in ‘vet‘,

and /e / as in ‘leg

Unit 5: k, l, r, u

/k / as in ‘kit’, /l / as in ‘leg‘, /r / as in ‘run‘, and /u / as in ‘bun

Unit 6: j, w, z

/j / as in ‘jug‘, /w / as in ‘wig‘, and /z / as in ‘zip

Unit 7: x, y, ff, ll, ss

The letter X represents two sounds /k /s/ or /g /z/ (depending on the word and/or the speaker’s accent), so /k /s/ as in ‘fox‘; /y / as in ‘yes‘. The double consonants <ff>, <ll> and <ss>, represent the sounds /f /, as in ‘sniff‘, /l / as in ‘fill‘, and /s / as in ‘miss‘.

When you are reading a reading book with your child, do all the things you would normally do, such as talking about the story, discussing the characters, predicting what is going to happen next, and so on. But, whenever you come to a two- or three-sound word which has in it the sounds your child has already come across, ask them to have a go by saying the sounds and listening for the word.

If you do this, you will find that your child will quickly move on to more complex words, such as words with four and five sounds, such as ‘lamp’ and ‘crisp’.

After your child has tackled three-sound words, their teacher will be moving on to words with four and five sounds and, again, you can best support your child by giving them as much practice as you can.

If you have any questions about what you should be doing, or you meet any unexpected difficulties, just ask your child’s teacher. Good luck and enjoy working together with your child.


Phonic Screening Check

Our Y1 children are given a Phonic screening check in June as part of statutory assessments. The test is designed to confirm whether our children have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard. It will identify the children who need extra help to improve their decoding skills.
The phonic screening check comprises a list of 40 words that a child reads aloud to their teacher on a 1-1 basis. The list includes real and pseudo (nonsense) words. These pseudo words allow the children to focus purely on decoding using phonics. As pseudo words are new to all the children they do not favour those with a good vocabulary knowledge or large visual memory of words. The pseudo words are shown to the children alongside pictures of imaginary creatures. This allows teachers to explain to the child the pseudo word is the name of a type of creature they have not seen before. This helps children to understand why they should not try to match the pseudo word to their vocabulary.
The phonics screening check is divided into two sections:
Section 1

  • Grapheme – phoneme correspondence usually introduced first to children learning to decode using phonics.  This involves knowing letter shapes and letter sounds ( not names)
  • Simple word structures

Section 2

  • Grapheme phoneme correspondences usually introduced to children later and graphemes that correspond to more than one phoneme- ou as in round, i-e as in scribe, ew as in newt, and ow as in row as in  bow/ row as in  bough
  • More complex words including two syllable words- dentist, starling

Most children are able to take the phonic screening check but the Head teacher can decide that a child should not take part if they have not shown any understanding of grapheme phoneme correspondences.
The standard children are children expected to achieve:
Children who have achieved the expected standard at the end of Y1 will have experience of decoding all types of words that appear in the phonic screening check.  The phonics mark, at present, will be the mark from 0-40 for those children who have taken the phonic screening test. Those who have met the required standard are marked as reading 32 words or more.