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At Hillyfield, we use the Essential Letters and Sounds programme (ELS) to teach phonics.  Phonics is a method of teaching beginners to read and pronounce words by learning to associate letters or groups of letters with the sounds they represent.  


Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS) teaches children to read by identifying the phonemes (smallest unit of sound) and graphemes (written version of the sound) within words and using these to read words.  Children experience the joy of books and language whilst rapidly acquiring the skills they need to become fluent independent readers and writers.  



Here are definitions of some key terms that are used:





The smallest single identifiable sound in a word.  For example, in the word ‘cat’ there are three phonemes c/a/t.


The written representation of a sound.


Two letters making one sound.  For example /sh/ in the word ‘shop’.


Three letters making one sound.  For example, /igh/ in the word ‘night’.

split digraph

Two vowel letters split but are split by one or more consonants.  For example, /a-e/ in the word ‘cake’.

harder to read and spell words (HRSW)

These are words that are usually more difficult to read and spell, so require regular reading and writing practice in order to correctly remember them.  For example, he, she, you, my. 


This is when children combine the different individual sounds or phonemes in order to read the word. 


This involves breaking words down into their individual sounds or phonemes. They can then be blended together to read a word.

decode/ decoding

This is the process that involves breaking down a new or unfamiliar word in order to read, write or pronounce them.


Daily phonics lessons start from the beginning of Reception through to the end of Year 1.  There are daily opportunities for reading during each phonics lesson and children read from books that are entirely decodable and matched to the sounds that have been taught during the week.  


How to support your child at home:

Daily reading at home is essential and your child will bring home their decodable book every Friday.  Repeat reading is crucial, so that each time your child reads, they can focus on these skills:  decoding, fluency and expression.  Repeatedly reading the same book is very important.  The more times your child keeps coming back to the book and practising their reading, the better!  You can also access e-books online via your child’s account at www.oxfordowl.co.uk.  Please speak to your child’s teacher to get the required log-in information.


You can also support your child by using the following ELS spelling sequence at home too: 


We say the word several times aloud first, then stretch the word, use robot arms (move one arm for each sound in the word, whilst saying it aloud), then blend the word together again.  We then count the sounds on our fingers before saying the word again and writing it down.

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