Fuss free phonics: resources and advice

Phonics,what’s all the fuss about?

Free phonics resourcesWell to start with there’s the ongoing debate between those who love it and those who don’t – ‘The Reading Wars’. All that hot air about over-reliance on one strategy; all those high frequency words that aren’t phonically regular; oh and all those opinions about nonsense words. A quick Google search about phonics can open up a regular kan of wurms on this topic. The incredible thing is, when we wend our way round our schools this isn’t the part of phonics that gets educators steamy under the collar? Yes, we do talk to teachers who worry about the regulated vocabulary of phonics reading books. Consequently we end up talking about exposure to rich literature and the importance of a spine of quality texts in every school. However, we rarely meet a colleague who wants to debate the importance of phonics for reading . Teachers know it is an important part of teaching children to read. Not the only part – but the building blocks.

What we find is that teachers want to know how to make their phonics lessons better; how to get the children to apply what they’ve been taught in other parts of the curriculum; and how to make phonics fun with the minimum of fuss. To help those teachers  we’ve gathered together some resources and advice for you below.

So, how can we help you with your fuss free phonics?


1. Pronunciation – this is crucial. Phonic pronunciation must be correct from both the teacher and the children (the DVD from the National Strategies Letters and Sounds is really useful here). Don’t let it slide in other lessons either – ensure that all adults working with children across school know how to accurately pronounce each sound. One of the most important parts of phonics application is making sure that everything present in the phonics lesson is present in the environment for the rest of the day. Correct pronunciation is a FREE, cross-curricular, easy to apply aspect of phonics that if done well has audible impact.

2. Engage the children in interactive activity. Don’t over rely on the IWB here – make sure that all children are learning. One child coming up to the screen one at a time is not interactive. Use games and talking partners. Give the children ‘busy fingers’: by this we mean get something in their hands such as magnetic letters, mini-whiteboards and pens, phoneme frames and the sound buttons we referred to in our Thrifty Blog.

3. Ensure consistency across the school. From the terminology you use to the displays on your wall; they should be the same from YR-Y2 and beyond. Phonics friezes, in particular, work best when in a similar format across the year groups, including KS2. Think about all the teaching spaces used for phonics – the conventional and unconventional nooks and crannies of the school. Do the children in these groups have equal access to supportive mobile resources? Do you ensure that once back in their ‘home class’ they have access to the supportive resources that they need; whatever level? Our Phonics Phase 2 Mat is a handy resource for ensuring that children can access the phonemes they need, wherever they are working.

4. Plan a range of activities across each session and across the week. Make sure you have a balance of blending and segmenting; a mix of different games; and a variety of multi-sensory activities to suit all learning styles. Children love to play games and a few games taught well, then adapted to fit new sounds, go a really long way. Our Phonics Donkey game supports Phase 5 Letters and Sounds. By changing the graphemes included in the game to match what has been taught during the week means this game can be used throughout the phase. You can also use games like Phonics Donkey to consolidate learning by using them as morning work when children arrive at school, or independent activities during guided reading or key skills sessions.

5. Make your sessions lively and fun, children learn more when they are engaged. Make sure that your phonics session catches their imagination. We’ve collated some useful Phonics websites and resources here on a Pinterest board which may help you to keep the fun in your fuss free phonics.

We hope these ideas help you get the most from phonics.


Rachel Clarke and Charlotte Reed, Primary English Consultants




4 thoughts on “Fuss free phonics: resources and advice

  1. Geoff Ashton

    Great stuff, some good advice here!
    Something I’ve noticed with the last school I worked in, and in the children who come to me for tuition, is that there is a core group of kids who pass through ks1, and are still very insecure with phonics. In my experience, and I guess it depends on individual schools, the assumption is that children have cracked phonics by the time they reach the juniors. This is clearly not the case, and schools need to address how they can catch those who are still in desperate need of daily phonics practice. I’ve even come across one school who actually sent a year five boy down to year one to join in their phonics lessons. Is it any wonder his self esteem was at rock bottom?
    I realise I’ve kind of ‘gone off on one’ here and perhaps this isn’t the forum for such a discussion, but in the famous words of Magnus Magnusson, I started so I’ll finish…

    1. Primary English Post author

      Geoff, firstly thanks for your kind comments. I agree with you about children in KS2 and phonics, their security is often fragile. When training about phonics I frequently remind KS2 teachers to make their environment supportive. By this I mean children should still have plentiful visual prompts to reinforce their phonics knowledge. If we think about Phase 5 Letters and Sounds and the application of phonics into spelling as an example: children know the alternative graphemes for a (ay, ae, a_e, ai) but frequently can’t remember which one to use. They don’t know which one looks right because their graphic-phonemic memory still isn’t all that advanced. They need gentle adult prompting and an environment that supports them. They can spell – but with support, and I think this is where as teachers we need to continue to reinforce phonic knowledge in KS2.
      Rachel Clarke Primary English Consultant

  2. Debbie Hepplewhite

    Hi Geoff,

    You are right that phonics knowledge can be wobbly even in Key Stage Two – sorry to be challenging – but phonics provision in the early years and Key Stage One is often rather woolly and does not provide sufficient core practice for each and every child.

    In terms of phonics visual aids, have you seen the range of free Alphabetic Code Charts at http://www.alphabeticcodecharts.com ? It will be worth a visit as the charts are available in ‘giant’ classroom display size and ‘mini’ personal copy size – and there are many choices.

    I suggest that Alphabetic Code Charts like this should be in every primary classroom.

    In Key Stage Two, phonics should carry on as a spelling programme and the focus includes identifying the sounds all through the spoken words, knowing that there are spelling alternatives for the sounds – but then being able to recall which word is spelt which way – and spelling word bank activities are very helpful for this.

    You will also find free resources via the Phonics International website and the the http://www.debbiehepplewhitehandwriting.com site which may, or may not, be of interest.

    Kind regards,


    1. Primary English Post author

      Thanks for your thoughts. It’s great to get the insight of an expert such as yourself. I hope other readers will go and check out your website – as you know we’re fans of yours!


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