How we teach Phonics


At Blackhorse we follow the Unlocking Letters and Sounds approach for teaching Phonics. This is a DfE validate SSP. Unlocking Letters and Sounds outlines Six Keys to Success that we adhere to rigorously. They are:


1. Fidelity and Consistency

  • Unlocking Letters and Sounds should be followed with rigour and fidelity, taught following the pre-set progression. This will ensure consistency across the school.

2. Highly Valued

  • Reading is highly valued by the head teacher and all school staff. 
  • Learning to read is is a priority and underpins the entire curriculum.

3. Quality CPD and coaching

  • All staff, including the head teacher and senior leaders, have been trained in Unlocking Letters and Sounds by an accredited trainer.
  • The teaching of phonics is monitored regularly to ensure that is of a high standard and that there is consistency across the school. Teachers are regularly coached to help them improve their teaching of reading.

4. Expert Staff

  • All staff are involved in the teaching and/or monitoring of phonics.
  • Direct whole-class teaching of high quality phonics takes place daily. Staff follow the programme's progression and know where children are expected to be by the end of each year.

5. Strong Leadership

  • Senior leaders recognise what strong practice looks like and how to empower staff to improve their teaching.

6. Daily Story Times

  • Staff read to children everyday to develop a love of reading and to expose children to quality texts with ambitious vocabulary.
  • Children are exposed to a breadth of texts, including non-fiction, poetry and a range of genres.


At Blackhorse, we begin teach phonics to the children in Reception as soon as they are full time. All pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 have a daily phonics lesson which helps children to learn their sounds for reading and writing. The Unlocking Letters and Sounds progression is clearly structured to teach sounds systematically, ensuring swift progression and inbuilt opportunities for revision to consolidate learning.


The detailed progression for Unlocking Letters and Sounds shows the GPCs and CEW that are taught on a week-by-week basis. You can see a summary progression, covering what is learned by the children on a term-by-term basis, here

Teaching Sequence

At Blackhorse, we follow a clear teaching sequence that is present in all phonics lessons. This sequence is clearly set out in the Unlocking Letters and Sounds guidance.


Revisit: Children will revisiting previously taught GCPs, letter names and CEWs.


Teach: Children will be explicitly taught new learning, e.g. new GPC and/or CEW.


Practise: Children will practise reading and spelling words that include the taught letters.


Apply: Children will practise reading or writing sentences that uses new and previously taught learning.


Revise: Children will go over the new learning for that day. This is an opportunity for teachers to monitor learning and address misconceptions.

Guided Reading


Alongside daily phonics lessons, children practise their reading skills through daily reading practise and reading lessons using fully decodable reading books.


Unlocking Letters and Sounds includes a week-by-week book matching chart and full planning for group reading sessions (for Phases 2 to 5), using the Ransom Reading Stars Phonics readers. Each session gives opportunities to teach and practice decoding, fluency and prosody, with every child having at least one guided reading session a week.


You can see a guided reading sample lesson here

The children are taught lots of technical language when learning phonics that is unlikely to familiar to you at home. We understand that the way children are being taught to school is probably different to how you learnt to read.


Please find a glossary of terms here to help you and your child with reading:

Reading at Home

At Blackhorse, we believe it is important to build positive relationships between home and school to develop confident young readers. We work with families from their first day at school so they feel supported to help their child with learning to read at home. We regularly invite parents to attend phonics and reading workshops at school, where they can see how phonics is taught first hand and answer any questions about supporting at home.


In order to develop strong readers, we expect families to listen to their child read 5x per week. This means repeated reading of the same book five times or more each week.


Each time you practise reading, it is good to practise your child's sounds and common exception words (these are the words that your child cannot read using their sounds alone). 


Please record in your child's Reading Log each time that you read at home as we check and record their home reading each week. Children who read 5x or more are entered into a weekly reading lottery to win a free book!


Please also see the phonics channel on the Video Resource Centre for further support.

What's in the book bag?

In your child's book bag, you will find the following things to support reading:

  • Sound Flash Cards
  • Common Exception Word Flash Cards
  • Book to Share (this is for you to read and enjoy with your child)
  • Decodable Phonics Reading Book (this is the book your child reads to you)
  • Reading Log