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Reading Reform Foundation (RRF) - Promoting Synthetic Phonics : Page Title

RRF Newsletter 46 back to contents
A comparison between the pace of synthetic phonics teaching and the DfEE directives

A comparison between the pace of synthetic phonics teaching and the DfEE directives

Synthetic Phonics:

Synthetic phonics provides the necessary skills that enable the majority to read and write above their chronological age. The 20% of children who have literacy problems still have a good foundation of the basics and just need more time and input.

NLS Progression in Phonics:

Children taught by following the NLS Progression in Phonics’ strategy will go into Year 1 with a reading and spelling age below their chronological age. The 20% of children who have literacy problems will be virtually starting from the beginning and will be far more likely to need a great deal of remedial help.

Term 1 of a full reception year (age 4 – 5)

Learn letter sounds:

a to z

ai, ee, ie, oa, ue, er, oi, ou, or

oo, ng, ar, qu, ch, sh and th

Blend 100+ regular words using above sounds.

Identify sounds in words – make/write 100+ words using the above sounds.

Learn 10-20 irregular key words.

Start reading books from reading schemes.

Result: Children understand the code of English and know how to read and write simple words and a few irregular words.

Listen for sounds :

environment, instruments, voice sounds and body percussion, rhythm, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration.







Result:  Know how to listen for sounds in the environment.

Synthetic phonics

NLS Progression in Phonics

Term 2

Revise letter sounds, blending and listening for sounds in words.

Learn to recognise alternative sounds

ay, a-e, ea, igh, y, i-e, ow, o-e, ew, u-e, oy, ir, ur.

Blend words with the above sounds.

Regularly identify sounds in words.

Write independently several sentences by listening for the sounds and writing letters for those sounds.

Read to parents, and at school, books from reading schemes.

Learn 20 more irregular words.

Know the blending technique: If the short vowel does not work try the long one.


Result: Read 10-50 small books.

Write independently news and simple stories by listening for the sounds – a few tricky words being spelt correctly.

Continue a rhyming string.

Hear and say phonemes s/ m/ k/ t/ g/ h/

Know phoneme-grapheme correspondences:

 s, m, c, t, g, h.

Hear and say phonemes in final position.

Consolidate previously learned phoneme-grapheme correspondences recognising that some alter in final position, e.g. ss, ck.

Know more phoneme-grapheme correspondences: l, n, d, k, sh, ch.




Result: Know some of the alphabet letters –phoneme-grapheme.

Hear those phoneme-graphemes in initial and final positions in words.

Term 3

Regularly revise all the letter sounds already taught.

Learn to recognise the alternatives au, aw, al.

Know the principles of ‘soft c’ and ‘soft g’.

Blend regular words with the above sounds.

Read 10-30 books at home and at school – fluent readers start choosing their own books, at their level.

Understand that for some phonemes there is more than one way of writing them e.g. ai, ay,   a-e.

The children have to try to choose the correct spelling for these phonemes.

Learn 20 more irregular keywords.

Write stories/news/topics/science independently listening for the sounds in words correctly spelling the known irregular keywords.

Attempt to use the correct alternative spellings.


Results: Fluency developing well for reading.

Spelling showing marked improvement.

Average reading age usually one year ahead of chronological age.

Average spelling age usually more than one year ahead.

Hear and say phonemes in medial position:

a/ e/ i/ o/ u/

Know more phoneme-grapheme correspondences (a, e, i, o, u, and f, qu, b, r, j, p, th, ng).

Segment to spell cvc words.

Blend to read cvc words.




Results: The children hardly understand the code of reading – blending only introduced at the end of the year (step 4).

A few children will know some words by sight.

Most of the single letter and some digraph phoneme-grapheme correspondences will be known.

The children will be able to use rhyme and segment cvc words.

Very few will know how to read and write unknown words, especially if they are longer than cvc.

The majority will not be reading books.





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