Sounds-Write phonics programme

At Robin Hood Primary and Nursery School, we use the Sounds-Write programme to teach our children to read, write and spell.

Sounds-Write is effective in teaching pupils to read, spell and write because it starts from what all children know from a very early age – the sounds of their own language. From there, it takes them in carefully sequenced, incremental steps and teaches them how each of the 44 or so sounds in the English language can be spelt.

The four key concepts children need to learn are:

  • Letters are symbols that represent sounds

  • Sounds can be spelled using 1, 2, 3 or 4 letters

  • The same sound can be spelled in different ways

  • The same spelling can represent different sounds

The three keys skills children need to master are:

  • Blending

  • Segmenting

  • Phoneme Manipulation

How are the children taught?

In Reception and Year 1, children are taught phonics on a daily basis.

At the start of the programme only one sound/one spelling, one-syllable and CVC words are introduced. For example: s-a-m

Children learn the sounds then blend them together to read a word. To spell, children are taught to say the word, segment it into the smallest sounds then write it.

Children are also taught to read (by sight) and spell high frequency words. These are words that they commonly find in the books they read.

A multi-sensory approach is used with visual, auditory and kinaesthetic activities combined simultaneously to promote learning. This also enables differentiation with challenges placed before the children in order to meet their individual needs.

Initial code

Children in Reception begin with the Initial Code where they practice all 3 key skills whilst learning the 1:1 sound-spelling correspondences and securing their understanding of key concept 1. This builds up trust in a truly reversible system, enabling them to decode and encode a wide range of words and sentences. At first, children learn to read and write simple one syllable words with a CVC structure. Complexity of word structure systematically builds up so that children apply their code knowledge to monosyllabic words with up to 6 sounds.

Unit 1-6

Children begin by learning that sounds/phonemes are represented by symbols/spelling, beginning with single letters.

Units 1-6 : a, i, m, s, t, n, o, p, b, c, g, h, d, e, f, v, k, l, r, u, j, w, z

Unit 7

Children tackle <x>, which is an anomaly, in that it is a letter that codes for two sounds. The idea of two letter spelling is also introduced.

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

Units 8 to 10

Here the children are supported to deal with longer words consisting of four and five sounds that can involve up to three consecutive consonants e.g ‘strip’ and ‘jumps’

Unit 11

The initial code finishes here with the children being taught to extend the idea that two-letter spelling can represent one sound.

Unit 11: sh, ch, th, ck, wh, ng, qu

Extended Code

Once the Initial Code has been mastered, children continue to practice all 3 key skills whilst learning Extended Code which explores key concepts 2, 3 and 4. Learning of the Extended Code is a lifelong process – we all continue to develop our understanding of this code whenever we encounter new words! Whilst learning the Extended Code, children read and write monosyllabic and polysyllabic words at an age-appropriate level.

Within extended code lessons children will focus on the phonemic nature of the code (sounds) and its graphemic nature (spellings)

Lessons 6-9: Sounds: The main object is to teach the sound and the various ways the spelling can be spelled e.g. the /ae/ can be spelled <a>, <ai>, <ae>, <eigh> etc

Lesson 10: Spellings:This lesson teaches a target spelling and the sounds it commonly represents e.g. <o> can represent the sound /oe/ as in ‘no’, or the sound/o/, as in ‘hot’.

Polysyllabic Words

It is estimated that more than 80% of words in the English language are polysyllabic. In order for children to encode or decode these words their earlier skills of segmenting and blending require a higher level of development. Children will begin by splitting words into 2-syllables before later moving on to words with more than two syllables.

Reading and Sounds-Write

Once children are able to blend some simple CVC words in Reception, they will begin to take home reading books which are matched to the unit the children are working on. Throughout Reception, children will bring home Sounds-Write reading books and other reading books, all of which have been carefully matched to the Sounds-Write unit the child is at.

This will continue into KS1, where children will bring home Sounds-Write matched reading books until they reach Unit 24 of the Extended Code. At this point, we feel that they will be secure enough in their reading to move onto our other reading scheme, Accelerated Reader.

Children will move through the reading units at their own pace, only moving on once they are secure with the skills and knowledge they need to know in each unit. However, they will not be given books from a unit higher than that which is being taught in their phonics lessons. For example, if the class is working on Unit 4 of initial code, a child may bring home a book from Units 1, 2, 3 or 4.

These reading books will be an opportunity for children to practise and consolidate the skills and knowledge they are learning in school, by sharing their books with a grown up. Reading at home is a vital part of children learning to read, and develop a love of reading.

Useful resources to support your child at home

A great way to engage children at home with phonics is to play games. Matching pairs, snap, sorting words or letters can all be ways to help teach your children.

Phonics: How to pronounce pure sounds - Oxford Owl

Sounds-Write Initial Code - word cards.pdf

We hope you have found this information useful. Please ask your child’s class teacher if you have further questions.


Reception and year 1 class teachers will run Sounds-Write phonic workshops during the course of the year to support your child’s learning. Please try to attend these workshops as they offer valuable support and advice for supporting your child at home.