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Tune In!: Phonics Phases 3 & 4

Tune In!: Pack C, Phase 3 and 4 ‘Letters and Sounds’ (EYFS / Y1 transition focus)

The books in this pack are chosen to provide children with the rich story experience that will support their growing phonic skills and knowledge, including ‘tricky’ words relevant to the phase. Phase 3 is the foundation the systematic teaching of synthetic phonics with children learning the remainder of the 44 phonemes (one representation of each). Phase 4 builds on this by extending blending and segmenting skills into words with adjacent consonants and some polysyllabic words.

Many of the texts selected for this pack have limited text on the page so that children can begin to read and engage with them independently. If a text has been shared with the children, it is great fun for them to take the adult’s place when reading.

What is Phase Three all about?

(Letters and Sounds: Notes of Guidance for Practitioners and Teachers Primary National Strategy, 2007)

‘The purpose of this phase is to teach another 25 graphemes, most of them comprising two letters (e.g. oa), so the children can represent each of about 42 phonemes by a grapheme (the additional phoneme /zh/ found in the word vision will be taught at Phase Five). Children also continue to practise CVC blending and segmentation in this phase and will apply their knowledge of blending and segmenting to reading and spelling simple two-syllable words and captions. They will learn letter names during this phase, learn to read some more tricky words and also begin to learn to spell some of these words.’

The suggested order of GPC’s are:

Set 6: j v w x

Set 7: y z, zz qu

Graphemes        Sample words                   Graphemes        Sample words

ch                           chip                                        ar                            farm

sh                           shop                                      or                            for

th                            thin/then                             ur                            hurt

ng                           ring                                        ow                          cow

ai                            rain                                        oi                            coin

ee                           feet                                        ear                         dear

igh                          night                                      air                           fair

oa                           boat                                       ure                         sure

oo                           boot/look                            er                            corner


What is Phase 4 all about?

(Letters and Sounds: Notes of Guidance for Practitioners and Teachers Primary National Strategy, 2007)

‘The purpose of this phase is to consolidate children’s knowledge of graphemes in reading and spelling words containing adjacent consonants and polysyllabic words. The teaching materials in this phase provide a selection of suitable words containing adjacent consonants. These words are for using in the activities – practising blending for reading and segmenting for spelling. This is not a list to be worked through slavishly but to be selected from as needed for an activity.’


The teaching notes below provide a few ideas to get you started!

Stick Man (Julia Donaldson)

This great rhythmic text has lots of rhyming pairs that are great for the children to play with orally. This rhythm and rhyme help the children to become familiar with the text. There are lots of words with adjacent consonants for them to play with too, e.g. stick / twig / tree / nest / drifts / sails / hand / sand. Once familiar with the story, give the children cards with these words on to stand up and shout out when you get to that part of the text.

Florence Frizzball (Claire Freedman)

This light-hearted story about being a bit different is perfect for engaging children at this level. There is a small amount of text on each page, so it is manageable for them to start reading independently. It is full of the digraphs and trigraphs from phase 3 – hair / pain / moan / matter / see / down / going / might. There are also a range of polysyllabic words for them to tackle – hairdresser / disappear / jumper / dramatic.

A Perfect Day (Lane Smith)

The illustrations in this book are so fabulous and unusual that you will want to explore them with the children before you even think about the written text. There are lots of writing opportunities here with the children recreating the artwork for the characters in the story and adding labels or captions, flower / cool pool / seeds / feeder etc. Add extra characters and consider what would make their perfect day and whether Bear would spoil it!

Max at Night (Ed Vere)

Max heads off on a journey to find the moon, even though he is very tired! Recreate that silent, night-time feeling by selecting one child to be Max and everyone else (including the grown-ups) to be fast asleep. You could have a more confident reader narrate the text whilst ‘Max’ creeps around the classroom looking for the moon.

The Lost Stars (Hannah Cunning)

A definite tale for our time! Everyone has forgotten to look up and appreciate the stars. One by one they get fed up and leave the night sky. This story has a really well defined journey to it so you could ask the children to create their own cards to order each part of the story and retell. Use the endpapers to explore all of the things that you could do that don’t involve a screen! These would make a super display with the children’s faces on too!

Simon Sock (Sue Hendra & Paul Linnet)

This story is all about being ‘odd’ and trying to find your match – use this as a premise to find pairs of words that match and pairs that don’t! If they don’t match, think about what they might have in common (like Simon and Betty at the end of the story!). This could be something about the words, e.g. both have the grapheme ‘ai’ or more creative… both love to jump into jelly and roll around.

Shark in the Park on a Windy Day (Nick Sharratt)

A great follow on from a story that many children are already familiar with. The repetition of ‘Shark in the park!’ is a great excuse for a game of hide and seek – children can create their own ‘shark in the park’ caption (preferably on a shark’s fin!) to hide around the outdoor area. Take photos of the fins sticking up from their hiding places for the children to write sentences about ‘The shark in the park hid in the…’

Abigail (Catherine Rayner)

This is a super book for teaching about resilience when you really want to do something. Use the links with counting to order words in a sentence to match ones in the story – have the numbers on one side of a card and the words on the reverse. Choose sentences that give them the maximum opportunity to practise and use their skills and knowledge from phase 3 and 4. ‘He was just too fast’ / ‘Come back everybody.’ / ‘It was dark.’ / ‘The stars were twinkling.’

The Fly (Petr Horacek)

A day in the life of a fly! The children will love joining in with the ‘FLAP’ as he narrowly avoids being swatted through the book. You could use a range of words (tricky and phonically decodable) to play a game of ‘FLAP’ using real fly swatters as a follow on activity. Lay out the cards – face up with each child having a swatter, take turns to be the reader and call out words to ‘SPLAT’, first swatter to land on the card gets to keep it!

Bedtime for Monsters (Ed Vere)

Here comes a scary, hungry, lip licking monster… is he going to eat you up? No, he just wants a sloppy goodnight kiss. This is a perfect book for a dramatic retelling with your class of little monsters. Take the story journey outside and retell as you move through the dark forest and the gloopy mud!

No Dinner! (Jessica Souhami)

This story is based on the traditional tale ‘The Old Woman and the Pumpkin’. The wily old lady tricks the hungry beasts in the forest to avoid being eaten! Children could consider what else the old lady could hide inside to get home, the sillier the better… a watermelon / a wheelie bin / a giant’s rainhat / an elephant’s trousers…

Hooray for Fish! (Lucy Cousins)

This simple journey through an ocean of different fish reads like a song. Put it to a simple background tune and encourage the children to join in. Once they are familiar with all of the different fish, invent some new ones and describe what they might look like… a spider fish, a hairy fish, a popping fish, a zebra fish etc…

Aaaarrgghh, Spider (Lydia Monks)

The little spider in this funny story tries everything, from dancing to keeping clean, to impress the family and become their pet. Finally, she creates a mesmerising display of beautiful cobwebs for them to admire. Encourage the children to think about what they are good at and create personalised spiders for them to complete sentences for ‘Look at me, I can…’

I Love You, Little Monster (Giles Andreae)

This is a more challenging text for children to decode and is a good one to use as you near the end of phase 4. It is written from Big’s point of view and gives a lovely picture of what love looks like to Big. Use small and big toys to emulate the two characters and encourage talk around the interesting sentences in the book, e.g. ‘Makes my heart want to sing out with pride.’

How to Catch a Star (Oliver Jeffers)

This is a lovely story to sequence with the children. Make sure that they know the story really well by exploring stills from this ‘Stop Motion’ retelling of the tale: . The children can then create their own 3D scenes from the story and match or write captions.

The Squirrels who Squabbled (Rachel Bright)

Two terribly greedy squirrels learn lessons about sharing when they both decide to nab the very last nut of the season. The humour and use of rhythm and rhyme will have the children hooked (they might even notice some similarities within themselves!). As you may have guessed sharing and teamwork save the pair from a tricky situation.  In a builders tray ask the children to create old and new perils for the pair to overcome – use laminated squirrels to aid retelling and innovation of this funny story.

The Foggy Foggy Forest (Nick Sharratt)

Shadows lurk in the foggy, foggy forest, with each page revealing which well known character is hiding there. The repetition of the question: ‘What can this be in the foggy, foggy forest?’ is the perfect introduction to all kinds of imaginative characters. Use tracing paper and a range of traditional tale picture books for the children to create their own story pages.

Is That My Cat? (Jonathan Allen)

Who is this cat? She doesn’t seem to look like, or act like, their slim sleek pussycat. The surprise arrivals appear at the end of the book and all is explained! Much of this text is decodable at this level so you could just focus on the meanings of new words by playing a game of ‘Zap’: write multiples of the adjectives from the story onto the end of lolly sticks (sleek, slim, little, light, fussy, mighty) plus two or three sticks that have ‘ZAP’ written on them. Place them upside down into a cup. Take turns to choose a stick and read the word – if you can say what it means you keep it, if you pull out a ‘ZAP’ you lose your sticks!