The books in this selection 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 5 is the final section of the systematic teaching of synthetic phonics with children learning the remainder of the spellings for the 44 phonemes. It builds upon the blending and segmenting skills from previous phases so that the children can become fluent readers and writers.

Some of the texts selected have limited text on the page so that children can read and engage with them independently, whilst others are more challenging and need an adult’s input. 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 5 all about?

Children entering Phase Five are able to read and spell words containing adjacent consonants and some polysyllabic words. The purpose of this phase is for children to broaden their knowledge of graphemes and phonemes for use in reading and spelling. They will learn new graphemes and alternative pronunciations for these and graphemes they already know, where relevant. Some of the alternatives will already have been encountered in the high-frequency words that have been taught. Children become quicker at recognising graphemes of more than one letter in words and at blending the phonemes they represent. When spelling words they will learn to choose the appropriate graphemes to represent phonemes and begin to build word-specific knowledge of the spellings of words.

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

The guidance document sets out the full range of spellings and alternative phonemes (same spelling) with word banks for each. There are also additional ‘tricky words’ alongside the previous words that the children need to consolidate for both reading and spelling.

Phase 2 Phase 3 Phase 4 Phase 5
I he said oh
no she have Mrs
the we like people
to me so their
go be do called
into you some Mr
are come looked
her little asked
was one could
all were  
they there  
my what  

These words are commonplace throughout the books below so include games like ‘I spy a tricky word’ or keep a tally against the ones that they find the hardest by drawing attention to them in the text.

Some ideas to get you started

The Pirate House Rebecca Patterson

This book is perfect for firing up children’s imagination. The small amount of text on each page makes it a manageable one for them too. There are ample opportunities to practise blending words with alternative phonemes (e.g. glow/howling) or alternative GPC for the same phoneme (e.g. seagulls / sunny). Use the illustrations on the last page of the book as a stimulus for writing by telling the children that there is a school at the end of the street. Who might go to that school and what lessons will they teach to the monsters, aliens, sea creatures?

Q Pootle 5 Nick Butterworth

This simple tale of a little alien looking for some help to get to his friend’s party is great for year 1. The children will love the big poster at the end too. The story is full of polysyllabic words that the children can tackle once they have a range of alternative GPCs under their belt. Pull out some of the words (e.g. spaceship /something /earthling /rumbling). Model splitting the words into syllables by underlining. QPootle5 likes to make up his own words (e.g. beeebotherboootle) so give the children nonsense syllables that they can put together to create a new language. This fits in very well with the year 1 phonics screening ‘nonsense’ words

How the Sun Got to Coco’s House Bob Graham

A gentle and beautiful book that follows the sun’s journey. This is a great story to use in winter, encouraging the children to think beyond the stereotype of a warm, sunny day. Although there is limited text on each page, the language is challenging and will extend both vocabulary and phonic knowledge. Certain pages really lend themselves to particular phonemes, e.g. ‘The rising sun met birds still flying south for the winter and a plane flying high in the night.’ Use these opportunities to explore words by adding them to a ‘Magpie Board’ in bubbles for ‘Sound Buddies’ (same sound / different spelling).

Dog in Boots Paula Metcalf

This is a sweet and very funny tale about love and persistence. Philip’s little legs are a problem for him, but he tries everything he can think of to win Penelope’s heart. There are plenty of opportunities for the children to use their widening phonic knowledge and skills throughout the book, but the bit they will undoubtedly love the most is when Philip writes her a note. Use this opportunity to extend the children’s writing by giving them the parts that are framed by the window shutter… Penelope you smell (of roses) / your eyes are like poo(ls of chocolate).

The Lion Inside Rachel Bright and Jim Field

We are all scared of something, no matter how big and loud we might be! This story will appeal to all little ones as they follow a meek and mild little mouse on a tale of discovery about himself. The text is laid out in manageable chunks for the children to decode with lots of rhyme that the children can explore. The use of speech and speech bubbles with the lovely illustrations throughout the story will inspire the children to have a go themselves. Create word banks to increase their vocabulary as the story is rich with language that they will be able to use, e.g. mini / weeniest/ fuzzy /tough.

Bear’s Big Bottom Steve Smallman and Emma Yarlett

The title itself will tempt budding readers to give it a go! Before reading the book get the children to explore the endpapers and label the different things that they can see – share new spellings with them first (e.g. <a> for /ae/ and <ea> for /ee/). This funny tale celebrates friendship and how a big bottom can save the day! It is perfect for children near the beginning of phase 5 as there are small amounts of text on a page with lots of words that they can decode using their existing knowledge and skills. After reading give the children a big-bottomed bear (or they could make their own) and stick extra things on to create a monster shadow.

Our Cat Cuddles Gervase Phinn

Cuddles the cat turns out to be a little more than the family bargained for! This is a more challenging text for the end of phase 5 but is full of rhyme plus pages that have less text which supports the children as they read. The rhyme is a great way to explore spelling with the children and how to spot alternative spellings for the same sound. E.g.

‘Lizzie clapped her hands in glee,

‘That kitten is the one for me!’

Use this as a starting point for ‘Unusual Pets’ and create a story sack with the children to incorporate non-fiction as well as ripped sheets and giant teeth!

Happy Birthday Winne Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul

the Witch never fails to entertain with the scrapes that she gets into. In this tale, Winnie’s games and astonishing cake take centre stage. Who wouldn’t want to go to her party?

The story is more complex than some of the other books in this pack, so break it up for the children to order by giving them smaller chunks of text once they know the story. Phase 5 is all about the children trying out the range of GPCs and phonemes that they know to make sense of the words they read so use the illustrations to support them.

There’s A Spider in the Bath Neil Griffiths and Peggy Collins

Beware… there is a lot of screaming in this book… be prepared with silent scream bubbles for the children to hold up whilst they let out their most impressive SILENT scream! Also, be prepared for the amazing pop up in the middle. Where else could the spider hide and how would he escape?

You’re Called What? Kes Gray and Nikki Dyson

This book is a brilliant mixture of story and non-fiction. All of the animals have real names that they are not happy with from the Cockapoo to the Tasselled Wobbegong (yes, really!). As well as the funny names there are lots of suitable ‘phase 5’ words including split digraphs for the children to read. Use the book as a springboard to find out about other strange names or create some of your own. You could give the children some name rules, such as it must have an /ae/ sound at the end, or it must have a split digraph in it.

The Night Pirates Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright

Who is creeping through the night? Rough, tough little girl pirates arrive in the dark to take Tom (with his house as a disguise) on an adventure to steal back their treasure. A super story with fantastic illustrations to engage the children (and grown-ups). Use the concept of disguise to play games with the words – point out nouns from the story (or expanded noun phrases) and ask the children to choose a picture as a disguise on the front. E.g. ‘the dark, dark house’ stuck onto an outline of ‘a quiet mouse’ etc…

Rex Simon James

Rex may be little, but he is determined to become a ferocious dinosaur, just like his Dad. This is a lovely story about what real Dads are. There are some very tricky dinosaur names in here that the children will love to wrap their tongues around. Show the children how to break these up into sounds that they know,

e.g. tri-cer-a-tops. Play ‘dinosaur romps’ with the tricky words either outside or in the hall. Have the children in pairs – one as Dad and one as Rex – place word cards under plastic cups or dishes for the children to discover.

Barry the Fish with Fingers Sue Hendra

You must use this book when learning about the phoneme family /air/ – this rhyming text has /air/ words on every page! The little mouse just can’t get the bear to shift from his chair… but he does have the last laugh. Using rhyme as a vehicle to create a new story, think about what might happen if there was a dog on my log or a pig in my wig!

Come All You Little Persons John Agard and Jessica Courtney-Tickle

 whimsical text is super for the middle of phase 5 or for children who need practise at blending words in shorter sentences. It is a lovely mixture of predictable language (Come little… person) and much more challenging vocabulary (invisible /cape/apron/gown/attire). The links with nature really stand out so this is one to share outside and then collect clues for different ‘people’, e.g. feathers, leaves, grass, sticks, stones etc…

The Ugly Five Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

This rhythmic, rhyming tale from Julia Donaldson does not disappoint and will be a firm favourite with the children. We learn about five strange-looking creatures who create their own ‘ugly’ club. But are they really? Their babies certainly don’t think so! This text is quite challenging so is one for the end of phase 5 when children are very secure in their blending. You could, however, use one of the descriptions with the children and match words that are on the page; there are lots of suitable adjectives that would be perfect. Use the premise of the book to think about safaris and plan which animals you would like to see.

The Storm Whale Benji Davies

This book is really accessible for the children to read independently. The illustrations portray lots of emotion and could easily be used as the focus for a whole lesson. Encourage the children to draw upon their own experiences of feeling lonely, proud, worried or angry. Noi is brave when he says goodbye to the storm whale – think about how he looked after the whale before he returned him to the sea and create a guide for other ‘whale carers’ to use