Letters and sounds: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What is in the Letters and Sounds publication?
The publication comprises a folder with 2 booklets, a poster and a DVD. The first booklet includes Notes of Guidance for Practitioners and Teachers. These notes form an introduction to Letters and Sounds and are intended to help practitioners and teachers use the programme effectively. Guidance on the principles of the six-phase Teaching Programme is included, together with some frequently asked questions.
The second booklet is the six-phase Teaching Programme. There are six incremental phases. Phase One concentrates on activities to promote speaking and listening skills, as well as phonological awareness, oral blending and segmenting. Phases Two to Six focus on high quality phonic work, providing advice and activities to help practitioners and teachers ensure that by the end of Key Stage 1 children develop fluent word reading skills and have good foundations in spelling.
The Letters and Sounds publication builds upon the core document Guidance for practitioners and teachers on progression and pace in the teaching of phonics, in: The Primary Framework for Literacy and Mathematics: core position papers underpinning the renewal of guidance for teaching literacy and mathematics (Ref: 03855-2006BKT-EN).
The poster provides a visual summary of the principles of high-quality phonic work for teachers, practitioners, leaders and managers in schools and settings.
The DVD shows exemplar sessions for each phase with short clips to demonstrate effective practice. The DVD does not illustrate all the activities described in the booklet and does not show the teaching sequences in full.
- How do the Letters and Sounds materials differ from PWS and PiPs?
- The Letters and Sounds materials build on the approaches, games and activities from PiPs and PwS and reflect the principles of high-quality phonic teaching as described in the Rose Review. Steps 1–7 in PiPs and PwS have been replaced by six phonic phases. The introduction of grapheme–phoneme correspondences begins in Phase Two, as described in the core document Guidance for practitioners and teachers on progression and pace in the teaching of phonics published in 2006 (see above).
- What is covered in each Phase?
Phase One has been expanded and exemplified to include seven aspects of phonological awareness. Within each of these aspects there are three strands; tuning into sounds, listening and remembering sounds and talking about sounds. Phase One complements a broad and rich language curriculum. There is an emphasis on oral work, developing children's language structures, vocabulary and phonological awareness. Within this phase children will also begin to develop the skills to blend and segment orally. Phase One type activities should continue well beyond the introduction of Phase Two.
Phases Two to Six introduce the grapheme–phoneme correspondences in a systematic and progressive way. The booklet sets out suggestions of the letter sequences and timescales for each phase. Introduction of grapheme–phoneme (letter-sound) correspondences begins at Phase Two and this is the point at which a programme of systematic phonic work should begin. By the end of Phase Three children should know one grapheme for all the phonemes in spoken English; at Phase Four they should be able to read and spell words containing adjacent consonants; at Phase Five, children begin to recognise and use alternative ways of pronouncing the graphemes and spelling the phonemes they have been taught; and at Phase Six they develop skill and automaticity in reading and spelling.
- Is there guidance on teaching High Frequency Words?
Many high-frequency words are entirely regular, and the skills of blending and segmenting will enable children to decode and encode them. Even high-frequency words containing irregularities usually have some regular grapheme-phoneme correspondences. There is specific guidance on dealing with both types of high-frequency words.
- I work in a school. Where can I get a copy of Letters and Sounds?
Five copies were sent directly to all primary, infant and junior schools as well as middle deemed primary schools. Further copies can be ordered through Prolog.
Order number: 00281-2007FLR-EN
Tel: 0845 60 222 60
Fax 0845 60 333 60
- I work in a Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) setting, where can I get a copy of Letters and Sounds?
Your local authority was responsible for ordering and distributing copies of the materials when they were launched. You will need to contact your local Early Years Advisory Service if you have any queries regarding this.
Further copies can be ordered through Prolog (reference as above).
- Will there be any training on these materials?
Training materials have been developed for practitioners working with children at Phase One. These are available to Local Authorities. Contact your Early Years Advisory Service for details of how they are supporting settings in using this material.
For schools there will be no national training programme as the material is sufficiently detailed to stand alone. Local authorities have been encouraged to support schools and settings in disseminating the Letters and Sounds materials through ongoing training and briefings for Early Years Foundation Stage Co-ordinators and Literacy Subject Leaders.
- Do I have to use the Letters and Sounds materials?
First and foremost, headteachers, leaders and managers need to make an informed decision to choose a phonic programme, which best meets the needs of the children with whom they work.
The decision about which phonic programme to use rests with individual schools. The Letters and Sounds materials meet the criteria for effective phonics teaching as recommended by the Rose Review. If schools use an alternative phonic programme/resource, leadership teams will need to consider whether these meet the Rose Review criteria.
The National Strategies web area provides a list of criteria that define an effective phonics programme.
- How should the implementation of the Letters and Sounds publication be organised in my setting/school?
For practitioners working with children in Phase One, you may wish to use the materials immediately. You will need to consider carefully how they can be used to enhance current language and literacy provision.
For those children in Reception and Key Stage 1 implementation needs to be a whole school policy and agreed with literacy subject leaders and senior managers. Schools will need to decide if the materials will be the core programme or if they will be aligned to existing phonic programmes/resources. Schools will also need to use their ongoing assessments and take into account children’s prior experience and attainment in deciding which phase most appropriately meets their needs.
It is important that schools consider one of the main recommendations in the Rose Review, which is ensuring fidelity to one programme. The Letters and Sounds materials exemplify the phonic progression and objectives set out in the Primary Framework for literacy. Therefore, Letters and Sounds can be used alongside the implementation of the Primary Framework.
- Is there guidance on vulnerable children?
- The Primary National Strategy has produced additional sets of guidance on Communication Language and Literacy Development (CLLD) for SEN and EAL children, in the form of frequently asked questions.