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Ryhall CE Academy

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Phase 4-5c

Phase 4 - 5c Phonics explained: A Guide for Parents


The purpose of this phase is to consolidate children’s knowledge of graphemes in reading and spelling words containing adjacent consonants (e.g. tr) and polysyllabic words (words with more than one syllable). Up to this point the majority of words have been monosyllabic (words with just one syllable).

Children entering Phase Four will be able to represent each of 42 phonemes by a grapheme, and be able to blend phonemes to read CVC words and segment CVC words for spelling. They will have some experience in reading simple two-syllable words and captions. They will know letter names and be able to read and spell some tricky words.

In this Phase words are often described in relation to how many vowels and consonants they contain:

  • The word 'cod' is a CVC word (consonant / vowel / consonant). Other CVC examples are; sad, net & him.
  • The word 'crab' is a CCVC word (consonant / consonant / vowel / consonant). Other examples are; trim, flat & step.
  • The word 'help' is a CVCC word (consonant / vowel / consonant / consonant). Other examples are; fist, mend & test.
  • As children progress through Phase 4 they become more confident and skilled in reading and spelling words with a greater number of letters and graphemes.


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. For example, in Phase 3 children were taught 'ai' as the grapheme for the phoneme /a/ (as in rain). In Phase 5, children are taught that the phoneme /a/ can also be represented by the graphemes 'ay' (as in play) or 'a-e' (as in make). This variation needs to be taught as it is common in our language system.

The new graphemes taught in Phase 5 are:


a-e (as in came)

au (as in Paul)

aw (as in saw)

ay (as in day)

e-e (as in these)

ea (as in sea)

ew (as in chew)

ew (as stew)

ey (as in money)

i-e (as in like)

ie (as in pie)

ir (as in girl)

o-e (as in bone)

oe (as in toe)

ou (as in out)

oy (as in boy)

ph (as in Phil)

u-e (as in June)

u-e (as in huge)

ue (as in clue)

ue (as in due)


wh (as in when)


Children entering Phase Five are able to read and spell words containing adjacent consonants and some polysyllabic words. 

Phase 5 is broken down into three stages - 5a, 5b and 5c.

Phase 5a

This stage of the phase introduces some new GPCs in the same way as in previous phases. Five of these GPCs are known as split digraphs. They are a_e, e_e, i_e, o_e, u_e. These used to be taught as magic e but now it is recommended that children learn to recognise these in the same way as other graphemes but simply explaining that in these particular graphemes the two letters work as a team but they aren't directly next to each other.

Phase 5b

Phase 5b introduces the idea that some graphemes can be pronounced in more than one way. E.g. the ch grapheme can be pronounced in each of these ways check, chef and school. This is a vital lesson for children to learn and they need to learn to apply it in their reading. This can be quite a jump for some children to make as they have to realise that English isn't quite as straightforward as it once seemed. However, it can also be quite empowering to know that just because a word doesn't make sense first time, it doesn't mean that they can't go back and figure it out for themselves

Phase 5c

This part of Phase 5 is all about learning that some phonemes have more than one spelling (in fact some of the really awkward ones have loads of different spellings). In the past, some people have thrown in the towel with phonics at this point and decided that there is no point in teaching it as there is no rhyme and reason to how these phonemes are spelled. The fact is that there is much more rhyme and reason to which spelling we use for these phonemes then most people are aware of. Certainly we can teach children how to make the best guesses when spelling these phonemes. They aren't always infallible but it leaves children with far fewer 'tricky' spellings that they have to just learn in other ways. It is important that children try to discover these rules by themselves by playing investigative type games and looking for patterns.


Once children are secure in Phase 5 phonics we begin on Support for Spelling. By this time children should know most of the common grapheme– phoneme correspondences (GPCs). They should be able to read hundreds of words, doing this in three ways:

  1. reading the words automatically if they are very familiar; 
  2. decoding them quickly and silently because their sounding and blending routine is now well established; 
  3. decoding them aloud.

Children’s spelling should be phonemically accurate, although it may still be a little unconventional at times. Spelling usually lags behind reading, as it is harder.  During this phase we begin to teach age related spelling patterns and high frequency words from the National Curriculum.

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Ryhall Stamford