It’s not me, it’s you – the problem with the phonics screening check (Part 1)

What is the purpose of the phonics screening check?

The purpose of the check is, ‘to confirm that all children have learned phonic decoding to an age-appropriate standard’ (Standards and Testing Agency, 2017). There’s a particular phrase that stands out to me: ‘to an age-appropriate standard’.

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Spelling – Year 3 and 4 National Curriculum Objectives

“Phonic knowledge should continue to underpin spelling after key stage 1; teachers should still draw pupils’ attention to GPCs that do and do not fit in with what has been taught so far. Increasingly, however, pupils also need to understand the role of morphology and etymology.”

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How not to teach spelling

“Familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.”

― Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow


If you allow a child to spell ‘he’ as ‘hee’ or ‘they’ as ‘thay’, they’re going to practise misspelling these words.  They’ll become so familiar with their invented spellings that they may struggle to unlearn the inaccurate sound-spelling correspondences.  I use ‘invented spelling’ because the notion of ‘phonetically plausible’ spelling is flawed.Read More »

Phonetically IM-plausible

Shared Writing

Know your code. Know what they know. Know what is an exception*. If you know this, you’ll know when to ask the children for help and when to model.

I’m going to contextualise this blog post with Letters and Sounds Phase Two. I’ll explain how to systematically introduce the code in Phase Two Sets 1-5, then I’ll discuss how I’d lead a shared writing session in Reception. Spoiler: ‘phonetically plausible’ is implausible in the context of the more knowledgeable teacher modelling writing to students.

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Ignorance is Bliss


If you’re reading this, you know your phonics; you’ve simply achieved ignorance in your expertise. Stay with me.

To ‘know your phonics’ is to have developed your skills in segmenting, blending and phoneme manipulation, and to know the code (the spellings of the 44 sounds that make up the English language)*. So, again, if you’re reading this you know your phonics. However, you may not necessarily know how to teach phonics (yet).

*(FYI: if you can speak, you know your sounds; if you can spell, you know the code.) 
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