ELS Phonics (Essential Letters and Sounds)

“We aim for all children to read well, quickly”

What is phonics?

A method of teaching beginners to read and pronounce words by learning to associate letters or letter groups with the sounds they represent. There are 44 main sounds in the English Language. Each sound is represented by a grapheme (the written representation of a sound).

In the GLA we follow Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS). The key principles of ELS are based upon:

  • The delivery of whole- class, high-quality first teaching with well-structured daily lesson plans.
  • The use of consistent terminology by teachers, children and parents.
  • The use of consistent resources that support effective teaching.
  • Repetition and reinforcement of learning.
  • Regular and manageable assessment to ensure that all children ‘keep up’ rather than ‘catch up’.
  • The ‘E’ model

All of our pupils in EYFS and Year 1 have daily ELS lessons. ELS teaching also continues in Year 2 and into Key Stage 2. If required, some pupils receive ELS interventions to support the ELS principle of “Keep up not catch up.” This ensures all our pupils have the best start to early reading.

We regularly host ELS parent sessions which provide you with the opportunity to learn about how we teach phonics to your child/children. These sessions also inform you about reading with your child at home and giving you the opportunity to learn some sounds yourself! If you were unable to attend our most recent session or are new to our school please speak to your child’s class teacher as we are always very happy to provide more information.

ELS Overview – Phase 1 to Phase 5

Phase 1* Phase 2 Phase 3**

Nursery/Pre-School Seven aspects:

  • Environmental sounds
  • Instrumental sounds
  • Body percussion
  • Rhythm and rhyme
  • Alliteration
  • Voice sounds
  • Oral blending

Reception/Primary 1 Autumn 1 • Oral blending

  • Sounding out and blending with 23 new grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs)
  • 12 new harder to read and spell (HRS) words

Reception/Primary 1 Autumn 2, Spring 1 and Spring 2

  • Oral blending
  • Sounding out and blending with 29 new GPCs
  • 32 new HRS words
  • Revision of Phase 2
Phase 4** Phase 5 including alternatives and lesser-known GPCs Beyond Phase 5

Reception/Primary 1 Summer 1

  • Oral blending
  • No new GPCs
  • No new HRS words
  • Word structures – cvcc, ccvc, ccvcc, cccvc, cccvcc
  • Suffixes
  • Revision of Phase 2 and Phase 3

Reception/Primary 1 Summer 2

  • Introduction to Phase 5 for reading
  • 20 new GPCs
  • 16 new HRS words Year 1/Primary 2 Autumn 1 and 2
  • Revision of previously taught Phase 5 GPCs
  • 2 new GPCs
  • 9 new HRS words Year 1/Primary 2 Spring 1 and 2
  • Alternative spellings for previously taught sounds
  • 49 new GPCs
  • 4 new HRS words
  • Oral blending
  • Revision of Phase 2, Phase 3 and Phase 4

Year 1/Primary 2 Summer, Year 2/Primary 3 and Key Stage 2

  • With ELS, phonics teaching does not stop at the end of Year 1, but continues as children move through the school, with links being made between their GPC knowledge and spelling
  • Revision of all previously taught GPCs for reading and spelling
  • Wider reading, spelling and writing curriculum

*Phase 1 of Letters and Sounds (2007) can be used in Nursery/Pre-School settings before starting ELS in Reception and can still be used throughout the school day in Reception. However, direct phonics teaching – the teaching of sounds, graphemes, word reading and vocabulary – must start from the very beginning of Reception.

**Phase 3 of ELS covers more than just the Phase 3 graphemes – we introduce some challenge from Phase 4 (in the form of adjacent consonants) alongside the Phase 3 teaching to extend children’s sounding out and blending skills.