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by | Nov 12, 2020

Preparing for the phonics screening check

The phonics screening check is used by teachers to assess children’s phonics skills learned through Reception and Year 1. It usually takes place in the summer term of Year 1, but due to school closures, the check didn’t take place this summer. Instead, Year 2 children will be doing it over the next half-term, in November and December.


What does the phonics screening check involve?

There are two sections in this 40-word check. Your child will read up to four words per page for their teacher and they will probably do the check in one sitting of about 5–10 minutes. Although the check is compulsory, it isn’t a formal test and is usually carried out by the class teacher, one-to-one, in a relaxed environment. The check also includes some nonsense words that are phonically decodable but are not real words. These check children’s decoding skills, making sure they cannot guess the word.

You can find more information on our phonics screening check page.


How can I help my child’s reading at home?

Sharing books together

Reading phonetically decodable books at home is very useful for developing children’s phonic skills.

  • Before your child starts reading, look at the cover and title together. Encourage them to think about what the book might be about to get them engaged and in the right frame of mind to read.
  • Talk about the book as you read, recapping and asking questions as you go to check your child’s understanding of what they’re reading.
  • Point to the words as your child reads, encouraging them to try every word to the very end (children learning to read often neglect suffixes).
  • If they’re struggling with a word, help to break it down into individual sounds, then blend the sounds together. Breaking words down into syllables can also help. With longer or compound words, support children to identify elements of the word they might know or find easier to decode, for instance, rain/ing, kind/est, foot/ball. Cover up part of the word and encourage children to read it in smaller chunks.
  • If your child is still struggling, it’s OK to tell them the word.
  • Finally, don’t forget that praise is really motivating for children as they read.

Make practice fun!

Here are some quick, fun games you can play at home using the focus phonemes in your child’s reading books. These will all help to increase confidence reading and blending sounds.

  • Write down all the phonemes on separate pieces of paper and get your child to practise reading them quickly, one after the other. Mix up the order to make sure your child isn’t reciting them!
  • Stick up different phonemes around a room and ask your child to hop to one phoneme, skip to one and jump to another as you call them out.
  • Get your child to write as many words which include the focus phonemes as they can in 30 seconds. Make it easier or harder by giving them more or less time.
  • Choose six phonemes and give each one a number. Roll a dice and ask your child to say the phoneme that the dice lands on.

More from Oxford Owl

Books, kits and flashcards for phonics practice

Biff, Chip and Kipper: My Phonics Kit

Read with Oxford | Stages 2–3 | Age 4–6

Packed full of fun activities, engaging stories and useful tips, this Read with Oxford Stages 2–3 kit provides you with everything you need to support your child in the lead up to the national phonics screening check for 6-year-olds.
Find out more >

Biff, Chip and Kipper: My Phonics Flashcards

Read with Oxford | Stages 2–3 | Age 4–6

A fun way for children to practise their letters and sounds at home. These flashcards are ideal for children who are growing in reading confidence.
Find out more >

My Reading and Writing Kit: More sounds and blending

Read Write Inc. Phonics | Age 5–7

This kit will improve the ability of your developing reader by introducing first blending skills. It also provides handwriting practice to ensure your child can progress as a writer as they gain confidence in reading.
Find out more >

My Reading and Writing Kit: Becoming a reader

Read Write Inc. Phonics | Age 5–7

Support your child’s steps towards becoming an independent reader and writer with this kit, designed to help your child to read longer sentences and stories, and to practise writing a growing range of words.
Find out more >

The Dinosaur King and Other Stories

Read with Oxford | Stage 3 | Age 5–6

Join Tops and friends on a journey to meet the Dinosaur King, discover a planet made from cake, and find out what Snoot really, really wants for his birthday!
Find out more >

See also: More books from Read with Oxford Stage 3

Non-fiction: Animal Superpowers

Read with Oxford | Stage 4 | Age 5–7

Discover some amazing animal superpowers! Find out about animals with super strength and speed, read about some incredible birds, and learn why minibeasts matter. Ideal for children who are gaining more reading confidence.
Find out more >

See also: More books from Read with Oxford Stage 4