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Alternative spellings in Year 1 at Waingroves Primary School

About our school

Waingroves Primary School is a one-form entry school with just over 200 children on roll.  At Waingroves, we understand that good teaching and learning in Phonics is essential to provide the skills that our children need to become excellent readers and writers.  During recent years, Phonics has been given increasing status in school.  This is reflected in the upward trend of our Year 1 Phonics Screening Check scores, which have increased from 93% to 97% in the past three years.  


We aim to ensure that all of our children are confident in all phonic phases by the time they leave Year 2.  In Reception, the children begin with lots of Phase 1 activities, listening to and differentiating environmental sounds.  As soon as they are ready, the introduction of Phase 2 single letter sounds  begins.  As the children acquire these new sounds they are given numerous opportunities to apply them through play-based or guided opportunities, additional to their Phonics sessions.  This repeated usage really helps the children to both remember and apply their Phonics learning and gives them a good foundation to build upon when they move on to the Phase 3 sounds later in the year.

When the children arrive in Year 1 we spend a little time recapping the Phase 2 and 3 learning from Reception, assessing to see where the children have gaps.  Again, this then helps the children to build upon their learning when we move on to looking at words with consonant clusters in Phase 4, or the vowel sounds in Phase 5.  Again, as with Reception, Year 1 provides numerous activities throughout the day in which children are called upon to use their phonic knowledge. We feel that this constant repetition and practise helps to solidify children’s understanding and build their confidence.

In Year 2 the majority of children work on the spelling patterns in Phase 6.  However, we also have a small group of children who have intervention sessions working on the learning from the previous phases.  These children are often those who find reading or writing a little more difficult and they really benefit from the extra support.  

Above all of this though, our aim is to make sure that our children learn through fun and engaging phonics activities which allow them to ‘have a go’ and become confident, resilient readers and writers. 


We teach Phonics on a daily basis in all of our Key Stage 1 classes, with lessons usually between twenty minutes and half an hour.  

The lesson featured in the video clips took place in February 2019.


This lesson was focused around the different grapheme choices for ‘igh’ (from Phase 5c).

1. Phase 4 recap with Terry Toucan

During our Phase 5 sessions we try to ensure that we recap on lots of words with consonant clusters (i.e. from Phase 4).  This is because we noticed that lots of children were missing out the second consonant in a CCVC word (like plan) or the third consonant in a CCCVC word (like scrap).  The case was also very similar when the consonant cluster was at the end of the word, with children often missing out the penultimate consonant (for example, champ).  Although this was a skill which we had covered explicitly during our Phase 4 lessons, we felt that this was an area where further emphasis and practice was needed.  As a result, we introduced Terry Toucan.  In this clip, the children are asked to sound out a range of words which all have consonant clusters.  The children are encouraged to count how many sounds they need and then we check with Terry to make sure they have the correct number.  The children then have a go at writing the word and again count to make sure they have the correct number of sounds.  This is having a positive impact, as the children are now getting better at counting the sounds and checking their writing every time they write a word with a consonant cluster.  The impact of this can also be seen in the children’s day-to-day writing, as they are using this technique more and more to ensure they have written every sound.  Another way we use Terry Toucan is as a tool to correct words with missing sounds.  We teacher-model incorrect words and encourage the children, with Terry’s help, to spot and edit the mistake.  Again this is another tool which the children are beginning to use on their own writing and is something we actively encourage.

2. Spotting alternative spellings of the ‘igh’ phoneme

This clip begins with the children looking for the sound they will be concentrating on today.  As Phase 5a has already been taught, the children know the igh, ie and i-e sounds.  These are all featured in the text alongside a new alternative, y.  This  gives the opportunity for the children to spot these sounds in words themselves, rather than be given a list.  Throughout our phonics teaching, we correct and re-model any impure sounds.  We also model the use of letter names, rather than Phase 2 sounds to identify letters.  This can be heard in the video.  Next we recap the Phase 3 and 5 sounds we have worked on recently using the sound cards, again asking the children to spot the 'igh' graphemes.  Then the children compile their own list of words with the different 'igh' graphemes from the text on the board.  This is to be used in the next activity where the children begin to sort these words.

3. Sort the 'igh' spellings into boxes 

The purpose of this activity is to give the children the chance to sort the words into the 4 different 'igh' graphemes we are looking at during the lesson.  One element this provides is repetition, as the children are writing the words out for a second time this session.  This should help with memorising the spellings of the words.  In addition though, sorting the words into the different sounds gives the children the opportunity to spot patterns (for example that spelling 'igh' is often followed by a t).  In order to help the children to see these patterns more clearly, the words in the text were carefully chosen to highlight these spelling patterns.  A grid was provided to help give structure to the children’s thoughts and to show which particular sounds we were looking for.

4. Let's spot spelling patterns

After the children had finished their sorting task, we came back together to look at what the children had spotted.  For many sounds, the difference is often in where it is placed in the word.  However, with the 'igh' sounds, the letter which follows the sound often dictates which grapheme is used.  These are the rules which we looked at during the session:

igh is often followed by t.

ie is often followed by d.

y is often at the end of a word.

i-e is usually our best guess if we can’t follow any of the other rules.

The children were led to finding these patterns, and the rules were talked about explicitly.  We then checked to see whether these rules applied to the words we had found.  As aforementioned, the words in the text had been specially selected to highlight these rules, so the children could see evidence of them in their grid.

5. Applying our learning: 'bikes' and 'types'

As with any new learning, we feel that the best way to ensure children really understand new rules or ideas in Phonics is through repetition and application.  We endeavour to link our learning in phonics to the work we do in all other areas of the curriculum.  This can be seen in this video clip.  The children are taking part in a shared write based around bicycles (as part of our ‘On the Move’ topic).  During the teacher modelling part of the session, we are able to look at some of the words which have 'igh' sounds in.  This gives the children chance to apply the rules they have been learning and to think about which of the 'igh' graphemes they will need in a particular word.  For most words, this is a relatively straightforward task.  However, the word ‘type’ has been included to show the children that the rules just help us to make a ‘best guess’ and that actually some words don’t follow the rules at all.  


We feel that our well-structured, daily Phonics lessons really help our children to get to grips with some of the nuances of the English language.  During the session, the children were able to recap some of their prior learning (e.g. the Phase 4 words with Terry Toucan) and then build on knowledge they already had (for example learning the spelling rules to help them distinguish between the different 'igh' graphemes).  Year on year we feel that our children’s understanding and confidence in Phonics is growing and this subsequently has an impact on what they achieve in both reading and writing as they move through school. 

Next steps

We ensure that we assess our children regularly, in order to help us spot any gaps in understanding and target intervention wherever it is needed.  We will continue to work through the alternative graphemes as part of Phase 5c, but also revisit the Phase 4 consonant clusters, as part of every session, to target specific areas of need (as shown in clip 1).  As we move towards the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check in June, we will talk to all parents about how this is carried out and what it looks like.  We will also support parents to help their children with Phonics-based homework or activities as appropriate.  


Amy Reeves-Moore, Year 1 teacher, Waingroves Primary School

Additional information

Would you like to take part in a phonics project in your school? Project Phonics EYFS - Year 2 is a collaborative CPD opportunity for primary school clusters in Derbyshire. This opportunity builds on the robust foundations of Project READ to enable schools not involved in the original project to participate in similar, collaborative school improvement projects. Participating schools work in partnership with Derbyshire's Teaching, Learning and Assessment Consultants and with Specialist Leaders of Education from Derbyshire's Teaching Schools. Contact for more information.

1. Phase 4 recap with Terry Toucan. Password for all clips: projectread
2. Spotting alternative spellings of the 'igh' phoneme
3. Sort the 'igh' spellings into boxes
4. Let's spot spelling patterns
5. Applying our learning: 'bikes' and 'types'
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