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Linguistic Phonics

Linguistic Phonics - Guidance for Parents [ 341KB ]

What is Linguistic Phonics

The central rationale of Linguistic Phonics is that children understand the relationship between their spoken language and the written word.

The initial emphasis is on developing attention and listening skills and oral language. This is followed by a focus on phonological awareness so that children learn how to identify syllables, rhyme and eventually, individual phonemes (sounds) within words. Each phoneme is then matched with its corresponding grapheme. (letter or letter-combination)

Unlike traditional phonic programmes, linguistic phonics does not teach letter names, rules or exceptions, or refer to silent letters, word families or long and short vowels. By significantly reducing the amount of unnecessary memorising each child is asked to do, more energy can be spent on thinking about, and interacting with text.

All learning takes place within a meaningful context: sounds within words; words within texts. Children are given strategies to help them investigate and problem-solve; challenging them to take responsibility for their own learning. Parallel to the development of decoding skills, is an emphasis on the development of receptive and expressive language so that children are constantly developing their capacity to interpret what they read and to communicate their ideas more effectively.

The programme works most successfully when it is integrated appropriately as part of a well-planned literacy programme.

The programme

Key Principles

  • sounds are represented by letters
  • longer words are made up of blocks of sound (syllables)
  • sounds can be represented by more than one letter
  • some sounds can be represented in different ways e.g. boat, go, snow, cone
  • some spellings can represent more than one sound e.g. cow, snow

Phonological Skills

Segmenting - the ability to access the individual sounds in words.

Blending - the ability to push sounds together in words phoneme.

Phoneme manipulation - the ability to pull sounds in and out of words e.g. decide that ‘ow’ is not ‘oa’ in cow.


Code knowledge – how the 44 sounds in the English language are represented.

All three elements, concepts, skills and information, are learned within the context of words and text. This means that the child learns about how sounds are represented as he or she uses them in the only context that makes sense – to read and to write.

The programme also takes into account the nature of the learner, ensuring that learning takes place through active discovery.

There are Six Stages in the Programme

Stage 1:- One letter one sound (yellow) – children need to understand that sounds are represented by letters for reading and writing.

Stage 2:- Building Longer words (orange) Children need to understand one letter to one sound correspondence.

Stage 3:- Multi-Syllable words (blue) – Children need to understand that longer words are made up of blocks of sound (syllables)

Stage 4:- Sounds represented by more than one letter (green) - Children need to understand that a sound may be represented by more than one letter.

Stage 5:- Categorizing Sounds in Single-Syllable words with Orthographic Diversity (red) – Children need to understand that a sound can be represented in more than one way and that the same letters may represent more than one sound.

Stage 6:- Multi-Syllable Words with Orthographic Diversity (purple) – Children need to be able to read longer words and to understand the impact of schwas, unusual beginnings (prefixes) and endings (suffixes) often derived from foreign languages such as Latin, Greek and French

How is Linguistic Phonics being implemented in schools?

In year 1 the focus is on developing the disposition to read and write as children are immersed in a rich literacy environment. Throughout the year children develop attention and listening skills, oral language and phonological awareness. They are gradually introduced to how sounds are represented in print, through modelled and shared experiences across the curriculum.

The methodology is formally introduced in year 2,3 and 8 as a whole-class approach. Here the emphasis is on acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to ‘crack the print code’ as quickly as possible, so that children can read and write with increasing independence.

The approach is then disseminated to year 4-7 and across post-primary departments.

  • 1 ½ day sessions are provided for year 1 teachers to provide a foundation in attention and listening skills and phonological awareness. Teachers are also introduced to the principles of Linguistic phonics so that they can incorporate them into daily print experiences during children’s first year at school.

  • 3 day training is provided for year 2-3 teachers, Post-primary and Special Needs teachers. This course familiarises teachers with the principles of Linguistic Phonics and strategies to effectively implement it within the classroom. It focuses on identifying stages of development and learning to respond appropriately.

  • 2 day training is provided for year 4-7 teachers to familiarise them with the principles of Linguistic phonics and to explore how it can be developed with older children. 

Training is also being provided for learning support assistants or volunteers, to consolidate the teaching that takes place in class and to allow children the opportunity to read together with a supportive adult.

Information talks to senior management teams, whole staffs, parents and homework clubs ensure that the approach is embedded.

Some pilot schools have requested support to implement a linguistic phonics approach from year 4-7 or across post-primary departments. This has been provided during school-based professional development days or directed time, with some follow-up classroom support.

School Commitment
  • identification of literacy as an issue in the school development plan
  • review of existing policies and schemes to ensure appropriate integration of approach
  • attendance at training initial information session for whole staff or English Departments
  • release for follow-up clusters
  • participation in evaluation including pre-testing and post-testing
  • provision of samples of pupils’ writing each term
  • internal co-ordination of the programme
Education Board Commitment
  • training for teachers and learning assistants
  • training folder and materials
  • demonstration lessons, team teaching and observations with a focus on Year 2,3 and 8
  • organising and leading cluster groups
  • liaison with co-ordinator
Positive outcomes

Research into Linguistic Phonics carried out by Stranmillis University College , during 4005-6, indicated that the Linguistics Phonics approach has been particularly successful in raising reading standards among primary school pupils.

Parents indicated that their children were significantly more likely to enjoy reading and to read books other than their schoolbooks than parents of pupils using other approaches.

Primary pupils in lower ability reading groups, using Linguistic Phonics showed significant improvement in writing.

In Post primary schools teachers believe that Linguistic Phonics has been effective in raising pupils’ confidence and self-esteem and has had a positive impact on pupils’ written work.

Summary of the Research Findings [ 192KB ]

Full report of the Research Findings [ 1.6MB ]

For further information on the implementation of Linguistic Phonics in Belfast please contact:

Hilary McEvoy
Primary Linguistic Phonics

Julie Greer
Post-primary Linguistics Phonics

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