A systematic synthetic phonics programme for English Home Language

Get all children to read well quickly with Essential Letters and Sounds.

Essential Letters and Sounds follows a structured approach to phonics teaching that gives learners and teachers consistency and security, with simple routines to reduce cognitive load and maximise the chances of success.

Principles of ELS

The principles of ELS are based upon:

the delivery of whole-class, high-quality teaching, with well-structured daily lesson plans

the use of consistent terminology by teachers, learners and parents

the use of consistent resources that support effective teaching

repetition and reinforcement of learning, with plenty of opportunities to practise

regular and manageable assessment to ensure that all learners “keep up” rather than “catch up”

Terminology in ELS

Watch the video to review some of the important terms and abbreviations used in ELS.

ELS and reading

ELS follows the key principles of teaching reading to ensure that effective learning takes please.

ELS follows a synthetic and systematic approach to phonics and builds on the teaching of phonological awareness, especially phonemic awareness.

ELS instruction is explicit. The teaching sequence has a recurring and rhythmic structure that is clearly modelled by the teacher. This gives learners support and confidence.

ELS instruction is systematic with a clear scope and progressive sequence.

ELS promotes learner engagement – learning is fun. The structured lessons and routines help to focus learners’ attention.

ELS includes many opportunities for practice – learners are given opportunities to practise and apply their learning in different ways following the structured routines and using simple, consistent resources.

ELS is designed to be used in an early learning environment and aims to get all learners to read well quickly. ELS promotes learners keeping up rather than catching up.

ELS instruction focuses on the teaching of key skills and monitors learner progress throughout to ensure that intervention happens as soon as gaps are identified.

Phonics teaching units

ELS includes 33 teaching units that systematically introduce new grapheme–phoneme correspondences (GPCs) and harder to read and spell (HRS) words.

Units 1 to 12

Single letters, digraphs and trigraphs

Units 13 to 17

Adjacent consonant words

Units 18 to 23

Alternative spellings

Units 24 to 32

Alternative pronunciations

Unit 33

More rarely used GPCs

Teaching sequences

There are two simple teaching sequences that are followed in ELS.

The first sequence is for lessons where new GPCs are taught.

1. Review

Review previously taught graphemes and HRS words.

2. Teach

Teach new graphemes and HRS words.

3. Practise

Practise the graphemes taught in the lesson.

4. Apply

Apply the learning from the lesson – read captions and/or sentences and complete a worksheet.

5. Review

Review graphemes and HRS words from the lesson.
The second sequence is for review lessons.

1. Review

Review previously taught graphemes and HRS words.

2. Teach and practise

Teach and practise HRS words. Read and write GPC words from the lesson.

3. Apply

Read a decodable reader.


ELS comprises:

Teacher’s Handbook

Grapheme Cards

Wall Friezes

Activity Workbooks

Spelling Posters

Essential Blending Books

Phonic Readers

Get in touch

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