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Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS)


ELS teaches children to read using a systematic synthetic phonics approach. It is designed to be used as part of an early learning environment that is rich in talk and story, where children experience the joy of books and language whilst rapidly acquiring the skills to become fluent independent readers and writers. 


ELS teaches children to:

  • Decode by identifying each sound within a word and blending them together to read fluently. 
  • Encode by segmenting each sounds to write words accurately.

We know that for children at the end of Key Stage 1 to achieve the age related expectations, they need to read fluently at 90 words per minute. As children move in the key stage 2, it is vitally important that even those who have made the slowest progress are able to read age appropriate texts independently and with fluency.


For children to engage with the wider curriculum, they need to be able to read well, making inferences and drawing on background knowledge to support their developing understanding of a text when they read. To do this, they need to be able to draw not only on their phonics knowledge but also other wider reading and comprehension skills, each of which  must be taught.


The first step in the complex process is the link between spoken and written sounds. ELS whole - class, daily phonics teaching must being from the first days of Reception. Through the rigorous ELS teaching programme, children will build an immediate understanding of the relationship between the sounds they can hear and say (phonemes) and the written sounds (graphemes).

Phonics: How to pronounce pure sounds | Oxford Owl

Learn how to pronounce all 44 phonics sounds, or phonemes, used in the English language with these helpful examples from Suzy Ditchburn and her daughter. Find more phonics help on Oxford Owl: Help your child learn to read with books and flashcards from Read with Oxford: What is Oxford Owl?