Part 1: Introducing 12 new letter sounds
In Step 3, the children progress from reading and writing phrases, on to sentences, and then to reading books. The aim is for every child to:
- learn 12 new letter sounds, as well as revising the previous 30 letter sounds,
- write the new letter sounds from dictation, forming them correctly,
- blend and segment words that use the new and previous letter sounds,
- learn about capital letters, their sounds, and how to write them correctly,
- read and write 20 tricky words,
- read and write sentences that use the letter sounds and tricky words that have been taught,
- and start reading the first level of decodable readers.
The 12 new letter sounds are:
- Group 6: /y/ yes /x/ fox /ch/ chop /sh/ ship /th/ this /th/ that
- Group 7: /qu/ queen /ou/ out /oi/ oil /ue/ rescue /er/ her /ar/ arm
As you will notice, ‹th› is written in two sizes: /th/ and /th/. This is because, like ‹oo› in Step 2, it has two sounds: the /th/ sound found in this, that and with, and the /th/ sound found in thin, throat and cloth. The children have to try both sounds when working out a new word with ‹th›; if /th/ does not work, then they try /th/.
There is another digraph in this group of letter sounds that has two sounds. This is the digraph ‹ue›, which has a /ue/ sound in words like rescue, statue and due but also makes an /oo/ sound in words like blue, glue and true. However, if the children try and say /ue/ for these words, it will sound a bit like /oo/, and so they easily jump from saying /bl-ue/ to /bl-oo/.
I used to get the children to remember this by saying /ue-oo/, as if calling to someone; then, if the /ue/ did not work, they would try /oo/. Once again, it is worth pointing out that with some words the pronunciation varies. For example, the word due usually has a /ue/ sound in British English, but in American English it is more often pronounced with an /oo/: /d-oo/. There is no right or wrong. It is just the way language evolves in different parts of the world and in different areas of the same country. By trying /ue/ or /oo/, the children choose the one that is appropriate for their pronunciation.
In the English alphabetic code, ‹y› is an interesting letter because it can be a consonant or a vowel. In Step 3, it is a consonant and has a /y/ sound; it usually comes at the beginning of words like yes, yell and yap. Later on, the children are taught that ‹y› can be a vowel (making the /ie/, /ee/ and /i/ sounds for example), but at this stage they simply learn that it has a /y/ sound. After /y/, the children are taught the other letter sounds, one after the other, usually at a rate of one a day [demonstration].