What is the Year 1 Phonics Check?

In Year 1 your child’s teacher is able to use the quick and easy Phonics Check to better understand the phonics knowledge of their students. The Check looks at how well your child can 'decode' written words. The teacher will listen to how the child sounds out the letter and letter groups and how they blend these sounds together from left to right to make words.

The Phonics Check helps your child's teacher and the school to confirm whether your child is making their expected progress in reading. Teachers and schools can then use this information to inform their teaching program.

How does the Phonics Check work?

  • Your child will sit with a teacher they know and be asked to read up to 40 words aloud.
  • These words are a mix of real words and made-up words (sometimes called 'pseudo words', non-words' or 'nonsense words').
  • Your child may have read some of the words before, while others, like the made-up words will be completely new.
  • The Check normally takes just a few minutes to complete and is carefully designed not to be stressful. There is no set time limit for it and if your child is struggling, the teacher will stop.
  • The video below shows a teacher performing the Check at school.

© Government of South Australia Department for Education


What words are in the Phonics Check?

The Phonics Check includes a mix of real words and 'non-words' (sometimes called 'pseudo words', 'made-up words' or 'nonsense words'). The teacher will tell your child before the Check that there will be made-up words that they will not have seen before. Children might be familiar with this because many schools already use non-words when they teach phonics.

Non-words are important to include because words such as ‘vap' or ‘jound' are new to all children. Children cannot read the pseudo words by using their memory or vocabulary; they have to use their decoding skills. This is a fair way to assess their ability to decode.

You may wish to use the Phonics Check for Families with your child at home.

After the Phonics Check

Your child's teacher can tell you about your child's progress in phonics and how they have done in the Check. If your child has found the Check difficult, the teacher should also tell you what support has been put in place to help them improve. The Check ensures that teachers understand which children need extra help with phonic decoding.

Remember that all children are individuals and develop at different rates.

You might like to ask how you can better support your child to take the next step in reading.

You can find some great ideas for supporting your child to read through phonics in the Literacy at home section.