The Underlying Skills Phonics Hero Teaches

There are six skills Phonics Hero teaches; knowing the sounds, reading, spelling, tricky word (camera) reading and spelling and sentence reading. Within each of the six skills, there are 7-8 games which systematically teach the sub-skills that children must learn to achieve mastery.

Know icon image of cartoon eyeballs.Skill 1 – Knowing the Sounds

Knowing the sounds involves recognising a printed letter and linking it with a sound. The know games will practise:

Recognising the letter-sound correspondence

A sound is given and children must identify, from a group, the correct associated letter(s).


It’s time for speed! The last game on each level will move children towards automaticity, where knowledge is at a child’s fingertips! As the letters zoom by, children must quickly identify the correct letter-sound correspondence. This helps a child free up their working memory to take on more challenging tasks, like blending the sounds together to read and- ultimately – comprehend a word. Our Educational Psychologist, Michael Wood, explains why this is important:

Spelling Choices

In part 2 and 3, children will learn that a sound can be represented in different ways. For example, /ee/ can be represented by the letters: ‘ee’, ‘ea’, ‘y’ and ‘e’. The know games will have children identifying these representations.

Know icon image of cartoon eyeballs.Skill 2 – Reading

The Phonics Hero games systematically teach children how to read regular, decodable words going through the following steps for each level.

Beginning Reading

Hearing each individual sound in a word and then recognising the correct word. At this stage, when a child hears the individual sounds c-a-t they will then associate it with the written word ‘cat’. Michael explains:


This is the glueing of the sounds together to make a word that can be read. The sounds /c/, /a/ and /t/ are glued together to read ‘cat’.

Nonsense Word Reading

This is the blending together of sounds to read a word that does not exist. It ensures that the child is actually reading a word, not just remembering the look of it. Michael explains:

Fast Reading

This is where we encourage the child to read as quickly as possible, while still being accurate. The purpose is to make the reading of these words automatic.

Know icon image of cartoon eyeballs.Skill 3 – Spelling

The beauty of synthetic phonics is that we teach reading and spelling hand-in-hand, so if you can read something, you can also spell it! Phonics Hero systematically teaches spelling, using the following steps:

Beginning Spelling

This involves being able to hear the individual sounds in a word. For example, in the word ‘cat’, they will be able to identify that there are three sounds making up the word (c-a-t). Michael explains:

Auditory Processing

A child identifies the sounds in a word and then substitutes one sound for another to make a new word. For example, to change ‘cat’ to ‘cap’ replace the ‘t’ with a ‘p’. It shows the close link between reading and spelling.


These games have children independently spelling words.

Fast Spell

When spelling becomes automatic it makes the writing process easier and more fluent. The aim is to have less conscious thought about each word. Michael explains:

Proof Reading

Here, the words start to pass the ‘it looks right’ test when a child checks its spelling. Michael explains:

cameraread Skill 4 & 5 – Tricky/Camera Word Reading & Spelling

Unfortunately, not all words can be easily decoded, but they are needed to progress children onto reading sentences. They are words such as ‘the’, ‘are’ and ‘was’.

Reading Tricky/Camera Words

Reading tricky words in Phonics Hero involves identifying the words amongst a group, then increasing the speed at which this choice is made.

Spelling Tricky/Camera Words

When spelling these words, encourage children to use their phonics skills to identify the sounds they know and to then identify the tricky bits. Remembering the spelling of these tricky/camera words can be more difficult and progress may be slower. There is a six part process to spelling tricky words:

  • Say the word
  • Stretch the word
  • Identify the sounds you know
  • Identify the tricky part of the word
  • Spell the word
  • Check it looks right
In all the Phonics Hero tricky/camera word spelling games you will see this bar. Children can click on each icon for a reminder.


Skill 6 – Sentence Reading

Once children are confident in their decoding of single words, we want to move them onto reading whole sentences.

Sentence Reading

Using decodable phonics words and tricky/camera words, children read and comprehend whole sentences.

Missing Words

Inserting the missing word practises reading and comprehension. As it involves keeping the beginning of the sentence in their memory, this can be tricky to begin with.

Missing Tricky/Camera Words

More practice with choosing between two tricky words alerts a child to the differences in the words’ meanings.