Year 1 Phonics Screening Check 2022: 7 fun activities for quality phonics practice

The Year 1 Phonics Screening Check is officially back; from several years of Autumn testing and disruption, the Summer term assessment is back on track, beginning the week commencing 6th June 2022. We have all the information you need to know about this year’s Phonics Screening Check. Plus, 7 activities to top up their knowledge whilst having fun!

What is the Phonics Screening Check?

The Phonics Screening Check (PSC) is an assessment taken in the summer term of Year 1; it is mandatory for all schools except for independent schools. The test measures the level of phonic decoding skills learned, identifying those requiring additional phonics support. Although the test is primarily taken in Year 1, it may be repeated in Year 2 if the child did not reach the expected standard in Year 1, or if they were absent or disapplied in Year 1. 

The PSC consists of 40 real words and pseudo-words that pupils are asked to read and say aloud to the person testing them; this test is delivered in a 1:1 capacity with a suitability trained staff member. There are useful videos available to explain what constitutes a correct and incorrect answer. The pass threshold will be announced on the 20th of June 2022; previous pass marks have been 32/40.

Which children take the Phonics Screening Check?

All children who are 6 by the end of the academic year must take the PSC unless the headteacher and teaching staff decide there is just reason for the child not to sit the check. You can find the justifications for a child to be exempt from participating in the PSC here.  

7 activity ideas for high-quality phonics practice

Activity 1: Sound Mat Bingo

The children will need access to a sound mat (below is an example of one of the sounds mats available in the free trial of Reading Planet Rocket Phonics). The phonemes can be called out; the children will find them on the sound mat, placing a counter on the top of that sound. First to 5 wins! To extend this activity further, you may want to call out a word (having an image representing the word can be even tricker). Again, the children will need to find all the phonemes they can hear in the word displayed on the sound mat. 

Activity 2: Sound mat charades 

Practical across several levels of ability, using the sound mat, the children will think of a word (or you can provide them one), and the children will guess the word they are performing with silent clues. If they guess correctly, they will place a counter on the phoneme used in the word, the aim is to guess as many as possible. 

Activity 3: Sound mat guessing game 

The children will benefit from having the sound mat visible for this next game, this is a perfect plenary-style activity to finish a session. You will begin with ‘I’m thinking of a…’ and use 10 clues to describe an object or movement involving phase 4 phonemes. You can give rhyming clues, uses for the object and physical descriptions. 

Activity 4: Practice booklet- whole class 

The remainder of the children can miss out on their regular, high-quality phonics sessions when you administer the check. There are six Pupil Practice Booklets available in print or online via a subscription to Rocket Phonics Online. The Booklets cover problem solving, using visual clues, and puzzle-style activities. This activity can be completed independently or in small groups, ensuring high-quality learning is a priority. 

Activity 5: Practice booklet- targeted practice

Thinking ahead towards targeting those who do not reach the expected standard in Year 1 and the statutory expectation to inform parents of the next steps of support. The practise booklet can be tailored to choose phonemes and corresponding graphemes. The children who did not achieve the pass mark require additional help. These can also be an excellent source of guidance for parents’ keen to support further at home. 


Activity 6: Flashcard phonics hunt

Using one of the two sets of phonics flashcards (available as A5 printed cards or as interactive online resources via Rocket Phonics Online), you can hide the cards around your learning space, including any outdoor space you may have. Then, armed with 10 words, including common exception words, the children will have a timed length of time to find the phonemes used in words given. 

Activity 7: Splat the phoneme

Ideal for small intervention groups and even better on a sunny day, you will draw out some phase 4 phonemes in bubbles on the ground using chalk. Then, with wet sponges, water guns or even water balloons, your children will splat the correct phoneme you flash up in front of them. 



Preparation is power; it is time to start thinking ahead for those needing targeted support in Year 2 and beyond.

Try Reading Planet Rocket Phonics for FREE with a 30-day trial of Rocket Phonics Online. You’ll get unlimited online access to all the resources including interactive flashcards, fully-decodable eBooks CPD videos and more.

About Reading Planet Rocket Phonics
Reading Planet Rocket Phonics is a DfE validated SSP programme written by author, trainer, and consultant Abigail Steel. It is available now for Reception and Year 1. Next Steps for Year 2 is out in Summer 2022.


phonics, Reading, Reading and Ebooks, reading scheme, Rising Stars Reading Planet

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