Words and Pictures: Fun with Phonics

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started1st Dec 2006
ended16th Mar 2007
last rpt1st Feb 2011
5 school years
duration10 mins
subject 📚English
age rangeAge 4-6Age 3-5 & Age 5-7
languageenIn English

Words and PicturesHierarchyPrevious.gifPrevious unit: Magic Pencil

Fun with Phonics is a unit of the BBC Schools TV series Words and Pictures from the 2000s, covering English for Primary pupils.

A series systematically covering all of the phonics - the letter and grapheme sounds - in English, one at a time in separate 5-minute 'episodes'.

The same techniques are used to explore each sound, including a word-splitting Wurlitzer organ and an animated parrot with a backpack that can spell out words.

Pui and Will, together only for a publicity photo

The presenters Pui Fan Lee and Will Vanderpuye alternate between 'episodes' and are never seen together. In broadcasts for schools a double-bill of two 'episodes' is shown together in each 10-minute programme, one with each presenter. Separately there were broadcasts for children watching at home of the 5-minute episodes individually.

For each phonic there is a demonstration of how it is drawn, using a moving dot cursor replacing Words and Pictures's traditional Magic Pencil. The letters themselves are personified in a memorable way that makes their own sound - g glugs a drink and h breathes heavily as it runs along the road.

The presenter looks through a spinning, colourful kaleidoscope to see video clips of things with the sound, then plays an activity or reads a story in the studio. An animated Wurlitzer organ known as Whirlyword builds words from individual sounds, and then an animated parrot called Pollyphonic flies round with a backpack full of letters spelling out words.


This unit inherited the Words and Pictures traditions of embracing phonics and visually showing how to draw letters. The production team were all new, other than artist Alan Rogers who had been drawing for the series since the 1980s. The presenters were also new to the series, though long-time Words and Pictures presenter Sophie Aldred was still invovled, reading stories for the E Big Book CDs.

Titles & Theme Music

Episode List

# Title Broadcast
Step 1: Alphabet Sounds and Letters
1. P & A #2006-12-01-00-00-001 Dec 2006
2. T & I #2006-12-01-00-00-001 Dec 2006
3. S & N #2006-12-08-00-00-008 Dec 2006
4. M & E #2006-12-08-00-00-008 Dec 2006
5. D & R #2006-12-15-00-00-0015 Dec 2006
6. C & H #2006-12-15-00-00-0015 Dec 2006
Step 2: Alphabet Sounds, Letters & Consonant Digraphs
7. G & O #2007-01-11-00-00-0011 Jan 2007
8. U & B #2007-01-12-00-00-0012 Jan 2007
9. F & L #2007-01-18-00-00-0018 Jan 2007
10. W & J #2007-01-19-00-00-0019 Jan 2007
11. Qu & V #2007-01-25-00-00-0025 Jan 2007
12. K & X #2007-01-26-00-00-0026 Jan 2007
13. Z & Y #2007-02-01-00-00-001 Feb 2007
14. Ch & Th #2007-02-02-00-00-002 Feb 2007
15. Sh & Ng #2007-02-08-00-00-008 Feb 2007
Step 3: Vowel digraphs
16. Ai & Ie #2007-02-09-00-00-009 Feb 2007
17. Ee & Oi #2007-03-01-00-00-001 Mar 2007
18. Ue & Oa #2007-03-02-00-00-002 Mar 2007
19. Ou & Oo (short) #2007-03-08-00-00-008 Mar 2007
20. Oo (long) & Er #2007-03-09-00-00-009 Mar 2007
21. Or & Ar #2007-03-15-00-00-0015 Mar 2007
22. Tricky Words 1 & 2 #2007-03-16-00-00-0016 Mar 2007


Year Term
2006-07 Autumn 2006 & Spring 2007
2007-08 Spring & Summer 2008
2008-09 Autumn 2008, Spring & Summer 2009

The series was also broadcast in the CBBC Channel 'Class TV' schools' schedules, across two weeks at the end of the autumn term 2007. Schools programmes ceased to be shown on the CBBC Channel early in the following year so there were no further opportunities for it to be broadcast.

The first 13 episodes (26 sounds) of the series were also broadcast overnight for easy recording as part of the BBC Learning Zone, just once on the morning of Tuesday 1st February in Spring 2011. 13 episodes could fit in a two-hour slot as the episodes are actually 9 minutes long, but rounded up to 10 minutes for scheduling.


As well as the broadcasts for schools listed above, in the form of roughly 10-minute episodes covering two sounds each, the series was also broadcast for young children watching at home as part of the Cbeebies brand on both the Cbeebies channel and on BBC2. These home broadcasts took the form of individual 5-minute episodes each covering one sound.

The series appeared on the Cbeebies channel between July 2007 and February 2009.


Presenter Pui Fan Lee
Will Vanderpuye
With Karen Gledhill as the voice of Pollyphonic
Big Al as the voices of the letters and digraphs
Animators Alan Rogers
Ashley Davison
Director Lisa Gledhill
Paulette Gardiner
Producer Julie Ardrey



DVD Plus Pack teacher's book

For schools

Three DVD Plus Packs of the series were released, containing recordings of the TV programmes and a teacher's book by Trudy Wainwright

For home learners

Two DVD packs were released using re-edited material from the series, and including a small activit book. The Letters and Sounds pack was accompanied by a poster of all of the letter sounds, the Reading pack was accompanied by picture books of 5 of the stories from the E-Big Book, and the Handwriting pack was accompanied by another poster and a set of stickers.

A similar series of Fun with Numbers activity packs were released at the same time using material from Numbertime.

Letters and Sounds DVD
Reading DVD

Readers and E Big Books

A set of carefully constructed stories using a different sound each time. The stories were available as small reading books for individual children, or as part of an E Big Book to display the stories to a class on an Active Whiteboard.

The E Big Book includes a teacher's guide written by Trudy Wainwright, and stories on the E Big Book are read by Sophie Aldred, former Words and Pictures presenter who was not directly involved in the TV programmes this time.

Eventually 44 reading books were published, though only a few of those were used in the TV programmes and the E Big Book.

The reading books were written by Julie Ardrey, Christy Kirkpatrick and Lisa Gledhill, and illustrated by Alan Rogers, Mike Brownlow & David Hitch.

E Big Book 1
E Big Book 2
E Big Book 3


Software for Active Whiteboards (running on Windows PCs only) including clips from the TV series and activities.

An additional Fun with Phonics CD-ROM & E Big Book covering step or Phase 5 of the National Curriculum 'Letters and Sounds' scheme were added in later years (Phase 4 was revision and consolidation so no new material was needed), looking at alternative graphemes and alternative pronunciations. There were no DVD packs for this phase as no TV programmes were made for it.

Wall frieze

A separate wall frieze illustrating all of the phonemes was released to schools a few years after the series came out.


Sources & References

  • BBC Active primary catalogues, 2007-2015
  • BBC Primary Guide 2006-7
  • BBC Programme Catalogue online (no longer available)
  • Television listings from BBC Genome, DigiGuide, Radio Times and TRILT

and recordings of the programmes

Very few credits for these programmes were ever published, and the episodes themselves only credit the producer. Credits on this page are collated from the BBC Programme Index and Alan Rogers' website on which he names his animator.


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