Phonics is one method of teaching children how to read and write.
It’s all about sounds. There are 44 sounds in the English language, which we put together to form words. Some are represented by one letter, like ‘t’, and some by two or more, like ‘ck’ in duck and ‘air’ in chair.
Children are taught the sounds first, then how to match them to letters, and finally how to use the letter sounds for reading and spelling.
Synthetic phonics refers to ‘synthesising’, or blending, the sounds to read words. It’s based on the idea that children should sound out unknown words and not rely on their context.
Phonics focuses on sounds rather than, for example, having children try to recognise whole words.
In analytic phonics, words are broken down into their beginning and end parts, such as ‘str-’ and ‘eet’, with an emphasis on ‘seeing’ the words and analogy with other words.
In synthetic phonics, children start by sequencing the individual sounds in words – for example, ‘s-t-r-ee-t’, with an emphasis on blending them together.
Once they have learned all these, they progress to reading books.
The ‘synthetic’ part comes from the word ‘synthesise’, meaning to assemble or blend together.
Children who learn using synthetic phonics are able to have a go at new words working from sound alone, whereas those using analytic phonics are more dependent on having prior knowledge of families of words.
What is a phonics lesson like?
The 44 sounds (phonemes) of the English language, and the way they are written down, are taught one by one.
Phonemes are usually taught in this order:
s a t p i n
m d g o c k/ck
e u r h b f
l j v w x y
z qu ch sh th ng
ai ee igh/ie oa oo (short) oo (long)
ar or ur/er ow/ou oi
air ear ure
The order of teaching these sounds has been specially developed so that children can start reading complete words as soon as possible.
A phonics lesson begins with revising any sounds the children have already been taught. Then the teacher will introduce a new sound and its spelling.
Learning New Sounds
The teacher will use the sound in a word, clearly pronouncing the sound. Pupils will practise repeating this sound back to the teacher. The children may do an action that accompanies the sound to help them remember it.
The teacher will also show pupils how to ‘blend’, or sound out words, using the new sound. This might be followed by guided and independent reading that includes words with the new sound.
Children will also practise writing down the sound, i.e. the letter(s). This is called segmenting.
The teacher will sound out a word, breaking it down into its individual sounds. Children listen and write down each letter(s) until the word is complete. It is helpful for children to say and tap out the sounds in a word to themselves before writing it down.
Letter formation can also be practised. The teacher will demonstrate how a sound is written and then children will practise this again and again.
St Thomas Aquinas Primary School in Milton Keynes has added short film clips of their children practising each sound. Have a look here.
Phonics Games: Websites to support home-learning:
|Phonics GamesFamily Learning||http://www.familylearning.org.uk/phonics_games.html|
|BBC BitesizeKS1 Phonics||www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/ks1/literacy/phonics/play/|
|Letters and Sounds||http://www.letters-and-sounds.com/|
|Phonic Fighter Game||http://www.ictgames.com/phonic_fighter4.html|