What is phonics?
Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully.They are taught how to:
– recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes;
– identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make – such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’;
– blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.
Children can then use this knowledge to ‘de-code’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.
Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5–7.
Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment.
Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’.
How phonics works?
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.