Many teachers say that they are teaching phonics in their classrooms. However when asked what type of phonics they are using, there is quite often the comment that they were unaware different phonics methods existed. It is Important We Teach the Most Effective Form of Phonics
Quite simply, the different methods of phonics can be compared to the different blends of fuel we can buy for our cars. At the bowser we can choose to buy either E10, regular unleaded or premium unleaded petrol for our car. However it is generally agreed that premium unleaded is a more effective blend of petrol for our cars long-term performance.
The same comparison can be made with the different methods of phonics instruction teachers commonly use in their classrooms. Each one of these methods has some success with teaching children the phonemes (letter sounds) of the English language, but only one is a more effective method for a child’s long-term performance in the use of phonics.
What Are the Differences Between The Four Main Methods for Teaching Phonics?
- Synthetic Phonics: Children are taught all the 44 phonemes (letter sounds) of the English language. They are taught how to use this knowledge of phonemes (letter sounds) to read and write words. Using this knowledge children are explicitly taught how to independently and confidently work out new words.
- Analytic Phonics: Children start with whole words first and are thus required to recognise a certain number of words by sight. Emphasis is initially placed on teaching the children the 26 phonemes for the letters of the alphabet. With this knowledge they then go back and analyse common sounds they may notice in the sight words they have previously learnt.
- Embedded Phonics: This is an incidental method of phonics teaching. During a reading lesson, the teacher may notice the children having difficulties with a particular phoneme (letter sound) in a word they have come across. The teacher then stops and gives a lesson on this phoneme. There are no regular formal phonics lessons given to the children.
- Analogy Phonics: This is another form of analytical phonics. Children are taught how to look for common ‘word families’ or ‘word chunks’ they may notice occurring in words. For example the children are asked to look at a group of words ending in ‘at’…mat, cat, rat, fat, hat, sat. What Form Of Phonics Is the More Effective Form of Phonics? For phonics to be successfully utilised it must be specifically taught.
We cannot run the risk of leaving out vital information when teaching children about phonics. We can teach children the phonemes (letter sounds) of English but we MUST also teach children how to systematically use this knowledge. We MUST show children how to use this knowledge to read words (blending) and to write words (segmenting). Both these two skills do not come naturally. Out of the four different phonics approaches, it is synthetic phonics that achieves all these valuable skills.
Just as premium unleaded is a more effective blend of petrol for a cars long-term performance, synthetic phonics is by far the more effective method for a child’s long-term performance in the use of phonics. As 80% of the words in our English language are considered to be phonetically regular then synthetic phonics is an essential skill for children to acquire.
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