Stop scaremongering about synthetic phonics

24th March 2006 at 00:00
Kathy Hall (TES, March 10) worries teachers are going to be told to teach reading by synthetic phonics alone.

No one is suggesting that it isn't good to use a range of strategies to teach literacy. Children should have opportunities from the start to express themselves orally, listen attentively, enjoy hearing stories and poems, improve their comprehension of language, and so on. When we talk of synthetic phonics alone, we're talking about identifying written words.

That's all.

Ask unconfident five-year-olds to choose which strategy to use and what happens? Their eyes dart all over the page, backwards and forwards and to the picture. They guess and then look at the teacher to see if they've got it right -and it's likely they haven't. That's not good for independence, understanding or self-esteem.

Teach children from the start that letters represent sounds and we read them from left to right and they know what they're doing.

All children benefit from synthetic phonics, but that is most true for those who find phonics difficult. When these children are told to choose from a range of strategies, they naturally choose to guess from context, picture cues, memory, initial letters. The very children who need most help in decoding get the least practice. As they get older and face more complex text, the other strategies fail.

I hope doubting teachers will soon listen to the arguments for synthetic phonics alone, and find out about this method for themselves. Children's futures are at stake. See www.rrf.org.uk for more information.

Elizabeth Nonweiler 3 The Chase, Donnington Newbury, Berkshire

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now