What is phonics?

21st February 2003 at 00:00
Pupils learn to decode with four basic strategies. They should: 1: Hear individual sounds in words

2: Spell them

3: Blend them together to make words

4: Break down words into their spellings

S is for Synthetic phonics.

Children are taught 40-odd sounds (phonemes) and the main ways they are represented. They are shown how to "decode" simple texts by sounding out words into individual phonemes - c-a-t, sh-ee-p - then blending them into a word: cat, sheep. Advantages: systematic; it helps with the teaching of spelling.

Disadvantages: learning sounds can be boring; early reading material is limited to dreary "cat on mat" stuff

A is for Analytic phonics. Children are encouraged to read for meaning, using a variety of strategies, including noticing how patterns of sound can be reflected in patterns of letters, e.g. l-ick, th-ick, st-ick. The phonics comes out of the reading, not the other way about.

Advantages: early reading material not so restricted Disadvantages: it can be haphazard; it leaves too much to chance.

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