Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write. It helps children understand different words and allows them to distinguish one word from another in the English language.
Knowing the sounds of individual letters and how those letters sound when they’re combined will help children decode words as they read as well as teaching them which letters to use when they are writing words.
Phonics involves matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters and then teaching children to blend the sounds of letters together helps them decode unfamiliar or unknown words by sounding them out.
The teaching of phonics begins in reception and continues throughout primary.
Three common methods for teaching phonics:
This is the most widely used approach, the teaching method in which phonemes (sounds) associated with particular graphemes (letters) are pronounced in isolation and blended together. For example, children are taught to take a single-syllable word such as cat apart into its three letters, pronounce a phoneme for each letter in turn (c, a, t), and blend the phonemes together to form a full word.
This is used to gradually introduce children to different sounds, rules and word groups, starting off with basic word formations and sounds and progressing to more complicated ones.
This approach is more popular in Scotland and is associated with the teaching of reading in which the phonemes associated with particular graphemes are not pronounced in isolation. Children are taught to identify the common phoneme in a set of words in which each word contains the phoneme under study.
For example, teacher and pupils discuss how the following words are alike: pat, park, push and pen, allowing them to establish that each of these words has the ‘p’ sound at the beginning.
This is a type of phonics where children analyse phonic elements according to the phonograms in the word. A phonogram, is composed of the vowel and all the sounds that follow it, such as –ake in the word cake. This teaches children about “word families” for example cake, make, bake, fake.
Different schools and countries will have a different approach to teaching phonics. Whilst synthetic phonics is the most common, different approaches will work for different students.