What is a Synthetic Phonics program?
A Synthetic Phonics program is a method of teaching children to read in which the letter sounds are introduced and then builds up to blending these sounds together to achieve full pronunciation of whole words. Synthetic phonics is also known as blended phonics or inductive phonics.
A Synthetic phonics program teaches reading and writing through the following methods:
- Teaching students the correspondence between written letters(graphemes) and speech sounds (phonemes). For example, the words me and pony have the same sound at the end, but use different letters.
- Teaching students to read words by blending: identifying the graphemes (letters) in the word, recalling the corresponding phonemes (sounds), and saying the phonemes together to form the sound of the whole word.
- Teaching students to write words by segmenting: identifying the phonemes of the word, recalling the corresponding graphemes, then writing the graphemes together to form the written word.
Synthetic phonics programs are usually characterised by:
- Teaching grapheme-phoneme (letters-sound) correspondence out of alphabetic order, following an order determined by perceived complexity (going from easiest to hardest to learn).
- Teaching the reading and writing of words in order of increasing irregularity, in other words teaching words which follow typical grapheme-phoneme correspondence first (e.g. ape and cat), and teaching words with idiosyncratic or unusual grapheme-phoneme correspondence later (e.g. eight and duck).
Different approaches to the training of phonics
There are varying different kinds of phonic approaches with strong debate as to the merits of each. Research suggests that the particular phonic approach taken is not as important as the fact that a phonic approach is, in fact taken. Although the synthetic phonics program may differ the underlying methodologies are the same. The following quotes are instructive:
- ‘‘teachers [should] provide systematic, direct and explicit phonics instruction so that children master the essential alphabetic code-breaking skills required for foundational reading proficiency. Equally, that teachers [should] provide an integrated approach to reading that supports the development of oral language, vocabulary, grammar, reading fluency, comprehension and the literacies of new technologies’’ (Australian Government. Department of Education Science and Training, 2005, p. 14).
- ‘‘While the evidence indicates that some teaching strategies are more effective than others, no one approach of itself can address the complex nature of reading difficulties. An integrated approach requires that teachers have a thorough understanding of a range of effective strategies, as well as knowing when and why to apply them’’ (Australian Government. Department of Education, Science and Training, 2005, p. 14).
- ‘‘specific systematic phonics programs are all significantly more effective than non-phonics programs; however, they do not appear to differ significantly from each other in their effectiveness although more evidence is needed to verify the reliability of effect sizes for each program’’ (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000, chapter 2, p. 93).
Phonics should be taught in along side strategy to make sense of text
‘‘The most successful schools and teachers focus both on phonics and on the process of making sense of text. Best practice brings these two key components together, in teaching that gives children a sense of the pleasures reading can bring, supports them in making personal sense of the texts they encounter and also shows them how to lift the words off the page’’. DOMBEY, H. (2006) How should we teach children to read? Books for Keeps, 156, pp. 6–7.
Volcanic Panic Reading Success Online
Volcanic Panic Reading Success Online is an online program that uses a combination of Synthetic Phonics (Phonemic awareness) and text based activities to teach reading. The Automated adaptive learning system that powers it automatically diagnoses students learning needs and progresses them and ensures that they are always working on connote appropriate for them.