Phonics

Synthetic phonics is a method of teaching reading which first teaches the letter sounds and then builds up to blending these sounds together to achieve full pronunciation of whole words.

Synthetic phonics teaches the phonemes (sounds) associated with the graphemes (letters). We use the Letters and Sounds Six Phase Programme which introduces the sounds associated with the letters at the rate of about one sound per day.

The sounds are taught on their own and  then blended together (this is called synthesising), all-through-the-word. For example, children might be taught a short vowel sound (e.g. /a/e//i/o/u/) in addition to some consonant sounds (e.g. /s/, /t/, /p/). Then the children are taught words with these sounds (e.g. sat, sit, pat, pit, pot, tap, at, it). They are taught to pronounce each phoneme in a word, then to blend the phonemes together to form the word (e.g. /s/ – /i/ – /t/; “sit”).

We teach sounds in all positions of the words( for example /t/ at the beginning of the word “top”, but at the end of the word “pit” or in the middle of the word “pitch”), but the emphasis is on all-through-the-word segmenting and blending from the beginning of the programme.

We are rigorous in our approach making sure that our phonic teaching is FUN, FREQUENT, FAST and FAITHFUL. Research evidence has shown that the most effective way to teach phonics is by using one main programme (in our case Letters and Sounds). This can be complimented and enriched by other materials and we use the ‘Storytime Phonics‘ to make our early phonics learning fun, successful and accessible for all learners.

Storytime phonics uses real story books and follows the DfE ‘Letters & Sounds’ document, providing a structured, easy to follow plans. It includes assessment and tracking of phonics and involves Whole Class Learning.

The Pedagogy behind Storytime Phonics

The ‘Simple View of Reading’ final report by Sir Jim Rose 2006 for the National Literacy Trust, which informed and was embodied within the National Curriculum in 2013, defines the two key dimensions that identify reading skills as; ‘word recognition’ and ‘language comprehension’. It is a love of books that can, and should, be instilled long before anydecoding happens – and should be at the forefront of our minds and central to our lessons.

Who is the Phonics Fairy?

Once upon a time, a little girl discovered a secret. She stood a stool on a chair on a box and climbed on top of the whole teetering pile. Reaching up, she teased a book from the top of the bookshelf with her fingertips, and clutched it to her as she climbed down. She took it into the light and blew the dust from its cover, and as the dust flew into the shaft of light, she saw something that changed her life. That dust wasn’t the normal kind of dust – as it floated and glittered in the light, she knew that it was the sign of something magical. It was fairy dust, and it meant there was a fairy in the book, reading and loving the story, bringing it to life, crying with the characters who are lost, afraid with the girl alone in the woods, laughing with the two jolly knights. This girl, the one who had climbed on a stool on a chair on a box, this girl had found the Phonic Fairy, who had come to share her love of stories with the little girl.

blend — to draw individual sounds together to pronounce a word, e.g. s-n-a-p, blended together, reads snap

segment  — to split up a word into its individual phonemes in order to spell it, e.g. the word ‘cat’ has three phonemes: /c/, /a/, /t/

digraph — two letters making one sound, e.g. sh, ch, th, ph.

vowel digraphs – comprise of two vowels which, together, make one sound, e.g. ai, oo, ow

split digraph — two letters, split, making one sound, e.g. a-e as in make or i-e in site

grapheme — a letter or a group of letters representing one sound, e.g. sh, ch, igh, ough (as in ‘though’)

grapheme-phoneme correspondence (GPC) — the relationship between sounds and the letters which represent those sounds; also known as ‘letter-sound correspondences’

mnemonic — a device for memorising and recalling something, such as a snake shaped like the letter ‘S’

phoneme — the smallest single identifiable sound, e.g. the letters ‘sh’ represent just one sound, but ‘sp’ represents two (/s/ and /p/)

VC, CVC, CCVC — the abbreviations for vowel-consonant, consonant-vowel-consonant, consonant-consonant-vowel-consonant, which are used to describe the order of letters in words, e.g. am, ham, slam.