What is Phonics?
Phonics is the connection between a letter and the sound that it makes. Understanding the relationship between a letter and the sound that it represents forms the basis for reading, writing, and spelling.
Why is phonics important?
Phonics is the primary building block of reading. Without an understanding of the connection between words and their written form, reading can't transpire. Phonics is essential for helping children to start to read.
Types of Phonics
There are different ways in which phonics is applied to reading and writing programs, but the most widely used phonics methods are analytic phonics and synthetic phonics.
The Analytic phonics approach takes words as a whole and then deconstructs them into letter sounds. The letter sounds are not taught in isolation, and focus is given to the initial sound in a word. Consonant blends are also taught as one unit rather than as individual consonant sounds. For example, in the word, stop the /s/ and the /t/ would be taught together as one sound /st/. Students are also taught to recognize similarities in words and make associations with other words in the same word family, such as with the words cat, fat, and mat.
The Synthetics phonics approach decodes words from part to whole. Readers connect letters to their corresponding sounds and then blend those sounds together to form a word. The letter sounds are taught in isolation, and focus is given to every sound within a word. For example, if a student encountered the word dog, they would sound out each segment of the word (/d/ /o/ /g/) and then blend those sounds together to form the word.
The five Synthetic Phonics Skills:
There are 44 sounds in the English language, and learning those sounds and the corresponding letters is the first step to learning to read and write. Pronunciation is crucial when teaching the letter sounds, and teachers must teach the sounds correctly. For more information on how to teach the letter sounds, watch part two of my phonics series here.
There is a lot to consider when students first start learning how to write letters; Pencil grip, sitting position, line formation, stroke order, to name a few. But, students must learn how to write both the upper and lower case letters confidently. Watch part three of my phonics tips series here for some tips and ideas on how to teach students to write.
Blending is where students take the sounds of the letters and blend them to create words. This can be tricky for students when first learning this skill but there are a few tricks that teachers can use to help students understand the blending concept faster. Watch part four of my phonics teaching tips for some fantastic blending tips and ideas here.
Segmenting is where students take a word and break it down into individual sounds. This is how students learn to spell. To learn segmenting, students need to be able to recognize the beginning, medial, and ending sounds in words. These skills can be tricky at first and take some time to master; however, there are things that we, as teachers, can do to help. Watch part five of my phonics teaching tips series here for some tips and ideas on how to teach students to segment.
Sight words are words that can't be blended, and that need to be learned by memorization. Students need to be able to recognize these words, know their meaning, understand usage in sentences, and how to write them. These words, combined with blending words, create sentences. Watch part six of my phonics teaching tips series here for some tips and ideas on how to teach sight words.