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Reading Reform Foundation (RRF) - Promoting Synthetic Phonics : Page Title

RRF Newsletter 52 back to contents
Synthetic Phonics Teaching Principles

1. Teach letter-shapes just by their sounds at first, not their names. That eliminates half of one particular part of the learning and leaves just the half that is going to be used directly ('directly' both in the sense of 'in a direct way' and in the sense of 'almost immediately'). Introduce letter names through singing an alphabet song in the first instance, but ensure that the automatic response to letters and letter-combinations is saying the sounds that they represent. 

2.  Teach letters and their sounds in groups that include consonants and vowels so that the children can read words, make words and spell words: 

          Teach blending all-through-the-word so that the children can immediately start using the few letter-sounds that they know in reading simple words - the practical application of code-knowledge makes them see the point of what they are learning and is very satisfying for them. While teaching blending, you cannot avoid pronouncing the whole word after the individual phonemes, but once the children begin to get the hang of it, avoid pronouncing the whole word whenever possible - get them to arrive at a pronunciation by sounding out and blending.  

          Teach segmenting all-through-the-spoken-word so that the children can immediately start using letter-sounds to spell simple words aloud and by writing. 

3.   Tolerate invented spelling at first, provided that it is phonemically accurate - children will understand the nature of the code better if they practise using it in both directions purely as a code (i.e. without worrying about spelling conventions - e.g. that the /k/ sound is represented in 'cat' by a 'c', not a 'k').   Avoid asking the children to write independently before they have been taught at least one way of representing all the main sounds in English.  

4.  Teach no sight words at first so that decoding is uppermost in children's minds and children do not develop an inappropriate reading reflex.   When irregular words are tackled, teach the children to blend these words as well.   Naturally they will have to be told the correct pronunciation.   Then when an irregular word comes up in their reading the children will blend it and be reminded of that 'tricky' word.    

5.  Once the basic sounds of the alphabet letters have been covered including some digraphs, start introducing alternative sounds for the letters already learnt and alternative spellings for sounds.  

6.   Use texts which are decodable on the basis of what the children have been taught at any given point, and make it clear that these are not just to be decoded but also to be read for meaning. Do not promote reading strategies which are merely guessing words from pictures, context or initial letter cues.  

7.  Practise correct spelling, handwriting and simple punctuation through regular dictation. That is, controlled letters, spelling variations, words and sentences which the children can be expected to write. 

These evidence-based teaching principles mean that children are not just learning letter-sound knowledge in a pure form but are also applying it from a very early stage which helps it to become embedded.




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Reading Reform Foundation 2010
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