Prof Plum on synthetic phonics.

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Susan Godsland
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Prof Plum on synthetic phonics.

Post by Susan Godsland » Wed Aug 17, 2005 9:05 am

Prof Plum has had his attention drawn towards the Clackmannanshire study (thank you Phil Pennance) and he's impressed :D

Analytic vs. Synthetic Phonics
Tuesday August 16th 2005, 7:30 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Dear Readers,

There aren’t many longtitudinal studies in education–at least not worth much. But the good folks from Scotland have done a nice one–sent our way by Phil Pennance.

It reports on a seven year study comparing synthetic and analytic phonics. The analytic phonics in this case is very similar to whole language. Interesting results.

Basically, synthetic phonics is best and (if I read it correctly) is esp good for disadvantaged kids and boys (who usually read less well than girls–for obvious reasons…they are boys.)

Here’s a summary….

There has been much debate in recent years about just how children should be taught to read. The phonic approach, whereby children are shown that letter sounds are a guide to the pronunciation of words, has a long history, starting to develop in the nineteenth century (Morris, 1984). In this approach, the sounds of the letters of the alphabet are taught, and children learn the correspondences between letters and groups of letters and their pronunciations (Adams, 1990).

1.2 In analytic phonics, the predominant method in the UK, letter sounds are taught after reading has already begun, children initially learning to read some words by sight, often in the context of meaningful text. [Here you see the goofiness of the whole lamguage version of analytic phonics. What sort of reading is begun when kids don’t know what they words say?]

1.7 This led us to look at synthetic phonics, which is a very accelerated form of phonics that does not begin by establishing an initial sight vocabulary. With this approach, before children are introduced to books, they are taught letter sounds. [Logically sound. Only an imbecile can’t see that.] After the first few of these have been taught they are shown how these sounds can be blended together to build up words (Feitelson, 1988). For example, when taught the letter sounds /t/ /p/ /a/ and /s/ the children can build up the words ‘tap’, ‘pat’, ‘pats’, ‘taps’, ‘a tap’ etc. The children are not told the pronunciation of the new word by the teacher either before it is constructed with magnetic letters or indeed afterwards; the children sound each letter in turn and then synthesise the sounds together in order to generate the pronunciation of the word. Thus the children construct the pronunciation for themselves. Most of the letter sound correspondences, including the consonant and vowel digraphs, can be taught in the space of a few months at the start of their first year at school. This means that the children can read many of the unfamiliar words they meet in text for themselves, without the assistance of the teacher. By contrast in analytic phonics, whole words are presented and pronounced by the teacher, and the children’s attention is only subsequently drawn to the information given by letter sound correspondences.

Overall we conclude that the synthetic phonics approach, as part of
the reading curriculum, is more effective than the analytic phonics
approach, even when it is supplemented with phonemic awareness
training. It also led boys to reading words significantly better than
girls, and there was a trend towards better spelling and reading
comprehension. There is evidence that synthetic phonics is best taught
at the beginning of Primary 1, as even by the end of the second year at
school the children in the early synthetic phonics programme had better
spelling ability, and the girls had significantly better reading

…a synthetic phonics programme… has a major and long lasting effect on children’s reading and spelling attainment. Indeed, these skills were found to be increasing many years after the end of the programme. It is evident that the children have learnt a technique that they can use for themselves, that they have learnt a self teaching technique. Furthermore, although in a recent international study boys were found to have significantly lower levels of reading comprehension than girls in all 35 countries surveyed, the boys in this study comprehended text as well as the girls’. In fact they were slightly ahead, and if this trend continues in the future, it may become statistically significant. Socio-economic differences in literacy skills were non —existent in the early years of the study, only emerging in the upper primary years.


Natcherly, info such as this would be ignored in The States. It would take–it DID take–an act of Congress to get educationists to begin even to think about reforming themselves.

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