How Do You Teach Phonics to Kids?
What Is Synthetic Phonics?
When it comes to teaching children to read, there's no question that teaching them to read using the phonics system will be far more effective than the whole language method. However, there are different types of phonics systems that you can use such as analytic phonics, phonics through spelling, analogy phonics, embedded phonics, and synthetic phonics. With so many different phonics systems and types of phonics available, which one should you use? Which phonics method is the most effective at teaching kids to read?
As the title of this article suggests, the type of phonics we will discuss here is "synthetic phonics". "Systematic phonics" is sometimes referred to as being the same as synthetic phonics; however, a distinction should be made here. Systematic phonics is a phonics approach that teaches children to read in a sequential manner, and it includes both synthetic phonics and analytical phonics approaches.
Synthetic phonics on the other hand, is an explicit phonics method that teaches kids how to convert letters into phonemes (sounds), and then blend (combine) the phonemes to form recognizable words. Systematic Synthetic Phonics, therefore, is a sequential order of teaching children to read through explicit instruction in learning and working with phonemes. This is the approach that we have used successfully to teach all of our children to read before they were even 3 years old. From our experience, this is one of the more simple and super effective types of phonics to teach young children to read.
The synthetic phonics system is based on "synthesizing" words from its individual sounds. It involves decoding all of the phonemes of a word and then blending those sounds together to form the complete word. There are numerous studies that have reported the many benefits of using synthetic phonics. For example, in a National Reading Panel (NRP) report on reading instructions, the NRP stated that using systematic synthetic phonics helps to greatly improve children's alphabetic knowledge and word reading skills. The NRP even found that:
"Systematic synthetic phonics instruction had a positive and significant effect on disabled readers’ reading skills. These children improved substantially in their ability to read words and showed significant, albeit small, gains in their ability to process text as a result of systematic synthetic phonics instruction."
With the synthetic phonics system, letter sounds are first taught to children and then the child is then taught how to blend the sounds. For example, the 3 sounds of /b/ /a/ /t/ blends together to say the word "BAT". Also with synthetic phonics, consonant blends, such as BL, CL, ST, SP, etc..., are not taught separately, as these can be easily sounded out. So it's not necessary to teach these separately. The wonderful thing about synthetic phonics is that it breaks the learning to read process down into the most basic steps, that makes it simple enough to even teach children as young as 2 and 3 years old to read effectively. Please see the short video below to watch our 2 year 11 months old daughter reading.
This was accomplished over a 11 week period using synthetic phonics through a simple program that we put together. As you can see from the video, she begins by clearly sounding out each word and then blends it to say the complete word. With continuous practice, this "sounding out" process becomes internalized and automatic, and develops into superb word recognition skills eventually. By the time she was 4 years old, our daughter was reading at a grade 3 level.