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Learn all about
synthetic phonics
with Othman Ahamad

Learn all about
synthetic phonics
with Othman Ahamad

Learn all about
synthetic phonics
with Othman Ahamad

Co-writer of Bacalah Anakku & ReadEasy

Co-writer of Bacalah Anakku & ReadEasy

What is phonics

The word 'phonics'originated from the Greek word which means 'sound' in English. According to Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary the word 'Phonetics' means 'the study of speech sounds and how they are produced'. Now the word 'phonics' is used instead of 'phonetics' to mean how reading is taught based on speech sounds. .

According William Bennet, former US Secretary of Education, '.. children learn to read more effectivley when they first learn the relationship between letters and sounds. This is known as phonics"

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What are speech sounds

According to 'Merriam-webster.com online dictionary, the definition of speech sound is any one of the smallest recurrent recognizably same constituents of spoken language produced by movement or movement and configuration of a varying number of the organs of speech in an act of ear-directed communication'. The smallest speech sound is known as phoneme. In other word, speech sounds are sounds you make or sound out when you speak.

For speakers of English, for example, the sound /b/ is readily recognizable as a speech sound ( phoneme ) because we have heard it spoken at the beginning of words such as ball, boy, bus and bat. In the word 'cat', for example, when you say the word 'cat' you are actually sounding out the speech sounds of /k/ /a/ /t/. Similarly, when you say 'book', you are actually sounding out the sounds of /b/ /u/ /k/. Those are speech sounds that make the words 'cat' and 'book'. In phonics we teach speech sounds to children so that they can use the sounds to read words.

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What is synthetic phonics

Synthetic Phonics is the best approach to teach reading based on speech sounds. In this method, children will learn that words are made up of speech sounds and that the sounds can be synthesized ( blended) to produce words. This method of reading where children will blend the smallest speech sounds in words is known as synthetic phonics . It is also known as 'structural phonics'.

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Why synthetic phonics is the best method

In phonics we can now understand that words are made up of speech sounds. These speech sounds can be represented by letters or symbols - also known as 'graphemes'. When children can relate what sounds are represented by what letters, they can easily blend the sounds to read the word. For example, when a child sees the word 'bat', he will know that there are 3 sounds - a /b/ sound which is represented by letter 'b', an /a/ sound which is represented by letter 'a' and a /t/ sound which is represented by letter 't'. Therefore, by blending these sounds , children are able to read the word 'bat'. This is the most natural way to read and it has been proven by scientific research that the brain reads sound by sound.

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Synthetic Phonics vs Analytical Phonics

Analytical phonics refers to an approach to the teaching of reading in which the phonemes associated with particular graphemes are not pronounced in isolation.. In the word 'cat' for example children are taught to memorize the spelling of 'at' as a sound /at/ so that they can read words like 'cat' 'bat' and 'mat' by blending the sounds of /b/ and /at/, /c/ and /at/ and /m/ and /at/ respectively. By memorizing these patterns of words that rime ( word rimes ) children will end up having to memorize hundreds of sounds and spelling alternatives.

Where as in synthetic phonics, since /a/ and /t/ can be blended to become /at/ children do not have to memorize the /at/ sound and spelling because they can simply read 'at' on their own. Thus, by blending the smallest speech sounds synthetic phonics readers can read more words with less memory being used. Imagine if you child have to memorize the sound for consonant clusters also known as onsets such as 'sp', str', 'cl' , 'nt' in English words , the sounds and spelling of at, it, ot, an, in, on ,eg, og... and so on , in addition to other 44 speech sounds in English, how many sounds they have to memorize?

Surely the synthetic phonics is the better way to learn to read.

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ReadEasy Phonics Strategies

ReadEasy Phonics Reading series is written based on synthetic phonics.

The strategies used in ReadEasy to teach reading to children - native or non-native speakers - are as follows :

  • 1 Children are taught to understand that words are made up of sounds and that sounds can be represented by symbols or letters. Therefore, the foremost skill for phonics chilren to master is how to say the speech sounds.

  • 2Then these sounds are mapped to corresponding symbols or letters. The letters are chosen based on the most common to the least common. For example, the sound /k/ can be presented by letter 'c', 'k' and 'ck' spelling. This is known as phoneme to grapheme association - the better way to teach reading in English because of its complexity.

  • 3After learning a few sounds and letters, they are then trained to blend the sounds in words orally.

  • 4Subsequently they will be taught how to blend the sound in words by using flash cards before they are able to read from the word card.

  • 5In ReadEasy Phonics Reading Series children will master reading by blending 3 sound-words , then 4 sound-words , and then move on to read phrases and sentences..

  • 6Sounds are divided into 3 level - Beginner , Intermediate and Advanced - with well chosen and systematic reading texts.

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Phonemes to Graphemes Association?

Phonemes (sounds) to graphemes (letters/symbols) association is the better approach for small children to learn the sounds in order to read fluently.

In the English sound system, some sounds can be mapped to more than one symbol and some letters can represent more than one sound. For young learners of phonics, it could be tricky and confusing. For example, the letter 'a' can be part of spelling of different words such as apple , ball, last, table and again. Many teachers choose the letter - sound association only to encounter with problem is explaining how the different letter for some sounds differ in sounds.

To avoid this confusing approach, it is recommended that the sounds-letter association (PGA) is used. In this approach children will learn more systematically and with better understanding. For example, the sound /k/ can be represented by letter 'c in most of the English words, followed by letter 'k' and spellling 'ck' and 'ch'. Thus by introducing 'c' followed by 'k' then 'ck make it super easy for children to read words in English with different spelling alternatives.

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