What is Phonics?

Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skillfully. Children are taught to:

  • recognise the sounds (phonemes) that each individual letter of the alphabet makes
  • identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make
  • blend these sounds together to read and segment for spelling.

Children use this knowledge to ‘decode’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.

Why Phonics?

Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5-7.

Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics, and experiences to apply their phonic knowledge, will learn the skills to tackle new words. They are developing a good foundation for going on to read fluently and confidently and develop a love and enjoyment of reading.

Children who are taught to read through phonics also tend to read more accurately compared to other methods, such as the ‘look and say’ method.

Synthetic Phonics

Since the Rose Review in 2005 (an independent review of the teaching of early reading) there has been a massive emphasis on teaching children to read through the synthetic phonics method above any other. The Year 1 screening test was also introduced around 9 years ago where Year 1 children are asked to read a list of 40 words made up of real and non words. The pass rate tends to be around 32 and the results are published. As a consequence there is a huge push in teaching phonics particularly in Reception and Year 1.

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