Synthetic Phonics Programs
Synthetic phonics is a method of teaching reading in which students are first taught the relationship between letters and the speech sounds they represent. Students are then taught to join or 'blend' these sounds together to read whole words. An overwhelming body of research supports synthetic phonics over other methods of teaching reading. Reading Doctor software and apps can easily be used to complement any synthetic phonics program!
What is synthetic phonics?
Synthetic phonics is a method of teaching children to read that is based on decades of research into reading acquisition. Synthetic phonics teaching involves teaching children about written language in an explicit, systematic and hierarchical way. Research suggests that unlike learning to speak and understand language, learning to read is not a natural process, so children learn best when they are shown how written language works. Rather than exposing students to a variety of words and relying on a student's ability to remember them, patterns in words are introduced gradually and taught thoroughly, with simpler, more common patterns taught first and more complex, less frequent patterns introduced when easier skills are mastered.
Students are initially taught the speech sounds that letters and groups of letters represent in written language. These visual representations of the speech sounds in language are called 'graphemes'. Graphemes are taught in a logical sequence, with more common, single letter-sound patterns taught first (such as c in cat and e in egg) , followed by multiple letter graphemes (such as the ch in cheese or the igh in light). To learn about what graphemes are as well as the difference between graphemes, speech sounds (phonemes) and letters, it may be useful to use our 'Word Burger' analogy, here:
A synthetic phonics approach to the teaching of reading involves teaching students to apply their knowledge of graphemes to say the speech sounds that letters represent in words. Students say the speech sounds all the way through a new word, from left to right, when reading. Students are taught to 'blend' (or join) speech sounds together to read new words, even if they are unfamiliar to the student. This process is called 'decoding'. Decoding skills enable the student to be able to read unfamiliar words independently. For more information about blending and decoding skills, please see the following sections:
So, a synthetic phonics approach facilitates 'self-teaching' through decoding new words rather than relying on pictures, guessing or having an adult read the word. Synthetic phonics empowers children to be able to read new words by themselves. As the new words become more familiar, the student no longer needs to decode it and instead it is recognised instantly. In this way, students gradually develop reading fluency: the ability to read quickly and with a natural sounding rhythm and intonation.
A synthetic phonics approach also includes explicitly teaching children to break words up into their separate speech sounds. This skill, called 'segmentation', is then used to help students to learn how to spell words by using their knowledge of graphemes to 'encode' words. You can read more about segmentation here:
In addition, a synthetic phonics approach involves teaching children to recognise a core set of highly frequent words called 'sight words', many of which are constructed from unusual letter patterns and are not easily read through applying letter-sound knowledge (words such as who, said and there are examples). You can read more about sight words here:
Recommended synthetic phonics programs
Our teaching tools are designed to support the teaching of synthetic phonics. All of our teaching tools include presets that correspond to well-respected synthetic phonics programs as well as the ability to create your own presets to support your chosen synthetic phonics resource.
The following high quality programs use a synthetic phonics approach to teaching children to read and are recommended because of their firm grounding in scientific research.
MultiLit (“Making Up Lost Time in Literacy”) is an outstanding research-based program for students who are struggling with reading. Multilit programs are effective because they have all been supported by scientific research, have been demonstrated to be effective and are comprehensive and balanced to suit the needs of each child.
Jolly Phonics is a fun and child centred approach to teaching literacy through synthetic phonics. With actions for each of the 42 letter sounds, the multi-sensory method is very motivating for children and teachers, who can see their students achieve.
Letters and Sounds
First published by the UK government in 2007, Letters and Sounds is a phonics resource designed to 1) build children's speaking and listening skills and 2) prepare children for learning to read by developing phonics knowledge. Letters and Sounds is a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonic skills. It is designed to be used with students who are five years of age and aims to help students become fluent readers by the age of seven.