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Synthetic phonics and the teaching of reading

This assignment is going to describe and explain the teaching of phonics as an approach within the teaching of reading. It will do this by identifying research that underpins systematic synthetic phonics and outline the statutory expectation set by the government. It will also explore why phonics is a priority in primary schools.

Phonics is a learning method where the children are taught to read by teaching them about the relationships between sounds and letters. Children need knowledge of the alphabetic code and skills of blending and segmentation to be able to read. In phonics letters are synthesized so children are taught to blend letters together.

The National Curriculum expects children to be “able to read fluently and with confidence” by the end of their time in primary school. The National Curriculum aims are that children can “write clearly, accurately and coherently” and “read easily, fluently and with good understanding.” This highlights this importance of phonics being taught early as the children are expected to read by the end of Key Stage One. The Curriculum states that “Spoken language underpins the development of reading and writing”, which emphasizes the importance of teaching phonics in early years. The year one reading statutory requirements all involves children using their phonic knowledge as the curriculum states that the children should be taught to “decode words” and “blend sounds.” (DoE, 2013)

In primary school children are taught that phonemes are the sounds of letters and graphemes are the individual sounds written. They then learn the different types of phoneme. A digraph is two letters that make one sounds; for example /sh/, /th/, /ee/. A trigraph is three letters that make one sound; for example, /igh/, /tch/. A quadgraph is four letters that make one sound; for example, /ough/, /eigh/. Teaching the proper terminology to children is valuable as it avoids confusion. The children should then notice phonemes in words which will help them develop their reading and writing ability.

Phonological awareness is an expansive skill that includes recognizing and manipulating parts of the English language for example words, syllables, and onsets and rimes. Children who have phonological awareness are able to identify and speak rhymes, can clap out the number of syllables in a word, and can recognize words with the same initial sounds like ‘most’ and ‘money.’ Phonemic awareness is the ability to focus on and manipulate individual phonemes in spoken words. There are 44 phonemes in the English language which can be blended to form syllables and words. Phonemic awareness is important for children to gain because it is the foundation for spelling and word recognition skills. Phonemic awareness can predict how well children will learn to read during the first two years of primary school. Pupils who struggle with reading usually have lower levels of phonological awareness and phonemic awareness compared with their peers excluding SEND and EAL. (ReadingRockets.org, 2018)

In phonics children are taught to blend the phonemes they have learnt in order to speak words. Blending is when phonemes are blended together through repetition and gradually speeding up talking the phonemes until the word is spoken correctly. For example the child pronouncing /c/ /a/ /t/ will eventually develop into being able to pronounce ‘cat’ smoothly and correctly. Children will also learn how to segmenting words back into phonemes. Segmenting is when a word is partitioned in to the individual phonemes. For example the word ‘shut’ would be segmented into /sh/ /u/ /t/. This skill demonstrates children’s ability to identify phonemes in words which shows a strong phonemic awareness.

The Letters and Sounds Program is to help teachers teach children how the alphabet works for reading and spelling. This is done by using systematic phonics to get the children to the goal of reading. Letters and Sounds is designed as a short program of phonic work with the goal of children securing fluent word recognition skills for reading by the end of Key Stage 1. Teachers must ensure that the children understand the purpose of learning phonics and have lots of opportunities to apply their developing phonics skills in interesting and engaging reading and writing activities. The letters and sounds program follows a six phase structure. Phase one is aimed for nursery and reception aged children. It is where learning activities are separated into seven features: environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and blending and segmenting. Phase two is aimed for reception ages children and should last up to six weeks. In phase two children should be taught nineteen letters of the alphabet and the phoneme for each of those letters. Pupils will learn how to blend sounds together to make words and segment words into their separate sounds. By the end of phase two children should start to be able to read simple sentences. Phase three is for reception children again and should last about twelve weeks. The children will learn the remaining 7 letters of the alphabet and the phoneme for each letter. They will then be taught common digraphs, like ch, oo and th, that they will have heard and use the most. Reading captions, sentences and questions will be introduced to pupils in phase three. At the end on phase three most children will have learnt that there is one grapheme for each phoneme in the English language. Phase four is targeted at reception aged children and should take between four and six weeks to complete. In this phase children should be taught to blend and segment longer words. Phase five should be in place throughout year one. Children are taught digraphs and trigaphs. Phase six should be taught throughout year two and older. In this phase children will practice spelling, prefixes and suffixes, double and silent letters

The Early Year’s Foundation Stage highlights the significance of children collecting a bank of vocabulary and it to connect ideas and events. The Early Learning goal for reading requires children to use phonic knowledge to decode words in order to read them correctly. Similarly, the goal for writing requires children to uses phonic knowledge to write words which match the spoken sounds and write legible sentences.

The National curriculum states that ‘word reading’ and ‘comprehension’ are essential for the teaching of reading. This links to the components of the simple view of reading which suggest that the model is influential and vital in the teaching of reading.

The simple view of reading consists of two word processes: Word recognition and Language comprehension. Word recognition is the ability to recognize written words correctly and effortlessly without contextual help. Language comprehension is the ability to correctly process words, phrases and sentence grammar. The Simple View formula is: Word Recognition x Language Comprehension = Reading Comprehension by Gough and Tunmer in 1986 shows that reading comprehension cannot be met without the child having the ability of both word processes.

The simple view of reading has contributed to the teaching and learning of phonics as teachers can assess children using the model to help them see where each child needs to improve.

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