Synthetic Phonics

Research shows that the most successful readers and spellers start with a Synthetic Phonics approach.

Synthetic Phonics is a strange, technical name that has nothing to do with being artificial! The ‘synthetic’ name comes from the synthesising or blending of sounds to make a word and enable children to read.

Learning the Sounds with Synthetic Phonics:

The first step is to learn the sounds. Children are first taught to associate a letter (or letters) with a speech sound, e.g. the letter ‘s’ represents the ‘sss’ sound. As children progress they will learn that sometimes a sound can be represented by two letters (e.g. ‘ch’), sometimes three letters (e.g. ‘igh’ like in ‘sigh’) or even four letters (e.g. ‘eigh’ in ‘eight’)!

There are two main differences with Synthetic Phonics and other phonics methods in learning the sounds. Firstly, all 44 unique sounds of the English language are taught; not just the alphabet sounds. Secondly, children move onto blending with these sounds, quickly. The advantage of this is children connect the dots; they understand what to do with the sounds they have learned.

Reading and Synthetic Phonics:

Once children have learned a group of sounds they can move onto reading with these sounds. The process of reading involves decoding or ‘breaking’ words into separate sounds, which can then be blended together to read an unknown word. Children tackle each word with four steps:

synthetic phonics and reading
Click here to download this image as a poster for your classroom.

Spelling and Synthetic Phonics:

The process of spelling involves the opposite method to reading. It requires children to identify the sounds in a word and then to match a letter (or letters) with that sound, to essentially ‘make’ the word. This takes a five step process:

synthetic phonics and spelling
Click here to download this image as a poster for your classroom.

At a Glance Synthetic Phonics Teaches Children:

  • That spoken words are composed of sounds
  • The 44 sounds of the English language
  • To blend sounds in a word to read
  • To listen for sounds in words to spell
  • All the different ways each sound can be represented, e.g. the sound /a/ as in ‘apron’ can be spelled (‘ay’ like in ‘pay, ‘ai’ like in ‘paid’, ‘a’ like in ‘apron’, ‘eigh’ like in ‘eight’ and so on…)
  • Irregular, high frequency words (we call them camera or tricky words), which are essential to help children progress the quality of their writing and move onto reading full sentences
  • The sound first and then the letter name

Play the Synthetic Phonics Games – Get a FREE Teacher’s Account