What Is Phonics?

Oct 14

Language is constructed from a combination of various sounds, known as phonemes. These sounds represents building blocks which are used to form words, and as such each is easily decipherable and understood by humans. Phonics is a method of teaching language which correlates these individual sounds to letters, both individually and in groups.

Phonics has proven to be a very effective method of teaching young children to read and write. It is thought that by teaching children how to decode words by breaking them down they have a fuller understanding of language as they grow older. In order for children to be able to understand the connections between specific sounds and the letters they represent they must be taught the basic rules of phonics.

As an example, the letter “c” within a word can produce a very different sound to when it is paired with an “h” as in “ch”. As children see these examples written down they must be able to sound them out in different ways in order to form complete words. It is therefore imperative that they are able to understand and retain each rule in order for phonics to be effective. It is for this reason that phonics has come in for criticism as a teaching method, however proponents would argue that it provides a strong foundation for the learning of language.

The theory is that the rules which are instilled in the minds of children at the beginning of the learning process will gradually allow longer words to be decoded. Whilst the teaching of phonics initially focuses on single syllable words such as “cat” and “mat,” gradually children are able to expand their vocabulary using exactly the same rules. They may learn to sound out the words “cattle” or “matter,” for example.

Within the overall teaching of phonics there are methods which are separate and distinct from one another. The most commonly used form of teaching is synthetic phonics, which is the method previously discussed whereby a word is decoded by sounding out each individual component. These components are then run together to form the word. An alternative method is analytical phonics, which strips words down into components known as the onset and the rime. It focuses on patterns within words, with the theory being that if a child knows the word “dog” they will easily by able to read the words “log,” “bog,” “hog,” and so on.

Due to their logical nature of carefully building a knowledge of language based on specific rules and patterns, both of these methods of teaching can be classified as systematic phonics. Whilst they may differ slightly in their methodology, both techniques have the same ultimate aim of teaching children how to read and write as efficiently as possible. The wide use of phonics as a method of teaching in schools around the world would suggest that educational authorities consider it to be the best way for a child to learn about the construction of written and spoken language.

Phonics for Kids Singapore

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