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Learning to read is an important part of every child’s development. It helps children build important, lifelong skills in areas such as language, concentration, critical thinking and memory. Plus, it can be a lot of fun for many children as it expands their imagination and teaches them about a range of interesting topics.
There are six components of effective reading: oral language, phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Children may struggle in one or more of these areas when they are first learning to read. But for some children, such as those with Dyslexia and other learning difficulties, these challenges can persist and make reading a struggle.
An explicit instruction approach to reading, called Systematic Synthetic Phonics, can help all children learn to read, and it is especially helpful for children with learning difficulties. This approach can empower children with the specific skills and strategies they need to read effectively alongside their peers.
Systematic Synthetic Phonics is an evidence-based, structured approach to teaching children to read. This method of reading helps children to learn the relationships between the sounds (phonemes) of spoken language and the letter symbols (graphemes) of the written language. There are 44 speech sounds in the English language that can be combined to form words. With just 26 letters in the English alphabet, some sounds are visually represented by an individual letter while others are represented by a combination of two or more letters. The relationship between these sounds and letters is referred to as sound/letter or phoneme/grapheme correspondence. Being able to match the speech sounds with their corresponding letter symbol or symbols helps children to simultaneously learn to read and spell words.
A typical Systematic Synthetic Phonics program introduces children to only a small group of sounds at one time. Often this starts with the most commonly occurring sounds of ‘s’, ‘a’, ‘t’, ‘p’, ‘i’ and ‘n’. This allows children to learn a large number of letter combinations to form simple words and read basic sentences from the beginning of their learning. With these six letters, children can learn to read words such as sat, pat, nap, tip, nip, sit, pit etc. Once children have mastered these small words, you can then introduce them to new sounds and letters to read longer and more complex words.
When learning to read using a Synthetic Phonics approach, children are first taught individual sounds and then learn to blend, or ‘synthesise’, these sounds to form words. For example, a child might be taught to read the word ‘sat’ by first learning the individual sounds that represent the letters ‘s’, ‘a’ and ‘t’ and then blending these sounds together to make the word ‘sat’. This process of recognising and combining sounds to be able to read is known as decoding. In reverse, a blended word can be broken up into individual sounds to spell, which is known as encoding.
There are some words that are used frequently that help sentences make sense. These are called high frequency words. Some high-frequency words are explicitly taught to enable sentences to be read.
The goal is for students to blend and segment sounds to make words until the words are so familiar that the spelling, pronunciation, and meaning of specific words is held in the child’s memory and the words are recognised automatically or at sight. This is known as orthographic mapping.
Some of the terms used in a Systematic Synthetic Phonics program can sound confusing. Here’s a basic run down of the most common terms you’ll hear:
You can read more tips for reading with your child here.
While using a Systematic Synthetic Phonics approach is effective in teaching most children to read, some may still struggle to build these foundation skills, which can put them at risk of falling behind at school. Learning Links’ experienced teachers work with children every day to support reading and literacy through our Specialist Tutoring program.
Our professionals also offer professional development for teachers, to help them empower students who find learning difficult.
Learning Links has developed a comprehensive teaching guide, Dyslexia Support – Synthetic Phonics, to provide teachers with guidance on selecting the most effective synthetic phonics intervention for their students. Our professionals share the what, why and how, in addition to providing the resources you need to help children to thrive and combat reading challenges that may otherwise hold them back
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