So I have been an EFL teacher for 8 years now. However, I didn’t know anything about synthetic and analytic phonics, let alone about onset and rime…
I am quoting Sue Lloyd from the CPD Jolly Phonics Course (Module 1, Different teaching methods) I am doing.
Analytic phonics is not easy to define because it means different things to different people around the world. In general, analytic phonics approaches phonics in an incidental way rather than with direct, systematic teaching. The teaching tends to run in parallel with reading books, which are introduced using a look-and-say approach. The children are expected to memorise whole words, which are first shown to them and then read out to them. The whole words can be shown to the children on flash cards, or on labelled objects around the classroom. The teacher might also point to words, during big-book story time.
Onset and rime
Onset and rime is also associated with analytic phonics. With onset-and-rime teaching, the children start in the typical analytic phonics way: by looking at books and memorising words. Then the children are taught to memorise the onset and the rime parts of the word. The onset is the consonant, or consonants, at the beginning of a word and the rime is the rest of the word/syllable. For instance, in the word street, the str is the onset and the eet is the rime.
Analytic phonics reading books
The books that the children are expected to read are either non-structured reading books, graded reading books that introduce new words gradually, or Book Band books that, initially, use repeated sentences, which include a new word on each page. The children can then deduce the new word by looking at the picture.
The following is an example of a typical Book Band book:
The man is not looking.
The woman is not looking.
The boy is not looking.
The girl is not looking.
The donkey is not looking.
The cat is not looking.
The mouse is not looking.
Crash. They all wish they had looked.
The illustrations in these books are usually very humorous, ostensibly to make up for the repetitive story.
Many children will simply memorise these books and use the pictures as a reminder. The easiest way to find whether a child is reading a book or merely reciting it is to print out some of the words that appear in the book and ask the child to read them, this time without the accompanying pictures. Very often, the child will not be able to do this. This indicates that the child was guessing the words and not actually reading them.
Analytic-phonics based teaching is sometimes known as ‘mixed methods’ teaching. The mixed methods include balanced literacy, the apprenticeship approach and whole-language approaches. The main thing that all these approaches have in common is that they teach phonics incidentally and start with whole words and reading books.
Synthetic phonics is a method of teaching children to read and write. The children are taught how the English alphabetic code works before they are expected to do the harder tasks of reading books and writing independently.
Synthetic Phonics does not start with whole printed words. It starts with single letters and the sounds that the letters represent. As soon as the children have been taught a few letters and sounds, including one or two vowels, they are taught to look at the words, produce a sound for each letter (no digraphs should be included at this point) and then blend the sounds all through the word into normal pronunciation. This ‘synthesising’ (blending sounds) is the essential skill for working out unknown words. Increasing numbers of words can and should be blended as each letter sound is introduced (see sample of Word Bank in Module 3). Once words have been blended a few times, they can be read without blending, as if they were a sight word.
At the same time, the children are taught how to write letters and how to identify the individual sounds in words. For example, if children have been taught how to form single letters and can hear that the word ‘dig’ has the sounds /d-i-g/ in it, then they can write this word.
In addition to teaching the sounds made by single letters, synthetic-phonics programmes also teach the sounds made by digraphs, such as /ai/, /ee/, /oa/, /or/ and /ou/. Although learning the sounds made by digraphs is slightly more difficult than learning the sounds made by single letters, the children just need to learn to say one sound for the two letters. Care is taken to ensure that the new letter knowledge is put into practice straight away, with plenty of blending and segmenting of regular words that use the new digraphs.
Synthetic phonics teaching
Usually, synthetic-phonics programmes teach 40+ letter-sound correspondences initially, that is, they teach one way of representing each of the main sounds of English. Later on, alternative ways of writing the sounds are covered. For example, the sound /ai/ might be introduced first as ‹ai› and then the alternatives ‹ay› and ‹a-e› at a later stage.
Frequently used tricky words are taught systematically, by blending them, learning the correct pronunciation and identifying the ‘tricky’ bit.
A fast pace of introducing the letter sounds is recommended in synthetic phonics, with several programmes introducing 4-5 letter sounds a week. The fast pace is stimulating for the children and enables them quickly to get to the stage when they have enough foundation knowledge to start reading books.
Generally, reading books are provided when the children can blend unknown words that use the 40+ letter sounds and have learnt some tricky words. Decodable readers, that use the letter-sound knowledge that has been taught, help the children to develop their skills and prevent the children becoming frustrated when they cannot work words out.
The important aspects of synthetic phonics are:
- to teach the alphabetic code, to use blending
- to read words rather than trying to memorise the words by their shape
- to avoid asking the children to read or write a word that contains a letter-sound that has not yet been taught.
I took the following photo as it was the introduction of a phonics story book for children.
Dr. Marlynne Grant: