Different approches to teaching phonics

Analytic phonics

In analytic phonics, children identify phonemes in whole words and are encouraged to segment the words into phonemes. They also analyse similar characteristics in other words (for example, hen, house, hill all begin with the same sound; tin, sin win, pin all share the same redial and end phonemes or the same rime ‘in’). Recognising word families and patterns helps children develop inferential self-teaching strategies. If they can read ‘cake’, they can work out and read ‘lake’ without blending all the individual phonemes.

Most teachers use both synthetic and analytic phonics, but advocates of a ‘synthetics first and fast approach’ claim that it is more effective in teaching children to read than mixed reading strategy approaches. They also claim that it is more effective than other kinds of phonics programmes. A recent longitudinal study in Scotland on the effectiveness of a synthetic phonics programme compared with an analytical and an analytical plus phonemic awareness programme (involving 300 children over seven years) concluded that ‘the synthetic phonics approach, as part of the reading curriculum, is more effective than the analytic phonics approach’ (Johnston and Watson, 2005).