Systematic phonics

Word pattern recognition

The brain is an exquisitely designed pattern detector, so it makes sense to capitalize on this talent.   As the reader sees patterns repeatedly (such as ai in mail, paint and constrain), the graphic letter pattern is retained in memory in association with sound.   When a familiar pattern is detected in a word, that pattern evokes those stored associations.   This then enables the reader to decode a new word like complain.   Word sorting activities, usually a key feature of analytic phonics, encourage learners to notice patterns, to think flexibly about letter-sound correspondences.  

Such activities support self-teaching, whereby the learner develops a means of identifying the sound of unknown words independently.   Once this self-teaching mechanism is under way the reader can begin to use larger visual sequences that map onto larger phonological units.   In this way reading becomes indistinguishable from whole-word reading.