Introduction to phonics and spelling


The relationship of phonics to spelling has been as contentious as that of phonics to reading. There are those who vehemently eschew any association of phonics and spelling on the basis that encouraging children to ‘write words as they sound’ invariably results in incorrect spelling. There are, on the other hand, strong advocates of phonically-based spelling programmes. However, in almost all research commentary on reading development and teaching literacy in the last 20 years, the phrase ‘phonics is necessary but not sufficient’ is  reiterated.

Just as the teaching of writing is less prominent in research and media coverage than the teaching of reading, so phonics for spelling has taken second place to phonics for reading. However, there is considerable research to show that the skill of phonemic segmentation, which is the skill required for ‘phonic spelling’, is also critical to the development of phonemic blending, a skill required for reading.

Further research suggests that it may well be a precursor to it. For this and other reasons, the guidance on teaching phonics in the National Literacy Strategy proposed that phonemic segmentation be introduced before phonemic blending.