Phonics is an approach to teaching some aspects of literacy, by developing pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the relationship between written symbols and sounds. This involves the skills of hearing, identifying and using the patterns of sounds or phonemes to read written language. The aim is to systematically teach pupils the relationship between these sounds and the written spelling patterns, or graphemes, which represent them. Phonics emphasises the skills of decoding new words by sounding them out and combining or ‘blending’ the sound-spelling patterns.
There is extensive evidence in this area from a range of studies over the last 30 years. The majority of studies are from the USA and focus on pupils aged between 8 and 18 who are falling behind their peers or have difficulties with reading.
Before you implement this strategy in your learning environment, consider the following:
A key issue for teachers is identifying the level of difficulty for comprehension activities that is required to extend pupils’ reading capabilities. How will you ensure the texts used provide an effective challenge?
Effective diagnosis of reading difficulties is important in identifying possible solutions, particularly for older struggling readers. Pupils can struggle with decoding the words, understanding the structure of the language used, or understanding particular vocabulary, which may be subject-specific. What techniques will you use to identify particular pupils’ needs?
A wide range of strategies and approaches can be successful, but they need to be taught explicitly and consistently. How are you going to identify the strategies that will meet the needs of your pupils and how will these be reinforced?
How can you focus learners’ attention on developing comprehension strategies that they can apply more widely?