Introduction to phonics

Phonics, at its core, breaks spoken words down into their constituent sounds and correlates that with alphabetic symbols, that is, letters and letter groups. The use of verbal and written language has made this method of teaching one of the most recommended for schools in the past decade.

A brief history of phonics

There are sources which cite the use of a primitive type of phonics as far back as 350 years ago. Some argue that the use of phonics could even go back thousands of years, to the foundation of language.

In truth, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when contemporary phonics became the conventional norm. There are several moments in history where the way for teaching language was adapted.

Arguably one of the most interesting was when Benjamin Franklin devised his own alphabet, which replaced six letters with ones he’d created himself. This attempt – separating American English from British – would prove fruitless over time, however.

It was in 2005 when the UK education minister Ruth Kelly commissioned an independent review of the teaching of early reading. This saw the introduction of synthetic phonics, where the classic symbol-to-sound method is used to create a link between speaking, reading and writing.

Today, phonics is recognised as the most valuable and effective means of teaching young children how to excel at literacy.

What are the advantages of using phonics?

It’s for good reason the format was emphasised as a priority in classrooms as the norm at the midpoint of the noughties. There are several major advantages to using phonics as a teaching method. These include:

  • Better sound and symbol recognition – Using a method which links sounds and symbols means a child will have a strong ability when it comes to recognising letters or letter groups (graphemes). They’ll be able to know exactly what sound should be produced for each letter or letter group (graphemes) – making the reading process simpler in the future.
  • It’s easier to sound out words – Similarly, using this type of teaching method means kids are able to sound out words they’re unfamiliar with. By breaking down words into their syllabic components, and then individual sounds (phonemes) a child is better equipped to read new words they’re unfamiliar with. There’s a belief this will also teach children to understand the basic pattern of how words are formed. In time, they’ll learn to recognise this and read more fluently.
  • Syllable structure is simpler for students – Similarly, syllable structure will also become the norm. Eventually, they’ll understand concepts such as identifying groups of letters (graphemes) that contain letters that are ‘silent’, or that a closed syllable will end in a consonant letter and contain a short vowel letter.
  • Spelling patterns make longer words easier to read – Whereas people who learn a language via complete words would have to memorise word by word, phonics makes things easier. A child can break down a long word into its sounds (phonemes) and work it out on the go, even if they don’t immediately recognise its meaning.
  • Secondary skills are gained – While phonics primarily serves to aid reading, it’ll also have a major impact on other core skills. A child will learn to think things through logically while reading words they don’t understand, while also picking up writing skills as part of the exercises they’ll carry out at home and in the classroom.
  • It’s fun – A lot of the courses and guides used to teach kids phonics are crafted to be fun. This means learning can be enjoyable for everyone – something which is crucial when it comes to ensuring the information actually sticks. Engaging and emotive learning will always leave a lasting impact.

These are just some of the many reasons why teaching a child phonics is a great idea. There are countless ways they’ll benefit from this style of learning.