Learning to read is one of the most important skills a child can acquire. Not only does reading give children access to a world of knowledge and information, it also helps them to develop key language and communication skills.
Despite its importance, many children struggle with reading. Poor literacy skills can lead to problems in school as it is the foundation for all other academic disciplines. It is thus essential that young students learn to read properly from the start.
In fact, reading expert Keith Stanovich emphasised that small strengths or deficits at the start of reading compound over time. Children who start out with strong reading skills tend to continue to improve at a faster rate than those who struggle with reading from the beginning. As they progress through school, these students will pull further ahead of their peers, widening the achievement gap. Conversely, students who start out behind their classmates can quickly fall further behind, leading to frustration and a lack of confidence. This is also often referred to as the Matthew Effect.
When it comes to teaching children to read, there are a variety of methods that can be used. However, one of the more effective and proven solutions is phonics.
What Is Phonics
Phonics is a method of teaching reading that emphasises the relationship between sounds and letters. Children can learn to read even the most difficult words by breaking words down into their individual sounds.
Different Ways Of Teaching Phonics
1. Synthetic phonics
Synthetic phonics, also known as explicit phonics, is a method that teaches students how to break down written letters (graphemes) into individual sounds (phonemes) and then blend them together to derive the words. For example, “street” will be broken down into “s-t-r-ee-t”.
Due to its simple and logical approach, the synthetic method is the most popular way of teaching phonics worldwide that children as young as three years old can follow.
However, this approach can be rather repetitive and boring for some children. It also requires a great deal of practice and drilling to succeed.
2. Analytical phonics
With this method, students are taught to analyse letter-sound relationships and identify common sounds in words they have already learnt. For example, familiar words such as “mat”, “rat”, “fat”, “cat”, and “hat,” are presented to the learners. They will have to try to find out the common phoneme ‘at’ within those words.
Through different examples, children will learn to identify and discover patterns in the written language, helping them to avoid pronouncing sounds in isolation.
However, the main drawback of this approach is that it only teaches students to deconstruct words, instead of constructing them. Some children may be able to read fluently but cannot write well at all.
3. Analogy phonics
Analogy phonics is a type of instruction that teaches students to use the relationships between words to read and spell. They learn about different “word families”, such as “cake”, “make”, “bake”, and “fake”. By emphasising these relationships, children can more easily sound out new words.
To learn the relationships between words, students must be able to differentiate each word’s beginning (onset) and end (rime). For example, the onset and rime for“light” is “li” and “ght” respectively. While analogy phonics may sound similar to synthetic phonics, it does not involve breaking words down into the smallest constituent sounds.
The best part of analogy phonics is that it helps students better understand the meaning of words as they learn to identify the different parts of words that convey meaning. However, analogy phonics requires a significant amount of memorisation, which can be daunting for some learners.
4. Embedded phonics
The embedded phonics approach is often used as part of the whole language learning method.
At the beginning, parents or teachers will have to do most of the reading. During the session, students will be taught any interesting written letters (graphemes) or individual sounds (phonemes) they come across.
As the learners become more competent, they will start reading more on their own, with the parent or teacher assisting instead.
Out of the four methods, the embedded phonics method emphasises the most on the importance of learning through context. It will not work for students who completely cannot read. Instead, this method is best used for practice, whereby the students already have a basic grasp of phonics.
Learning To Read is Fun For All At MindChamps PreSchool & Kindergarten
While there are many approaches in teaching phonics, parents ought to be mindful that there is no single “best” way to teach phonics. In fact, there are many other ways to help preschoolers and kindergarteners learn to read better, such as the whole-word approach, language experience method, or even exploring sight words.
Ultimately, different students will respond differently to different methods, so it is important to find an approach that works best for each learner—the key that makes a big difference in a child’s reading ability.
At MindChamps Preschool, our MindChamps Reading & Writing™ (Natural Literacy™) module develops the students’ literacy skills through a variety of fun and interactive activities like singing and class participation. Contact us to find out more or book a complimentary visit to your preferred MindChamps PreSchool centre to catch our students in action!