‘Synthetic’ vs Analytic Phonics

You are teaching phonics, but did you know that not all phonics was created equal?

English-speaking government inquiries all concluded that your phonics teaching should be explicit and systematic – known as ‘synthetic phonics‘. However, many schools are still teaching ‘analytic’ phonics. This method has children ‘analysing a word’ – taking clues from the shape of the word, the initial sound and the context (pictures, what word came before etc). Reading then becomes about memorising the look of the whole word and encourages guessing – a very hit and miss strategy! Here we explain synthetic vs analytic phonics, and why you should use synthetic phonics to teach early reading and spelling.

Are You Teaching Synthetic or Analytic Phonics?

Analytic Phonics

Synthetic Phonics

How quickly are the sounds taught?

Slowly, focuses on one sound a week.

Quickly, teaches a group of 4-8 sounds at the same time.

Is there an overemphasis on the first sound in words?

Yes, children will read words which all start with the same sound (e.g. sun, snake, snap) and will often not know any of the other sounds in the word. Encourages children to guess at words – a very hit and miss strategy!

Wherever a sound is in a word, it’s just as important for a child to sound out; at the beginning, the middle or the end. If we sound out all through the word, we will get success!

Is guessing from the picture encouraged?

Heavily. A word and its picture will be side-by-side. All a child has to do is look at the picture to fool an adult that they are ‘reading’!

Never. Children will be taught to use their phonics knowledge as the primary approach to reading and spelling unknown words. Pictures are only there to enhance the story, not as a tool to attempt reading.

Are children spelling with these sounds too?

Often skips the spelling aspect of a good synthetic phonics approach.

As synthetic phonics systematically teaches your child to read, it is also systematically teaches your child to spell.

Does it teach all 44 sounds?

The sounds of the alphabet are taught and some double letters sounds, but it often stops there.

Synthetic phonics teaches the 44 sounds of the English language, systematically.

Does it grow in complexity, as a child develops?

The order the sounds are taught is rudimentary; there is no logical order which grows from simple to complex.

There is a simple to complex logic, so we get more complicated as a child develops and build upon their foundations.

Are tricky words ‘true’ tricky words?

No, words like ‘and’, ‘am’ and ‘can’ are often taught as sight words. These words do not need to be learned as sight words as they are 100% phonetic; a child can use their phonics skills to read these words.

Yes, only those words which are both high frequency and irregular are taught. Words like ‘the’ and ‘was’ are not tricky to decode and occur frequently in children’s reading and writing.