Guided Phonetic Reading
Phonics was first formally presented as a solution to teaching children to read in 1670 by John Hart. After 300 years I think we can be clear that it is not a universal solution. If it was there would be no debate now as to how to teach children to learn to read English.
The reason that phonics does not work for a lot of children is that it tries to teach relationships between the letter patterns within words (known as 'graphemes') and the sounds in words (known as 'phonemes'). But, as we all know, there is huge irregularity in those relationships in English. For instance, the letters 'ough' can represent 12 different sounds.
Any set of rules will just lead to confusion because there are over 450 possible letter patterns to sound relationships, even though there are only 44 sounds and 115 letter patterns. So it is very inconsistent. If you teach a child a rule, the poor child will find an exception to it in just minutes!
Many children get very frustrated by this and choose to sight memorise the words instead. They often only do that because it seems easier. They are not to know that it can lead to all sorts of problems later.
Over the past few years we have found that the right solution is Guided Phonetic Reading, combined with a sound understanding of the 8 main causes of reading difficulty.
Definition of Guided Phonetic Reading
Guided Phonetic Reading uses graphic images to represent the sounds in a word, above or below the line of the text. The graphic images are designed to allow the children to decode any word, which helps them develop the skill of decoding implicitly, through regular, easy practice.
The Key Component to Guided Phonetic Reading
Guided phonetic reading teaches reading as a skill. Practice is the "mother of all skills"! If the child practices the processes of decoding and blending words routinely every day, the brain forms a subconscious mapping of the letter patterns (graphemes) and sounds (phonemes) in each word, without the child even being aware of it. After about 90 lessons that mapping is strong enough for the child to start to decode most normal text without needing support the support of the images.
How is it Different to Conventional Phonics?
It may seem at first glance that Guided Phonetic Reading is really just a form of conventional synthetic phonics teaching. While both approaches take the phoneme as the key unit of text, Guided Phonetic Reading is very different in the way it achieves its aims.
Here are the main differences:
- Guided Phonetic Reading has no rules to learn
- Guided Phonetic Reading develops the reading process largely through the procedural (automatic) memory processes, rather than the declarative (thinking) memory processes.
- Guided Phonetic Reading should have no sounds to chant or letter patterns to learn
- Guided Phonetic Reading has no sight-word lists of irregular words
- Guided Phonetic Reading supports the child through each step of every lesson.
How to Deliver Guided Phonetic Reading
We recommend a very visual approach to delivering Guided Phonetic Reading, as can be seen in the Easyread System. Easyread uses easily remembered characters to represent each phoneme and the characters float above the conventional text.
Guided Phonetic Reading teaches reading as a skill and, just as with any skill, the key is regular short lessons.
The Truth About How Children Learn To Read
The reality is that this is how children learn to read anyhow. Guided Phonetic Reading is only making the process easier.
The successes of conventional phonics and whole words strategies come from the innate ability of some children to see the relationships between all the different letter patterns and sounds. The human brain is good at seeing patterns.
There are two reasons why they fail:
- The child tries to read by sight memorising words and guessing the ones that are not familiar from the context. If the child has a strong visual memory this strategy will seem to go well initially, but as the vocabulary used in the text increases it gets steadily harder until the child is on a reading plateau. His or her spelling will also be very poor.
- The child has some cause of difficulty such as an eyetracking problem or contrast sensitivity which has not been dealt with.
The majority of children doing Easyread are in the first category and around half are also in the second category.
So it is important that any implementation of Guided Phonetic Reading has knowledge of the causes of reading difficulty built into it, with systems in place to deal with those difficulties.
Proof of the Pudding
We find Guided Phonetic Reading pretty nearly works every time. To see Guided Phonetic Reading change the attitude of a child to reading in 15 minutes, test our trial Easyread sample lesson.