There has been a lot of interest in different approaches to teaching
phonics as a method of introducing children to reading. This has highlighted
the difference between synthetic and analytic phonics, which has puzzled
some teachers and parents. In fact, the two approaches have been around
for a long time, but you were more likely to find synthetic phonics being
used with children needing 'intervention' because of slow progress, in
particular, children with specific learning difficulty/dyslexia. The Xavier
programs, like most programs designed for dyslexic learners, use a synthetic
Synthetic phonics means that sounds are phonemes are brought together,
synthesised to make words. It works by decoding letters and blending sounds.
In Analytic phonics the children analyse words, to find common sounds and
letters; the teacher aims to build children's knowledge of the letters which
represent sounds by studying whole words. (SP) It works by finding the sounds
in whole words.
In both kinds of phonics, the letters and their corresponding sounds are
taught systematically but they are likely to be taught in a different
sequence and in different combinations.
In synthetic phonics, teachers select a group of letters that can be used
for word-building and word reading - simple words with short vowels.
Children will learn to push letters together and blend the sounds. Or they
will read a word by decoding: making a letter to sound match and blending
the sounds together. They are taught to make use of alphabet knowledge.
Spelling and reading are taught simultaneously - as related processes. Letters
and sounds are taught in all parts of the word from the beginning. This
approach to phonics is integral to the teaching of reading and spelling.
In analytic phonics, the sound-letter associations are more likely to be taught
individually, while the link to reading is made by looking at groups of pictures
and words, and finding the letter being taught. Letters and sounds are taught
first, then final, then middle (vowel) sounds.
Analytic phonics is more likely to be found alongside a whole word, real books,
approach to reading.