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 phonics approach.
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.