What is Phonics?

In recent years, the methods used to teach children to read in UK schools have changed drastically. Previously, much of the teaching was centred around word recognition, and establishing a sight vocabulary- so that children immediately recognise a word they have been taught. Although supported reading and group reading are still very much used, the first port of call is a method called Phonics.

Phonics focuses on establishing a relationship between the grapheme (the letter itself) and the phoneme (the sound it makes), so that patterns are made in a child’s mind when they see a letter; thus helping them to know how to pronounce it. This relationship is known as GPC: Grapheme-phoneme correspondence. The point being, that in recognising the sounds that each individual letter makes, they can string them together in a word to recognise the word as a whole.

Of course, it is widely known that English is one of the hardest languages to learn, and because of this, the graphemes and phonemes that children need to know are not limited to just the 26 letters of the alphabet. They also include digraphs and trigraphs: strings of letters that make a particular sound when joined together.

The thought behind Phonics is to view the English language as code; code which can clearly and systematically be broken up and taught. In doing this, children are taught bit by bit, the difficulty steadily increasing as they grasp the concept.