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Linguistic phonics and synthetic phonics

We generally characterise Sounds-Write as a phonics programme and leave it at that, because the full explanation involves more information than people generally want.  For the intrepid few, here is the full explanation.

a linguistic phonics programme

Sounds-Write is, first and foremost, a linguistic phonics programme in the sense pioneered by Diane McGuinness, which is to say that we teach from sound to print: we start from the sounds in our speech and teach that English spellings represent those sounds; spellings were invented to represent the sounds in the language.

Sounds-Write is also a synthetic phonics programme in the sense that we teach what the government recommends should be taught in a synthetic phonics programme.

What differentiates Sounds-Write from most other phonics programmes is that it starts from what all children learn naturally: the sounds of their own language. There are a limited number of sounds in English: forty-four, or forty-five depending on accent. As long as a phonics programme is anchored in those speech sounds and teaches from simple, for beginning readers and writers, to more complex, it is almost impossible for teachers to lose their way. Our approach teaches children that all of the sounds they utter in every word have been assigned spellings. This knowledge gives our teaching a psychological reality for them: there are sounds and there are spellings to represent those sounds.

When teachers teach children that letters ‘make’ or ‘say’ sounds, they are both undermining children’s understanding of the symbolic significance of the writing system and are confusing them about how the alphabet code works. The English code is the most complex and, for that reason, it needs to be taught systematically and explicitly from simple one-to-one sound spelling correspondences to the kinds of complexities that cause adults problems: that sounds can be spelled with multiple spellings and that many spellings can represent more than one sound.

Sounds-Write teaches all of the code, all of the skills required to use the code effectively in reading and writing, as well as teaching the conceptual understanding necessary to know how the code works so that they are able to generalise the knowledge across the whole domain. For these reasons, Sounds-Write promotes deep learning.

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