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.
At St George’s we have used Sounds-Write for over five years and I cannot recommend it highly enough. We are a National Support School and have visitors from all over the UK and abroad visit the school each year. To a person, they are always astounded by the phonics and spelling they see.
Sarah Collymore, Headteacher, St. George’s CE Primary School
I recommend Sounds-Write to every teacher and school leader I meet. At Floreat we teach Sounds-Write in structured lessons in Nursery and Reception as well as Year 1. We achieve consistently outstanding results and our parents are amazed at how well their children can read and spell.
Janet Hilary, National Leader of Education and Chief Executive Officer, Floreat Education
Sounds-Write has had a significant impact at Princecroft School and is transforming the life chances of our children. From very low starting points the children now make rapid progress in their phonics and by the end of Years 1 and 2 are decoding and reading at standards above their peers nationally.
Michael Park, Headteacher, Princecroft School
Sounds-Write is more than just a scheme for phonics. For Selby Community Primary School it has improved pupils’ self-esteem around reading and writing. Sounds-Write has developed stronger spellers and pupils who transfer their phonics knowledge straight into their written work.
Ian Clennan, Headteacher, Selby Community Primary School
Teachers’ subject knowledge and therefore their confidence with teaching phonics has vastly improved since the implementation of Sounds-Write. The skills taught through the programme are transferable throughout the curriculum with improved reading, writing and spelling from our children.
Lindsay Vollans, Headteacher, St. Michael’s C of E Primary School