Synthetic Phonics and Jelly and Bean Systematic Phonics
There are 4 principles of synthetic phonics set out by its proponents at the Reading Reform Foundation and by the Department for Education in England.
1. Initially children are taught one grapheme for each of the 44 phonemes of the English language. They begin with the sounds corresponding to a few letters of the alphabet. They are taught how to blend these sounds in combinations to approximate the sound of real words. (Their ability to blend combinations of sounds corresponding to letters is assessed later using pseudo-words they have never seen before) . (Isolated phonics)
2. Children are NOT taught an initial sight vocabulary of words to start them on their journey of learning to read. (They are NOT taught to recognise some very common words that they know and understand by seeing them written down and remembering them as whole words from the sight of the written letters in a specific order using their visual memory before they are taught the sounds corresponding to letters.)
3. Children are NOT taught to recognise any words by the sight of the whole written word. They are taught to say out loud the sounds corresponding to the letters (graphemes) in written words and blend the sounds together. The sounds in irregular words are explained as variations of the ‘alphabetic code’, i.e. alternative spellings of the 44 sounds, e.g. ‘o’ is an alternative spelling of the sound /oo/ in the word ‘to, and ‘ou’ is an alternative spelling of the sound /oo/ in the words ‘you’.)
4. Only single cueing from sound is allowed for decoding. Multi-cueing from pictures or context (semantics) or sentence structure (syntax) is NOT allowed
The Jelly and Bean approach to teaching children to read using systematic phonics is different to the synthetic method described above.
1. Children begin by looking at whole written words they already understand. These words are then analysed. It is essential that teachers ensure children know the meaning of the written words they see before they start to decode them.
2. Pictures are used to make sure children understand the words prior to learning the sounds within them. These sounds in words are abstract knowledge. They have been abstracted from the continuously changing stream of speech to correspond to symbols invented especially for the purpose of changing a communication in a spoken medium to a communication in a visual medium. Children have to learn how to recognise the sounds in their own spoken words and then abstract them in order to say them. This is not an easy task. Children have not needed to do this when they have been learning to talk. It is the meaning of the words they have been paying attention to, not the sounds within them. (Listen to someone talk. Can you notice the sounds in the words and pay attention to what is said at the same time?)
3. High frequency words like ‘the, to, go’ are taught as whole words with specific spellings. Children are not given an explanation of ‘alphabetic code’ variations, e.g. We do not advocate telling children that the ‘o’ in ‘to’ is an alternative spelling of the /oo/ phoneme.
4. Multi-cueing from pictures, context and sentence structure is to be encouraged so that children use all their senses and knowledge to think about what they are doing and to work out the written words from all the clues available to them.