Analytic Phonics vs Synthetic Phonics

Analytic Phonics vs Synthetic Phonics: To understand the difference, you have to understand the methodology behind analytic phonics and synthetic phonics for reading.

Traditionally, children were taught to read using ‘analytic phonics’. This method has children ‘analysing a word’, taking clues from recognition of the whole word, the initial sound and the context. This is a hit and miss approach which encouraged guessing as a first reading strategy! It is therefore no surprise that in the USA, Australia and the UK there are significant numbers of children failing to learn to read as well as they should; 38%, 20% and 20% respectively!

Synthetic Phonics on the other hand, involves no guessing! It is the synthesising, or blending of phonemes (sounds) to make a word, enabling children to read.

The differences between analytic and Synthetic Phonics:

Analytic Phonics

Synthetic Phonics

Importance of each sound Emphasis on the initial sound, e.g. the /s/ of ‘sun’. This rule works for short words but is problematic for longer words and encourages guessing as an initial reading strategy. Each phoneme, in every position is important. We care about the ‘s’ as much as the ‘u’ and the ‘n’.
Position Emphasis on initial sounds, onset, rhyme and word families. Emphasis on hearing and identifying the phonemes in all positions.
Speed Slow. It can be as slow as 1 sound a week. This unnecessarily delays reading progress. Fast. 8 sounds over 2 weeks, getting children reading right away.
Spelling Spelling is tackled separately. Children are taught that the alphabetic code is reversible; if you can read a word you can spell it. Have a look at Jack’s writing portfolio to see how quickly Synthetic Phonics progresses writing confidence.
Role of guessing Encourages guessing.The emphasis is on the initial sound, e.g. the ‘s’ of sun. Works for short words that can be guessed but in longer words is much more difficult. The English language is far more logical than people first believe. It doesn’t need guessing for successful reading and spelling, it just needs systematic teaching.
Role of the alphabet The alphabet is central to analytic phonics – concentrating on those 26 letters and their corresponding sounds. Think about these words: ‘place’, ‘kiss’ and ‘sell’. All words have an /s/ phoneme but have different spellings. The letter names are not taught initially. Children are learning 44 phonemes and how each can be represented. This enables children, when they come across: ‘place’, ‘kiss’ and ‘sell’, to understand that phonemes /s/ can have many spelling choices: ‘ce’, ‘ss’ and ‘s’.
Exceptions to the rule There are too many exceptions to rules. There are minimal exceptions. Get Reading Right manages irregular, high frequency words in a child-friendly manner – as Camera Words.
The pronunciation of the sounds Sounds were often taught incorrectly, e.g. ‘s’ was taught as the sound ‘suh’, not the correct pronunciation ‘ssssss’. Blending doesn’t work as easily with incorrect pronunciation. Synthetic Phonics places much emphasis on the teachers pronouncing the phonemes correctly. This is why we have produced Pronounce the Phonemes so that teachers and parents start off on the right footing.