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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 June 2007, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Reading system goes into schools
Teacher with George the teddy
"Focused adult-led activity": George the teddy is a listening role model
Primary schools in England are being sent DVDs and booklets on how best to teach children to read.

The Letters and Sounds packs - also available online - follow a report by former director of inspection Jim Rose, which advocated "synthetic phonics".

The packs explain how to teach children listening skills and the 44 sounds of letters and combinations of letters before moving on to make words.

Some teachers fear learning sounds by rote will make lessons boring.

So in part the new system puts an emphasis on having fun with the sounds.

'No guessing'

The Department for Education and Skills says phonic work "is best understood as a body of knowledge and skills about how the alphabet works, rather than one of a range of optional 'methods' or 'strategies' for teaching children how to read".

"For example, phonic programmes should not encourage children to guess words from non-phonic clues such as pictures before applying phonic knowledge and skills."

Instead they should learn how letters and sounds correspond, then how to blend them together in order, through a word, to read it.

This approach, known as "synthetic" phonics, was recommended by the Rose review over other ways of teaching reading.

Many schools in England already use phonics combined with other methods to help children to read, but proponents of synthetic phonics argue it should be followed strictly and not be mixed with other approaches.

In Scotland, schools are already encouraged to use synthetic phonics.

Professional judgements

The Letters and Sounds programme says children should also learn how to chop words into their constituent sounds.

"Teachers will make principled, professional judgements about when to start on a systematic programme of phonic work but it is reasonable to expect that the great majority of children will be capable of and benefit from doing so by the age of five."

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers drew attention to this optional nature of the scheme.

¿Teachers are likely to welcome the free literacy pack produced by an acknowledged education expert since there is a bewildering range of competing commercial reading schemes," said deputy leader Martin Johnson.

"But we strongly argue that phonics should be just one of a range of techniques used to teach reading."

The expert - Jim Rose, who was knighted in Saturday's birthday honours - said he had been pushing on an open door but it had just needed "that extra boost".

"It's core primary business: what else would schools be doing if they are not delivering reading and writing?" he said.

But shadow schools minister Nick Gibb said: "It is essential that every school implements effective synthetic phonics programmes.

"Only if schools do this will we have a realistic prospect of raising the standard of reading in primary schools and eradicating illiteracy among young people."

The scheme sets out a six-stage learning process.

Understand that sounds are different and words are composed of sounds or "phonemes". Children should learn to listen and talk about similarities and differences between sounds.

Understand that sounds/phonemes are represented by letters, hear and say sounds in words in the correct order and start reading and spelling two-syllable words.

Link sounds to letters and the alphabet, reading and writing one symbol or "grapheme" for each of the 40+ sounds/phonemes. Blend and segment words with three phonemes.

Blending and segmenting words of four and five phonemes.

Blend and segment words using alternative ways of pronouncing the graphemes and spelling the phonemes that have already been taught, learning that there can be more than one way to represent a sound.

By this stage children should be able to read independently and with increasing fluency longer and less familiar texts, spelling with increasing accuracy and confidence.

One school already benefiting from new phonic method

New phonics method 'gets results'
08 Jun 07 |  Education
How phonics became easy as a-b-c
17 Mar 06 |  Education
The debate about phonics teaching
01 Dec 05 |  Education
Primary reading set for overhaul
01 Dec 05 |  Education
Phonics alive and well in schools
01 Dec 05 |  Education
Head to head: Synthetic phonics?
01 Dec 05 |  Education

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