Research has consistently demonstrated that a succesful literacy program is most effective when it includes explicit instruction designed to improve a students ability to accurately read and spell individual words and their ability to comprehend and utilise a variety of language-based processes.

The components of effective reading and spelling instruction include:

  • explicit and systematic phonemic awareness instruction
  • systematically sequenced phonics instruction
  • guided and repeated oral reading with appropriate error correction and feedback to improve reading fluency
  • direct instruction in vocabulary, reading comprehension and spelling strategies

Learning to read and spell is essentially learning a code. The letters we use are simply symbols or written code for the speech sounds of English. Learning about the relationship between the letters of the alphabet and the speech sounds they represent allows us to “crack the code” and learn to both read (decode) and spell (encode).

Synthetic Phonics is a way of teaching children to read and spell. It has been identified both here and overseas as the most successful approach to the teaching of reading and spelling. The ‘synthetic’ component reflects the practice of ‘synthesising’, or blending together. The ‘phonic’ part reflects the process of linking individual speech sounds (phonemes) to written symbols (graphemes). Essentially, when a child learns to read using Synthetic Phonics they learn to link letters to speech sounds and then blend these sounds together to read words. They also learn to separate (segment) words into their constituent sounds and link these sounds to letters in order to spell them.

The ability to hear, isolate, blend and manipulate speech sounds (essential for reading and spelling) is dependent on a child's phonological and phonemic awareness ability. Children with literacy related learning difficulties often require additional support and intervention to develop these skills.

A good literacy program also includes explicit instruction in vocabulary, reading fluency and reading comprehension strategies. This instruction should be extended into the secondary school years, particulary as the demands of school change and students are exposed to significantly more complex vocabulary and the need to be more strategic in their use of comprehension strategies.  

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