Systematic synthetic phonics is an incredibly effective way to teach kids to read. Teaching phonics means teaching kids to link sounds and symbols (connecting phonemes to graphemes or sounds to letters). We call it synthetic phonics because students learn to link the sounds and written symbols and then blend or synthesize the sounds to read words.
If we look at reading as a code, which it is essentially, systematic synthetic phonics helps them crack the code. Cracking the code means both decoding and encoding. In other words, synthetic phonics helps students both read and write/spell. A systematic synthetic phonics program helps students become independent readers.
How to teach synthetic phonics
Synthetic phonics begins by teaching students to hear the sounds that make up words, but they also need to understand the letters that we use to represent those sounds. For example if students hear the /b/ sound at the beginning of ball, bed, and bird, they need to know that we use a b for that sound.
You’ll progress systematically through the 44 sounds of English. While different programs may vary a bit in order, generally you move from the most common consonant sounds and short vowel sounds to digraphs, other consonants, and r-controlled vowel sounds. Over time, students learn alternate spellings for different sounds.
Create a synthetic phonics toolkit
If you are bringing systematic synthetic phonics to your classroom, you’ll want to create your own synthetic phonics toolkit to integrate learning throughout the day, in direct instruction, in stations, individual work, small group work, and even home practice. Here are some pieces you’ll want in your toolkit.
Synthetic phonics posters, word lists, and word cards
When you use synthetic phonics posters, word lists, and word cards around your room, you keep the sounds and letters in front of students. Students can refer to them when working on reading or spelling. You can integrate them into planned daily lessons, or use them when reading or spelling questions come up to review what students know.
Synthetic phonics activities and worksheets
Practice and repetition are critical parts of synthetic phonics, so a variety of activities and worksheets should be part of your toolkit. You’ll want a mix of activities that can be done independently or with a small group and that allow students to interact in different ways with words or sounds.
For example, students can use a say and trace worksheet to trace words with a pencil (or if you laminate your sheets with a wipe off marker), but you could also have students say and trace a word with their finger on a worksheet or a tray of sand. You could have students say the word and create letters with dough.
You could have students do a word sort independently or they could work in a small group to do the same sort. You could do the word sort as a paper and pencil activity or a cut and sort activity. Or you could use word cards to have students move words around the room to different sorting centers.
Synthetic phonics games
It’s no secret that I love including games in my teaching toolkit, whether I’m teaching math, phonics, or anything else. Games provide additional practice while keeping it fun. They provide an opportunity for students to learn in pairs or small groups. Games can provide motivation for students who like a little competition. In games that draw on speed, they provide fluency practice. Four-in-a-Row works well as a synthetic phonics game that can be adapted for any sounds you are focusing on. Students practice both reading and writing in this game that works well for paired work in a literacy station or as homework. It can also be adapted for independent work. You’ll want a mix of games in your synthetic phonics toolkit.
Start your synthetic phonics toolkit now
Creating a synthetic phonics toolkit doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, my no prep phoneme packs make it easy. They include games, activities, lesson plans, worksheets, word lists, posters, and word cards centered around different sounds. Pick up one for the sounds you’re doing now, or set yourself up with a bunch of sounds:
- No Prep Phoneme /ar/ Words Worksheets and Activities – https://topnotchteaching.com/downloads/ar-words/
- Phoneme /s/ Worksheets and Activities – https://topnotchteaching.com/downloads/phoneme-s/
- Air Sound Phonics Worksheets and Activities – https://topnotchteaching.com/downloads/air-sound/
- Or Sound Phonics Worksheets and Activities – https://topnotchteaching.com/downloads/or-sound/
- OU and OW Words Worksheets and Activities – https://topnotchteaching.com/downloads/ou-and-ow-words/
- Vowel Teams for OI and OY Words – https://topnotchteaching.com/downloads/vowel-teams-oi-and-oy-words/
- R Controlled Vowels | ER Worksheets and Activities – https://topnotchteaching.com/downloads/r-controlled-vowels-er-worksheets/
Get a sneak peek here and start your synthetic phonics toolkit with the Phoneme er FREE Sample: