Phonemic Awareness and Synthetic Phonics Explained

The Australian National Curriculum strongly recommends that all Australian primary schools include Phonemic Awareness and Synthetic Phonics in their literacy program. Documented evidence shows that exposing students to these concepts can result in very effective reading and spelling.

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic Awareness means 'being aware' of all 43 sounds (phonemes) that we use in our spoken language, and knowing how to identify them in the words we use in our speech.

This is the first step in learning to read and write. It is an oral step. When students can identify sounds at the beginning, middle and end of simple, two or three sound words, e.g. in, eat, dog, rain, they are ready to move on to Synthetic Phonics.

Synthetic Phonics

Synthetic Phonics teaches students how to break (segment) words into individual sounds. It also teaches students to understand how the alphabet letters are used to represent sounds in written form when reading or writing.

First, students learn to segment words orally into separate sounds eg /b/a/t/.

Once oral competence and confidence is achieved, letters are associated with the sounds, e.g. b as in balloon, a as in apple, t as in tiger.

Students learn from the beginning, that we use letters of the alphabet like a code, arranging them in different patterns to represent sounds in written words.

One sound can be represented by different letters depending on the spelling of the word, e.g. ph for f as in fish' in Phoebe, gh for ‘f as in fish’ in laugh.

English is a confusing language but there are patterns. The Phonemic Approach, combined with Synthetic Phonics, provides students with strategies they can apply, rather than guessing when reading and writing.