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A seven year study of the effects of synthetic phonics teaching on reading and spelling attainment

The report of a groundbreaking, seven-year research trial that was a powerful influence on the British government adopting systematic phonics as the best foundation for teaching children to read at primary school. The study involved dividing around 300 Primary aged children into three groups. One group was taught via the synthetic phonics method, one by a standard analytic phonics programme, and the third by an analytics phonics programme which included systematic phonemic awareness teaching without reference to print. The outcomes of the study proved overwhelmingly that the synthetic phonics approach is more effective than the analytic phonics approach. At the end of the programme, the synthetic phonics-taught group were reading and spelling seven months ahead of their expected level. It has also proven to help close the gender gap with boys’ word reading accelerating. The synthetic phonics method as implemented in the study involved, right from the start of school, children learning a small number of letter sounds and using that knowledge right away to sound and blend the letters to find out how to pronounce unfamiliar words. They then rapidly learnt more letter sounds and continued to use the strategy. The study found that these children had much better reading and phonological awareness skills than those taught either by analytic phonics, or by analytic phonics plus phonological awareness.
Author(s): Johnston, R.S. and Watson, J.E.


Johnston, R.S. and Watson, J.E.  2005. A seven year study of the effects of synthetic phonics teaching on reading and spelling attainment. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive Education Department

Scottish executive report Johnston and Watson 2005.pdf - 268 KB

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