Saturday, October 2, 2010

What Is Phonics?

Many Malaysian teachers will say that phonics is teaching letter sounds(letters to sounds). It's like saying 'letters have sounds'.

Well, I'm sorry to disappoint, but letters have NO sound. Have you tried putting a letter card to your ear? I've done so many times to prove my point. You will not hear any sound.

Thus, it is wrong to teach children that letters have sounds for a number of reasons.
Instead, we should teach them that speech sounds are represented by letters or group of letters(sounds to letters).

This is what we do in Readeasy Phonics.

We teach children 2 basic things.

1. Sounds are represented by letters/symbols.
For example the sound /t/, (tuh), is represented by letter 't'.
The sound /
ʃ/, (sh), is represented by grapheme 'sh'.

2. To blend sounds together to read words.
For example /b/ - /
ɪ/ - /t/..../bit/.

Readeasy Phonics
is the FIRST and ONLY Synthetic Phonics reading programme in Malaysia, since 2001.

Synthetic phonics is a method of teaching reading which first teaches the smallest speech sounds and then builds up to blending these sounds together to achieve full pronunciation of words.

In the United Kingdom, the government has given a go-ahead for children to be taught to read PRIMARILY using the synthetic phonics method since 2006.

Also, a previous study in Scotland found out that children taught to read using the synthetic phonics method, were three years ahead of children who learnt by other methods.

As for me, I began using synthetic phonics(now Bacalah Anakku series) to teach my third child Athirah to read in Bahasa Malaysia in1995. It was an amazing experience. She became an independent reader in just a month. After publishing Bacalah Anakku in 1997, a lot of people encouraged me to write an English version of Bacalah Anakku. Alhamdulillah, in 2001 Readeasy Beginner Level was published.

For the past 9 years, I've met a lot of 6-yr-olds (Malay children), whose first language is NOT English, read in English fluently. There were many times I was overwhelmed when I saw Kelantanese children(kindergarteners ) reading in English!(Our home is in Kelantan).
And the best thing was that they were taught to read using Readeasy Phonics.

An experienced phonics teacher, Pn Kamariah, from Kemas Kindergarten , will always bring her students to show us how well they read in English whenever we go to Kuantan. Kindergarten teachers, operators, and parents who have used Readeasy Phonics are always happy to tell us how Readeasy Phonics has given their children a headstart in English.

My husband and I have been conducting phonics workshops for parents & teachers for the last 12 years. And we( others too) were always saying, "when is the KPM/MOE going to use synthetic phonics in schools to teach reading..." And out of the blue last year, Tan Sri Muhyiddin made the historic announcement.... phonics for Year 1 starting 2011.

Furthermore, the Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka(DBP) had appointed my husband and I as Phonics Consultants to help the Year 1 English Textbook Writers understand phonics better.

I'm sure that many primary school teachers are still 'blurred' about synthetic phonics. So. the least we can do is share our experiences & ideas on how to teach reading to small children in this blog.

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