I recently met an experienced Melbourne primary teacher, Berys Dixon, who told me the delightful story of how she came to be an advocate of explicit, systematic, synthetic phonics.
Returning to work after raising her family, she was instructed to use a multiple-cues, guided reading approach with her class of five-year-olds. Many spoke a language other than English at home, and the school was in a low socioeconomic area.
One day, a parent complained that her child couldn’t sound out the words in his home reader. Berys advised the parent not to expect the child to sound out, but to encourage him to look at the picture, read ahead, have a guess etc. Then if he still couldn’t get the word, just read it for him.
Berys realised that what she had just said made no sense. She went home and started googling.
Rather than me paraphrasing the rest of Berys’s lovely story, which has a very happy ending, please take five minutes to listen to her telling it herself.
Because we’re all humans, we tend to understand and believe the personal stories other people tell us more than we understand and believe data and graphs.
I hope that Berys’s story (which is consistent with the very best data and graphs) will help persuade teachers of beginners and young strugglers to include explicit, systematic synthetic phonics in their literacy curriculum.
If her super-affordable and funny Pocket Rockets make that more possible, great. Each child’s set can be stored in a little photo album from the $2 shop, making them durable yet very small and lightweight for young children’s (often heavy and full) school bags.
The teaching sequence these booklets follow is from the UK government’s Letters And Sounds program. There are many free teaching resources for this program available online, click here, here and here for examples. Or just start googling, like Berys!
Update April 2019: Berys now has a website and her books are available in larger size and parent packs. I’ve also made a free downloadable beginners’ workbook following the same teaching sequence as her books, which you can print and use with the first set of her books (phase 2, the orange ones).