Long-term effects of synthetic versus analytic phonics teaching on the reading and spelling ability of 10 year old boys and girls

Abstract

A comparison was made of 10-year-old boys and girls who had learnt to read by analytic or synthetic phonics methods as part of their early literacy programmes. The boys taught by the synthetic phonics method had better word reading than the girls in their classes, and their spelling and reading comprehension was as good. In contrast, with analytic phonics teaching, although the boys performed as well as the girls in word reading, they had inferior spelling and reading comprehension. Overall, the group taught by synthetic phonics had better word reading, spelling, and reading comprehension. There was no evidence that the synthetic phonics approach, which early on teaches children to blend letter sounds in order to read unfamiliar words, led to any impairment in the reading of irregular words.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Baron, J. (1979). Orthographic and word-specific mechanisms in children’s reading of words. Child Development, 50, 60–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Brimer, M. A., & Dunn, L. M. (1984). English picture vocabulary test. Awre, England: Educational Evaluation Enterprises.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Brooks, G. (2002). Phonemic awareness is a key factor in learning to be literate: How best should it be taught. In M. Cook (Ed.), Perspectives on the teaching and learning of phonics. Royston, England: UKRA.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Brooks, G. (2003). Sound sense: The phonics element of the National Literacy Strategy. A report to the Department for Education and Skills. Retrieved from http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/pdf/literacy/gbrooks_phonics.pdf.

  5. Burman, D. D., Bitan, T., & Booth, J. R. (2008). Sex differences in neural processing of language among children. Neuropsychologia, 46, 1349–1362.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Coltheart, M., Rastle, K., Perry, C., Langdon, R., & Ziegler, J. (2001). DRC: A dual route cascaded model of visual word recognition and reading aloud. Psychological Review, 108, 204–256.

    Google Scholar 

  7. DfEE. (1998). The national literacy strategy framework for teaching. London, England: DfEE.

    Google Scholar 

  8. DfEE. (1999). Progression in phonics. London, England: DfEE. Retrieved from www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/primary/publications/literacy/63309/.

  9. DfES. (2007). Letters and sounds. London, England: DfES. http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/local/clld/las.html.

  10. Dombey, H. (2006). Phonics and English orthography. In M. Lewis & S. Ellis (Eds.), Phonics: Practice, research and policy (pp. 95–104). London, England: Paul Chapman Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Duncan, L. G., & Seymour, P. H. K. (2000). Socio-economic differences in foundation level literacy. British Journal of Psychology, 91, 145–166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Ehri, L. (2005). Development of sight word reading: Phases and findings. In M. J. Snowling & C. Hulme (Eds.), The science of reading: A handbook (pp. 135–154). Blackwell: Oxford.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Ehri, L., Nunes, S., Stahl, S., & Willows, D. (2001). Systematic phonics instruction helps students learn to read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel’s meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 71, 393–447.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Elliott, C. D., Murray, D. J., & Pearson, L. S. (1977). The British abilities scales. Windsor, England: NFER Nelson.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Feitelson, D. (1988). Facts and fads in beginning reading: A cross-language perspective. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Gough, P. B., & Tunmer, W. E. (1986). Decoding, reading and reading disability. Remedial Special Education, 7, 6–10.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Hanley, J. R., Masterson, J., Spencer, L. H., & Evans, D. (2004). How long do the advantages of learning a transparent orthography last? An investigation of the reading skills and incidence of dyslexia in Welsh children at the age of 10. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 37, 1393–1410.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Harm, M. W., & Seidenberg, M. S. (2004). Computing the meanings of words in reading: Cooperative division of labor between visual and phonological processes. Psychological Review, 111, 662–720.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Harris, L. A., & Smith, C. B. (1976) Reading instruction: Diagnostic teaching in the classroom (2nd ed., p. 181). London, England: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

  20. Hyde, J. S., & Linn, M. C. (1988). Gender differences in verbal ability: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 104(1), 53–69.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Johnston, R. S., & Watson, J. (2004). Accelerating the development of reading, spelling and phonemic awareness. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 17, 327–357.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Johnston, R. S., & Watson, J. (2005). The effects of synthetic phonics teaching on reading and spelling attainment, a seven year longitudinal study. Ediburgh, Scotland: Scottish Executive Education Department. Retrieved from http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/education/sptrs-00.asp.

  23. Johnston, R. S., & Watson, J. (2007). Teaching synthetic phonics. Exeter, England: Learning Matters.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Landerl, K. (2000). Influences of orthographic consistency and reading instruction on the development of nonword reading skills. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 15, 239–257.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Macmillan Unit. (2000a). The group reading test II. Windsor, England: NFER-Nelson.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Macmillan Unit. (2000b). Group reading test II teacher’s guide. Windsor, England: NFER Nelson.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Mullis, V. S., Martin, M. O., Kennedy, A. M., & Foy, P. (2007). IEA’s progress in international reading literacy study in primary school in 40 countries. Chestnut Hill, MA: TIMSS and PIRLS International Study Center, Boston College. http://timss.bc.edu/pirls2006/intl_rpt.html.

  28. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). (2000). Report of the national reading panel: Teaching children to read. Washington, DC: NICDH. Retrieved from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/nrp/smallbook.cfm.

  29. Neale, M. D. (1989). The neale analysis of reading ability—revised British edition. Windsor, England: NFER-Nelson.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Reitsma, P. (1983). Printed word learning in beginning readers. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 36, 321–339.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Rose, J. (2006). Independent review of the early teaching of reading. Retrieved from http://www.standards.dfes.goc.uk/rosereview/report.pdf.

  32. Schonell, F. J., & Schonell, F. E. (1952). Diagnostic and attainment testing (2nd ed.). Edinburgh, Scotland: Oliver and Boyd.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Scottish Executive Education Department (SEED). (2000). 5 to 14 Guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/5to14/guidelines/.

  34. Seidenberg, M. S., & McClelland, J. L. (1989). A distributed, developmental model of visual word recognition and naming. Psychological Review, 96, 523–568.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Seymour, P. H. K., Aro, M., & Erskine, J. M. (2003). Foundation literacy acquisition in European orthographies. British Journal of Psychology, 94, 143–174.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Skailand, D. B. (1971, February). A year comparison of four language units in teaching beginning reading. New York: Paper presented at annual meetings of the American educational research Association.

  37. Spencer, L. H., & Hanley, J. R. (2003). Effects of orthographic transparency on reading and phoneme awareness in children learning to read in Wales. British Journal of Psychology, 94, 1–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Stannard, J. (2006). Keeping Phonics in Perspective. In M. Lewis & S. Ellis (Eds.), Phonics. Practice, research, policy (pp. 120–121). London, England: Paul Chapman Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Stuart, M., Dixon, M., Masterson, J., & Quinlan, P. (1998). Learning to read at home and at school. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 68, 3–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Stuart, M., Stainthorp, R., & Snowling, M. (2008). Literacy as a complex activity: deconstructing the simple view of reading. Literacy, 42, 59–66.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Thompson, G. B. (1987). Three studies of predicted gender differences in processes of word reading. Journal of Educational Research, 80, 212–219.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Torgerson, C. J., Brooks, G., & Hall, J. (2006). A systematic review of the research literature and use of phonics in the teaching of reading and spelling. DfES research reports(RR711). Retrieved from http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/research/programmeofresearch/projectinformation.cfm?projectid=14389&resultspage=1.

  43. Torgesen, J. K., Wagner, R. K., Rose, E., Lindamood, P., Conway, T., & Garvan, C. (1999). Preventing reading failure in children with phonological processing disabilities: group and individual responses to instruction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 579–593.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Vellutino, F. R., Tunmer, W. E., Jaccard, J. J., & Chen, R. (2007). Components of reading ability: Multivariate evidence for a convergent skills model of reading development. Scientific Studies of Reading, 11, 3–32.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Waters, G. S., Seidenberg, M. S., & Bruck, M. (1984). Childrens’ and adults’ use of spelling-sound information in three reading tasks. Memory and Cognition, 12, 293–305.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Watson, J. E. (1998). An investigation of the effects of phonics teaching on children’s progress in reading and spelling. Doctoral Dissertation. University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland.

  47. Wilkinson, G. (1993). Wide range achievement test—3rd edition (WRAT-3) (3rd ed.). Wilmington, Delaware: Wide Range.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Wimmer, H. (1995). From the perspective of a more regular orthography. Issues in Education, 1, 101–104.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Wimmer, H., & Goswami, U. (1994). The influence of orthographic consistency on reading development—Word recognition in English and German children. Cognition, 51, 91–103.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Wyse, D., & Styles, M. (2007). Synthetic phonics and the teaching of reading: The debate surrounding England’s Rose report. Literacy, 41, 35–42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the pupils and teachers who took part in this study. They would also like to gratefully acknowledge funding from the Scottish Executive Education Department and the University of Hull; however, the views expressed here are not necessarily those of these bodies.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rhona S. Johnston.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Johnston, R.S., McGeown, S. & Watson, J.E. Long-term effects of synthetic versus analytic phonics teaching on the reading and spelling ability of 10 year old boys and girls. Read Writ 25, 1365–1384 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-011-9323-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Synthetic phonics
  • Analytic phonics
  • Opaque orthography