Newsletter 182 - Phonics and Reading

Newsletter 182 – Phonics & Reading


Teaching Reading (and Writing) in the Foundation Phase

May 2016

Elizabeth Pretorius (UNISA); Mary-Jane Jackson (Fort Hare University); Veronica McKay (UNISA); Sarah Murray (Rhodes University); Nic Spaull (Stellenbosch University)




Decoding refers to that part of reading where the eyes read the printed symbols on the page and the brain processes them by ‘translating’ them into language. Speed and accuracy is important for skilled reading as it supports comprehension. If learners struggle with decoding, they will find it difficult to understand what they are reading.”


“Phonological awareness refers to being aware of sounds in a language. This includes being able to hear how many syllables there are in a word and being able to identify words that rhyme. Phonemic awareness refers specifically to the ability to hear sounds within words and being able to manipulate them. This includes the ability to hear which sounds occur at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of words, and the ability to blend or delete sounds within words.”


“Alphabetic knowledge refers to knowledge about letter-sound relationships, i.e. knowing the letters of the alphabet, what sound each letter or letter combination represents, and how different sound patterns are represented in writing. Our writing system is based on written symbols that represent the different sounds in a language. It is difficult for children to work out what these symbols stand for if we just leave them to it. Teachers should know how to teach phonics in systematic, interesting and fun ways. Research consistently shows that children who are taught phonics in a systematic and explicit way benefit from this knowledge and can learn to read new words not previously encountered. This is especially important for children from low SE backgrounds.”


“Word recognition refers to the ability to recognise a written word automatically, without conscious effort, i.e. without having to sound out the individual letters or guess what the word is. It relies on letter identification, knowledge of letter-sound relationships, the ability to perceive letters within words (segmentation) and combining groups of letters into larger units (i.e. blending skills). Automatic and accurate word recognition is important because it enables readers to distinguish different words from each other (e.g. distinguishing tree from three). It also frees up attention in the mind so that attention can be focused on meaning. Teachers need to understand that when children start to learn to read, word recognition is a slow, halting, conscious and often effortful process. Through practice it becomes increasingly accurate and speeds up. Automaticity thus develops through practice, through regular, extensive exposure to reading print.”


“Oral reading fluency (ORF) refers to how fast and accurately learners read aloud, and how natural they sound. Dysfluent readers read slowly and in a heavy, monotonous tone. Fluent readers sound natural when they read, they pay attention to punctuation and natural pauses in sentences and phrases, and they chunk strings of words appropriately. Research has found that it is very difficult to process meaning when reading slowly and haltingly. ORF has been called the ‘bridge’ to comprehension because once a learner is able to read the printed word with ease; it becomes easier to pay attention to meaning in the text. It is at this stage that learners make the transition from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’. Teachers will be made aware of ORF norms related to different grades and different languages, in HL and English FAL so that they can provide appropriate support to their learners.”

Add Your Comment 

* Name:   
* Email:    
* Comment:    
  Please calculate the following and enter the answer below: 1 x 4 + 0 = ?
Please leave this box blank.