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Era Phonics A-Z: An Explicit and Systematic Approach to Phonics

Phonological skills are a critical component of learning to read. It is essential that children develop their phonological awareness to assist in the decoding of words. Era Phonics A-Z is a child-centred approach to teaching phonics in both an explicit and systematic manner within a balanced literacy program. 

The English language is not rigid or fixed, but rather a fluid experience full of choices. Teaching children to be flexible with their application of phonics is addressed in play and do experiences alongside explicit sequenced instruction. Many teachers and students are frustrated by the words like ‘was’ and ‘put’ if decoding is taught as the only strategy. Providing students with strategies and knowledge about the regular sounds and letters, and the irregular high-frequency words, enables them to navigate texts in a more effective manner.

Building on children’s love of learning and discovery

Parents know that children mimic language and sound from an early age. Toddlers and pre-schoolers regularly repeat or chant words they hear, like “mum, mum, mum”, and move to the musical rhythms they hear. From hearing, the child will experiment and play with the language. Era Phonics A-Z employs the natural learning styles of young children, (to hear and play) coupled with expert teaching (explicit instruction) that assists them to understand and use phonics to support the reading and writing process.

A balanced approach to phonics involves combining explicit and systematic phonics teaching by applying phonological skills and knowledge to reading and writing complete texts. It is critical that students learn phonics in an explicit manner. The letters and phonemes are introduced in a number of ways:

Hear and Say: through speech and stories
See and Do: applying to reading and writing

Employing the elements of successful methodologies

While many phonics programs adopt one methodology in the teaching of phonics, Era Phonics A-Z combines the most successful elements of the two main methodologies — synthetic (explicit) and analytic (implicit) instruction taught in a meaningful, discovery-based manner.

A key element identified by the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy for the successful teaching of reading was that “direct systematic instruction in phonics during the early years of schooling is an essential foundation for teaching children to read. Findings from the research evidence indicate that all students learn best when teachers adopt an integrated approach to reading that explicitly teaches phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary knowledge and comprehension.”

The synthetic (explicit) approach develops phonemic awareness (the ability to hear and say sounds in words) and grapheme knowledge (the ways sounds are represented by letters). The premise is that spoken words can be broken down into sounds through the process of decoding words by identifying separate letters and sounds. These sounds can, in turn, be blended to read or write a word. 

Letter sounds are taught followed by the letter names. Every sound or phoneme in all positions in a word can be heard, identifying all sounds except ‘silent’ letters. For example, in the word ‘can’ you can hear the sounds /c/-/a/-/n/. Spelling involves making the word by sounding and matching letter(s). 

In the analytical (implicit) approach, phonemic awareness is not taught in isolation. It focuses on the ability to hear and say individual sounds in complete words. Some high-frequency words are always non-decodable and they are taught as complete words, for example ‘said’.

Era Phonics A-Z 

Era Phonics A-Z puts the above educational principles into daily classroom practice to develop phonological skills and knowledge that can be applied in reading and writing texts. It is designed to follow the end of the initial sequence of decodable phonics teaching. Phonics A-Z uses a variety of sounds and letters that have been taught individually. For example, the letter ‘a’ in A-Z can be /a/ (at), long /a/ (ah), /u/ (along), or /ay/ (ate).

Era Phonics A-Z includes:

  • Connection with story books that give a context for phonological skills and, in the later early years, graphemes and spelling patterns 
  • Teaching the various letters that can represent a sound (eg: f, ff, ph) 
  • Teaching the various sounds that letters can have (eg: got, so, to, son; cut, gulp)
  • Texts with regular and irregular high-frequency words (eg: bed, said)

Achievement Standards/Outcomes

  • Recognise upper and lowercase letters of the English alphabet
  • Be able to use the most common sounds represented by letters in the alphabet
  • Use their knowledge of letter-sound relationships to assist their writing
  • Read and write high-frequency words
  • Blend sounds and decode words using letter-sound knowledge
  • Listen for rhyme, sounds and letter patterns in words
  • Read predictable, short and decodable texts drawing on their knowledge.