What is Phono-Graphix?
Phono-Graphix is a remarkably simple, yet highly effective approach to reading instruction and intervention
The theoretical underpinnings of Phono-Graphix are logical, straightforward and sensible, encouraging its rapid spread and popularity among teachers. It is based simply on the nature of the English code, the three skills needed to access that code, and teaching these in keeping with the way children learn.
In 1996, Carmen and Geoffrey McGuinness set the field of reading research and instruction on its side with their research published in the Orton Annals of Dyslexia (the research journal of the International Dyslexia Society). In it they demonstrated standard score gains in reading 6 times higher than that achieved by any other reading method. Their research and promotion continues here at the Phono-Graphix Reading Company.
There are four concepts that comprise the nature of the English written code
Concept 1 - Letters are pictures of sounds
That is what is meant by the word "phonetic", that sounds are what is pictured in the written language.
The word cat is actually three sound pictures - pictures of c, a and t
Do children understand this? Yes! Children have a remarkable ability to assess visual figures. At two days a baby can distinguish his mother's face from any other human face. Children assess visual figures in the world around them every day. In many languages that's all we need to know. But in English there is more to know in order to render the code "phonetic".
Concept 2 - Sound pictures can be represented with more than one letter
Just as 'cat' is three sound pictures, boat is also three pictures, of the three sounds b, oa, and t
Can children understand this? Yes! Children combine and reuse figures in the world around them every day. They don't need a rule to recognize that
this is a triangle,
this is a square,
and a triangle on top of a square is a house!
The developers of Phono-Graphix asked 40 four, five and six year old children what these pictures were. Every single one recognized all three shapes. Not one of them needed an explicit rule for why a triangle on top of a square is a ‘house’. Similarly, they do not need an explicit rule to tell them that the sound picture of 'o' in 'top', combined with the 'a' in 'cat', makes a different sound picture - the 'oa' in 'boat'.
Concept 3 - There is variation in the code
Most of the sounds in the English language can be shown with more than one picture. There is more than one way to show every sound. Consider the oa sound in boat. That sound can be represented differently in different words:
b oa t
s l ow
m o s t
n o t e
Can children understand this? Yes! Children can easily learn that oa, ow, o, oe, o _ e, and ough are all pictures of the same sound, just as they learn that this is a flower , this is a flower, and this is a flower.
Concept 4 - There is overlap in the code
Some sound pictures can represent more than one sound: ow can be 'oe' as in fl ow n, or 'ow' as in br ow n
ow = f l ow n
ow = b r ow n
Can children understand this? Yes! Children manage this as they easily manage that this can be a ball, a circle, a moon or any number of things. How many things do you think this could be? How many things can the average four five or six year old think of? The developers of Phono-Graphix asked 40 of them. The average number of labels generated was 6. Children manage overlap in visual images in the world around them every day. So they can easily manage that ow can be ‘ow’ as in brown or ‘oe’ as in grown.
The Skills Needed to Use Such a Code
There are three skills the brain engages to sort out a code with such a nature. Reading and spelling are dependent upon expertise at these three skills.
1. Segmenting - The ability to separate the sounds in words. To use a sound picture code one must be able to access and decode the independent sounds within words.
brown => b r ow n
2. Blending - The ability to blend sounds into words. To use a sound picture code children must be able to push sounds together into meaningful words.
b r ow n => brown
3. Phoneme Manipulation - The ability to pull sounds into and out of words. To use a code that contains overlap children must be able to try the possible sounds that a sound picture might represent. When b r oe n doesn't make sense, the child can slide out the oe, try ow, and get b r ow n.
The Nature of the Learner
The nature of the learning child is that he/she:
- has concrete logic
Children are very literal. They don't think in rules or generalizations. To them a 'long u' looks like this and a 'short u' looks like this, and they will really be confused when the u sounds in super and put don't fit either rule.
- seeks identification
- seeks order and meaning
- learns best in context
- learns best when material is relevant
- learns best as an active participant in discovery
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