Different Types of Phonics—What Are They?

What differences are there, if any, between different types of phonics?  Is one kind of phonics more effective than another?  How do they compare? The chart below will help you decide.

There are three main types of phonics: analytic, embedded and synthetic.  A fourth type, analogy phonics, is a subtype of analytic phonics.  Of these, analytic or embedded phonics are taught with the whole word method of teaching reading and synthetic phonics is taught within a phonics based reading program.  The most effective type of phonics program is systematic synthetic phonics which teaches children how to decode words step-by-step.  Good reading programs include this type of phonics instruction.

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2 Responses to Different Types of Phonics—What Are They?

  1. Sally Cole says:

    Thanks for your great post. Clearly, of these, synthetic is the best. I’m curious about a couple things though.

    1) Does the definition of “synthetic phonics” include teaching the phonograms beyond the individual letters of the alphabet?

    2) Where would you put “horizontal” versus “vertical” phonics? Are they subsets of “synthetic phonics”? By “horizontal” I mean a stepped approach to teaching the letter sounds by introducing one sound for each letter of the alphabet and then introducing additional sounds further down the path. For example, teaching the short a first and the long a later. By “vertical” I mean teaching all the sounds a phonogram makes at the same time. Like, c makes two sounds /c/ and /s/.

    • Kathy Foster says:

      Hi Sally,
      In answer to your questions:
      (1) Yes, synthetic phonics includes teaching all of the phonograms, not just the letters of the alphabet. Unfortunately, many people do not realize that many combinations of letters (such as oi, oy, ai, ay, etc.) are phonograms that make a specific sound or sounds when those letters are combined. When we teach only the alphabet letter-sounds, we are leaving out 44 other letter combinations that are important for children to learn if we want them to learn to read well and learn to spell.
      (2) I believe a horizontal approach is easier for children to learn, especially for those who are already struggling with reading. It is a simpler approach and leads to less confusion for beginners. I use this approach in my reading program and it has proved to be exactly what beginning and struggling readers need to learn to read quickly and well. In the past, I have used the vertical approach and it was more difficult for students to learn. It also took a lot more time for students to learn to read with that approach. When I began teaching only one sound at a time, all of my students were successful and even those who had much difficulty with other programs learned to read.

      Thanks for reading my blog!