Someone, very recently asked me, this Question “ Can you specify how many types of Phonics are there and which one is easier for kids?” I understand where this question came from. Being a Phonics Educator myself, I understand how important it is to teach the children correctly, and make sure the child learns the sounds and the other concepts of Phonics in a Right way. Because it is difficult for a child to unlearn the wrongly taught sounds, and that’s the base for teaching to Read.

If You read the Definition of Phonics on Wikipedia, it says “Phonics is a method of teaching Reading and Writing of the English Language by developing learner’s Phonemic Awareness in order to teach the correspondence between the Phonemes and the Graphemes.” Heavy words,ha??

Let’s Understand the meanings of these words first, and then move onto the Types of Phonics.

Phonetics : Phonetics is the study  human speech. In the case of oral languages, phonetics has three basic areas of study:

  • Articulatory phonetics: the study of the organs of speech and their use in producing speech sounds by the speaker.
  • Acoustic phonetics: the study of the physical transmission of speech sounds from the speaker to the listener.
  • Auditory phonetics: the study of the reception and perception of speech sounds by the listener.

Phonology : Phonology is often distinguished from phonetics. While phonetics concerns the physical production, acoustic transmission and perception of the sounds of speech , phonology describes the way sounds function within a given language or across languages to encode meaning.

Phonemic Awareness : Phonemic awareness is a subset of phonological awareness in which listeners are able to hear, identify and manipulate phonemes, the smallest mental units of sound that helps to differentiate units of meaning (morphemes). Separating the spoken word “cat” into three distinct phonemes, /k/, /æ/, and /t/, requires phonemic awareness. The National Reading Panel has found that phonemic awareness improves children’s word reading and reading comprehension, as well as helping children learn to spell. Phonemic awareness is the basis for learning phonics.

Phonemic awareness and Phonological awareness are often confused since they are interdependent. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate individual phonemes. Phonological awareness includes this ability, but it also includes the ability to hear and manipulate larger units of sound, such as onsets and rimes and syllables.

Here’s a separate post for Different Phonemic Awareness Activities that you can do with children. 

Phonemes : A Phoneme is the smallest unit of sound within a spoken word. The word “Phoneme” comes from a Greek word “Phonema” which means Sounds.

Letters are a code of symbols that spell Phonemes in words. When we read, we translate the symbols into sounds and thus we can decode the words.

This is the basis of the English Writing System. The English Language has about 44 sounds of speech. This depends on different accents. These 44 sounds are represented by 26 letters of the Alphabet and combination of these letters.

Example : –

Words Phonemes Spelled by
Sit /s/ /i/ /t/ 3 letters
Mail /m/ /ai/ /l/ 4 letters
Catch /c/ /a/ /tch/ 5 letters

Children learn to pronounce the phonemes when they learn to read with Phonics.They are taught ‘precise pronunciation’ or ‘pure sounds’ as this helps in Reading and Spelling.

Graphemes :  A Grapheme is a letter or a number of letters that represent a sound(phoneme) in a word. In simple words, a Grapheme is a letter or group of letters that spell a sound in a word.

As graphemes spell sounds in words, in order to identify them, we need to break apart the word into its sounds. These are called Phonemes.

Breaking apart the word in this way is called “Segmenting”.

Example :-

Words Phonemes(Sounds) Graphemes(Letter


Cat /k/ /a/ /t/ C-a-t
Leaf /l/ /ee/ /f/ L-ea-f
Spoon /sp/ /oo/ /n/ S-p-oo-n

Now that we have seen the Basic Terminologies of Phonics, Let’s see the Different Types of Phonics.

The differences in phonics comes from the manner of instruction, sequence, and the way it is used in handling unfamiliar words in text.  There are two main types of phonics instruction: Implicit and Explicit.

Explicit phonics, also referred to as synthetic phonics, builds from part to whole. It begins with the instruction of the letters (graphemes) with their associated sounds (phonemes). Next, explicit phonics teaches blending beginning with blending the sounds into syllables and then into words. Explicit phonics is scientifically proven and research based.

Implicit phonics, also referred to as analytical phonics, moves from the whole to the smallest part. Phonemes associated with particular graphemes are not pronounced in isolation. Students analyze words and look for the common phoneme in a set of words. Through comparison and identification, they deduce which grapheme to write or which phoneme to read. Blending and building are not usually taught, and students identify new words by their shape, beginning and ending letters, and context clues.

It has been proven that Explicit phonics is the most effective type of phonics instruction and really helps those struggling readers. It is necessary for anyone with a processing disorder. Remember as you’re looking for phonics programs that the way it is presented is one of the most important aspects to look for.

The “TRC – Online Phonics Program and Curriculum” is designed in a way to help children learn the correct way of Phonics Instruction that is Explicit Phonics. If you want to know more details about the program and curriculum, click Here.

Synthetic phonics teaches the phonemes (sounds) associated with the graphemes (letters) at the rate of about six sounds per week. Sounds are taught in all positions of the words, but the emphasis is on all-through-the-word segmenting and blending from week one. It does not teach whole words as shapes (initial sight words vocabulary) prior to learning the alphabetic code(letter names).

Synthetic phonics does not teach anything about reading as a meaning-focused process. It highlights decoding and pronunciation of words only. Teachers are to put accuracy before speed, because fluency (i.e. speed, accuracy,expression, and comprehension) will come with time.

Synthetic phonics involves the teaching of the transparent alphabet (e.g. /k/ as in “cat”) before progressing onto the opaque alphabet (e.g. /k/ as in “school”). In other words, learners are taught steps which are straightforward and ‘work’ before being taught the complications and variations of pronunciation and spelling of the full alphabetic code. It introduces irregular words and more tricky words (defined as words which cannot be pronounced phonically – English has a surprisingly large number of these, usually the commonest words of all such as ‘to’, ‘of’, etc.) slowly and systematically after a thorough introduction of the transparent alphabet code (learning the 44 letter/s-sound correspondences to automaticity and how to blend for reading and segment for spelling). Phonics application still works at least in part in such words.

Synthetic phonics involves a heavy emphasis on hearing the sounds all-through-the-word for spelling and not an emphasis on “look, cover, write, check”. This latter, visual form of spelling plays a larger part with unusual spellings and spelling variations although a phonemic procedure is always emphasised in spelling generally. Teachers read a full range of literature with the learners and ensure that all learners have a full range of experience of activities associated with literacy such as role play, drama, poetry, but the learners are not expected to ‘read’ text which is beyond them, and the method does not involve guessing at words from context, picture and initial letter clues.

And That’s It !!

I hope this post makes it clear for the different Terminologies used in Phonics and the Types of Phonics available. If you have any queries, please comment below and I’ll reply to them asap.

P.S. : If you want to learn Phonics, and need a complete Curriculum to teach your children, check out our flagship “The Reading Classroom – Online Phonics Program for Parents and Teachers” here.