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Phonics Evidence

This is not a definitive list of (synthetic) phonics research studies.

”The term “synthetic phonics” lacks what, in scientific terminology, is known as an “operational definition.”
(D. McGuinness)

1999. Stuart. M. Synthetic phonics teaching improves reading and spelling in inner-city second language learners.

2001. The effect of phonics instruction on the reading comprehension of beginning readers

2004. ‘Accelerating the development of reading, spelling and phonemic awareness skills in initial readers’.
Johnston & Watson.

2005. The Clackmannanshire study: A Seven Year Study of the Effects of Synthetic Phonics Teaching on Reading and Spelling Attainment.

Rhona Johnston’s ppt. slides on the Clackmannanshire study

Long-term effects of synthetic versus analytic phonics teaching on the reading and spelling ability of 10-year-old boys and girls.

2005. ”An Australian study by Christensen and Bowey (bit.ly/30xedZM) found significant advantages for systematic synthetic phonics over analytic phonics in reading and spelling for students in their second year of school”

Sound~Write’s longitudinal study of literacy development from 2003-2009, following 1607 pupils through KS1

2011. An empirical study using a synthetic phonics programme ‘Sound Discovery’ from YR-KS2 (700 children)
Note, ”dyslexia eliminated

Synthetic phonics and early reading development. ”A synthetic phonics approach may be particularly suitable for children starting school with weaker than average language skills (e.g., those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds)”.

2014. ”(S)pelling practice has been found to result in superior orthographic learning, relative to print exposure through reading alone”  https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00117/full

2017. Phonics works. New research suggests that sounding out words is the best way to teach reading
”Results showed striking benefits of print–sound training on reading aloud, generalization, and comprehension of single words”

2018. Effectiveness of Preschool-Wide Teacher-Implemented Phoneme Awareness and Letter-Sound Knowledge Instruction on Code-Based School-Entry Reading Readiness
”Overall, preschool-wide, teacher-implemented, phoneme-focused PA and LSK instruction can support code-based reading readiness skills for children with SLD and TD”

2018. Machin et al ‘Changing How Literacy Is Taught: Evidence on Synthetic Phonics’
Good results (see p239) but the phonics programme used was the ERDP, not high quality phonics. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1747938X18301660?via%3Dihub

2019. Meta-analysis regarding the teaching of phonics to students with intellectual disabilities:
”Teaching decoding skills to students with intellectual disability can be challenging”
”Phonics instruction has a large overall effect size (g = 1.42) on their decoding skills.”

2020. Reconsidering the evidence that systematic phonics is more effective than alternative methods of reading instruction. Dr. J. Buckingham.

2020. ‘A 2020 Perspective on Research Findings on Alphabetics (PA & Phonics): Implications for Instruction’.
Prof. Susan Brady
”Phonics instruction is most effective with a synthetic method. The implications of research on phonics are ever more compelling. The studies that have been done with careful comparisons of analytic versus synthetic methods have shown strong advantages of synthetic approaches”

2021. Study showing the dramatic impact of direct instruction in learning to read over “discovery” learning.

Examining the evidence on the effectiveness of synthetic phonics teaching: the Ehri et al (2001) and C.Torgerson et al (2006) meta-analyses.
Rhona Johnston, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Hull

Effectiveness of Treatment Approaches for Children and Adolescents with Reading Disabilities: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.
”The results revealed that phonics instruction is not only the most frequently investigated treatment approach, but also the only approach whose efficacy on reading and spelling performance in children and adolescents with reading disabilities is statistically confirmed”

Three large-scale classroom research studies provide evidence about exactly which elements of instruction are effective, and which of those are not, when teaching children to read.