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Synthetic Phonics for ESL Children in Hong Kong
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Synthetic Phonics for ESL Children in Hong Kong


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  • 1.
  • 2.
  • 3.
    • Pupils have learnt the following words from different parts and stages of their English curriculum:
      • Chair, chess, chip, change, child, children, chocolate
      • Rich, beach, match, catch, much
    • Teacher guides pupils to deduce the relationship between the ‘ch’ and the sound it represents.
  • 4.
    • Pupils have learnt the following words from different parts and stages of their English curriculum:
      • say, bay, lay, tray, day, may, way
    • Teacher guides pupils to deduce the relationship between the spelling ‘-ay’ and the pronunciation it represents.
  • 5.
  • 6.
    • Phonics teaching depends on pupils’ vocabulary learning; and
    • Vocabulary learning is generally slow because it has to be contextualised, according to the official English Language curriculum.
    • Difficult to organise a phonics syllabus.
  • 7.
    • Rate of phonics learning hindered by vocabulary learning; therefore slow.
    • Phonics learning becomes haphazard. Pupils’ knowledge of phonics does not develop systematically.
    • In recent years, more and more secondary schools have found it necessary to re-teach phonics from S.1.
  • 8.
  • 9.
    • Direct teaching of sound-spelling relationships (i.e., graphemes , eg., a, e, i, o, u, ee, ay, ea, ow, f, ce, sh, th, wh, …).
    • Pupils are given training in blending graphemes into syllables/words, and segmenting syllables/words into graphemes.
  • 10.
    • Pupils have been taught the vowel grapheme ‘ay’, and the consonant graphemes ‘m’, ‘b’, ‘s’.
    • They are then taught how to blend these graphemes to produce ‘may’, ‘bay’, ‘say’.
    • Later, when they are taught further graphemes such as ‘d’, ‘g’, ‘tr’, ‘h’, ‘l’, ‘r’, they will be able to sound out: ‘day, gay, tray, hay, lay, etc., from the spelling, and to spell them out from the pronunciation.
  • 11.
    • If pupils have been taught the grapheme ‘ch’, and some common vowel (and consonant) graphemes, they will be able to sound out:
      • chip, cheap, cheese, choose, chat, chin, chart, chum, cheer (even if some of these words are new to them);
      • … and spell them from their pronunication.
  • 12.
    • Synthetic phonics is accelerated phonics.
    • Pupils’ spelling greatly improves.
    • Pupils reading is also accelerated, since they can sound out words in story books, many of which are already in their listening-speaking vocabulary.
  • 13.
  • 14.
    • In the first term of 2008-09, with the full support of OUP, an independent study was carried out at 3 primary schools in HK. The study covered all the P.1 pupils at the 3 primary schools.
    • The research question: Does synthetic phonics work for these P.1 children?
    • This study was the first of its kind in Asia.
  • 15.
    • A pre-experimental design research adopted.
    • Pupils given a pre-test on 2 phonics skills in September 2008.
    • They then followed a three-month programme on synthetic phonics (Stage 1 of OUP’s Read, Write, Inc . course). P.1 English teachers at the 3 schools supported by OUP ELT experts and synthetic phonics trainers.
    • Pupils given a post-test on same 2 phonics skills in January 2009.
  • 16.
    • The pre-test and post-test had same content and measured 2 phonics skills:
      • ability to recognise correct spellings of unfamliar words heard; and
      • ability to sound out unfamiliar words from their spellings
    • All words used are one-syllable, nonsense words, to control for previous knowledge, and words learnt during the course.
  • 17.
    • Test 1: Recognising correct spellings of nonsense words (8 items)
      • Pre-test: 6.15
      • Post-test: 7.07
    • Test 2: Sounding out nonsense words (4 items)
      • Pre-test: 0.85
      • Post-test: 2.43