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The Art of Sounding Out

There are varying practices within the phonic approach as to how best to sound out a word.

For example: do we say  sh! o! p!  says  shop where  sh!  is short and voiced or do we say  shhh o! p!  where  shhh  is continued & unvoiced?

We at Fitzroy Readers do not take a hard line, but include alternative approaches, used by different educators. Some educators use phonetic sounds for students who are learning to speak English, and standard for students who can already pronounce the words they are learning to read.

In our Fitzroy Sounds package, which teaches beginners the basic sounds of the letters, we include two audio options: one using the short and voiced (standard) style and the other using continued and unvoiced (phonetic) sounds where possible. We let educators choose according to their preference, or according to their students’ needs.

Here are both versions of the letter from the Fitzroy Sounds audio tracks:

Short and voiced (Standard)

Continued and unvoiced (Phonetic)

The science of phonetics carefully isolates the sounds of each word. The  f  sound is, on its own, continuous and unvoiced:  fff.  When teaching English as an additional language, it helps to follow phonetics and slowly sound out the word fish as  fff  i  shhh. This requires close attention. Beware,  fff  sounds very much the same as thhh. With first-language English speakers, who already know how to say  fish,  some educators find it easier to say  f! i sh!  – very audible in a classroom. These students, who already speak the word fish, will never mispronounce fish. While phonetics is the precise science of speech sounds, phonics is the practical art of teaching students how to convert the written word most efficiently to the spoken word.