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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 teachers. Some teachers use phonetic sounds for children who are learning to speak English, and traditional for children 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 style and the other using continued and unvoiced sounds where possible. We let teachers choose according to their preference, or according to their students’ needs.

The science of phonetics carefully isolates the sounds of each word. The  f  sound is, on its own, continuous and unvoiced:  fff.  When teaching children who do not speak English at home, it helps to follow phonetics and slowly sound out the word fish as  fff  i  shhh. This requires their close attention. Beware,  fff  sounds very much the same as thhh. The children need to see the teacher’s face. With native English speakers, who already know how to say  fish,  some teachers find it easier to say  f! i sh!  – very audible in a classroom. These children, 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 children how to convert the written word most efficiently to the spoken word.

In our Fitzroy Sounding Readers Software, we include (in Teacher Settings) four options for the program to sound out words! They are called traditional,conventional, strictly phonetic and the Fitzroy Method (the default setting). The Fitzroy Method uses both phonetic and traditional approaches for most efficient sounding out. The children at Fitzroy Community School use both, most of them not noticing they have two ways of sounding some letters. Especially when sounding out blends. In the word  stand,  for example, we have two blends. We say  sss t! a! nnn d!  But where the  s  is immediately followed by a vowel, as in  set,  we say  s! e! t!