Authors: Price‐Mohr, Colin Bernard Price.

Article: Synthetic phonics and decodable instructional reading texts: How far do these support poor readers?.

Publication: Dyslexia (Wiley). 24: 190– 196 2018 | DOI: 10.1002/dys.1581


This paper presents data from a quasi‐experimental trial with paired randomisation that emerged during the development of a reading scheme for children in England. This trial was conducted with a group of 12 children, aged 5–6, and considered to be falling behind their peers in reading ability and a matched control group. There were two intervention conditions (A: using mixed teaching methods and a high percentage of non‐phonically decodable vocabulary; P: using mixed teaching methods and low percentage of non‐decodable vocabulary); allocation to these was randomised. Children were assessed at pre‐ and post‐test on standardised measures of receptive vocabulary, phoneme awareness, word reading, and comprehension. Two class teachers in the same school each selected 6 children, who they considered to be poor readers, to participate (n = 12). A control group (using synthetic phonics only and phonically decodable vocabulary) was selected from the same 2 classes based on pre‐test scores for word reading (n = 16). Results from the study show positive benefits for poor readers from using both additional teaching methods (such as analytic phonics, sight word vocabulary, and oral vocabulary extension) in addition to synthetic phonics, and also non‐decodable vocabulary in instructional reading text.


Excerpts from Full Text


The first aim of our study was to compare the effects of using a high percentage of non‐decodable words with low‐percentage in teaching a sight‐word vocabulary and instructional reading texts. The outcomes for word reading and comprehension indicate an advantage for Intervention A (high‐percentage non‐decodable words). These results suggest that children, who are not making expected progress in reading, may benefit, in terms of word reading and comprehension, from instructional reading texts that go beyond their presumed decoding ability. They suggest that an assumption that it is easier for children to learn to read using easily phonically‐decodable words may be unfounded and that the reverse may be true.


In summary, the results from this small study suggest that the use of a high percentage of non‐decodable vocabulary within sight‐word instruction and instructional reading texts had a positive impact on word reading, PRC. The use of mixed teaching methods (use of analogy, analytic phonics, and sight‐word‐recognition), in addition to synthetic phonics, appeared to have a positive impact on phoneme awareness. We suggest that there is some evidence here that poor readers may benefit not only from a multi‐faceted approach to teaching to support phoneme awareness for general literacy, but also from using instructional texts that include words that go beyond their expected decoding ability. We suggest that these results may challenge existing assumptions that poor readers should focus on synthetic phonics and be given only easily decodable texts to read, and hope that a larger‐scale study could explore these issues in the future.

Tagged as: decodable text


Price‐Mohr, RM, Price, CB. Synthetic phonics and decodable instructional reading texts: How far do these support poor readers? Dyslexia. 2018; 24: 190– 196.

Leave a public question or comment:

If you need personal help or assistance please use our contact forms instead.

All comments are moderated. Comments that are not relevant to the page topic or which contain identifiable personal information will be removed.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *