Y Hole Langwidg Seams
Scholars who have analyzed the best methods
for teaching young children to read all say that the skills that come from
systematic, intensive, explicit phonics instruction are much better than the
sight-reading techniques of whole language.
keys off the sound-symbol relationships of the alphabetic letters and the
sounds they make, alone and in combination with other letters. Children are
taught the 44 phonograms, or written symbols for sounds in English, in a
particular order. Quickly, they internalize pronunciations of the phonograms so
that when they read text, their brains silently "pronounce" them. It becomes
lightning fast in just a few months. They also are taught the rules of
spelling, proper handwriting, and do a lot of listening and speaking aloud
under the direct instruction of the teacher.
language is a more holistic, implicit approach. In it, the teacher reads aloud
to children, and they are exposed to text in mini-books that come with
illustrations. They are taught several cues for deciding what the words are and
what they mean. But rather than directly decoding each word, they are to absorb
the whole sentence and try to come up with the meaning as a whole. They scan
the words, look at the pictures, check out what the first letter is and the
last letter as clues to what they might be, and think about the context the
word has in the sentence.
who already know how to read do exactly that. Adults never take time to think
about how to pronounce the individual words; they just scan along at a very
fast clip and their brains take care of the "breaking down" of the phonograms
automatically and accurately. However, that's adults who learned to read with
phonics. Adults who rely only on sight-reading techniques rarely gain much
function, and boy, does that show in our society today, with relatively low
levels of literacy compared to generations past. Children today, who don't have
phonics instruction, are basically guessing at what words mean, and it shows in
everything from standardized test scores to literacy deficiencies in the
it's easy to see how educators and educational psychologists came to believe
that whole language was an effective reading method. It's how "able" readers
already read. So they figured it's how we could make children into "able"
readers. But they were wrong.
adult who reads well can scan the following passage and know what it means,
because the brain is already set up to scan and analyze text and discern meaning.
But a child who's still learning to read, or without phonics skills, will
flounder. But, without phonics training, this is what a lot of kids see when
they read today:
I cduolnt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uendsatnrd waht I was rgdnieg. The phaonmneal
pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't
mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is
taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl
mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn
mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh.
sad is that teachers' colleges and many educators don't realize that this
"miraculous" ability to make order out of chaos, and read a completely mixed-up
passage like that, only comes with proper instruction . . . and too many kids
aren't getting it today.