A thought on Phonics vs. Whole Language: A billion people in China, Japan,
and other countries that use logographic character based language have
no phonics. How do they learn to read? They learn the character by sight.
Whole Language "The biggest arguments tend to be focused on student interest. Whole Language proponents claim that we may be doing more harm than good when we force our children to learn systematically and intensively with workbooks and basal readers. BORING!!! "
Whole Language as I was taught has at its core, the five component of all best practice reading philosophies. The focus is to use real literature to get to your goal of Literacy. Start with Dr. Seuss and teach phonemic awareness in the context of the literature and move forward, but this may have a point of reciprocity. If 70% of a 4th grade class is not reading at grade level you can't just kill the desire to read using primary literature and beginning reading methods. You must introduce literature that motivates the reader and again teach phonemic awareness in the context of the adolescent literature.
Is Phonics really always the best method for teaching a crude-phonemic based language?
"METHODZ ov teeching reeding hav graevly impruuvd sins Max Müller roet dhe wurdz kwoeted abuv. Neverdheles, eeven nou lurning to spel iz a far longger proeses for dhe Inglish chield dhan for children in meny udher kuntriz, such az Jurmany, Italy and Finland, and eeven dhe naetiv children ov dhe Goeld Koest and vaeryus udher parts ov Afrika."http://www.spellingsociety.org
"Dhe diferens iz not to be eksplaend bie asueming infeeryorrity on dhe part ov Inglish teecherz. It iz due to dhe unfonetik karrakter ov Inglish speling. Dhe speling ov Jurman, Italyan and Finish iz faerly fonetik, whiel dhe nue orthografiz ov Fante, Twi, Ewe and a number ov udher Afrikan langgwejez ar kompleetly soe." http://www.spellingsociety.org
Dyslexics have a real problem dealing with the 4000 phonemics exceptions in common English.
Alphabetics Phonemes and Phonics
- For example, /mm/ not muh, /ss/ not suh, /ff/ not fuh. The letter names can be taught later but should not be taught in the early stages.
- The English Alphabet Code 'Key' : 44 phonemes with their common 'sound pattern' representations:
- Vowels (19):
- Vowels (19):
- Consonants (25):
- Consonants (25):
Phonics/Alphabetics vs. Whole Language: I will not presume to give advice on
this subject or try to argue a point as this is such a hot topic these days. Phonics
was a dead end for me after 6 months and just made me more confused as it
was taught. I was absolutely disgusted with controlled vocabulary books by age
eight, with cats, mats, bats, and rats by the end of second grade. Four years of
reading that rubbish with no real progress in reading. My first memories of school
are feelings of inadequacy and shame. The earliest memory is trying and trying to
learn how to write my name legibly. I was lost from the start learning letters and
even worse trying to print letters that were dancing all over the page. It was
almost impossible for me to write or copy letters because they were reversed,
upside down and illegible by the time my mind tried to decipher them. Most
students learned to write their names in kindergarten. In first grade and beyond,
I was not able to write my name unless I had an example to copy from, even in
second grade, and beyond. Worse than learning to write words was the entire
reading process. Letter recognition and phonemic awareness seemed alien and
incomprehensible. To me 'p,' 'b,' 'q,' and 'd' were all the same letter. How do
you learn to read using phonics based reading or letter recognition if the letters
are always changing? I just resorted to guessing or pretending to sound things
out to make my teachers happy. I did learn to listen very carefully so I could
memorize some books to pass as if I could actually read, but that only works so
long. My writing never advanced passed perfunctory imitation. Even with the
examples in front of me, my version was a mess. When placed into reading
groups, I was always in the lowest quartile group, or as I joke, the "milkweed
group," or the "crows" -- never the "roses,” or the "eagles." Inevitably, I was
stuck reading with the boy who never bathed and acted like he was operating
on two pots of coffee (ADHD poster child). I would select a chapter book
that looked interesting and the teacher would say “That is too difficult for
you Sean”. What I heard was, “You’re too stupid to read it Sean”. I spent
most of my reading time looking at picture books or daydreaming-- never
reading. By second grade I was feeling even more depressed and worthless.
I was eventually diagnosed with a learning disability when I failed to learn to
read by the end of third grade. The term dyslexia was used for the acrobatics
that the letters were doing on the page that I was instructed to decipher.
Teaching me phonemic awareness and letter recognition was like trying to
drive a car from the trunk. Three years of phonics and even more phonics
didn't get me very far. Trepidation wasn’t the word I was feeling when initially
evaluated for a learning disability but more a sense of relief that my charade
was over. Finally, I was going to learn how to read. My happiness died
quickly when the reality of more phonics was the prescription. I realized
very quickly I was alone in my journey to learn how to read. I just could not
make the connections between the sounds and the letters. None of the experts
had a clue what to do except more of the same. measurable progress in my
reading made me hate books and reading. The five finger rule is great for
students at grade level or above, but it keeps students like me who struggle
with reading in the remedial literary doldrums. After ten years of teaching
all aspects of reading and my own experience I have observed that students top
out after six months in phonics and need to transition to becoming sight readers.
Phonics in the context of great poetry and literature is a powerful teaching tool.
Yet, I know there is a point of reciprocity or diminishing returns that has to be
respected and looked for. Eventually I learned to read with the help and advice
of a very wise librarian.