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Resistance to phonics 
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Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2008 5:38 am
Posts: 128
Location: Italy
Post Resistance to phonics
I've come across parents and one or two teachers who disagree with methods of reading and writing based on phonics. The argument goes that building up a word from the sounds made by the letters isn't a "natural" way to read, and it's better to focus on whole-word recognition instead. I believe that in British state schools the whole-word approach was the compulsory teaching method until just three or four years ago.

Has anybody encountered similar attitudes against phonics, or is there anybody reading this who disagrees with phonics? I think I'm in favour of phonics myself, but it's always interesting to hear other points of view.


Sat May 23, 2009 7:13 am
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Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2007 8:01 am
Posts: 28
Location: Taiwan
Post phonics
We teach phonics from kindergarten all the way up to fourth grade elementary at the language school I work at. I really believe it helps kids decode new words and if you teach it right, they'll read a lot of new words on their own without any help from you. We also teach 'sight words' which sounds like what you described as 'the whole word' approach but I think it just isn't possible to teach kids a lot of English in this way. So our school mixes both approaches. Kids learn sight words with more common and phonetically irregular words and phonics for all the rest. The difficulty is more with finding suitable material for EFL kids that they are interested to read!

Tue Jun 09, 2009 3:18 pm

Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:33 am
Posts: 289
Location: Niigata
Phonics vs. Whole Language...

This has been an ongoing arguments for decades but I don't think they are mutually exclusive. They both can be taught at the same time. All the information I've read about this subject, says there needs to be an equal attention to both. More heavily on phonics in early learners. Then, once the foundation is there, more of an emphasis on the whole language.

I think Wikipedia has a good read on this particular subject.

'Sharing a little, gaining a lot'

Mon Jun 15, 2009 4:33 pm

Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2008 10:06 pm
Posts: 34
As an elementary teacher this topic is never ending. The pendulum always is swinging back and forth between phonics and whole words (language). I think they are both important. Phonics gives children the skills to sound out new and longer words. Whole words allow children to recognize words easily. I always teach both side by side. I teach whole words related to the topics we are studying (family words, weather words) while I follow a phonics program. It seems to work well. Though, I must say that there are always a few kids that just don't get phonics no matter how hard they try.

Wed Jun 24, 2009 2:57 pm

Joined: Tue Jul 07, 2009 9:11 pm
Posts: 28
Post same in france
Funny how the same topics appear all over the world! Here it's still a problem, but it's turned to be the opposite: the latest governments have promoted the syllabus method (phonics) against the "whole words" method. In reality, the whole word method hasn't really been used: we use a mix between the 2, with iseful words children learn and working on phonics at the same time. This way, children can read short sentences a bit quicker, and then understant how to read new words with the phonics method (and comparing with the words they already know).

Apparently it really depends on children, so the mix could be a good option, and then you can adapt it to your pupils.

Hope this helps

Tue Jul 07, 2009 10:58 pm

Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2009 3:52 pm
Posts: 6
Location: Yatomi-shi, Japan
The argument goes that building up a word from the sounds made by the letters isn't a "natural" way to read, and it's better to focus on whole-word recognition instead.

I seem to remember being in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade and spending considerable time on English phonics, and I am an American. So when saying that phonics isn't a natural way to learn to read, I would take the bobblehead approach and just nod and smile whilst they talk about nonsense. English, and for that matter other romantic languages, is cursed with having the alphabet where names are different than sounds. This concept is COMPLETELY over looked in Japan, and I suspect in other parts of the world.

When I first started to learn how to read, I was around 4 years old and my mother wrote on a white board the letter A. Then she proceeded to make the short vowel sound for A. She made it several times and told me to make it, which I did. Then she added the letter T, making the word AT, again breaking it down to the short A sound and the T sound then blending the sounds together until the word at was properly pronounced. Followed up with adding H to the front of the word and now we were cooking with gas. From that session I learned how to read the sentence "The Cat in the Hat".

The point is that people over look the fact that native English speakers DO spend time learning how to ...oh what's the phrase...OH YEAH "Sound out" a word.

Phonics is the cornerstone of solid reading ability. Without it one will never be able to confidently read or spell and that leads to making errors in speaking save for relentless memorization of word pronunciations, which is a far less effective way to master reading. 44ish phonics rules compared to 1,000,000 English words in the current dictionary, seems like an easy choice to me.

Anyway, when someone tries to resist phonics, to me it says they are not serious about learning English. [/b]

Better to do 1 kick 2000 times than 2000 kicks 1 time.

Fri Jul 10, 2009 11:08 pm

Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 2:41 am
Posts: 1
Location: jacksonville, Florida
As a Child I was taught word recognition. I had difficulty reading, and speed reading classes did not work unti I learned phonics by teaching children to read (using the phonics method).

Math is best learned by understanding its components...the same is for reading. When a child first learns their sounds it is a thought process. However it eventually becomes something they do without even thinking about it. I have found that learning phonics even improves their spelling.

Here is an article about how to easily teach reading and phonics:

Wed Jul 29, 2009 2:54 am
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