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            PHONICS – GOOD OR BAD?
Linda M. Penn
            Phonics instruction to teach reading is absolutely GOOD, period, Amen!  However, if it is used improperly – BAD!  If you disagree with my opinion, that is certainly okay.  Phonics instruction has been the subject of much controversy in American education since the early to mid 1800’s.
            Phonics is the study of the sounds and exception to the sounds of the letters in the English language.  If phonics was simply putting together the sounds of letters to make words, that would be great.  It’s the exceptions to the rules that get us all, including our learners, frustrated.  We ended up with all these exceptions to rules and “crazy” spellings because the English language is made up of other languages – Old English, Classical Latin, Greek, etc.
            Amid the constant controversy of using phonics to teach reading, in 1984, the National Academy of Education commissioned a study.  The resulting report, “Becoming a Nation of Readers,” endorsed phonics instruction, along with identifying words in sentences. 
            In 2000, the National Reading Panel’s report, “Teaching Children to Read,” also endorsed phonics instruction, along with using words in sentences.
            So, the next time you read with your little ones and they come up against a word they can’t read, it is okay to say, “Try to sound it out” – IF AND ONLY IF THAT WORD CAN BE SOUNDED OUT ACCORDING TO THE NORMAL LETTER SOUNDS AND RULES.  Examples:
             YES                                        NO - tell them the word, avoid stress

            man (short a sound)                many
            ate  (long a sound)                   great
            air  (long a sound)                    where
            curl (ur sound)                           early
            chop (ch sound)                        Christmas
1)    My First Phonics Book by Diane McGuiness and DK Publishing, 1999.
2)    Dr. Suess books
3)    I Can Read books –start with lowest level
4)    Flashcards for letter and sound recognition IF THE CARD ALSO SHOWS A WORD AND PICTURE.  Extend the instruction by using the word in a sentence.
In closing, YES, use phonics with your children when appropriate.  If your child makes two attempts and hasn’t figured out the word, simply tell the child the word, or use another strategy, such as “context clues.”  You ask, “What are context clues?”
Okay, you guessed it - “Context Clues” is the title of next month’s Blog.
            Would love for all of us to share about our experiences in using phonics to help students read.  Please go to Comments at the bottom of this Blog. 
            Best wishes for a wonderful 2014!  Can you believe Valentine’s Day is only a month away?
Source for this Blog:
Wikipedia, American Phonics
Copyright 2014 Linda M. Penn, All Rights Reserved

8 Comments to PHONICS - GOOD OR BAD:

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