Phonics vs. Whole Language

Phonics vs. Whole Language

Child Education

Hooked On Phonics

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Whole language reading instruction also known as "sight" reading is the most widely used method of teaching reading. Its development dates back to early in this century and its continued use is based on two factors.

First, researchers learned that experienced readers grasp the meaning of entire words at a time. Further, when children talk they use complete words without conscious attention to the individual sounds that make up those words. Whole language "founders" believed that children should be taught from the beginning to read whole words.

Second, whole language is said to be "literature-based" because students are expected to learn these words by "reading" them as teachers read stories aloud. After they have thus "read" them enough times they will recognize them and be able to read themselves. This sounds much more compassionate than the drill and repetition necessary to intensive phonics instruction. Drill and repetition, after all is boring and would inhibit proper emotional growth of children. Furthermore, learning to read while being exposed to more interesting stories will give young students a greater appreciation for great literature.


Why Phonics?

Unfortunately, both points are based on faulty reasoning. And, like Outcome-Based Education, experimenting with new concepts upon an entire nation of children without any verifiable proof of a concept's effectiveness has proven a grave mistake for millions of children in several generations. Illiteracy has been growing for at least four decades, and yet whole language continues to be used.

On point one, it is true that readers recognize familiar words as a whole. And, yes, many students learn to read for themselves the words they thus learn. But how do we read UNfamiliar words? We must deconstruct written words into their component sounds before we reconstruct the way the complete word sounds! Moreover, although children often are not aware of the individual sounds of words, they spent several years imitating and practicing sounds around them before they were able to speak whole words.

And, two, while drills and repetition can be boring for adults (especially including the teacher!). Children like repetition. At that age repetition is a game! It is no different than any other behavior we must teach our children -- sometimes both emotional and intellectual growth require some difficult transitions. We want our children to be independent thinkers, but they still have to live within a community, and until they are mature enough to make their own decisions, we have to make those decisions for them, no matter how painful those decisions might be for adults. Drills might even be boring for some. But compare that short-term inconvenience with the alternative of illiteracy or, at best, discomfort with the written word.

Phonics vs. Whole Language

People often complains that they do not want to teach using phonics because the memorization necessary to learn phonetic rules for English is repetitive and boring. With that being said the whole language is nothing more than rote memorization of every word in the English language.


Hooked On Phonics
Use at checkout for 20% Discount
Code:SAVE20
(Expire: 12/31)

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