Rethinking Phonics

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Phonics is matching a language’s sounds (phonemes) to symbols or letter(s).  Kids who do not learn and master this connection will sooner or later, struggle with reading and spelling. 

However, phonics has had a long and complicated history in education.  It seems phonics instruction is something that has come in and out of fashion several times in the last century.  In fact, that is putting it nicely.  The debate about how to teach reading became so heated that it has become known as The Reading Wars.  The two camps: phonics vs. whole language.  In 1997, Congress created the National Reading Panel and charged them with the task of collecting scientific, researched-based evidence to determine the most effective way to teach reading.  One of the seven questions asked was, “Does phonics instruction improve reading achievement? If so, how is this instruction best provided?”

The results released in 2000 were unanimous.  The report stated that explicitly and systematically teaching children the relationships between letters and sounds undeniably improves student reading success. If you’d like more history about the reading wars and the National Reading Panel’s results, I highly recommend you read or listen to Hard Words: Why Aren’t Our Kids Being Taught to Read? 

There are 44 phonemes or basics sound units in English.  There are 26 letters.  So, sometimes one sound is represented by more than one letter (sh, qu), and sometimes one sound is represented by multiple different letter combinations (long i can be represented by 5 letter combinations i, y, i-e, igh, ie). Phonics is complicated and we can’t simply assume that kids will naturally pick it up.  Explicit instruction is necessary!

The problem lies when teachers were not taught phonics themselves. It is difficult to confidently teach something you have never learned!  The good news is that this disconnect is finally being recognized.  Several states are working toward mandating better-informed college teacher ed programs and ensuring that teachers are well trained in reading instruction. 

The revolution has begun!

If you feel like you are a teacher or parent who missed the boat by not having a solid phonics education, join the club! You are not alone. If you would like to feel confident in your phonics and literacy instruction, we have the solution!

Come be part of our Reading Revolution Conference!

This 3-day class will get you up to speed with teaching practices that will soon be required for all teachers instructing literacy K-5.  It will go through all 5 components of Reading, but one entire day is dedicated to explicitly teaching the 7 main English phonics patterns.  We will help you crack the code for yourself and your students.  This is not only recommended but vital to the success of your students struggling in reading and spelling.  Let’s begin to change lives.   

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Click for our FREE phonics and kinds of phonemes posters!

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