Kerry Hempenstall summarises key aspects of the controversy around whole language versus phonics methods in beginning reading instruction. He argues for the evidence of scientific research to be given greater emphasis.
The development of research in support of effective systematic phonics teaching is outlined. To demonstrate the breadth of the research base, there is a useful link to a detailed bibliography compiled by the SRA team at McGraw-Hill.
This short paper form 1996 outlines the problem of falling standards and attributes it largely to a ‘mixed methods’ or ‘balanced’ approach, combining phonetic methods with context clues and guessing. The challenge for teacher training is clearly set out. It is interesting to reflect on how much (or little) progress has been made since the time of publication.
Tom Burkard sets out the appalling statistics for continuing literacy failure after the Literacy Hour was introduced in 1998, showing how the National Literacy Strategy was itself a component in this failure due to its roots in whole language concepts of reading (not to mention some suspicious tinkering with statistics).
A news report from 2005 contrasting the success of synthetic phonics in Clackmannanshire with the lack of progress under the Literacy Hour. A key question is how much the classroom has changed since.
Why Are Our Best Readers in School Failing the Government's New Phonics Screener? (Dodah C A 2013) The Huffington Post Students
A good example of how mixed messages come from confused ideas about phonics teaching. Exactly when students should be taught more varied and complex aspects of the alphabetic code, some practitioners eagerly want them to begin to use ‘visual memory’ and look for ‘context clues’. Muddling up phonics instruction with other (failed) methods is the likely explanation for poor scores on the phonics screen (which assesses the teaching, not students).
Explains the principal differences between these two sometimes confused approaches, and why synthetic phonics is superior as an approach to early reading instruction.
This study compares the effects of synthetic vs analytic phonics on students’ word reading, spelling and reading comprehension.
John Walker explains how high frequency words can be taught using phonic principles, despite the oft-asserted claim that frequent but irregular words should be learned ‘by sight’.
John Walker explains how high frequency words can be taught using phonic principles, despite the oft-asserted claim that frequent but irregular words should be learned ‘by sight.
A short, clear overview of the necessity of phonics and the utility of a systematic phonics component to reading instruction.
This study re-analysed the meta-analysis of the National Reading Panel. While the authors agree that there is evidence for the efficacy of systematic phonics instruction, they also argue that there is similar evidence to support systematic language activities and individual tutoring. They assert that these effects are additive, and that combining the three approaches could triple the impact of reading instruction.
The authors contend that literacy is much more complex than just learning to read, that the government’s policies on literacy are too narrow, and its treatment of professionals too heavy-handed. The weight of material cited is firmly on the ‘socially constructed’ approach to reading that is associated with whole language and constructivism.