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Phonics Versus Whole Language

September 10, 2020 | General

You might have heard some discussion in the media regarding the ongoing controversy over which method is best for teaching children to read.

How should your child learn to read, ‘phonics’ or ‘whole language’?

The main approaches are the ‘Phonics’ approach or the ‘Whole Language’ approach.

What is phonics?

Phonics is a method of teaching reading. It instructs students to connect sounds with letters or groups of letters. The teaching of phonics is sequential, starting from simple sounds of letters of the alphabet and them clustering the sounds together to form patterns and words. The phonics approach has been used for centuries in the instruction of reading. Phonics teaches students to decode unknown words.

What is whole language?

The Whole Language Approach presumes that children will learn to read in the same way as they learn to speak.

  • They need to be interested or motivated to read.
  • They need to be surrounded by quality literature.
  • They need to have the time and opportunity to read.
  • They need to concentrate on the meaning of what they read.
  • They must work out the word form context.
  • Sounding out difficult words is discouraged.

The Reading Debate over which method is better, is still raging after many years! Just look at all the attention that reading is given in the media.

Does Listen to Read use phonics or the whole language method?

The Listen to Read Program combines strategies from both methods but relies more heavily on the phonics method. How can a child “read for meaning” when they struggle to decode several words in a sentence or paragraph? In short, the answer is they can’t.

At least if they can decode the word, they have a better chance of retaining the meaning of the sentence. Once their decoding is improved then we can move on to comprehension and fluency issues.

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