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What is phonics?

Word-building rocks! Word-building is the best way to teach reading and spelling. Write the letters on cards and ask the children to build a CVC word, e. This way children can clearly see how letters spell sounds and how those sounds can be blended into words. Teach reading and spelling together Always include spelling as part of your reading lessons. Spelling is the reverse activity of reading and once children understand this, they will start to find plausible phonic spellings in their own writing.

This can also work with high-frequency words. Practice and more practice Most people need to practice a skill before they become proficient. This is essential in reading as we are aiming to develop automaticity and fluency. For spelling, we do the reverse in that we take sounds and convert them into printed words based upon our phonological awareness and understanding of word patterns.

Both require a developmental understanding that starts with a letter-to-sound correspondence and then moves to an understanding of within-word patterns, syllable structure, and derivations. My rebuttal: Spell checkers actually help only those who can spell reasonably well so that they produce a close approximation of the target word. In fact, one study reported that spell checkers usually catch just 30 to 80 percent of misspellings overall partly because they miss errors like here vs. Those who have a learning disability in reading usually also have a learning disability in spelling.

These challenges stem from the same core deficit that typically involves poor phonemic awareness or poor knowledge of letter-sound relationships. They need to have a solid base in sound spelling skills, and that comes from systematic phonics instruction. Rudimentary spelling skills or just taking a stab at it is not sufficient. My rebuttal: Okay — they have a point on this one.


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While the evidence is clear that a phonetic base is an essential component to good spelling instruction, some additional information must be presented. First, in order to address that small percentage of words that cannot be proven phonetically, word-specific knowledge and morphological knowledge are necessary. The only way to know for sure how to spell it would be a familiarity with that word — a word-specific knowledge. That can be greatly enhanced by attaching meaning when teaching spelling, because that creates another neural footprint to help store and retrieve the word when a visual of the word and word meaning are attached to the word pattern.

Morphological knowledge is about the root words and relationships among words. If students know the spelling for the root word, then spelling the derivations is much easier. Second, since spelling instruction that explores word structure, word origin, and word meaning is the most effective ,6 we need to address the importance of teaching word meaning.

Anytime we attach meaning to a new concept, we are more likely to store it, and we will be able to retrieve it from our working memories. Instead they advocated for doing both, a balance. And in balanced literacy, phonics is treated a bit like salt on a meal: a little here and there, but not too much, because it could be bad for you. Seidenberg knows of a child who was struggling so much with reading that her mother paid for a private tutor.

Your child was absent that day. For scientists like Seidenberg, the problem with teaching just a little bit of phonics is that according to all the research, phonics is crucial when it comes to learning how to read. Experts say that in a whole-language classroom, some kids will learn to read despite the lack of effective instruction. Now they had to figure out what to do about it. The district leaders reasoned that the principals needed to be convinced of the science if they were going to convince their teachers to change the way they taught reading.

Principal Kathy Bast leads a discussion with her teachers on the reading science, March If there was one principal who was sure to resist, it was Kathy Bast, the principal of Calypso Elementary School. Education as a practice has placed a much higher value on observation and hands-on experience than on scientific evidence. But Bast had a secret. It was her job to help struggling readers. In her training to become a reading specialist, she learned a lot about how to identify children with reading problems, but she learned nothing about how to help those children learn to read.

With time on her hands while she was on medical leave, Bast began poking around online and discovered the vast scientific literature on reading. When Bast returned to work from medical leave and joined her fellow principals in the training on reading science, she was ready to hear what the trainer had to say.


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  8. And it kind of blew her mind. The principals went through the training in the school year, the kindergarten teachers went through it the next year, and then first- and second-grade teachers did it, too.

    Phonics at Birley Spa

    For many teachers, the science of reading training was overwhelming at first. Neither had Michelle Bosak, an English as a second language teacher at Lincoln. The teachers had no idea how kids actually learned to read. After learning about the reading science, these teachers were full of regret. The Bethlehem schools now use a curriculum in the early elementary grades that mixes teacher-directed whole-class phonics lessons with small-group activities to meet the needs of children at different points in the process of learning to read. At first, some of the teachers recoiled a bit at the scripted nature of the lessons; the curriculum is explicit and systematic, with every teacher on the same page each day.

    Understanding Phonics | Scholastic

    Now, because of the science of reading training, she knows better. At the end of each school year, the Bethlehem school district gives kindergartners a test to assess early reading skills. In , before the science of reading training began, more than half of the kindergartners in the district tested below the benchmark score, meaning most of them were heading into first grade at risk of reading failure. At the end of the school year, after the principals and kindergarten teachers were trained in the reading science, 84 percent of kindergarteners met or exceeded the benchmark score.

    At three schools, it was percent. Silva is thrilled with the results, but cautious. Some of the schools in the district moved from half-day to full-day kindergarten the same year the training began, so that could have been a factor. You can find schools and school districts across the United States that are trying to change reading instruction the way Bethlehem has, but according to Moats, ill-informed, ineffective reading instruction is the norm. Education as a practice has placed a much higher value on observation and hands-on experience than on scientific evidence, Seidenberg said. Back in the early s, after the panel convened by Congress released its report, Butler and her colleagues wanted to know: Were teacher preparation programs in Mississippi instructing teachers to teach reading in ways backed up by the science?

    The institute reviewed syllabi and textbooks, surveyed the students in the classes, observed some of the classes, and interviewed the deans and faculty. The study found that teacher candidates in Mississippi were getting an average of 20 minutes of instruction in phonics over their entire two-year teacher preparation program. Kelly Butler was alarmed. She and her colleagues went to state education officials and pleaded with them to take action.

    In , in a rather extraordinary move, the state Department of Education mandated that every teacher preparation program in Mississippi require two courses in early literacy to cover what was in the National Reading Panel report.

    Do you use phonics instruction with your ESL students?

    It was extraordinary because even though states have the authority to regulate teacher preparation programs, only a handful of states have specific requirements about what prospective teachers learn about reading. Related: As Mississippi delivers bad news to 5, third graders, stressed-out parents say there must be a better way. And the whole language ones are not here because I think they would really resist, a lot.

    Angela Rutherford, who works with Butler and is a professor in the school of education at the University of Mississippi, put it more bluntly. She said many of them have long believed in whole language.

    Butler says the resistance to the science among college faculty and administrators baffles her, but it runs deep. It was not clear how much impact the state mandate to teach reading science was having. At this point, no one really knew what prospective teachers were learning in those early literacy classes required by the state. This time they looked at private colleges in Mississippi, too. They examined the early literacy courses at 15 teacher prep programs. Teachers in the K education system are used to professional development. College professors are not.

    No one was going to require college instructors to do the training, but state legislators had passed a measure to encourage it. Since , teacher candidates in Mississippi have been required to pass a test on reading science. Speaking is natural, reading and writing are not. She said that she struggled with reading when she was a child.

    Trashonda Dixon, a literacy instructor at Tougaloo, says she did get phonics instruction when she was young, but she never learned how to teach phonics. The Mississippi faculty came together for training several times over the course of a year, and some even received mentoring as they were teaching reading science to their college students.

    Moats said she once did some LETRS workshops for college faculty in Colorado many years ago and one of her colleagues did abbreviated training for faculty in Maryland, but Mississippi is the only place she knows of where college faculty are going through an extended course. Reeves said she knows this from her own experience.

    In the early s, before she started her Ph. She said the books were boring and repetitive.

    Top tips for teaching phonics

    She ditched the phonics workbooks and the decodable readers. What does that child need?

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    I feel they came out the other side much better. One of the central tenets of whole language is that teachers are best able to judge whether their students are learning, not standardized tests. Another key idea is that all children learn to read differently and need to be taught in different ways. Our brains are much more similar than they are different, and all children need to learn basically the same things to change their nonreading brains into reading brains. They have an especially hard time understanding the relationship between sounds and letters.

    Mary Ariail, former chair of the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education at the University of Southern Mississippi, remains opposed to explicit phonics instruction.