Phonics and whole language learning: a balanced approach to beginning reading
ForumsEducation and Kids
Related ArticlesPhonics in Whole Language Classrooms
Phonemic Awareness: An Important Early Step in Learning To Read
Children cannot learn to read without an understanding of phonics. All children must know their ABCs and the sounds that letters make in order to communicate verbally. The question in early childhood programs is not whether to teach "phonics" or "whole language learning," but how to teach phonics in contextrather than in isolationso that children make connections between letters, sounds, and meaning.
Phonics should not be taught as a separate "subject" with emphasis on drills and rote memorization. The key is a balanced approach and attention to each child's individual needs. Many children's understanding of phonics will arise from their interest, knowledge, and ideas. Others will benefit from more formal instruction. There are many opportunities to teach the sound a letter makes when children have reason to know. For example, the first letter a child learns typically is the first letter of her name.
Some teachers worry that encouraging children to learn through experience and invent their own spellings will not provide them with adequate language skills. But literacy is not so much a skill as a complex activity that involves reading, writing and oral language. Ideally, children should develop literacy through real life settings as they read together with parents or other caring adults. Children begin to make connections between printed words and their representations in the world. Adults should keep in mind that children may learn to read at different paces during kindergarten and first grade. This is true for all children, including those with special needs and those from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds. If parents and teachers work together and demonstrate mutual respect, children's learning will be reinforced at home and in the classroom.
Chapman, M.L. 1996. The development of phonemic awareness in young children: Some insights from a case study of a first-grade writers. Young Children 51 (2). Washington, DC: NAEYC.
Schickedanz, J.A. 1986. More than the ABCs: The early stages of reading and writing. Washington, DC: NAEYC #204/$6.
Schickedanz, J.A. 1994. Helping children learn about reading. Washington, DC: NAEYC #520.
For a free copy of this brochure, send SASE to NAEYC, Box 520, 1509 16th St., NW, Washington, DC 20036-1426.
Copyright © 1996 by National Association for the Education of Young Children.Back to the Top