Teaching Phonics to Beginning and Striving Readers
According to researchers, if three areas of reading were appropriately addressed, reading difficulties would be prevented. These three areas include: knowledge of the alphabetic principle, fluency, and comprehension (Burns, et.al., 1998).
The alphabetic principle, through further review by the National Reading Panel, has been elaborated to include phonemic awareness (the ability to manipulate sounds) and phonics (the knowledge of letter and sound correspondence). Phonemic awareness and phonics provide the necessary foundation for achieving fluency and comprehension; therefore, these foundational skills must be addressed.
The ultimate goal of reading is comprehension. In order to achieve this goal of comprehension, students must have the necessary foundation of phonological decoding skills at the word level to allow them to read individual words and strings of words fluently (Archer, et. al., 2003; Hudson, et. al., 2005; NIFL, 2008). Phonological decoding at the word level is a stepping stone to fluency and comprehension.
Myths About Phonics Instruction
There are myriads of scientific research studies to support explicit phonics instruction for beginning and struggling readers. Yet, misconceptions sometimes prevent effective classroom implementation. These misconceptions can be passed down from college professor to pre-service teacher, year after year, decade after decade. Even teachers who have been teaching long enough to teach their students’ children have been known to stick to what they were taught in college or what they learned during their first years of teaching. When this is the case, students who would otherwise benefit from more effective structured literacy instruction are the ones who suffer.
In the following articles, Reading Horizons Reading Specialist, Stacy Hurst, addresses several common misconceptions about phonics instruction:
Strategies for Teaching Phonics
Phonics instruction is often viewed with a negative connotation because when it is not delivered through an explicit and systematic process – it is not necessarily effective. It is the way phonics is instructed that makes the difference. Instruction should start with the most basic concepts then sequentially build to larger, comprehensive concepts that help develop metacognitive awareness of the language, thus illuminating text.