Phonics vs. whole language? Essay

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Phonics vs. whole language?

Like other issues of education, educators and theorists debate and analyze methods of reading instruction. They judge methods and curricula not only by their efficacy but also by their appropriateness and ease. Throughout the history of education these methods and curricula have changed, shifted, and transformed. Currently, though, there are two front-runners in the debate—phonics and whole language. Popular belief is that these curricula are diametrically opposed. Researchers of effective reading instruction assert the opposite, saying that “an artificial, simplistic dichotomy” has no reality in the discussion of phonics and whole language (Dahl & Scharer, 2000, ¶43). The purpose of this research paper is to
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During the 1930s and 1940s, it was used as a final, remedial approach for those learners who had trouble with word recognition and memory (DeMoulin et al., 1999, ¶4). In the 1950s, though, Rudolph Flesch wrote Why Johnny Can’t Read, placing a more brilliant spotlight on phonics instruction. He developed a curriculum of 72 lessons, outlining over 200 letter-to-letter relationships that represented the fundamental sounds of the English language (DeMoulin et al., 1999, ¶4-5). By the 1960s, phonics had taken on a more positive reputation with the help of Jeanne Chall, author of Learning to Read: The Great Debate. Today, phonics is one of the front-runners in the “reading wars” (Chall, 1992, p. 316). Its history speaks strongly for this method of instruction; however, phonics is quickly falling into the ideological quagmire of the past two decades.

Despite this ideology, phonics remains an easily understood method of instruction. As stated in the previous section, phonics relies upon phonemes or units of speech. Many of today’s phonics curricula, like Flesch’s approach, include the 200 letter-to-letter relationships that represent these phonemes. The relationship of phonemes to each other, then, leads the learner to the other phonics concepts: segmentation, decoding, and encoding. Segmentation and decoding are very similar, referring to the practice of breaking words into individual phonemes. The reader is, in a sense,
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