Essay on Using the Power of both Phonics and Whole Language

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Whichever way you learned to read, chances are you never knew what the terms “phonics” or “whole language” meant. However, these are the terms that are at opposite ends of an on-going debate over the best way to teach children how to read. “Simply stated, supporters of the whole language approach think children's literature, writing activities, and communication activities can be used across the curriculum to teach reading; backers of phonics instruction insist that a direct, sequential mode of teaching enables students to master reading in an organized way” (Cromwell, 1997). Critics of phonics claim that the curriculum is too boring, that the endless worksheets will turn children away from the joy that could be reading and writing.…show more content…
Children learn, memorize, and apply rules, formulas, and patterns of reading and speech (Curtis, 1997; Wiber, 2002). This approach has also been called a “bottom-up” approach because the teachers believe that by focusing on the smaller parts and equipping children with the ability to figure out new words, meaning and comprehension will follow. The strong supporters on this side of the debate want phonics taught in an intensive and systematic manner (Strickland, 1998). These phonics supporters criticize whole language, claiming that the approach is too disorganized and phonics taught in such an incidental manner that some children will never have the right tools to learn to read well (Cromwell, 1997). There are many advantages to using phonics. Children who learn to read by using phonics generally have better pronunciation, spelling, and word recognition. They have been given a tool that can be used over and over again while reading and writing, without having to memorize vocabulary and spelling of the words (Curtis, 1997). There are also many examples of how explicit, intensive and systematic phonics can work well in classrooms. One of these examples is the reading program developed in California. After years of implementing whole language instruction in their classrooms, reading scores in the state dropped to be among the nation’s worst.
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