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Phonics vs. Whole Language

Widely debated back and forth for years has been the phonics, or breaking words up into sounds versus the whole language approach, or reading words as a whole.

I've seen many students through the years come through my classroom doors as excellent readers. I've also seen my fair share of students that have great difficulty reading when they come to my room. Naturally this happens because of many different reasons.

Whole language, also known as "look-say" or "sight" reading, is the most widely used method of teaching reading in the U.S. and other countries. Researchers have determined that experienced readers grasp the meaning of entire words at a time. When children talk they use whole words, without conscious thought about the sounds that make up these words. The founders of whole language felt the same way about reading, that children can be taught from the beginning to read whole words.

Whole language also presumes that after seeing words enough times, children will recognize the words and understand the meaning.

Phonics relies on drill and practice, which is said to get boring. However, it also teaches children to sound out words, and thus are able to read words they've never encountered before.

Which is what I really noticed when I taught junior high language arts. I had students that had not encountered many words. Some of them had phonics, either while at home, or somewhere in their background. Some had whole language the whole way through. I could easily tell the students that were able to sound out these new words. It made things a lot easier for them. The ones who had whole language could not sound out the words, and I had to tell them the word. I wouldn't guess they'd remember it the very next day, but it would take multiple times of seeing the word before it made the connection.

The comparison between the two has been debated for years. I've kind of sided with the phonics, even though the drill and practice approach can get tiring. Phonics worked for me...

As another author put it, in comparing the two:
A friend once complained to me that she didn't want to teach using phonics because the memorization necessary to learn phonetic rules for English is so repetitive and boring. It struck me then that whole language is nothing more than rote memorization of every word in the English language.

You be the judge of which method is more compassionate.

As far as I'm concerned, both have proven to work. It just seems that one takes more drill and practice, and one is on-going for years to come. Phonics takes skill-building, to be able to sound out the words. Whole language is kind of a never ending process, because there seem to be words coming up all the time that are unknown.

What do you think?


Be Consistent - If you say it, mean it!

The environment inside of classrooms varies greatly when you walk through a school building.

One of the reasons behind this is of course the personality of the teacher. Another reason may directly result from whatever topic the class is studying. Then you may need to look at the content area. Moods change throughout the day as well, so you may see a big difference observing a morning setting and then an afternoon one. And there are other reasons we I could mention as well...

Behavior is an issue that all teachers and parents have to deal with. Sometimes it'll be good, and other times your patience will be tested.

Time and time again, I've witnessed consistency being the best method for solving any issues. If there are expectations and they are not met, and consequences are known beforehand, and it is done the same way repeatedly, negative behaviors seem to disappear.

If I go against what I say I'm going do, it opens up a doorway in their mind that 'what I say isn't always what I mean', and it gives a negative impression. I made the mistake of doing this when I first started teaching, and it really backfired on the behavior in my room, and attitudes. I heard, "well you said that once before, and nothing happened. Why would we expect it this time?"

And you know what? They were right. Why should they expect me not to change my mind? I did it before.

So, I learned to keep my word, and do as I say. This has made such a huge difference!

Now, students find out right away that if when I say "If you don't have your homework done, you'll make it up at recess" ... I mean it.

This works just as well with parenting. Be consistent, and everyone will know what to expect, and live by the rules that are set.