Phonics


Phonics

Phonics refers to an instructional method for teaching children to read English. Phonics involves teaching children to connect the sounds of spoken English with letters or groups of letters (e.g., that the sound IPA|/k/ can be represented by "c", "k", or "ck" spellings) and teaching them to blend the sounds of letters together to produce approximate pronunciations of unknown words.

Phonics in English

Phonics is a widely used method of teaching to read and decode words, although it is not without controversy (see "History and controversy" below). Children begin learning to read using phonics usually around the age of 5 or 6. Teaching English reading using phonics requires children to learn the connections between letter patterns and the sounds they represent. Phonics instruction requires the teacher to provide students with a core body of information about phonics rules, or patterns.

:"Note: This article uses General American pronunciation."

Basic rules

Alphabetic principle

From a linguistics perspective, English spelling is based on the alphabetic principle. In an alphabetic writing system, letters are used to represent speech sounds, or phonemes. For example, the word "pat" is spelled with three letters, "p", "a", and "t", each representing a phoneme, respectively, IPA|/p/, IPA|/æ/, and IPA|/t/. [Phonemes are represented by characters placed between slash marks. Wikipedia uses the International Phonetic Alphabet (see ) to represent phonemes, accounting for the use of the IPA|æ character to represent the sound of the letter "a" in "pat". This system is used because it is standardized and precise.]

The spelling systems for some alphabetic languages, such as Spanish, are relatively simple because there is nearly a one-to-one correspondence between sounds and the letter patterns that represent them. English spelling is more complex, because it attempts to represent the 40+ phonemes of the spoken language with an alphabet composed of only 26 letters (and no accents). As a result, two letters are often fused together into groups that represent distinct sounds, referred to as digraphs. For example "t" and "h" placed side by side are used to represent a third sound /th/ (IPA:IPA|/θ/ or IPA|/ð/).

English has absorbed large amounts of words from other languages throughout its history, without changing the spelling of those words. As a result, the written form of English includes the spelling patterns of five languages (Old English, Danish, Norman French, Classical Latin and Greek) superimposed upon one another. [McGuinness, Diane. (2004). "Early Reading Instruction" Cambridge: MIT Press 41.] These overlapping spelling patterns mean that in many cases the same sound can be spelled differently and the same spelling can represent different sounds. However, the spelling patterns usually follow certain conventions. [ Wren, Sebastian. Exception Words, Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. Retrieved from http://www.sedl.org/reading/topics/exception.html, September 30, 2007.] The result is that English spelling patterns vary considerably in the degree to which they follow the stated pattern. For example, the letters "ee" almost always represent IPA|/iː/, but the sound can also be represented by the letter "y". Similarly, the letter cluster "ough" represents IPA|/ʌf/ as in "enough", IPA|/oʊ/ as in "though", IPA|/uː/ as in "through", IPA|/ɔːf/ as in "cough", and IPA|/aʊ/ as in "bough".

Although the patterns are inconsistent, when English spelling rules take into account syllable structure, phonetics, and accents, there are dozens of rules that are 75% or more reliable. [Abbott, M. (2000). Identifying reliable generalizations for spelling words: The importance of multilevel analysis. The Elementary School Journal 101(2), 233-245.]

A selection of phonics patterns is shown below.

Vowel phonics patterns

*Short vowels are the five single letter vowels, a, e, i, o, and u when they produce the sounds IPA|/æ/ as in "cat", IPA|/ɛ/ as in "bet", IPA|/ɪ/ as in "sit", IPA|/ɒ/ as in "hot", and IPA|/ʌ/ as in "cup". The term "short vowel" does not really mean that these vowels are pronounced for a particularly short period of time, but they are not diphthongs like the long vowels.
*Long vowels are synonymous with the names of the single letter vowels, such as IPA|/eɪ/ in "baby", IPA|/iː/ in "meter", IPA|/aɪ/ in "tiny", IPA|/oʊ/ in "broken", and IPA|/juː/ in "humor". The way that educators use the term "long vowels" differs from the way in which linguists use this term. In classrooms, long vowels sounds are taught as being "the same as the names of the letters."
*Schwa is the third sound that most of the single vowel spellings can produce. The schwa is an indistinct sound of a vowel in an unstressed syllable, represented by the linguistic symbol ə. IPA|/ə/ is the sound made by the "o" in "lesson". Schwa is a vowel pattern that is not always taught to elementary school students because it is difficult to understand. However, some educators make the argument that schwa should be included in primary reading programs because of its importance in reading English words.
*Closed syllables are syllables in which a single vowel letter is followed by a consonant. In the word "button", both syllables are closed syllables because they contain single vowels followed by consonants. Therefore, the letter "u"' represents the short sound IPA|/ʌ/. (The "o" in the second syllable makes the IPA|/ə/ sound because it is an unstressed syllable.)
*Open syllables are syllables in which a vowel appears at the end of the syllable. The vowel will say its long sound. In the word "basin", "ba" is an open syllable and therefore says IPA|/beɪ/.
*Diphthongs are linguistic elements that fuse two adjacent vowel sounds. English has four common diphthongs. The commonly recognized diphthongs are IPA|/aʊ/ as in "cow" and IPA|/ɔɪ/ as in "boil". Four of the long vowels are also technically diphthongs, IPA|/eɪ/, IPA|/aɪ/, IPA|/oʊ/, and IPA|/juː/, which partly accounts for the reason they are considered "long."
*Vowel digraphs are those spelling patterns wherein two letters are used to represent the vowel sound. The "ai" in "sail" is a vowel digraph. Because the first letter in a vowel digraph sometimes says its long vowel sound, as in "sail", some phonics programs once taught that "when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking." This convention has been almost universally discarded, owing to the many non-examples. The "au" spelling of the IPA|/ɔː/ sound and the "oo" spelling of the IPA|/uː/ and IPA|/ʊ/ sounds do not follow this pattern.
*Vowel-consonant-E spellings are those wherein a single vowel letter, followed by a consonant and the letter "e" makes the long vowel sound. Examples of this include "bake", "theme", "hike", "cone", and "cute". (The "ee" spelling, as in "meet" is sometimes considered part of this pattern.)

Consonant phonics patterns

*Consonant digraphs are those spellings wherein two letters are used to represent a consonant phoneme. The most common consonant digraphs are "ch" for IPA|/tʃ/, "ng" for IPA|/ŋ/, "ph" for IPA|/f/, "sh" for IPA|/ʃ/, "th" for IPA|/θ/ and IPA|/ð/, and "wh" for IPA|/ʍ/ (often pronounced IPA|/w/ in American English). Letter combinations like "wr" for IPA|/r/ and "kn" for IPA|/n/ are also consonant digraphs, although these are sometimes considered patterns with "silent letters."
*Short vowel+consonant patterns involve the spelling of the sounds IPA|/k/ as in "peek", IPA|/dʒ/ as in "stage", and IPA|/tʃ/ as in "speech". These sounds each have two possible spellings at the end of a word, "ck" and "k" for IPA|/k/, "dge" and "ge" for IPA|/dʒ/, and "tch" and "ch" for IPA|/tʃ/. The spelling is determined by the type of vowel that precedes the sound. If a short vowel precedes the sound, the former spelling is used, as in "pick", "judge", and "match". If a short vowel does not precede the sound, the latter spelling is used, as in "took", "barge", and "launch".

The final "short vowel+consonant pattern" is just one example of dozens that can be used to help children unpack the challenging English alphabetic code. This example illustrates that, while complex, English spelling retains order and reason.

ight words and high frequency words

* There are words that do not follow these phonics rules, such as "were", "who", and "you". They are often called "sight words" because they must be memorized by sight.

* Teachers who use phonics also often teach students to memorize the most high frequency words in English, such as "it", "he", "them", and "when", even though these words are fully decodable. The argument for teaching these "high frequency words" is that knowing them will improve students' reading fluency.

History and controversy

Because of the complexity of written English, more than a century of debate has occurred over whether English phonics should or should not be used in teaching beginning reading. Beginning in the mid 19th century, some American educators, prominently Horace Mann, argued that phonics should not be taught at all. This led to the commonly used "look-say" approach ensconced in the "Dick and Jane" readers popular in the mid-20th century. Beginning in the 1950s, however, phonics resurfaced as a method of teaching reading. Spurred by Rudolf Flesch's criticism of the absence of phonics instruction (particularly in his popular book, "Why Johnny Can't Read") phonics resurfaced, but—owing to Flesch's polemical approach—the term "phonics" became associated with political ideology.

In the 1980s, the "whole language" approach to reading further polarized the debate in the United States. Whole language instruction was predicated on the principle that children could learn to read given (a) proper motivation, (b) access to good literature, (c) many reading opportunities, (d) focus on meaning, and (e) instruction to help students use meaning clues to determine the pronunciation of unknown words. For some advocates of whole language, phonics was antithetical to helping new readers to get the meaning; they asserted that parsing words into small chunks and reassembling them had no connection to the ideas the author wanted to convey.

The whole language emphasis on identifying words using context and focusing only a little on the sounds (usually the alphabet consonants and the short vowels) could not be reconciled with the phonics emphasis on individual sound-symbol correspondences. Thus, a dichotomy between the whole language approach and phonics emerged in the United States causing intense debate. Ultimately, this debate lead to a series of a Congressionally-commissioned panels and government-funded reviews of the state of reading instruction in the U.S.

In 1984, the National Academy of Education commissioned a report on the status of research and instructional practices in reading education, "Becoming a Nation of Readers." [Becoming a Nation of Readers, National Academy of Education, Center for the Study of Reading, 1984] Among other results, the report includes the finding that phonics instruction improves children's ability to identify words. It reports that useful phonics strategies include teaching children the sounds of letters in isolation and in words, and teaching them to blend the sounds of letters together to produce approximate pronunciations of words. It also states that phonics instruction should occur in conjunction with opportunities to identify words in meaningful sentences and stories.

In 1990, Congress asked the U.S. Department of Education to compile a list of available programs on beginning reading instruction, evaluating each in terms of the effectiveness of its phonics component. As part of this requirement, the US DOE asked Dr. Marilyn J. Adams to produce a report on the role of phonics instruction in beginning reading, which resulted in her 1994 book "Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print." [Adams, Marilyn J. Beginning to read:thinking and learning about print. MIT Press, February 1994; ISBN .] In the book, Adams asserted that existing scientific research supported that phonics is an effective method for teaching students to read at the word level. Adams argued strongly that the phonics and the whole language advocates are both right. Phonics is an effective way to teach students the alphabetic code, building their skills in decoding unknown words. By learning the alphabetic code early, she argued, students can quickly free up mental energy they had used for word analysis and devote this mental effort to meaning, leading to stronger comprehension earlier in elementary school. Thus, she concluded, phonics instruction is a necessary component of reading instruction, but not sufficient by itself to teach children to read. This result matched the overall goal of whole language instruction and supported the use of phonics for a particular subset of reading skills, especially in the earliest stages of reading instruction.

Similar results, based on a wide-ranging historical study of teaching how to read in other languages in addition to English, were published by Dina Feitelson in her book "Facts and Fads in Beginning Reading: A Cross-Language Perspective" [cite book |author=Dina Feitelson |title=Facts and fads in beginning reading: a cross-language perspective |publisher=Ablex Pub. Corp |location=Norwood, N.J |year=1988 |pages= |isbn=0-89391-507-6 |oclc= |doi=] .Yet the argument about how to teach reading, eventually known as "the Great Debate," continued unabated.

The National Research Council re-examined the question of how best to teach reading to children (among other questions in education) and in 1998 published the results in the "Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children." [Snow, Catherine E., Susan Burns, Peg Griffin, eds. Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children, National Research Council, 1998 ISBN 0-309-06418-X ] The National Research Council's findings largely matched those of Adams. They concluded that phonics is a very effective way to teach children to read at the word level, more effective than what is known as the "embedded phonics" approach of whole language (where phonics was taught opportunistically in the context of literature). They found that phonics instruction must be systematic (following a sequence of increasingly challenging phonics patterns) and explicit (teaching students precisely how the patterns worked, e.g., "this is "b", it stands for the /b/ sound"). .. [harvcolnb|Ziegler & Goswami|(2005)|Reading acquisition, developmental dyslexia and skilled readign across langauges: a psycholonguistic grain size theory| Psychological Bulletin; 131:3-29]

In 1997, Congress asked the Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, to convene a national panel to assess the effectiveness of different approaches used to teach children to read. The National Reading Panel examined quantitative research studies on many areas of reading instruction, including phonics and whole language. The resulting report "Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and its Implications for Reading Instruction" was published in 2000 and provides a comprehensive review of what is known about best practices in reading instruction in the U.S. [ National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.] The panel reported that several reading skills are critical to becoming good readers: phonics for word identification, fluency, vocabulary and text comprehension. With regard to phonics, their meta-analysis of hundreds of studies confirmed the findings of the National Research Council: teaching phonics (and related phonics skills, such as phonemic awareness) is a more effective way to teach children early reading skills than is embedded phonics or no phonics instruction. [ [http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/nrp/findings.cfm Findings and Determinations of the National Reading Panel by Topic Areas ] ] The panel found that phonics instruction is an effective method of teaching reading for students from kindergarten through 6th grade, and for all children who are having difficulty learning to read. They also found that phonics instruction benefits all ages in learning to spell. They also reported that teachers need more education about effective reading instruction, both pre-service and in-service.

Different phonics approaches

Synthetic phonics is a method employed to teach phonics to children when learning to read. This method involves examining every spelling within the word individually as an individual sound and then blending those sounds together. For example, "shrouds" would be read by pronouncing the sounds for each spelling "IPA|/ʃ, r, aʊ, d, z/" and then blending those sounds orally to produce a spoken word, "IPA|/ʃraʊdz/." The goal of synthetic phonics instruction is that students identify the sound-symbol correspondences and blend their phonemes automatically. (see synthetic phonics)

Analytical phonics has children analyze sound-symbol correspondences, such as the "ou" spelling of IPA|/aʊ/ in "shrouds" but students do not blend those elements as they do in synthetic phonics lessons. Furthermore, consonant blends (separate, adjacent consonant phonemes) are taught as units (e.g., in "shrouds" the "shr" would be taught as a unit).

Analogy phonics is a particular type of analytic phonics in which the teacher has students analyze phonic elements according to the phonograms in the word. A phonogram, known in linguistics as a rime, is composed of the vowel and all the sounds that follow it. Teachers using the analogy method assist students in memorizing a bank of phonograms, such as "-at" or "-am". Students then use these phonograms to analogize to unknown words.

Embedded phonics is the type of phonics instruction used in whole language programs. Although phonics skills are de-emphasized in whole language programs, some teachers include phonics "mini-lessons" in the context of literature. Short lessons are included based on phonics elements that students are having trouble with, or on a new or difficult phonics pattern that appears in a class reading assignment. The focus on meaning is generally maintained, but the mini-lesson provides some time for focus on individual sounds and the symbols that represent them. Embedded phonics differs from other methods in that the instruction is always in the context of literature rather than in separate lessons, and the skills to be taught are identified opportunistically rather than systematically.

Owing to the shifting debate over time (see "History and Controversy" above), many school systems, such as California's, have made major changes in the method they have used to teach early reading. Today, most teachers combine phonics with the elements of whole language that focus on reading comprehension. Adams [cite book
last = Adams
first = Marilyn Jager
authorlink = Marilyn Jager Agams
year = 1990
title = Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print
publisher = MIT Press
location = Cambridge, Mass.
id = ISBN 0-262-51076-6
] and the National Reading Panel advocate for a comprehensive reading program that includes several different subskills, based on scientific research. This combined approach is sometimes called balanced literacy, although some researchers assert that balanced literacy is merely whole language called by another name. [Moats, Louisa. Whole language high hinks: How to tell when scientifically-based reading instruction isn't, January 2007. Retrieved Feb 12, 2008.] Proponents of various approaches generally agree that a combined approach is important. A few stalwarts favor isolated instruction in synthetic phonics and introduction to reading comprehension only after children have mastered sound-symbol correspondences. On the other side, some whole language supporters are unyielding in arguing that phonics should be taught little, if at all.

There has been a resurgence in interest in synthetic phonics in recent years, particularly in the United Kingdom. The subject has been promoted by a cross-party group of Parliamentarians, particularly Nick Gibb MP. A recent report by the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee called for a review of the phonics content in the National Curriculum. The Department for Education and Skills have since announced a review into early years reading, headed by Jim Rose.

Jim Rose's group has now reported and the UK Government has decreed that synthetic phonics should be the method of choice for teaching reading in primary schools in England.

References

Structured, Systematic Phonics Instruction- is the type of phonics instruction that is most effective with at-risk or learning disabled children. This approach teaches letters and corresponding phonemes in a very deliberate order with a great deal of review (as needed). Children are able to retain this information as it is carefully taught. Phonics taught in an "as needed" approach is more characteristic of whole language.

ee also

* Allography
* Alphabetic principle
* English orthography
* Initial Teaching Alphabet
* List of phonics programs
* Phonemic awareness
* Reading recovery
* Synthetic phonics
* Whole language

External links

* [http://www.childrenofthecode.org Children of the Code Project]
* [http://www.ericdigests.org/1997-2/read.htm Phonemic Awareness: An Important Early Step in Learning To Read. ERIC Digest.]
* [http://moodle.ed.uiuc.edu/wiked/index.php/Phonemic_awareness More information about phonemic awareness]
* [http://www.ericdigests.org/1995-1/phonics.htm Phonics in Whole Language Classrooms. ERIC Digest.]
* [http://www.phonicsontheweb.com Phonics on the Web] — Phonics rules including letter sounds, digraphs, r-controlled vowels, and more.
* [http://call.canil.ca/english The Sounds of English] — Comprehensive lists of English words grouped by sound and spelling.
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKfCyoNCUkM Lets Start Smart] — Video clips for learning phonics patterns.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Phonics — Phon ics, n. 1. same as {Phonetics}. [1913 Webster] 2. a method of teaching reading and spelling to beginning students, emphasizing the sound values of individual letters and syllables, and the relationship between pronunciation and spelling.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • phonics — 1680s, science of sound, from Gk. phone sound (see FAME (Cf. fame)) + ICS (Cf. ics). The meaning method of teaching reading is first attested 1908, though the system dates from 1844 …   Etymology dictionary

  • phonics — [fän′iks, fōn′iks] n. [< PHONIC] 1. the science or study of sound; acoustics 2. a method of teaching beginners to read or enunciate by learning to associate certain letters or groups of letters with the sounds they commonly represent: cf. LOOK …   English World dictionary

  • phonics — /fon iks/ or, for 2, /foh niks/, n. (used with a sing. v.) 1. a method of teaching reading and spelling based upon the phonetic interpretation of ordinary spelling. 2. Obs. phonetics. [1675 85; PHON + ICS] * * * Method of reading instruction that …   Universalium

  • phonics — garso teorija statusas T sritis fizika atitikmenys: angl. phonics vok. Klanglehre, f; Lautlehre, f; Schallehre, f rus. теория звука, f pranc. phonique, f …   Fizikos terminų žodynas

  • phonics — noun plural but singular in construction Date: circa 1684 1. the science of sound ; acoustics 2. a method of teaching beginners to read and pronounce words by learning the phonetic value of letters, letter groups, and especially syllables …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • phonics — noun a) The study of how the sounds of words are represented by spelling. b) A method of teaching elementary reading based on the phonetic interpretation of …   Wiktionary

  • phonics — pho·nics fän iks, 1 is also fō niks n pl but sing in constr 1) the science of sound: ACOUSTICS 2) a method of teaching beginners to read and pronounce words by learning the phonetic value of letters, letter groups, and esp. syllables …   Medical dictionary

  • phonics — (Roget s IV) n. Syn. sounds, sound system, pronunciation; see diction …   English dictionary for students

  • phonics — phon|ics [ˈfɔnıks, ˈfəu US ˈfa: , ˈfou ] n [U] a method of teaching people to read in which they are taught to recognize the sounds that letters represent …   Dictionary of contemporary English


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