Saturday, January 19, 2008

Dissing Phonics

Here's more evidence that you can't always believe so-called experts:

LEADING Australian education experts continue to reject scientific evidence that teaching phonics improves reading skills in children.
The latest results from a seven-year Scottish study show that children taught how to put sounds together to read words, called synthetic phonics, had significantly better reading skills than their peers taught using analytic phonics, breaking whole words into their constituent sounds.
But eminent Australian literacy researcher Allan Luke, from the Queensland University of Technology, questions the validity of using evidence-based research in assessing teaching methods. Professor Luke, a former director-general of the Queensland Education Department and ministerial adviser on education, has dismissed scientific studies showing the benefit of phonics.

Phonics has been taught with great success for many years. My mother taught me to read at age three using phonics. Homeschoolers everywhere have had great success with phonics. To say that phonics does not improve reading skills is just ludicrous.

That said, we should not assume other methods aren't any good. I used phonics to teach my first three children to read, but when it came to #4, phonics just wasn't working. His severe speech delays made it impossible for him to make the necessary sounds. That's why I used a sight reading program with him (Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome by Patricia Oelwein). We still use the techniques in that book along with some phonics now that my son is older.

No single method works for everyone; it depends on the child. One of the great things about homeschooling is that you can tailor the methods to the child.


Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Yes, the point is that different children learn differently. Phonics does seem to work for many kids. But for kids with Downs, some with autism, and those with Dyslexia, phonics is not the best method.

I have been a teacher. I have a MS in special education. And I still cannot fathom why school officials insist that 'one size fits all' should determine curricular choices! GRRR.

Crimson Wife said...

Gifted kids can often figure out the rules of phonics on their own without being systematically taught. My mom says that I was one of them. She read to me all the time when I was very young and somehow I figured out the code on my own at 3 years old.

The problem comes when educrats overgeneralize from such examples. "Whole language" may work for a certain segment of kids but that doesn't mean it's the best approach for most.

Even verbally gifted kids can benefit from phonics. I used Romalda Spalding's The Writing Road to Reading with my oldest. She probably would've figured it out on her own like I did, but I think teaching her phonics saved her frustration and allowed her to progress faster.

Barbara Frank said...

EHL, I can understand your frustration. One more reason we homeschooling parents are happy to stay out of the system.

Crimson, your daughter was fortunate to have you runnning interference for her :)