Saturday, December 25, 2010

Phonics vs "Whole Word" Methods Of Learning To Read

     English stands apart among the major western languages, along with French because of its maddening departures from phonetic spelling. The silent "e" at the end of so many letters, silent "gh", "ph" that sounds like the letter "f" are among the features that make English spelling daunting to someone who is not a native speaker.

When I was a child, an educational fad swept public schools across the nation, of teaching "whole words". In this method of teaching, a student looks at a word and memorises it the same way a Chinese child would equate a character in Chinese with a word.  Of course, Chinese is not a phonetic language but a pictographic language. English, despite its numerous detours from common sense, remains phonetic at its core. Exceptions to the rules can be taught.

Using millions of American children in the "whole word" experiment was a disaster. Children taught under this method lagged behind children who learned the phonics system. I was blessed with parents who saw the folly of "whole word" reading and who put me in a private school that used the phonics method.

Fortunately, the battle against this harmful educational fad is still being fought. One of my fellow bloggers, Bruce D Price on is a writer, a poet and an advocate of phonics. He presents a persuasive case for phonics. Anyone who is sending children to school should familiarise themselves with this issue. I am providing some links for the benefit of my readers to educate themselves on this pressing issue, which has exacerbated the problems in our country of functional illiteracy and dysexia.

Bruce Price article on phonics and "whole word" teaching methods.


Here are some great Tom Lehrer videos that explore phonics

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