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Author Topic: The phonics debate  (Read 51255 times)
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Tanikit
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« on: September 27, 2008, 02:08:11 PM »

I know most of us are teaching very young children and babies to read and so phonics is probably the furthest thing from our minds, but just interested to know if anyone is planning on teaching some phonics to their children in the future?

I know Doman says it is not necessary, but it is also impossible to teach children every single word with the flashcard method or using Little Reader (though I must admit the programme will make it far easier to teach huge quantities of words that would have taken hours to create on cards) However, I also know that Felicity Hughes wrote a book explaining why phonics should be taught after sight-reading (and not initially as is done in many schools today)

Has anyone taught any phonics to their child and if so how did you go about it, when did you do so (or if you are planning to, when will you start) and if you are not going to then why not? Perhaps babies automatically learn phonics when they know a large quantity of words.

Just interested in what people's views are on this. I am still in the very early stages of teaching my baby to read, but do wonder about this sometimes. I feel that Little Reader can also be used to teach phonics quite easily if people wanted to use it for that.





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DomanMom
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« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2008, 06:27:14 PM »

Learning to read via the whole words method does not mean that you have to teach every single word in the dictionary. The idea is that IF YOU TEACH A CHILD THE FACTS, HE WILL FIGURE OUT THE RULES THAT GOVERN THEM.

Just think about how your child learns to speak English - when a three-year-old says, "I drinked that", where do you think he got the word "drinked" from? He has never heard that word before. But after reviewing the English language, he realized that when you add "ed" to the end of a verb it makes it past tense. One my three-year-old recently came up with was "sockes". He discovered that the plural of fox is foxes, the plural of box is boxes, etc., so the plural of sock must be sockes. HE EXAMINED THE FACTS AND FIGURED OUT THE RULES. When was the last time YOU reviewed a language to discover a rule of grammar? May I perhaps suggest that you were three years old?

Tiny kids are linguistic geniuses. When you present your tiny child with the facts (words) he will figure out the rules that govern them (phonics). Older kids even do this eventually, it just usually takes them longer to figure out the rules than it does little kids. Think about it - what sounds do these letter combinations make: "ir", "ur", "er"? They all make the same sound, don't they? Most of us weren't taught that in school - we learned that i says i as in igloo, u says uh as in umbrella, and e says eh as in elephant. Very few of us took an intensive phonics course that taught as all the 70 or so rules of spelling plus all the thousands of exceptions to those rules. But all of us know that "ir", "ur", and "er" all say the same sound because we have seen those letter combinations used dozens of times in words. We learned most of our phonics in context. If you teach a baby how to read, he can easily learn phonics in context, and he WILL figure out the rules if he is exposed to enough of the facts (words).

Teaching older kids to read, though, they are not such linguistic geniuses. It may take them a lot longer to figure out the rules, so using some phonics with them to get them on the right track is a sensible idea. But there should never be a fear that if you teach your baby to read using whole words, than you will have to teach him every single word in the dictionary. Or that he won't ever be able to decode words. Don't doubt your child's ability to figure out rules - he can, he will, and with skill that will amaze you.




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Elizabeth

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DomanMom
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« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2008, 06:36:02 PM »

Part II of the Debate

One other thing I thought I'd mention is the debate that is thrown around by phonics proponents who don't understand the science of reading. They say that to teach a child whole words is to teach him to just "guess" at the "shape" of the word, and he is just memorizing what they look like, not reading. The assumption is that we read letters, not words, and if a child isn't decoding letters than he's not really reading. But the fact is that we DO NOT read letters - we read words, sentences, and even paragraphs at once. Reading is a function of the human brain, not a mastery of a set of rules about decoding.

Consider this statement. Try and read what it says:

Acdicorng to a rcesearh at Cbmraigde Uinsiertvy, it deson't mtaetr waht odrer the lteetrs in a wrod are in, the olny ipmroatnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat lteter be in the rgiht plcae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can slitl raed it wtiuot a porlbem. Tihs is bceasue the mnid deos not raed erevy lteter by isteslf, but the wrod as a wohle, and the barin fgiuers it out aynawy. Cool!

Did you ever wonder why there were so many words that you have read a hundred times but you do not know how to spell? Reading is a brain function, and it's based on words not individual letters. So don't think that by presenting your child with words to read that you are somehow going to give him dyslexia, make him a poor reader who only "guesses" and does not really "read", or that he has just "memorized the shape" and isn't "really" reading. He is reading just like you and I do - whole words at a time.

One last thing, this is a quote from Glenn Doman's book How to Teach Your Baby to Read:

"Very young children can and do learn to read words, sentences, and paragraphs in exactly the same way they learn to understand spoken words, sentences, and paragraphs.
Again the facts are simple - beautiful but simple. We have already stated that the eye sees but does not understand what is seen and that the ear hears but does not understand what is heard. Only the brain understands.
When the ear apprehends, or picks up, a spoken word or message, this auditory message is broken down into a series of electrochemical impulses and flashed to the unhearing brain, which then reassembles and comprehends in terms of the meaning the word was intended to convey.
In precisely the same manner it happens that when the eye apprehends a printed word or message, this visual message is broken down into a series of electrochemical impulses and flashed to the unseeing brain to be reassembled and comprehended as reading.
It is a magical instrument, the brain.
Both the visual pathway and the auditory pathway travel through the brain and where both messages are interpreted by the same brain process.
Visual acuity and auditory acuity actually have very little to do with it, unless they are very poor indeed.
There are many animals that see or hear better than any human being. Nonetheless, no chimpanzee, no matter how acute his vision or hearing, has yet to read the word "freedom" through his eye or understood it through his ear. He hasn't the brain for it." -Glenn Doman, How to Teach Your Baby to Read

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Elizabeth

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Tanikit
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« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2008, 06:50:26 PM »

Thanks for the reply - it does make sense and I had guessed that that may be the case
Quote
Perhaps babies automatically learn phonics
besides which even when teaching older children phonics no one is taught all the rules (the "dge" in "fridge" apparently only appears in 11 words in the English language so it is a waste of time to teach it) I myself was taught to read at an early age and although I do remember being taught the "fairy/silent E" and perhaps "th" and "sh" there are very few other sounds I remember being taught and perhaps that was taught at school anyway.

I definitely learnt to spell by seeing the whole word in my head - the idea of spelling a word phonetically never occurred to me unless I have never heard the word before such as a foreign language word (in which case my spelling would be wrong anyway)

Nonetheless the rules regarding phonics still fascinate me and I may show some to my child at a much later stage - I mean if we are going to give them encyclopaediac knowledge then part of that could be phonics too.

Most children I know who learnt to read whole words at a young age (whether accompanied by phonics or not) tend to read better than those that learnt mainly by the phonics method so I am not in the least concerned about dyslexia or guessing at words (actually I have found children taught the phonics method are more likely to guess at words because they are breaking the word down from the start and get tired of trying to figure out so just guess after the first letter.

Thanks again for explaining it so well.

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tatianna
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« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2008, 06:53:34 PM »

i think a lot of parent plan to teach phonics
i won't

my parent homeschool all 5 of there kids
4 of them learned to read before 2 with domans method
they were never "taught" phonics but somehow just learn the rules of reading on there own
all of them finish high school by 15 and got in really great university by 16

i was the only one that was not taught the doman method
when i was 2 my mom had another baby and was in the middle of moving from japan to mexico
so she start teaching me to read when i was three and a half
she taught me some basic words and i had no trouble learning
when i was 4 we moved to California and we were all put in school for one year
in school i was taught the abc's and phonics
that's when the trouble started it was so hard for me to learn to read
i developed dyslexia while at the school and struggled with it for 6 years
the school told my parents not to teach me sight reading that only with phonics would i improve
i didn't learn to read till i was ten
my 3 year old sister would read to me when i was 8
my parents finally took me to a learning center when i was 8 and had me tested
they said that although i had a very high IQ my dyslexia was so bad that i would never learn to read
or if i did only at a first grade level they told my parents to put me in a special school
well they didn't my dad could believe that all his other kids were amazing reads but that i would never read
he taught me for two years and one day it just clicked and i could read and read well
now i read very very fast but despite all the phonics programs i still have a lot of problems with spelling
spelling has never been simple or nature with me unlike my 4 siblings who can spell anything
any way it all worked out fine i still finished university at 19
but i really worked at it, studying all the time
i don't learn instantly like my siblings who never study they read something once and they never forget it

well that's my story
i don't know why i developed reading problems  
and i don't blame phonics
but i don't think that you need phonics to be a great reader
in fact i think you can learn better without it
tatianna
 



  
 

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DomanMom
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« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2008, 02:06:06 AM »

Quote
Nonetheless the rules regarding phonics still fascinate me and I may show some to my child at a much later stage - I mean if we are going to give them encyclopaediac knowledge then part of that could be phonics too.

Yes I agree I plan on teaching a lot of encyclopedic knowledge like that, like I was planning on teaching Hunter algorithms for long division and stuff (like "add the one and carry the seven" sort of procedures), even though he can do it in his head and doesn't need to learn it I think he'll find it interesting, and like Samuel Jackson said, "All knowledge is of itself of some value. There is nothing so minute or inconsiderable that I would not rather know it." And besides, it'll take like two minutes to teach it to him! Why not? I'll probably teach him phonics and spelling rules just for fun, too.

Quote
actually I have found children taught the phonics method are more likely to guess at words because they are breaking the word down from the start and get tired of trying to figure out so just guess after the first letter.

I know this isn't some scientific study or anything, but I've found that to be so true! Especially the ones taught exclusive phonics (you know - from those guys who fear the evil "sight words"). I mean, try sounding out simple words like "said" and "is" and "people" and "laugh". Kids get so tired of it they'll frequently guess the words based on the first letter. And also come to think of it, I've never ONCE met or heard of a kid who started reading at age four or three or two or one who was a poor reader. NOT ONE! Have any of you? It's always, "Yeah, he's been reading since he was three and hasn't stopped since!" And the studies back this up to, this one is more than a speculation.

Anyhow, I think the info in this post will be great for new parents considering teaching their little ones reading - there is SO much debate going on there about the "phonics versus whole language" that has been spurred on because of the horrible failure of our government schools to produce literate citizens after 13 years and $100,000 worth of instruction. It'll help parents who have been plagued by the myths about whole word reading and help them to make an informed decision about giving their kids a good start.

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Elizabeth

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aneta
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« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2008, 06:09:59 AM »

I'm all for sight reading and that's what I did with all my kids.By the time they were two or two and a half they could read a lot of things.But then I would flash them phonic rules and special sounds which they still enjoyed.After that we could pick any book and read it of course with some practise.My second last is now 3 and he will pick his favorite book(Mammals or Reptiles)
and read it--he does it in few sittings .
But thats my experience.
Have fun while you read with your kids!

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jtg
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« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2008, 04:44:44 PM »

Tatianna,

Your story made me wonder if you knew about Kailing's ideas about late reading and dyslexia. In his book "Native Reading" he has a chapter on dyslexia where he shows how reading late could actually cause dyslexia, rather than the other way around (the way most people usually view it). He thinks that many dyslexics are very intelligent, but that they were taught low-level language too late in development.

His theory really seems to fit your history, especially the contrast with your siblings. The dyslexia chapter is one of the chapters of Native Reading that is free online. If your interested, it's at:

http://www.nativereading.com/chapter7.html

Generally, Kailing thinks that an either or approach, whole word versus phonics, is mostly a mistaken dichotomy. Like DomanMom said, kids learn the language rules bottom up (through example), rather than top down (by being explicitly taught the rules) -- but they certainly do learn them. Kailing calls this way that children learn "implicit learning" and he thinks that the traditional phonics approach is way too "top down" and that it can actually get in the way of fluency (I think most Doman readers would say phonics is too "right-brained").

By the way, the "Cmeabrgdie Uivsitney" text is a GREAT example, DomanMom!  It's amazing how easy it is to read!

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Tanikit
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« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2008, 06:15:54 PM »

Thanks for the articles jtg. I was interested to learn that a child as young as two can learn phonics and it seems Aleka "learned" (perhaps absorbed is a better word) it even earlier.

My twin brother and I learned to read at about age 4 or 5. He was diagnosed as dyslexic, but I wasn't. I know one thing the tried to make him do in grade 1 was write the words one to ten out in full every week. He spelt phonetically all the time which meant he could not spell any but "seven" and "ten" - although he wrote them he knew he was wrong and his handwriting would get worse and worse as he went through the exercise. Eventually my mother got hold of him and taught him to spell them by sounding out the spelling for him (and not the word itself as he learnt through his ears more than anything) and from that day on, he spelt them correctly. He is actually today a better reader than I am.

The discussion about learning to ignore mirror images is also interesting. Its quite a lot to take in though when I am still struggling to find time to fit in 8-10 sessions of word cards and dot cards smile

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lamp
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« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2008, 01:28:38 PM »

Has anyone taught any phonics to their child and if so how did you go about it, when did you do so (or if you are planning to, when will you start) and if you are not going to then why not? Perhaps babies automatically learn phonics when they know a large quantity of words.

Just interested in what people's views are on this. I am still in the very early stages of teaching my baby to read, but do wonder about this sometimes. I feel that Little Reader can also be used to teach phonics quite easily if people wanted to use it for that.


I am quoting what a teacher's view on sight learning and phonics
"If I were you, I would ditch the flashcards except for those English sight-words which do not readily conform to phonics rules such as 'sew', 'two', 'women' and 'many'. There is a finite limit to visual memory (approximately 2,000 words for most children), so although you might experience initial success I suspect you are setting your child up for disappointment later on when the visual memory limit is reached.

I have taught both normal and disabled children. I have often encountered 'super readers' at the age of five or six taught using flash cards who flounder by the age of eight because they never cracked the sound-based code of English."

"It does not surprise me if a visual reading system aims for 2,000 words. As I said, that is about the upper limit. Perhaps the hope is that the child will then intuitively understand that English words are not pictograms (in contrast to Chinese for instance) but rather contain a sound-based code. In many children, this happens and they proceed to become fluent readers. Unfortunately, for many children, it doesn't. The latter children do not progress easily and do not develop a wider vocabulary and fluent reading ability; many of these are then classified as dyslexic and have learning problems when in fact this reflects poor and wrong teaching method.

Many visual reading systems heavily emphasis about 100 to 200 key words. These are the words which represent something like 70% of children's simple text, for example 'and', 'the', 'here', 'she' etc. Many parents get overexcited when they see their child reading with these sight words. There will come a point though when books become more complex and beyond the scope of mere sight words. If the child has not cracked the sound-based code, then reading difficulties will arise.

I mentioned 'super readers' as young children taught an extensive sight vocabulary. As I further mentioned, such children flounder by eight years old or so if they do not pick up the sound-based code. A lot of research suggests that children taught substantially by sight words (using flash cards etc) develop the habit of believing that English words are pictograms and so have great difficulty breaking out of the habit. So in terms of reading ability, no they do not have an advantage over children taught properly that English letters have a correspondence with sound.

There are several 'enrichment centres' in Singapore which teach reading via sight words. Parents get so excited to see junior at five or six 'reading' so well. What the advertisements do not tell you is how junior progresses at eight or nine. It is now almost incontrovertible in the reading research literature that the benefits from phonics training are significantly longer lasting than other methods.

It should not be forgotten that the aim of reading is comprehension. Much research shows that fluency in reading via phonics training enhances comprehension. Sight readers do not develop the same automaticity in deciphering text as phonics readers and so comprehension is impaired.

In my own teaching, I regularly come across childen from Chinese-speaking households who have learnt English the same way as they have learnt Chinese: rote memorisation via flash cards. These children really struggle to appreciate the difference between Chinese and English and rarely proceed to become proficient English readers.

If you take functional MRI scans of a child reading in Chinese and English, you will see that different areas of the brain light up when they use the respective languages. Reading in Chinese is much more intense, that is it uses much more of the brain and consumes significantly more energy. From a physiological point of view, this is inefficient. How that translates to thinking skills is a more open question. "


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KL
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« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2008, 02:37:26 PM »

This issue has already been covered in our "Word Words vs Phonics" article:

http://www.brillbaby.com/teach-baby/reading-whole-language-phonics.php

In a nutshell, NEVER EVER neglect phonics - its is very very important.

Tanikit's teacher makes many valid points, but the mistake is in thinking that it is an EITHER/OR scenario where we only teach sight words and not phonics.  Like many of the other myths of early learning, this is not true and not what is advocated.

We advocate starting teaching to read using whole words (sight reading), as you can start much earlier and get young children accustomed to words and reading.  If you were to only use phonics, you'd have to start much later.  Having said that, you should start phonics teaching as soon as possible, in order to make sure that the child DOES learn to read phonetically instead of by pure memory.

This is also why, when teaching whole word reading, it is important to do things like use a pointer to point from left to right, show how a word is broken up, etc., so that the child starts to understand that a word is a composition of letters, a code that can be deciphered.  It's also great to show words that help them deduce the phonics rules, eg., cat, bat, sat, etc.

BTW, we are now working on a new feature in LR that is geared specifically towards phonics and helping children decode the language!

Anyway, for those who haven't already done so and are interested in this topic, please do read our article on this subject on BrillBaby.com (see link above).

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Tanikit
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« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2008, 05:48:05 PM »

Quote
BTW, we are now working on a new feature in LR that is geared specifically towards phonics and helping children decode the language!

That's great to know. I believe from using Little Reader that phonics can very easily be taught using the programme wvwn without a special section, but a new section will be great.

Someone I spoke to regarding phonics said they found it best when children uncover a word slowly to decode it rather than saying the letters that make up the word (eg would say c... ca...cat rather than c-a-t cat) and I have found this does seem to work better with most children. Does anyone else have any experience with this?

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« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2008, 06:10:55 PM »

I agree with KL that phonics versus whole word is not an EITHER/OR thing.  Or, at least, it shouldn't be.

I, do however, disagree with what many here seem to assume: that you can't teach phonic understanding as early as whole word understanding. My daughter learned about phonetic rules very early.

This may be the biggest way that the method I use with my daughter is different than the Doman method most people use here. I used Kailing's Native Reading method, and it emphasizes learning whole word "aha" methods right along with teaching phonetic awareness. Not either/or.

Of the 12 Native Reading Methods, several help develop phonetic awareness, but they do it all through play and consistent exposure, not through rote exercise. He's really into songs and poems and silly games that are fun first, but that also teach.

One of Kailing's methods (Technique 5) is pointing while reading, but it is a special kind of pointing. I really think it's important to realize that there is a right way to point for your child and a wrong way. Most people point in a way that is socially distracting for their child, and they do it inconsistently, and that done this way pointing can do more harm than good.

I think the reason native reading may successfully teach phonetic awareness really early is that it emphasizes interactive and social play. Some of the Doman methods seem more passive to me, and phonetics is a little harder I think. But as part of a game, it's not really so hard to learn. After just a few consistent weeks, my daughter picked up most of the letter sounds easily. She was (and is) mostly a whole word reader, she seldom bothers to laboriously sound out words, but she can when it is useful. She learned really early how to use phonetics to help her when the "aha" methods didn't work.

Really good phonetic understanding can come very early. In the book, Kailing tells a story of how his son, at about 24 months, liked to play a game of reading the symbols of a stock ticker on a stock market channel. Apparently he could sound them all out, despite how quickly they zoomed across the screen, and thought it was a hilarious game for a few weeks. But according to Kailing, despite this phonetic fluency he, too, usually read words as wholes rather than chopped up phonetic strings.

It shouldn't be either/or.  I think it's more about teaching right brain and left brain methods (if you believe in that sort of dichotomy) and teaching the whole brain to work together in a complementary way, where the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

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nhockaday
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« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2008, 08:16:07 PM »

Will you please share with us the way that he says to point?

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« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2008, 10:27:50 PM »

KL - Just wanted to say thanks for posting your thoughts on this thread.  I had followed the posts, but wasn't sure how to jump in with my views.  Thanks much for sharing!



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