Phonics vs, the Look Say Method

Topics: Phonics, Memory, Sight word Pages: 5 (1885 words) Published: April 16, 2013
Over the past decades, the decline in the rate of literacy in America has baffled many. At least 20% of high school graduates are functionally illiterate, despite the education they receive in the public school system. As these graduates enter the world reading at an elementary level, they are unable to live a normal life, which leads to poverty and can lead to delinquency and imprisonment. This decline is not only a decline of literacy, but also a decline of independence, ingenuity, and responsibility. The beginning of this decline can be traced back to a certain event in the history of the public school system: the introduction of the look say method in the 1930s. Ever since the look say method, or Whole Word instruction, took the place of phonics, the number of illiterate graduates has grown higher and higher. Evidence proves that the look say method is not sufficient to properly teach students how to read. Phonics is far superior to the look say method of learning to read. First of all, phonics is better than the look say method of learning to read because phonics has a firmer foundation than the look say method. Phonics is based on rules that the child memorizes; therefore, when he has memorized these rules, he can read almost any word he sees. A small article by the Abeka reading programs shows many rules that are taught in phonics, such as the following: “When there is one vowel in a word, that vowel usually says its short sound” and “when there are two vowels in a word, the first vowel says its long sound, and second vowel is silent” (“Six Easy Steps to Reading,” 1). When the child learns definite rules such as these, he is more likely to apply them because he knows that they will not change. Sebastian Wren writes in his article “Developing Research-based Resources for the Balanced Reading Teacher,” he tells that “children are explicitly taught the ‘rules’ about the way words are written and spelled, and they are taught spelling-sound relationships. After the teacher provides an explicit lesson in a particular Phonics rule, the child is presented with a passage text that contains many words consistent with that rule. This provides the child with an opportunity to apply each Phonics rule on a variety of words in context of the passage. The goal of the Phonics teacher, then, is to instill the children with the Phonics rules and the common spelling-sound relationships, and to teach children to apply this knowledge in sounding-out each word they encounter, making that assumption that comprehension and appreciation will be a natural consequence of accuracy” (Wren, 1). Basically, when the child is taught these rules and then given the opportunity try the rules, he will find that these rules can help him to read with ease. In contrast, the look say method has no definite rules that he can put into practice as he reads. Phonics is better than the look say method because it has a definite set of rules that the child can apply when he reads. The look say method requires much guessing if the child does not know the word that he is trying to read. Because he has not been taught definite rules like those of the phonics method, he is unsure of how to accomplish the task of reading. In her book The Good School, Peg Tyre tells: “‘Instead of children being expected to learn individual letters by rote memory, then syllables, and finally words, they were given books with pictures of common objects. Underneath each picture was its simple name.’ Kids were taught to derive meaning from words by memorizing the look of the words, or looking at the picture and guessing, or reviewing the context and extrapolating, instead of sounding them out” (96). Rather than being taught how to read using rules and hints, the children are taught to read by guessing what the word is based on the context. Samuel L. Blumenfeld explains in his book The New Illiterates some of what the students are taught: “He is taught the names of seventeen consonant...
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