Phonics vs Whole Language

Topics: Educational psychology, Reading, Education Pages: 5 (1811 words) Published: October 24, 2006
To use Phonics or Whole Language? That is the Question
There is a battle going on elementary schools across the Globe. This battle is not a malicious battle fought with armies and weapons of mass destruction, but rather a tactical battle where the two opponents are known to us by the simple phrases, phonics and whole language. These two opponents use very different styles, but those who use a certain style swear by it almost religiously. Seriously, though, one might be asking the question which is the best method for teachings young students how to read? Honestly, there is not a simple answer; education specialists have been arguing over the issue of phonics vs whole language for years and a definite answer still has yet to be determined. Literacy has a plethora of aspects that really depend upon the student's learning style, and since no student learns exactly the same it really is impossible to think that one particular style is superior to the other. Hopefully by reading this paper and gaining information on both methods one will be able to conclude which style he or she prefers.

The first method to be discussed will be that of phonics. Phonics provides students with the understanding that there is a relationship between phonemes and graphemes, and that letters represent sound in written language (Brooks 36). Basically, this means that teachers focus students more on learning the individual sounds that letters make and then learning how arrange these sounds to form words and thus read words. The English language has 44 phonemes that can be combined to form words ( Books, Melanie 273). This seems like a lot of information for a young student to remember, but phonics has always and will always be a bottom-up process. Phonics is a sequential process where students will master that art of acquiring linguistic components and rearranging them. Students will start off with the very basics like learning the sound a letter makes, then they will continually increase the level of difficulty. Usually the order begins with learning sounds of individual letters, then learning sounds of two letters together, then learning the sounds letters make when manipulated by vowels, and finally the last phase is students reading complete words (Toronto).

After looking at the process of phonics it seems pretty simple. Students of all learning levels should be able to master this literacy style. Even students with learning disabilities have the ability to read at a decent level if there is a good degree of repetition involved. Phonics is also good because a lot of the practice drills are done in the classroom, so students of all economic backgrounds will have a more equal opportunity in learning to read. In all actuality it is said that 70% of children have the ability to read no matter what style is used to get them to do so. However, it has also been recognized that if the student is taught by the method of phonics then he or she will learn to read more quickly, those who are not ever introduced to phonics have a greater chance of having literacy problems down the road (Brooks Melanie 271).

After reading all of the positive things phonics can do for a student one might think, why doesn't everyone agree that phonics is the best way in learning literacy? Phonics, is in fact, a great way to learn the basics of reading, but the problem educators have with phonics is that is does just that; it only teaches the basics. Many educators will agree that phonics is definitely a necessary method, but not sufficient for reading instruction ( Brooks 38). Students are learning to read words, but they are not learning to read. What does this mean exactly? If a person has ever listened to a young student who has learned how to read through only phonics they will notice the child tends to read words individually, thus having no flow in his or her reading. Reading flow is very important because it is an essential component in...

Cited: Brooks, Harper. Shelton, Patricia. "Revisiting Whole Language Development: A
Transactional Approach to Learning." Research for Educational Reform. Vol 8.
2003: 35-42
Brooks, Melanie. Brooks, Jeffery. Whole Language or Phonics: "Improving Language
Instruction through General Semantics." Review of General Semantics Vol 62. July
2005: 271-280.
Collins, James. "How Johnny Should Read." Time Vol 150. October 27, 1997.
"Let 's Get Hooked on Phonics Again." Toronto Star. May 24, 2005.
"Students Poisoned by Whole Language." USA Today Magazine. Vol 134.
December, 2005.
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