Top Ten Reasons to Teach Phonics by Mark Pennington

1. Phonics is an efficient way to teach reading.

There are only 43 common speech sounds (phonemes) in English and these are represented by about 89 common spellings. Learning the phonics code produces the biggest learning bang for the smallest instructional buck.

2. Phonics works.

The swing away from "whole language" to phonics-based instruction over the last 15 years has vastly improved reading test scores on nationally normed tests.

3. Phonics is the fastest way to learn how to read.

Reading is not a developmentally acquired skill that naturally derives over time from lots of reading (Adams, 1988; Stanovich, 1986; Foorman, Francis, Novy, & Liberman 1991). Learning the code is the quickest way to learn how to read accurately and independently. Non-readers can independently read simple decodable text after minimal instruction.

4. Phonics makes students better spellers.

Because explicit phonics instruction teaches recognition, pronunciation, and blending of the sound-spelling patterns, students are better equipped to apply those same patterns to spellings.

5. Phonics requires less rote memorization.

The "Dick and Jane" reading method requires memorization of hundreds of words. Phonics makes use of prior knowledge (the sound-spelling relationships) to apply to new learning.

6. Phonics works better for students with learning disabilities.

Students with auditory and visual processing challenges learn best from the structure of explicit phonemic awareness and phonics instruction.

7. Phonics works better for English-language learners.

Phonics instruction relies on phonemic awareness and the connection of speech sounds to spellings. Phonics builds upon and adjusts that connection, rather than abandoning reading instruction already gained in the primary language.

8. Phonics works better for remedial readers.

Effective diagnostic assessments can easily determine which phonics skills have been mastered and which have not. Gap-filling simply makes sense. Remedial readers have strengths to build upon-they don't need to start from scratch.

9. Phonics makes students smarter.

New research shows that phonics-based instruction can actually change brain activity, resulting in significant improvements in reading (Flowers, 2004). Shankweiler, Lundquist, Dreyer, and Dickinson (1996) noted that differences in comprehension for upper elementary students largely reflected levels of decoding skill.

10. Phonics learning builds self-esteem.
Because progress is so measurable, students can quickly see their improvement in assessment data, and more importantly, in reading.

About the Author

Mark Pennington is an educational author, presenter, reading specialist, and middle school teacher. Mark is committed to differentiated instruction for the diverse needs of today's students. Visit Mark's website at to check out his teacher resources and books: Teaching Reading Strategies, Teaching Essay Strategies, Teaching Grammar and Mechanics, and Teaching Spelling and Vocabulary.

Phonics-Helping Children with Attention Problems by Sandra Graneau

The following strategies are offered for enhancing attention and managing attention issues. This listing is by no means exhaustive, but is meant as a place to start. The best resources for strategies are the creative, inventive minds of enlightened assessment professionals, teachers and parents, in partnership with the scholars they serve. Together they can generate multiple alternative strategies.

1. Take the Mystery Away

The first and possibly most important management strategy is to insure that all students understand how attention works and identify their particular profiles of attention strengths and weaknesses. Then, students ought to be taught attention management strategies.

2. Understand Consistent Inconsistency

Teachers and parents ought to understand that the inconsistency of babies with attention issues is not facts of a poor attitude or lack of motivation. It is an element of their biologically based attention dysfunction, and is beyond their simple control.

3. Explore the Option of Medication

For plenty of babies and adolescents, medication can be helpful in dealing with attention difficulties. Medication can improve mental alertness and the intensity and period of concentration. In addition, it may diminish impulsivity and hyperactivity. The student and his parents may require exploring this option together with his physician. Proper evaluation is important. Some times good nutrition and vitamins can help resolve some of the deficiencies

4. Permit for Movement and Breaks

It is helpful for students who have issues with inconsistent alertness and mental work to be provided with opportunities to move around. For example, at school, teachers could ask the student to erase the board, collect papers or take a message to the office. At home, parents and/or the student could schedule regular breaks and modify work sites. That is, the student could work several minutes at the kitchen table and several minutes on the lounge floor. Each time the location is changed, the student may experience a burst of mental energy. Additionally, students may require being doing something with their hands while seated. They may doodle, roll a piece of clay or perform some other manual tasks that enhance their alertness and arousal.

5. Vary Instructional Strategies

Teachers ought to make use of a variety of instructional strategies and these ought to be changed about every 15 to 20 minutes. For example, they could deliver information for 15 minutes by lecture. This strategy could be followed by little group work or cooperative learning for 20 minutes. Next, students could engage in individual seatwork or watch a video. The use of learning tool like Phonics for Reading and learning can help.

About the Author

Phonics-Helping Children with Attention Problems

Phonics for Children with attention Problems

Sandra Graneau: Freelance writer on education, reading , writing and spelling for children. Making Children smat in this world

What to do when Phonics doesn't work by Gerald Hughes, Director, Neuro-Linguistic Learning Center

With all the supporting research, there's no question that phonics programs have been the answer to the reading struggles for many children. Several of these "research-based" programs have been helping struggling students for years. But what do we do when phonics programs fail to bring about any significant improvement?

Long-standing research does show that as many as 80% of all children can show moderate to significant improvement in reading ability using traditional reading programs, However, as many as 20% of all children will show little or no lasting improvement in reading ability using phonics-based programs.
It begs the question, is there something the same or different about this particular group of children for whom phonics-based programs have little or no benefit? If we look closely at this group we find certain commonalities that may explain the failure of phonics-based programs.
First, as a group, these children tend to have above average visual and spatial acuity. They tend to relate to their environment via the visual rather than the auditory. They are often good puzzle-solvers because they tend to process information holistically rather than sequentially. Consequently, these children often exhibit some difficulty processing information sequentially. Many have difficulty processing the individual phonemes or sounds that make up language.
Now, let's consider the fundamental requisites of any phonics program. First, they focus on improving the child's awareness of the individual phonemes which make up the sounds of the words. Second, they rely on, or attempt to develop the sequential thought process necessary to decode, process and correctly interpret those sounds.
At first, a phonics-based strategy seems appropriate because it seems to address the specific deficiencies which many ADHD and Dyslexic children exhibit with respect to reading. Yet, despite repeated and often extensive instruction with phonics-based programs, this group of children will often show little or no lasting improvement.

Given the general effectiveness of phonics-based programs for most children, and the apparent lack of effectiveness for this particular group of children, could it be that a phonics-based program is simply the wrong approach for this particular group of children?
Could it be that for this group of children, there is an approach to learning to read that does not rely on the weakest areas of the child's abilities, but instead, relies on the child's strengths.
As a metaphor, let us consider the workings of a large corporation with several divisions. Division "A" consistently generates over $100 million in profits annually. Division "B" generates $10 million in losses annually. Again, like phonics-based programs, a logical strategy seems to be to focus additional resources on division "B" to strengthen it and make it profitable.

Unfortunately, history has shown us that even with an investment of considerable tine and resources, division "B" will probably never be very profitable and our investment of time and resources will probably never produce any substantial return. Following this strategy for any length of time could very likely lead to disappointment, frustration and most likely, failure.

However, if we focus those same resources on division "A", which is already strong and profitable, we are much more likely to receive a substantial return on our investment. The company would most likely thrive and see new and powerful successes.

If we follow that analogy, using a phonics-based program on this particular group of children, is more than likely doomed to failure because it is focused on the very weaknesses of the child. Experience has repeatedly shown that when subjected to an extensive phonics-based program, many of these children will experience frustration, anger and ultimately continued failure.

Conversely, our experience at the Neuro-Linguistic Learning Center has shown us that by simply investing our time and energy in developing and utilizing the child's strengths and natural abilities, we reap a considerable return on our investment. Typically, these children respond to this approach with a new excitement and enthusiasm. Often within several weeks, they demonstrate increased reading speed, increased comprehension and even increased appreciation for reading and learning.

About the Author

In 2006, after achieving success with his own children and several of their classmates, Gerald founded the Neuro-Linguistic Learning Center in El Dorado Hills, California. Since then, he has been assisting both children and adults in overcoming a variety of learning challenges.

Gerald is a frequent speaker/lecturer on education and learning disabilities. He is author of the book, "Gifted--Not Broken: Overcoming Dyslexia, ADD and other Learning Challenges."

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