Posts Tagged ‘United Kingdom Literacy Association’

Captain Phonics to the Rescue!

July 7, 2011

It’s like the pest that wont go away.  Phonics sneaks up on us all the time, with it’s many proponents insisting it is the missing key in getting literacy levels up to standard.  I doubt that is the case.  In fact, while I think phonics has a minor secondary role to play, if you make phonics the key method for teaching reading, you will almost certainly turn your students off literature.

It seems some British MP’s agree with me:

MPs have criticised government plans to test pupils on their reading ability at the age of six, warning that it will put children off reading for pleasure.

The report criticises the government’s focus on phonics – in which children learn individual sounds and then blend them to read words – as a “mechanical” approach and warns that it will contribute to a decline in literacy.

Fabian Hamilton, who chairs the MPs’ group, said: “If there is a central theme to this, that is, reading must be a pleasure. Of course children need the tools to understand what sounds the symbols make, and what those sounds mean. Phonics is only one way of doing it, there are others.”

The MPs’ report says: “The phonics test is likely to demotivate children rather than ensure that they become eager and fluent readers.”The government is facing a backlash over phonics. Critics, including the United Kingdom Literacy Association, have written to education secretary Michael Gove lobbying him to abandon the test.

The schools minister, Nick Gibb, said: “High-quality evidence from across the world – from Scotland and Australia to the National Reading Panel in the US – shows that the systematic teaching of synthetic phonics is the best way to teach basic reading skills, and especially those aged five to seven.

“It is vital that we focus on the reading skills of children early on in their lives, and give those who are struggling the extra help they need to enable them to go on to enjoy a lifetime’s love of reading rather than a lifelong struggle.”

Surely the greatest contribution a teacher of reading can make is helping to nurture an appreciation and fondness of reading.  Phonics is for most students a giant slog.  Even the expression “systematic teaching of synthetic phonics” is a turnoff.

Phonics has its place, but enjoyment of reading is tantamount.  I want my students to enjoy reading about different people and places, connect with well drawn characters and gain insights. I want them to experinece how reading can trigger emotions, form opinions and nurture their imaginations.

I didn’t become a teacher to turn my students off reading.


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