Sunday, February 11, 2007

Phonics works better

A study just published in Science magazine says:
Much of the controversy regarding the best way to teach children how to read has focused on whether instruction should be code-based, such as phonics, or based on whole language and meaning (6-8), but this debate may miss the point. Although most children develop stronger reading skills when they receive a balance of explicit decoding instruction in combination with meaningful reading activities (7, 9-12), even a balanced approach theory assumes that one approach, if it is the right one, will be equally effective for all children (13, 14).

6. D. Ravitch, in The Great Curriculum Debate: How Should We Teach Reading and Math?, T. Loveless, Ed. (Brookings Institution Press, Washington, DC, 2001), pp. 210-228.
7. K. Rayner et al., Psych. Sci. Public Interest 2, 31 (2001).
8. K. L. Dahl, P. A. Freppon, Reading Res. Q. 30, 50 (1995).
9. J. T. Guthrie et al., J. Educ. Res. 94, 145 (2001).
10. B. M. Taylor et al., Elem. Sch. J. 101, 121 (2000).
11. P. Cunningham, D. Hall, in Teaching Every Child Every Day: Learning in Diverse Schools and Classrooms, K. R. Harris, S. Graham, D. Deshler, Eds. (Brookline Books, Cambridge, MA, 1998), pp. 32-76.
12. M. Pressley, Reading Instruction That Works: The Case for Balanced Teaching (Guilford, New York, 1998).
13. S. M. Ross et al., Psych. Sch. 34, 171 (1997).
14. National Reading Panel, "Teaching children to read: an evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction" (NIH Pub. No. 00-4769, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Washington, DC, 2000).

The authors have their own theories about how to individualize instruction. The point here is that the published studies say that most children learn to read better with phonics than with other methods. Some of those other methods are still popular with schools and teachers anyway.

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