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Critically discuss the current role of phonics and whole word teaching methods in the National Literacy Strategy

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Critically discuss the current role of phonics and whole word teaching                                         methods in the National Literacy Strategy in the context of the following quotations:

“Children need to be taught phonic first of all: Children, it is claimed, have to be thoroughly at home with letter-sound relationships before they can make any real progress in reading or writing.” (Bryant, 1993: 84)

“Children learn to read by being exposed to written language…this psycholinguistic guessing game not only helps children to read unknown word, it also helps them to recognise the word next time” (Bryant, 1993: 83)    

The controversy that underlies between the teaching of Phonics and Whole word teaching methods upon reading has been apparent and on going for the last 30 years. Traditional phonics dates back from the 19th century. Where pupils start reading by learning to recognise letters and their sounds individually and when combined with other letters. But within 1960s, a new teaching method arose which in some ways overtook the traditional way of teaching to read with phonics, "look and say", where children learn to recognise the shape of a whole word which they memorise and "read" with the help of picture clues. (ref). Thus the great debate within the 1960’s began, where it was either “Phonics” or “"look-say"? And which one of these two methods works better to help children learn to read?

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As the whole word methodology bases its belief that children can become literate in much the same way as they learn their first oral language, though of course the processes are not exactly the same. So there does not emphasis to teach children phonics rules if they are given plenty of guided opportunities to learn letter/sound patterns (Smith & Elley, 1995). Stanovich and Stanovich (1995) have observed that; meaning-based (look and say) written language learning with oral language learning... that learning to read is just like learning to speak (ibid.: 92), while code-emphasis or phonics approaches consider that "reading is not acquired naturally, in the same way as speech" (ibid.: 93), and that learning to read is "an unnatural act" (Gough and Hillinger, 1980). It appears that for most children (about 75-80 percent), phonics and phonemic awareness are learned and used when taught in the course of learning to read and write.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Meaning based approaches to reading (look and say) is primarily based around the work of Noam Chomsky (1965, 1976) who emphasised “the autonomous nature of the child’s construction of language” (Wells, 1986:15). Meaningful learning is based upon meaning-based learning, as this approach focuses on that humans had an innate structure to understand language, language question device (LAD).  As Kenneth Goodman  (1967) saw reading as

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Look at current reading: new approaches to reading: stanovich and current reading theory.

Tuesday Paragraph 4 300

Way in which current reading theory influenced the national curriculum and national literacy theory. ( directed teachers who used both) new approaches- make a judgement –after national curriculum and then national literacy strategy.

Wednesday  Paragraph 5  500

Look at national LS draws about Stanovich, Goodman model useful for reading-less useful for writing.


Talk about the approaches- view you opinion concerning relative merits of both

Phonic: difficult to teach but defiantly linked to process reading

Look and say- easy to teach but not foundation to a good teacher

Which way is the best? Ab or c? blended approach phonic is prime and its context or vice versa

Signal some preference of which one, requirements of more research on this area,

Which emphasis on phonics and some on context

Support your point of view

Whole word Goodman and smith theorists, guessing game

Real books connected to look and say, whole word and whole language

Whole word started off approach whole language developed afterwards

Conclusion can use 1st person or impersonal can use NLS to support your view.

The literacy strategy has been seen as helping bring phonics back to the classroom, but is now believed to be out-of-date.

Wray observes that meaning-based approaches have come to denote approaches in which:

“Children begin with meaningful units of language, either sentences arising from their spoken language or whole stories, and only later have their attention focused on the individual elements of these units” (Wray)


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