A Study into Teaching Phonics in Elementary Schools

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Phonics can be defined as an instruction in sound-letter relationship used in reading and writing (Strickland, 1998). In earlier times an alphabet spelling system dominated the teaching of reading, however, a phonetic method was introduced in which children were taught individual sound letter relation and how to blend to decipher words. Teachers were dissatisfied with the method at the time because much attention was placed on word analysis and little interest was given to comprehension. Children were expected to learn every word as a sight word, making progress slow and laborious. This approach was temporarily abandoned and the basal reading program was introduced. The basal reading programs held predominance over other methods and then teachers became discontented with them as the only form of reading instruction and again returned to phonics.

Various changes methodology was initiated in an attempt to solve the reading problem in the elementary schools. The literature based approaches to reading instruction in which phonics is taught in conjunction with other word identification strategies was among the practical application. These newly approaches though widely varied in application teaching phonics continue to be heard today. The support of phonics is combined with demands for a greater emphasis on spelling and grammar. Phonics instruction reveals deep philosophical differences about teaching, learning and leads to power struggles over educational policy. Despite the potential for the phonics debate to polarize educational communities, most educators and parents try to avoid instructional pendulum swings that confuse than clarify issues. They choose to concentrate their efforts on providing effective literacy programs.

Types of Phonics

There are different types of phonics instruction approaches that vary according to the explicitness by which the phonic elements are taught and practiced in the reading of text, it is important to understand the five specific types of phonics instruction and what they entail. Systematic phonics approach is a sequential that set on phonics elements are taught along a dimension of explicitness depending on the type of phonics method employed (national reading panel2000).

Analogy phonics is teaching students unfamiliar words by analogy and to know words (e.g., we distinguish that the rhyme segment of an unfamiliar word is identical to that of the a familiar word, and then blending the known rhyme with the new word onset, such as reading sick by recognizing that -ick is contained in the known word kick, or reading hump by analogy to mumps).

Analytic phonics is using phonics to teaching students to analyze letter sound relations and learning words to avoid pronouncing sound in isolation.

Embedded phonics is using phonics to teaching students phonics skills by embedding phonics instruction in text reading and a more implicit approach that relies to some extent on incidental learning.

Phonics through spelling is when teaching students to segment words into phonemes and also to select letters for those phonemes.

Synthetic phonics is teaching students explicitly to convert letters into sounds and then blend the sounds to form recognizable words.

According to national institution of child and human development report the national reading panel (2000), that phonics instruction teaches student to use the relationship between letters and sounds to translate printed text into pronunciation of words. But it is surprising that many students and teachers do not understand the basic rules in learning or teaching phonics instruction in the content area.

Students knowing the basic phonetic instruction rules will help them sound out words and memorize sight words. Phonics advocates focus their efforts on the primary grades and emphasize the importance of students being able to sound out (read) words based on the phonetic instruction (Reyhner, 2000).

Inadequacy of Teaching Phonics

The phonological instruction is a remarkably, powerful technique and away to teach every child to reading and spelling. The different strategies of phonics instruction a child must go through before they can acquire phonics lessons, from infancy to beginning of school and at each stage the kind of help the child needs from qualified teachers with the knowledge.

There are many elementary teachers who have no idea of teaching phonics instruction to students. Primary teacher's education students themselves frequently express concern over their lack of confidence in their phonics knowledge and their frustration having to teach and rely on abstract chapters in textbooks those are quite difficult to understand. Today the education programs are burdened with an overcrowded curriculum, in which phonics has successively reduced in lined with pedagogical trends based on literacy acquisition.

Teachers complained that phonics instruction is a difficult subject because they are not receiving sufficient explicit and systematic knowledge especially in relation to phonological knowledge in helping the child to read. Jalongo (1998) has commented 'that is a virtual conspiracy afoot among educators to keep this superior knowledge to ourselves and deny children access to the keys to the kingdom of reading. Teachers are either too lazy to teach phonics or too obstinate to consider it''. Teachers and their trainee teachers do not understand how to teach phonics instruction and they rely on computer exercise and games to supply the phonics activities.

Buckland and Fraser (2008) has stated 'these teachers accepted literary knowledge but they did not have knowledge of building blocks language necessary for the big picture of effective literacy teaching'.

It is the professional responsibility of teachers to develop extensive knowledge of phonics instruction a repertoire of teaching strategies to adapt to the needs of individual children in order to ensure success.

Using Phonics instruction to Improve Reading

Many researchers and educators still wondering about the use of phonics instruction help student to improve their reading. According to research has shown that systematic phonics instruction significantly enhances students in kindergarten through to sixth grade and children having difficulty in learning how to read. Children that receive systematic beginning instruction were better able to read text and also the improvement in their ability to comprehend text (NICHD, 2000).

Systematic synthetic phonics has a positive effective on student with poor reading abilities and low grade achievement with students in school. A child who has been introduced to systematic phonics instruction in elementary school at early levels is able to read properly. Teaching reading using phonics instruction helps kindergarten better understanding the use of alphabetic principles and better able to give students a faster start in learning to read than direct instruction; these children alphabetic knowledge and reading skills have improved. Teachers need to improve students' skills in reading by teaching phonics instruction in a meaningful way with a text and emphasize the role of systematic synthetic phonics in the classroom. There are many students who are moving out of the education system that cannot read because they cannot distinguish between sounds of words while some were not exposed to a book or even phonics instruction. Educators need to be focused on a early intervention literacy program and mandate a strong phonics instruction which emphasize on reading program across the curriculum that fulfil the reading difficulties in the classrooms.

Findings cited in the National Reading Panel Report (NICHD, 2000) on the of systematic phonics instruction including the following:

Systematic phonics instruction was shown to produce substantial improvement in reading and spelling in kindergarten through sixth grade, especially for younger children who risk of future reading failure and disable readers. The contribution of systematic phonics instruction to reading provide achievement was greater than that of programs that provided unsystematic phonics instruction and programs that included no phonics instruction.

Positive results were greater with younger students (kindergarten students and first graders), indicating that beginning systematic phonics instruction early is helpful.

Systematic phonics instruction produced gains when used in a variety of grouping patterns such as one-on-one tutoring, small groups, and whole-class instruction.

Gains in reading were demonstrated by children from all socioeconomic levels.

Systematic phonics instruction improved comprehension and showed an even greater impact on word recognition (pp.26).

This finding encourages the government and educators should be using phonics instruction to improve the quality of their reading program in elementary schools. There are many students moving from grade to grade who cannot read and comprehend the text.

The best support for children with significant literacy difficulties to enable them to catch up with their peers, and relationship between such targeted intervention programmes with phonics teaching. The teaching of early reading and phonics in primary schools and early years setting, will improve literacy in school today and including both the content area (Europe Intelligence Wire, 2005).

Comprehension using Phonics

According to NICHHD (2000), reading comprehension is the act of understanding and interpreting the information within a text. Children exposed to phonics at an early age and understanding methods of decoding words can begin to engage in regular reading by translating letters into sounds of oral language and then using their cognitive processes to facilitate listening comprehension to understand what they have read. Teachers can present relevant scaffolding to help student understand textual meaning, and acquire the cipher for mapping sound onto letter to develop their comprehension skill. The high quality phonics instruction should be taught as the primary approach to student in learning to decode (to read) and encode (to write/spell) that will help in analysis comprehension. Phonics instruction should be emphasized within a broad and rich language curriculum that develop students in the area of comprehension skills and expand children's abilities of words. Teaching comprehension using phonics to elementary children should be multisensory in order to arouse their interest by motivating in an exciting way

Gambrell, Marrow and Pressley (2007) explained that students often need concentrated instructional support in phonics approaches in order to learn important skills and strategies that they might have difficulty discovering and principles of comprehension skills.

Comprehension is an important development of children's reading skills in academic learning in all subjects' areas and in lifelong journey. Learning comprehension using phonics is a dynamic aspect for readers in the understanding of a text that provides the context within which to comprehend individual words and sentences. In teaching comprehension passages, students need to understand basic phonetic instruction to read words and spell.

Cain( 2003) stated that word reading is essential for reading comprehension but does not ensure good comprehension of written text if children do not understand basic phonetics. Children who develop age appropriate word reading lack teaching phonics instruction in the classroom; therefore their reading comprehension is poor. They also have poor listening comprehension, indicating that subtle word reading difficulties can be the source of their reading comprehension problems.

The theoretical approaches in the teaching phonics instruction has found to improve children's success in learning to read and was extensively more effective than little or no phonics instruction in the elementary schools. Phonics instruction has positive effective on reading and comprehension skills on children in literacy and also in the traditional and contemporary methods are lacking, emphasis must be placed on the development of new methods that provide teachers with much needed guidance and explication in these years of reformulation in the classrooms (Wilson and Colmar, 2008).

CONCLUSION

Teaching students to read is a responsible of every teacher in education system. Teachers have to implement creative and effective instructional practices to in the curriculum. Teaching students to read is a responsibility of every teacher in the education system. Teachers have to implement creative and effective instructional practices in the curriculum.

The education system needs to place more emphasis on phonics by using to help combat illiteracy in children. Children who were taught phonics at an early age

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