Can someone explain phonics vs whole word approach??

(31 Posts)
louloutheshamed Wed 14-Nov-12 17:41:33

What are the pros and cons of each method??

I'm struggling to come to terms with the fact that while generations were not taught to sounds things out just to recognize the word? Is that right?

louloutheshamed Wed 14-Nov-12 17:41:46

Whole and sound

Lonecatwithkitten Wed 14-Nov-12 17:45:12

I believe even within generations there is variation. I was taught by look and say by Mum as school had failed to teach me to read at the age of 7.
Really bumping ready for when the primary teachers get home from school.

mrz Wed 14-Nov-12 17:48:12

Phonics was the main method of reading instruction for about 400 years until we imported Whole word methods from the USA.

There are 44 sounds in English with approx 175 ways those sounds can be written and about a million words in the OED ... now would you like to learn 175 pieces of information or try to learn one million words by sight...

ecuse Wed 14-Nov-12 18:13:53

My mum taught me by phonics and I was reading independently before I went to school.

Somehow between me and my sister she heard it wasn't the done thing (preschool, perhaps) so she did whole word with her, as did the school when she eventually joined and in the end mum got fed up with her still not reading well aged 6 and taught her to read in a few days using phonics.

But then I can well believe that different childred respond best to different methods.

Bonsoir Wed 14-Nov-12 18:15:10

mrz gets first prize for the most succinct description of this issue I have ever read!

mrz Wed 14-Nov-12 18:32:52

grin

Mashabell Wed 14-Nov-12 18:38:47

I don’t think it’s ever entirely either / or.

Even if u taught children to read ‘a fat cat sat on a mat’, without drawing their attention to the individual letters of those words in any way, they would have to be incredibly unobservant not to notice them.

Children also rarely get taught just to read. And when they start to write, their attention gets inevitably drawn to sounds and how to spell them, i.e. phonics.

And no matter how much phonics fanatics focus on decoding, they cannot prevent children imprinting the look of whole words on their mind, especially once they begin to teach different sounds for graphemes (mad – made – many) and different spellings for sounds (leave, sleeve, believe).

This idea that phonics is something very different from other approaches is largely humbug. With English spelling being what it is, a purely phonic approach is simply impossible for very long.

The Chinese manage to imprint thousands of pictograms on their minds. For fluent reading, children do the same with common alphabetically written words in other languages. Although dictionaries list many thousands of words, being able to read roughly just the 3,000 most used ones is enough for quite good reading fluency.

And being able to sight-read those does not mean they cannot have a go at decoding less familiar ones, using context to help them when the spelling is tricky (e.g. machine).

maizieD Wed 14-Nov-12 18:49:11

But then I can well believe that different childred respond best to different methods.

I would agree to a certain extent with this (though children aren't quite as 'different' as popular myth would try and make us believe..). But there are a number of different ways that phonics can be taught within the framework which mrz outlines (that there are 44 (ish) sounds in English and about 170 -180 common ways they can be represented).

As I work with the children who have 'failed' to acquire competent reading skills at primary school I find that I have to sometimes vary my approach to help them to learn. But the body of knowledge to be taught remains the same.

SoundsWrite Wed 14-Nov-12 18:55:28

"Even if u taught children to read ‘a fat cat sat on a mat’, without drawing their attention to the individual letters of those words in any way, they would have to be incredibly unobservant not to notice them."
This is utterly crass, Masha. I honestly don't think you have ever set foot in an early years classroom to come out with this.
"This idea that phonics is something very different from other approaches is largely humbug. With English spelling being what it is, a purely phonic approach is simply impossible for very long."
And this, as I've already pointed out today is completely false, as is your claim that children learninf to read and write in Chinese have to learn thousands of pictograms. Why don't you read some books and get smart. I'd start with The World's Writing Systems, edited by Peter Daniels. There's a chapter in the book on Chinese writing which shows what nonsense you are talking. The contributor is an expert, by the way.

maizieD Wed 14-Nov-12 19:19:55

The Chinese manage to imprint thousands of pictograms on their minds.
Another myth, masha. Most 'ordinary' literate Chinese only manage to memorise about 2,500 symbols and that takes years. Only a relative few manage to learn any more than that.

This is an extract from an academic paper:

According to Gelb (1963), the Chinese writing system, like all the other ancient systems, was never a pure logography, but "word-syllabic" from its earliest beginnings. In fact, a strict logography has never existed (Gelb, 1963), because it would not be productive (see Liberman & Liberman, 1992; Mattingly, 1985) in the sense of incorporating a set of orthographic conventions by which new lexical items can be transcribed and deciphered.
The logographic learner is forced to rely on interminable memorization of thousands of symbols. The traditional process of learning Chinese characters extends over the entire period of schooling and beyond, consuming an estimated 30% of each school day (Ohara, 1978, cited in Taylor and Taylor, 1983). Perhaps because the phonetic in Chinese compounds fails to provide a reliable guide to sound, children in China today are first introduced to an alphabetic script-"pinyin". During their first few months at school, children are taught the symbol-sound correspondences of pinyin together with phonemic analysis (Liu, 1978). Pinyin is then used solely as a self-teaching mechanism to aid learning of the characters which appear with adjacent pinyin.

It doesn't make learning Chinese appear to be a very desirable or easy process...

For fluent reading, children do the same with common alphabetically written words in other languages.

Also rubbish, masha. Most other languages are taught with phonics because they are more 'transparent' and very easy to learn.

Although dictionaries list many thousands of words, being able to read roughly just the 3,000 most used ones is enough for quite good reading fluency.

3,000 words is a very restricted reading vocabulary. David Crystal did a count of lexemes (unique words, not including words with prefixes & suffixes) in The Sun and found that it contained about 9,000 lexemes. A reasonable skilled reader (also according to Crystal) has a reading vocabulary of 30,000 words or more.

I wouls stick to making lists, masha. You're good at that.

mrz Wed 14-Nov-12 19:29:36

and if you made your list in Chinese it would make them less irksome ...perhaps since you claim to be an expert in writing systems you could do a new language every week?

learnandsay Wed 14-Nov-12 19:33:36

One thing it does do is make sure that all the children are aware of all the words. So I suppose it's not a complete waste of paper. I suppose they could add some infrequently used words and some descriptions and call it a dictionary.

mrz Wed 14-Nov-12 19:46:31

because in 7 years of life they won't have encountered
a
all
am
an
and
as
at
by
can
cat
dog
dad
mum

etc
etc

the lists are the most common words they will encounter in text, so sorry but a complete waste of paper and time ...

beezmum Wed 14-Nov-12 23:25:04

In phonics you encourage a child to look at the words in the text from left to right and then blend the sounds to make a word. In whole word teaching you encourage a child to look as words as wholes scanning for possible cues from letters anywhere in the word or in fact from pictures also, to work out what the word is.
One might think that whole word teaching would work better for words that have sounds the child can't recognise yet. Not so. My ds taught 'when' as a whole word then read 'when' when he saw 'what', 'want' as well as 'with' and any other 4 or possibly 3 letter word beginning with 'w'. To teach him to decode these apparently 'irregular' words correctly rather than just shouting 'when' or whichever 'w' word possibly fitted the text, required breaking his habit of scanning the word for quick clues and a few months of reminding to read left to right and actually look at all the letters in the word in the order they are written on the page. He did already know that 'what' is w-h-a -t but the whole word strategy meant he never got as far as noticing all the letters in the correct order before shouting out guesses. In other words to read 'irregular' words he needed to LOOK at them using the phonics method. He now does so very quickly - and seems to just read the word but it is clear what his technique is when he hits words he doesn't recognise well.
Also worth bearing in mind that children can't initially look at words as wholes and also look at words from left to right simultaneously. That is why there is no such thing as mixed methods in practice. A key difference between the two is in how children look at words they want to read

Mashabell Thu 15-Nov-12 07:49:38

In whole word teaching you encourage a child to look as words as wholes scanning for possible cues from letters anywhere in the word . Quite a few English words can only be decoded that way (though, through, queue, quay), but I don't u could find a single teacher who teaches beginners to read that way. That's a non-existent bogey invented by phonics fanatics to prove that they have come up with something very different.

Nobody disagrees that beginning with simple phonics is a good way to start. And for unfamiliar words, even adults resort to decoding again. But nobody becomes a fluent reader until they can read all common English words by sight, instantly, without decoding. That is the aim of all those years children spend on learning to read - being able to read all common words instantly, as everyone on this forum can.

When I began my analysis of English spelling 13 years ago, to establish exactly how regular/irregular English spelling is, I firstly tried to compile a definitive list of root words (or lexemes) like 'work' which pupils are likely to meet between 5 and 18 (by collating several lists compiled by others) and ended up with merely 7,000 words. With suffixes, prefixes and compounds they can be expanded to about 25,000 (rework, worker, worked, working, workings, works, worksheet...). - A result much like Crystal's Sun count, because even the Sun uses some words which are not totally basic.

I then found that, for spelling, 3,701 of those 7,000 words contain one or more irregular letters (e.g. any, friend, other, brother, rough, stuff...). So learning to write English involves quite a bit of word-by-word memorisation, or imprinting the look of whole words on children’s minds.

For reading, only 2,039 (29 %) contain graphemes with unstable sounds, such as ‘only, once’, ‘sound soup’, ‘boot foot’.

Among the 100 most high frequency words, the ratio is a bit worse, 59 easily decoable ones
a, and, as, at, had, has, that, an, back, can,
in, is, it, if, did, him, his, with, big, little, this, will, first,
get, them, then, well, went, her
not, on, from, off, so, go, no, or, for,
but, much, must, up, just,
they,
been, here, see, came, made, make, I, like,
our, out, about,
new, over, old, their

and 41 trickier ones
the, he, be, we, me, she,
of, to, was, want, all, call, one, said,
you, by, my, only, come, could, do, down, into, look, now, other, right, some, there, two, when, what, where, which, who, your,
are, have, before, more, were.

But however they learn them, the sooner a child can read those 100 words without hesitation, the closer they get to becoming fluent readers, because some of those words crop up on every page.

learnandsay Thu 15-Nov-12 08:09:54

Learn and Say people don't try to remember three million words!

If you know that s-a-t makes sat, you can know f-a-t makes fat
Learn and Say people can spell you know!

Knowledge and observation are useful! We don't have to sound out
wu-uh-n a-n-du wu-uh-un in order to get two, and nor do we have to remember an infinite series of numbers in order to count our change!

maizieD Thu 15-Nov-12 17:41:04

That's a non-existent bogey invented by phonics fanatics to prove that they have come up with something very different.

No masha, once again you show your complete ignorance of the history of teaching reading in the UK. Many experienced SP practitioners can vouch for the fact that this is they way they were 'trained' to teach reading at the time when the teaching of reading was dominated by Whole Word theory. Although phonics is much more widely used these days the Whole Word methods linger on in the teaching of high frequency words as 'wholes'. This is well evidenced by postings on this forum and the result of this practice is very eloquently described above by beezmum

But nobody becomes a fluent reader until they can read all common English words by sight, instantly, without decoding. That is the aim of all those years children spend on learning to read - being able to read all common words instantly, as everyone on this forum can.

More rubbish. The aim of teaching reading is to enable a child to read all words, not a restricted vocabulary of 'common' words. Learning the 'common' words will not lead to fluency when text has 'uncommon' words interspersed with the common ones. And, as the 'uncommon' words are usually those which carry the meaning of the text this is immediately disabling.

mrz Thu 15-Nov-12 19:45:07

masha remind me ...just how many young children have you taught to read ?

mrz Thu 15-Nov-12 19:51:27

Who are these Learn and Say people you are referring to learnandsay? Your user name is the only one I've encountered.

Mashabell Fri 16-Nov-12 08:17:01

at the time when the teaching of reading was dominated by Whole Word theory

When exactly was this?

learnandsay Fri 16-Nov-12 08:53:57

Quite, Look and Say, indeed.

maizieD Fri 16-Nov-12 09:41:30

Whole word instruction became prevalent in the UK after WW2. It took hold in the 1970s, 80s and 90s; a period which coincided with the rise of 'dyslexia' as worried parents, who trusted that their children's teachers knew how to teach reading, sought desperately to find a reason why their perfectly bright and normal children weren't learning to read.

mrz Fri 16-Nov-12 17:23:44

So you are in fact the Learn and Say people learnandsay ...all one of you? confused

learnandsay Fri 16-Nov-12 19:52:31

I suppose. But then surely all reading is learn it and then say it.

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