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Fight for Phonics | Article Response

Wed, Oct 03, 2018 @ 02:12 PM

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An article was recently shared by Shelley MacMillan Education on Facebook. I was intrigued by the article for obvious reasons, the phonics and reading instruction theme to name a few. The author highlights the opinion of Mark Seidenber, author of "Language at the Speed of Light" and cognitive neuroscientist.  I recently read Seidenberg's work and found myself impressed with his ability to make me LOL about phonics. "Finding Phonemo"!? C'mon! That's hilarious. I digress ... 

In "Kids Struggle to Read When Schools Leave Phonics Out" author Emily Hanford provides a brief history of the phonics vs. whole language debate. We encourage you to read this article and learn more about that debate. Ultimately, a balanced approach to literacy instruction was accepted, but "in balanced literacy, phonics is treated a bit like salt on a meal: a little here and there, but not too much, because it could be bad for you." 

When it comes to phonics, science says otherwise.

Further on, Hanford states, "For scientists like Seidenberg, the problem with teaching just a little bit of phonics is that according to all the research, phonics is crucial when it comes to learning how to read. Surrounding kids with good books is a great idea, but it’s not the same as teaching children to read."

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Seidenberg isn't alone in his position on phonics. In the 2014 the Chronicle Herald published an article discussing the state of reading instruction in our classrooms. "What's needed in our elementary school classrooms, Metsala says, is explicit, systematic instruction in both phonological awareness (the ability to recognize sounds within language) and phonics (correlating those sounds with letters of the alphabet)." Dr. Metsala is the Jarislowsky Chair in Learning Disabilities at Mount Saint Vincent University and has studied the results of SpellRead students at Halifax Learning and presented her research both nationally and internationally. 

Back to Handford's article. 

If you've taken the time to read through to the bottom of the article, you might be left feeling as I did, a bit well, bummed. But after some reflection I'm left feeling more optimistic.

If you're local to Halifax then you're lucky and here is why:

  • There are professors in our province that advocate for explicit, systematic instruction in phonics.
  • There are groups like The Cole Harbour Foundation and Bridgeway Academy that provide instruction in evidence-driven reading instruction.  
  • Halifax Learning is committed to increasing awareness, training and providing instruction in the SpellRead program, a phonics rich reading program that has proven, effective and sustainable results. 

If your not local, you're lucky too, and here is why:

  • Halifax Learning provides training in SpellRead - locally, nationally and internationally. 

If you're considering SpellRead for your child, for yourself or for professional development, contact us today for a free, no-obligation literacy skills assessment or download our most recent student results to see for yourself!

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Megan Brooks

Written by Megan Brooks

Megan began as a SpellRead instructor for Halifax Learning in 2009, has a BEd from Mount Saint Vincent University in Secondary Education and is a passionate volleyball player, coach and volunteer.