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Phonics sound-off

New York Teacher

In response to the Learning Curve column, Back to basic [Dec. 16, 2021]: The debate of which reading instruction method works best is a historic saga in itself.

There is no one method that is superior to another as children’s learning styles, strengths and weaknesses vary. Let’s agree that the English alphabet system is only 15% phonetic, with many exceptions to phonic rules (most challenging for students who speak foreign languages, such as ESL students).

Teaching children to apply the content, illustration/beginning sound strategies that are negated in this article is, in my opinion, not sound advice. For many challenged readers, these strategies, along with phonics instruction, is exactly what struggling readers need to develop independence and confidence in comprehending text.

Miriam Baum Benkoe, retired

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It’s good to read that teachers are once again allowed to teach phonics, so their young students have tools to build decoding and spelling skills. But what of the generation of children who were the unwitting lab rats for the whole language experiment?

Teachers were subjected to disciplinary action for continuing to teach phonics, spelling and penmanship. Correcting students’ spelling or penmanship was harmful to their creativity and self-esteem, or so the theory went. And so, today, we have educated people in their 20s who write all their letters the same height.

An analogous situation occurred in arithmetic instruction. Students would develop “number sense” without the demeaning task of learning multiplication facts. How did that experiment turn out? Whole language and the reading and writing workshop sounded so humanistic, but for the kids who depended on what went on in their classrooms for their future success, the consequences were anything but.

Matt Frisch, retired