Sunday, May 29, 2011

Intensive Phonics Part 1

For some reason, complete phonics is often referred to as "intensive phonics". The reason is because most children never get to opportunity to have a complete phonics education when they begin to learn to read. I absolutely LOVE the book "Uncovering the Logic of English" by Denise Eide. I use this book at the "spine" for our trip through intensive phonics.
I teach solid phonics first for many reasons. The first is that my eldest is dyslexic, so it is immensely important that a dyslexic person have a solid foundation in phonics. The second reason is that English is a phonic language. I have no inkling why we teach English often times as if it were a pictorial language like Hieroglyphics! Sight words are pictorial, so the absolute worst way to teach English. By teaching intensive phonics you can teach 104 phonics rules that will explain 98% of all English words.  It isn't at all too much to assume that even a young child can learn 104 rules - it would be similar to a child learning the 100 sight words they are expected to know when they complete First grade. So - do you spend your time teaching 100 words so that at the end of the day they know 100 English words, or do you teach 104 rules so that at the end of the day they can read 98% of the over 40,000 words in the English language?
Our lesson plan begins with us learning 2 rules a week - which means we should be finish learning all 104 rules in a calendar year. We will adjust faster or slower as needed. We are starting with the alphabet because they know it already, but it really needs to be re-taught from a phonic perspective. We will learn each of the sounds that the letters make - teaching all the sounds associated with each letter. For instance, when starting with "A", we go learn the three separate sounds that the letter "A" can make. We then will move on to blends.
It can seem as if it takes longer for a child to learn to read when they are taught intensive phonics. However, the wait is worth it. While sight words give a child a fish, phonics teaches the child to fish for themselves.
I have found many people start with phonics, and quickly to sight words. This is like starting to carefully work a puzzle with a child, the quickly fill in the rest of the pieces and show the child the picture. While the child started to learn the puzzle for themselves, the learning process simply stops and they see in whole pictures instead of pieces. This becomes a problem when a child sees new words that have some of those same puzzle pieces. The child just doesn't know how to effectively use those clues to put the new picture together for themselves.
This is the reason there are "sight words" for every grade level as children are given more and more words to try and memorize. At some point, the capacity to memorize gets overloaded. Some children learn to decode for themselves, although it can be hard to learn when to use "f" and when to use "ph" without given explicit instruction. English starts to feel random when it isn't random it all; in fact - English is very logical!

Intensive Phonics Part 2 I will reveal our year long curriculum for Intensive Phonics

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