Best practice Literacy Teaching has been the subject of much debate over the past decades. For many years large classrooms of children sat in sterile classrooms being drilled and practiced on what have become known as the basics. “Rote Learning” became a term to delineate outdated teaching strategies and a more “Child Centred” approach to teaching became “in vogue” where programs of learning were devised around the needs of the child.
This theory however could be seen to be very misguided. It begs the question: What really are the needs of the child? The idea of learning styles and preferences coincided with the idea that teachers were obligated to constantly adjust their lesson plans to meet these needs. Suddenly, teachers were implored to employ strategies that required ongoing assessment and readjustments to their original goals and objectives. In the process the real purpose for formal schooling got lost in a sea of ideas and innovative strategies to keep children engaged and happy whilst in the classroom.
More recently, some of the more innovative strategies that have been bandied around our formal education system have foregone the traditional method of a phonics approach to literacy. While many children will learn to read and write incidentally, others do require the good old fashioned methods that ensured phonemic awareness until recent times.
A sequential phonics approach to literacy ensures that children will be armed with the foundation stones of reading and writing. It is essential that young children learn every sound in the alphabet and every blend that is formed through our alphabetic system to become competent and confident readers and spellers. If teachers fail to impart these basic skills to their students, young learners begin to accumulate the gaps in their learning that lead to serious literacy problems in the middle and senior years.
At present, Australian literacy levels are far below those of students some thirty or so years ago. Sadly, in the wake of this deficite students in their teenage years are failing in their ability to read confidently and therefore do not develop the critical thinking skills required for academic success. There are many arguments against a traditional phonics based method of literacy teaching, but if we are to prepare students for 21st century learning, they need to develop the ability to be analytical and critical readers and writers. They need to be able to access information and comprehend its content. Also in order to achieve well at tertiary level education, they need to be able to understand the structure of language which includes accurate reading and writing skills.
Over the coming months, I invite you to watch this site as a realistic phonics based program of reading and spelling is presented to subscribers of Nepean Tutoring. Get ready as we wind back the clock to when a strictly phonics approach to literacy was the hallmark of excellence in reading and spelling.