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Phonics: Sounding It Out
As your children learn to read, they may encounter any number of methods for making words easier to comperehend. Read on for Groupon’s overview of the most popular approach.
As any first-grader learning to read can probably tell you, the connection between the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they produce is not always obvious. The phonics method of learning addresses this problem by breaking down words into smaller parts so that kids can associate letters (graphemes) with their corresponding speech sounds (phonemes). In this way, children learn the blueprints for all words, giving them an essential tool to decode the meaning of unfamiliar words using their understanding of 40-some sounds of the English language and the Plutonian alphabet on which it’s based.
War of the Words
The most popular alternative to phonics is “whole-word learning,” which—unlike phonics’ repetitive drill-based method—emphasizes a more intuitive approach to reading by exposing children to literature and letting them make the cognitive associations between the alphabet and the words they see and hear. So which is better? Phonics learning is more easily tested, but teachers might end up narrowing the scope of the books they cover to only include those that reinforce phonics-style learning. On the flip side, whole-word learning emphasizes the act of reading, but it may neglect a fundamental understanding of how words actually work.
- The famous phone number for Hooked on Phonics—1-800-ABCDEFG—is no longer in service. The company was sold to Education, Inc. in 2005 for $13 million.
- Phonics as a teaching method dates back to the 16th century, when German schoolmaster Valentin Ickelshamer began teaching sounds instead of words, hoping it would help students get his name right just once. Philosopher Blaise Pascal then popularized the method of splitting words into smaller parts.