Opinion
Reading & Literacy Letter to the Editor

Dispelling Phonics Myths

January 14, 2020 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

The article “Teaching Reading Takes Training” (Dec. 4, 2019) is riddled with leaps of logic. If “1 in 10 professors could not correctly identify that the word ‘shape’ has three phonemes,” why does every kindergartner need to be able to successfully complete that task? I doubt if 10 percent of the professors interviewed were illiterate. Another issue is the article’s assumption that teaching phonics in context (a key element of teaching reading through the three-cueing systems, one of which is graphophonemics) is not teaching phonics. Construing use of the cueing systems as “an approach that tells students to take a guess when they come to a word” is simplification at best, deliberate misrepresentation at worst, since all good readers predict and make use of multiple cueing systems, not just phonics. Good teachers who emphasize cueing systems teach children how to confirm or disconfirm their guesses using phonics, syntax, and meaning.

In my 44 years of teaching literacy, my worst fear has been the “phonicators"—the students who decode every word carefully but can’t tell you a thing about the meaning of the text. The article throws around loaded terms such as “accurate” decoding, “systematic, science-based reading program,” and “good grasp of phonics” without defining any of them, yet sets up an “us against them” argument by defining “balanced literacy” in a narrow, inaccurate way and dredging up the “phonics vs. balanced literacy” clichés. Of course, students need to understand basic principles of phonics. But any approach to reading that does not emphasize meaning-making is distorting the authentic purpose and driving force behind reading, and the article does a disservice to the teaching profession by claiming otherwise.

Allen Koshewa

Retired Educator

Shanghai, China

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 15, 2020 edition of Education Week as Dispelling Phonics Myths


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on Literacy in Education
In this Spotlight, evaluate the possible gaps your current curriculum may have and gain insights from the front-lines of teaching.
Reading & Literacy Creator of 1619 Project Launching After-School Literacy Program
The 1619 Freedom School, led by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, will make its curriculum a free online resource in 2022.
4 min read
Collage of an American Flag.
Collage: Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty)
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
Supporting Students With Structured Literacy
Structured Literacy is instruction that’s informed by the science of reading. Read this white paper from Lexia® Learning: Structured Lite...
Content provided by Lexia Learning