The debate continues: phonics versus whole language. Phonics advocates recognize our phonetic language and the need to teach children to sound out or decode words. Whole language proponents state that reading is obtaining meaning from print and children need to read “real” books; the strictly controlled vocabulary books that accompany phonics programs often do not make sense to the reader. The question remains; who is right?
“Spelling into Reading” incorporates the best of both worlds. We use an explicit, systematic phonics program that teaches “spelling before reading”. In fact, reading naturally occurs after spelling instruction begins. We understand that our language is phonetic and the children need tools to successfully learn the code, both to read and spell. But reading is not being able to sound out or decode; it is getting meaning from the print and understanding what is being communicated. Therefore, we begin with spelling.
The children learn spelling through a unique dictation process. The spelling list then doubles as a reading list and it is with these words that the children practice “sounding out” or “ decoding”. Once this process becomes largely automated, the children naturally step into reading. There is no need for “basal readers” and “workbooks” as children will be able to begin with “easy readers” found in libraries.
We teach everything correctly the first time so that children are not forced to relearn things that have been done incorrectly for a long period of time. We teach from what is known to what is unknown, building “line upon line and precept upon precept”.
Once the children are reading (and this is not “sounding out” practice, but reading for meaning), the children are put on an individualized reading program according to their ability. Some start reading books early, while others jump in later when they are ready. Grade Two children and above may use novel studies and short stories to deepen their comprehension and thinking skills. Our spelling into reading program then becomes a spelling program successfully teaching spelling and how the English language works.
We recognize that we are giving children the “tools” to be able to read and spell. Like all tools, children will master their use at various times; some will need more practice than others. But we believe that all children can learn and be successful as this multi-sensory approach incorporates all learning styles.