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Phonics vs Whole-Word Teaching
The phonics approach teaches word recognition through systematic learning of letter-sound correlations. The whole word approach teaches whole words in word families, or similar spelling patterns. The student is not directly taught the relationship between letters and sounds, but learns them through minimal word differences. As the child progresses, words that have irregular spellings are introduced as sight words.
Proponents of each teaching system maintain that their particular approach is the key to engaging children in reading. There have been no overwhelming guidelines from evidence-based research that demonstrate a clear advantage of one approach over the other. Nowadays, many teachers are looking for a user-friendly combination of both strategies; to use phonics as part of whole language instruction and thus complementing each approach.
A reasonable approach would be to familiarize oneself with the philosophy of the school district regarding interventions for children with a dyslexia, inquire whether adaptations individualized to the child are encouraged, and attempt to use strategies from both approaches in a systematic format. Then, review of the results after a predetermined period would reveal if improvement has been achieved.
Neelkamal S Soares, MD, MBBS, FAAP
Elizabeth A Finley-Belgrad, MD
Mary L Windle, PharmD
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