My response to a linked in discussion ….
Oh yes Bruce, that’s exactly what infants would be better off with. Phonics first MINUS all the more sophisticated strategies in the early stages, where they are age inappropriate, confusing, misleading and counter-productive (IN INFANT GRADES).
Our teacher training university and collage professors are so tied up in the rhetoric and the processes that they have forgotten the real focus – the infant learner.
The irony is that much of what they advocate is essentially dependent on competent phonic skills for it’s effectiveness down the track.
Students who are competent in phonic skills:
a) have a minimal chance of failing (they don’t need high visual processing capacity – remember that developing infant boys are on average a year behind girls so it is no surprise that more boys struggle than girls. Phonics doesn’t require high visual memory – guessing strategies do).
b) students avoid the pitfall of later failure at grade 4 / 5 level when the words gets longer and more visually similar – they require chunking skills to progress (our high schools are full of students stuck at grade 4 / 5 as a direct & predictable result of incompetent infant teaching courtesy of teacher training institutions).
Analytic Phonics is NOT PHONICS – an effective phonics programme requires structure:
Analytic Phonics fails all three criteria. It is applied ‘on the run’. It has recently gone overboard on complexity, which is then applied inappropriately in terms of poorly understood expectation levels & ‘during’ the writing process when attention should be on story making.
The same applies to the teacher reading to the class, when the teacher is advised to stop, look a word and talk about it’s structure! (Learning ‘in-context’ gone mad). For the children it’s like having to suffer the interruption of a TV Ad in their favourite programme. They just want to get back to the story.
This is BAD advice. Are the actual strategies, such as ‘scaffolding’ wrong? No, the strategies are great – when used appropriately – and backed by vital foundation skills.
1. Lay the foundation skills (free of distraction & confusion).
2. Keep your age appropriate expectation levels in mind (do the training colleges even consider/cover this?)
3. Add new strategies WHEN appropriate.
Why is this so hard for the Ivory Tower Brigade to understand? Or are they so lost in the rhetoric, jargon and processes that they don’t see the common sense OR the learner?