Comparing Three Approaches to Phonics Instruction
Systematic phonics instruction is a very prominent discussion topic among teachers and researchers today. This type of instruction relies on teaching letter-sound correspondence and applying these relationships to beginning reading. Studies have shown that teaching phonics in a systematic manner benefits future reading progress in primary grade students. Researchers have also identified the three most common forms of phonics instruction as synthetic, analytic, and embedded. Synthetic and analytic take the most direct and explicit approaches to teaching phonics. An embedded approach may also use explicit instruction, but uses authentic reading material to introduce phonics-based skills. These three approaches differ in their instructional methods of teaching decoding, phonemic awareness, and the alphabetic principle. The following paper discusses these three methods as they relate to learners and learning, curriculum and instructional strategies, learning environment, and assessment. Investigation of several theories and multiple research studies are discussed, along with their impact on phonics instruction in classrooms today. The first section addresses the needs of learners, as they begin reading in primary grades. These needs are addressed through instructional strategies and materials found within a phonics-based curriculum. Along with classroom materials pertaining to these approaches, assessment plays an important role of determining the right approach for each student. The paper concludes with implications of research findings and application. Vast classroom libraries and exposure to print are crucial to many learners, as well as systematic instruction of grapheme-phoneme correspondence. The ultimate decision of teaching phonics through synthetic, analytic, or embedded approaches depends on the needs of individual learners.