Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Feeling the Pressure: Early Childhood Educators' Reported Views about Learning and Teaching Phonics in Australian Prior-to-School Settings

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Feeling the Pressure: Early Childhood Educators' Reported Views about Learning and Teaching Phonics in Australian Prior-to-School Settings

Article excerpt

Introduction

Much research supports the view that phonics instruction is important, as phonics knowledge is considered one of the key predictors of later reading success (Adams, 2001; Ehri & Roberts, 2006). Although phonics instruction is necessary, it is not sufficient; learning to read is influenced by many factors, such as discovering the pleasure of reading and developing strategies for comprehension (Hall, 2006). Diverse views are held about phonics instruction in the early childhood years. For this reason, the teaching of phonics has become one of the most politicised and debated areas in early reading development (Coles, 2013; Department of Education, Science & Training (DEST), 2005; Goouch & Lambirth, 2007; Soler & Openshaw, 2007). Over the past three decades, phonics-oriented versus whole language instruction was a feature of the much-publicised reading wars (Lewis & Ellis, 2006). Rather than questioning if phonics is necessary, research now centres on what form of phonics should be used and the pace in which phonics should be taught (Lewis & Ellis, 2006). The effectiveness of two different forms of phonics instruction is at the forefront of much debate: synthetic phonics, associated with individual phonemes; analytic phonics, associated with larger phonological units (Hall, 2006). Awareness of larger phonological units of oral language plays an important role in development of phonics knowledge and subsequently in teaching young children to read (Wyse & Goswami, 2013).

Current evidence suggests that in the prior-to-school years phonics is best taught through an emergent literacy approach, where children acquire written language similar to oral language (Teale & Sulzby, 1986). Through an emergent literacy approach, phonological awareness and phonics are taught explicitly, whilst engaging children in play-based, child-centred activities such as singing, rhymes, dramatic play and shared reading (Britto, Fuligni & Brooks-Gunn, 2006; Cabell, Justice, Vukelich, Buell & Han, 2008; Pianta, 2006). Other positions advocate for more prescriptive frameworks for teaching phonics in the early years, for example 'scientific based reading instruction' focusing on explicit, systematic phonics instruction and emphasis on synthetic phonics methods (Johnston & Watson, 2005; Rose, 2006). Other views support a more eclectic approach, by combining large group explicit phonics instruction together with individualised child-centred teaching of highly salient letters (Christie, 2008; Hall, 2013). Recent research also suggests some educators in Australian prior-to-school settings are teaching phonics explicitly through direct, systematic formal 'school type' literacy lessons, using scripted commercial phonics programs (e.g. Letterland and Jolly Phonics) (Campbell, Torr & Cologon, 2012). How educators define phonics can depend on their belief systems about learning to read (Stahl, Duffy-Hester & Stahl, 1998). It is important to understand early childhood educators' beliefs about literacy teaching and learning, as beliefs can influence teachers' educational focus and the types of experiences they provide for children (Hindman & Wasik, 2008; Ure & Raban, 2001). There is currently little research examining early childhood educators' beliefs about teaching phonics and the types of phonics learning experiences children encounter in the prior-to-school years. Understanding early childhood educators' beliefs about phonics can provide insights into how educators are building the foundations of young children's literacy success prior to starting formal schooling.

The alphabetic principle and phonics explained

The term phonics refers to the relationship between phonemes (smallest units of oral language) and graphemes (units of written language that represent phonemes) in reading and writing and a system of teaching reading that builds on the alphabetic principle (Zimmerman, Padak & Rasinski, 2008). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.