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Why phonics intervention is necessary

Phonics instruction is an essential ingredient in early reading instruction. Research shows that children who are not read to from the ages of 0-5 fail to develop the all-important phonemic awareness and phonics skills critical to further literacy development. Evidence indicates that systematic phonics instruction is absolutely necessary if students from such low-literacy environments are eventually to achieve grade level reading.

 

Systematic phonics vs. whole word reading

A program of systematic phonics instruction carefully selects a useful set of letter-sound relationships and then organizes these relationships into a logical instructional sequence. By contrast, non-phonics programs tend to focus on memorizing groups of leveled, grade-appropriate words.

Our materials introduce words in families, helping students to grasp key phonetic rules. Students learn clusters of words that follow the same pattern. Non-phonics programs typically introduce students to groups of unrelated words.

SYSTEMATIC PHONICS PROGRAM: STUDENTS LEARN WORDS THAT FOLLOW THE SAME PATTERN (Here WITH THE SHORT "A" SOUND).

Beginning word list from a systematic phonics program

NON-PHONICS PROGRAM: STUDENTS MEMORIZE UNRELATED GROUPS OF WORDS FEATURING MULTIPLE VOWEL SOUNDS.

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The importance of decoding

In a systematic phonics program, students learn to translate print into speech by quickly applying the patterns found in the English language's letter-sound relationships. This process, known as decoding, is a cardinal feature of all skilled reading. Students in systematic phonics programs hone decoding skills by reading texts featuring controlled vocabulary, wherein at least 95% of the words can be independently decoded based on prior instruction.

In non-phonics programs, students read texts with an uncontrolled vocabulary, where newly introduced words don't adhere to a similar, already-learned pattern. Students with undeveloped decoding skills must rely on "cueing systems" such as memorization, picture cues, or contextual guessing. Statistics show these systems to be unreliable:

87% of the words in the English language can be decoded using the letter-sound patterns phonics teaches.

Only about 25% of words in English can be predicted using context.

Content words—nouns, main verbs, adjectives and adverbs—can be predicted from context only about 10% of the time.

As students' texts become less patterned and repetitious, and contain fewer supplementary pictures, those who rely on these low-percentage systems increasingly find themselves unable to adapt. Their progress levels off and they begin to fall behind their peers who have been given explicit phonics instruction.

In short, knowing the rules is better than guessing.


Systematic phonics instruction leads to high-level reading comprehension.

 

“I can separate each word and then put it all together!”

-Achieve Now Fifth Grader

 

"The basic decoding skills are the biggest, most important skill the students receive from the program. They are better readers because of the simple phonics instruction being provided."

-Second Grade Teacher