Sunday, May 31, 2020

Why the obsession with Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP)?

The following was posted by a teacher from OZ on Twitter.

This SSP mania has been hugely harmful to learners. I am yet to find ten year old struggling learners who don’t know their letter sounds! Aa apple, Bb ball, Cc cat – it is this letter sound teaching that they continue to employ that causes many to struggle.

Why are these SSP proponents so adamantly holding on to their teaching of phonics at the exclusion of other strategies?

I teach Dolch words and get my students to rote memorise them with ease. I explain to them the meaning of the words and that too is easy as these are words used on a daily basis.

I have previously written on the vowels A and E. Let us look at the vowel O today.
O may represent the following sounds.

O as in oat, obey, old
O as in object, occupy, offer
O as in onion
O as in ooze
O as in orchard, orchid, order

My students learn to read and understand the words ‘on, ‘to’, and ‘no’ by the second lesson by rote memory. They not only can read the Dolch words but are able to spell it effortlessly.

If I were to teach them using phonics it is also possible.

But then I will have to explain to them (5 or 6 year old kids) that:

The phoneme of ‘o’ in the word ‘on’ is as in the word occupy/orange

The phoneme of ‘o’ in the word ‘to’ is as in the word ooze

The phoneme of ‘o’ in the word ‘no’ is as in the word obey, old.

Why must the proponents of SSP insist so dogmatically that theirs is the only way to teach kids to read?

I believe the tweet above is misleading as it is talking about letter names and not the sounds represented by letters. Most struggling students know the letter names but not the sounds represented by letters.

The following is a video taken in May 2020 of a kid in Australia who is being taught to read using phonics as well as memorising Dolch words by rote memorisation. The kid will be 7 years old this July.

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