Innovative Phonics

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					Innovative Phonics
So we already know that phonics is an excellent tool for developing children‟s
language. Now the question that remains to be answered is: do we have a choice or
drilling is the only method we have, when it comes to practice phonics?

Finally phonics has been given its rightful place in the hall of 'effective educational
strategies'. It did belong there from the very beginning. But as the saying goes, 'old
habits die hard' and the people who had seen the alphabetical method around for age
where finding it difficult to abandon an old friend. They were always able to come up
with a reason to hold on to alpha method.

For those who have just entered the room where 'Alphabetical vs. Phonics' discussion
is raging for well over 30 years now, alphabetical approach uses the name whereas,
phonics is the sound.

Alphabetical method might sound technical but it means “A for Apple”. Meanwhile, “the
beginning sound of apple is a (sound)” is phonics.

Phonics and alphabets have common objective development of reading. Other than
that the two approaches are poles apart since in alphabetical method the name is
given without the sound and in phonics the sounds are introduced much earlier than
names of the alphabets.

Beside the objective, there‟s another thing common between the two approaches:
drilling. Since children need to learn the sounds or names, they are required to repeat
the either one of the two (depending upon the approach adopted by a school).

The repetition is through all four language approaches: listening, speaking, reading,
and writing.

Teacher calls out the sound of letters and children listen. This task is performed
regularly by teacher, mostly in the morning. You can imagine how boring this routine
can be, both for teachers and children. Everyday that same parroting of the sound by
teachers takes place, while children listening passively, half of them with their eyes
close and the other half looking outside for some excitement.

Not sooner that the teacher finishes the process of repetition, the children get into the
action. A large collective humming sound fills the classroom air.

Reading and Writing
Then comes a worksheet or a workbook. There can be a number of pages for a
sound. With few variations, they look the same and often add to the boredom.
Children first read the word provided on the page and then do the written practice.

With the alphabetical approach, the use of drilling through listening, speaking, reading,
and writing is understandable. There‟s not much room to maneuver for teachers since
the whole alphabetical approach of reading development is not very scientific. A
creative teaching approach should be based on some logic, something that is missing
in the alphabetical approach.

But there‟s lots more and lots different we can do when teaching children to read with
the help of phonics method. The use of drilling to teach phonics was probably just the
fall out or the carry over of the old method. The results must have been too astounding
for the people who made the switch from alphabetical to phonic; therefore a need to
change the drilling method was not felt. Those who followed the leaders continued
with what was handed over to them.

Over the years we all have seen how effective the phonics approach has been;
therefore it‟s high time to bring some creativity in its teaching methodology. One big
innovation can be the use of stories and phonemic rhymes for the teaching of phonics.

Before discussing the new approach of phonics teaching any further, we need to look
at the amount of phonics children need to learn in preprimary classes.

There are two specific skills that children must acquire before proceeding to class one.
Here are those two skills.

Beginning Sound
Children need to learn to recognize all the 26 sounds of English language. They need
to associate the sound to a letter. On hearing the sound they should be able to match
it to the letter shape and likewise they should be able to say the sound when the
shape of a letter is shown to them.

Word Parts
The word parts are to words is just like what atoms are to elements. They are the
basic building blocks of every word. There are 38 word parts in all. Each word part is
made of two sounds (just like an atom is built of neutrons, protons, and electrons).
Every word part has a unique sound and children need to know the sounds of all 38
word parts. Once again there has to be the association of sound to writing and vice

The competency of beginning sound and word part can enable children to do further
readings. These two are the foundation of all future reading activity. Therefore they

need to be developed properly during the three years of preprimary. A better
understanding of these two can enhance children‟s learning which means more

And that brings us back to drilling. More practice calls for more drilling, that‟s an
assumption for teachers usually make when working with children.

That‟s a myth. Drilling is not the only option. There are other ways to do repetition of
sounds and word parts to children.

Use of stories and rhymes is one such tool. You can say to children to repeat a
concept without drilling with the help of stories and rhymes. Children acquire the
concept of beginning sounds and word parts naturally with the help of stories and

No need to offer pages after pages of similar looking worksheets or parroting the
sounds. Just sing the rhymes and tell the stories written specifically for this purpose
and children will learn the two skills. They will enjoy these two activities, never
realizing that they are actually learning.

Stories and rhymes increase the speed of learning because they are much more
interesting and children are more involved in these two activities as compared to

(„Butterfly and Friends‟ Series includes rhymes and stories exclusively developed to
teach children phonics.)


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