Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Robert Indihar
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Emphasizing phonics

Moose Lake Superintendent


October 25, 2018

As the superintendent I get put in situations where I am constantly learning new things. Last year we were not satisfied with our reading scores and I spent time going over the latest research on teaching reading. We were seeing a trend we did not like. I pushed the staff and administration to make changes to improve how we deliver our reading curriculum. The following is some of the research I found while working to make improvements for our students at Moose Lake Community School.

There are many facets to reading, but the five pillars to be a successful reader are: 1. Phonemic Awareness. This is the sound of the spoken word; 2. Vocabulary; 3. Phonics. This is the relationship between sounds and written symbols; 4. Fluency; and 5. Comprehension: understanding what you are reading. People who can master these facets will be good readers.

In America, most of the nation went to Whole Language as a way to teach reading. This is a literacy rich environment where the kids will learn by doing. They read stories and learn by inference. We are seeing that the reading scores have been declining in America for many years.

In the 1970s-'90s, a different method was used known as Phonics. Those of you who remember Electric Company on PBS will identify with this method because this is what they used. Phonics is a way of decoding a word so that you can sound it out. In the English language there are 44 sounds (phenoms) that a person needs to master to speak our language. Phonics instruction teaches the children how the sounds and the letters correspond.

Research is saying that talking is a natural process for children, but reading needs to be taught. Students don’t necessarily learn reading just by reading. All five of the pillars from above must be mastered. The interesting thing right now is that very few college teacher preparation programs emphasize phonics. In Moose Lake, we have been teaching both Phonics and Whole Language. I would say the majority of the time has been spent on the Whole Language side.

We are going to increase the amount of phonics in our primary education curriculum in the coming years. You may notice your children sounding out parts of words now more than your older students did. We believe that by making the change to phonics, we will see better readers. At Moose Lake Community School we constantly strive to improve how we educate.


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