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The teaching of phonics

Posted by Garry Collins, AATE President on 9 January 2015

In the last several days The Australian newspaper has been running a little campaign on the teaching of phonics. While this issue more directly relates to primary school teachers than to most ETAQ members, I thought the following would be of interest.

Specifically in response to a Bill Leak cartoon on the topic, I submitted the following letter to the editor. Below that again you can see the version that the paper printed.

Apart from anything else, I find it interesting that the paper's substitute opening sentence treats "phonics" as a plural noun ("phonics are"). I wonder if they would also write that economics are an interesting subject. Inconsistently, they did not change my "phonics is" in the final sentence.

What I submitted

Phonics not the whole deal in literacy

If offensiveness and misrepresentation are the criteria, then Bill Leak's "acadomedians" cartoon  (8 Jan) is one of the best I've ever seen.

Its middle speech balloon contains the very common English word want. How does phonics alone tell a beginning reader that this word does not rhyme (rime?) with pant?

And in the first speech balloon, word does not contain the same vowel sound that we find in ford. How does phonics alone help there? Further, how does phonics indicate that of does not contain the F consonant?

Phonics is an important element in developing literacy in English but it is important for people to remember that it can never be the whole deal.

Garry Collins
president, Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE)

What The Australian printed

For want of phonics

PHONICS are not the whole deal in literacy. If offensiveness and misrepresentation are the criteria, then Bill Leak's cartoon (8/1) is one of the best I've ever seen. Its middle speech balloon contains the common English word want.

How does phonics alone tell a beginning reader that this word does not rhyme with pant? And in the first speech balloon, word does not contain the same vowel sound that we find in ford. How does phonics alone help there?

Phonics is an important element in developing literacy in English but it is important for people to remember that it can never be the whole deal.

Garry Collins, president, Australian Association for the Teaching of English, Stafford Heights, Qld

Garry Collins, AATE PresidentAuthor: Garry Collins, AATE President
About: Garry Collins is the Immediate Past President of ETAQ and began a 2 year term as AATE President on 1 January 2014. A retired high school English teacher, he now works in the School of Education at the University of Queensland as a sessional tutor in English curriculum courses.
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