Phonics instruction helps boys close the gender literacy gap

by Grace

Phonics instruction helps boys close the gender gap on reading skills according to recent research findings.

The use of more traditional phonetics-based lessons helps boys catch up with girls – even doing better on some tests – and prevents some children from needing ‘special’ schooling, according to new research findings.

Better for low-income students

A study of synthetic phonics also found children from disadvantaged backgrounds do as well as those from better off homes.

Fewer students assigned to special education classes

“We found children were performing well who might otherwise have ended up in special teaching arrangements,” she added.

Whole language replaced phonics instruction
Beginning in the 1960s, synthetic phonics was replaced in favor of whole language and later balanced literacy instruction.  Instead of learning the sounds that make up words (phonics), students were taught to guess at words based on content and pictures (whole language).

This study was conducted in Scotland, and in January it was reported that thousands of primary schools in the UK have signed up to participate in an initiative to increase funding for phonics instruction.

UK Schools Minister Nick Gibb on the phonics funding program:

This is an open invitation to all schools to improve the way they teach systematic synthetic phonics – the tried and tested method of improving the reading of all our children, especially the weakest.

Some evidence from The Importance of Phonics: Securing Confident Reading evidence paper.

The importance of a systematic approach to phonics instruction

Recent inspection evidence from a sample of 12 primary schools supports this view….

In 2006, the Department for Education and Skills commissioned the Universities of York and Sheffield to conduct a review of the experimental research on using phonics to teach reading and spelling. Torgerson, Hall and Brooks found that systematic phonics teaching “enables children to make better progress in reading accuracy than unsystematic or no phonics, and that this is true for both normally-developing children and those at risk of failure” (2006)

In Australia, the committee for the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy produced the report ‘Teaching Reading’ (2005). The committee concluded: “The evidence is clear, whether from research, good practice observed in schools, advice from submissions to the Inquiry, consultations […] that direct systematic instruction in phonics during the early years of schooling is an essential foundation for teaching children to read. …systematic phonics instruction is critical if children are to be taught to read well, whether or not they experience reading difficulties. […] Moreover, where there is unsystematic or no phonics instruction, children’s literacy progress is significantly impeded, inhibiting their initial and subsequent growth in reading accuracy, fluency, writing, spelling and comprehension.”

In England, Jim Rose (2006) in his ‘Independent Review of the Teaching of Early Reading, Final Report’ emphasised that beginner readers should be taught using a systematic approach to phonics and cautioned that evidence submitted to the review suggested that, for almost all children, diluting the approach by using a mix of approaches can hinder children’s progress….


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