In teaching reading, there are two main schools of thought: phonics and whole language. Phonics involves explicitly teaching a student how to pronounce words by analyzing its individual components, whereas whole language relies heavily on reading comprehension and context to memorize the sounds of words. Whole language works well for some students who can pick up on these patterns intuitively; for less fortunate students, such as those suffering from dyslexia, a phonics approach works best. On this website, I will advocate a combination of both phonics instruction and whole language, as each has its drawbacks when used exclusively, but combined, these two theories will complement each other.
There are two basic kinds of phonics instruction: synthetic phonics, a method which involves looking at every part of the phonetic without necessarily taking into account the blends or meaning (e.g., s-t-r-e-e-t); and analytic phonics, which involves looking at the phonic blends (e.g., str-ee-t). This website will be using the analytic phonics approach.
These phonics rules provide information on how to teach a student to pronounce English words. However, in order to be able to read, the student will also have to be taught the meaning of these words. This can be accomplished by having the student frequently read texts suitable to his or her current understanding of pronunciation.
Exceptions to the Rules
In teaching a beginning reader how to read, it is useful to teach explicit, systematic phonics rules. However, it is important to note that almost all of these rules have exceptions. For example, one often-taught rule states that when two vowels go together, the first one does the talking (it says its name) and the second one does the walking (it is silent.) Common instances of this rule are rain, seed, and boat. However, the exceptions, such as maul, boil, steak, and height, account for 55% of the cases.1 Therefore, it is important to remember that these rules are generalizations only.
1 Fischer, 1993