Phonics Contribute to Vocabulary and Fluency
Phonics is the relationship among letters and sounds, the approach for teaching these relationships, and a shortcut for word learning. Although kindergarteners and first and second graders know many spoken words, they know relatively few written words. The challenge for these children is to develop a large reading vocabulary in a short period of time. Children use phonics as a bridge between the spoken words they already know and the written words they do not recognize.
Phonics makes it possible for children to learn new words. When children use phonics they pay careful attention to the letters in words. Paying attention to the letters in words helps children remember words the next time they see them. The more children analyze, read, and write the same words, the stronger the memory, and the faster the recognition (Ehri, 2004). Eventually, the sounds, spellings, and meanings of words are bundled together in memory. Children then recognize these words instantly, at a glance. Automatic or instant word recognition occurs without conscious effort.
Phonics does not cause fluency, but it does contribute to fluency through its effect on vocabulary (Eldredge, 2005). Phonics helps children learn to instantly recognize words. Instant word recognition, in turn, makes it possible for children to read expressively, accurately, and at a pace appropriate for the text and the reading situation. Instant word recognition also makes it possible for children to concentrate on meaning because children do not have to worry about figuring out the words. Not surprisingly, children who are good at phonics are more fluent readers and better comprehenders, regardless of children’s social or economic background (Christensen & Bowey, 2005; National Reading Panel, 2000; Schwanenflugel, Hamilton, Kuhn, Wisenbaker, & Stahl, 2004).
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