Key Phonics and Phonemic Awareness Studies in the NRP Report
As stated explicitly in the NRP report, phonological and phonemic awareness can be taught and coordinated with systematic phonics instruction that is explicit and synthetic.
Several comprehensive studies were highlighted in the NRP report as examples of what can be accomplished when early phonemic awareness instruction is coordinated with continuing phonics instruction that is systematic, explicit, and synthetic.
Blachman, Tangel, Ball, Black, and McGraw (1999) conducted a study with low SES, inner-city children in which instruction began in kindergarten and continued through second grade. Kindergarten teachers delivered eleven weeks of instruction that was focused on phonemic awareness training. This was followed by explicit, systematic instruction in the alphabetic code in first grade. This phonics instruction continued in second grade for children who did not complete the program in first grade. The explicit systematic phonics instruction included: teaching sound-symbol relationships explicitly, teaching phoneme analysis and blending, reading words on flashcards to promote automatic word recognition, reading text containing phonetically controlled words, and writing words and sentences from dictation. Children in a control group received instruction in the school's regular basal reading program that included a phonics workbook that children used independently. Although children in the control group engaged in letter-learning and phonemic awareness activities, they were not explicitly taught to use these skills to read and write. The findings showed that the children who received explicit systematic instruction in phonics (preceded by eleven weeks of instruction in phonemic awareness) made greater progress in reading than the children who received the less explicit and systematic basal instruction.
In another comprehensive study, Torgesen, Wagner, Rashotte, Rose, Lindamood, Conway, and Garvan (1999) compared two forms of phonics instruction throughout the primary grades. One form provided very explicit and intensive instruction in phonological awareness plus synthetic phonics; the other provided less explicit instruction in phonemic decoding and more instruction in text comprehension. The latter form of instruction was called embedded phonics; instruction began by teaching children to recognize whole words. Both forms of instruction were provided by tutors rather than classroom teachers. Comparisons of the two groups revealed superior performance by the explicit and intensive phonics group on measures of phonological awareness, phonemic decoding accuracy and efficiency, and word reading accuracy. Thus, intensive training in synthetic phonics produced word reading performance that was superior to that produced by embedded phonics training.
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