Alog by Alan Gee  June 2020

Continuing On From Blog 2


Did you know that Whole Word is an alternative method to a Phonics-only method when teaching reading, and if used in conjunction with an appropriate reading program, is very successful?  Well, if you listen to the ‘experts’ the Whole Word method of teaching kids to read is a failure – or so they claim.

The figures for the Whole Word method are there for anyone to see. Not so long ago, thousands of teachers were trained in the Whole Word method of teaching reading, and tens of thousands of children were taught to read successfully by that method.

The reality is that it’s simply another method of teaching children to read.

It wasn’t perfect, no one single method is, and there was a failure rate of about 25%. But that meant that 75% of children taught to read by the Whole Word method were reading successfully when they left school.

So why was the Whole Word method of teaching kids to read dropped, and the Phonics method sold as the answer to reading failure?  It took some time for me to figure this out, but in the end it became clear.

The answer came to me when I looked at the attendance list of a meeting of Education academics not so long ago.

Every single one of the attendees had either a doctorate or a professorship or some similar qualification. These were the people who were the movers and shakers in the education world and these were the ones with the influence to move or change things.

If you accept conventional wisdom, there are two types of people. Those with a logical brain who enjoy statistics, puzzles and are usually good at music and Math. These people find the Phonics method of learning to read easy.

On the other hand, those people whose brain is more creative and need to see the whole picture, not just a sum of its parts, find learning to read using Phonics difficult or almost impossible.

When looking at that list of attendees, because every single one had a university qualification, it became obvious that they all had to have a logical brain to have gained their degrees.

They wouldn’t have gained their degrees without a logic-based brain which enabled them to work through much of the subject matter of their degrees. 

It accounts for the blind belief that Phonics adherents have, that the only way to teach children to read is by Phonics. They find it almost impossible to put themselves into the shoes of a child who doesn’t think the way they do.

Think about this. If you read Stories to your child at an early age, the method you used was Whole Word. You simply read a story to your child and your child understood what you were reading.

You didn’t sound out every word as you would if you used Phonics to read to your child, you simply read to your child and used the Whole Word method to do it, and it worked well.

Fast-forward to the school years. It’s here that the idea of Phonics only was introduced to your child.

For some children, the Phonics-only method worked well, but for others Phonics-only as a method to learn to read was a failure.

If your child was one that Phonics-only didn’t work for then that was just too bad. The education system had decreed that that was the method of teaching reading and every child had to learn by that method.

And so your child became part of the group of children who have struggled to learn to read.

As an adult, as you read this, it should be obvious that you’re using the Whole Word method of doing so. Whole Word is used everywhere to communicate and it’s only during the early school years that a Phonics-only method is used to teach children to read.

A light bulb moment perhaps!

In fact, the thing which makes me want to fall off my chair laughing is that the Phonics-only adherents, when claiming that Whole Word doesn’t work, use the Whole Word method in articles etc to tell us that Whole Word doesn’t work!

Somehow, the irony or stupidity of their claim doesn’t seem to register with them.

So what’s the secret? Read my next Blog to find out!

Alan Gee