Understanding the Reading Wars: The Incorporation of Phonics in the Elementary Classroom


Understanding the Reading Wars: The Incorporation of Phonics in the Elementary Classroom
Joshua W. Nelson
Faculty Sponsor
Cornelia Paraskevas
Gavin Keulks
Education practices over the years have continuously been changed and developed for the better. One area of elementary education that can still be advanced is reading, through the integration of phonics to young readers. Reading has been taught in a whole language approach1, but studies suggest that explicit instruction in phonics, which takes advantage of students' phonological awareness, is a better way to teach reading. Although the science of reading (explicit instruction in phonics) has been shown to be beneficial for students, it is still not the common practice across the country. At best, teachers combine explicit phonics instruction with whole language instruction, which is an approach termed balanced literacy. In the project I will investigate the ways in which the Oregon state-adopted textbooks align with the science of reading but also meet the Common Core State Standards, or CCSS, outcomes for reading. In addition, in order to see how reading instruction is enacted in the classroom, I will observe teachers and, if needed, informally interview elementary principals. The final product will be a guidebook for teachers who are not familiar/comfortable with a sense of reading (explicit phonics instruction): it will include foundational concepts on children's phonological development and reading instruction as well as three lesson plans based on best practices recommended by experts in the field.
Honors Thesis
Honors Program
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