Phonics refers to an instructional method whereby children are taught to decode words by linking the sounds of spoken English to individual letters and groups of letters. A variety of different approaches to decoding exist that are called “phonics,” but these methods are not interchangeable. Although used in most primary grade reading programs, how and if phonics should be used has been and remains a sometimes-controversial topic. Some curriculum theorists would term phonics a social efficiency ideology, focusing as it does on achieving a social good (i.e., improved decoding skills), through instruction that is often programmed and standardized. This entry examines the theoretical underpinnings of phonics, the historical controversy with advocates of other approaches, some of the different phonics approaches used in the schools, and ...

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