“Phonics They Use: Words for Reading & Writing” by
Patricia M. Cunningham
hard to imagine this slender volume as a radical text. But
on many levels, it is.
For someone whose children attended
elementary school during the 1990s, when whole language was
the watchword of reading programs and phonics was banished
(except among reading resource teachers whose job it was to
help struggling readers), I admit to a certain guilty pleasure
at finding this in my mailbox.
What’s refreshing about Patricia
M. Cunningham’s approach is that her phonics method embraces
strategies and techniques that more strict constructionists
might not include, like allowing pre-readers to use inventive
spelling. She recommends a slew of rhyming books that would
be fun additions to any classroom (removing phonics from the
dreaded basal reader association that it has for we baby boomers),
and offers a host of creative and diverse activities that any
teacher could use successfully in his classroom.
I particularly liked her recommendations
that teachers use rhymes and riddles, even rap, to access the
sounds of words, adopt a multi-sensory approach by having students
clap out the beats of words, and play a variety of games to
enhance their acquisition of literacy skills.
also offers specific activities that teachers could bring
into their curriculum, from spelling activities, working
through roots, prefixes and suffixes, and setting up take-home
word walls to learning common rhyme patterns and even assessments
to measure a child’s reading fluency.
certainly a text that belongs in any elementary school teacher’s classroom; too bad
its message wouldn’t have been as welcome a decade ago.#