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The English Teacher Vol.

XLII(1) April 2013



THRASS PHONICS: A CASE STUDY OF THOMAS AS AN
EMERGING READER IN ENGLISH1

Shirley Su Chai Siik
Je Ha!ki"#
IPGK Batu Lintang, Kuching, Sarawak
A$STRACT
Current trends in education indicate that phoneic and phonic a!areness are
essential to de"eloping #e$ English literac$ s#ills. In %ala$sia& phonics has 'een
recogni(ed '$ the %inistr$ o) education as a #e$ instruent to ipro"e English
teaching and learning. Thus& this stud$ ais to e"aluate the capacit$ o) T*+A,,
phonics in teaching English literac$ s#ills to a Chinese %ala$sian priar$ school
student in -uching& ,ara!a#. The authors selected case stud$ as the theoretical
)rae!or# to illustrate the ipact that T*+A,, phonics had on 'oth teacher and
student during the stud$. The paper discusses the )indings and concludes !ith the
iplications )or )urther phonics research in %ala$sia.

-e$!ords. T*+A,, phonics& reading s#ill& priar$ school
I"%r&'u(%i&"
/honics has 'een recogni(ed as an instruent )or %ala$sian priar$ students to
'uild essential English reading and literac$ s#ills in the classroo. The
%ala$sian %inistr$ o) Education (2011) English ,tandardi(ed Curriculu )or
/riar$ ,chools (-,,+) strongl$ recoends the use o) phonics !hen teaching
students (aged 'et!een 0 and 12 $ears) critical literac$ s#ills. Increasingl$
'eginning readers in Australia& the 1nited -ingdo& 2e! 3ealand and the
1nited ,tates use phonics to assist 'eginning readers to ac4uire English literac$
and )luenc$ s#ills (5a"ies 6 +itchie& 20037 Ehri& 2003).
The a'ilit$ to read is one o) the )undaental s#ills $oung students ac4uire at
school and earl$ literac$ is a prere4uisite )or success in all aspects o) education
(Callinan 6 3ee 5er Van& 20107 Cihon& 2011). ,ince the 1880s& T*+A,,
(teaching hand!riting& reading and spelling s#ills) s$nthetic phonics has 'een
used to teach #e$ English literac$ s#ills in Australian and 9ritish priar$ schools
(Callihan 6 3ee 5er Van& 20107 :ri))iths& 200;).T*+A,, creators 5a"ies and
+itchie (2003) e<plain that T*+A,, phonics teaches the == phonees (sounds
1
The ter >eerging?in this paper is used as @'eginning to readA.


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The English Teacher Vol. XLII(1) April 2013
o) spo#en English)7 it prootes phoneic etacognition& and is a success)ul tool
)or de"eloping English literac$ s#ills.
These da$s& there are a nu'er o) phonics ethodologies that clai to help earl$
English readers. This particular stud$ !ill e<plore& )or the )irst tie& T*+A,,
phonics a'ilit$ in teaching English reading s#ills to a
Chinese
%ala$sian priar$ school student. The stud$ too# place in -uching& ,ara!a#
%ala$sia.
Li%era%ure Re)ie!
Cor o"er D0 $ears& phonics has recei"ed attention in ters o) the de"elopent o)
English reading s#ills. Ce! educators dispute that !hole language and phonics are
essential i) students are to learn to read and spea# English e))ecti"el$
(Coogan& 200B7 Ehri& 20027 ,tots#$& 200D). Indeed& the 1-?s 2ational Literac$
,trateg$ (200D) recoends the use o) s$nthetic phonics (T*+A,,) to teach
literac$ s#ills in reading and spea#ing English in priar$ schools (Callihan 6 3ee
5er Van& 2010). ,iilar reports in Australia and the 1nited ,tates ha"e raised
phoneic a!areness and positioned phonics at the top o) the literac$ agenda
(Callinan 6 3ee 5er Van& 20107 Ehri& 20037 ,tots#$& 200D7 Eilson 6 Colar&
200;). Eilson and Colar (200;& p.81) point out that @the o"er!heling
)indings indicate that direct and s$steatic instruction in phonics contri'utes
ore signi)icantl$ to children?s initial and ongoing literac$ de"elopent than
an$ alternate approach o) either uns$steatic or no phonics.A In other !ords&
pro)icient reading instruction should consists o) phoneic a!areness&
phonics& guided oral )luenc$& "oca'ular$ and reading coprehension (Ehri& 20037
,tots#$& 200D). ,tots#$ descri'es phoneic and phonics a!areness
as )ollo!s.
/honeic a!areness is understanding that spo#en language is
coposed o) tin$ segents o) speech called phonees. The
2ational +eading (1nited ,tates) /anel (200B) )ound that
phoneic a!areness training @signi)icantl$ ipro"es their
Fstudents?G reading ore than instruction that lac#s an$ attention
to phoneic a!areness.
/honics instruction is o)ten con)used !ith phoneic a!areness& it
teaches reading '$ a#ing e<plicit the letterHsound
correspondences in reading and !riting. +esearch e"idence
points to the necessit$ o) teaching phonics se4uentiall$ rather
than erel$ highlighting phonics eleents as the$ appear in a te<t
(200D& p.11).


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The English Teacher Vol. XLII(1) April 2013
Cor Australian researchers Eright et al. (2011& p1)& earl$ phonological s#ills&
particularl$ the a'ilit$ to recogni(e the phoneic structure o) spo#en !ords
helps children de"elop #no!ledge o) grapheeIphonee con"ersion rules
(:/Cs). %oreo"er& literac$ research in the 1nited ,tates has )ound that
phoneic a!areness and letter #no!ledge !ere the t!o 'est predictors o)
reading a'ilit$ in the )irst t!o $ears o) instruction (Eilson 6 Colar&
200;).There)ore& phoneic and phonic a!areness 'uild )oundational s#ills that
are predicti"e o) students? )uture reading success (Eilson 6 Colar& 200;7
Eright et al.& 2011).
Although phoneic a!areness and phonics increase reading per)orance in
priar$ school students& it sees that )e! teachers are con)ident teaching the ==
phonees and the graphees (letter or group o) letters) o) !ritten English
(5a"ies 6 +itchie& 2003). As Eit and /ollac# e<plain.
To help students de"elop appropriate phonic (letterHsound) #no!ledge&
$ou the teacher& ust ha"e accurate& e<plicit #no!ledge o) these
relationships. Too )re4uentl$ students are gi"en isleading in)oration
!hich clearl$ does not assist their learning and o)ten creates con)usion
(2002& p.3).
The acadeic literature strongl$ argues that reading progras should include
phonees and phonics !hen teaching English literac$ s#ills are 'eing taught.
*o!e"er& in the 1nited ,tates and Australia it is estiated that up to 30J o)
children struggle to learn to read !ell& and reading progras that include
phonees and phonics training ha"e not 'een !idel$ ipleented '$ schools and
teachers (Eitt 6 /ollac#& 20027 ,tots#$& 200D7 Eright et al.& 2011). Cor
instance& the 1nited ,tates 2ational +eading /anel +eport (2000& p.1)
concluded.
Instruction strategies that include phoneic a!areness& phonics& and
)luenc$ !ere especiall$ strong. The panel )ound that !hole language
instruction that ignores phonics and phoneic a!areness !as
ine))ecti"e& especiall$ )or students !ith poor language s#ills and little
e<posure to print (Ealsh& :laser& 6 Eilco<& 200D).
There sees to 'e a crisis in pedagogical copetenc$ in relation to the
ipleentation o) literac$ progras that use phoneic a!areness and phonics to
de"elop essential literac$ s#ills& and educators reain con)used a'out the
di))erences 'et!een phonological a!areness& phoneic a!areness and phonics
(,tots#$& 200D7 Eilson 6 Colar& 200;). Ehri (2002& p.0) argues @teachers are not
!ell prepared to teach reading and an$ ha"e not 'een taught a'out the

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