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An Old and Contested Solution to Boost Reading Scores: Phonics



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“Bit!” Ayana Smith called out as she paced the alphabet rug in front of her kindergarten students at Garrison Elementary School.
“Buh! Ih! Tuh!” the class responded in unison, making karate chop motions as they enunciated the sound of each letter. In a 10-minute lesson, the students chopped up and correctly spelled a string of words:
Top. “Tuh! Ah! Puh!”
Wig. “Wuh! Ih! Guh!”
Ship. “Shuh! Ih! Puh!”
Ms. Smith’s sounding-out exercises might seem like a common-sense way to teach reading. But for decades, many teachers have embraced a different approach, convinced that exposing students to the likes of Dr. Seuss and Maya Angelou is more important than drilling them on phonics.
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