I feel as though I am doing the hokey pokey. I will teach my first university elementary literacy classes this spring and have only entered into exploring our “literacy wars” in the past two-three months. Every time I think I have a grasp on what is “right”, my understandings shift again.
Ultimately, I still feel that early elementary teachers MUST be competent at phonics instruction AND at creating literacy- and context-rich learning environments that are culturally-sustaining (to use Earnest Morrell’s term). Upper elementary and beyond need to be able to identify gaps in functional literacy AND be culturally-responsive.
But I’m still reading, viewing, thinking, and considering.
Sarah Mitchell, the New South Wales education minister has announced the roll-out of a phonics screening check across NSW public schools in a robust article in theSydney Morning Herald with the headline, “The reading wars are over – and phonics has won.” Great News. The phonics check is no panacea – and nobody is suggesting that it is – but we have found it very useful at my place and the findings of the pilot conducted in NSW this year are encouraging.
Mitchell makes the following point that made me wince as I imagined a few ‘balanced literacy’ advocates opening up their morning paper:
“Vice-chancellors need to take a broom to these faculties and clear out the academics who reject evidence-based best practice. A faculty of medicine would not allow anti-vaxxers to teach medical students. Faculties of education should not allow phonics sceptics to teach primary teaching students.”
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