ESL Curriculums Positive and Negative Essay

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Phonetic reading methods are actually older than the whole language approach: "The traditional theory of learning established in the 19th century draws on the notion that children need to break down a complex skill, like reading, into its smallest components (letters) before moving on to tackle larger components (sounds, words, and sentences). Phonetic reading instruction applies this theory; children are taught to dissect unfamiliar words into parts and then join the parts together to form words. By learning these letter-sound relationships the student is provided with a decoding formula that can be applied whenever they encounter an unfamiliar word" (Curtis 2009). Advocates of this approach would say that given that ESL students are more apt to encounter unfamiliar words compared with their native English peers of the same level of academic intelligence, phonetics seems like the best solution. Whole learning advocates state that approaching language in such a slow, methodical fashion inhibits fluency, and speed is critical, especially for ESL learners, to ensure that their education keeps pace with their peers. To those who would state that a systematized approach is more effective, whole learning advocates point out that "children can learn the 5,000 most common words in roughly three years," even without phonetics, while phonetics advocates counter that by learning "3 phonograms, or letter combinations, and 23 rules for spelling and pronunciation….
one can correctly pronounce and spell all but 123 of the 13,000 most common English words" (Eric 2005).

Most teachers of ESL students do not rigidly adhere to one method or the other, but tailor their methodologies to the student's needs and the standardized curricular demands of the classroom, district, and state. ESL education must often be especially individuated, given the diverse levels of ability and academic talent within the student body, thus a combined whole language/phonetics methodology may be best.

Works Cited

Curtis, Jenny. (1997). Whole language vs. phonetics: what is better?

Superkids. Retrieved March 25, 2009 at

Eric. (2005, April 3). Teaching of reading. ESL HQ. Retrieved March 25, 2009 at

Peyton, Joy & JoAnn Crandall. (1996). Philosophies and approaches in adult ESL literacy instruction. ERIC Digest. Retrieved March 25, 2009 at

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