Systematic Approach to Phonics Instruction for learners with reading deficiencies – the benefits

Teaching students to read is a complex task, with the complexity being aggravated by the fact that some learners might find it more difficult to master such an intricate skill (Cihon, Gardner, Morrison & Paul, 2008). Such difficulties could for instance arise where students begin schooling with varying degrees of pre-reading skills (Cihon et al., 2008). In such situations, the teacher would need to establish an instructional approach that meets the needs of all learners in ones classrooms. Various studies (e.g. Francis, Shaywitz, Stuebing, Fletcher, & Shaywitz, 1996; Hall & Moats, 1999; McGuiness, 1994) for instance note that students who are behind reading at the end of the first grade, are most likely to continue lagging behind at the fourth grade and in some cases throughout their schooling (as cited in Citon et al., 2008, p.138). This is undesirable since mastery of language is positively correlated with job acquisition which in turn influences the social economic status of an individual (Cihon et al., 2008).  With such a suggestion, the question of appropriate instructional methods that can avert such a trajectory for students with reading deficiencies arises.

Considering the reviews on phonics instruction, efficacy of systematic phonic instructions on students with reading deficiencies could be implied from a number of observations. Teachers surveyed by Mesmer and Griffith (2005), for instance indicated their preference for explicit and systematic instruction strategies. Similarly, Villaume and Brabham (2003) note of teachers’ preference of systematic approach with appropriate modifications when needed. Taking the teachers’ perception of what constitutes explicit and systemic instruction approach as expressed in Mesmer and Griffith (2005); i.e. the instruction strategies where teacher-student interaction, active and individual student engagement, and individual accountability and involvement is a requirement; clear benefits for student with reading deficiencies are evident from such an approach. By engaging such students actively, they could master language reading skills to the level of their abled peers. Cihon et al. (2008) exemplify such efficacy of approaches that include children active-involvement activities using the See the Sound/Visual Phonics (STS/VP) intervention for hearing students at high risk for reading failure.


Cihon, T. M., Gardner, R., Morrison, D. & Paul, P. V. (2008). Using visual phonics as a strategic intervention to increase literacy behaviors for kindergarten participants at-risk for reading failure. Journal of Early and Intensive Behavior Intervention, 5(3), 138-155, Retrieved December 05, 2010, from

Mesmer, H. A. E. & Griffith, P. L. (2005). Everybody’s selling it-but just what is explicit, systematic phonics instruction? The Reading Teacher, 59(4), 366-376, doi: 10.1598/RT.59.4.6

Villaume, S. K. & Brabham, E. G. (2003). Phonics instructions: beyond the debate. Questions and Answers. The Reading Teacher, 56(5), 478-482.

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