Archive for the Phonics vs Look/Say Category

Children are Learning the Wrong Kind of Phonics in the Public School Classroom.

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 QUESTION: Do children get phonics in school?


ANSWER:  Yes and No.  It depends on “which kind” of phonics you’re referring to.  There are two kinds of phonics:  ONE TYPE produces readers and the OTHER TYPE produces guessers.


QUESTION:  What are the two kinds of phonics?

ANSWER:  There are two kinds of phonics:  implicit (embedded) phonics and explicit (systematic) phonics.


QUESTION:  What is the difference between implicit and explicit phonics?  In other words, what is the difference between embedded and systematic phonics? 

ANSWER:  We can see the difference only by explaining the reading approach of both methods.  So let’s begin by explaining Implicit, Embedded Phonics.


Implicit, Embedded Phonics

Implicit, Embedded phonics begins with a WHOLE WORD and works down to smaller parts.  So when a child is taught to read using implicit phonics, blending and building a word (sounding it out from left to right) is NOT taught.

Can you imagine memorizing 300 WHOLE words every year?  Well, this is exactly what many American children have attempted to do; and, as you can imagine, many of those children have failed miserably!  

 With implicit phonics, a child does a great deal of “guessing.” In fact, he is taught that “guessing” is the correct approach to “figuring out what the word is. ”

Children taught with implicit, embedded phonics are instructed to:

1) “Guess” at the word by looking at the picture on the page.

2) “Guess” at the word by looking at the beginning and ending letters of the word.

3) “Guess” at the word by attempting to recognize the word ending or any other “chunk” of the word in the middle or at the end of the word.   

4) “Guess” at the word by looking at the shape of the word.

5) “Guess” at the word by reading the rest of the sentence to see which word “would make sense in the sentence.”  

Because children using the implicit, embedded phonics method are given a “salt and pepper” phonics, their “phonics” education begins with the memorization of whole blended “chunks” within words instead of with the correct pronunciation and blending of the individual letters that begin words.  

With implicit, embedded phonics, the child is told to look for a whole “chunk” inside the word that he recognizes.  As a result, a child often begins reading the word at the spot where he recognizes the whole “chunk” rather than to begin reading the word at the beginning of the word.   


Now let’s look at Explicit, Systematic Phonics. 

Explicit, Systematic phonics begins a child with the smallest part of a word, a single letter sound.  That child then learns to blend that single-letter sound with another single-letter sound.  From there he moves on to digraphs and diphthongs and phonograms always blending together all the sounds in a word from the beginning of the word all the way through to the end of the word, reading the word from left to right.     

With explicit, systematic  phonics, children are NEVER taught to guess at words.   

With explicit,systematic phonics all words are read from left to right, which follows in the natural order, because sentences should be read from left to right.  


QUESTION:  Do both implicit and explicit phonics teach children to read? 

ANSWER: Sadly, many parents today have been told by their child’s teacher that their little one is receiving phonics, and they probably are.  However, the phonics that American children receive in their public classrooms is the embedded, implicit, watered-down kind of phonics. 

In addition, by using the Dolch Sight Word List, teachers are insisting that children “guess” at “whole” words.  They then insist that children learn to say those whole words faster and faster within sentences instead of learning to to take their time and “sound out” and properly ascertain what all the words in the sentence really are. 

As a consequence of implicit, embedded phonics, children:

a)  Read words that aren’t really there,

b) Skip words,

c) Substitute wrong words for the actual words on the page, 

d) Mumble words.  

Subsequently, comprehension levels (a child’s understanding of the sentences he is reading) are floundering for far too many students.  

In today’s American public school classroom, our children are NOT learning explicit, systematic phonics.  They are getting watered-down, implicit, embedded phonics coupled with the guided reading guessing-game reading approach, and that is precisely why so many of our children cannot easily sound out every word on every page.

Most folks do not realize that American public school teachers do not receive explicit, systematic phonics training in any of their college classes.  Because of this, teachers are not aware of the damage that is happening to children when they are not learning to sound out words.  Children are often labeled as learning disabled or as ADHD or any other of a number of labels, when really, they just need the chance to adequately learn all the sounds within words and how to blend all those sounds from left to right.   

Even those very few teachers who were personally raised with explicit, systematic phonics instruction rarely use systematic phonics in the classroom because:

Today, the concept of Guided Reading is a featured technique in nearly every elementary school in America.  (Open Education, Fountas and Pinnell).

 QUESTION:  Is there a solution?  Is there some way for our children to receive explicit, systematic phonics instruction so they won’t have to guess at words?  

ANSWER:  There sure is!

At Candy 4WAY Phonics, we believe that children deserve to learn to read everything put in front of them so that they can move up to other necessary skills like comprehension and inferential thinking – lifelong skills that will give them jobs with an adequate income – lifelong skills that will move them into households far above the poverty level.

While it may be true that almost HALF of American adults grew up as children who struggled in reading, YOUR child doesn’t have to join that statistic.


Parents, you can teach your own children to read using a correct, systematic 4WAY Phonetic system, a system that includes daily, easy-to-follow step-by-step lessons, step-by-step rhyming phonics charts, sequenced phonics story readers, and rhyming flashcards. 

The Candy 4WAY Phonics Curriculum:



–WILL COST YOU just $9.97








Moms, Dads, your child CAN learn to read!


Carol Kay, President
Candy 4WAY Phonics

P.S.  Candy 4WAY Phonics also makes Multisensory Flashcards/Wall Cards and PDF File Folder Phonics Games available at affordable prices for everyone. 

Does Phonics Work?

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Let me begin by saying that when it comes to reading, Phonics Makes a Mammoth Difference! Yes! Phonics works!


What is Phonics? 

Phonics is learning how to recognize and blend together the sounds of letters.  For example, when a child sees a word such as bracelet, if he has learned Phonics, he will break the word apart in his mind like this:  

 br    ace    let.  

He will be able to blend together the letters br

He will know that the letter a says its own name because of the silent e at the end of that word part. 

He will know that the letter c says the  s-s-s-s sound because it comes before the letter e

He will know that the letter e in let says its short sound because he has had tons of practice reading three-letter, short-vowel words and word parts (CVC Words). 

Finally, a Phonics student will be able to blend all of those word parts together to read the word bracelet the first time he encounters the word.


How does Phonics enable a child to read all the words on the page?

A Phonics student will not struggle with a word such as bracelet.  He will be able to sound it out even if he’s never seen the word before because he will have completed a Systematic, Synthetic Phonics Curriculum and mastered each daily phonics lesson within that curriculum before he’s gone on to the next lesson.


Phonics students have taken the time necessary to learn all the possible letter blends within words.  They have mastered these blends step-by-step, one day at a time, using a step-by-step, user/friendly, systematic, synthetic phonics curriculum.


Phonics students know that each letter can have many sounds, but they also know that when some letters are combined with other letters, they can make different sounds. Phonics students have learned the sounds that letters make alone and the sounds that letters make when they are combined with other letters.


How is Phonics different from the “look say” method of reading? 

The “look say” reading method teaches a child to memorize whole words.  It does not teach a child the individual sounds within words or how to blend those sounds together.  Sadly, after a child has memorized about 2,000 words, his brain simply cannot remember any more words.  This is devastating, because by the end of the fourth grade, children need to be able to read between 30,000 and 40,000 words.  Phonics students have no problem reading this many words, because they can blend together the parts that make up words


How is Phonics different from the Whole Language Method of Teaching Reading?

The Whole Language Method teaches children to guess at words by their shape, by the first letter, by recognizing random word parts, or by the context of the rest of the words on the page.  In contrast, Phonics students do not need to guess at words.  Phonics students do not need to figure out a word by the context of the sentence or by the shape of a word or by recognizing a word part inside the word.  Phonics students can read through unfamiliar words by blending all the word parts together from left to right.   


Do struggling readers do better with Phonics? 

Struggling readers stop struggling to read after they have learned all the phonics blends.  Being able to sound out all the parts of words puts an end to struggling readers.  


At what age should Phonics Instruction begin?

Parents are the best judge for when their child needs to begin reading instruction, but children can begin reading instruction as young as 3 or 4 years old.  Three year olds can begin learning to hear the sounds of letters within words through rhyming games and multisensory letter cards.  A child as young as 4 years old can learn to blend sounds together to form three-letter, short-vowel words (CVC words).  Some children who are 4 years old have been able to read multi-syllable words at a 1st grade reading level especially if they were taken through phonemic awareness and early blending skills with a systematic phonics preschool reading program.


How much do Systematic, Synthetic Phonics Curriculums cost?   

Phonics curriculums that include daily, systematic phonics lessons, multisensory help, phonics readers and phonics charts can cost parents as much as $300 to $400 dollars.  You can say it!  Ouch!

Some Phonics curriculums that include just the daily lessons can cost as little as $35.

However, there is one Phonics Curriculum that includes everything for as little as $9.97


Candy 4WAY Phonics includes all of the following for as little as $9.97:

*Easy-to-understand Instructions
*Systematic, Daily Phonics Lessons
*Multisensory Vowel Helps
*Sequenced Phonics Readers
*Continuous, Spiral Phonics Drill
*Fun Phonics Lessons and Stories
*Rhyming Alphabet Charts
ifetime Rhyming Phonics Charts – and so much more!


Where can I find an affordable systematic, synthetic, explicit, intensive phonics curriculum like the one described above?

That’s what Candy 4WAY Phonics is all about.  Candy 4WAY Phonics was developed to make systematic phonics affordable for everyone. 

Click here to read the true story of a little girl named Candy, and to find out about the phonics curriculum that enabled little Candy to progress from being the worst reader in her reading group to being the best reader in her reading group.



Carol Kay, President

Candy 4WAY Phonics

To see all of our phonics resources including:  multisensory flashcards, fun phonics games, an audio phonics pronunciation CD-rom, a preschool systematic phonics package, and much more,
Click Here.








Older Children Struggling to Read – The Nonsense of the Dolch Sight Words List – Controlled Vocabularies

Posted in Phonics vs Look/Say, sight words vs high frrquency words | 1 Comment »


Genuine Sight Words are those few words that break phonics rules, and yet, some sight words are necessary in order for children to read sentences at a beginning-reader level.  

So that children can begin to read simple sentences, sight words first appear along with short-vowel words that consist of just three or four letters. 

The question, then, is not

Should we teach sight words? 


Rather, the two-fold question is

1) How many sight words are there?


2) What should determine whether or not a word should be classified as a genuine sight word? 


Let me stop here and explain the Candy 4WAY Phonics reasoning behind sight words.  The very limited list of sight words used in the Candy 4WAY Phonics Program is just one of the factors that separates Candy 4WAY Phonics from most other reading programs sold in America.  

Most educators agree that sight words are “those words that do not follow regular phonetic patterns and rules.”  Therefore, Sight Words are words that your child must memorize – not sound out– but memorize


I partially agree with this definition. 


There certainly is a list of genuine sight words that must be memorized, but that list is much smaller than most reading programs promote.  This is because of two reasons: 

FIRST, the long lists of sight words in most other reading programs include words that can be sounded out.   


SECOND, many words labeled as “sight words” that appear on these long word lists are placed on those lists because they are words that appear frequently in children’s books such as the I Can Read Book Series


As a result, words such as:  lookawaydown,  and  jump are often taught as sight words when, actually, they can easily be sounded out.   


If you can believe it, there are actually over 300 of these UNNECESARY, so-called “sight words,” and they are taught regularly in our public schools as words that need to be memorized as WHOLE words.  These so-called “sight words” appear on millions of word walls every year and on what is referred to as the Dolch Sight Word List.  

At Candy 4WAY Phonics  we emphatically believe that words should NOT be classified as “sight words” simply because they appear frequently in popular, easy-to-read children’s books.  

This is why the Candy 4WAY Phonics Program presents a fraction of the number of sight words that appear in other curriculums.  Furthermore, we only include genuine sight words in our program—those words that actually break phonics rules.

Fortunately, children are usually very adept at recognizing which words follow the rules and which words break the rules.  If you’ve been a parent for very long you are probably keenly aware that children are very good at knowing who broke a rule, exactly what rule they broke, and everyone else who got away with breaking that rule. Likewise, children are also very adept at recognizing when a word breaks a phonics rule and which phonics rule that word broke.      


At Candy 4WAY Phonics, we teach just 58 sight words throughout our program. Only 33 of those words also appear among the 315 sight words listed on the Dolch Sight Word List. 

In other words, the Dolch Sight Word list includes 282 words that CAN be sounded out. That’s 282 words that children are required to memorize as WHOLE words that they could have learned to sound out!


EVEN MORE SAD is the fact that in far too many American classrooms, where children are subject to the Dolch controlled-vocabulary list, a student’s reading level is determined by how many of these Dolch Sight Words he can recognize.  For example, the following ridiculous criteria is used by American educators to determine the reading levels for millions of elementary students: 


0 – 75     –      ESTIMATED READING LEVEL is Pre-primer

76 –  120  –     ESTIMATED READING LEVEL  is Primer

121 – 170  –    ESTIMATED READING LEVEL is 1st Grade

171 – 210 –    ESTIMATED READING LEVEL is 2nd Grade

 Above 210 – ESTIMATED READING LEVEL is 3rd Grade or higher            


If you think this is a fluky, nonsensical way to determine reading level, I couldn’t agree with you more.  Look, for example, at the free 4th Grade Reading Test offered on the Candy 4WAY Phonics  website.  In that reading test, you’ll see words such as: 

canopies     scarce     silent     interrupted     potent     fervors     foliage     fierce

You’re not going to find any of those words on the Dolch Sight Word List, and, yet, children who have been assigned with a 3rd grade reading level are going to encounter hundreds of these types of words during their 4th grade school year.  A child who has been trained to memorize all the WHOLE words on the Dolch List isn’t going to have a great deal of time left over to learn to sound out  words like canopies and foliage

 A phonics-trained student, however, will easily be able to read words like canopies and foliage along with words such as: 

canonization        cancerous        candidacies        canoodled 


folklore    follicular    manifoldness  and  portfolios


A child who has spent his days tediously learning to recognize high-frequency WHOLE words and is stuck daily reading boring I Can Read Books that focus upon such WHOLE words, will have mastered a whopping 1,216 words by the end of 3rd grade and 1,554 words by the end of fourth grade.  

In comparison, a child who has spent his days with the Candy 4WAY Phonics Program , systematically gaining the skills to sound out every word he encounters by daily studying and learning to blend all the letter combinations that make up words, will have mastered the skills necessary to sound out an estimated 30,000 words by the end of 3rd grade and over 40,000 words by the end of fourth grade. 

Moreover, the Candy 4WAY Phonics Program  even shows children how to “sound out” the sight words.

Is it true that sight words can be sounded out?

Genuine sight words cannot be sounded out using regular phonics rules, but they can be sounded out using a pronunciation key.  The Candy 4WAY Phonics Program includes a Sight Word Pronunciation Guide explaining the pronunciation symbols given for each of the 58 sight words in the program.   

To make it even easier, the Candy 4WAY Phonics CD-Rom Program (which sells for just $19.97) includes an Audio CD-Rom by which parents can hear every letter and every word and every sentence in every daily phonics lesson, eliminating all the guesswork as to the correct pronunciation of all the letters and blends that make up words.)   

In summary, at Candy 4WAY Phonics  , we DO NOT agree with the number of sight words that most curriculums promote.  The standard Dolch Sight Word List used by a great many educators grossly overloads the minds of children with tons of needless whole-word-memory tasks!

Moreover, reading studies now show that any kind of approach to reading that does not include a strong phonics focus is risking failure for a larger percentage of our children.

Simply put, children are never going to love reading if they can’t read. 

Many children of normal intelligence are simply not capable of memorizing thousands of WHOLE words, and yet that is most certainly what is happening in one classroom after another as children are taught to memorize WHOLE words instead of learning to sound them out. 

Sadly, when children of normal intelligence cannot read, they are at risk of being labeled ”learning-disabled” and then, even more sadly, they become locked in with the label:  “special-education.” 

On the other hand, once a child has approached words from a “sounding out” process, that child will find it much easier to read every word on every page, including all the genuine sight words! 


Carol Kay, President

Candy 4WAY Phonics