No More A-/a/-apple: An Examination of Kindergarten and First Grade Phonics within a Progressive Framework

Arielle R. Derby, Bank Street College of Education

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This paper examines the approach to teaching literacy taken by back to basics and progressive educators, and the role of phonics within each type of literacy program. The necessity and application of phonics for kindergarten and first grade children is discussed, grounded in the author's experience teaching in a progressive private school and a back to basics charter school. I found from research and my experience, that phonics is a necessary component for any complete literacy program. In addition, learning phonics has a stronger and more positive effect on children's early reading and writing when it is taught within a developmentally appropriate, experiential, and progressive approach to literacy (Cunningham & Allington, 2003; Pinnell & Fountas, 1998; Moustafa, 1997). A brief overview of progressive research on phonics and learning to read is included, as well as phonics- and phonemic awareness-based activities grouped by ability level and target skill. These activities are intended to provide a practical example of phonics within a progressive framework. Finally, the connection is made between ensuring quality literacy education for all children and the ongoing struggle for socioeconomic justice and equity in our society.