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Psychological Perspectives on the Early Reading Wars: The Case of Phonological Awareness


by Robert C. Calfee & Kimberly A. Norman — 1998

The current mantra calls for resolving the early reading wars through a “balanced? approach. Defining balance will require careful theoretical and practical examination of specific elements in the acquisition of early reading skill. Phonemic awareness provides one opportunity for such an exercise. This article reviews origins of the construct from auditory perception through onset-rhyming patterns to the current emphasis on phoneme manipulation. Two points emerge from this review. First, both analysis of English orthography and survey of &relational data suggest that beginning readers are more likely to grasp the alphabetic principle when they can grasp the concept of the individual phonemic. Second, acquiring this competence is quite difficult for young pre-readers, but may be feasible if (1) students learn to use articulatory features as the basis for understanding phonemes, and (2) Phonemic awareness and spelling-sound relations are taught synergistically. Remaining to be completed is the task of development and evaluation of effective instructional programs to assess these hypotheses in large-scale naturalistic settings. The article describes a design-experiment strategy for approaching this task.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 100 Number 2, 1998, p. 242-274
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10311, Date Accessed: 10/24/2017 3:43:55 AM

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About the Author
  • Robert Calfee
    University of California, Riverside
    ROBERT CALFEE is a cognitive psychologist with research interests in the effect of schooling on the intellectual potential of individuals and groups. His interests focus on assessment of beginning literacy skills and the broader reach of the school as a literate environment. He is presently Professor Emeritus from Stanford University and the University of California, Riverside. Calfee, R. C. (2013). Knowledge, evidence, and faith. In K. Goodman, R. C. Calfee, & Y. Goodman (Eds.), Whose knowledge counts in national literacy policies. New York: Routledge. Calfee, R. C., & Miller, R. G. (2013). Best practices in writing assessment. In S. Graham, C. A. MacArthur, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Best practices in writing instruction, 2nd ed. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Kimberly Norman
    California State University

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