Phoneme -Grapheme decoding in Phonics-Based Instruction of English as a Second Language at an Italian High School: A Randomised Controlled Trial
Recent neurological breakthroughs in our understanding of the Critical Period Hypothesis and prosody may suggest strategies on how phonics instruction could improve L2 language learning and in particular phoneme/grapheme decoding. We therefore conducted a randomised controlled-trial on the application of prosody and phonics techniques, to improve phoneme-grapheme decoding, to test these findings on a typical late high school cohort of Italians. A trial group of 24, 17-18 year-olds followed a short 10-week, 20-hour trial course and were compared to a control (14 students) preparing for the Cambridge First Certificate exam. The trial group were given phoneme/grapheme decoding material and event-related-potential reinforcement in substitution of traditional exam practice, taught from a current textbook and web-site material. Results showed that the trial-group significantly improved in both orthography (p=0.048) and pronunciation (p=0.000), in particular in the long vowel and digraph categories. Furthermore, they significantly improved in a shortened interview category (p=0.024), for lexis, discourse and pronunciation. Due to the trial’s small size, we concentrated on reducing type 2 statistical errors to a minimum. We believe that our results confirmed the neurological findings of the use of prosody in TESOL and confirmed the validity of phonics techniques for L2 teaching. We also consider that the results are sufficiently robust to warrant a full-sized trial of phonics and prosody as a valid TESOL teaching technique
Bardin, J. (2012). Neurodevelopment: Unlocking the Brain. Nature, vol. 487, 04 July 2012, 24-26.
Brook-Hart, G. (2008), Complete First Certificate. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge English ESOL (2016) http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/teaching-english/resources-for-teachers/ (retrieved 1/3/16)
Chomsky, N. Halle, H. (1968). The Sound Pattern of English. New York, Harper and Row.
Chu M-C., and Chen, S-H. (2014) Comparison of the Effects of Two Phonics Training Programs on L2 Word Reading Psychological Reports, Vol.114(1), pp.272-291
Cook, V. (1999), Going Beyond the Native Speaker in Language Teaching, TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 33, Issue 2, pp. 185–209
Council of Europe (2001), www.coe.int/t/dg4/linguistic/source/framework_en.pdf (retrieved 1/3/2016)
Crystal, D. (1997) The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Cumming, R., Wilson, A., Leong, V., Colling, L.J., Goswami, U. (2015), Awareness of rhythm patterns in speech and music in children with specific language impairments Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Vol. 9, Issue DEC, 22
De Graaft, S. Bosman, A.M.T. Hasselman, F. Veraeven, L. (1998). The Benefit of Systematic Phonics Instruction, Scientific Studies of Reading 13(4) Routledge, 318 -333.
Dickerson, W. (1975). The wh- Question of Pronunciation. An Answer from Spelling and Generative Phonology. TESOL Quarterly, 16(1), 71-77.
Ehri, E. (1998). Grapheme –Phoneme Knowledge is Essential for Learning to Read Words in English, in Metsala, J. L., Ehri, L.C. (eds.) (1998). Word Recognition in Beginning Literacy, New York, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp 3-40.
Ehri, L. C. Nunes, S. R. Stahl, S.A. & Willows D.M. (2001). Systematic Phonics Instruction Helps Students Learn to Read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel’s Meta-Analysis, Review of Educational Research, Fall 2001 71, 393-447.
Ellis, S. (2007) Policy and research: Lessons from the Clackmannanshire Synthetic Phonics, Initiative Journal of Early Childhood Literacy December 2007 vol. 7 no. 3 281-297
Firth, S. (1987). Developing Self-monitoring Strategies in Pavey and Ehrlich, S. (eds.) The Teaching of Pronunciation. TESL Tak 17. 148-152.
Goswami U. (2004) Neuroscience and education, British Journal of Educational Psychology, vol 74, issue 1 pp 1-14
Gardner, S. (2008) Transforming Talk and Phonics Practice: Or, How Do Crabs Clap? TESOL Quarterly: A Journal for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages and of Standard English as a Second Dialect, 2008, Vol.42(2), p.261-284
Hall, K., Myers J & Bowan H. (1999). Tasks, Texts and Contexts: a Study of Reading and Metacognition in English and Irish Primary Classrooms, Educational Studies, 25. pp. 311-325.
Heidi H. (2014). Why Phonics for ELLs? http://www.readinghorizons.com/webinars/why-phonics-for-ells (retrieved 30/04/15)
Helman L. A. (2004). Building on the Sound System of Spanish: Insights from the Alphabetic Spellings of English, Language Learners International Reading Association. pp 452-460.
Hensch, T.K., Bilihorial P,M. (2012) Manipulating Critical Periods for Brain Development http://dan.org/news/cerebrum/detail.aspx?id=39360 (retrieved 10/10/2015).
Hornsby, B. Shear, F. & Pool, J. (2006). Alpha to Omega, Gosport, Heinemann.
Huss, M, Verney, J. P.,Fosker, T, Mead, N, Goswami, U. (2011), Music, rhythm, rise time perception and developmental dyslexia: Perception of musical meter predicts reading and phonology, Cortex Vol. 47, Issue 6, June 2011, pp. 674–689
Johnson, R. C. , Tweedie, G. R, (2010) Could phonemic awareness instruction be (part of) the answer for young EFL learners? a report on the early literacy project in Malaysia, TESOL Quarterly, December 2010, Vol.44(4), pp.822-829
Jones M.L. (1996). Phonics in ESL. Literacy Instruction: Functional of Not? – World Conference on Literacy, Philadelphia P.A. March 1996, 2- 18.www.literacyonline.org (retrieved 15/1/2015).
Kahraman A. (2012). Defossilization of /ae/ Phoneme Pronunciation of Non-native EFL Teachers. Journal of Language Teaching and Research. Vol. 3 N. 3, 379-385.
Khabiri, M., Rezagholizadeh, R. (2014) The Comparative Effect of Teaching Spelling through Mnemonics and Phonics on EFL Learners’ Vocabulary Achievement and Retention. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 01 July 2014, Vol.4 (7), pp.1463-1468
Kaushanskaya, M; Jeewon Y & Van Hecke S. (2013). Word Learning in Adults with Second Language Experience: Effects of Phonological and Referent Familiarity, J Speech Lang Hear Res. Apr 2013; 56(2): 667–678.
McDonald, Janet L. (2006). Beyond the Critical Period: Processing-Based Explanations for Poor Grammaticality Judgment Performance by Late Second Language Learners. Journal of Memory and Language, vol. 55 n.3, Oct 2006, 381-401.
Martinez, A. (2011). Explicit and Differentiated Phonics Instruction as a Tool to Improve Literacy Skills for children learning English as a Foreign Language: Gist Education and Learning Research Journal, 25-49.
Mesmer H. A & Griffith P L (2004). Everybody’s selling it – But Just what is Explicit, Systematic Phonics Instruction? International Reading Association; The Reading Teacher, Vol. 59, No 4, 366-376.
Ministero d’Istruzione dell’Universita’ e della Ricerca’(2012) – Indicazione Nazionali Infanzia e del primo ciclo definitiva, http://www.indicazioninazionali.it/documenti_Indicazioni_nazionali/indicazioni_nazionali_infanzia_primo_ciclo.pdf (retrieved 10/6/2017)
Morgan M., Moni K. B., Jobling M. A., (2006) Code-Breaker: Developing Phonics With a Young Adult With an Intellectual Disability, Journal of Adolescent and Adult literacy, Volume 50, Issue 1 pp 52–65
Morley J (1991). The Pronunciation Component in teaching English to Speakers of Other languages. TESOL Quarterly Vol. 25 N. 3 Autumn 1991, pp 481-520.
Murphy J. (1991). Oral Communication in TESOL: Integrating Speaking, listening and pronunciation, TESOL Quarterly Vol. 25, pp 51-75.
National Reading Panel Report NICHD (2000) Teaching children to read. An Evidence-based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implication for Reading Instruction. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National
Institute of Child Health and Human Development, April 2000 http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/nrp/Pages/smallbook.aspx (retrieved 10/01/2015)
Nickels, S. Opitz, B. & Steinhauer, K. (2013). ERPs Show that Classroom-instructed Late Second Language Learners Rely on the Same Prosodic Cues in Syntactic Parsing as Native Speakers. Neuroscience Letters 2013 Dec 17; Vol. 557 Pt B, 107-11.
Nikolov, M. (ed) (2009) The Age Factor and Early Language Learning, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter,
Nishanimut, S, P., Johnston, R, S., Joshi, R. M., Thomas, P. J. ; Padakannaya, P. (2013) Effect of synthetic phonics instruction on literacy skills in an ESL setting, Learning and Individual Differences, Oct, 2013, Vol.27, p.47(7)
PISA (2015) PISA 2015 Results, Excellence and Equity in Education, Vol 1. pp. 145 -166 http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/pisa-2015-results-volume-i_9789264266490-en#page10 (retrieved 15/10/2016)
Pittman, R. (2007). Improving Spelling Ability among Speakers of African American Vernacular English: An Intervention Based on Phonological, Morphological and Orthographical Principals, available at The Office of Graduate Studies Texas University.
Rasinki T., Rupley W. H., and Nichols W. D., (2006), Two Essential Ingredients: Phonics and Fluency Getting to Know Each Other, The Reading Teacher, Volume 62, Issue 3, 2008 pp 257–260
Shanahan, T; Beck, I, L. (2006) Effective Literacy Teaching for English-Language Learners. In August, D. (Ed); Shanahan, Timothy (Ed), (2006). Developing literacy in second-language learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority
Children and Youth, pp. 415-488. Mahwah, NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, xvi, 669 pp.
Share D, L. (1999) Phonological Recoding and Orthographic Learning: A Direct Test of the Self-Teaching Hypothesis, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Vol. 72, Issue 2, February 1999, pp. 95–129
Singleton, D. & Muñoz, C. (2008). Around and Beyond the Critical Period Hypothesis in Hinkel E. (ed.) (2011) Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning Vol 2. New York, Routledge.
Stuart M. (2005). Education and Skills Committee Eighth Report: Witnesses Monday 15th November 2004. London: United Kingdom Parliament, http://www.parliament.thestationeryoffice.co.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmeduski/121/12111.htm (retrieved 10/12/2014): in Education and Skills Committee (2005b) Teaching Children to Read: Eighth Report of Session 2004–5. London: HMSO.
Suggate, S, P. (2016) A Meta-Analysis of the Long-Term Effects of Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, and Reading Comprehension Interventions, Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol.49 (1), pp.77-96
Torgerson, C. Brooks J. and Hall J. A. (2006). Systematic Review of the Research Literature on the Use of Phonics in the Teaching of Reading and Spelling, The Department for Education and Skills UK government Brief No: RB711, January 2006
http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130401151715/http://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/RB711.pdf (retrieved 10/1/15).
Trofimovich , P. Baker W. (2006) Learning second language supra-segmentals: Effect of L2 Experience on Prosody and Fluency Characteristics of L2 Speech, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Volume 28 / Issue 01 / March 2006, pp 1-30
Ur, P. (2012). A course in language teaching: Practice and theory: Cambridge, Cambridge University Press,
Venezki, R . L, (1999) The American Way of Spelling: The structure and origins of American English Orthography, The Guilford Press, New York.
Winter J C F. (2013). Using the Student's t-test with Extremely Small Sample Sizes, Practical Assessment Research and Evaluation, Vol. 18, N. 10, 1-12.
Wong, R. (1993). Pronunciation myths and facts. English Teaching Forum Oct. 1993, 45-46.
Zang, W. (2009) Semantic Prosody and ESL/EFL Vocabulary Pedagogy TESL Canada Journal, Vol. 26, Issue 2, 2009
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.