Hey Michelle,

Saw your question in the reading section and thought I’d answer it for you with a little more depth.

Most schools (or all the ones I know) use a combo of both phonics and whole language approach, although not all of them use the program called Letterland because it costs the schools bundles! Ours is called the Alphabet Song, almost the same, but different enough that it’s free!!

The 100 Most Used Word List needs to be recognised instantly, which is where the 'whole language' approach comes in. Some of these words are: I, can, big, go, is, it, like, me, and, we, went, up, my, this, the, to, a, an, as, at (first 20, can give you the rest if you want)

As their name indicates, they are the 100 most used words, so need to be known straight away. Teachers use flash cards, go fish, bingo, memory games, etc to get these words recognised instantly.

Letterland, or phonics, come in at the same time, and are generally used for the remaining words in the first 8-12 levels of reading texts. Teachers may use Cued articulation (a program designed with hand symbols that relate to the different parts of the mouth, tongue and lips used to form each sound) to help, and many of the words at this stage also have visual clues to help. (NEVER tell your kids not to look at the pictures, as one of my more idiotic parents would shout at her little preppie! That's what they're there for!!)

By the time the kids are at about level 14/15, they have learnt many other strategies for deciphering words, and no longer need phonics. They’ve learnt blends, clusters and digraphs by this stage. It's also at around this level that it becomes too hard, as the words are more difficult and have so many differing letter/sound relationships phonics becomes useless and more confusing.

Remember though, they both have an important role in reading. The 100 Most Used Word List HAS to be recognized instantly, or your child’s reading will progress very slowly. And phonics is fantastic for learning new words.

Hope this helped, Dette