Fact check: How should children learn to read and write?
A heated debate is raging in elementary school to learn the right method of reading and writing. In some states, the "writing by ear" approach was even banned. In a fact check, the Mercator Institute for Language Promotion and German as a Second Language at the University of Cologne is now providing scientifically sound answers to the question of how children should best learn to read and write in primary school.
According to the IQB education trend, the skills of students in the field of spelling have deteriorated in many federal states over the past few years. There are divided opinions about the reasons for this development. Parents and teachers often blame the “writing by ear” method. Several federal states have focused on spelling and decided not to use the controversial method. Most recently, a study by the University of Bonn heated the mind. The researchers compared various methods used in German classrooms and came to the conclusion that primary school children learn best using the classic so-called primer method of reading and writing.
There is no one right method for everyone when learning to read and write
The Mercator Institute has now carried out a fact check "Learn to read and write in primary school" to objectify the debate. In it, the author Simone Jambor-Fahlen evaluated the various research results on the topic. Most important result: There are no clear statements in the studies on the question of which method is best used to learn to read and write.
On video interview with the author Dr. Simone Jambor-Fahlen
However, various empirical studies show that more powerful students learn to read and write successfully largely independently of the method, according to the fact check. For weaker children, on the other hand, a structured lesson is helpful, in which the teacher explains the system of writing to the children. "There is no one right method of learning to read and write for all children and all teachers," says Michael Becker-Mrotzek, director of the Mercator Institute.
Teaching spelling requires comprehensive didactic concepts
It is unclear for various reasons whether the much-discussed “reading by writing” method, which is also called “writing by ear” in public discourse, actually leads to pupils having poor spelling performance: on the one hand, it can be assumed that teachers read often do not apply in the conceptually pure form by writing. According to Becker-Mrotzek, this would mean that spelling is never an issue in class. However, teachers often add other elements to methods and teach spelling early in primary school, explains Becker-Mrotzek.
On the other hand, studies that have studied reading and writing depending on different methods show that none is clearly superior. "It makes no sense to reduce the question of how elementary school students learn to read and write best to the method and to ban individual concepts," says Becker-Mrotzek. It is much more important that teachers coordinate the lessons with their students. The teaching of spelling requires comprehensive didactic concepts. For this, teachers would have to be trained and advanced, Becker-Mrotzek demands.
Children don’t learn spelling as an end in themselves
The fact check from the Mercator Institute also provides information on what teachers should pay attention to in the first years of school. Children learn spelling not as an end in themselves, but so that they can read and write texts. "It is important that teachers arouse and maintain children’s interest and curiosity in reading and writing," emphasizes Simone Jambor-Fahlen, author of the fact check. However, not every child learns the same way. For some students it is crucial that teachers explicitly explain and justify the rules. Others would have to read or write words themselves and learn the underlying rules. “But teachers also have to feel confident in using the method. Because we know from research that the teacher is central to the learning success of the pupils. ”The educational researcher said similarly in a detailed interview with the German school portal on learning to write.
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