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This study's research question is, how does direct, contextualized phonics instruction that emphasizes recognition of onset and rime patterns, taught in a whole-parts-whole framework, affect low level ABE ESOL students' ability to recognize known and unknown words in print? This study grew out of the instructor/researcher's observations of students in her classroom struggling to recognize words in print that were already in their aural vocabulary. This research was primarily qualitative, implementing action research principles. The students and the instructor were the participants, and weekly activities were flexible. This 7-week study built onset and rime instruction into the regularly scheduled reading time. Pre-and post-study data was collected through a brief reading test, a student questionnaire, and a teaching journal kept by the instructor. Results suggest that onset and rime instruction can improve students' word recognition. Students' feedback also suggests that this strategy was helpful to them.