Elementary School Classroom

Stanford study uses brain waves to demonstrate how different teaching methods impact reading development.

This study compared brain activity following different teaching methods, one being letter-sound (phonics) instruction and the other being whole-word association instruction. Letter-sound instruction is a focus on the relationships between letters and sounds when learning a new word, rather than a focus of the entire word all at once. The study found that words learned during letter-sound instruction showed more activity in the left side of the brain which contains the language and visual regions. The words learned through whole-word association showed more activity in the right hemisphere. The study also found that when participants read words they had never seen before, using letter-sound patterns they had learned triggered the left hemisphere processing.

Overall, the study suggests promising evidence that effective letter-sound instruction leads to activation in the parts of the brain best wired for reading and language development.