Saturday, December 12, 2015

Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties

On 10.12.2015 I received a complimentary copy of the book "Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties" from the author, Dr.David A.Kilpatrick. 

I recommend the book to anyone who wants to learn as to why some kids find it difficult to read. Don’t be surprised to see my name on the acknowledgement page. 

Chapter one starts off by talking about a race where one lane has a high hurdle while the next has a slightly lower hurdle and the other 4 lanes have no hurdle at all. When the gun sounds the runners in the first 2 lanes are left behind and as the race progresses they get further and further behind.

The author goes on to say that about one third of students are like the kids running on the 1st and 2nd lane. They are unable to read as well as the other kids. As they progress into 2nd and 3 rd grade they get further behind and finally end up as school dropouts. 

The author continues and says efforts to help the weaker readers have been geared toward teaching them how to jump more efficiently over their hurdles. Effort should instead be made in removing the hurdles from the track even before the race begins. Efforts should be made to remove hurdles still ahead of the runners once the race has begun.

This is what I have been writing in my blog since 2010. The message is clear and yet we still have the same percentage of students leaving school as illiterates year after year.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Andrew P. Johnson's flawed views on phonics

Andrew P Johnson is a professor from Minnesota State University, Mankota.

           "The Problems with Phonics-Only Reading Programs
            Students who are struggling readers are often given programs that involve only direct instruction of phonics or other reading sub-skills (McCormick & Zutell, 2011).  There are four problems with these types of phonics-only programs:"

My comment: The above is a sweeping statement which will mislead many readers including teachers, students and parents. It is highly irresponsible for a professor to make sweeping statements which will mislead readers. Firstly, how many programmes teach only direct phonics? More importantly, it is not phonics that is the culprit but the teaching of phonemes by many teachers who do not know the letter sounds. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Congratulations to one my former student

I wrote about one of my first students who drove me up the wall with refusing to sound out the word fox. She had been taught letter sound correspondences wrongly by her Tuition Centre. Please read details in my post here:

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Q&A on Disengaged Students

The following is a Face Book Q&A between my former employer Mr.Kandiah Namasivayam and myself.
Luqman, some Kids shut down while Learning English. Others don't. Why? That is the million dollar question. It is obvious to you. But when some kids have no problem why only some kids shut down? So the entire blame cannot be put on English and its teaching method. Obviously there is more to it than what is apparent. Now I wonder why kids turn off when watching Sesame Street? There could be many reasons, one being distraction or attention deficiency syndrome. How do you connect the former to this one?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Challenging institutionalized assumptions about reading failure

I think it is time to challenge our institutionalized assumptions about reading failure. Our assumption that many students will be poor readers can and should be changed. As Dr. G Reid Lyon said, these kids are “instructional casualties”.

Since they are “instructional casualties” what should teachers do to prevent it?

I ask myself as to why scientists, educators, and PhD’s are still groping in the dark when Dr.G Reid Lyon had said in ‘Children of the Code’ that most of the disengaged kids are “Instructional Casualties”?
Is he the only one to say that? No.  Many others have said the same thing and they had said it even much earlier than Dr. G Reid Lyon did. Recently Jo-Anne Gross, from Linkedin, a group I belong to, was daring enough to say (in Linkedin) that reading failure is a case of ‘Dystechia!’ I hope more people will be bold enough to speak their mind like Jo-Anne. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Shame avoidance

The following is taken from 'Children of the Code'

Here are some of the things the 6 kids in the video above said:

Kid No.1: I’d make a scene …... I would act out….just rebel…I was just embarrassed
Kid No2: I just make up an excuse, I say I don’t have glasses with me, that normally worked but I don’t wear glasses.
Kid no.3: I usually slump down on my seat where they couldn’t see me. If they wanted me to read I’d pretend that I am figuring out something ….It’s pretty much what I have been doing for as long as I know.
Kid No.4: Go to restroom…… turn my head down …make like I was not paying attention so they won’t call me.
Kid No.5: I will go to the bathroom and stay until it was time and come back in.
Kid No. 6: I will act like I was asleep so they would not call on me

Friday, September 4, 2015

Correct 'Letter sounds'

I copied and pasted my article "How not to teach letter sounds" in Linkedin and a reader asked me if I had any videos on 'how to sound letters'.

It appears that there are many teachers who do not know how letter sounds let alone parents.

So, I copied 3 videos below for your listening pleasure. Please listen to them carefully. Ask your kids, especially kids who do not like reading, how to pronounce a few letters, say, F, M and L and please write to me and let me know if it is different from what you hear below.

You may write to me at:

Here are the three videos.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Real 21st-Century Problem in Public Education

I picked the title above from a discussion in Linkedin in the internet. I believe articles like this will be leading masses to bark up the wrong tree.  

"The October 2013 Southern Education Foundation study indicates clearly that poverty, which has long been the biggest obstacle to educational achievement, is more important than ever. It is our true 21st century problem.
A large and growing proportion of US students live in poverty and even concentrated poverty, have a disability, and/or are learning English as a second language. THAT is the paradigm shift, and we need a totally new set of policies to address that 21st century reality.
We do have a 21st century education crisis – poverty. Until we properly diagnose the illness, however, our prescribed remedies will continue to fall far short."

I believe poverty (the state of being extremely poor) is a problem but not necessarily the biggest problem in public education.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Another confession of a teacher

The following is extracted from a blog by Melinda Crean  found here:  

“You know at the end of university I didn’t have a clue how to teach kids how to read, write and spell.  I came through university with the whole language approach to teaching reading.  This approach is based on the visual memorisation of whole written words and doesn’t teach the skills or conceptual knowledge needed to read.  When I came through uni, phonics was a bit taboo, and we were told that we don’t teach literacy like that anymore.  I have had no exposure to phonics and don’t really know much about this approach to teaching reading”.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Dyslexia is not a language based learning disability

I vehemently disagree with what Rachna Varia says in her video

This video shares what dyslexia is, what it's not, and what needs to be done!
“Dyslexia is a language based learning disability that impacts phonological processing in reading…”
 “Phonological processing is the ability to see or hear a word, break it down to discrete sounds, and then associate each sound with letter/s that make up the word”.

My comment: Both the statements above are erroneous. It is PhD holders like her who write as if they are authorities on subjects that they know little about. This is one of the problems that hinders the progress of education. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Toast Masters Talk: Shut Down Kids

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
I am grateful for this opportunity to give a talk on shut down kids.

First and foremost, I would like to thank Dr. Jacob Yan who invited me to give this talk. Dr.  Jacob Yan is a fellow club member of The Lions Club of Kota Kinabalu Host, the oldest and largest Lions club in Sabah.
This talk is one of the numerous activities of The Lions Club of Kota Kinabalu Host.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Confessions of a teacher

The following is part of a comment in Linkedin in a forum I am participating in.

"I`m told that to be polite is important but when it harms innocent children and puts their teachers into further instructional confusion-it irritates me to no end......there is barely a whimper of "how to teach reading" in the early grades.The factory of labeling the victim is still in place,I think 99% of the problems are dysteachia brought on by outdated teacher licensing institutions!" (Jo-Anne Gross)

Since 2010 I have been saying that the majority of kids leaving school as illiterates are casualties of teaching. It starts from kindergarten where letter sounds/phonemes are taught wrongly.

The following is extracted from:   Children of the Code interview.

This interview was given by Dr. G. Reid Lyon who is the former Chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch within the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institute of Health (NIH). He was recruited into NICHD in 1991.

“I had to learn how to be a teacher, so I went back and took education courses and became certified as an elementary school teacher and as a special education teacher. Now, I say I took courses, but that is not to say that I learned anything. As a matter of fact, I had no idea what I was doing when I got into my third grade classroom other than calling the roll and recess”.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Disengaged students

I prefer the term disengaged/disconnected/shut-down students to dyslexic students. The term dyslexia is being misused by people with vested interest to include many conditions that would be best excluded from the dyslexia definition. For instance kids with auditory processing difficulty, kids with acuity problems, kids with neurological problem and kids with sight problems should all be excluded from the dyslexia umbrella.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Dyslexia – How NOT to teach letter sounds

How would you pronounce the following word?
Can you recognize that word? It is an English word given to us by Liz Dunnon. You can hear it in a You Tube video here: (You can hear it under skill 2 between minutes 1.48 and 3.05 in the video.)

Unfortunately this is how letter sounds are presented to kids by many schools here in Malaysia as well as in countries speaking English as their main language. The letter c does not say cuh and the letter t does not say tuh. What happens to kids (the roughly 20% of kids who are prone to shutting down) who are taught that these are the letter sounds? They SHUT-DOWN. I have written an article on this about one of my first students who refused to say the word fox. You may read that article here:

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dyslexia – News from organizations with vested interest

On 4.6.2015 I first saw an article in the internet about how dyslexics see fonts. This news was subsequently published in many magazines and newspapers. It began to appear on Face Book and an article also appeared in Linkedin.This continued for about a month.

Many articles related to dyslexia keep surfacing periodically and I believe these are articles supported by some organization with vested interest.
The first article that I saw on dyslexia fonts can be foundhere

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dyslexia not linked to eyesight

Many individuals and associations who have a vested interest keep posting articles that say that dyslexics have all kinds of ailments which are not true.

One such claim has been that dyslexics see words in pages jumping around and that words flow out over the edges of pages. They even do videos and post them all over the internet and dupe parents of dyslexics to go for eye tests and also to buy glasses with coloured layers which supposedly will help kids in learning to read by making the words not float about.(I looked for the video today but it is now classified as private.)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Does teaching handwriting re-mediate Reading related learning disabilities?

Following is my letter to Ms.Rowe A. Young Kaple who wrote an article on Handwriting and I copied it to Marilym Jager Adams. We'll await their response. Meanwhile:
Dear Ms.Rowe A. Young Kaple,
Recently I read your article entitled: Teaching fluent Handwriting re-mediates many reading-related Learning Disabilities.

I have a few questions for you and your team and would like your response please. I would be posting this e-mail in my blog and would like your response to post in a subsequent post.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fixed mind set

I engage in discussions in forums under Literacy for Reluctant and Struggling students in Linkedin. A teacher there keeps talking about scientific method of teaching being the only way to improve literacy. When I asked her specifically and the group in general as to why the rate of illiteracy has not come down since the 1970’s she nor the group responded. I asked her why scientific method of teaching has not been implemented in schools and if it has why then there is no improvement in literacy even after George Bush’s ‘No child left behind policy’ introduced in 2001. Again there is no answer. 

Whatever I had said in Linkedin about my teaching experiences with dyslexic kids is brushed off as anecdotal and has “no place in scientific teaching”.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Writing and reading

I have written about a British who could read fluently in Japanese and yet was ‘dyslexic’ when it came to reading in English. I have articles by researchers saying that Italians who could read fluently in Italian could not read well in English. I personally have taught many dyslexic kids who could read well in Malay and yet were dyslexic in English. Now, my friend Bob has said that a Harvard professor who wrote the introduction to the 1912 English translation of The Montessori Method also wrote "That (handwriting fluency) might work for Italians, but it would never work for Anglophone students".

How can we incorporate handwriting with what I have been writing in my blog on teaching ‘shut-down’ learners?

A continuation of my Face Book discussion

This is a continuation of my Face Book discussion with Bob and Kate Gladstone

On 1.7.2015 Kate Gladstone had written in Bob’s face book page: "Actually, I've met seriously struggling readers who could churn out page after page of impeccable cursive or ball-and-stick printing ... and who could not read even what they had just copied."

Bob Rose: Hand -writing will improve literacy - Part 3

I have said in no uncertain terms that handwriting should be encouraged for kids in schools. When you handwrite, be you a visual learner, auditory learner or kinaesthetic learner, the alphabet you write and sound out while writing it will embed in your brain.

Having said the above and having said in the previous two posts that learning to write fluently does not necessarily translate into reading fluently in English I began to think how to incorporate teaching a kid to write with what I have been writing all along in this blog.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Bob Rose: Hand- writing will improve literacy – part 2

I have added some further thoughts. Those of you who have read yesterdays post may read only the indented passages.

"What Bob Rose thinks is that "phonics rules" don't really exist, especially for our vowels, so what counts is the sound represented in the particular word the student is learning to write. The association is made mentally as the student "silently" say the word (with its sounds) to himself as the word is repetitively written."

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bob Rose - "Hand writing will improve literacy"

The following is extracted from a conversation in Face Book with a good friend Rova Rose, a retired medical doctor. You can find him on FB here

This is part one of our conversation. I’ll write my comments in the next few days.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Writing by hand and reading

I just returned from France after a month in and around Nice.

On my return trip I chanced upon an article in the Straits Times on Hand writing and how it helps with reading. In 2012 a reader of my blog Robert V. Rose, M.D. (retired) had said that the best way to learn to read is by hand writing.I have not done any research on the statement - " The best way to learn to read is by hand writing".

Saturday, April 4, 2015

My article in Linkedin today

I will be very busy for the next 45 days and will probably not post any new articles. However, I’ll continue re-posting the articles that I had posted in 2010 and 2011.

Here is an article I posted in Linkedin today in response to the trained teachers who insist that students should be taught on some scientific system.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dyslexia – Some questions and suggested answers

Are there children who find it more difficult to learn to read than a majority of children?
The answer should be a resounding yes as there are research reports and news paper reports stating that all over the world about 20% of children are illiterate in the English language when they leave school.

How many of the roughly 20% of children can become good readers after intervention?
Almost 90% of these children can be taught to read with intervention as recorded by many researchers.

Did they give them some form of medication to achieve these results?
No, none whatsoever.

How many of the kids who could read after intervention were found to have phonological awareness problem?
This is what the researchers should look at. I would believe that none of the kids who could read after intervention had any phonological awareness problem. Chances are the remaining 2 or 3 % from the original group have a phonological or acuity problem. As such those kids I mentioned who read well after intervention should not be categorized under the same group as children with APD or children with acuity problem. Stanovich has clearly defined what Dyslexia is not.

When should/can we identify kids who have difficulty learning to read?
We should be able to do this within six months of reading. If approximately 80% of the kids can read well and yet these 20% cannot read as well as the 80% a teacher should be able to identify these kids simply by asking them to read. Ask them to read some new material with the same words that they have already learnt.

What is the cause for this learning problem?
This is where I hope researchers will conduct studies and confirm my findings. All these children who were able to read after intervention are most probably shut-down learners as described in my blog.
They shut-down when things taught to them are not logical. They shut down when things are confusing.

We should get rid of the term dyslexia as I have mentioned in my blog since 2010. The term dyslexic has too varied a meaning as described in my blog. They vary from one dyslexia association to another. The Learning Disabilities Association places dyslexia under a list of learning disabilities whereas the Dyslexia Association places all learning disabilities under the dyslexia umbrella.

If there are research reports stating that intervention has reduced the number of kids who cannot read from about 30% to 3% then all kids, other than those with acuity or phonological problems should and can be taught to read.

What can/should be changed?
The 30 odd year notion that children cannot read because of some perceived ‘phonological awareness deficit’ should be got rid of. A majority of the 20% of kids who cannot read do not have any form of phonological awareness problem. It is a case of ‘shut-down’ problem because of being confused.

I am really astonished that many researchers I had written to cannot accept that dyslexic children cannot have a phonological awareness or phonemic problem if these same children can read in many other orthographically consistent languages.

Friday, March 27, 2015

My current 'Shut down' student - Part 2

We agreed to teach Steve 3 times a week for one hour each time. We also informed his parents that we will be able to teach him only until the end of March.

From day one (25.1.2015) we started writing out 5 Dolch words a day and asked his mother to make sure he knows how to spell those words on his next visit.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

My current ‘shut-down’ student

My current student Steve (not his real name) came to us on 25.1.2015. A mother of one of our former students had introduced Steve’s mother to us. (I have given him this nickname as he is well built and if he does body building exercises he will be like the legendary Steve Reeves).

Steve will be 9 in October this year and has been retained in primary 2 because he was not able to read at grade level.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Linkedin – Forum on how to teach reluctant and struggling readers- Final Part

Individualistic views and opinions have no place in training teachers in the "science of reading".
There will be tremendous improvements when teachers gain this kind of training.
Phonemes are speech sounds.

My thoughts: I believe this is the problem. If Science of reading has been taught for the last donkey years why are there kids who shut-down? Why has the rate of illiterate students leaving school not reduced since 1970?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Linkedin – Forum on how to teach reluctant and struggling readers- Part 3 of 4

As mentioned in my previous post the exchanges in the forum are all academic.
I disagree because we teach the 44 phonemes of the English language and their graphemes (around 90) in order to achieve reading and spelling proficiency.
This is the science of reading.

My thoughts: I believe everyone in Malaysia was only taught grapheme/phoneme relationship. They were taught only one of the phonemes of each letter. As we read the teacher would talk about some of the combinations and the sound they made. We were specifically taught consonant blends, digraph and schwa etc when we were in primary 5 or 6, but by that time we had already learned how to read. When we finished form 5 (11th grade) we could all read fluently.
Terry wrote about “the purist camp of synthetic phonics”. I suppose I belong to that camp in that I would not teach analytic phonics, memorising whole words or guessing from context. However, once you understand the principles of synthetic phonics, you can be flexible. If a teacher analyses ‘ur’ in fur with ‘a’ ‘t’ in ‘cat’, that teacher has not understood the principles, because ‘a’ and ‘t’ are clearly separate sounds, whereas with ‘ur’ it is not so clear and that is why there is this debate.

I agree with everyone who has said that the ‘r’-controlled vowels are best taught as one sound. I am sure they would all agree that ‘a’ ‘t’ as in ‘cat’ should be taught as two sounds. My point is that if you are teaching a child from the Shetland Isles and that child reads ‘girl’ by sounding and blending /g/../i/../r/../l. and gets ‘girl’ the way that child pronounces it, that is fine with me – same idea for spelling.

Liz you said:" I was intrigued to hear that someone might do it differently, and wondered what their reasoning might be!" It could be that that teacher wants his students to remember that each alphabet contributes to the sound a word makes. I don't see why one cannot teach that way and then explain 'blending' and that 'ur' together make xxx sound. The child should be taught blending  (when the time is appropriate) and how the 2 alphabets blend to give the new sound. This will prevent a child shutting down.

Liz, I agree with your:"I think this is a good example of why we should be flexible and relaxed about the number of sounds and how to teach them. There is no one 'correct' way to pronounce the sounds of English."

You may find the 44 sounds in the English language in this site:

Luqman, this is an interesting analysis.

I suggest you do not include ‘blends’. There is no need for these. Pupils do not need to be taught ‘br’, because it represents two sounds (phonemes) that can be separated and then blended: /b/ and /r/. This reduces the burden on memory enormously. There are around 42 sounds (phonemes) that can be pronounced on their own, but if consonant blends are included as single sounds, there are between 150 and 200 sounds to learn.

My thoughts: I agree with this lady. Combine the alphabets when you come across that word. Each alphabet has a sound. No need to teach all the combinations. The above list is extracted from the internet.

Liz, I am with you completely. I do not teach the 44 sounds above. In fact after posting the 44 sounds above, I was discussing with my wife about how I teach my dyslexic students. We discussed many of the sounds mentioned in the site and I asked my wife but she could not answer me either. I have been teaching my dyslexic students that all the vowels in the English language has more than one sound (I don't use the word phoneme as I myself learned it only about 10 years ago- no need to teach kids words they don't need to learn while in primary 1 or 2.) So, my question to my wife was: "If we teach my dyslexic students that there is a short e as in pen and long e as in beef how would I explain the following sounds of the alphabet e-
E as in each, equal,
E as in earn, early,
E as in ebony, echo,
E as in eight, eighty,
E as in elect, elastic,
E as in either,
E as in ewe

We both decided that since our dyslexic students can read well with our teaching style, let us stick with it. All we are interested in is to make sure our students learn to read and this we have been very successful at.

              Where there is a will there is a way. ~ English proverb