Monday, August 7, 2017

Extracts of interview – Timothy Shanahan in COTC (Part 3)



David Boulton:  Why is learning to read so difficult?  

Dr. Timothy Shanahan:  I’m not sure we entirely know that. Certainly, one very small group of kids has something that doesn’t quite work right in their brains in terms of picking up this kind of information. They don’t do it that easily. That doesn’t mean that they can’t learn to.


My comment: Timothy does not know and when I tell him why many kids can’t read he does not respond. I have taught disengaged kids for more than 10 years. I teach them on a one on one basis. That means I am able to see their facial expression and find out from them as to why they pronounce certain words the way they do. I am able to find out why they refuse to sound out words I have asked them to sound out.
I repeat myself when I say that I ask these kids to read in Malay and those in Chinese schools to read in romanised Mandarin. I find that they can read in Malay and romanised Mandarin but not in English. One should therefore ask why is it that these children can read in one language using the same alphabets but not in the other.

The answer is simple, Dr. Timothy, it is simple for anyone with a logical mind. I have found out the answer and when I tell you and guys like David Boulton and Reid Lyon all of you refuse to respond.
Ask yourself how it is possible for some Remediation Teachers in LinkedIn to say that they can teach kids (who cannot read at grade level), to be able to read at grade level in just 4 months. The answer is simple. These kids had shut down and thus had not learned how to read because they were confused.
Why are these kids confused but not the approximately 80% of other kids? The answer given by David Boulton below is apt.

David Boulton:  They’ve got a neurobiological disadvantage of some form. Now you’re talking five percent or so?

Dr. Timothy Shanahan:  Yes, it’s probably relatively small. People have always argued something between one percent and about twenty percent. It’s probably about three-to-five percent, some place in the middle. There clearly are some kids who, for whatever reason because of the way their neurological systems work, don’t pick up this information easily. They need special teaching and even with that they will probably learn more slowly or have more difficulty than other kids.

My comment: No, the number is not small. Even at 10% of the population, it can run into millions of children all over the world.

And no! They don’t need special teaching. They should just be taught correctly in the first place. The problem now is that they have been taught wrongly. So to save everybody the headache, just do it right the first time. For children to unlearn what they have been wrongly taught, and then learn what the correct method is, is a sheer waste of time, energy and money.

David Boulton: There are so many children, certainly more than three-to-five percent, who struggle to learn to read. Obviously, their struggles are much more with whether they’re being taught, how well they’re being taught, and what they’re social situation is doing to support them – both at home and in the school. I guess the easiest way to sum it up is we’re not doing as good of a job as we need to do as parents or as teachers and that obviously has to change.
Dr. Timothy Shanahan: “I’m not sure we entirely know that.”

My comment: AND when I tell them the reason why, they do not even bother to comment or question me. Timothy has a blog in which I had written my comments and he has yet to respond. Here is part of my comment:
“There are two matters that I know which cause the confusion:
1. Adding vowel sounds to consonants. Please read a post in my blog where I have explained an actual incidence. You can find it here: http://www.dyslexiafriend.com/2010/02/unlearn.html

2. Not telling kids upfront that alphabets in the English language have more than one sound. Teachers teach 'a' is for apple; 'b' is for bed, 'c' is for cat and so on. All children learn this with ease.

Soon after that the teacher teaches sound of 'a' that is different from what they have been taught for example: 'a' as in arm; 'a' as in ace; 'a' as in also; 'a' as in around.

A majority of kids have no problem learning but about 20 percent of kids who are predisposed to shutting down do indeed shut down/disengage from reading. These are the kids referred to by Ms. Nancy Hennessy when she said  “……even if we settle on a middle number, let us say 10%; that still leaves a lot of children who are not dyslexic, whose brains are not wired any different way, who have reading difficulty."

Dr. I have studied these kids on a one on one basis and am convinced that if they are taught alphabet sounds correctly and also informed at the onset that alphabets have more than one sound (including consonants) a majority of kids will not shut -down.”

Additional comment: A kid in grade three who spoke good English was sent to me for tuition as he could not even read at grade one level. I gave him a simple book to read and he pronounced the word ’to’ as ‘toe’. I wrote the word ‘do’ and asked him to read and he happily read it as ‘doe’. When I asked him as to why he read it the way he did he happily said that his teacher had told him that ‘o’ is for octopus and also that he was born in October.

All I needed to do was to tell him that many letters in English have more than one sound. For instance, in connection with the words do and octopus in the above mentioned paragraph, the letter ‘o’ in do does not sound the same as the letter ‘o’ in octopus.  I was able to wean him off of all the sounds that he had been wrongly taught and make him read at grade level in less than 3 months.

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