This was because of the way these children have been taught in tuition centres and in kindergartens. They had been taught the letter sounds in the wrong way. Almost all my students gave me the same answer to questions as to what sound the letters b, f, t, s (and many other letters) made.
I rang a few of the tuition centres and asked what they meant by phonics and most of the centres gave me some acceptable answers. However, when I asked them to pronounce some of the letters of the alphabet this was their response. They pronounced ‘f’ as ‘fur’, ’t’ as ‘ter’ ‘s’ as ‘sir/shr’. Therein lies one of the biggest problems for kids predisposed to shutting down. This is because it is not logical to them. When something is illogical their minds shut down.
I want to repeat this point. As I have mentioned, in my earlier post, a child predisposed to shutting down learns logical things very quickly but his mind shuts down when it does not make sense.
For instance, when I taught the word ‘fox’ one of my students could not accept it, as to her ‘f’ made the sound ‘fur’, and as such how could ‘fox’ sound the way it did. It should sound as ‘fur-ox’. She had simply refused to repeat after me as her mind had shut down. I could see this from the blank look on her face.
I repeat: As far as she was concerned it should have sounded ‘fur ox’ and she was not going to repeat something that did not make sense to her.
The same went for many other letters which had been taught wrongly by the tuition centres. So my students had to unlearn most of the letter sounds which was no easy task for them, nor for me.
In case you're wondering, the sound for ‘f’ is the beginning sound of fish or fast. When you make this sound your mouth is almost closed and you blow air through your front teeth. The sound for ‘s’ is the ending sound in ‘hiss’. You make that sound with the teeth clenched or almost closed. However, the letter 's' does have the 'zee' sound in words like 'does, is, was' etc.
While waiting to pick up my son from kindergarten in the late 80’s I have heard teachers teaching the letters in the following manner - 'a' 'er' apple; 'b' 'ber' bed, 'c' 'ke' cat and so on. (This was done in a sing-song manner). Now why won’t the logical child be confused? 'a' 'er' apple and the child is lost – his mind shuts down. Here the sound that 'a' represents is as in the word 'air' and not 'er'. This is a very serious mistake made by many of the kindergarten and tuition centres.
My advice to parents who send their kids to tuition centres which teach so-called phonics is to first check out if these tuition centres know how to teach sounds represented by letters. Please take heed. This is a serious problem, especially for so-called dyslexic children. Teaching to unlearn is not an easy task. If they are not taught to unlearn in the early stage they end up not learning anything in school.
By the time they are in primary 2 or 3 they are considered stupid or lazy by their teachers and placed in “D” or “E” class (‘A’ class is the best class and ‘E’ class being the worst). These children in class ‘D’ and ‘E’ are almost completely ignored as they are considered stupid. Soon the so-called dyslexic kid himself begins to believe he is stupid and he goes into a shell when it comes to learning to read. To hide his 'stupidity' he becomes aggressive and starts misbehaving. They are promoted each year until they are in Form 5 (O level). Go to any school in Malaysia, except for schools like MRSM where the cream of all the students is selected and placed, and you will find a few students in each form who can’t read any English at all.
Einstein and Edison’s mothers took their sons out of school when they were in primary 4 and taught them. Similarly, if someone had intervened during the initial years of the above students they would fare better in school. By not teaching the 'dyslexic' children in a proper way, in the way they ought to be taught, by not intervening at an early age, our schools have probably changed the course of many a genius.
The first thing you as a parent need to do is to ensure that your children are going to kindergarten and tuition centres where phonics is taught correctly. It would be better not to send your children to tuition centres at all than to send to one that teaches phonics wrongly. Once they have learned the things wrongly it will be very difficult to unlearn.
If they don't unlearn.....; their minds shut off...; when their minds shut off they refuse to learn anything new that will continue to not make sense...; when they don't learn their school mates call them stupid (even some of the teachers do)...; when they begin to believe they are stupid they become aggressive and ....
Many parents think that once they have sent their children to kindergarten and later to school their duty is over. No, this mindset must be changed. You have to ensure that you pick a dedicated tuition teacher who really cares about children. Periodically talk with the school teachers as well as the tuition teacher and listen to what they may have to say.
This is especially for teachers who may be reading my blog: Parents have entrusted their children to us and we should take this responsibility seriously. The student's life can be influenced and molded by us. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that the future of the students we teach is in our hands. This reminds me of a saying by Einstein:
"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labour in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honour it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common."