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