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.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Linkedin – Forum on how to teach reluctant and struggling readers- Part 2

This is academic and parents may skip this post.

An interesting discussion
I've watched the wider arguments between those who argue for Synthetic Phonics as it's now called, who seem convinced that you always teach letter-by-letter f-u-r as well as c-a-t
And those who are convinced you teach using Onset and rime f/ur as well as c/at. (Apparently, now it is called Analytic Phonics, at least by advocates of the former method.)
It's the first that has won the political battle. But as yet I've never seen any convincing evidence that discriminates between the effectiveness of either, from either camp.
I assume that outside of the purist camp of Synthetic Phonics f/ur would be acceptable for use by ordinary working teachers.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Linkedin – Forum on how to teach reluctant and struggling readers

This is an extract from a forum on literacy for reluctant and struggling readers in Linkedin. I have changed all the names of the people who had commented.

I recently overheard 2 reading specialists hotly debating the use of r-controlled vowels in the phonemes er, ir and ur. One was insistent that they should be taught as one sound and the other as two.

Let’s use the example “Fur” – As a Brit living in the States I’d be interested to hear the different opinions of whether this should be taught “f_u_r” OR “f_ur” – any thoughts? Does this differ from State to State?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Teaching reluctant and struggling learners

I have spent a lot of time thinking about the discussion in a forum under ‘Literacy for Reluctant and Struggling Readers’ in Linkedin and have tried to figure out if any suggestions there can help to ease the confusion of dyslexic students. At the end of the day I still feel that dyslexic students will be confused and will ask me just as many questions as they have asked me.
I have students who have asked me why ‘was’ is spelled that way and not ‘wos’. Why had I pronounced ‘as’ the way I did and now sound out ‘was’ which has the ‘as’ in it another way? One student had asked me why I had taught him to sound ‘on’ the way I did and yet pronounce ‘station’ the way it is sounded. These are the ‘shut-down’ kids. They always ask the question ‘why’. In school when they are not told explicitly that many letters and letter combinations have different sounds they shut-down.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dyslexia- Why kids shut-down

Teachers teach us the sounds/phonemes of the alphabets as: A apple, B bed, C cat, D dog E elephant and so on. Everyone will and can learn this with no problem at all.

Then when they start teaching us to read, the NIGHTMARE begins for the 20% of kids who are later considered stupid or lazy. These kids are neither stupid nor are they lazy. These are the kids who need to be instructed explicitly on anything different from what they have been taught. These are the kids who ‘shut-down’ when they are confused.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Phonological awareness and phonics -Part 2

Teachers are struggling to teach kids to read. Around 20% of kids in many countries where English is taught can barely read in English.

In the US in January 2001, President George W. Bush announced his plan called “No Child Left Behind”.

Now, in 2015 after 15 years the percentage of children who can barely read in English still remains the same as it was in 2001 which again was the same as it was in the 70’s.

The main thing kids do in school is learning to read, and when they don't, they feel stupid. So how can we prevent reading failure?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Phonological awareness and phonics - Part 1

The terms "phonemic awareness", “phonological awareness” and "phonics" are often used in the field of education. Some writers use them interchangeably, yet they mean different things and have different roles as children begin to read.  There seems to be quite a bit of confusion over the terms “phonological awareness”, “phonemic awareness” and “phonics”

The English language has 44 phonemes. Words are produced by stringing these sounds together. The ability to manipulate and distinguish these phonemes as they are used in words is called phonemic awareness. It is a natural skill developed in children through talking and listening to other speakers of their language.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Do dyslexics have a phonological awareness deficit

I wrote the following article on 7th February 2011 and I am reposting it with the current date.

For a year I have written that phonological awareness deficit is not the cause of dyslexic children being unable to read. Recently I found an article on the net echoing what I have been saying. I believe there will be more such articles in the future. New generation of researchers will challenge the 30 over years old "Phonological awareness deficit" theory.

Friday, March 13, 2015

"Quality of English teachers matter"

Quality of English teachers matter
The above was the headline of page 9 of our local newspapers – The Daily Express.
We read similar headlines each and every year after the schools results have been announced.
However, has the percentage of those who fail their English language reduced in the last 10 years?
If the answer is ‘no’ should we not ask ourselves “WHY NOT?”

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


‘Disengaged students’ or students who have ‘shut-down’

All the dyslexic students I have taught over the past 11 years have no problem reading in the Malay language. Those who study in Chinese schools can also read fluently in Romanised Chinese (Han Yu Pin yin).

I believe there are many children who cannot read but do not have many of the problems included in many definitions of dyslexia on the internet. This web-log is not for parents of kids who have ‘phonological awareness deficit’ or acuity problem. This web-log is for kids who cannot read in the English Language because they have shut-down or disengaged themselves from what the teacher teaches. They disengage because the English language does not make sense to them. Kids shut-down when teachers do not teach these kids that many of the letters of the alphabet in the English language represent more than one phoneme (sound). As such a majority of the kids who end up being unable to read are simply kids who have shut-down or disengaged from what is being taught because they have not been taught in a way suitable for them.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Dyslexia - A new beginning...

A New Beginning

When the world says, “Give up,” Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.”
 ~ Author Unknown

I had lost my blog title and could not renew my web-log. My previous web-log was at: However, my son managed to retrieve the blog posts and we have opened a new account. I will post some of the previous posts as we go along.

I have decided to write again as I am currently teaching a ‘learning disabled’ kid ( I don’t like that term but…) and I see the same pattern as in all my previous students. I think ‘Disengaged learners’ would be a better description of these students. They shut-down when things taught to them do not make sense to them.