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 the 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?

How did researchers intervene whereby the reading failure rate was reduced from 36% to 3 % in some schools in the US? This research report should be studied by all those who say that dyslexics have a ‘phonological awareness deficit’ and by teachers who teach using the “science of reading”. My question would be: How did these struggling students overcome their ‘phonological awareness deficit’ and were able to read after 4 weeks of intervention? Is it not possible that it was a simple case of explaining to them that letters in English had more than one sound and teaching them the correct sounds represented by letters?


44 phonemes representing 26 letters and a language that we have to explain words you can and cannot sound out and even when you can there will be variations and exceptions. R-controlled vowels are tricky but f-ur is an onset rhyme vs f-u-r which is segmentation to its most individual phoneme. It is as Louisa Moats put it "Reading is Rocket Science."

My thoughts: Finally someone who is speaking my language. At the age of around 40, my friend's kids in Perth laughed at me when I pronounced the word salmon the way it is spelt. How in the world was I to know that the 'l' in salmon is silent?

If the kids I have taught over the past 30 years could answer this question, their quick answer would be /f/ /ur/. They would also code the r with a dot placed beneath it; meaning it is a monster sound that controls and changes the short vowel u sound.

I had some very smart students who would have looked under the table (just to tease me) if I had talked about r controlled words and then taught words like 'palm and calm'.

The first question I had asked in literacy for reluctant readers was why is it that despite all the advancement in the US the percentage of students who are unable to read has not reduced. I guess I know the answer now. The researchers will not consider anything that teachers have to say unless it is research-based and educators will not even consider experiences shared by others saying it is anecdotal. They back it up by saying one must follow 'science of reading'. I have quoted what I read in 'The Tipping Point' written by Malcolm Gladwell in my blog. He says that children switch off from watching television when they are confused. If children can tune off from 'Sesame Street' what more when we teach them that there are 2 phonemes for 'e' - the long 'e' and 'short e' and then teach them something completely different. I have seen kids shutting down and other teachers have said the same thing. There surely is something wrong with the way teachers teach. I have no other way to explain why the illiteracy level has remained the same over the last decade despite billions of US dollars being spent and teaching kids with the 'science of reading' methods. Teachers should begin to ask why students shut down. How/why thousands of teachers all over the world can teach these 'shut-down' kids to read after just a few months of coaching? Teachers should look at reports from the US where researchers have brought down the level of illiterate children in many schools from more than 30% to 3% after intervention over a few months. Teachers should ask what the researchers did to make this happen.

It is a fact that about 20% of kids shut down. Why wouldn't kids, predisposed to shutting down, shut down when one teaches them 'A as in apple' and then read to them something like 'A cat' without explaining that the letter 'A' has more than one sound?

I agree with fur having 2 phonemes but having taught that to my dyslexic students how do I explain the sound of ur in 'urine', 'urinary' and 'urinate'. I prefer to teach my dyslexic students the way I have been teaching them for the last 11 years:

U as in umbrella, under, up
U as in urban, urchin, urge
U as in uniform, urine, use
How about U as in the word put?

They end up being good readers within a few months. I don't intend to confuse them with 'r' controlled words, schwa, diphthongs, digraphs, and whatnot. They can learn these when they go on to secondary school.

Luqman is going from letters to sounds. In my experience, it is easier to go from sounds to letters. Start with the sounds of English, teach one way to spell each sound and then teach common alternative ways to teach each sound. When they crop up in texts, teach the uncommon ways. Have a look at the chart at Phonics International again.

My thoughts: I am doubtful if this is workable.

To answer some of the great questions in this forum, professionals should be looking for the common qualities of programs since there are so many of them! One quality that needs to be emphasized is the genuine care of a teacher interacting with students, especially the ones who "shut down." In defense of these caring teachers (a sense of humour helps), there are ways to relate the knowledge to real-life experiences, motivate the learning and then watch the kids' curiosities take off. Some of the greatest rewards of the teaching-learning process come from seeing the low-level learners become independent communicators!

My thoughts: Most parents cannot afford most of these very expensive programmes. A thousand US dollars is simply ridiculous. A parent can easily teach a reluctant and struggling student by just following the simple strategies I have listed in my blog. First of all, parents must understand that a majority of students who are classified as dyslexic do not have a ‘phonological awareness deficit’ – they are students who have shut down because they are confused. All one has to do is to remove this stumbling block.

I believe that one of the teachers who knows about these shut-down kids and how to teach them is this lady – Connie. I salute her and wish her all the best in her endeavours.

1 comment:

Bob Rose, MD (retired) said...