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’ on LinkedIn and have tried to figure out if any suggestions there that 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 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.

Note: Because I talk to them like a friend they ask me all these questions. In a school setting they don’t ask these questions as they do not want to feel dumb. When they have not questioned and their minds cleared of these confusions, they shut down.                              

I will have to explain that letter combinations have many different sounds. For example, the combination ‘ch’ has 3 different pronunciations; chef, choir and chair.
It applies to all the letter combinations. Take ‘ur’ as brought up in the LinkedIn forum. Having said that it sounds like ir and  er I will be asked by my students why I sound out ‘urinate’ the way I do, and what happened to the ‘er’ sound. 
The forum also brought up the ‘r-controlled’ sound. Well, what does this information do for a dyslexic student other than confuse him? He’ll learn words like ‘arm and art’ very easily but again he will shut down when the teacher teaches him words like ‘calm and palm. If he were to be with me he’d ask what happened to the ‘r’ which controls this sound. 
For my students, who come to me after having been taught their alphabet I just tell them that the English language is different from Malay and that it has many sounds for all the vowels and many of the consonants and start them off by reading on their first day.
I have prepared books (see note below), especially for them where I start with family words bat, cat, fat etc and introduce 4 sight words – a, on, and, in - and they read their first book which contains about 60 words. They are thrilled that they can read and life goes on…..They are told to memorise the Dolch words and from day two onward, I give them 5  words from the ‘Dolch list’ to memorise. By the time I finish with the Dolch words, I tell their parents that they are ready to be taught by any other tuition teacher. They do not need a one-on-one tuition teacher anymore. 
(Note: I had the lessons under ‘File Den’- a service provider- who somehow disappeared from the internet.)

I copied the following from the internet just for fun. Fun; yes, but also look at what GBS was trying to say.

Some languages are "phonetic". That means that you can look at a word and know how to say it (Italian for example). English is not phonetic. You cannot always look at an English word and know how to say it. You cannot always hear an English word and know how to spell it.
George Bernard Shaw (GBS) was a famous Irish writer. He wanted to reform English spelling so that it was more logical. He asked the following question as an example:
How do we pronounce the word "ghoti"?
His answer was "fish".
How can "ghoti" and "fish" sound the same? GBS explained it like this:
  • the gh = f as in rouGH
  • the o = i as in wOmen
  • the ti = sh as in naTIon
Of course, this was a joke. The word "ghoti" is not even a real word. But it showed the inconsistency of English spelling.
It is very important to understand that English spelling and English pronunciation are not always the same.

1 comment:

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