Thursday, August 6, 2015

Dyslexia – How NOT to teach letter sounds


How would you pronounce the following word?


Can you recognize that word? It is an English word given to us by Liz Dunnon. You can hear it in a YouTube video here: (You can hear it under skill 2 between minutes 1.48 and 3.05 in the video.) LINK

Unfortunately, this is how letter sounds are presented to kids by many schools here in Malaysia as well as in countries speaking English as their main language. The letter c does not say cuh and the letter t does not say tuh. What happens to kids (the roughly 20% of kids who are predisposed to shutting down) who are taught that these are the letter sounds? They SHUT-DOWN. I have written an article on this about one of my first students who refused to say the word fox. You may read that article here. LINK

To read an alphabet-based writing system kids must be taught the sound/s associated with the letters. Letter sound knowledge is vital to both phonic decoding and sight word learning.

We should not add a vowel sound to consonants like done by Liz, when you model the letter sounds in isolation. When you add vowel sounds to consonants in isolation it disrupts the process of oral blending when kids sound out words.

When we teach kids the sounds of alphabets in isolation we must teach them the correct pronunciation. This will prevent kids from shutting down.

The letter sound for m is not muh/mer but mmmm (the sound stretched out). Similarly for many of the letters like f (fff and not ‘fuh/fer’), n (nnnn and not ‘nuh/ner’, l (lll and not luh/ler, s (sss and not sur) etc.

Some consonants require more thought and practice to sound them out properly. They are the hard c (k sound), soft g (J sound), hard g, h, j, k, q, r, w, x and y. Do not place an uh after the consonant sound.

Please look for a good site to learn the correct phonemes of letters to ensure kids, who are prone to shutting down, will not shut down. LINK

The above article was prompted by listening to Liz Dunnon’s  Dyslexia Daily blog.

Liz Dunnon says that the English language is a little tricky. It is tricky. This is further aggravated by teachers like Liz incorrectly teaching sounds/phonemes of the alphabet. This is the nightmare faced by 'dyslexics'. Liz and I had communicated a few years ago and I told her about this problem. Either she has forgotten or does not give it the importance it needs.

I have written her an e-mail after listening to her video on 29.7.15. I have attached below my e-mail to her. I have yet to receive a response and neither has she pulled down that video.

My e-mail to Liz Dunnon on 29.7.2015:

Dear Liz,

Please check the pronunciation of the individual letters 'c' and 't'.

Both of these are wrong and this is the kind of teaching that gives dyslexic kids problems.

I am dead against teachers teaching this kind of wrong stuff which results in kids shutting down.


Luqman Michel


I wrote another e-mail on 2nd August as follows:



Good morning Liz,

I hope you will please take down the video on the 8 reading skills. Could you amend the pronunciation of individual letters and then publish it again?


If teachers teaching dyslexic kids see and implement it then kids are going to be more confused.


Wish you well,

Luqman Michel


Unknown said...

I totally agree with you. This is a root cause of children's problems - adding on extra sounds to individual letters. How can they sound and blend letters if they're not taught properly?
Claire Hubbard

Luqman Michel said...

Thank you for your comment Claire Hubbard. I thought that this was only a problem in our schools in Malaysia but I have checked with friends in US and Australia and they too say that teachers there teach in a similar fashion.

I must stress that about 80% of the kids learn despite being taught this way. It is the remaining 20% kids who leave school as illiterates that I am concerned about. This blog is for parents of children who get disengaged when things taught to them make no sense.

Wish you well Claire.

Luqman Michel said...

I had a few email exchanges with Dr. Andrew Johnson. I said that he should not write the phoneme of letters wrongly. I said he had written the phoneme of b as buh which I detest.

He replied: “I have written nowhere about the phoneme of /b as being buh ... You must have me confused with the woman is Australia.”

I said I’ll look for it and get back to him. His next e-mail said that he does not want to continue with this discussion.

Well, I found the material where he had written it. The unfortunate thing is readers trust people with initials and that is what probably prompted a reader in one of my two posts in Linkedin to ask the sound of the letter ‘b’.

I have asked AJ to take this off his book but he won’t. Can you imagine the amount of damage this can cause?

The following is what I had complained to AJ.

Two approaches to phonics instruction
Example #1: Mr. Hill puts the sentences in Figure 10.3 on a smart board so that his whole class can see them. Together, the class reads them out loud twice using choral reading as Mr. Hill points to each word. After reading, Mr. Hill tells the class that he is looking for words that have the ‘buh’ sound. He asks volunteers to use the pointer to find the ‘buh’ words. He then tells students that the letter /b/ makes the ‘buh’ sound.

Anonymous said...

This is logical. Im not an educationist just a lay reader but I can see there is no merit inventing 'uh' after each consonant. It makes things confusing. It may feel awkward at first to teach phonetically using ffff or mmmmm or tttt but that is more sensible and realistic.

Luqman Michel said...

Thank you for your comment. If you do comment again you may want to write a pseudonym that I may call you by.
Unfortunately many schools here in Malaysia and many other countries add 'uh' which confuse the kids who are prone to shutting down.
How do we get kindergartens and tuition centres to stop adding 'uh' to alphabets when they teach alphabet sounds?

Luqman Michel said...

Here is a You Tube video I found while browsing the Children of the Code Web-site. This is what confuse kids who are prone to shutting down.

Unknown said...

Sir can share the sites which teach us and our kids right sound for alphabet..

Luqman Michel said...

Hello, one such site can be found here: