Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Email to Dr. Boulton (Part 2 of 3)

Hi again Dr. David Boulton,
What you said in one of your videos is: 10 times the number of kids who have innately biologically ordered learning difficulties have learning difficulties that are a consequence of what they learned…... Until such time we can read that they are cognitively going askew relative to what they have learnt in the past then our teaching is kind of brute force against this deep core stuff that is working against us.

I believe that I read somewhere that children often require hundreds of exposure to letters before they are mastered to the point of automaticity. As such when a kid has been taught something wrongly for more than a year and then when he is taught something different from what he has learnt he disengages.

Dr. About 70 to 80% of kids will learn to read regardless of the way they are taught (Phonics/whole word/whole language). It is the remaining 20% to 30% of kids who are prone to shutting down that I would like to discuss with you.
Even till today there are discussions on whether to teach whole language with three cueing system or phonics. I believe for the 80% or so of the kids it does not matter which way you teach. What we ought to ask ourselves is the remaining 20% or so who are prone to shutting down.

Dr. I have observed children shutting down right in front of my eyes. It happens often. I have written this in Linkedin and believe you may have read it while checking out my profile but let me write it down anyway.
I taught one of my first students to read the word ‘ox’ and she read it correctly. Then I asked her to say out the word ‘fox’ by repeating after me. She stared at me and refused to say it. I again asked her to repeat what I had said and she just kept silent and stared at me. At that moment her mother came to pick her up.

In our next session I asked her the sound of the letter f and she happily said ‘fuh’, I continued and she said m was ‘muh’, n was ‘nuh’ and so forth. I asked her who had taught all these sounds and she said it was her tuition centre teacher.

The following day I telephoned the tuition centre and sure enough the teacher pronounced it just as my student had. I then realised that this was the problem. To my student the word fox should have been ‘fuh-ox’. As far as she was concerned if the sound of the letter F is fuh and o-x is ox than fox must be sounded as fuh-ox. If M is sounded as Muh and a-n is an than m-a-n must be muh-an. As such many kids shut-down as early as in kindergarten because they have been taught letter-sounds wrongly. For an example of how letter sounds are taught wrongly please listen to the video in my post here:

You can hear it under skill 2 between minutes 1.48 and 3.05 in the video.

I had to teach this girl to unlearn all the wrong phonemes before I could teach her to read. I taught her three times a week for about 6 months. If I may say so, this girl was one of the top students in her class in St. Francis Convent in form 3 (year 9) in 2014.

I teach disengaged children on a one on one basis. Many times students stop and stare when I say certain words. Their minds shut down when what they hear does not make sense to them. For example when I teach the family words but, cut, gut, hut, jut, and nut they learn them with ease. However, when I sound out the word put they stare at me. As far as they are concerned the word ‘put’ should be pronounced ‘putt’ and not ‘put’.
I just tell my students that this is the problem with the English language and ask them to pronounce the word 'put' the way it is pronounced.
I have also noticed many of my students opening their eyes wide and staring at me when I teach them the words - 'A cat'. I start off by teaching my students the family words bat, cat, fat and so forth. This they learn with ease. Then when I read 'A cat' they look lost. Why is this so? They have learnt the phoneme of the letter 'a' as in ‘apple’ in the family words bat, cat, fat, mat, pat, rat and sat. However, now the letter 'A' in 'A cat' has a different phoneme (sound). Here the alphabet ‘A’ has the sound of ‘A’ as in ‘around’. When this is not explained to a child who is prone to shutting down, his mind shuts down. He does not want to listen to a teacher who says one thing about a letter at one time and then says a completely different thing about the same letter at another time.

I have had students who have asked me, “Uncle, the other day you said o-n is on and now you say station and not stay-shawn.

One student asked me why ‘was’ is spelled that way and not ‘wos’.

So each time a disengaged child sees any one of these letters he has to think as to which sound is appropriate. Now, this he is able to do when he has been told that these letters carry more than one phoneme/sound. It is when this is not taught that he shuts down and does not learn further. Imagine if you will, a bricklayer building a brick wall. He has to lay the bottom layer first. Then he lays the second, third layer and so on. He cannot lay the third layer without having laid the first layer. This is similar to a disengaged kid who has not learnt the very foundation of reading- the phonemes/sounds of letters. He is then branded as stupid or lazy by his teachers and friends. He loses his self esteem and in time begins to believe he is stupid. To take the attention away from his ‘inability’ to read he begins to be disruptive in class. He begins to clown around and earns a bad reputation. The downward spiral continues and the longer you wait the more difficult it becomes to re-engage him to learning to read.

Dr. I do not want to go against anyone but I get real annoyed when people write things that can be detrimental to kids.

I wrote 2 emails to the lady in Australia to ask her to amend her video for those 2 minutes. She did not even bother to respond. I believe she, just like many others actually believe that that is the way to teach letter sounds. Most of the kindergartens here teach letter sounds that way. I have friends in UK,US and Australia who say the same thing.

I also wrote to Andrew P.Johnson asking him to check out a few things on his book that is about to be published in October. One of my suggestions was that he should not write the ’b’ sound as ‘buh’. This will reinforce what is believed by many teachers who teach the letter sounds wrongly which is one of the main causes of kids disengaging from reading.

Andrew Johnson writes and says that anecdotal evidences are not to be considered and keeps asking me for data. I wrote to him privately and he replied that “You simply do not have the background knowledge necessary to have this conversation.” “If you want to have a conversation -- you need to understand the basics.  Do you know why phonemic awareness is important?  What strategies do you use to develop phonemic awareness?  Answer me these questions before we move on.”

Because AJ said the above I introduced myself to you as not being a trained teacher so that you understand where I am coming from.

I wrote that article on “Speak now or forever hold your peace” because AJ kept asking me for data in public forums despite me telling him I am not a researcher. I would expect him to do research on what I have observed. Thank God there were 2 individuals who said that it is alright to give anecdotal accounts.

I am writing about the e-mails I wrote to the Australian lady and AJ because I don’t want you to misunderstand my motive for writing the 2 articles in Linkedin.
I’ll continue in another e-mail.
Luqman Michel


Luqman Michel said...

Last year, my student above,Yoshini, passed her Form 5 (SPM) examination with 6A's, 2B's and 1 c. She has gone to do her matriculation in Labuan this year.

May she continue to be successful in her studies and in life.

Luqman Michel said...

In June 2022, my student above, Yoshini Thiagaragan, graduated as a science graduate and is now engaged as a Data Analyst.