Saturday, July 15, 2017

Why do kids shut-down (iv)

Sounds of the alphabet O

Early last year a friend of mine asked me to see if I could help his grandson who appeared to be stuck with his reading in the English Language. His mother who spoke excellent English and was a school teacher said that her son (say James – not his real name) could read some three letter words but appears to have difficulty progressing in his reading. He was in primary three.

On his first day James read some words in a simple book until he came to the word ‘to’ which he read as ‘toe’. I wrote the word ‘do’ on a paper and asked him to sound it out and he said ‘doe’. I asked him as to why he sounded out these two words the way he did and he quickly said that his teacher told him that the letter O is for octopus and that he was born in October.

His teacher apparently had not told him that the letter ‘o’ had other sounds too. As James’s English was exceptionally good as he spoke English at home I had no problem explaining the different sounds of the vowels and some consonants. Within 3 months I weaned him off.

Some of the sounds of the letter ‘o’ are:

O as in Oak, oath, obey, over
O as in Oar, oil, oral, orbit
O as in Objection, oblige, of, observe
O as in Octopus, odd, orange, October
O as in One, one’s
O as in Onion, oven (pronounced wrongly by many people in Sabah)
O as in Ooh, ooze
O as in Out, outer, outfit, outgrow

Of course, the teacher does not have to teach all the sounds of the alphabet O. All she has to do is to inform the kids that most of the alphabets in the English language have more than one sound.
26 alphabets represent 44 sounds it is claimed. But I would say that they have far more sounds than the 44 phonemes but let us not go there.
Points to ponder:
Would as many kids shut down if there were 44 letters to represent each of the 44 phonemes?
There are 247 characters in the Tamil alphabet. Do kids learning to read in Tamil shut-down?


Kandiah Namasivayam said...

Those 'experts' are narrowly focussed on the sounds of English language, I believe without a wider knowledge of sounds in other classical languages, which our children have no problem reading. Their awareness in the classical languages like Tamil, their structure and the nature of sounds in these languages, is lacking depth, to say the least. They seem to go on the same grove over and over what they have been believing in and teaching/writing about, all these years. Teaching English pronunciation of letter sounds wrongly in countries which adopted English as their second language is the main cause of children shutting down, we who know languages such as Tamil , do readily understand this as the problem. If teaching English as first language in the western countries and Australia, was done correctly, then there should be no 'shut down kids' over there. That is not the case. That means they themselves are not teaching all the relevant sounds of the alphabets correctly and then turn around to say the kids have learning problems . There is something of a twisted logic.

Luqman Michel said...

Mr.Kandiah, you said: "They seem to go on the same grove over and over what they have been believing in and teaching/writing about, all these years."

It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. This appears to be the case with teaching the English Language.