Friday, September 4, 2020

Dr.Sam Bommarito – Finding the path to end the reading wars.


The following are extracts from a post by Dr.Sam Bommarito and my comments. You may read the whole post here.


It takes a centrist perspective and suggested ways we can use ideas from all sides to finally resolve this decades old debate.


My comment: I agree with this wise man’s idea. What we want is something / anything that can reduce the illiteracy rates. I teach my students simple phonics and word families. I also teach them Dolch words to be rote memorised.

I have encountered objections to rote memorisation saying that that is not the way to teach. However, children find it easy to memorise about 8 words during every lesson. When they have memorized these words it improves their reading comprehension because it makes it possible for them to recognise more of the words on each page of a book.

Most of the Dolch words can be learned using sound–symbol relationships. I choose to teach them through rote memory as they are then able to read sentences at the end of the first one-hour lesson.

‘Word recognition plays an important role in learning to read. Although not a substitute for the critical skill of being able to decode unfamiliar words (referred to as word identification), recognizing some words automatically, or on sight, contributes to reading effortlessly and with understanding’ (McArthur et al., 2015).

Learning the Dolch words enables children to devote their energy to decoding words that are more difficult.


I suggested that the pendulum continues to eternally swing between two (or more) positions on the question of how to best teach children to read. The swinging pendulum has become the defining feature about what has become known as the reading wars. The problem is that after each and every swing, the folks who call for replacing the old way of doing things are quite confident, they have finally found THE WAY to solve things.  They insist that all old practices be dropped and replaced by the newest soup de jour. Invariably what happens is that the new way helps many, but not all. Eventually, this new way becomes the old way and is replaced yet again. The pendulum continues to swing. My proposed solution to this conundrum is simple.  Instead of insisting on throwing away everything that’s come before and starting over, we should instead tweak what we have. This would require both sides (all sides) to admit that their particular way of doing things is not THE SOLUTION.


My comment: Yes, all the particular way of doing things has not been the solution for decades. Why do we continue doing the same thing over and over expecting different results?

During balanced language, whole word, and phonics period there have been children leaving schools as illiterate.


Effectively it means trying something that we’ve never before tried in the history of teaching reading. That is leaving the pendulum in the middle, talking to one another, learning from one another, and putting together a system that helps as many children as possible by using the best ideas of all the approaches.

My comment: This is where my opinion differs with that of Dr. Sam. If we leave the pendulum in the middle and learn from one another and put together a system, I believe the system will still not work. As mentioned by me numerous times the most important thing is to teach the pronunciation of phonemes correctly. If there are students leaving school as illiterate during all the different periods, then there must be one common thing that is the problem.

The thing in common during all the different periods is the teaching of phonemes of consonants wrongly. Teach the pronunciation of phonemes of letters the correct way and then and only then can we eradicate the reading wars.

Prevent kids from disengaging/ shutting down from learning to read. This should be the priority.

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