Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Visual memorisation misunderstood


From the discussion I had with a number of teachers on Twitter it is obvious that both a majority of phonics as well as whole language proponents are not aware that we don’t store words visually.

Here are some tweets on visual memorisation between Erin Harrington and me.


Erin Harrington

I read your link—I understand that you’re not having students learn by word outline (the shape of the “boxes” around the letters) but what are students using to memorize a word as a whole if not visual memory?

My comment: Word memorisation by word outline is what Pam Kastner, Debbie Hepplewhite and others had accused me of. They did not respond to rebuttals. And Pat Stones states that no one needs to respond. You may see a photo of word outline on my post here.

Erin Harrington

Right, so proficient readers haven’t visually memorized the words they know. But when Ks are given a list of words to memorize, how are they supposed to do that except by memorizing the look of the word?

My comment: This is how indoctrinated most of these Phonics fanatics are. Many Whole Language proponents also believe the same thing.


Erin Harrington

Nor have I. You’ve misunderstood my comments in this post. Proficient readers absolutely do NOT visually memorize words. But we give beginners, with no orthographic knowledge, a list of words to memorize, the only way they can do this is by memorizing the whole unit. (Bolding done by me)

My comment: As early as 1989 Stanovich had stated that it is generally agreed that orthographic knowledge is acquired through repeated exposure to print. Subsequently many other researchers have said similarly.

I have written a post on orthographic mapping at  https://www.dyslexiafriend.com/2020/12/orthographic-mapping-part-1.html

And https://www.dyslexiafriend.com/2020/12/orthographic-memory-part-2.html#more


Erin Harrington

I’m genuinely asking you to tell me how that works. If kids know nothing about the relationship between letters and sounds, what information can they use to associate the written word “with” with the spoken word “with”?

Erin Harrington

I understood your answer to be rote memorization. I want to know *what* they are memorizing.

Erin Harrington


Dec 2

A final comment: To be clear, visual memorization is the belief of whole language teaching, NOT something I’m advocating OR backed by reading science.

If I’m not understanding how you’re teaching whole words in a way that doesn’t use visual memorization, I apologize.

Erin Harrington

Rote memory refers to how (repeated exposure). Visual memory refers to *what*. The reason why some phonics folks take a hard line on not using whole word memorization is because many kids (not all) will continue trying to use whole word memorization even once taught phonics.

My comment: Many of the phonics and whole language proponents believe that words are memorized by visual memory. Scientists have confirmed through extensive research that one does not memorise words using visual memory. However, this information has not reached the teachers.

To answer Erin’s question; we store words we learn phonologically. When I said that I get my students to rote memorise all the Dolch words I get them to repeat the words in their heads or repeat out loud as well as write the words several times until it is orthographically mapped. Scientists are still unsure of the exact way this is done.

Let me try and explain this. When we see an object we see it visually. Assuming, I tell you a Tamil word such as vanakam (nothing is written down) and say I will ask you to repeat the word the next day including how it is spelt. When you do spell out the word and say the word the next day how did you store it in your memory?  When you had not seen it in written form it cannot be visual memory, can it?

Note: To be fair to Erin Harrington, I believe she discusses matters on Twitter exceptionally well. She is willing to admit that there are many things about teaching that she may not know. She always answers to rebuttals to completion. I can’t say this about the Whole Language proponents involved in these tweets. The Whole Language proponents make ridiculous statements and when I rebut they state that they do not have to respond. These are the people like the human egg mentioned in my post on 'Facts don't change people's minds'

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