Friday, June 16, 2023

Different perspectives – Part 2 - PHONICS

I have said for many years that one of the reasons why many kids shut down/ disengage from learning to read is due to teaching the sounds represented by letters wrongly. A majority of these kids are wrongly classified as dyslexic.

Many educators have disagreed with me.

Let us examine the reason for the different perspectives.

Go to any school and ask kids to sound out the letters and I’ll bet many kids who are able to read will sound them out with extraneous sounds. The argument, therefore, is that teaching sounds of letters with extraneous sounds are not the cause of kids being unable to read. I have many excellent examples of college students who pronounce sounds represented by letters with extraneous sounds and who read perfectly. You may listen to two videos of such students from Perth in my post here. (I am from Sabah, Malaysia and the two students are from Perth, Australia. The video was taken by a teacher in Perth.)

Many educators say that sounds represented by consonants cannot be taught without extraneous sounds despite being shown a video clip where a lady enunciates the sounds perfectly without extraneous sounds. Click on the video in my post here.

I have explained in many of my posts that many kids initially struggle to read because of confusion created by teachers teaching the sounds represented with extraneous sounds. Sally Shaywitz’s duhahguh for dog is an example. LINK.

Another example is luhahmuhbuh for lamb by Mark Seidenberg. LINK 

Early research on the transfer of learning was guided by theories that emphasized the similarity between conditions of learning and conditions of transfer. Thorndike (1913), hypothesized that the degree of transfer between initial and later learning depends upon the match between what was learned initially and what is learned subsequently. Read about the importance of early learning. LINK.

Fortunately, a majority of kids taught the wrong way somehow figure out how to read and become excellent readers. Educators, therefore, say that teaching sounds represented by letters with extraneous sounds is not the cause of kids shutting down/ disengaging from learning to read.

I, on the other hand, have been harping about the kids who disengage from learning to read due to confusion and do not get out of that confusion and end up leaving school as illiterates. All my former students are smart and could not read, when they came to me for tuition, because of confusion. You may read the 3 main causes of confusion here.

For those who think this is anecdotal, I would like you to read my post about a desperate mother who came to Twitter in December 2020 to seek help. She had sent her son for special tuition in Australia and yet after a year her son was unable to read. After teaching her son 2 of my lessons she Twitted and asked others for the reason why her son was then eager to read. Read the discussion between the desperate mother and me. LINK.

A more recent example is the grandma from California who met me in a WhatsApp group and is now teaching her grandchildren who look forward to her teaching them to read using my lessons and YouTube videos via Zoom. LINK.

We need to ask:

i.                     Why are many smart children unable to read in English but able to read in many other languages? Let us not take the easy way out and say that it is because the other languages are transparent languages whilst English is an opaque language.

ii.                   How these kids who were unable to read are able to read after a short period of intervention?

iii.                 Why were they unable to read in the first place?

Educators keep telling me that there is more to reading – vocabulary, comprehension etc. I know this too but I am only talking about decoding. Vocabulary building and comprehension come after being able to decode. Many of us in non-English speaking countries don’t even know a word of English when we enter grade one. First, we learn the letters and the sounds represented by letters and then learn to read words and only then learn new vocabulary and comprehension. 



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