Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Learning to Read – what started going right?


This morning I read an article on Thinking Reading. 

By Dianne and James Murphy August 22, 2023.

I commented and it says that my comment is awaiting moderation.

This time around, I decided to copy my comment.

Luqman Michel says:         August 23, 2023, at 12:00 am   

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Excellent article. This is exactly what I have been saying since 2010, six years after teaching my first student to read.

I then taught more than 80 similar kids and wrote extensively on social media that I disagreed with the theory, at that time, that kids were unable to read due to phonological awareness deficit.

Please Google ‘phonological awareness deficit Luqman Michel’ and read some of the articles/comments in blogs I wrote since 2010.

That theory was debunked in 2017.


Here are extracts from the article above and my comments:

His behaviour had vastly improved and his emotional responses were no longer a significant issue. He could cope well in class, contribute, and was engaged.

My comment:

I have repeatedly said this in my posts. Once a kid’s reading improves he gains his self-confidence and begins to behave. His bad behaviour when he was unable to read is due to shame avoidance. They are intelligent kids who cannot accept that their classmates can read while they cannot. I have specifically mentioned their gait which changes once they get back their self-esteem.


This was a world away from the EHCP review a year earlier. In May 2022 (at the end of Year 4) my son, John* was assessed as having a reading level of Year 1 Emerging (aged 5 years). Most significantly this confirmed that he had made no reading progress at all in an entire academic year (though he was on target for math). In spite of having an EHCP in place and funds for interventions for that year, my son still could not access the curriculum or read much beyond simple CVC words. His own written books were either empty or just scribbles.


My comment:

This is similar to all my over 80 students I taught on a one-on-one basis since 2004.


Yet, after making no progress between September 2021 – May 2022 he had made four years of progress (May 2022 – May 2023).


This is the same as my students who are weaned after 4 months of 2 hour lessons per week.


That my son was a struggling reader was undeniable. We could also agree with his teachers that his behaviour was, at best, challenging. He was an angry, unhappy boy who misbehaved in school. The theory was once he wasn’t angry anymore, he’d be able to learn to read. 


I disagree with the theory that ‘once he wasn’t angry anymore, he’d be able to learn to read’. It is the other way around. Once a child is able to read he will not be angry and misbehave.


His math was improving. He could do all of his times’ tables. I doubted he had the learning disability his teachers told me he had.


Of course! These kids are intelligent and had disengaged from learning to read. If this mother had met me she would have had her son to read within 4 months and without having had to pay tuition fee. 


I was now starting to question our school’s approach. Evidence that struggling readers are poorly behaved was everywhere and well documented. I started to believe his well-meaning teachers were putting the cart before the horse. I believed their focus on trust, happiness and teachability were misguided. I believed he needed one-to-one expert phonics instruction. He’d then become a reader and the behaviour would resolve itself.


I have spoken about the teaching approach since I learned from my students why they were unable to read. I know why students misbehave and I have written about it in my blog. Yes, the teachers were putting the cart before the horse. It is the inability to read that causes the misbehavior and not the other way around. Her son wouldn’t have needed one-on-one expert phonics instruction if he had been taught the sounds of the letters correctly in the first place.  


If he couldn’t be taught in school, I doubted a tutor could achieve much via Zoom. My expectations were low and I didn’t expect it to work. And yet, he sat there for 30 minutes and has never resisted a lesson. She assessed, reported back, and confirmed my gut feeling. John had a very poor grasp of the initial code, and was guessing, struggling, and frustrated.


The above is precisely what I have been saying for more than a decade. This is what the grandma I had shared my book with said about her 2 grandchildren. LINK They were keen on learning via zoon with her. Alanna Maurin too said that her son suddenly became interested in learning to read. LINK

Yes, John had a poor grasp of the initial code. He had shut down/ disengaged from learning to read.


There’s very little point in being *that* parent and complaining about school interventions because few people believe a parent over a teacher when it comes to learning methods.


This is the same problem I face, where I am asked for my credentials whenever an educator is unable to answer my questions. Parents and teachers do not believe what I say despite providing testimonials from parents in other parts of the world.


In November 2022 we attended an appointment with a child psychiatrist who asked me if I was aware that literacy issues can cause behavioural issues and that he wasn’t sure, on balance, that my son had ADHD.


Do I need a psychiatrist to tell me this? Of course, NOT. Literacy issues can cause behavioural issues. ADHD and Dyslexia are terms loosely used by those with a vested interest.


To be clear, these difficulties were not within the child, who was clearly capable of rapid progress; they were in the culture, in the school system, and in teachers’ beliefs and practices.

To begin with, the parents had to stop believing the school’s message that this child was unable to learn to read. Secondly, they had to resist the notion that the child’s ‘trust’ and ‘happiness’ were precursors to, rather than consequences of, success in reading.

In short, they had to resist a system that sets up some students to fail from an early age, and they succeeded – though not without significant personal costs.

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