Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Ignorance and arrogance (Part 2)


This is a continuation of the misleading article dated 26.9.2023 by Marion Blank

Breaking phonics into its components lays bare its shortcomings. First, in the initial instruction, months are spent teaching children how to decode a minute set of simple, three-letter words like man, cat and bus that can be sounded out. Those words bear little resemblance to the content of any book, leaving children unprepared for actual reading.

What an exaggeration that is! Do we need to spend months to decode a minute set of simple three-letter words? It could be true if this woman is talking about teaching 5 minutes a week or so.

About 60 percent of the words on any page are “non-content words”—words like the, so and what that cannot be decoded by sounding out. The result is that children have no solid tools for dealing with the most frequent words they see on every page.

This is the kind of disinformation that should be banned from being tweeted. Take any kid you want and tell them to spell out the word ‘the’ and say out the word. T-h-e- the; T-h-e- the, and do this say 10 times. The next day ask him to spell the word the and he will be able to spell it. I tell kids to rote memorise all the Dolch words (High-Frequency Words) regardless of whether they are phonetical or not. If this woman, Marion Blank, does not know kids are able to memorise all the 220 Dolch words by rote memory then she should not say there are no solid tools for dealing with high-frequency words. She is misleading the public because she wants to sell her wares!

Similarly, phonics proponents should not insist that all words have to be learned using letter sound correspondence. Memorise the Dolch words, learn sound-symbol correspondences and read within a few months.

The Balanced Language advocates should also not blame phonics because it is not phonics that is the culprit but the wrong way sounds represented by letters are taught. Balance Language advocates should not insist that Dolch Words should not be taught by rote memorisation when they have never taught it this way. Why are they spreading misinformation/disinformation such as this?

Automaticity is what you are doing now, and that’s what successful readers do within a few months of starting to read. About 25–30 percent of readers “crack the code,” allowing rapid, accurate decoding of words—including words they’ve never seen. Automaticity can occur no matter what system is used: phonics, whole language, balanced reading or watching Sesame Street. This allows the various programs to claim success. What these programs do not acknowledge is the ability of children to take the limited input of any reading program and create an understanding of the total system.

Why are successful readers able to achieve automaticity within a few months of reading? Does Marion Blank know the answer?

Who are these 25-30 % of readers who ‘crack the code’?

Why are reading programmes not inclusive of the total system?


Children with reading difficulties struggle with automaticity. Yet no attempts are made to teach them the skill because of the misguided notion that it can be developed only after extensive phonics practice. Overlearning to Automaticity (OtA) is the key to less-skilled children mastering reading. It requires multiple exposures to a word: typically 20 to 30 exposures on each of about 200 carefully selected words from both the content and noncontent domains.

Who are the kids with reading difficulties? Was it inborn or cultivated?

Overlearning to automaticity is the key to all children mastering reading.

With multiple exposures to words, all words are learned (memorised). Similarly, spell a high-frequency word and say that word out loud a few time and the word will be remembered especially because there will be multiple exposures to that word as the kid is read to.

“It requires multiple exposures to a word: typically, 20 to 30 exposures on each of about 200 carefully selected words from both the content and non-content domains.”

The above is exactly what I have been saying when I said to rote memorise all the 220 Dolch words. 

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