Tuesday, October 10, 2023

What causes kids to disengage from learning to read


Here are Tweets between Dr. Sam and I on 8.10.2023

Dr. Sam Bommarito @DoctorSam7

I know you (Luqman Michel) do good work. But I spent my career working with a diverse group of children, teaching them in a language that is not always regular in its sound-symbol relations.


Luqman Michel @luqmanmichel

I understand Dr. Irregular sound/symbol relations are not what causes a kid to disengage from learning to read. The weird spelling of words is not what causes kids to shut down from learning to read. Teaching sounds of letters with extraneous sounds is what causes kids to shut down.


Dr. Sam Bommarito @DoctorSam7

Agree to disagree.


Luqman Michel @luqmanmichel

Are you saying that kids disengage from learning to decode because of irregular sound-symbol relations?

There is no reply from Dr. Sam. In the absence of a reply, I have to try and guess which of the following he is referring to.

Perhaps he is talking about many of the high-frequency words such as here, there, when, with, how, this, etc.

These are tricky words that can’t rely on letter-sound correspondences. Teachers make the mistake of teaching these words by repeated visual exposure or whole- word imaging. If we teach kids to rote memorise these words they will not shut down from learning to read. Dr. Sam vehemently refuses to accept rote memorising these words which any and all kids will be able to memorise with ease.

Take any child who knows the letter names. Ask him to spell out an irregular word such as ‘with’ and spell out the word, w-i-t-h and say it out ‘with’. Repeat this 5 times. Continue this for a few days and I’ll bet he will know how to spell the word ‘with’ in no time. I get all my students to rote memorise 8 Dolch words every 3 days and by the end of 4 months, they are able to not only read the words but able to spell them too.  

Another irregular sound-symbol relation that he could be talking about maybe words such as debt, debtor, plumber, salmon, almond, quay, island, etc. These words could cause difficulty for a student to memorise but frequent reading of these words will get them anchored in the mind. Many adults get away with pronouncing these words wrongly.  This, however, does not cause a kid to disengage from learning to read.

Tell the students that these words have silent letters (extra letters) and they will somehow learn to spell them like most of us have learned to do. A few more examples will be words such as hour, heir, honour, broad, half, calf, yacht, lamb, numb, etc. But, will these words that are encountered beyond grade 1 cause a kid to disengage from learning to read?

Most of these silent letters are just extra letters that a student has to recall for spelling.

I have elaborated on the causes of kids disengaging from learning to read in my book Shut Down Kids and the main reason kids disengage is due to the inability to blend letters that have been taught with extraneous sounds.

There can only be one way, the correct way, of teaching the sounds represented by letters. This is explained by Dr. David Kilpatrick in both of his books.

The second reason I have listed in my book is teachers not telling the kids that most of the letters in English represent more than one sound. All that teachers need to do is to inform kids of this fact and point out the different sounds the child encounters in his reading.


Anonymous said...

Great ideas. However, I would caution against saying that there are ‘extra’ letters. Every letter is there for a reason.

Luqman Michel said...

Thank you, anonymous. In the future, please give me a pseudonym so I may address you by using a name.