Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Jennifer Serravallo and P.D. Pearson on phonics and reading


Yesterday, 21.11.23 I read a blog post by Jennifer Serravallo. A large portion of the post was on comprehension. My blog focusses on decoding. I leave comprehension to experts like Jennifer.

Here are extracts and my comments.

Jennifer Serravallo:

Yeah, nobody denies how important phonics is, but if we're taking a ton of time, then that's the time kids aren't getting to practice other things like you said, fluency or having read aloud or getting to play with each other or all the many other things that they need to develop oral language and literacy skills and things like that.


My comment:

I don’t know why teaching phonics takes a ton of time. Phonics is basically for learning to decode and nothing more. Reading aloud can be done with or without phonics. Think of the millions of kids who learned to read during the whole word period.

Teach kids letter sounds and word families and kids will be able to read simple sentences. Explain the meaning of words in those simple sentences and their vocabulary and comprehension will improve.

Educators put the blame on phonics and say it does not work well with some kids without realising that the problem is in teaching the letter sounds wrongly.

Phonics is sound-symbol relationship + blending.

When consonants are taught with extraneous sounds a majority of kids are unable to blend letters. Fortunately, many of these confused kids somehow figure out how to read.

P David Pearson:

Sure. This one is a little bit of an analogy. It's less research-based than it is for me, an object lesson in curriculum development. Pretend that you ran a summer basketball camp for eight-year-olds who came when universities do this all over the country. If you said to them when they got to the camp, "Well, welcome to basketball camp. For the first week, we're going to work on dribbling and we're going to work on defense and we're going to work. Then if you get good at that, we'll work on a layup. And if you get good at that, we'll do free throws. And when you've all achieved 85% mastery on those basics, then maybe we'll have a scrimmage. And if we're lucky, we'll get to the scrimmage by the end of the second week."

If you did that, those kids would all go home on day two. Why? Because they never got to play the game. And kids want to play the game at whatever level of mastery of the component skills they have. And we forget that that's part of the magic of learning to read is not just learning the letter sound correspondences, it's putting them to work in making sense out of text and accessing the magic that lies waiting for you to unearth. And if all we ever did was practice those skills until they reached a certain level of mastery and never let them play the game of reading, they'd go home. And I think that's what happens to a lot of kids.

Yeah, you've got to play the game. And that's why in most reading programs, you only learn one or two skills per lesson and then you read some text and you talk about it because that's the point of reading and the job of the phonics you're learning isn't done until you've made sense out of that text.

My comment:

That is an excellent analogy by P.D. Pearson. This is exactly what I have done in my book Teach Your Child to Read.

I teach a few of the letter sounds and introduce one word family per lesson and then children are able to read many sentences with ease. I introduce 8 Dolch (High Frequency) words per lesson to be rote memorised by the kids. Parents/teachers can then explain the meaning and form sentences with the Dolch words.

Read/listen to the first lesson. LINK. All the lessons are free of charge on my blog.

Listen to a teacher in Perth teaching lesson 2 from my book to a 4 ½- year-old Tamil-speaking girl in Australia. See how she constructs sentences with the Dolch words in that lesson. Listen to the third video on my post here.

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