Sunday, December 10, 2023

Anna Stokke's podcast with Matthew Burns - Part 3


                                                                     Matthew Burns

This part is quite interesting and I hope that I am not misinterpreting what Anna is saying.

Anna Stokke:

If we immerse kids in books and we make reading fun and we start with meaning and understanding, the reading will just come.

And I hear this sort of thing in math. all the time. So it's sort of like a top-down approach to teaching instead of a bottom-up approach. So in other words, the idea is to start children with problem-solving. They'll get excited about the problem and the foundational skills will just come after that. But as a matter of fact, you can't solve a problem, right, if you don't have the skills to solve the problem if you don't have the foundational skills to do it or the techniques to do it. Does that resonate with you in terms of what happened with reading?


My comment: I want to comment on this part first before moving on to Matthew’s reply. I understand that Anna is talking about Math and if I understand Anna correctly, I think this cannot be compared with reading in a language like Malay (transparent languages). The only thing required for a child to learn to read in Malay using the top-down approach is for the child to know his letters. No other foundational skills are required except for explaining to the child that the letter E represents 2 sounds. As long as the vocabulary in the reading material is known to the kid you can let the child sit beside you and read the sentences in the book and let the child read after you sentence by sentence. If you do this for half an hour a day for 3 months, the child will be able to read almost anything he encounters after that. He will be able to read any word even though the word is not in his vocabulary except for words with the letter E.

This will not be possible in English even though the child knows all the vocabulary in that book he is reading.

Pause for a moment and let us understand this. In both circumstances we are talking about a kid who knows the alphabet, and is read to and he follows the reading sentence by sentence after the teacher. The only thing to explain to the kid reading Malay is the 2 sounds represented by the letter E.

The above is not possible in English unless it is double the time or longer than in teaching to read in Malay and the different sounds of the vowels are explained each time he comes to a different sound than the ones he has learned.  

For example, having read the word apple you have to let him know the sound of letter A is different when you read the word ace, about, arm, always etc. Or at the least he must be told that almost all letters in English represent more than 1 sound. Otherwise the chances of him disengaging from learning to read is high. This will happen to about 20% of kids who are predisposed to shutting down when confused.

Of course, there are other problems reading in English which a child will not encounter when reading in a transparent language. One example will be the silent letters as in words such as hour, salmon, island, plumber etc.

Matthew Burns:

In fact, some research I've done has shown that most kids with behaviour difficulties in schools have reading problems as well.

So this idea that, yeah, this productive struggle, I mean, productive struggle in reading to me is unfortunate because if the kid can't read it, it's not productive struggle. It's frustration. What you're seeing is frustration.

My comment:

A majority of kids who cannot read misbehave due to shame avoidance. Their behaviour changes for the better once they are able to read. Read my post on shame avoidance here.

Frustration leads to kids predisposed to shutting down to disengage from learning to read and are then wrongly classified as dyslexic. These are the kids called instructional casualties by Reid Lyon.

Anna Stokke:

Well, yeah. And it's the same thing with math. That's something that's commonly promoted, productive struggle. It's good to struggle. And I mean, to some extent, yeah, of course, there are times when you struggle with math, and you've got to persevere, right? But to start someone off with this complex problem, and they're just supposed to struggle and it's all supposed to work out for them, what happens is the kids that are already doing well, maybe they're getting outside tutoring or maybe they just excel in math. They go further, but the kids who don't have those foundational skills, they really get left behind.

Matthew Burns:

Yeah, a productive struggle and an inquiry-based instruction and problem-based learning and all that, that's great for the proficient readers and kids who are good at math. I really have no problem with those. But for all the other kids, it's probably not going to be helpful.

My comment:

This has been my mantra for more than a decade. Almost all the educators on Twitter talk about comprehension, morphology and stuffs like that which gets the kids who can read to do better but it does not help the kids who have shut down and cannot decode. A kid who is unable to decode by the end of grade one, will get further and further behind until and unless he gets intervention.

Yes, many rich kids who cannot read go for outside tuition and learn to read. Our Western folks then say that it is poverty that is the cause of kids being unable to read. 




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