In many of our nation’s schools reading instruction begins with comprehension and fluency instruction. I know of several schools that require all students, even kindergarten students, to read a minimum of 40-60 minutes per day. In order to accomplish this goal, kindergarteners and struggling readers are provided with pattern readers. The idea is that the student will master the reading of sight words and be able to use picture clues to guess the content words.
People often ask me, if their student learns the phonograms and rules, will they be able to comprehend what they read?
Honestly, maybe. But, if they do not learn how to decode, they will likely struggle to read what they are trying to comprehend.
In other words, reading words is different from comprehending.
At a recent in-service a teacher raised her hand and said, "I hate that there is a right way to spell a word. Correcting spelling kills creativity!"
This teacher expressed one of the doubts at the center of the literacy debate: Don't rules limit children’s creativity?
As humans we are all creative, though many times we forget that creativity comes in many forms and is paired with an endless combination of personality traits. Sadly, many people stereotype creativity and limit its scope to someone who creates through writing, drawing, sculpting, music... without prior training and who flows freely with ideas. They often assume that learning techniques or skills will limit the flow of ideas and therefore stifle creativity. Many teachers, like the one mentioned above, believe that students who know there is a "right" way to spell a word will therefore become less creative in their writing and be hindered by the fear of spelling a word incorrectly.
Tears of relief and of untapped pain are a common response to reading Uncovering the Logic of English. The book goes to the heart and provides relief to the hurting.
Underneath the confident, poised exterior of many highly educated English speakers is a deep anxiety and pain that there is something wrong with them. They struggle with written language and try to hide their embarrassment. I believe this pain is at the root of our national debate on reading education.
Though it has been more than a decade since scientific research has conclusively demonstrated that systematic, explicit phonics is necessary for learning to read, as a nation we still do not buy it.
Uncovering the Logic of English is an ideal reading methods textbook for universities and colleges. In 150 pages, Uncovering the Logic of English reveals the phonograms and spelling rules which explain 98% of English words. The book is written in an engaging and easy-to-read style which will stimulate classroom discussion about phonics, spelling, and the strengths and weaknesses with their own experiences learning to read and spell. Uncovering the Logic of English will become a standard reference guide when the teachers enter the classroom as it provides answers to everyday questions that children ask such as:
Uncovering the Logic of English provides a vision for integrating vocabulary development into all content areas by showing teachers the importance of moving beyond phonics to roots and affixes as students grow. The book demonstrates not only the efficiency of teaching vocabulary with roots, but also the way roots unlock meaning in literature and provide students creative tools.
Studying Uncovering the Logic of English will provide future teachers with an understanding of the literacy crisis that is plaguing our schools and arm them with information to help their students and reverse the literacy crisis in the United States.
Uncovering the Logic of English arms teachers with research based content for teaching reading. The phonograms and spelling rules found in Uncovering the Logic of English are consistent with other explicit, systematic phonics programs. The material is presented in a concise and easy to read format which makes it an ideal textbook for reading methods classes in colleges and universities. Learning the phonograms and spelling rules is essential in preparing teachers for the reading instruction portion of their licensure exam as described in MN Statute 122.A Subd. 2A and MN statute 122A.06 subd 4. In addition, learning the phonograms and spelling rules prepares teachers to answer the practical questions their students ask about English spelling and decoding as well as provides teachers a strategy for integrating vocabulary and spelling instruction across the curriculum.
Uncovering the Logic of English has been endorsed by Dr. Reid Lyon, one of the foremost experts on evidence based reading instruction in the United States. Uncovering the Logic of English provides teachers with a large picture understanding of phonics and vocabulary development. Teaching the Logic of English, due to be published in the fall of 2011, will address phonemic awareness, reading comprehension, and fluency.
English speaking countries are failing our students in first and second grade. More than 60% of our students, in all grades, are struggling with reading!
38% of 4th graders are functionally illiterate.
68% of eighth graders read below grade level.
Only 10% of adults are highly proficient readers.
We need to talk about reading education.
Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that students learn to read the same way they learn to speak, by being read to. This simply is not true.
Yet we know from studies performed by the NIH that systematic, explicit instruction of English results in only .02-6% of students struggling with reading. This is amazing. Yet we are not talking about and implementing what we know and have proven on a wide scale level.
As a nation we need to talk about the basic skill of reading. Children who cannot read are hurting. Many of them give up on themselves, believe they are stupid, and are difficult if not impossible to inspire. When we teach children to read well, we open the world to them.
Illiteracy is closely linked to dropout rates, prison rates, and welfare. In the same way, strong literacy skills are certainly linked to creativity, inspiration, dreams, freedom, and the future of our world.
One of the early curriculum testers is working with a highly creative child. This student wants to draw pictures of everything. She hates to spell and doesn’t want to accept that her invented spellings are as good as the standard.
I spoke with her tutor and began to think further about this type of learner. They are our artists, creative writers, interior designers. They bring beauty, visual expression, and add such depth to our world.
How do we teach them to read and spell in a manner that respects their particular gifts and strengthens their weaknesses?
It dawned on me that there are many ways to teach these students as well. Yes, she will still need to dictate her spelling words and learn rules. But she can then use her new tools to create. She can create an illustrated reference guide. Word lists can become a picture dictionary, sentence dictation can be turned into stories, or illustrations, and even sculptures. (Imagine a creatively minded emerging reader, practicing reading adjective noun phrases and sculpting clay into their description.) I think my engineers would have loved this at age 5 as well!
Keep in mind, this does not need to be overwhelming. Students who are creative do not need all their activities in this manner. Yet giving them an outlet for expression is key to allowing them to flourish and to respect them.
I am continually amazed by how much we have to learn from all kinds of minds, not only academically. They bring diversity and enrichment into our homes, schools, and communities. At Pedia Learning, we are challenged to create materials that utilize what we know about learning styles and to engage all sorts of learners. I am having so much fun creating a curriculum that addresses the essentials while providing options for engaging a variety of students. My hope is to inspire both teachers and students.
Boys are lagging behind girls in literacy.
Here are a few great articles on the importance of phonics and in particular the way that boys benefit. This fits exactly with what I have been saying. Not only do boys benefit from synthetic phonics training but all children test better.
This one demonstrates, through some studies in Scotland, the way that all children benefit from systematic phonics.
The National Reading Panel (NRP) was commissioned by Congress in 1997 to evaluate the research literature and determine what is known about effective methods to teach reading. The panel screened over 100,000 studies related to reading, held regional hearings and reviewed the testimony of teachers, parents, and researches. The report, issued in 2000, identified systematic, synthetic phonics as an essential component to effective reading instruction.
“Phonics instruction is a way of teaching reading that stresses the acquisition of letter-sound correspondences and their use in reading and spelling."