Currently Browsing: reading

Phoneme Awareness vs Phonics?

The National Institute for Literacy has some good tips for teaching phoneme awareness (being able to identify the separate sounds in words) a critical skill for learning to read.

National Institute for Literacy

However, they suggest that 20 hours of class time should suffice for teaching phonemic awareness. Since close to 70% of American 4th and 8th graders cannot read proficiently, and since phoneme awareness and phonics are the two most frequently found deficits in children who struggle to read, perhaps we need to re-evaluate whether students are really learning this skill in the 20 hours of instruction they receive. What do you think? Are phoneme awareness and phonics separate skills? Or should they be linked so that children understand why they are asked to become aware of the sounds in words?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Is Your Child Engrossed in Media 53 hours/week?

children engrossed by media

A new study put out by Kaiser Family Services tells us that children are using media like TV, music, and internet social media more than 7.5 hours a day—that comes to an average of 53 hours a week of mostly passive experience! Yes, they text, but what kind of thought goes into texting or tweeting?  Are their brains really processing and analyzing and digesting new information?  Unfortunately, no.

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A Simple Gift That Lasts for a Lifetime: Teach Your Kids to Read

At this time of gift-giving, when money is tight, why not give your child a gift that won’t cost you anything but time and love, and will last a lifetime.  Here is a recipe for getting started:

There are 18 FREE decodable booklets in pdf form on our website.

Print out the first booklet “IS IT A CAT?”  Look at the first book together, and read it to your child.  But don’t try to have your child memorize the appearance of words or “read” the book until you have played together making words.

The secret of learning to read is understanding how to make words first! If your child can arrange letter tiles to create the words in the first booklet, he or she is well on the way to understanding how letters are used to represent the sounds in words—and that is the key to reading! (more…)

Are you teaching phonics backwards?

“One of the most fundamental flaws found in almost all phonics programs, including traditional ones, is that they teach the code backwards.  That is, they go from letter to sound instead of from sound to letter.”

Louisa Moats, 1998

What do you think about this quote from Louisa Moats?

phonics

How do you teach phonics? Method A or B?  Why?

A. Print-to-Speech. Letters-to-sounds. Decoding.

Teach the alphabet song.

Associate 26 visual letters with their names.

Then teach letter sounds.

Decode a familiar word together, like CAT by identifying each letter, saying the sound that is associated with that letter, and blending the sounds together.  If the blended sounds resemble the word, the word is decoded as CAT.

Use flash cards to practice letter names, and words.

B. Speech-to-Print.  Sounds-to-letters. Encoding.

Start with a familiar spoken word, like CAT

Segment together the three sounds in the word.

From a few letter tiles, find the letters that stand for those sounds. Arrange the tiles to represent (encode) the sequence of sounds in CAT. Mix up the letters until the child arranges them correctly. Read the word. Discuss other words in the same family, like FAT or HAT.  By working with other Consonant-Vowel-Consonant words, eventually the child learns the letters that represent the 40 sounds of English.  Encode words first, then decode (read) what has been written.

How do YOU teach early reading?   Let’s have a discussion!

Why not start with writing?

Writing is a system humans have invented to make speech visible.

Our English alphabet is a way of drawing sounds.

typing

Words must be written before they can be read.

Why not start with writing?

Struggling readers do not improve by “silent reading” in class

Jan HasbrouckI was recently sent an article by Jan Hasbrouck in which she discusses reading fluency and the pervasive use of Sustained Silent Reading and Round Robin Reading. These are strategies that teachers are using to develop fluency in struggling readers.

She says,

“Developing fluency among struggling readers takes more intensive, carefully guided practice than either of these strategies can deliver.”

Jan makes a very persuasive case that these instructional strategies take up significant amounts of classroom time with dubious benefit. She quotes Marilyn Adams as saying, “if we want to induce children to read lots, we must also teach them to read well.”

Classroom time will be better spent building decoding skills and providing one-on-one guided oral reading.

A good computer program for guided oral reading is “Soliloquy”, designed by Marilyn Adams, (then renamed “Reading Assistant”). Find the program online at scilearn.com. The software actually listens to a child reading aloud and provides appropriate help.

Learning (not memorizing) will make reading FUN

This blog post from Imagination Soup suggests as the first of 5 ideas for kids who hate to read:

“1. MODEL. Read the page or sentences first.  Have your child repeat.”

This strategy may help a child memorize the appearance of the words.  It does not give a child tools to decipher words on his own.

Research shows that children need to learn phoneme awareness (to identify each sound in a word) and phonics (to associate each of those 40 sounds with the letter(s) that stand for that sound).  Then they can sound-out words on their own.  The next paragraphs explain why I think it’s important for parents and teachers to understand this research:

kids readingIf a child hates reading, perhaps it is because the way he is being taught sets up inefficient pathways in the brain. Inefficient processing makes reading hard work, and not fun (no matter how interesting the subject matter). (more…)

A Story to Explain Brain Research About Reading

A Typical Day in a Brain Research Lab

The machine was familiar to her now, but it was still amazing to think that it could take a picture of her son’s brain while he was reading!  Johnny was lying down inside the machine, and she could hear him answering questions that the doctor was asking.

Ann sat down to wait and thought about all that had happened in the last couple of months. Her son had been having a hard time in second grade.  She knew she had to do something about it when he came home crying, saying that everyone else knew how to read, and he just didn’t get it.

“I’m just stupid”, he had sobbed.  “I’m never going to learn how to read!”

His teacher told her that Johnny was quite bright, but that he did have trouble reading.  She suggested that Ann might look into the reading research project that was going on in the neuroscience department at the nearby university.  At first Ann was skeptical that brain research would be of any help to Johnny, but she noticed that they were also providing special instruction.  Luckily, she came to a decision that would change Johnny’s life.

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Free Educational Books from Talking Fingers

Read togetherWe want you to know that there are 18 highly entertaining decodable books available at our web site, FREE, on pdf files.  Just print them out and help your child sound-out the words and read them.  Please make sure he or she is sounding out the words, not memorizing how they look.

Let me know if you find these helpful and if you have any questions!

Message to Parents: Your kids only learn to read once!

Avery & Mom readingYour child will only learn to read and write once! Don’t miss it!

Sometimes it happens in the space of a few short months. You can play a vital role, and it may be one of the most significant things you and your child ever do together. Reading and writing are the most important skills children learn for success and happiness in school and beyond.

Learning to read and write is a staggering accomplishment, much more difficult than learning to speak and to understand speech. Becoming literate is one of the most essential major learning experiences of modern life. It is a valuable tool for personal expression, and a doorway to the written wisdom of the brightest and most interesting members of the human tribe since history began.

I believe that computers offer an extraordinary opportunity for parents to participate in this critical learning experience with their children. Educational software and learning materials provid a unique framework for short enjoyable day-to-day lessons. A few minutes each day is all that it takes. (more…)

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