Currently Browsing: phonics

Does a “Great Mind” Need Phonics?

Beware of what you may read in your email. The paragraph below is being passed around the internet with the statement that only great minds can read it (55 out of 100 people), and that spelling isn’t important because you can read any word if the letters are all included and the first and last letter are in the correct place.  You will draw a disastrously mistaken conclusion if you infer that children can read this way, or that this has any relevance to learning to read.  Here is the paragraph.  See if you can read it!

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

(more…)

Questions Parents Should Ask Teachers of Kindergarten and First Grade Children

If you have been reading this blog, you are aware of the importance of phoneme awareness and phonics to the development of early reading skills. You may already have more knowledge now than your child’s teacher.  Parents can find out whether their children will be taught reading well by asking their teachers a few questions:

“Do you think it is important for children to learn that words are made of individual sounds?

How do you teach this skill? Do you teach a specific sequence?

How many sounds do you teach?”

(If teachers say they teach all 40 sounds of English, hurray!  If they say they teach the sounds of all 26 letters, you should probe further.)

(more…)

The Key to Skilled Reading

At the SSSR meeting in Boston, I was fascinated to learn about a new study by Linnea Ehri and Nancy Boyer who taught pre-schoolers to look at themselves in a mirror while pronouncing a word, and then play with mouth pictures that represent the articulation of the same sounds.  When children associated those mouth pictures with letters and manipulated the letters to represent the sounds in words, they performed better than children who just manipulated the letters without the articulatory component.  So instruction that includes teaching children to become aware of how their mouths move to make the sounds of words would help children make the connections between speech and the alphabet code.

(more…)

Change is slow…unless we help!

It’s always good to see colleagues and friends at these yearly meetings of SSSR. Louisa Moats and I found ourselves commiserating at lunch one day.  Louisa has been teaching the importance of a speech-to-print approach for years.  She has lectured widely, taught professional development courses, been active on government advisory panels, and has written an excellent book called Speech to Print. (Also, Straight Talk About Reading with Susan Hall, another excellent book). But, as we said over lunch, it’s sometimes discouraging that change happens so slowly.  This is what she said in American Educator in 1998:

“One of the most fundamental flaws found in almost all phonics programs is that they teach the code backwards.  That is, they go from letter to sound rather than from sound to letter….the print to sound approach leaves gaps, invites confusions, and creates inefficiencies” (Moats, L. Teaching Decoding, American Educator, 42-49)

(more…)

THE GOOD NEWS—Many Reading Problems Can Be Prevented!

I’m getting on a plane tomorrow to fly from San Francisco to Boston for a week.  I’m attending a conference where I’ll have a chance to talk to many friends and colleagues who have, like me, decided to spend their lives trying to understand why some children have difficulty learning to read and what we might be able to do about it.

It’s the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading, a gathering of over 300 researchers from around the world who study everything about reading — brain structure and function, related cognitive and behavioral issues, and instruction and intervention techniques. You can find abstracts of the talks on the SSSR web site.  I look forward to learning new things to add to the knowledge I have accumulated from my own research over the last 37 years.

(more…)

Page 2 of 212