kitchen table math, the sequel: palisadesk on "onset" & "rime"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

palisadesk on "onset" & "rime"

definition from U. of Oregon:

Onset-Rime: The onset is the part of the word before the vowel; not all words have onsets. The rime is the part of the word including the vowel and what follows it.

Catherine wrote:
Diane McGuinness says 'onset' and 'rime' (first letter/rest of the word) is bad, bad, bad....but I have forgotten why.

palisadesk wrote:
I don't recall just what Diane McGuinness said about onset-rime, but I can think of several reasons those advocating a synthetic phonics approach to beginning reading would frown on it.

1) It gives the new reader the wrong idea about what is entailed in "reading" a word. We want the child to learn to process the correspondences from left to right, "all through the word," as the UK folks say. We do not want them to think that we glance at the first letter, then the end of the word, then try putting two parts together, as the default strategy.

With "balanced literacy" children tend to look all over the place for "clues" (Fountas and Pinnell call this "word solving") -- the teacher's face, the pictures, the shape of the word, anything but the letters in sequential order

2)It suggests that rime units are "sounds" to be "learned." There are between 100 and 200 common rime units in short words that beginners can expect to see. But English has only 40-44 spoken phonemes which have about 70 common encodings in beginner vocabulary (forget about "yacht" for now). The memory load of trying to learn hundreds of "sounds" as separate entities is only exceeded by the memory load of trying to "learn" all the Dolch/high frequency words by sight alone. Many kids simply cannot do this and quickly determine that they will never be able to read. A negative mindset from the get-go is definitely a thing to avoid.

3)It trains kids into the look-at-the-first-letter-and-take-a-flying-leap strategy, which backfires once words get beyond one syllable. These kids will go on to read "disappear" as "dinosaur."

That said, once children have learned to decode sequentially, all through the word, phoneme by phoneme, there is some value in having them work with larger units (like rime units) but not in the patterned way onset-rime is usually taught. Some kids get really hung up on sound-by-sound word decoding, and don't easily move on to process larger units of words. So, recognizing that letter-groups like "og" or "ip" are usually spelled the same and sound the same can enhance their fluency.

But, instead of reading and writing onset-rimes with merely initial consonant substitution (man-can-fan), they can read and write words with the target "rime" unit in different positions: fog, soggy, toggled, dogsled, toboggan. This ensures they will continue to look at all the letters of the word, in order. Even Reading Mastery, a synthetic approach if ever there was one, introduces rhyming units and explicitly tells children that these parts that look the same usually are pronounced the same -- ime, lime, chime -- but they don't go on to hammer it as a decoding strategy to be used in lieu of all-through-the-word reading.

Research by the Clackmannanshire authors found that only children who could decode at the phoneme level could use larger units to read by analogy, which is what fluent young readers do when confronted with a new (short) word -- if they can sound out "late," they can read the name "Nate" even if they haven't seen it before. Generally, fluent readers have internalized common patterns to automaticity -- but they initially learned those patterns in a sound-by-sound, letter-by-letter way. There is research on how many times a beginner will "sound out" a word before it becomes an automatic response, but the results show extreme variability -- from 5 reps or fewer to many thousands. Most kids are in the middle, sounding out words dozens of times before recognizing them "at sight."

Some very successful remedial programs for children with reading disabilities emphasize teaching students to use analogy to read, especially for multi-syllable words. Maureen Lovett developed her PHAST program as part of the NICHD-funded reading research, and it teaches kids a self-talk strategy for decoding by analogy, but this is after they have already learned the phoneme/grapheme correspondences and how to blend them into words. She has data to show this is a very successful approach. This is also the general approach taken by the Benchmark School, a private school for kids with reading disabilities, which also has excellent evidence of success.

Both these programs however teach rime units differently than the "balanced literacy" initial substitution method, where all-through-the-word decoding is *not* emphasized.

For more information on these alternatives, you can Google Maureen Lovett and PHAST and/or Irene Gaskins and Benchmark School. The latter has written an excellent book about strategies to help struggling readers. It deals with multiple areas -- not only decoding, but organizational skills, reading comprehension, vocabulary, written expression and so forth. I give it three thumbs up.


Allison said...

on a possibly related note,

does anyone know of research on the experience of subvocalizing when reading?

By that I mean that I hear in my head every single thing I read. In fact, if I force myself to not say what I am reading to myself, I cannot comprehend it (but it's extremely difficult for me to force myself not to subvocalize.)

Does everyone do this? Does not being able to do this hinder? Does it enhance? (I've heard claims that it slows people's reading speed down, but speed reading isn't something I see as valuable per se; my speed is high enough to maintain comprehension.)

In children, I wonder how it gets formed. Is it early? Do they subvocalize as soon as they learn to read? Does sight reading inhibit subvocalization?

Does subvocalizing properly require being read to? Do you learn how to intonate and pronounce

Do you learn how to keep track of dialogue differently if you don't subvocalize? My guess is that the memory of what you read is tied to your auditory loop if you subvocalize, and gets stored differently than if you don't...

SteveH said...

Ages ago I took a speed reading course and figured that that was my big stumbling block. One of the techniques was to trace your finger down the middle of the page so that your eye went top-to-bottom and not back and forth. I couldn't do it. I couldn't stop hearing every word. We watched numbers flash on a screen that we had to write down. It made me feel like I was dyslexic.

However, I figured that if I worked at it enough, I could do it, but I didn't spend much time on it. Now, I think that even if I didn't hear each word, my comprehension would still be about the same function of speed.

At the time, I felt that I read fast enough. If the book was for pleasure, then speed was not a factor. If it was more technical, then comprehension, not speed was critical. I didn't pursue the skill.

Allison said...

I wonder if sight words hinder comprehension in children by preventing good subvocalization from getting established?

RMD said...

Alison said:
"I wonder if sight words hinder comprehension in children by preventing good subvocalization from getting established?"

I think you might be on to something.

Sight words might keep children from ingraining the left to right rule for sounding out words. I didn't think my younger child would ever learn to read until I got him to sound out small words by going left to right, grouping sounds as he went. For example, "cat" would sound out as "k", "k . . . ah .. .kah", "kah . . .t .. . kat". It's only after I did this with him ad naseum that I was able to move on.

Katharine Beals said...

For me subvocalization raises a question also raised by various other aspects of decoding: how do profoundly deaf people do it?! I know some highly literate, profoundly deaf people, none of whom remember how they learned to read, or have been able to tell me if they do anything equivalent to subvocalization when they read.

Catherine Johnson said...

Katharine - do you know about the Direct Instruction program for deaf reading?

Nothing to do with subvocalization, but it seems to work.

I think it's similar to cued literacy, where the 44 sounds of the English language each have a physical sign.