kitchen table math, the sequel: what do their words mean?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

what do their words mean?

Here is a survey of Twin Cities suburbs school district web sites. From here, it is clear that no parent could tell what is being taught. For whom are these web pages? What audience do they serve?

The educational language is very nearly the same for each. What parent could discern the differences, if any exist?

From the Hopkins School District site :

"In the Hopkins Public Schools we help all children become independent readers and writers through a balanced literacy program. Of equal importance in literacy instruction are the emphasis on reading for meaning and the promotion of literature for enrichment and lifelong learning...

The balanced literacy program in our elementary schools includes reading aloud, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading. The Hopkins elementary reading curriculum includes five areas of reading instruction—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension. Our guiding principles for the elementary level, available for download at the link below, are the basis for all instructional decisions, including best-practice instruction and material purchases. Our school district uses Pearson/Scott Foresman's READING STREETS curriculum for our core reading instruction in kindergarten through Grade 6."

Then they have the above picture under the title Reading: Elementary Balanced Literacy.

That graph is coupled with what they refer to as "our guiding principles".Here are the first few principles:

"The K-6 Reading curriculum team of Hopkins School District believes literacy education should promote the development of literate students who construct meaning through reading, writing, listening and speaking. To accomplish this goal teachers will employ a balanced literacy model. Literacy instruction will include explicit and systematic instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary/word study, comprehension, and motivation using a variety of literary genres. We believe in a balanced literacy model that includes; read aloud, word study, shared reading, guided reading, independent reading.

Literacy instruction is based on the following guiding principles:
1. Instill the love of reading and the importance of being well read.

2. Reading is taught for meaningful, authentic purposes. People read…
a. for pleasure
b. to be informed
c. to perform a task

3. Use high-quality, high interest literature in a variety of genres.
a. authentic trade book literature
b. content area topics
c. multiple levels of difficulty
d. diverse in cultural representation

4. Explicit and systematic instruction must be provided in these areas:
a. A comprehensive word study/phonics program significantly improves children’s
word recognition, spelling, and reading comprehension. This program should be
strong in phonemic awareness & phonics instruction in the early stages of
• Phonemic awareness
• Phonics instruction
• Sight word recognition
b. Fluency is a strong predictor of comprehension.
• Rate
• Expression
• Intonation
• Attention to punctuation
• Vocabulary knowledge
c. Building background knowledge increases comprehension.
• Pre-teaching vocabulary
• Concepts (pictures, examples)
• Experiences
d. Vocabulary plays an important part in learning to read. Children use words they
have heard to make sense of words they see in print. Vocabulary is also very
important to reading comprehension.
• Indirectly through conversations and modeled read aloud
• Reading experiences
• Direct instruction
• Word Study (affixes, Latin, Greek roots, dictionary skills)
• Learned through multiple exposures

5. Balance teacher and student led discussions. Use higher order thinking skills and practice comprehension using think alouds, constructed response, literature response writing, etc.

6. Use a balanced literacy model which includes:
a. direct instruction
b. guided instruction
c. independent learning

7. Build a whole-class community that emphasizes important grade level concepts and
builds background knowledge.

8. Knowing that students enter school with a diverse background of literacy experience and skills, instruction must be differentiated to meet the needs of each learner. Small group instruction using appropriate texts for the learners has proven effective in meeting the needs of all learners.
The Edina schools have this to say about literacy:

"We believe that literacy is the fundamental academic asset. The mission of Integrated Language Arts in the Edina Public Schools is to "develop literate, life-long learners who read, write, speak, listen, and view effectively by engaging them in rigorous, relevant curricula." This process begins before formal schooling and continues throughout life.

The Edina Language Arts Curriculum is comprehensive and standards based. The Houghton Mifflin Reading Anthology and Leveled Libraries provide the foundation of teacher and student materials to meet the learner outcomes identified in the curriculum. The curriculum includes direct instruction in reading skills and strategies both in whole class and flexible group format. Teachers use a variety of assessments to determine flexible group assignments. The groups are adjusted throughout the year. The 6-Traits of writing is used for instruction, assessment, and communication about writing. "

The specific grade 1 curricula they list is:

Theme 1: All Together Now
Friends do all kinds of things together.

Theme 2: Surprise!
Things don't always turn out the way you expect.

Theme 3: Let's Look Around!
Interesting things happen in the world around us.

Theme 4: Family and Friends
Family and friends share good times.

Theme 5: Home Sweet Home
Everyone has a different kind of home

Theme 6: Animal Adventures
Real and imaginary animals have all kinds of adventures.

Theme 7: We Can Work it Out
Characters find unique ways to solve problems.

Theme 8: Our Earth
We can all care for and enjoy Earth's resources.

Theme 9: Special Friends
Some friendships are more special than others.

Theme 10: We Can Do It!
There's always a way to get things done.

Writers' Workshop
Beginning with the end in mind, we recommend to move to using a Writing Workshop as the preferred instructional framework. Best practices and research indicates that the Writing Workshop is a powerful and effective way to encourage and improve writing by placing responsibility on students, holding them accountable for developing their writing skills in multiple genres and building their confidence and enjoyment of writing. This student-centered approach may require changes in instructional patterns for teachers, students and parents

The Bloomington School district has this to say:
"The Bloomington Public School System is a results-based educational system that models continuous improvement. The basis for our assessment of improvement is student achievement. Student assessments are designed from a comprehensive curriculum of state, national, and local standards, delivered by a professional and highly qualified staff using instructional techniques defined by best practice and research – proven strategies."

What does that look like for, say, reading? Following from that site, you can get to the rubrics and standards.
Here's an sample of the rubric
for first grade reading.

Grade 1 Literacy Mid Year and End of Year rubrics
• Reads high frequency words
Assessment - High Frequency word list (online)
January June
4 = 100+ 4 = 125
3 = 70-99 3 = 100*
2 = 50-69 2 = 70-99
1 = <50 1 = <70
*100 correct words may be a combination of any of the 125 words. A list of the 125
shuffled together is posted on this website.

• Comprehension
Assessment – DRA (use DRA Continuum - Comprehension
category for determining proficiency)
4 = Advanced at level 8 or independent or higher above level 8
3 = Independent at Level 8
2 = Independent at Level 4 through < independent at level 8
1 = Lower than independent at level 4
4 = Advanced at level 16 or independent or higher above level 16
3 = Independent at Level 16
2 = Independent at Level 10 through < independent at level 16
1 = Lower than independent at level 10
• Fluently reads grade level text
Assessment – DRA (use DRA continuum for proficiency
descriptors at each level)
4 = Advanced at level 8 or independent or higher above level 8
3 = Independent at Level 8
2 = Independent at Level 4 through < independent at level 8
1 = Lower than independent at level 4
4 = Advanced at level 16 or independent or higher above level 16
3 = Independent at Level 16
2 = Independent at Level 10 through < independent at level 16
1 = Lower than independent at level 10

No parent could make heads or tails of that. Who is the audience? What need is being met by putting this content on the web site?

Given the above information, how could a parent assess curricular, instructional, or performance differences? They couldn't.


Independent George said...

No parent could make heads or tails of that.

I think that's the point.

TerriW said...

But, hey!

Some friendships are more special than others.

That must be the week they learn diphthongs. I think I'm getting the hang of this.

Independent George said...

There's a classic Dilbert cartoon about bad graphics on PPT slides. Actually, I'm pretty sure there are about 50 on bad graphics on PPT slides, but I'm thinking of one in particular. Will need to Google during lunch...

Crimson Wife said...

At least the Hopkins spiel mentions explicitly and systematically teaching phonics and word roots. "Balanced literacy" concerns me because it may signal a repackaging of "whole language" but I would need to know more about the specific materials used and how teachers actually implement them in the classroom.

SteveH said...

When my son started Kindergaten, they talked about the wonders of "onset" and "rime". It's kind of like balanced phonics, I think. They just can't bring themselves to admit that they are wrong, so "balance" gives them an escape path.

Sara R said...

You can't balance whole language and phonics because they are opposites. "Balanced literacy" as taught to my 1st grader meant (in part) "if you don't know a word, look at the first letter and guess." Phonics is "if you don't know a word, sound it out." Those two points of view contradict each other and cannot be "balanced."

Anonymous said...

There's no "maybe" about it. Balanced literacy is the whole language techniques without the discredited title Whole Language.

Really- how much different is this than what the Goodmans advocated for? It's just a change in words and a little more politically savvy about what parents and taxpayers want to hear.

I taught all 3 kids to read and it's amazing how quickly you can take them to mastery if you use readers that only introduce a few letter sound correspondences at a time and just keep building.

The saddest part is when the K and 1st and 2nd grade teachers in private school wanted to know what I did as if fluent reading of any word encountered is magic.

Even sadder was when the 6th grade Gifted English teacher told me she'd never seen a kid who could read a passage in the Workbook once and immediately answer the questions.

Balanced Literacy is such a time waster over years of gradually increasing word exposure.

It certainly put the CCSSI English "standards" into perspective when I was reading Beth Fertig's book why cant you teach me to read about NYC and Balanced Literacy.

The English standards are designed for the BL classroom where you will have a wide variety of leveled books in use as different students assimilate words at different rates. That's why the whole class activities will be about characters and point of views that can apply to all the levels in the heterogeneous classroom.

The CCSSI Standards- because in 21st century America, we now believe learning is something you do as a group not something in an individual's head.

SteveH said...

"You can't balance whole language and phonics because they are opposites."

Our school was trying very hard to do just that with onset and rimes. I remember the Kindergarten open house very clearly. One parent asked specifically about whole language, but they said this was something different.

I didn't worry too much about it because my son was reading before he got to pre-school. We directly taught him phonics, he had the Junior Phonics Game, and watched the Mrs. Phipps and Snoothy video tape. We read to him and had him sound out the words phonetically.

In Kindergarten, they tested him, but they didn't want to tell us the
results. Looking back, I think they really didn't want us to expect them to do more for him. His Kindergarten teacher dove right in to a (preemptive attack) lecture about how some kids can read encyclopedias, but they don't know what they are reading. We didn't know where that was coming from. Of course, they didn't bother to check our son's comprehension level.

There seems to be a tendency to think that all we have to do is to figure out some way to show them what really works. I don't think that is possible. They only know one thing, and if you take that away, they have nothing.

SteveH said...

"we now believe learning is something you do as a group not something in an individual's head."

I've said before that if you are shy and bad in art, you're screwed. In fact, it's an assumption that art is a learning modality for all kids. My son doesn't do well in art, so why can't he choose another learning mode that is more appropriate for his projects? Just this afternoon, he has to finish a social studies project that inolves a 2' X 3' sheet of posterboard.

We keep trying to find some sort of meaning or arguing points for what they do. There aren't any.

Group learning is another one of those things. My son doesn't like to contribute to group discussions that wander all over the place. Excited opinions get thrown out based on little background knowledge, but it makes many educators feel all warm and fuzzy.

Crimson Wife said...

I am not at ALL a fan of "whole language" but I do think the proponents have a point about using high quality literature rather than those exceedingly dull basal readers. At the very beginning of the learning to read process they're necessary but as soon as possible kids ought to be reading real books.

What the Hopkins *CLAIMS* to be doing sounds a lot like how I approach teaching my kids to read in our homeschool. But again I'd have to see what they're *ACTUALLY* doing.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem with the high quality literature out there for children is that it might very well be overwhelming for a certain segment of them. People treat the whole Look-Say era of Dick and Jane as the precursor to Whole Language, but those little books and stories were highly controlled language-wise and very repetitive. And god knows, we didn't have to do a lot of inferring, connecting, or consciously activating our prior knowledge.

I helped out in a Kindergarten for a few months with a huge SES range and saw a lot of time wasted with books that flew over many of the children's head. The exposure alone was not only not helping, it appeared to be confusing a number of them. I had never thought of that before. Certain children are challenged and delighted by books over their head, but I could tell that many were just lost and even turned off.

When I would help out at the different group tables, the brighter children (or lets just say--further along) could follow the multitude of instructions required just to figure out the logic of the game or worksheet in front of them. The children who were more behind just sat and looked around to see who they could copy.

Again, they lost a chance to practice whatever skill they were supposed to be doing, and got to feel stupid at the same time.

I'm certainly not saying to get rid of high quality literature in classrooms, but only suggesting that it might not be the panacea some people think it is when first learning to read. Again, I'm not speaking of the "naturals" or the gifted.


Robin said...

The role of high quality literature is not to teach them to read. It's to remind them why it's worth the trouble to become fluent.

I think Zig has said as well as cognitive scientists describing how working memory performs that you can only be introduced to about 30% new material at a time or you become overwhelmed. Then you cannot even access what you know.

Jeanne Chall wrote of the Lippincott readers in the 60s that were so well designed phonetically that most kids could infer the phoneme-letter connection. With explicit instruction, kids could fly.

Look-say is still a whole word technique. It treats entirely phonetic words as sight words. That's confusing as it makes it seem like there are no rules.

The Primary Phonics series of storybooks works the same way as Lippincott and is still available from Educators Publishing Service. Move through all six sets of storybooks while still reading quality literature to them as they became familiar with and then gain automaticity.

Then find one of their favorite stories, harder but not too much, and have them read a page and you alternate. They get a rest but start practicing with an uncontrolled vocabulary. Just keep working from there.

Anyone with young kids up to about 3rd grade, if you're not familiar with Bill Peet, find him at the library. His 30 or so books will become a highlight of childhood.

Ari-free said...

The other question is...what do *they* mean by high quality literature? I doubt they were thinking of the McGuffey Readers or classics by "dead white men."


Sara R said...

I agree that the focus on high quality literature was the one bright spot in the original Whole Language of the 80s and early 90s. As I understand it that focus on quality literature left in the late 90s, and it was replaced by "Leveled Libraries." The early readers focus on "predictable text" with just one new word on each page, usually a word that can be guessed from the picture. "Ducks live in a pond. Fish live in a pond. Plants live in a pond." and so on.

Allison said...


Yes, it's a good question. Many schools here use the Junior Great Books program, a program that looks like it would having Mortimer Adler turning over in its grave.

There are clearly some lovely pieces in it, but the perfect PC balance of ALWAYS having the multicultural elements in every volume tells me more about their idea of literature than the works themselves do.

Here's an example:
Pegasus Series Grade 1

Volume 1
Chestnut Pudding Iroquois folktale as told by John Bierhorst

The Pied Piper English folktale as told by Joseph Jacobs

"Fanciful Animals" Poetry by Edward Lear and A. A. Milne

Volume 2
The Mermaid Who Lost Her Comb Scottish folktale as told by Winifred Finlay

Hansel and Gretel Brothers Grimm, translated by Randall Jarrell

"Special Places" Poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks and Robert Frost, and a Navajo poem

Volume 3
Mother of the Waters Haitian folktale as told by Diane Wolkstein

Zlateh the Goat Isaac Bashevis Singer

"Secret Messages" Poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson, Barbara Juster Esbensen, and Emily Dickinson

Dragon Series Grades K-1

Volume 1

The Frog Prince Brothers Grimm as told by Wanda Gag

Guinea Fowl and Rabbit Get Justice African folktale as told by Harold Courlander and George Herzog

"Nature Speaks" Poetry by Carl Sandburg, James Reeves, and Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca

Volume 2

Feraj and the Magic Lute Arabian folktale as told by Jean Russell Larson

The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse Beatrix Potter

"Companions" Poetry by A. A. Milne, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Robert Louis Stevenson

Volume 3

Buya Marries the Tortoise African folktale as told by W. F. P. Burton

The Huckabuck Family and How They Raised Pop Corn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back Carl Sandburg

"Magical Places" Poetry by Byrd Baylor, William Shakespeare, and Martin Brennan

Series 2, Book One Grade 2

The Happy Lion Louise Fatio

The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin Beatrix Potter

How the Camel Got His Hump Rudyard Kipling

Kanga and Baby Roo Come to the Forest, and Piglet Has a Bath (from Winnie-the-Pooh) A. A. Milne

Arap Sang and the Cranes African folktale as told by Humphrey Harman

Blue Moose Daniel Manus Pinkwater

Anancy and Dog and Puss and Friendship West Indian folktale as told by James Berry

Jack and the Beanstalk English folktale as told by Joseph Jacobs

The Magic Listening Cap Japanese folktale as told by Yoshiko Uchida

The Jackal and the Partridge Punjabi folktale as told by Flora Annie Steel

Nail Soup Swedish folktale as told by Linda Rahm

The Apple of Contentment Howard Pyle

Series 2, Book Two Grade 2

The Red Balloon Albert Lamorisse

The Other Side of the Hill Elizabeth Coatsworth

The Emperor's New Clothes Hans Christian Andersen

How the Elephant Became Ted Hughes

Anansi's Fishing Expedition African folktale as told by Harold Courlander and George Herzog

The Velveteen Rabbit Margery Williams

The Terrible Leak Japanese folktale as told by Yoshiko Uchida

The Singing Tortoise West African folktale as told by Harold Courlander and George Herzog

Three Boys with Jugs of Molasses and Secret Ambitions Carl Sandburg

Cinderella Charles Perrault

The Mouse's Bride Indian folktale as told by Lucia Turnbull

How Coyote Stole the Sun Native American folktale as told by Jane Louise Cu

SteveH said...

Our schools have been big on Whole Language, although they don't call it that, but I haven't seen any quality literature. It's all about overly moralistic and simplistic stories about kids from dysfunctional families; Maniac Magee, Lizze Bright and the Buckminster Boy, ... I should have kept a list. Heaven forbid you have a book with strong and caring parents, or a book that has any sort of subtlety.

Once he got to 7th grade, their philosophy changed to just read, read, read. They almost don't care what it is. It's just book count. Kids who read a lot do well, so they want kids to read a lot. They don't seem interested to find out if it's anything more than correlation, or whether the type of book matters. At least we get to decide on the book.

Independent George said...

The question of what constitutes 'high-quality literature' is an important one; to put it bluntly, most of what I've seen categorized as such are things boys have little interest in.

To use myself as an example, I really didn't care much about literature until around 7th or 8th grade; until then, I was obsessed Egyptian & Greek mythology (and the bloodier, the better). I read books on the subject intended for High Schoolers, but could care less about... shoot, I don't even remember what I was supposed to be reading back then. The point is, I was interested in typical boy-stuff back then, and typical boy-stuff seems to be frowned upon these days.

palisadesk said...

The early Whole Language movement (going back to the late 70's-early 80's) did emphasize quality literature, or "real books," partly in response to some of the basal sludge on the market. However, current "balanced literacy" does *not* feature "quality literature" but rather, "leveled books" which are specifically written to correspond to the Fountas and Pinnell/Reading Recovery levels and to lend themselves to being "read" by the approaches encouraged, e.g. picture cues, syntax cues, looking at the first letter and "predicting" (guessing) the word, and so on. Usually these books, while very glossy and colorful -- and correspondingly costly -- are banal and vapid to the point of soporific.

While one criticism of more phonics-based reading schemes was that they didn't sound like authentic speech or written English ("Dan did run at the cab"), the current books have stilted language that is every bit as artificial as, and no more like authentic speech than, the Dick and Jane "Oh, oh, oh, look, LOOK,LOOK!" or "the fat cat sat on the mat."

You can see some free samples here:

At the higher levels, some are pretty good, especially the non-fiction. But at the earlier levels, they are no improvement over "A Pig Can Jig" and in fact are worse, because they promote guessing, inhibit development of decoding skills, and still offer no real content to the reader. Better beginner books are the 70's era SWRL Beginning Reading Program books, now public domain and downloadable here
or here

Great children's literature can still be included in the "read aloud" component of the day. This is a must in the inclusion classroom -- many kids will be unable to read age-appropriate or challenging books, but can certainly understand them and gain a lot of vocabulary and background knowledge if the teacher reads excellent stories aloud. Not only fictional classics from The Wind in the Willows to Lassie Come Home, but also non-fiction pieces about science, history, biography. I found kids were fascinated by tales of unsolved mysteries (the Mary Celeste, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart), famous disasters (the Hindenberg, the Black Death, the Titanic), natural catastrophes (volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis) and these often sparked kids to do research and reading on their own. Sometimes participation in a class read-aloud gave a student with low literacy skills the opportunity to show superior reasoning and analysis.

Ideally we would get all students reading so that read-alouds would be for enrichment and extensions but I don't see that happening in the foreseeable future. "Balanced Literacy" will not meet the needs of those student who need explicit and systematic instruction (and this need is not much correlated with IQ or family background).

Robin said...


Have you had good luck recommending the fairy tales and folk tales and generally great stories from different cultures located in the 398.2 nonfiction area?

The language is rich because there are illustrations and it works well with boys or girls.

It's so sad to see balanced literacy being pushed everywhere from expensive private schools to urban school districts going for that "engaged" classroom.

Many parents hear "balance" and assume that means they don't need to worry.

I had never heard of Guided Reading until I heard my bright niece was not wanting to go to K by Thanksgiving. I suggested to the mom to check into how they were teaching reading as it sounded like she might be becoming paranoid that reading wasn't just falling into place with ease.

Sure enough. Just saw her over spring break and she told me out of the blue that "she still couldn't read". She should be on her way to mastery now not worrying about what the magic is.

Catherine Johnson said...

Getting back to Allison's point: no parent, reading this, would have a clue.

And, yes, that's the point.

Catherine Johnson said...

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

Catherine Johnson said...

It took me ages to figure out what the heck 'onset' and 'rime' even meant.

Assuming I know now.

palisadesk said...

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

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."

(continued in part 2)

palisadesk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
palisadesk said...

Oops, part 1 posted twice. On to part 2:

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.

Catherine Johnson said...



I'm going to look up McGuinness' passage. I think she actually had some research on onset/rime.

(I'll see.)

Catherine Johnson said...

Should I read Fertig's book?

ChemProf said...

There's another problem for students who don't grow out of this "first letter" strategy. I had a college student a few years back who basically read this way -- it was all context and the first couple of letters of the word. She was bright, and did well until she got to biochem. There she ran into the "gly" problem - lots of words that started the same way like glycine, glycolysis, and glycogen. She COULD NOT keep them straight, and so she could not learn biochemistry. Not only is the strategy bad for new learners, it doesn't extend to advanced reading.