kitchen table math, the sequel: Jennie on what parents know

Friday, April 2, 2010

Jennie on what parents know

I think most parents have NO CLUE that this is how reading is being taught in the schools. This approach is used even in schools that claim they teach phonics. After all, they do teach some letter-sound correspondences for consonants and vowels, and they do encourage children to use that information when looking at the first letter of a word, as you see this adult doing with the "c" in "cat."

Many parents therefore assume, when their child struggles, that the problem lies within their child.
Until a year ago, I was in the NO CLUE category. Just a couple of years ago I would have looked at this video and thought the mom was using phonics.


Catherine Johnson said...

I think you can also see, from this video, why high-SES kids would have such an advantage using balanced literacy.

(palisadesk would know the figures - but I think the failure rate with balanced literacy is around 40% for low-SES & ELL kids but only around 20% for high-SES kids)

Basically, what is happening when you repeatedly ask a child to identify the first sound & guess the word from context is incidental phonics teaching. At the end of the video, when the little girl can't read or guess the word 'me,' the mom ends up sounding it out for her because it's the natural thing to do. A spoken word is a blend of sounds (phonemes), and the mom naturally voices the 2nd sound in the word.

In many cases, if a high-SES child is taught the letter-sound correspondences at school (& incidentally, at home), and then is read to continually by his parent, he or she is going to have a lot of incidental exposure to the phonetic structure of words -- which means he or she has a good chance of learning to decode via 'statistical learning.'

As it happens, I've spent the past months trying to figure out the basal ganglia, which are responsible for statistical learning.

I'll have to post something about it.

Trying to absorb the literature on the basal ganglia, I had the impression that public schools are putting an enormous load on the brain's ability to do statistical learning.

The basal ganglia, by the way, are also the source of habit memory (riding a bicycle), which is closely associated with statistical learning. (I think another term for statistical learning is associative learning...)

The idea that statistical learning is 'higher order' than rote memorization isn't supported by cognitive scientists studying memory and learning.

Catherine Johnson said...

I love it that there's no way to guess the word "me" from a picture!

Catherine Johnson said...

From a picture in a commercially published story book, that is.