kitchen table math, the sequel: gobsmacked

Monday, March 12, 2012


I'd read chemprof's and EM's descriptions of very bright students with serious reading problems, and I'd been appropriately horrified. But until this morning I'm not sure I really, truly grasped what they were talking about. Which is: very bright, very talented students who have major problems reading and who haven't been diagnosed with dyslexia.

This morning, one of the smartest students I've ever had reluctantly showed me the thesis statement he'd just written. He didn't want me to look at it because the spelling was bad, and I won't post it without permission. I'll just say that he had misspellings on the order of 'charitturs" for characters; "sirve" for serve; and "morle" for moral. Of 19 words, 9 are misspelled, and the words spelled correctly include only one noun.

His spelling is so bad, he said, that spellcheck doesn't work. At some point his laptop decided he might be writing in Spanish, so half the time spellcheck serves up a menu of Spanish options. When Microsoft Word does present him with a selection of words in English, my student often has no idea which one to pick.

I had him read out loud a difficult paragraph, written by Maria Tatar, on fairy tales. He could more or less do it (he's very sharp), but he kept missing the short words: prepositions and short verbs, too, I think. He kept missing the short words because he automatically filled in whatever word he thought would come next instead of reading the word that actually did come next. (I guess somebody taught him to 'make predictions.')

Here's an example of what I mean (I don't remember whether he misread this section):
Like many fairy tales, the Grimms’ narrative begins by framing a prohibition
He would likely trip over 'by,' reading it as 'with' instead (or whatever word seemed most likely to appear). Although he can spell all the prepositions -- prepositions are the main words he can spell -- he often misreads them.

Another problem: he doesn't read left-to-right. Instead, he jumps around in a sentence looking for words he can base his reading of the sentence in: he's looking for a kind of anchor word, I think. Once he's found an anchor word, he goes back to the beginning of the sentence and starts over. Then, if he has no luck on the second go-round, he'll jump forward again and look for a second anchor word that might help.

He couldn't read the word "prohibition" at all, but he demonstrated for me the method he would use to tackle it. He would start with the syllable "pro," which he could read; then he would hit "hibition," which he couldn't read at all. Then he would skip to "tion" at the end (which he saw as a separate syllable - that's good). Then he would try to guess "prohibition" on the basis of "pro" and "tion."

And he would fail, in spite of the fact that he does indeed know the word 'prohibition' and recognized it the moment I said it.

He's in his mid-20s, he's extremely intelligent, and he cannot read "prohibition" using phonics and syllables.

I know very little about dyslexia, so I don't know whether that's an issue. I do know a little about phonics, and it seems clear that he doesn't read phonetically. At least, not fluently. I'm sure he was taught to read using whole language or balanced literacy. As a child he memorized all the words he was taught and then, via high IQ, high energy, and a scrappy personality, figured out how to reverse-engineer paragraphs in order to wrest some meaning from them.

Interestingly, his problems have led him to a theory of paragraph development I've been mulling over myself: he believes paragraphs typically have a concluding sentence that sums everything up. He reads that sentence first, then goes back to the beginning of the paragraph to try and decipher the whole thing.

I've been wondering whether paragraphs have conclusions and have been operating under the theory that most of them do not. Now I wonder.

He can't really write at all (he says -- he's so verbal, I find that hard to believe). But he has somehow figured out how to think in whole paragraphs -- maybe even in whole 5-paragraph essays or perhaps beyond. Today he actually came up with a sophisticated thesis sentence AND three coherent supporting topic sentences almost entirely in his head. He says he got through high school on oral presentations, and by oral presentation he doesn't mean Powerpoint. He means thesis, topic sentence, elaboration, and specific support. He produces more content talking than I have the working memory to deal with: he's got to figure out how to write if only so other people will be able to follow what he's saying.

This is a guy trading in complex ideas entirely inside the oral register. You can't do that! (Well, you can, but most of us can't 'hear' it ---- )

He told me a few weeks back that when he was a kid his school introduced a new reading program that was so terrible, and left him with such profound spelling deficits, that his parents had wanted to sue the school. No surprise there.

Of course, as we know, a parent can't sue a school for failing to teach their very bright child to spell. Educational malpractice doesn't exist.

Question. What is the way forward here? (If he wants a way forward, that is. He's not a kid, and he's figured out work-arounds that are serving him reasonably well.)

It strikes me that he needs to look into voice recognition software ---- although to use voice recognition software for writing anything more serious than a short email you have to be able to read what you've dictated. So I'm sure about that.....

He says he's often thought he needs to take ESL classes in English.

That doesn't strike me as a bad idea -- I've begun to rely upon lessons in English as a second language myself -- but I think what he really needs is phonics. Phonics and a lot of practice reading left-to-right. His jump-around habits are ingrained; he'd need to practice until he developed a new ingrained left-to-right habit.

Is there a phonics program anyone out there would recommend for this student?

Other thoughts or suggestions?


Anonymous said...

I think the key part here is that he's probably going to need to read out load *TO* someone for a while. The audience will keep him from jumping around and will also keep him from guessing.

That is going to take time.

As a footnote, my 11 year old still reads out loud to my wife and I. Partially this is because we want to know that he can read for depth instead of just skimming. If I had been aware of this sort of thing, I would have added it to my list of things to worry about, but my solution would have been the same: read to us out loud a little bit most days.

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

I would suggest going over basic phonics using a standard phonics resource--Reading Reflex, Phonics Pathways, whatever. Once that's learned, move on to REWARDS Secondary. This is a very powerful program that teaches how to decode multisyllabic words and is appropriate for adults (as well as younger folks). The program is only 20 lessons long.

Then once that is done, he needs to read aloud to someone about 30 minutes each day for a year or more.

Amanda said...

Toe by Toe is a very good remedial phonics programme that works well for adults - and no frills

Jean said...

I would give him Phonics Pathways and All About Spelling, but I'm no expert. After working through those aloud, I would do the reading aloud every day.

That is an amazing story. Wow.

Anonymous said...

I'd agree with All About Spelling. I taught our kid to read, but he had many of the same problems as you describe, until we started working through All About Spelling. It worked as a spelling curriculum for him, but it worked even better as reading instruction, by teaching him how words are built and how syllables are formed, rule by rule.

I haven't seen the All About Phonics curriculum, so I can't speak to that.

Jen said...

I would ask him first if his parents tried any of these interventions with him. I understand that he had crappy reading instruction, but it would be important to know if he also failed at other instruction as well.

It seems like parents bright enough to have produced this kid may well have tried various things as well. It may take some sort of consults with some sort of specialists to determine exactly what is going on with this kid.

Dyslexia specialist? Neurological reading work-up? Reading specialist who specializes in these sorts of cases?

There's more to his personal story than just a bad reading program. It's a bad mix of bad reading program(s) and likely some processing issues in his brain. He just happened to somehow hit a deadly mix of the two.

Catherine Johnson said...

I try to have my students read out loud as much as possible. Lately I've been trying to spend more time putting a paragraph up on screen and then having everyone go through it chunk by chunk (phrases, clauses, sentences, etc.)

The students who are best at reading out loud are also best at writing, I think.

Allison said...

I wonder what people many dyslexia. I know of 2 college students who were diagnosed as dyslexic by their college and who received Kaplan-like reading instruction on entering college. Both had the symptoms you described, not reading left to right, not able to phonetically decode. Both were told they didn't get taught to read properly by their reading tutors.

Catherine Johnson said...

Thank you for all this!

REWARDS Secondary

Had NEVER heard of this one ---

I'm guessing his parents didn't try any interventions, though he did go to Catholic school briefly.

That's something I discovered when Chris went to his Jesuit high school. There are all kinds of kids who were put in Catholic schools **specifically** for reading problems. Chris heard that over and over again. "I didn't learn to read, so my parents put me in Catholic schools."

Not long after Chris started freshman year, he came home and said, "The kids there read a lot better than the kids here."

When I asked what he meant, he said that the boys at the Catholic high school could read out loud smoothly & with expression. They didn't stumble over words.

Anonymous said...

I realize this suggestion may be offensive but I would seriuosly suggest that he be tested for learning disabilities. His problem may be deeper than a bad reading program. Dr. Sally Shaywitz of Yale University in her book Overcoming Dyslexia describes students she has studied at Yale who are "compensated dyslexics." Somehow they were able to work around their inability to read language the way normal people do. Obviously, they are very bright if they were able to get into Yale but they still struggle in fundamental ways with processing language. It has been quite a while since I read the book but two characteristics commonly found in those students are horrible spelling and great difficulty learning a foreign language. Of course, just getting a diagnosis wouldn't really solve your student's problem but it might suggest more specific remediation programs targeted to his specific issue.

RMD said...

anonymous said

"just getting a diagnosis wouldn't really solve your student's problem"

In my limited experience, this is true.

I am convinced that my 7-year old son would have been labeled as "dyslexic" if I hadn't worked with him day-after-day for 2 years. He struggled (and sometimes still does) to learn to be directional in his reading. (i.e., going left-to-right) He is left-handed in some things, and right-handed in others. It's great for being flexible, but really bad for learning how to use a reading system that demands you stay with one direction.

I'm coming to the viewpoint that reading is like any other skill. Some will get it very easily, while you will have to be extremely explicit with others.

And, by the way, I see this in the little league team I coach. I can give small hints to some kids and let them run with it. While I still have to work with other kids and give a LOT more instruction. With very clear and thoughtful instruction, I can teach everyone. but some take more time and have to put more energy into it.

Catherine Johnson said...

I don't know enough about dyslexia to speculate, but I could easily imagine this student being a 'compensated dyslexic.' He is waaaay smart, and...he doesn't add up. For one thing, his reading seems 'too good' for his spelling -- he handled the zoonoses passage easily.

He also seems to read a lot; he's full of information and ideas, and often these are ideas he's picked up through reading. He remembers them in detail.

Just based in my empirical experience teaching the basic composition course (and dealing with Chris when he was little), this student's spelling is much worse than anything I've seen.

That said, I wonder if any of Chris's old writing is around. I remember thinking of his spelling as "psychotic." That was a joke, but it was a 'real' joke. His spelling was shockingly bad, so bad that I was activated to research spelling programs (& adopt Megawords).

Chris isn't dyslexic. (Of course, writing this comment, I'm thinking: maybe Chris is a compensated dyslexic ---- ?) I don't think so (and Chris can spell these days), but what do I know?

I'm going to have to finally read Sally Shaywitz.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 4:49 PM said: I would seriuosly suggest that he be tested for learning disabilities. His problem may be deeper than a bad reading program.

Yes--we are assuming that he has dyslexia. The suggestions here reflect that. Dyslexia can be remediated with a solid phonics program and lots of practice with oral reading.

Catherine Johnson said...

Did Sally Shaywitz's students have difficulty writing?

Catherine Johnson said...

Allison - so these two **were** dyslexic?

How'd they fare after the diagnosis?

Anonymous said...

"Did Sally Shaywitz's students have difficulty writing?"

Dyslexics can just about always learn to read (often very well) but writing (including spelling) is often extremely difficult to remediate. Google "stealth dyslexia."

palisadesk said...

I know REWARDS has been mentioned here before, by me, by K9 Sasha and possibly others. "REWARDS Secondary" is the original verison of the program, by Anita Archer and Vicki Vachon (two DI gurus, among other accomplishments). The original REWARDS, now called "REWARDS Secondary" was augmented by a version more appropriate (in vocabulary and passage content) for students in Grades 4-6, approximately. Both contain the same strategies and content for mastering decoding of multi-syllable words and fluent passage reading. A placement test is included in the teachers' manual, and it is DI-like in presentation, with a script, unison responses and mastery checks.

It is appropriate for most students who can read at a second-grade level, and begins by introducing and firming up knowledge of vowel digraphs. Here's a link to an overview:
REWARDS Overview

and a link to the Soptis West page about it:
REWARDS versions and details

I can vouch for its being both highly effective and parsimonious in terms of instructional time. It works well in groups as well as 1:1 instruction.

Catherine Johnson said...

phonics & oral reading ----

and nonsense words?

Catherine Johnson said...

palisadesk - thank you! I was hoping you'd show up!

This student seems to be able to read syllables -- does that make sense?

(I could be **completely** wrong about that .... but watching him read & listening, that was my impression.)

How do balanced literacy programs handle syllables?

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Anonymous said...

This is probably irrelevant to the situation you've described, but one of my students this year is undergoing vision therapy for convergence insufficiency. I was not familiar with it, but apparently her eyes do not work together well and the words appear to jump around on the page when she is reading. It affects reading, spelling, and tasks requiring lining things up and physically results in tiredness and headaches.

Quintillian said...

I'm struck by the difficulty in changing a habit like guessing. My 2nd grader has it pretty bad with small words, but also with the phenomenon you describe of guessing the middle of a word and/or skipping from the initial blend to a suffix like -tion. The problem is that guessing is rewarding, in the sense that it (a) allows her to read without slowing down, and thus (b) is probably less embarassing when reading aloud (particularly given 2nd grade peers who don't know the difference).

I've been reading The Power of Habit recently, and the author's method for analyzing habits in order to change them might have some application here. He describes a habit sequence, or "loop," as consisting of 1. Cue 2. Habit 3. Reward
He says that it is nearly impossible to rid yourself of an entire habit loop, but that if you can identify the cues and the rewards, it is possible to substitute another habit for the middle term, if it can be engineered to yield the same reward.
Taking the example of the longer, polysyllabic words, the cue for the guessing behavior is coming across a long, non-memorized word. The habit is the guessing you describe. The reward is getting through the word quickly. If the author of The Power of Habit is right, it will be extremely difficult to get rid of the connection between seeing a big, unfamiliar word, and wanting the reward of getting through it without slowing down.
One way to change the middle term might be to change what he views as the operative block of text. For example, many of the old speller books used to put hyphens or dots between the syllables of words, such that pronouncing a four-syllable word was really like pronouncing four, one-syllable words. Perhaps working with these would help him to change his habit. The cue of the polysyllabic word would still be there, but thinking of each syllable as a separate "word" might allow him to still get the reward he's seeking (getting through it without slowing down), without the guessing. Obviously, he would later need to bridge the gap between hyphenated text and ordinary text, but if the "chunking" becomes a habit of its own, it might be easier to then transfer to ordinary text.
For a student his age, it might even be helpful to talk this through with him as a habit issue. In one study cited in The Power of Habit, learning about the components of habits and habit change made it easier for subjects to change their habit. That would be a bit much for a younger student, but for an older, motivated student, it might be a beneficial approach.

Jo in OKC said...

One counterintuitive way to help re-inforce left-to-right reading -- when I took a speed reading course it exposed one word at a time from left to right at a specific speed. Maybe something like that (at a slow speed) could help him develop the habit.

Allison said...

The students I know labelled themselves dyslexic. Whether that was just short hand for "didn't learn to read" or whether there was something deeper that had been identified by the college, I don't know.

One is in her first year, another her senior year. The senior does well, but has speed issues. She is in a stem field with not as much reading. The freshman is working hard in a major with 200 plus pages of reading. She hasn't dropped out yet. I know other person who did so at a similar point, and I suspect partially for similar reasons.

Glen said...

A lot of child and adult literacy programs teach people to exploit workarounds. I think he has the opposite problem: he's too good at exploiting workarounds. I have no specific knowledge of this issue, so I'm coming at it from a sort of "first principles" approach. I may be wrong. I will defer to those with a track record (as opposed to ed school theories) of having actually remediated this specific form of adult reading problem, but this isn't the same problem as teaching a child or low-IQ adult to read.

As an intelligent, functioning adult, he has so many resources and well-trained workarounds that he has nearly eliminated the pressure to adapt that might otherwise cause his reading to improve with practice.

There may be something about his brain that can't adapt in the way I would hope, but before he reaches that conclusion, I think he needs to remove all the workarounds so that his brain has no choice but deal with the left-to-right sequence of letters.

I think he should work with someone on simple nonsense words that cannot be predicted in any way other than from their letter sequence.

I think he should build up very gradually from reading (aloud) 2-letter sequences (ce = "seh", co = "koh", bi = "bih" or "bye", etc.) to longer and more complex sequences (ceptgist artormed) that are mostly non-words. Given a LOT of training using this process, he should be able to get much better clues from the letters of real words. Then, the training switches over to 100% real words with more and more syllables but with no sentence context for clues -- just long lists of real words until he is very good at reading out-of-context words based entirely on their spellings. Eventually sentence context, but no paragraph context, until out-of-context sentences can be easily read, and so on, so that when all of his well-trained workarounds are eventually brought back, they work with, rather than overpowering, the "phonics."

Of course, I don't know who is going to do this for him. He may have to make do with some improvised and reduced version of what I'm talking about. Maybe if someone could do the nonsense words with him for a while, he could then use a computer text-to-speech feature to do the out-of-context real words but, as it is, I don't see how someone in his position will improve until the workarounds are removed and he's forced to adapt to reading from phonics alone.

Jennie said...

What "Jo in OKC" suggests above is exactly is essentially
"the notched card technique," (thanks to the Burkards at Promethean Trust). Take a small card (index card or smaller) and cut a small rectangular shape out of the upper left corner. A person sits on the right of the reader and pulls the card along, exposing only one word at a time.
Perhaps this young man can do it himself, but I suspect it works best with a partner. It is effective, but of course it takes longer to work the older the student is. One first grader needed only 5 days with it; most of my older students take 3+ months of daily work with the card (held by a parent).

palisadesk said...

This student seems to be able to read syllables -- does that make sense?

Catherine, as to whether people can be syllable readers, the answer is a definite Yes. Remember pictures of the old “horn books” in pioneer days? Children learned their phonic skills by reciting syllable patterns – ba,be,bi,bo,bu and so on. I’m told Spanish is often taught this way, with children learning “silabas” (common syllable patterns) rather than phoneme-by-phoneme decoding in the synthetic phonics style. This apparently works well in Spanish because the number of distinct silabas is limited and they follow predictable patterns.

However, some readers can be hard-wired to approach words this way, even if they have been taught explicitly to decode all-through-the-word. I have a student like that now, who strongly resists sounding-out and blending all through the word in favor of syllable patterns. In reading the word “filled” recently, she instantly picked out the “ill” and ran through her vocabulary – will, hill-- grabbed onto the “f” and said “filled.” You can force her to sound out l-r by concealing the rest of the word with an index card and uncovering it slowly, but she will revert to her preferred strategy the minute you take the card away. She has not been taught to do this kind of syllable reading (she has been taught a systematic phonics approach), she developed this herself. While you can counter it when working with the child, you can’t readily control what she does at other times.

With your young adult student, I had the same thought about convergence insufficiency as a previous poster. While the field is rife with snake oil, there are some individuals who definitely have problems tracking print effectively. I tutored one such, and he had good phonics skills – could read words in isolation quite well – but fell apart with any connected text;, everything seemed to jumble up for him and he made the kind of errors your student does. A computer-based therapy program helped him and then his reading improved several grade levels in months. So that is a possibility, but I would target instructional solutions first.

A computer-based intervention would likely work for a motivated older student; I know there are some that teach decoding explicitly in an age-appropriate manner but I haven’t used any myself. Your student might be able to decode longer words like “prohibition” using an index card to mask the rest of the word as he decodes through the parts. I have seen countless students who needed to use this strategy for awhile before they could consistently work out the longer words.

As to how “balanced literacy” teaches syllables – balanced literacy generally eschews “programs,” but typically teachers do “word work” with syllables, base words and affixes to develop fluency with syllable patterns. Commonly used resources for this include Words Their Way and Cunningham’s “Nifty Thrifty Fifty.”

Anne Dwyer said...


Just to get him through this class I recommend this software until he gets the help he needs:

The word prediction is fantastic, it will learn and use the words you know best, it will read things to you and it is an overlay that can be used in any program.

When I bought it for Daniel, it cost $99. Not sure what it costs now but have him check it out.

TerriW said...


I am starting to have to dip my toes in the "convergence insufficiency" and friends research waters right now. Teaching my younger kid to read has been an interesting challenge compared to my oldest. (Who, frankly, I didn't teach how to read. She, like me, is a natural at language patterns -- she, also like me, taught herself to read by late age 2 and she's a whiz at foreign languages -- she's currently taking French, Spanish *and* Chinese and loves it. Don't play against us at Wheel of Fortune is all I'm saying here.)

But my son is another story. He learned his letter -> primary phonics sound correspondences well enough, but when we moved on to basic blending ... well. I haven't been too worried about it because of his age/gender (he'll be 6 in May), but the *types* of errors he has been making have been a little off to me.

At first it seemed like a straight up problem with left to right tracking, but we spent several months hitting that pretty hard -- writing a CVC word on a page covered with my thumb, slowly dragging my thumb across to reveal one letter at a time; using Nora Gaydos' See, Slide and Say sliding flashcards, using the Bob Books Magic app for the iPad which requires left to right letter placement, etc, etc.

But little things keep popping up, like he'll do fine for the first few minutes, and then it all comes apart -- like we'll get to the letter "M" (which is one of the letters that he has always known down cold, since it's in the word BATMAN. No, seriously. Have I mentioned how happy I am that BATMAN is not only simply phonetically decodable, but also made up of the standard first-learned letters? But I digress.)

Anyhow, he'll go a few minutes, and then get to the letter M in, say, "MAN" and he'll have no idea what it is. He'll guess any letter and hope that it is right. When he gets to that point, we stop the lesson because I don't want him to get in the habit of guessing or relying on context cues or illustrations of whathaveyou.

And then he started saying things like, "Mom, you know I know them, but they just get all crazy on me!"

So, yeah. I'm researching the options right now.

palisadesk said...

TerriW, I have someone you might want to connect with on this issue. This person was a big help with the student I mentioned in my comment, and may be able to be a useful resource. I'll send the info to Catherine so she can forward it on to you.

TerriW said...

Thanks, palisadesk, I appreciate it.

I should also add (pardon the pun) that he does just fine in math -- he can see something like "4 + 4 =" (written horizontally or vertically) and do just fine, except when they show, say, a line of seven penguins and he has to count them? He almost always gets that wrong.

We have tried putting an X on something as he counts it, but even then , sometimes he goes back to something and double counts.

We are using both Singapore Earlybird (almost done, starting 1A soon) and MathUSee Primer (over halfway through) and he seems to do best with the MUS blocks over other manipulatives due to their distinctive colors for each number size. He doesn't have to do so much counting, he just knows "brown" is "eight."

Catherine Johnson said...

Allison - when you say 'writing,' do you mean writing as in what we're doing here or handwriting (sorry - I'm not completely clear on what you're saying - )

Catherine Johnson said...

Haven't read the rest of the thread yet, but thought I'd report back. I asked my student today whether he'd ever been tested for dyslexia. He said that at some point his school tested everyone for learning disabilities, and he was found not to have one.

However, he thinks he has some dyslexia.

A girl in the class had the same story re: her brother. She said he has the same outlier spelling, but was tested and found not to have dyslexia. (I should find out where she's from...)

I asked whether he'd looked into voice recognition software, but it's too expensive for him. I'm actually thinking of springing for it myself, just to see how he does with it.

Catherine Johnson said...

Children learned their phonic skills by reciting syllable patterns – ba,be,bi,bo,bu and so on.

I recited syllables in second grade. My teacher was older; she had taught my dad. We would all stand and recite:

bla - ble - bli - blo - blu


sta - ste - sti - sto - stu

I loved it & remember it vividly to this day.

Schools need to bring back chanting.

Catherine Johnson said...

some readers can be hard-wired to approach words this way, even if they have been taught explicitly to decode all-through-the-word.

palisadesk, have you read the materials on Elizabeth's Phonics Page?

I'm forgetting now, but there's a page with an argument about syllables versus letters. Has to do with syllables having been 'discovered' first, then letters later.

Catherine Johnson said...

Oh - I also learned, today, that he has vision problems. I asked him to read from the screen and he tripped over a word, then a girl in the class laughed and he refused to read again. She apologized later; she's from Haiti & he read 'child' the way her mom does (I've forgotten how that all went...)

Anyway, I talked to him, and he said he wasn't refusing to read because he was upset, which I think is broadly speaking true; then he told me he actually can't see what's on the screen.

He pointed out the cursor on his screen, which I had already seen on Monday: he's using that big, huge cursor people with limited vision use. It's so massive, I was having trouble reading with the cursor sitting right there, on top of the text.

Now, this guy has been in the military; obviously he passes regular vision tests.

He's got some kind of problem just seeing the words on the page.

I'm very interested in visual therapy, visual problems, etc. I actually took all the kids to vision therapy for a while, but I just couldn't keep on top of it. The guy was giving us three sets of exercises every week (I was doing it, too) - and they were always different and they all called for brand-new equipment and purchases that I had to try to rustle up with two autistic kids etc. ,etc etc ---

Long story short, we became vision therapy dropouts.

Catherine Johnson said...

he has nearly eliminated the pressure to adapt


The only issue for him is that he does want to get through college (I should ask him what his major is - his attendance has been spotty, so I haven't had as much time to get to know him as I have the others).

I can actually see him getting through college as long as he figures out how to avoid writing anything.

BUT ... as for writing, I don't think he can do it. Not because he 'can't' -- he has a naturally analytical mind; he pursues ideas, etc.; I mentioned, I think, that he can write a thesis statement in his head.

But writing several paragraphs of 'connected prose'--it's virtually impossible.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm struck by the difficulty in changing a habit like guessing. My 2nd grader has it pretty bad with small words, but also with the phenomenon you describe of guessing the middle of a word and/or skipping from the initial blend to a suffix like -tion. The problem is that guessing is rewarding, in the sense that it (a) allows her to read without slowing down, and thus (b) is probably less embarassing when reading aloud (particularly given 2nd grade peers who don't know the difference).

Very interesting!

I'm looking up The Power of Habit --