I have taught all my children to read using McGuffey. I helped many of my siblings learn to read. Much of the discussion around phonics is missing the point.
It is a caricature to say that "phonetic" reading is completely phonetic to the exclusion of sight reading. This is binary thinking. Nobody teaches it that way.
The goal is not and never was to read phonetically ever after. In fact, from very early on, the concept of "sight words" is introduced. The phonetic method is a bridge and a tool to internalize words. The goal is to recognize words effortlessly, without thought.
So what is the difference between the old phonetic methods, the later sight methods, and the modern (debunked) contextual methods?
It's all about where you start. The phonetic method uses phonics as its foundational concept. You begin with the sounds, and you learn the exceptions as you go. But even the exceptions are aided by phonetics. Most "sight" words still have enough of a phonetic component to clue the reader into what's going on.
Sight reading, on the other hand, assumes the reader will pick up enough phonics as they go along, contextually. But with this method, everything must be learned by rote. The "bridge" of having phonetic tools at your disposal is not taught.
Now some children are simply sight readers, and do poorly with phonics. Not all minds are alike. But even sight readers benefit from having a foundation in phonics.
I may be one of these “simply sight readers”. I supposedly taught myself to read at an alarmingly, insufferably young age. I have no memory of learning to read whatsoever, only the before and the after. We had a complete set of McGuffey readers lying around (thanks for mentioning these, brought back memories!) but by the time I was looking at them I could already sight read and thought the phonics stuff seemed somewhere between too obvious, too detailed, and too boring. The first word my parents noticed me identify was a pretty bizarre proper noun and not phonics-friendly at all.
My best guess is that since everyone in my house could read, and clearly enjoyed it, and did it all the time, I had plenty of readers to study in action and lots of motivation to watch them. Kind of like when you see a little crawling toddler staring at an older kid who’s running, totally stunned with jealousy... calculating, calculating... From before I could read, I remember asking “what does that say?” a lot. Making them read me sentences on demand. I’m a very fortunate person.
I’d be interested to know how network effects helped your six children and many siblings, on top of the dedicated instruction. Seeing you reading casually, knowing you enjoyed it, seeing their peers do it.
When trying to prove any technique, a teacher will grab one of these kids and show off how good they are and say it’s due to (insert any technique here).
I had one kid like this. As parents we patted ourselves on the back and thought we’d done something right.
My other kid is more typical or below typical and the style of learning makes a huge difference. Without that high articulation, they need a lot of work to understand phonics. Any system that leaves this out will only work for the kids who would’ve mastered reading anyway.
Not all children learn the same way. Some are more visual. Some are more abstract thinkers. Some want to rush ahead and learn more from context, and you have to push them to slow down and pay attention to what they are reading or they make serious mistakes. Some naturally take to phonics. Others don't. But I would argue that the ones who became excellent readers without any formal phonics training have an intrinsic understanding of phonics in the same way that some people have an intrinsic understanding of mathematics.
I would venture to bet that even though you were not taught phonics and taught yourself to read at an early age, that today you are perfectly capable of sounding out a word you have never seen before.
My little sister is the baby of the family out of 4 and is excellent at everything to do with words. My mom's favorite story is when my sister was very young (I think 3 or 4) asked if the woods near our house had brambles.
No one had ever said that word to her... she read it from a book and figured out what it was by herself.
It seems to me we should be teaching all of these tools. It makes no sense to give people just one. Some tools work better in some situations, and some tools work better for some people.
Phonetic reading is very useful when learning many foriegn langues.
Contextual reading is always useful for learning new vocabulary and knowing when to look up a new word or skip and back-fill meaning as you get more context.
Sight reading seems like it should be the goal, so why not also teach it directly alongside those first two techniques for when the going gets tough?
If you don’t have phonics down well, you cannot actually learn new words from context. If you cannot “sound out” the unknown word in your head, then no amount of context is going to allow you to actually learn the new word.
Context is a great tool for understanding what a new word means. It is useless for telling you what a new word actually says.
It seemed that exclusively at TC in NYC phonics were roundly rejected, and whole reading was the only acceptable approach for future teachers to learn about (vs. friends who attended Hunter/CUNY, and NYU grad schools for education where this exclusivity wasn't taught). I'd love to know that they've stopped this harmful practice at Columbia TC considering how prestigious it is.
If a kid can't sound out supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, fire his teachers. "Sound out." Now there's a word I haven't heard in a long time.
So it's actually very useful to study phonetic groups in when learning Chinese characters!! Even when there are tone or vowel shifts, the phonetic groups can really help you match a character to its sound.
It's kind of like the situation where English spelling usually diverges from an exact phonetic representation, but it still provides an approximation of the actual pronunciation of the word which is enormously helpful in matching it to its spoken form.
This happens to me about once every other month. Millions of words, I don't expect it'll ever stop happening.
Bonus points when the word is like only 6-7 characters long, feel extra dumb those months :P
I find this with a lot of niche things I only ever read about, open source names seem to be the worst.
Gnome is allegedly pronounced with a hard G. I've never heard that said in the wild. And I have no idea how anyone else pronounces XFCE.
MySQL had never been "my see-kwull" to me but always "my ess-queue-ell".
Then there's Linux ...
That's how I thought it was pronounced too. NginX could maybe have provided a hint...
The reverse is also happening to me - it has become very hard to see furniture advertised as latex, and read lay-tax, not la-tech.
Phonics is the #1 advantage of ALL western languages. The idea that teachers would not leverage the #1 advantage of the entire language just shows how foolish our teacher education system can be!
Don't let teachers screw up your kids with educational FADs! We didn't! We taught our kids at 3.5 - 4.5 to read using phonics before kindergarten! We used:
Our kids loved it! The risk of these FADs damaging your child's entire education would make this program cheap even if they charged $1000 (it's $200 - a small 10% increase over the last 14 years!)
There's a fix for that... MS Word and browsers :)
Word's little red underline dramatically improved my spelling. Words that I would habitually misspell would annoy me with that little red underline. I'd concentrate on the word and the correct spelling and eventually I stopped misspelling it.
My favorite example... their... almost always I'd write "thier" (the few times I'd write "their" I'd doubt myself and switch it to "thier"). Nowadays I almost never misspell it (it also helps me sometimes to think "the IR").
Without Word's instant spell checking I'd still be a bad speller who'd spend too long running the spellchecker.
I am constantly amazed that teachers on the front lines fail to recognize this. I'm saddened that UI designers keep replacing phonetically spelled words with icons and emojis.
Paper dates to about 100 AD. The Greek alphabet, which is the first full alphabet (that records both vowels and consonants), dates to about 800 BC. Therefore, phonetic spelling predates paper by at least 900 years. Possibly older, if you want to count later cuneiform (which is mostly a syllabary) or Egyptian or Phoenician (abjads, lacking vowels) as phonetic spelling.
> I am constantly amazed that teachers on the front lines fail to recognize this.
Some have. One system which embodies what you desire in interactive multimedia form is:
WTF? Wouldn't you just tell the child to slow down, look at the letters that make up the word, and speak the word out loud? This makes zero sense whatsoever
I remember getting my bs and ds mixed up, that isnt going to be helped by spelling out the word.
Then theres the fact that English isn't a 100% phonic language. Spelling out 'knife' isn't going to get you to the correct pronunciation.
I could see this being applied to a slightly older child that has already learnt the sounds and is starting to recognise them as whole words. It seems to me that it's formalising what readers already do. You barely read each word, just scanning, inserting the word that fits in context. If there was a one page essay on houses, I doubt more than half (?) of people would notice the 'horse' in the middle of it.
Edit: commenter below links to Tom Lehrer's New Math, and yeah the crap they made me do in math class ("write a paragraph reflecting on what you learned about multiplication") is also an instance of this 60s reaction against rigorously and uncritically learning foundational material so you can do meaningful critical thought once you've mastered the basics.
Yeah. This was the cognitive revolution after a long period of (excessive, imho) behaviorism.
The pendulum swang too far in the other direction in some cases.
Shockingly, this has come back into style. My brother's high school math classes have been of this type for the past couple of years.
Note that Japanese has kana, and Chinese has pinyin and bopomofo/zhuyin.
Other than that... ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics?
Please let me know if you are aware of more.
Egyptian hieroglyphics did have a set of phonetic glyphs as well as the more complex logographic ones
As you said Sumerian could be an example of totally "three step cue" system.
This is harder than it appears. "House": [h] [ɒ] [ʊ] [s] [iː] (or whatever pronunciation they teach in phonics) ... [hɒʊsiː] isn't an English word. Or maybe it is, but you don't not it yet, because you're just beginning to learn to read and there are many words you don't know. But probably it's some word that sounds similar. "Horsie" [hɔɹsi]? Pretty close, that's probably it.
Of course there are additional rules that can help disambiguate (e.g. "e" at end is frequently silent), but a beginner isn't going to know them all. So telling them to think about whether the word they came up with fits with the context and using pictures to help with error correction isn't terribly wrong. Having the teacher intervene when the kid misreads something may be better, but it requires the teacher to be present in the first place.
Where the three-cue method fails seems to be in the order of presentation. By showing them the picture first, the kids learn to guess the text without reading at all. If the book is full of sentences like "Look at the X." next to a picture of X, you don't need to be able to read to figure out what the text next to the caterpillar is going to say. According to my flawed understanding of cognition, this is going to condition the kids to think that the picture is a more reliable predictor of what they have to read out loud than the letters on the page, so they're going to focus their attention on that.
If on the other hand the picture were on the next page, you could still use it to confirm you read correctly, while guaranteeing that the predictor-predicted relationship doesn't draw attention to the wrong place.
I wasn't suggesting that "house" vs "horse" is a particularly difficult distinction, but rather that just looking at the letters is not enough. Kids really do need those additional rules, and until they've learned them, some kind of error correction is necessary.
In Polish the system is regular (even the exceptions) and nobody considers trying to teach kids not to exploit that. You just remember how each letter sounds and then the dozen of so special combinations (which are still mostly regular). And you can read.
Yes you learn to read slow at first, and then you develop fast reading by yourself, it's natural and comes with reading a lot. I don't know anybody reading sound-by-sound past the age of 10, and usually kids learn to read whole words after they read their first long book (traditionally it's "Kids from Bullerbyn" here).
I wonder how much longer it takes to teach kids reading such complicated writing system like English. Here it takes about 1 year, usually when they are in the first class of school.
The concept of a spelling bee made literally 0 sense to me until I had to actually learn English.
That's an English spelling bee.
But we do have 3 sounds with multiple letters possible (ó/u, ch/h, rz/ż or sz) so we have something like a spelling bee in schools, just the other way - teacher reads a story and kids have to write it down correctly.
It's so damn close to a fully phonetic system that it frustrates me we didn't go the last few miles and made it fully phonetic when the last reform happened ;)
Unfortunately they do have some loan words from Sanskrit that are irregular, and the system for writing tones is needlessly arcane (there are 3 arbitrary classes of consonants that you just have to memorise, and the tone markers change meaning depending on class)
We rote-learned French spelling at and early age and I can still read French.
English, on the other hand, has one of the most difficult alphabetic spelling systems. I have used English for tens of years and I still have problems pronouncing a word now and then. One of the problems being that English doesn't indicate stress (which native speakers automatically know).
You never ask kids "read this word" or "how is this word pronounced" because that's always obvious.
I would prefer if we fixed our system the other way as well, it wouldn't take much, we can start by removing rz, ch and ó and replacing them as needed with ż/sz, h, and u. Suddenly we have like 1 year at school free to teach other actually useful stuff :)
It's not like it's impossible - we already had orthography reform in early 20th century and another minor one in 90s.
Except when it isn't. Colonel? Yacht? Victuals? Boatswain?
Of course, we shouldn't forget Mark Twain's proposal: https://www.plainlanguage.gov/resources/humor/spelling-in-th...
Point well made!
We have tons of Latin, Greek, German, French, Italian, English loan words but we transcribe them consistently with the rest of the language: inżynier, wiktuały, donżon, jacht, komputer, opcja, pałac, skwer, hipermarket.
Kids don't need to know which language it came from, the pronunciation rules are the same.
You might say English is late-binding and Polish is early-binding language when it comes to phonetics - we decide how the word is pronounced and change the spelling when we adopt a word to out language, you do it each time you use the word :)
None of those are Polish words.
Something based more on syllables would seem better to me. Consider a simple work like “back”: kids sound out buh-ah-kuh which is a completely crazy version of the real word. You can’t say a B without a vowel, but instead of using the actual vowel (a) consonants usually get an “uh” added to them.
Learning syllables means learning maybe 5-10 times as many sounds, but then it’s also easy to add “ing” and “sh” and all the many combinations of letters that can’t be individually decoded.
The second problem is the kid has to pick out those letter combinations even though words are just a stream of letters. I wonder if it would be supportive to write the words in multiple colors to show the internal structure?
I feel like this must all exist already in some curriculum...?
So boil will have a dot under b, one under o-i and one under the l.
They can then spot that oi is a digraph; in the early stages they do this by saying out loud, an o and a i make 'oy'
"B.A BA" is also used as synonymous of the basics knowledge of any domain, equivalent to "101" in english.
It seems to me that reading with syllabic is the first time we learn how to solve a problem by decomposing it into many simpler subproblems. This seems like a great teaching in addition to being able to read.
To use your example, the -ack suffix is shown with a whole bunch of words on a single card to make the idea plain: back, sack, pack, black, tack, etc.
So what you suggest is quite common in home and private school curriculums.
It doesn't sound the same but there's a clear pathway from "buh-ah-kuh" to "buahkuh" to "back", and it's one you can follow from arbitrary words.
Sesame Street was teaching kids to sound out words like this back in the 80s. Has everyone in the U.S. education system forgotten these guys? https://youtu.be/chHz3bo3f1U
When I was first learning English, being a portuguese speaker, I thought it would be easy to learn english, I just had to know the english syllables and translate words syllable by syllable. To my dismay, not only that doesn't work, english barely has a concept of syllables that makes any sense.
So I wonder if languages that are have more phonetic writing like Korean for example, have better readers than other languages.
Sure, but you can do better than a long buh. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwTkcfKRj00
Note that this short-b sound is only introductory. Children soon move past that to pairs with the other letters.
If there's an analog today it's Common Core, or something related to Common Core. It doesn't lend itself as well to us vs them politics, though, as it's mostly a constellation of issues about which everybody has something negative to say. And I think that's true more generally--K-12 education is a quintessential political talking point. Everybody has strong opinions, they're just all largely the same uninformed opinions. It takes effort to keep people split along party lines, so you don't see the same persistent talking points across the years. Take vouchers--briefly a strongly divisive issue along party lines, but now a very muddy topic. People still have strong opinions, there's just no simple narrative for the media to play on.
I used to be naive and think that everything should go to popular vote. Now I realize how infeasible and futile that would be. It would end up being an unmitigated disaster as people fight over everything instead of just a few hot-button issues.
Is there similar data for other countries available? It'd be interesting to know if this is an issue unique to America (among developed nations), shared among English-speaking countries, or if it's a problem equally distributed across the world.
The chart specifically lists “proficient” and “advanced” at 12th grade. What do those words mean?
For “proficient”, the “inferences” and “interpretative statements” components will rule out most readers.
For reference, these are some of the skills that higher level SAT and GRE reading questions attempt to evaluate.
The way one could (somewhat crudely) relabel that data is “what percentage of 12 graders could plausibly read college-level texts”. Interestingly, the college attendance numbers match these percentages fairly closely.
Half the time my brain is thinking of other things while I am reading something. There is too much distraction in your while you are reading something. Even your own eyes will give you unnecessary visuals like "wow look at the font and the color and how the corners of the phone is rounded, the url of chrome changed to a new round url bar" "https is just a symbol of lock in black color"
I don't mean that phonics isn't useful, but the idea that having multiple strategies can kill your ability to read sounds fishy.
It seems to me that MSV is precisely the method that illiterate people use to fake literacy. Likewise for people who've developed a very minimal foreign language proficiency--they can get by in certain contexts but they're not in a position to constructively build fluency. If MSV were sufficient alone such people (and I include myself when it comes to foreign language proficiency) wouldn't be stuck at a dead-end.
MSV is obviously an essential skill, just not for acquiring foundational literacy. For one thing, early readers already understand the vocabulary. At that age they wouldn't be reading words like "benign" or even "tough"--some children might not fully understand them, but in any event learning to identify and distinguish such words is unnecessary at that stage. The primary task is to teach them how to identify enough of their existing vocabulary on the page that they can read sentences, paragraphs, pages, books, etc--enough to support basic narratives and concepts, especially unfamiliar ones. Only once they can read proficiently can reading become an independent channel for language acquisition and comprehension, where higher-order reasoning skills like MSV can be constructively applied, including toward furthering their literacy.
I learned to read with Dick+Jane, but was taught phonetic reading.
I remember looking over my mom's shoulder while she read books that were just walls of text. I couldn't read, and thought reading was some magical skill. It was pretty exciting to learn to read and then I could read anything. It was like someone turned the lights on.
At some point I read Steven Pinker's "The Language Instinct" (which is 20+ years old at this point!), which describes all the research on learning to read... and which pretty conclusively proved to me that my ex was right. For at least some subset of kids, not learning phonics leads to a lifelong reading issues.
Reasons to Teach Word Stems and Roots
0 - https://mrsrenz.com/reasons-to-teach-word-stems-and-roots/
The article is concerned with students who find words like "rabbit" challenging, not with students figuring out "neologism".
Perhaps this comment I posted earlier more directly addresses the article's intent in how to help teach reading skills.
0 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20791015
I wouldn't make a conclusion on just one data point.
That's not the idea. The idea is that not understanding the basic building blocks of your language can kill your ability to read. I find it mind-boggling that this is at all controversial.
It was fascinating watching my kid learn to read: his school hired a native English speaker to teach English, using phonics. He preferred reading to almost any activity, but not in English (though we had plenty of books in that language) until I switched to reading with him only in English for a few months. The phonics led him down a false path.
I don't remember learning to read except one very brief memory where I was trying to read Sam Who Never Forgets.
However in 4th grade I was reading at a 12th grade level, and I was reading 300pg novels in 2-3 days while classmates were reading short kids books.
Phonics aparently worked very well for me. Though I'm not always that good with spelling.
Dyslexia (or at least diagnosed dyslexia) is also much more common in the English-speaking world than in countries with more phonetic writing systems.
Academia/education in America needs to move past this "can't fail" philosophy.
Bad schools need to fail. Good schools need to grow.
In Australia, I saw a number of students transferred into the public school I attended because of poor results at other schools. They would be taken out of class when we were doing something beyond their level, so they could spend 1-on-1 time with a tutor who was trained in catching students up to their expected level. Some students, when transferred from another school, would repeat a year if necessary.
I've heard of multiple occurrences where an Australian public or private school was been investigated for poor results, and during these times parents were encouraged to transfer their children to other schools as the reduced demand would give the school staff room to improve.
(Tangent: I repeated year 4 (9-10yo) because my Mum thought I was "too small" and would be bullied. This led to me being bored by the materials. I thank the spare time this awarded me to why I discovered my Dad's computer, Macromedia Flash, and ActionScript 2.0. Starting programming at such a young age, especially in a C-style language, gave me a massive advantage in my programming career and perhaps life in general.)
If you have any idea of how to get out of this situation I'd be thrilled to hear it.
This should be especially concerning for software developers -- it seems they no longer teach (at an early age) the very things that made me like math and eventually computers.
1. no concept of reading, context is not helpful
2. start to read, use context to cover any weaknesses and gaps
3. become fluent reader, no longer need context to cover weaknesses and gaps.
As an experienced educator, I would say there is no process of learning (anything) that doesn't follow this path, whether using context is formally taught or not.
It's an important part of teaching to understand where weaknesses are being papered over and support fixing that. It may be that one teaching method or another makes certain weaknesses easier to identify or fix, but in the end, enough dedicated practice is going to sort out these weaknesses either way.
The article presents this as though context is bad - but you need context to bridge from the start to the end of the process.
The article repeatedly says "poor reader" when it is really talking about a stage of learning to read (the anecdotes describe people stuck on this stage).
In my opinion:
This is a really dangerous way of representing the problem of educating people, which denies agency to learners.
> 2. start to read, use context to cover any weaknesses and gaps
> 3. become fluent reader, no longer need context to cover weaknesses and gaps.
That's completely not how you learn to read.
Step 2. is start to learn what sounds to make when you are seeing given combination of letters. And then learn gradually how to make the sounds faster and for longer sequences of letters.
Until you reach step 3 where you can blurt a word or even few at a time as one or few sounds at good pace.
At no point the context comes into play. It usually is even harmful because it makes you make stuff up instead of reading. Often wrong, occasionally correct which seems even more harmful.
Context is important only after you read completely fluently and begin to read new domain of knowledg with completely unknow vocabulary. Then you can get some words meaning from context. Although you should always check if you guessed correctly.
If you would like to know more about how most people in the world learn to read please find out how kids learn to read in other languages than english. English is a bit quirky but in no way unique. What's unique is english approach to reading teaching. I don't think anywhere else kids are encouraged to make stuff up as they go.
Context is noticeably awkward when you get it wrong, and I'd say the article appears to have identified this as a problem and presents it as "this is a problem therefore it must be fixed". But, most of the time, there is not that awkwardness: context is extremely helpful to learners - of any subject.
It also appears that you are describing how to learn to read in an alphabetic system - so it's not immediately obvious that what you have said could apply to "most people in the world".
> But Rodney said: "My dog likes to lick his bone."
The context makes perfect sense and matches the picture. The issue is 'Rodney' didn't actually read half the words.
As an adult, I probably only read about half the words in a useful e-mail. (hopefully with more skill than a child reading a picture book). I wouldn't call that an issue.
I think kids should be rather discouraged than encouraged to rely on context.
That's like saying "if the code compiles, it must be correct enough". Seems like a terrible idea.
Teaching kids to read in polish goes like this: letters -> syllables -> words -> sentences (with an overlap of the steps).
Known words and sentences are used throughout the process to illustrate the things you are learning at the moment and sort of tease what you will be able to do when you master current step.
I imagine in language where same letters can have so many different sounds the concept of syllables should be even more useful.
Teaching kids to read sentences before they can recognize what sound which letter bunches mean seems like telling kid to swim before he learns to float or tread water.
I remember in grade 3 having a teacher give a lesson on syllables. We would clap along with each syllable in the word. She asked me to do this for "Fire". I clapped twice, as there is clearly an audible Fy-er" two syllables in Canadian English. She told me I was wrong, clapped once, and said "Fire" quickly. She "knew" that a word with "consonant - vowel - consonant - vowel" pattern makes a single syllable. Never mind that my ears, and the rest of the students' ears, can hear that she's wrong.
The end result was her confusing the class about what syllables are. I remember the lesson well, because what I really learned was that teachers mean well but aren't always right.
I'm talking about the fact that if you know how
fi-(i)re sounds, you can guess how hi-(i)re sounds or even ty-(y)re or de-si-(i)re.
> memorizing words, using context to guess words, skipping words they don't know
Personally I think the phonics vs. sight words debate in English pedagogy misses the point entirely. The problem is that English divides words sentences into "words" and not morphemes. This way words like 'disambiguation' or 'boustrophedon' appear as a hard to parse blob regardless of which strategy you use. In my experience, schools have already started teaching "word roots" and the strategies needed to break words down into those roots. This to me seems like the key strategy.
From the article, it seems like the original author of the MSV system got this backwards: he thought the understanding had to come first. It doesn't. The understanding builds on the phonetic foundation in reading just as it does in speaking.
In the sense that, for example, deaf people can still learn speech, just not with sounds, this is of course true. But I'm talking about the case of a child with normal hearing and speech, where meanings are linked to spoken and heard sounds when they learn to speak.
> there were certain words that I never bothered assigning sounds to until long after I internalized them
Words that you read, or words that you spoke? I'm going to assume the former since speaking a word is assigning a sound to it. If you don't assign sounds to words that you read, how would you speak them? If somebody asked you to repeat what you just read, what would you say?
> Even if sound is needed, I don't understand why the author couldn't just assign the sound of the letters in a word being read out in order for words she didn't know.
That's what phonics is: you learn to sound out words you don't know letter by letter. Gradually you build up skill to the point where you can effortlessly translate written words to sounds, or more precisely to the structures in your brain that you previously linked to spoken or heard sounds when you learned to speak.
I didn't speak them. I didn't need to. If I actually needed to read it then obviously I would've given it a closer look and derive some sounds for it, but it wasn't necessary in order to internalize the word and use it when articulating my thoughts in my mind.
> That's what phonics is: you learn to sound out words you don't know letter by letter.
I'm talking about reading the letters out like an initialism, so assigning the sound "en-em-see-el-ai" to "nmcli". Even without any training in phonics the author must've at least known the names if the letters?
In other words, you weren't using those words to communicate anything to anyone else, just for your own internal thinking. Fair enough.
> Even without any training in phonics the author must've at least known the names if the letters?
A child might know the names of the letters but not know that sounding out words letter by letter is a good idea. The article discusses in some detail that apparently the strategy of sounding out unknown words letter by letter does not occur to children who aren't taught it; instead they use other much less effective strategies that do occur to them.
Oh ok I see. That makes sense.
TLDR: Phonics works, Current strategies don’t.
What actually works is the shortest part of the article. It’s infatuation with what doesn’t work puts what does work more than halfway into the article.
I would have appreciated the article to be structured as “Phonics works, MSV Doesn’t and here’s why they’re different”
I love phonics. It's powerful. But sometimes children are so confident at sounding out words that we miss the fact they don't always understand those words.
I suppose that a phonics lesson in Oz probably sounds a bit different than in the US. And they’re both effective. That’s fun to think about.
Bottom line: Find a Waldorf forest school that instills curiosity, excellence and basic subjects using proven methods, because US schools are rearranging the deckchairs while the band is playing... glurg, glurg, glurg.
Ruth Miskin (Amazon haven't arranged this page well) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ruth-Miskin/e/B0034N7454
I think the major feature of Jolly Phonics is that each phonic is accompanied by an action, which not only makes it fun, but also helps distinguish between similar phonics.
For example, for 'd' you make a drumming motion; for 't', you move your head from side-to-side as if watching a tennis volley.
Can't recommend it enough!
In short, associating pictures with the words which describe them in various comprehension exercises, increasing in difficulty based on progress, has shown to help students in their reading comprehension.
Perhaps this can help some parents out there.
0 - http://www.explodethecode.com/
The article did not clearly explain what cognitive science has to do with phonics, which AFAIT is a heuristic system for Western languages. So when I studied Chinese as a child, how did I learn to write Chinese, nonphonetically, without confusing horses and ponies? A heuristic is an optimization but not fundamental but the article clearly asserts that phonics is fundamental to language in that if you don't use phonics you get illiterate students... I think there's some conceptual conflation or some middle case being ignored by the author: A) Is [formal instruction in] phonics necessary? v.s. B) Is 3-Cue harmful? These are not proper opposites.
Here's a provocative claim made in a more sciencey article I just found:
"The linguist David Crystal (2003) estimates that the phonics can explain only about 50 percent of English spellings."
And further down:
"As the linguists Venezky (1967) and Carol Chomsky (1970) explained, English prioritizes the consistent spelling of morphemes over the consistent spellings of phonemes."
Before that ... who knows? I think English was mostly phonetic at the time, with modern inconsistencies being a more modern innovation. Sight-reading was almost unheard of, everyone read by sounding words out aloud (presumably subconsciously sight-reading as they got better at it). Presumably teachers used phonics of some kind since it never even occurred to anyone that people did anything other than read phonetically.
But, again, what were literacy rates like in 1890 or 1960?
In other words:
> For some people it doesn't matter what method you use
This is a theory cop-out. If people figured out how to read and write well without phonics, that's worth investigating too. And it's unlikely that they also succeeded just because they were geniuses or had some secret unknowable method.
Also, replying to someone asking a genuine question with totally different question is bad manners, and I'm going ask that not be done here.
The article makes the explicit point that significant percentages of children can learn to read despite being sabotaged by a bad learning system. (In part because some students figured out how to spell words out phonetically in their own.)
The formal phonics system might be recent, but the phonetic nature of our writing system is ancient.
1. Covering the times tables in school is pointless when you already know the times tables because you learned them at home.
2. Therefore, people shouldn't learn the times tables?
Saying something shouldn't be taught is a completely different idea from saying that schools shouldn't teach it because incoming students are expected to have learned it already.
But I think there is a grain of truth to it.
Emile, or On Education (by Rousseau) proposes an idealistic goal in which a boy is educated by a tutor (a class size of) without being 'denatured' (losing the innocence and good moral quantities that the romantics think small children naturally possess). I'm not sure how realistic this is - Rousseau had five children but he dumped them all in orphanages as soon as they were born, but I think it rings partly true as something that works if you have sufficient inputs. If you have one really good tutor / parent you can raise a child to really understand things without cold but efficient methods like drills.
Imagine you want to teach times tables without using times tables. You can keep track of what the child knows, and work out fun activities that lets them figure these out themselves, and guide them when they have a misunderstanding. But it's going to be labor intensive (for both the child and the tutor) and can't scale. Maybe computer teaching systems will turn drill work into a more fun system for teaching these fundamentals, since it can personalise at scale, but I suspect the opponents of drill will the complain about how soulless machines are pumping lifeless low-level skills into the heads of children who should instead be learning more high-level things in a more humane way. After all they didn't need a computer to teach them how to read, they just picked it up after their parents read with them every night for half a decade.
Lower IQ students tend to struggle with mapping systems onto new material. So the more brute force systems, like memorizing whole words, tends to have more success.
We see similar things in learning mathematics.
"IQ levels" are almost impossible to measure objectively, excluding medically identified learning disabilities. Reading comprehension difficulties are less a function of fluid intelligence (commonly called "IQ"), and more so environmentally induced. Examples of this are, but not limited to:
- Instability at home
- Lack of parental involvement
- Prejudice, explicit or subliminal, by school staff.
- Hunger and/or fatigue
- Dejection resulting from some combination of the above.
As far as optimizing teaching techniques, I can only say I believe there is not an easy answer for that. People are different, kids do not operate as adults would, group dynamics sometimes benefit with change and other times not, and I would be hard pressed to think that personalizing to the extent possible would be a bad thing.
In short, IMHO there is no universally applicable solution to the teaching problem domain. Which is likely why so many of us hold teachers in high regard and remember them so well.
EDIT: preposition and indefinite article use.
0. Make the "dumb"/ADD/poor kids feel inferior. Paradoxically, a percentage of people who were told they would never amount to anything often are driven to prove others wrong, and over-achieve later on. Props to them.
1. Make the "smart" kids feel on-the-spot and ashamed that they're embarrassing the "dumb" kids. Also, pulling kids out of class to make them arrange triangles with a timer (IQ "tests"), dropping them into music lessons like trained monkeys and skipping grades because they are expected to be omnipotently-capable might be a bit stressful.
Maybe it would help if there were more striations of progress levels, or with technological assistance, more custom individual edu plans (IEPs) that could maximize each child's progress acceleration vector... do away with collective punishment of outliers by making classes stick to the mean average. Also, if teachers got more involved (maybe with social workers and other support resources) to make sure each student is safe, fed, treated humanely at home and has their needs met so they can learn, that would be awesome.