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>For example, a child who says "horse" when the word was "house" is probably relying too much on visual, or graphic, cues. A teacher in this case would encourage the child to pay more attention to what word would make sense in the sentence.

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




This doesn't seem that unreasonable.

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.


Yup! And that sane approach (look at the letters that make up the word, and speak the word out loud) is phonics.


It's staggering to me that something so simple and obvious even needs to have a specific name like "phonics". That's just called reading lol. It's so bizarre how these people get put in positions of power over our educational system


According to my parents (who were actually alive then), there was a backlash against more traditional educational approaches (particularly anything involving memorization) in the '60s. Education reoriented towards teaching students to be creative and think critically rather than accept received wisdom. Whole language caught on as part of that -- teach kids to _think_ rather than just follow an algorithm. Unfortunately in this case the algorithm is a fundamental necessity needed for higher level work.

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.


> According to my parents (who were actually alive then), there was a backlash against more traditional educational approaches (particularly anything involving memorization) in the '60s.

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.


I just read Why Knowledge Matters by E. D Hirsch Jr and in that book he does contend that this sort of thing happened around the 60s in the USA and also prominently analyses France’s adoption of similar practices in around 1980-90 that had the same negative effects on math and literacy.


> the crap they made me do in math class ("write a paragraph reflecting on what you learned about multiplication")

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.


Tom Lehrer's take on this matter:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UIKGV2cTgqA


English is NOT an easy language to "just read". Compared to many other languages, it is very very hard to tell how a word should be pronounced from its spelling owing to the sheer irregularity. Just because you, as an adult who has spent decades reading English, find it easy doesn't make it easy for children.


I believe there are some languages that are not phonetic, you cannot read them by sound out the parts of the word.


Can you name one that does not have a phonetic system as well?

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.


I'm not the parent, but the ancient sumerian cuneiform script comes to mind.

Egyptian hieroglyphics did have a set of phonetic glyphs as well as the more complex logographic ones


Yes. Egyptian hieroglyphs have a full set of consonants, so you could write it that way. They just didn't because of historical spelling.

As you said Sumerian could be an example of totally "three step cue" system.


Chinese didn't always have pinyin... and Japanese didn't always have kana (it used to be spelled exclusively with Chinese characters, though some characters were used phonetically, and kana resulted from the simplification of these characters).


at least in classic chinese the pronunciation of the script differed by region. several mutually incomprehensible languages shared identical textforms,as far as i understand it.


I think the point here is that reading & understanding what the text is trying to communicate is more important than any specific word. I think that’s reasonable.


> look at the letters that make up the word, and speak the word out loud

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.


“Magic E” and “silent E” are nearly the first non-phonetic spellings that children learn in Britain, while they are learning the alphabet. And diphthongs come right after. “House” is a word they learn pretty quickly.


Sure, for each individual case they can learn some rule or exception for that specific word. But it takes some time to learn them all. "Check whether what you just read makes sense in context" is a general rule that can be applied to discover mistakes.

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.




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