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Old 7th June 2019, 09:23 AM   #1
Bob001
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So teach me to read.

Well, not me, actually. The writer contends that he and his wife taught their 4-year-old to read in a few months with the phonics method, which he says has been proven to be effective for most children across the socio-economic spectrum. But most educators are committed to a "whole word" approach, where kids learn to identify entire words. Anybody have experience in this area? It seems like it's a question that lends itself to practical research, like taking two similar large groups of kids and using one method for each.
Quote:
Now that it’s summer, I have a suggestion for how parents can grant their wee kiddies the magic of reading by Labor Day: Pick up Siegfried Engelmann’s Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. My wife and I used it a while ago with our then-4-year-old daughter, and after a mere 20 cozy minutes a night, a little girl who on Memorial Day could recognize on paper only the words no and stop and the names of herself and her family members could, by the time the leaves turned, read simple books.

My wife and I are not unusually diligent teachers. The book worked by, quite simply, showing our daughter, bit by bit, how to sound out the words. That’s it. And yet in the education world, Engelmann’s technique is considered controversial.
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/ar...eading/591127/
https://www.city-journal.org/html/bu...rks-12992.html
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Old 7th June 2019, 09:26 AM   #2
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My understanding is that whole word is an advanced concept. First you get the basic phonics dialed in. Then, over time, the student becomes more adept at recognizing whole words and even phrases as such. But it is a mistake to try to each whole words to people who haven't yet internalized the phonic characters and their behavior.
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Old 7th June 2019, 09:30 AM   #3
Bob001
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
My understanding is that whole word is an advanced concept. First you get the basic phonics dialed in. Then, over time, the student becomes more adept at recognizing whole words and even phrases as such. But it is a mistake to try to each whole words to people who haven't yet internalized the phonic characters and their behavior.
Read the links. The writer's point is that most teachers don't start with phonics.
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Old 7th June 2019, 10:39 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
Read the links. The writer's point is that most teachers don't start with phonics.
I have read the links. My understanding is that starting with whole word is a recent development, and that it is a mistake.
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Old 7th June 2019, 10:44 AM   #5
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I think the bigger issue is, who cares how you teach a 4 yo to read? Or if you even do?

There is no good reason that a 4 yo needs to be taught to read, other than safety words like like Stop, Poison and Exit
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Old 7th June 2019, 10:58 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I have read the links. My understanding is that starting with whole word is a recent development, and that it is a mistake.
It's not that new a development. I read of the whole words approach in Melanie Phillips' All Must Have Prizes years ago. I bought the book in 2007, and I'm reasonably sure the approach wasn't new then. Phillips' view is that it's a bad approach; I agree with her.
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Old 7th June 2019, 11:03 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by pgwenthold View Post
I think the bigger issue is, who cares how you teach a 4 yo to read? Or if you even do?

There is no good reason that a 4 yo needs to be taught to read, other than safety words like like Stop, Poison and Exit
I'm curious: is this a new attitude? My sister didn't want her kids being taught to read before they started real school. (They start kindergarten in fall.) But she and I are Gen X, born in the 1970s, and we both learned at age four. It wasn't unusual then, and it certainly didn't harm us any. Was there a change in attitude since then? What are the reaons for preferring a delay in reading?
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Old 7th June 2019, 11:23 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by pgwenthold View Post
I think the bigger issue is, who cares how you teach a 4 yo to read? Or if you even do?

There is no good reason that a 4 yo needs to be taught to read, other than safety words like like Stop, Poison and Exit

I think the writer's point is not the age that kids start, but the effectiveness of the teaching method. He cites research indicating that by the third or fourth grade -- that would be around ages eight and nine -- kids who learned to read by the phonics method are better readers than students who learned by the whole-word method.
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In 2001, students in the mostly black Richmond, Virginia, district were scoring abysmally in reading—just less than 40 percent of third-grade students passed the state reading test. Four years later, after the district switched to the direct-instruction method, 74 percent of third graders passed it. By contrast, in 2005 over in wealthy Fairfax County, where teachers scorned the phonics-based-reading instruction method (dismissing it as impersonal “drill and kill” is common), only 59 percent of the county’s black third graders taking that test passed it, despite plush school funding.
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/ar...eading/591127/

And my limited experience with kids is that they love to learn new stuff if it's presented in a way they can digest.
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Old 7th June 2019, 11:29 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by pgwenthold View Post
I think the bigger issue is, who cares how you teach a 4 yo to read? Or if you even do?

There is no good reason that a 4 yo needs to be taught to read, other than safety words like like Stop, Poison and Exit
It's a question of education policy. There's an idea that as a nation, we should have a standard, reliable system for teaching children to read, and it should get consistently successful results nationwide.

If four year olds can learn to read phonetically, but five and six year olds are struggling with the whole word method, then this is useful telemetry for improving our education policy.

We don't necessarily need to start teaching kids to read at 4, but I don't see anything wrong with it. In fact I think the earlier the better, if that's what parents want to do. The school system starts a little later, mainly to ensure that the majority of students have made enough developmental progress to be ready for the instruction.
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Old 7th June 2019, 11:29 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
I'm curious: is this a new attitude? My sister didn't want her kids being taught to read before they started real school. (They start kindergarten in fall.) But she and I are Gen X, born in the 1970s, and we both learned at age four. It wasn't unusual then, and it certainly didn't harm us any. Was there a change in attitude since then? What are the reaons for preferring a delay in reading?
Gen X here, too. I'm told I was reading with guidance at 3 and on my own at 4. It's hard to imagine it being harmful getting a head start like that, unless parents are afraid of their little nerds being bullied in kindergarten.


ETA: Oh, and for what it's worth I was taught letters (with the most basic phonics of each letter) and then jumped to words. The only slight drawback is that I was exposed to a lot of words in comic books that I mispronounced in my head until I heard them out loud many years later. Not exactly a crisis.

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Old 7th June 2019, 11:31 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
I think the writer's point is not the age that kids start, but the effectiveness of the teaching method. He cites research indicating that by the third or fourth grade -- that would be around ages eight and nine -- kids who learned to read by the phonics method are better readers than students who learned by the whole-word method.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/ar...eading/591127/

And my limited experience with kids is that they love to learn new stuff if it's presented in a way they can digest.

I think they used to do phonics and now they teach whole word. My guess is that there is no right or wrong way and everyone should steer clear of people who say their method is the best. But I hated phonics so what do I know?
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Old 7th June 2019, 11:39 AM   #12
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Teaching reading phonetically has been around for as long as my kids were at school, that would be 1996'ish onwards.

I can't remember how I learned to read which is good, it's automatic and so I don't have to think about it..

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Old 7th June 2019, 11:52 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
Well, not me, actually. The writer contends that he and his wife taught their 4-year-old to read in a few months with the phonics method, which he says has been proven to be effective for most children across the socio-economic spectrum. But most educators are committed to a "whole word" approach, where kids learn to identify entire words. Anybody have experience in this area? It seems like it's a question that lends itself to practical research, like taking two similar large groups of kids and using one method for each.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/ar...eading/591127/
https://www.city-journal.org/html/bu...rks-12992.html
I have personal experience in this area. When I was 5 I started first grade in Detroit, and they used "whole word" teaching. Nearly nobody got it in the class. It was a total disaster. In fact, the teaching of reading was so arduous and unsuccessful that there was no time left for much else. There was literally NO arithmetic in that first grade, not even the identification of numbers! Looking at a whole word as if it were a picture is very confusing at that age, when the words are not actually meant to be seen as pictures. We use a phonic alphabet. Now maybe a better job of teaching and a better text than Dick and Jane would have made the job easier, but just before my 6th birthday, in December, I came home with a failing report because I could not read. My parents thought that odd, since I was not terribly stupid yet, and determined that though I'd known the alphabet since I was three I had made no phonic connections at all. They taught me with phonics, and it just suddenly flashed. I realized (and said as much) that I already knew what I needed, but had not realized that was what I needed.

My parents used the front page of the New York Times as my first grade primer. My dad taught how to separate a word into syllables ("look for the little word in the big word.") I found it easy to read any word I already knew, including those that were spelled oddly and required a guess, and easy to read any phonetically sensible word even if I had never seen it before and did not know what it meant. I could puzzle out even very irregular words, often with wrong pronunciations, and once I knew them, whole word memory kicked in.

Once we know how to figure out words, (and when presented with irregular words) we shift to whole word reading, but without phonic knowledge it can be a big struggle, at least for some people.

I know there are some people who espouse the whole word system, including the famous New Zealand teacher Sylvia Ashton-Warner, but I'm not sure it works with everyone, and she accompanied her technique with an unconventional approach to vocabulary, letting children choose their words.
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Old 7th June 2019, 11:59 AM   #14
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I think my mom learned the whole-word way. To this day she's flummoxed by any word she's not already familiar with. It's not a literacy thing, as she's a voracious reader, she just can't sound a new word out.
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Old 7th June 2019, 12:07 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
I think my mom learned the whole-word way. To this day she's flummoxed by any word she's not already familiar with. It's not a literacy thing, as she's a voracious reader, she just can't sound a new word out.
Indian names. Way more syllables than are common in English. Syllable combinations that aren't common in English. Very hard to grok Krishnamoorthy Balasubramanianaman at a glance, as if it were John Smith or Dave Jones.

But. Once I sound it out a few times, it all comes clear as whole words. So I'm expanding my vocabulary of Indian names, one person at a time.
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Old 7th June 2019, 12:10 PM   #16
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Taught my daughter the phonics method, sounding out each letter individually. She was fully reading and comprehending before she was four.

This whole-word memorization thing sounds ridiculous to me.
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Old 7th June 2019, 12:42 PM   #17
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Whole-word reading is an emergent property of the process. I think the mistake is in trying to short-circuit the process and pretend you can get the advanced results by going through the advanced motions.
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Old 7th June 2019, 01:01 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
I'm curious: is this a new attitude? My sister didn't want her kids being taught to read before they started real school. (They start kindergarten in fall.) But she and I are Gen X, born in the 1970s, and we both learned at age four. It wasn't unusual then, and it certainly didn't harm us any. Was there a change in attitude since then? What are the reaons for preferring a delay in reading?
No, I think the whole "read at age 4" thing is new

Typically, kids have started reading during kindergarten, and it used to be later. When I was in school, reading wasn't taught in kindergarten. My report card specifically notes that I was teaching myself to read during kindergarten.

The push to read earlier is new, and, imo, not needed.
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Old 7th June 2019, 01:14 PM   #19
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I learned reading and writing via an experimental phonetics method (i/t/a). Not at a young age, unlike my sisters; in fact the kindergarten program I was in was considered remedial when I started out.

By the time I started first grade, I was concealing SF paperbacks inside my I-Can-Read! book during reading class. I doubt the concealment was very effective, but what was the teacher supposed to do, complain that I'm missing out on the adventures of Mrs. Goose at the fair? (And I wasn't even doing that; a glance at the next page when I heard pages being turned was sufficient, then back to my novel.)

Well, here's the problem with that, and with phonics reading teaching in general. It's inconvenient for the teacher. Once students learn the method it's just a matter of practice, and students improve and build their vocabularies at their own pace. One student might be ready to read a more advanced book than another, and that might hurt someone's feelings! With whole-word reading they can make sure everyone in the class is always puzzling over the same list of new words at the same time for grade after grade. It's forced-egalitarianism utopia. Who cares whether it's actually an effective way to learn?
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Old 7th June 2019, 01:15 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by pgwenthold View Post
The push to read earlier is new, and, imo, not needed.
I doubt that this is true, and I don't understand the "not needed." It's not like the schedules of 3- and 4-year-olds are so busy that they can't fit in some phonics. Once they're understanding English, starting to teach them to read seems perfectly sensible and sets them up to learn everything else faster during their early education.
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Old 7th June 2019, 01:50 PM   #21
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Jesus, guys! Phonics and sight words should not be seen as competing methods for teaching. They should be seen as complementary.

Definitely teach phonics because they can be used either to build or deconstruct words like “dog”, but you have to use sight words too even to learn basic vocabulary such as “one”, “two”, and “the”.
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Old 7th June 2019, 02:03 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by pgwenthold View Post
No, I think the whole "read at age 4" thing is new

Typically, kids have started reading during kindergarten, and it used to be later. When I was in school, reading wasn't taught in kindergarten. My report card specifically notes that I was teaching myself to read during kindergarten.

The push to read earlier is new, and, imo, not needed.
The earlier they can communicate the better linkages neurologically in their brains, the better to communiucate.

The mother of E.C. Ambrose taught her hand signals as an infant, before she could talk. Hand control comes much earlier than vocal cord control.
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Old 7th June 2019, 02:11 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post
The earlier they can communicate the better linkages neurologically in their brains, the better to communiucate.

The mother of E.C. Ambrose taught her hand signals as an infant, before she could talk. Hand control comes much earlier than vocal cord control.
Indeed. I have a photo of my niece flipping the bird when she was less than a day old. Oh, they said it wasn't deliberate but I know better.
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Old 7th June 2019, 02:30 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Whole-word reading is an emergent property of the process. I think the mistake is in trying to short-circuit the process and pretend you can get the advanced results by going through the advanced motions.
Yes, this is what I was meaning above. I have no doubt that once we've figured out a word we add it to our "whole word" inventory, but learning to read that way is, I think, a serious short-circuit.
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Old 7th June 2019, 02:40 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
I'm curious: is this a new attitude? My sister didn't want her kids being taught to read before they started real school. (They start kindergarten in fall.) But she and I are Gen X, born in the 1970s, and we both learned at age four. It wasn't unusual then, and it certainly didn't harm us any. Was there a change in attitude since then? What are the reaons for preferring a delay in reading?
It is to me. I was reading before starting primary at 4, and read Arran 18 year level when I was 10.
My niece was reading before 4 (she's 19) and certainly her mother, who's an educational psychologist, wasn't surprised or disapproving.
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Old 7th June 2019, 02:46 PM   #26
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The main complaint about whole-word is that it leaves a person with no method for determining the sound of, or meaning of, new words.
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Old 7th June 2019, 03:31 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post
The earlier they can communicate the better linkages neurologically in their brains, the better to communiucate.

The mother of E.C. Ambrose taught her hand signals as an infant, before she could talk. Hand control comes much earlier than vocal cord control.

And now it's a movement.
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Baby Sign Language lets babies, as young as six months old, communicate their needs so they don't need to cry. Your baby will learn how to tell you:

When he is hungry, wants more, or is all done
If he is too cold or too hot
Or that he just needs a hug
Never again be helpless at 2 a.m., trying to guess what a sobbing baby wants.
https://www.babysignlanguage.com/?v=7516fd43adaa
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Old 7th June 2019, 03:40 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
I thought that's what you do as a parent anyway, anticipate their needs so they don't cry?

If parents paid more attention (which is what is expected), then that would be a non issue.
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Old 7th June 2019, 03:43 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by AnonyMoose View Post
Taught my daughter the phonics method, sounding out each letter individually. She was fully reading and comprehending before she was four.

This whole-word memorization thing sounds ridiculous to me.
How recent was this change? I was about to go into how there was an old scam phonics thing way back when I was a kid ( born in 84) but then when I heard pepe describing the method, that's how I was thought in school.
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Old 7th June 2019, 03:53 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by sadhatter View Post
How recent was this change? I was about to go into how there was an old scam phonics thing way back when I was a kid ( born in 84) but then when I heard pepe describing the method, that's how I was thought in school.
If you're referring to Hooked on Phonics, I don't recall it being a "scam." The Wikiality indicates that they've engaged in crappy business practices more than once (exaggerated advertising claims and misusing customer information AFAICT), but they sell real educational materials that can help teach a child how to read.
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Old 7th June 2019, 03:55 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Jesus, guys! Phonics and sight words should not be seen as competing methods for teaching. They should be seen as complementary.

Definitely teach phonics because they can be used either to build or deconstruct words like “dog”, but you have to use sight words too even to learn basic vocabulary such as “one”, “two”, and “the”.
Exactly this. First grade was dick and jane and phonics.
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Old 7th June 2019, 04:52 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
Read the links. The writer's point is that most teachers don't start with phonics.
They should, according to research. Typically of education, once a method becomes a fad, the education establishment throws out all of the accumulated knowledge of how to teach under the earlier model. The result is pendulum swings that are irrational - both methods have merit and both methods should be used. Kids internalize pretty young that not all words can be sounded out.

Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I have read the links. My understanding is that starting with whole word is a recent development, and that it is a mistake.
It's not recent. The reading wars have been going on since the publication of "Why Johnny Can't Read" in 1955. Kids had been learning "sight words" from the utterly torturous "Dick and Jane" style readers. I remember being indoctrinated against phonics as a 6-year-old. Teachers were fond of pointing out that "ghoti" could be pronounced "fish," to emphasize the inconsistencies of English phonics.

Fortunately my mother was tutoring an older brother in phonics so I picked it up there. At the end of first grade they told me I didn't have to go to second grade. I only very recently started learning what they teach in second grade.

Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
My understanding is that whole word is an advanced concept. First you get the basic phonics dialed in. Then, over time, the student becomes more adept at recognizing whole words and even phrases as such. But it is a mistake to try to each whole words to people who haven't yet internalized the phonic characters and their behavior.
It's not advanced. Sight words start pretty much as soon as you start learning to read. Even Dr. Seuss uses sight words. But you start by making books that are as "decodable" as possible. "Hop on Pop." "Stop! You cannot hop on Pop!" Etc. It builds up their confidence. But words that can't be decoded phonetically are part of early reading too.
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Old 7th June 2019, 04:58 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by pgwenthold View Post
I think the bigger issue is, who cares how you teach a 4 yo to read? Or if you even do?

There is no good reason that a 4 yo needs to be taught to read, other than safety words like like Stop, Poison and Exit
It's empowering, IMO, to start putting together that the squiggles stand for words that can be decoded. You start with letter sounds, and use story time to share such works as the aforementioned "Hop on Pop." It can be great fun for both the child and the "teacher" - who may be a parent or older sibling or anyone, really. I wouldn't cram it down their throats, though.

I didn't read the whole thread before jumping in, so probably other people have made these points. However it's exactly the issue I've been dealing with for the past 6 months as I have been tutoring children with reading problems and I've gotten really fascinated with the subject.

Last edited by Minoosh; 7th June 2019 at 05:12 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 7th June 2019, 05:03 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by p0lka View Post
Teaching reading phonetically has been around for as long as my kids were at school, that would be 1996'ish onwards.
That may be when it came back into style, but it was a stalwart for decades before that.

Originally Posted by p0lka View Post
I can't remember how I learned to read which is good, it's automatic and so I don't have to think about it..
I remember some of it, and it's useful in my current work. I was a precocious reader, but for a long time I thought there was a washing-machine part called the "alligator." That's what I got when I tried to read "agitator." Also for the longest time I thought "applause" was "applesauce" and I could not figure out why it kept coming up in stories that had nothing to do with applesauce.

The biggest jump I made was when I wanted to read a book my older brother was reading. It was about a pet raccoon. That seemed like the hardest book in the world. I painfully sounded out swaths of it and by the end of the book I was a much better reader.

ETA:

Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Definitely teach phonics because they can be used either to build or deconstruct words like “dog”, but you have to use sight words too even to learn basic vocabulary such as “one”, “two”, and “the”.
Excellent examples.

Last edited by Minoosh; 7th June 2019 at 05:06 PM.
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Old 7th June 2019, 05:49 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Elagabalus View Post
Exactly this. First grade was dick and jane and phonics.
Yes it was. In 1954, in my case.
That was the same year my little brother was born. By the time he started first grade, he could tell time, knew the alphabet, and could write his name because of me.
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Old 7th June 2019, 06:38 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
Yes it was. In 1954, in my case.
That was the same year my little brother was born. By the time he started first grade, he could tell time, knew the alphabet, and could write his name because of me.
I can't come up with the citation right now but studies in Africa indicate that the best tutor for a 3rd grader is a 4th grader. Siblings are a great resource. In high school math I've had kids explain things to each other and it seems to work pretty well.

I love getting the insights into how forum members learned reading. I have a kid right now who can recognize sight words - pretty long ones, like "frequently," but when he encounters it in a text he will stumble and try to sound it out. It's the first time I've noticed a student recognizing a word out of context but not being fluent when he encounters it in reading.

The reading passages used to teach comprehension are often pretty boring, which doesn't help.
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Old 7th June 2019, 07:35 PM   #37
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My boy was a very early reader taking a whole word approach himself. Started with recognition of logos.
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Old 7th June 2019, 08:16 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by Sideroxylon View Post
My boy was a very early reader taking a whole word approach himself. Started with recognition of logos.
I keep wondering how they teach reading/writing in China. It's all kind of "whole word." At the primary level kids are supposed to recognize 3,000 Chinese characters.
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Old 7th June 2019, 09:38 PM   #39
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My first grade experience (Dick and Jane and whole words) was in the school year of 1953-54. It would not surprise me if the faculty there were filled with new ideas, and truly believed they were at the forefrongt of something.

I could write a lengthy essay on how awful the Detroit public school I went to was. Among other things, the classes were arranged so that students had to troop from room to room for different subjects. So we spent much of our time in the halls, where we were strictly enjoined to travel in single file and to take every corner at a precise 90 degrees! We had no arithmetic at all, but did have "science" which was mostly movies. I remember a really inspiring depression-era movie about malaria, and another rouser about rural electrification. We had frequent assemblies where movies were shown about the nuclear threat, and air raid drills in which we would go to the basement to "duck and cover." Hell was paid if you ducked and covered with the wrong arm on top. The school was large, and the basement, to a five or six year old, an awesome place filled with huge rumbling machinery, a veritable hell on earth. Along with the Dick and Jane books, they had huge easel-sized Dick and Jane books which the teacher would flip at the head of the class. We had a music class too in which we were required to bang on blocks. They were dedicated musical blocks and no doubt expensive. There was a lunch room, but students who lived within a mile were not allowed to bring their lunch and had to go home. We had an hour, so on a good day we had about ten minutes to slam down lunch at home before hurrying back. It remains a bit odd to think that a school dedicated to the welfare of children had no qualm about to find his way home and back again in the streets of urban Detroit. I once missed my trip home for some reason, and looked into the lunch room. It was nearly empty. They sent everyone home. There was a recess too, where we were essentially tossed out into a paved playground to stand there for a while or get into fights. When I entered another school in Massachusetts for second grade, I got into brief trouble because in Detroit we were required to write in huge print, the capitals about an inch high, and I was briefly taken for an idiot before the teacher realized that all she had to do was say " Here we write smaller,"which I was happy to do since I never wrote so ridiculously large except at school.

Crazy times.
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Old 7th June 2019, 10:41 PM   #40
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I have a younger sister, and she has been taught baby sign language, the usefulness being that she could tell us whether she wanted milk or water, things like that. However, as a long term thing it's utterly useless, she's not even two and now that she can say all of the words that she was taught in baby sign language, she has stopped using it entirely, because speech is more convenient. So it becomes a non issue something like 10 months after it's even possible for them to learn it. Garbage.
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