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Top Ten Reasons Teaching Phonics Hurts My Brain

(Top ten Resons fonics herts my brane)
With Apologies to David Letterman

A presentation by Bruce Howlett,
Special Education Teacher, Ithaca, NY
Director of Research and Product Development
Sound Reading Solutions
Email Bruce Howlett

How can you make sense out of this?

Tank U 4 alooin mee ta rit a gest kolum for da skool noos papr. I m frilled tat u did diz beekaz wen I wuz in hi skool I rote u storee. Sum tines I rote a bowt dem fings deer to mi hart, lik huning an gittin ric. I didn lik skool vary muc. I kan ma muny at hom selin ofer da fone.

Auditory Processing - Phenomic Awareness - Fluency - Phonics - Comprehension

Answer: Phonics is the fourth most important process in translating printed words into meaningful spoken words.

Take Home Message:

If a student is struggling with phonics the problem isn’t with letters and printed words. The problem is rooted in the way the brain processes sounds and spoken words. Reading, like all language skills, is an overwhelmingly auditory task. Reading problems have very little to do with phonics and almost everything to do with speech.
This is why we developed Sound Reading; to use speech therapy as a platform for reading therapy.
The National Reading Panel agrees that phonemic awareness should be taught before phonics and that comprehension is the last area to address.

Why do some students pick up reading with little or no phonics and others require years of letter/sound instruction?

Hint: The students who read well also are excellent listeners during story time.

Strong readers are also strong listeners. Students with strong phonemic awareness are able to pick up reading instruction much more quickly than those with weak phonemic awareness.

One more question: Guess what language is hardest to read phonetically? English, of course! Spanish and Italian are good languages to learn using phonics as they have an almost 1-to-1 relationship between letters and phonemes (speech sounds). English has almost twice the number of phonemes as letters.

Top Ten Reasons Phonics Hurts My Brain

Reason 1:

“How come my friends learned phonics in a few months - or had no phonics - and its taking me years?”
Problem: “Natural readers” have strong auditory, speech and language skills. These skills must be developed first before phonics will click.

I had problems with reading instruction:
First I was taught look - say, then phonics. My problem was weak auditory skills, including auditory discrimination and attention and phonemic awareness.

Solution: Auditory Instruction - Put spoken words and listening first! Start with the spoken words that students know and build out to written words. Spoken words are all about phonemes and auditory processing - discrimination, sequencing, auditory reasoning and phonemic awareness. This is true Speech-to-Print reading instruction. Reading, like all language tasks, is an auditory process. Reading is all about speech sounds and spoken words that flow from our brains.

Phonics

Auditory Processing

Primarily Visual

Primarily Auditory

Print

Speech

Letters rule

Phonemes rule

Difficulties interpreting printed words

Difficulties with spoken words

Focus on words on page

Focus on words in brain


Reason 2:

“You say A says its name in bake and something else in cat but I can’t hear it so how am I supposed to remember it when I read?”
Problem: Lack of phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness must be developed before teaching phonics makes sense. Phonemic awareness allows students to hear the difference phonemes and allows phonics rules to naturally make sense. Students need phonemic awareness to hear the difference:

  • Between long and short vowel sounds
  • With each sound in a consonant blend
  • In short vowel sounds -- pat, pet, pot, pit, putt
  • And make sense or spelling code variances such as great, bread, eat

Many phonics programs use segment and blend activities. They are not sufficient in providing the reading help to develop deep phonemic awareness in older students who must deal with very complex words.
I had problems with articulation - mispronounced words - anity for anxiety, draw for drawer, straten for strengthened and people’s names.
Solution: Phoneme manipulation with minimal contrast words, such as Sound Contrasts in Words and Block Manipulation in the Sound Reading software and games.


Reason 3:

“How can I remember those ‘short vowels’ when they aren’t short and all sound alike?”
Problem: Short vowel sounds. English has a huge number of words and phonemes that sound alike.
I had problems with:
Has - Had - Have
Reading and speaking words with these hard-to-discriminate sounds:
/n/ /m/ /ng/
/a/ /e/ /i/ /o/ /u/
/sh/ /ch/ /th/
Solution: Strong phoneme discrimination is essential for reading English, such as Sound Discrimination and Middle Vowel Discrimination in the Sound Reading software and Sound Sense Activity Books.


Reason 4:

“How come I know the word when we talk but you teach it like I’ve never heard it before?” Problem: Teaching Phonics puts excessive emphasis on letters and printed words. Phonics teaches letter sound knowledge as if the child didn’t know anything.
Solution: Use speech as the reference. Children read words that they use in speech quite naturally. If they know the proper pronunciation and meaning of the word then it is very easy to read. The concept of print-to-speech is backwards. Like the demonstration at the beginning of this article shows, it is speech-to-print. This is the framework for everything we do at Sound Reading.


Reason 5:

“I can get the letter sounds at the beginning of the word but not so good at the middle and ending sounds?”
Problem: Getting only the beginning sound correct. Most English words have the hardest sounds, vowels, buried in the middle of a word. It’s not just knowing the sound it’s the ability to process the all the sounds in a word.

I had problems with reading the middle and endings of words...I usually got the beginning sounds.

Solution: Phonological recoding, which is a fancy word for a group of new ways to teach decoding. The key is to use minimal contrast word lists - such as run, ran, rat, rot, hot, hit where the sound changes in different parts of words. The software activities that employ recoding include Letter Manipulation and Block Manipulation. These activities are part of the Reading Challenge Game, too.


Reason 6:

“Just because I've seen the word before doesn't mean I can read it when I see it again.”
Problem: Teaching Phonics places too much importance on visual memory. Reading is about 98% auditory, more about listening and speaking than letters and printed words. Reading instruction should build auditory working memory, the most critical reading memory.
I had problems with learning languages:
I failed English twice and Spanish three times in High School - a lot of memorization of written words.
Solution: Work on auditory memory -- especially auditory working memory.
Sound Reading uses a number of activities that are purely auditory, such as Sound Counting and Block Manipulation.

Which block changes when you change sat into slat?

  1. sat
  2. slat teaching phonics
  3. slam
  4. sam
  5. fan
  6. flan

Reason 7:

Br and ch both have two letters so why is ch a single sound and br is two sounds?”

Problem: Consonant Blends - Students need to hear each sound in a word to be able to make sense of digraphs and consonant blends. Phonics goes from letters to phoneme instead of phoneme to letter. English only has 44 phonemes but 220 phonics spellings and over 1000 common spellings.

I had problems with spelling: I would drop sounds and syllables from words.

Solution: Develop phonemic awareness so a child can “hear” each sound in a word and use his knowledge of speech to know when there is a mismatch between letters and sounds. Elkonin Boxes with sound counting in the Sound Sense Activity Books and Sound Counting and Spelling in the reading software.


Reason 8:

“How come I get in trouble when I break school rules and nothing happens when English breaks them?”
Problem: Cognitive capacity - There is just so much space in a child’s head.
Think about the final E rule while you read these words. Do you want a child to put all their thought into decoding or into reading comprehension: Love, some, come, none, give, have, done, one, gone, live, were, above, tune, lose, move, are

I had problems with Spelling. In college, typists would charge me twice the going rate because my spelling was so poor.
Solution: Don’t teach rules and exceptions.
Teach Three Spellings for Each Phoneme:
For Consonants:

  • The letter
  • The letter doubled
  • The letter with an e at the end of the words

Consonant

Phonemes

The Letter

Letter Doubled

Final e

/b/

big

robber

lube

/d/

down

daddy

guide

/f/

fat

differ

life

/g/

go

wiggle

/h/

had

ache

/j/ 

gym

bagged

page

/k/

come

soccer

cake

/m/

me

swimmer

come

/n/

no

winner

none

/p/

pay

apple

hope

/s/

so

pass

house

/t/

to

fatter

cute

/v/

very

savvy

give

/y/

yes

/z/

zoo

buzz

sneeze

Semi-Vowels

/l/ 

let

fell

sample

/r/

read

marry

sure

/w/

we

one


Vowel 

Phonemes

Primary

Spelling 

2nd

3rd

/a/

at

/e/

ed

Head

/i/

in

/o/

on

/u/

up

above

/ai/ 

aid

say

ace

/ee/

bee

read

city

/ie/

pie

by

high

/oa/

oak

toe

own

/ue/

cue

few

use

Vowels of Pain

/oo/

do

too

new

/oo/

book

could

put

/aw/

law

all

auto

/ou/

out

now

/oi/

oil

boy

ar 

art

are

er

her

dirt

turn

or

or

pore

pour


One Phoneme - Multiple Spellings

Is the sound /e/ /ee/ or /ai/

eat steak read* lead* dream meant head break season meat dreamt meal
deaf breakfast dream steady breath dealt each beach great greatest breathe deal

* You can say read and lead two ways, so pick two sounds.


Reason 9:

“I’ve learned to accurately read the words but read slowly?”
Problem: Word-by-word reading is a common problem with phonics.
I had problems with reading fluency: I avoided reading anything longer than one page.
Solution: Rapid Naming Automaticity - not Mastery - This is a hard one for many teachers. Mastery learning often creates a “learn and forget” cycle. Permanent learning involves overlearning - learning beyond the point of mastery. Think of overlearning as learning a skill to the point of automaticity - where skills are done without thought. Like riding a bike, hitting a golf ball or learning how to read.

Solution: Changing Words - From Small Steps Reading Therapy for Boost Read down each column two or three times.

No

be

dig

Go

ge

pig

So

he

fig

Ro

me

rig

Bo

we

zig

fo

re

big


Reason 10:

“I can read the words in controlled text but when I see them in a chapter book - no way!”
Problem: Transitioning from controlled text of phonics to authentic reading.
I had problems with reading chapter books. I didn’t read until 3rd grade. I spent the next two years reading one series of phonetic books. My fifth grade teacher was very perplexed by the gap between my verbal skills and my weak reading skills.
Solution: Code progressive text that includes practice in decoding simple and multisyllable words, rapid naming and timed repeated reading of Quick Reads (3 minute stories).
The Sound Reading Small Steps Reading Therapy books fulfill this purpose. The are free, downloadable samples at SoundReading.com


I‘ll be giving a more in-depth presentation on phonemes, phonics, fluency and language this fall in conjunction with MEDS-PDN (Medical Educational Services, Inc. - Professional Development Network)
If you would like a one-day on-site training please call Sound Reading at 800.801.1954.

E-mail me with questions Here




View the products Bruce created below:


Hop Skip & Jump™ for Ages 4-6, Boost for Ages 6-8 Remedy for Ages 9 to adult.
Boost Boost Boost



 

Copyright © 2010- Sound Reading Solutions. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2010- Sound Reading Solutions. All rights reserved.