Skip to comments.Phonics Explained, Whole Word Exposed....in 1958
Posted on 11/16/2010 3:16:10 PM PST by BruceDeitrickPrice
Think of this as a nice little time capsule from 50+ years ago....A review of "Reading: Chaos and Cure" just placed on Amazon:
A wonderful and informative book I can heartily recommend to any parent or teacher. You learn a great deal about reading, for example, why Sight Words are a hoax, why phonics works. The authors state: "It is absurdly easy to teach a child to read with the proper method. Most of the children in America could be taught in a few weeks or months at the age of five. We shall tell you about various schools, now functioning, where a problem reader is virtually unheard of." Take that, International Reading Association. Take that, International Dyslexia Association.
The book gives us historical perspective on the reading crisis. The book appeared three years after Rudolf Flesch's "Why Johnny Can't Read." We learn about the abuse heaped on Flesch, the many forces arrayed against phonics, and (what struck me as most poignant) the continuing optimism of the authors that the "educationists" would soon have to admit their mistake.
Remember that Whole Word was massively introduced circa 1932, about 25 years before this book appeared. In that fairly brief span, the Education Establishment subverted the methods used to teach reading and thereby sabotaged education generally.
The authors (Sibyl Terman and Charles Walcutt) sum up our dire straits in 1958:
"Because they have not successfully taught reading the educationists have by way of compensation altered the curriculum and indeed the whole concept of education to maintain schools in which, year by year, less use has been made of reading. It has come to a point where a young man can graduate from many of our major high schools, with superior grades, who not only cannot read successfully but also has not been called upon to do substantial reading in any subject. Meanwhile the educational specialists rationalize. They now affirm that about one-third of our youth -- and, they emphasize, often youth of superior intelligence -- are congenitally unable to master the printed word. They have elaborated a program of `life adjustment' which begins with the assumption that, because more than half of our youth will not enter professions where learning and prosperity go hand in hand, these destined unfortunates should not be given the sort of liberal education that will make them unhappy with their modest lives. Public school administrators have gone so far as to assert that they look hopefully for the day when learning to read will not be considered more important than learning to sew or skate."
The authors, like Flesch, were wrong. Good sense did not prevail. Our Education Establishment dug in, doubled down, and beat the heck out of these cockeyed optimists.
From 1958 to 1998, Whole Word was propped up by some of the worst political hacks imaginable. The result was 50,000,000 functional illiterates. All this despite lucid books, such as this one, explaining every detail of Whole Word's failure.
The authors (brother and sister) seem like very nice people. They evidently traveled a great deal, to report on reading in different states, cities and school systems. The book includes a full phonics program.
For more reviews of books about education, Google "36 Important Books About Education," soon to go to 40!
We need a rational alphabet for the English language.
Sounds really interesting.
Can someone read this to me?
Semitic languages have been getting along quite well doing that for upwards of 5,000 years!.
Chinese takes it considerably further, as did the first written language in history, known as Sumerian it is an hieroglyph based written language that uses stylized images created with cuneiform wedges.
If you provide too much image you end up with unintelligible writing.
That's the reading part ~ now, how to learn to read? That's a wholly different topic. There you have to use phonics with some, whole word with others, and with others NOTHING AT ALL. I simply learned to read on my own and was always years ahead of the other kids. This started when i was 3 or 4 years of age.
Too true. I went to a wonderful public school that taught reading by the phonics method, and the entire student body turned into a bunch of ravenous readers before they were six. When each of my children started school I begged and pleaded for our present school system to teach my children with phonics and was contemptuously refused. As a single mother I could not afford to put my kids in some private school that would have taught phonics, nor could I stay home and homeschool them, so I just tried to teach them phonics at night. Unfortunately the school system really sabotaged my efforts, undermining the phonics instruction by making them memorize sight words. The administrators and teachers thought I was nuts because their research showed their method was best. Uh-huh.
Today neither child (mostly grown up now) is an enthusiastic reader. Both have terrible spelling, punctuation, and grammar. They think books are a boring waste of time though they see me reading enthusiastically and though I’ve tried to show them how books extend the things they’re interested in. We have a library with probably over a thousand books in it, but they never pick up a volume.
Please don’t lecture me about what I should have done a dozen years ago. I fought the good fight to the extent an exhausted single mom could fight without any support from the other parents.
what we need is to get the liberals that infest our ed.system out, stop using the kids in stupid experiments to create new lib robots and go back to the pre-1950 way of teaching reading - phonics, which is how you teach dyslexics to read, or any 3 year old. 1 problem, when your kids is so board in class, they may just grab a book and ignore the current lesson. I actually had to get my son’s school to stop letting him read in class to try to get him to pay attention.
Interestingly, the authors deal with this very question to an unusual degree, insisting that English is actually much more rational than many people think.
Always keep in mind that, by way of defending the indefensible, Whole Word, the Education Establishment filled the air with what was basically anti-English propaganda. English is just so crazy, we were told for decades, kids have no choice but to memorize the entire language word by word!!!
This is the absolute truth. Which is why I homeschooled my age five son and he learned to read above fifth grade level after only a month of phonics practice.
I didn’t want to take any chances with my niece. I bought Zig Engelmann’s “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” and gave it to my sister. They took their time but my 6 year old niece is in first grade and can read chapter books. My sister decided to use it with her 4 year old and is halfway finished. Her friend was so impressed that she is doing it with her own 4 year old daughter, as well.
I went to Catholic school. We were taught to read by phonics in 1961. The name of the book was “Breaking the Sound Barrier”. We learned how to sound out words. The reading scores at my grammar school left the public schools in the dust.
My niece was unable to read in second grade due to dismal California schools. She had been labeled as with a learning disability.
Over the summer my sister sent her to us in Phoenix for a crash course in phonics taught by my wife, who is a school teacher. After a few weeks, my niece was excited about reading the newspaper comics to me. Without the extra help she would have been left behind.
You just can’t talk to the “whole word” people. They will not listen to sense.
Where’s the link?
i am not a teacher, yet i have taught three kids at three different ages to read using phonics... it is not rocket science... so glad i learned to read using phonics... the sad thing is—back in the early to mid-70s—kids in my class who didn’t pick up reading as easily were taught using the whole-word method... so they had two things going against them... not readily inclined toward reading... being taught using an inferior method...
I went to Amazon there is no pic.
So I went here:
Still no pic but book is for sale.
They still had “Dick and Jane” books that my parents remembered from their schooldays in the 1940s (a few updates, not many), and I had that read through double-quick, and on to the more advanced books in the school library.
I wish I could remember which book it was— at least 3/4 inch thick— that I wanted to check out, and the librarian said I shouldn't because I wouldn't be able to read it. I had to tell her I had read half of it while sitting in the library and was only checking it out because it was time to leave...
Good program. Too bad my wife and I can't have children; I'd be pleased to have them learn to read as I did.
Helps with spelling, too. If you can read and write “dog” (a canine), “mat” (a small floor covering) and “tic” (a small twitch), then “dogmatic” (insistent upon certain ideas) is literally child's play.
It’s my opinion that the complexity of English makes for a more complex mind.
Just don’t ask me to explain the failure of the Roman Numeral System, thank you.
Siegfried Engelmann is one of my heroes.
I’ve heard many good things about his “100 Easy Lessons” book. The worst thing you hear is that it goes slowly. But many kids actually prefer this.
Amazon has many reviews of this book.
This book is a great find.
Using a phonics-based approach, virtually any child can be taught to read in a few weeks, and to read at a relatively sophisticated level in a year, if you are willing to give you child 20-30 minutes a day consistently. This is why the average homeschooled child reads at the 89th percentile (See the results of Dr. Brian Ray’s peer-reviewed study at www.NHERI.org).
Government schools are institutionalized child abuse and need to be closed. All of them; no exceptions (not even your “really different” suburban schools).
My older brother and sister were caught in the whole word BS and were handicapped in their reading. Fortunately I had a phonics based reading program. However when my kids were in primary school the whole reading BS was back even after being discredited for decades. Fortunately my kids had a first grade teacher who bucked the trend and still taught them phonics.
Ping for postponed perusal.
I went to Catholic school in the '50s, and we were taught to read by sight. I still remember my first reading lesson: the nun wrote the word "Look" on the board and pointed out that it had two big eyes. We learned to read quickly, and I have always since been fast reader. Unfortunately, without phonics, I never really learned to spell, and have been a poor speller all my life.
My twin girls started school in Tennessee which uses phonics. When they were in first grade, I moved to Maine where they use whole word. My daughters in first grade were spelling phonetically with a southern accent. The teacher wanted to put them in remedial reading. I refused. At 23, their reading has obviously improved, but they still have problems with spelling quite often.
Phonics works, but there is the occasional child who can’t learn through phonics and must learn through other method (whole word, etc.)
Between my sister and I we were able to use phonics with all the kids, but one (they’re grown now, and have college degrees) so this was years ago and we didn’t think there was anything other than phonics. But one child could not process phonics and had to learn using a combination of other methods.
I asked a teacher who worked with learning disabilities and she said most kids can pick up phonics just fine, but there will be a child, from time to time, who has to be taught apart from phonics.
It doesn’t just teach phonics. It teaches every single step in the reading process.
Sight words screwed up my whole education. I have always had problems reading and spelling. I have, however, made it a game to get better.
Back when I started school (late 1950’s)...we used sight reading method (the Dick and Jane books were sight reading.) But our teacher taught us phonics too...she was old school.
“Government schools are institutionalized child abuse and need to be closed. All of them; no exceptions (not even your really different suburban schools).”
Liberals believe in Redistribution of Mind so that everyone is on the same mental level. Fiscal issues are important but I think that this an even bigger issue that isn’t addressed by most conservatives.
I attended Catholic School for 1st grade in 1970. Not sure if we used the same book, but I clearly remember a boy and a girl standing next to a Jetson's style flying saucer.
I'd say that Russian was about 95% phoenetic, German about 99%, and English about 50%. French is nearly as bad and it's likely that English inherits much of its fubar spelling from French.
“I asked a teacher who worked with learning disabilities and she said most kids can pick up phonics just fine, but there will be a child, from time to time, who has to be taught apart from phonics.”
I taught phonics and think it is the best way to learn to read; but, the “problem” is that people are individuals and no one size fits all. As a parent, you find what works. Some learn phonics at age 4; so learn look-say at age 8; some learn in a month; some take two years; some read phonetically but need spelling memorization; etc.
The problem, or one problem, with the big group school is, you have a class of 20 very distinct people all of whom probably would benefit from something tailored just to their strengths and weaknesses.
Which is why I have been homeschooling for excellence since 1992. . . in my family each child has made different rates of progress in different subjects at different times and it is my job to bring out each child’s maximum.
“I have, however, made it a game to get better.”
Attitude is everything. You will get better.
Flesch, Blumenfeld and others deal with this. They arrive at figures around 90%.
Note that inconsistent is not the same thing as non-phonetic. Let’s say an “i” has 5 pronunciations, all clustered around each other. They are all “i” just as 25 shades of blue are still blue.
All the experts say you have to start over. Here’s what that means radically boiled down:
1) Learn to say the alphabet with quick confidence.
2) Memorize the sound represented by each letter, so you can say those quickly.
3) Never ever again guess what a word means. Never ever again try to retrieve from memory what a word means. Those are the hard parts.
4) Make yourself sound out every word. You have the sounds of 100,000 words in your head, give or take. So after a syllable or two or three sounded out, you’ll get the word.
To what degree do you think this is feasible?
That’s a very succinct explanation of exactly what we’ve found and why we’re happy we homeschooled.
My niece who’s in her 30’s now is actually what set us (myself and siblings) on the path to homeschooling.
She was in 2nd grade and couldn’t read. Turns out she was the one who couldn’t learn phonics...so my sister took her to a learning specialist and he recommended home schooling. And since she was going to homeschool one, why not the older one too...and that was the beginning.
Since then we’ve (as in myself and siblings) homeschooled 11 kids, and we’re so happy we did. Many are adults now and have completed college, have jobs, and the ones who have families of their own are homeschooling their kids.
“The authors state: “It is absurdly easy to teach a child to read with the proper method. Most of the children in America could be taught in a few weeks or months at the age of five.”
I was close. 6 weeks to learn reading at 3.5 years old for my oldest. Easiest thing I every did. Once junior knew how to read, getting good at it came from simply liking to read. Math was another story though...lots of hours and several years of hard work to get ready for Calculus. In the end, well worth it and I taught him early enough so that the schools would NEVER get a chance to “unteach” it. They were beat - he could read and he knew his math...nothing they could do about it.
But that all makes sense to me. Reading has been around for 5000 years, Calculus more like 350 years...obviously harder to learn.
Sight reading instruction and fuzzy math — double whammy.
Phonics is definitely the way to go.
I read somewhere though that they are going to stop teaching cursive writing. I can’t imagine generations to come not being able to read/write cursive. They’ve got to at least be able to sign their names, I would think.
I understand :-(
RE: cursive writing. Already there are adults who can only print. The Whole Word people needed to get rid of cursive because it meant every word had another shape to memorize.
Meanwhile, Don Potter—echoing Samuel Blumenfeld—insists that cursive makes learning to read much easier. (donpotter.net)
Montessori said kids should learn to write before they learn to read.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.