Skip to comments.Why Sight-Words Sabotage Reading and Create Dyslexics
Posted on 12/27/2010 7:18:17 PM PST by BruceDeitrickPrice
There are two ways to teach children to read.
1) Whole Word enthusiasts say that children must memorize the shapes of words one by one, just as the Chinese memorize their ideograms. This is the wrong way.
English has far too many words for this approach ever to be considered.
Even if an industrious child could memorize 2,000 word-shapes (which is extremely difficult and takes MANY years), that child would still be functionally illiterate. The vast majority of the English language remains unknown.
Just as bad, words the child supposedly knows are rarely known with automaticity. Sight-word readers typically stumble, hesitate and sweat as they try to remember the meanings.
Furthermore, every English letter and word appears in a bewildering number of variations. Even if a child memorizes bright, its not likely that the child would recognize BRIGHT.
Whole Word is a Ponzi scheme. It creates an illusion of early success. A child might memorize 50 words, and seem to be reading. The bitter reality, however, is that things never get faster or easier.
Theres more bad news. After a few years, the child is increasingly adrift in a maddening vortex of words, some recognized, many half-known and slowly recognized if at all, and many thousands more not known at all and necessarily guessed at. Each sentence is a minefield, and might never be truly deciphered.
Note that the child speaks English all day with perfect fluency. But printed English has become an alien blur, an oozing wound. Words actually seem to slide on the page. Where there should be meaning, there is only mystification and pathology. Educators call this state dyslexia and typically try to pretend that the child was born with it. A more honest name might be schoolitis....
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(Excerpt) Read more at rantrave.com ...
Blame sight-words. The essential fallacy here is that children are taught to NAME words, not to READ words. Introducing this fallacy into the schools is best understood as a colossal mistake. Or a crime of epic proportions.
2) Common sense: English is a phonetic language and obviously must be taught phonetically. That is, children are taught that printed letters represent sounds. Which is all that phonetic means.
Learn the 26 letters and the sounds they represent, and you are halfway home. Learn how two or three letters can blend together to form a new sound. Letters make syllables; and syllables make words.
Learning to read is like learning to play the piano. You learn the scales. You take baby steps. You practice. Each week you can do a little more. In a few months you are playing little songs. (Or reading little stories. Every highly regarded phonics program makes the same claim, a short lesson each day for four months will teach a child to read. Within a year, they can select their own books. Any good program plus patience, poetry, and the passage of time equals success.)
Phonics appears most difficult at the beginning. There seem to be a lot of little details and rules to deal with. This alleged difficulty was used by the experts to beat up on phonics. The main initial argument for sight-words was that learning phonics was boring and hard work, especially for the slower kids. So what was the idiotic answer? Make them memorize the English language one word at a time. Talk about boring, hard work that never ends!
Ironically, it turns out that the slower kids seem to be the ones that most need these details and rules. According to Joan Dunn, a teacher: They want to be taught step by step, so that they can see their progress. The duller they are, the more important and immediate is this need."
Thats a powerful insight. Simply recall a subject that was VERY difficult for you; and you immediately know how most ordinary people want to be taught most subjects. With regard to reading, the more verbal kids can just pick it up, as musical kids will pick up music. But the slower kids desperately want to know the phonics details because those details give the child control over print. English has its inconsistencies but far too much is made of them. Typically, sounding out words will get you to the word or close. Sight-words, if youre not totally sure, are like faces you see in a crowd--do you know that person? Did you ever meet that person. How can you be sure??
The astonishing thing for me when I look at videos on YouTube and the internet generally, there is so much material still pushing sight-words, and in a very smug way, despite the horrific fact that we have 50,000,000 functional illiterates. Isnt that number obvious proof that the experts pushing sight-words dont know what theyre doing? (The experts might counter that they are pushing sight-words mainly in the early grades; but once the whole-word reflex is developed, real reading becomes much more difficult!)
QED: Get sight-words out of the schools. Test the various phonics programs against each other to find the best. But even bad phonics is better than a good sight-word curriculum.
Because many schools insist on being obtuse, parents should protect their kids by teaching them letters and sounds early on. The basic idea is to familiarize a child with how English works. If the child later attends a school with phonics instruction, it will be very easy. If the child attends a school using sight-words, the child has been inoculated to a large degree. Once the child understands that letters on the page stand for sounds, that child is safe from the worst ravages of sight-words.
. ...For more on why sight-words are a dead-end, see 42: Reading Resources on Improve-Education.org. This article also includes a list of phonics programs.
. ....All three videos deal with aspects of this discussion. (Titles left to right are: Preemptive Reading -- Teach Your Child Early; "Why Sight-Words Prevent Reading and Create Dyslexia"; "The Biggest Crime in American History."
. END ARTICLE .
If you want to learn English then learn Latin so that you can figure out what words mean.
Chinese is a picture language, English is not. Who ever heard of teaching English in this way? It’s lunacy.
It certainly helps to learn even a few latin root words.
I know for a fact that “sight reading” has been taught in public schools in the US for over 40 years.
It’s part of a conscious effort to dumb down the populace.
The last Presidential election proved that it works.
“Why Johnny Can’t Read” was published in 1955, before I was born. I used the appendix as phonics lessons for my own sons because they were still using sight words in the 1990s.
I would say “sight words” is what people figure out on their own AFTER they learn how to read. You don’t truly know the english language until you’ve had time with at least one other language, and learned to type. I would say learn the basics of french and spanish and be able to type 50 words a minute(in english). Until then, you are only semi literate.
But one odd fact remains ... after 20 years or so of heavy reading, good readers are actually look-seeing ....except for new words. But one must start with phonics ... the alphabet "code."
BTW, it turns out that not all Egyptian hieroglyphics were not really "symbols," but sounds! IOW, a picture of a hawk did not necessarily mean "Hawk," but the "H" sound sort of thing. But just to make it interesting, sometimes the pictograph meant the picture!
BTW, I have actually ... me, no teacher here ... taught "dyslexic" kids to puzzle out words based on phonics ... Look at a "Hardy Boys" novel from the 1920s. You would find that a HS kid of today couldn't make it through a page!
Just from my personal perspective, I can’t fathom phonetics at all. It can’t be right for all children.
I was reading at 4 (was just read to a lot, no pre-school)and have NEVER “sounded out” a word in my entire life. In third grade I was reading at a 12th grade level, and I scored 780 on the SAT verbal, and 800 on the GRE verbal.
I’ve always sight-read or “whole word” read.
Had some embarassment over mispronouncing words I knew but had never heard or sounded out, but I can’t fathom how tedious it must be to have to learn to read by sounding out syllables.
On the other hand, I have some sort of learning disorder about learning foreign languages - just hopeless at all three of them I tried.
It’s how I learned and I started reading at 4. By the time I was in third grade I was reading 5 books in a weekend. Never learned phonics. Big problems with arithmetic, though.
I learned to sight read, and have somehow limped along through grade school,high school and college, have a professional career and raise a literate family of college grads..
Maybe those “functional illiterates” have issues other than reading methods
Nothing is more important to learning to read than starting life in a family that reads. My family produces early readers as a result.
My sisters and I started kindergarten knowing how to read and continued through school reading well beyond our grade levels.
Perhaps we were separated at birth - see my earlier post. Also learned whole words at four. Good at languages, imbecilic at arithmetic.
My son was taught sight words and fell behind even though we spent 3 hours every night working with him. We brought him home and taught him phonics and with in a year he was a year ahead of public school.
We taught my daughter phonics when she was 4 years old. She ran rings around the gifted kids at the school that taught sight words. She was in 3rd grade and set the pace for the gifted reading program, which had up to 10th graders in it.
Phonics works, sight words don’t. Can’t convince me otherwise.
Ever read McLuhan? I almost want to retract my previous. It’s ultimately how we wind up reading anyway, isn’t it?
Not tedious at all actually. How did you deal with words you were unfamiliar with?
The truth is probably that there’s some small percentage of kids that don’t actually need to be “taught” to read at all, a good-sized group of more advanced kids that can start right off at sight-reading without the tedium of phonics, and then a larger group of kids that need to start with phonics to learn to read.
Unfortunately people on both sides turned supporting their form of reading instruction into some sort of politicized moralistic crusade.
Just a few minutes ago, I "sounded out" the word "Youghiogheny."
Your family would have liked my family.
Funny my family was giving out books for Christmas. We read a lot too. My daughter is in the kitchen on the internet learning how to crochet now.
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