Skip to comments.Anyone Still Interested in Theories of Reading??
Posted on 03/02/2011 4:15:59 PM PST by BruceDeitrickPrice
A recent post about a new book by Denise Eide called Uncovering the Logic of English prompted more than 80 comments.
One person in particular objected that phonics was not the entire answer, and argued that Sight-Words were easy to learn, and that many people read this way. I dont think so.
So I am always trying to figure out CLEVER NEW WAYS to explain this mess to all the confused parents out there, and the confused teachers in the schools.
This new article points out quite simply that reading, as described and prescribed by the so-called experts in Whole Word, is an absurdly difficult task, not at all the easy, pleasurable activity that most of us call reading.
Real readers just settle into a book and read! Sight-Word "readers" spend all their time looking for clues and trying to figure out the mystery in front of their eyes.
The title of the article is: Clueless: Reading as Detective Work. It makes the case that Whole Word is quackery and the reason we have 50 million functional illiterates.
This is a somewhat specialized article, but its a good read for anyone involved with reading.
There are also three YouTube videos accompanying the article; these provide more context.
Does it involve a lot of reading?
No; fortunately it was done in the style of ancient cave-paintings so as to reach the illiterate masses.
Presumably there's a tremendous amount of data processing going on in our brains to check out the stuff in the middle ~ odds are it's a probability search rather like the one Google.com uses to look ahead to give you clues about where to look next.
I use a combination of WHOLE WORD and WORD SHAPE to rapidly whip through any amount of writing ~ from an address to a whole book.
My grandson is six years old. He went from not reading to reading EVERYTHING in a matter of weeks. He is learning phonetically, and doing wonders. He can read everything I have typed on this post, without help. Unfortunately, he can also read the graffiti in the walls, also.
I started Russian study about 18 years ago.
My first lessons were definitely phonics-based when it came to learning new words, and it still is.
Another person on this thread (I forget who) mentioned the MASSIVE amounts of signal and image processing our brains do on-the-fly.
It does seem that to LEARN to read, you need phonics, but that the brain trains itself to sight-read over time.
BUT, BUT, BUT, throw a new word at me in Russian, and it’s back to PHONICS-PHONICS-PHONICS............
I think the phonics method teaches people to recognize the sounds of letters, syllables and words. After that, we begin to memorize the whole words that we learned syllable by syllable.
But any explanation of how someone begins to learn starting with the whole word just sounds like nonsense, or some cumbersome memorization procedure.
Phonics is a pedagogical tool. Eventually, as people become experienced they learn to read by sight and can skip over the intermediary details. The question is whether it’s better, for a child who hasn’t learned yet, to jump straight to sight-reading or use phonics as a stepping stone.
I don’t really know the answer. I remember I was a late reader, and I was taught nothing but Phonics. It’s hard to remember exactly how old I was at the time, but I did have similar aged friends who were proficient readers. Yet I struggled and struggled, and got frustrated, and put up with the taunts from my big sis about being “stupid” (what else are siblings for?). Then I clearly remember one day it was like a light was turned on in my brain and from then on I had no trouble reading anything. Sometimes a child just needs to mature a little before they’re ready to start learning.
I have found that children are individuals, each having their own learning style and pace of learning. There is no one way, therefore, to teach reading to all children.
Many strategies should be tried, and if you find one that works, use it. If not, try something else.
Uhhhhhhhhh .... no.
My son, now a second year law student, learned the same way at about the same age.
The professional educators when he was in elementary education, were negative about the process but he too was the most effective reader in the advanced placement group.
Well, to rehash discussion on a thread a few months ago....
I’m convinced that there’s some percentage of people for whom phonics is an intermediary step that’s a waste of time. Perhaps there’s a far larger percentage of people for whom phonics is the best initial teaching method.
But I was reading before entering Kkindergarten, and I’ve never sounded out a word in my life; my sole instruction was being read to a lot.
I was reading at a 12th grade level by 3rd grade, scored a perfect 800 on the Verbal Section of the GRE, and I can read an average novel in a couple of hours.
At any age, phonics seems unimaginably tedious to me. But that’s just me.
Unfortunately the whole issue has been politicized; no one way of learning to read is right for anyone, as is true of pretty much any teaching method.
For the most part everybody is unaware that the MACULA (as it's called these days) has nerve tendrils going from the left side of the center of the eye to the right side of the visual center, and those from the right side of the center of the eye to the left side of the visual center.
There they match up with other tendrils from the other eye. As your eye traces through printed words it sees both the leftside of the word and the rightside of the word SIMULTANEOUSLY and the brain scans the other letters or hieroglyphic elements in between and matches them up with something meaningful in its vast warehouse of word parts lists.
This has to work with alphabets, syllabaries, pictoglyphs and hieroglyphs. There may well be other writing systems somewhere that this would accommodate.
Then there's the classic question ~ why is it an educated person knows how to read so many tens of thousands of words he's never heard? He certainly doesn't need the phonemes (syllables or character marks) in mind if he's never heard the word!
BTW, the theory discussed in the paper I referenced would also explain why Chinese have a gene that facilitates their accessing TONES separately from the words. When it comes to Chinese-like languages you need an additional sound pathway to pick up on the word you are dealing with ~ hearing the syllables just doesn't do the trick.
The Chinese also have a universally taught written language that has no "sound values" at all ~ it's strictly visual. Think about that a moment ~ spoken Chinese uses syllables and tones (spread across the width of the syllable) yet written Chinese is 100% look-see-think!
There are a few hundred thousand words in English. No adult knows them all. What does an adult do when he or she encounters a word they don't know? I bet they look at the letters and syllables, left to right. Then make a stab at the pronunciation, and look for any familiar root words that are part of the new word, etc., and then use a dictionary.
It would seem that everyone would be better off learning to look at the letters and syllables that make up a word, and learning to pronounce and discern the meaning of most new words to some extent, and then use a dictionary.
On another note, a friend of mine said that her first grade grandson is not being taught cursive writing in school. She said they are only teaching printing. If I recall correctly, we started learning cursive in 1st grade. This is in the NY State school system. I don't have any grandchildren, so can anyone tell me if it's like that in their schools too?
He might not need them to read the new word, but he needs them to learn to pronounce or speak the word. We pronounce words in a manner different from your description of how we read, or recognize a word by sight.
Then we need to learn the meaning, which we might discern from root words, etc, or we might need a dictionary.
I learned to read by sight and my active and passive vocabularies are far broader than that of my children which were taught phonics
It is my observation that most sight readers naturally incorporate some phonics as their reading skill matures.. also we tend to break words into known parts, being able not just to READ the word but know its definition ...and in the end learning the meaning is more important than the pronunciation
How ridiculous. Neither one of them could avoid what's called "writer's cramp" so that was always an automatic "-" grade.
It's probably the same now but we were well on our way to getting "typing" substituted for "writing" in the grading structure 20 years ago!
You'll notice that to keep up with this vast flow Bill Gates actually implemented an overt program of substituting Hieroglyphics where practical!
I've learned many new words reading about nutrition and a few other technical subjects, words I've probably never heard pronounced and might not be able to pronounce correctly. But that is not true for less technical new words people might encounter reading, and also hear from others and learn to use in speech themelves.
Speech has its own demands. Reading is different.
I think this comment is based on that so-called research from Cambridge?? First and last letters? Probably a hoax.
Anyway, I believe the brain does as much—or as little—as it needs to do to keep moving along. No rules. Just right. But you are probably not using shapes, because that would imply you have all those thousands of shapes in your memory, like flags, and you are looking for matches. Isn’t it simpler just to read?
This is an important point. What I’m finding over and over is that the so-called progressive ideas turn out to be regressive.
Sight-Words damage the slower kids more than the faster kids. The slower kids can’t see through to the phonics and end up being functional illiterates. If liberals would really look at the damage they do...
Well, my grandson is homeschooled, so I don’t have first hand info, but that is what I heard, too.
Try teaching classrooms full of eleventh and twelfth graders who where taught using sight and whole word methods. They can’t read. It’s that simple, and extremely sad and frustrating.
Not only did they write/record for a living, they had ample opportunity to spread the genes that facilitate the process.
If they didn't get around to your womenfolk in time your ethnic group just doesn't have what it takes to learn to read.
I couldn’t disagree more. I, like many voracious readers not only didn’t learn to read phonetically, but we lack the internal monologue that phonics forces. In my case it occurred naturally, but truly good readers share on thing in common: No internal monologue when reading. If memory serves me correctly, it’s almost impossible to exceed something in the neighborhood of 300wpm while sub-vocalizing, which by necessity is forced by a phonetic approach to reading.
That’s been exactly my experience as well. I was an advanced reader by the time I started kindergarten, and was always excused to do other activities when the other children were going through the reading curriculum. It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized that the vast majority of the population actually hears a little voice in their heads that pronounces the words to them as they read. I still find the whole the concept creepy.
I agree 100%. However, giving credit where credit is due, I admit that I’m the world champion at amassing a vocabulary of words, and pronouncing them incorrectly until I’ve heard them. I still remember my father laughing uproariously when I pronounced pedestrains Ped-uh-strains when I was around 7.
But would I trade reading at less than a third of the speed I currently read, and perhaps even have my comprehension suffer to more accurately pronounce words that I’ve read? Not no, but hell no. When I’m in doubt, I’m perfectly capable of reading a pronunciation key.
Most good readers, can read the following with ease. Phonetic readers, not so much.
Arocdnicg to rsceearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosnt mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pcale. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit pobelrm. Tihs is buseace the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
Fonics would have put me on the short bus...I had trouble when we were taught fonics in Spelling ...in 2nd or 3rd grade.
It should be determined if children are visual or auditory learners and taught to their strength. Kids who have trouble blending sounds are going to have a problem learning to read with phonics.
But schools teach "methods" rather than kids. Not all kids are going to learn by any one method.
But English, no ~ no little voice ~ used to be a Latin voice in there, but I got rid of him ~ just gets in the way of the LONG STUFF.
He brought a documentation book to us and showed us the word "UTILS" which stood for "UTILITIES".
As a family secret-joke we still call new software "YOU TILLS".
I believe the subvocalizing thing is a myth. As you process the letters faster, you no longer say the letters, if you ever did.
A pianist doesn’t think, That’s a C, use the first finger to hit that key.
As part of trying to drive phonics out of existence, the Education Establishment told a lot of lies.
Have it your way. However, I’m extremely glad that phonics was never forced on me, and I’m extremely happy with the results my own children had when we decided (homeschoolers) that phonics was a poor approach.
You are a sight reader. I am too. When I was a freshman in college, I was in an Eng comp class for kids that scored over 650 on the Eng Achievement and SAT. We were the only class that had spelling because they told us that studies showed the the best, fastest sight readers were notoriously poor spellers. Are you a poor speller?
Anyway, there is no one right way to learn to read because there is no single way people learn. There are visual learners and there are auditory learners and all sorts of combinations in between. I get tired of hearing people say that teaching sight reading is wrong, phonics is the only way to teach. It would have bored me to death if I had to sound out every word that I read.
Sight reading is simply a natural way to learn to read. The student actually teaches himself and that is the way many pre-schoolers pick up reading on their own. My two year old grandson can read, but he doesn’t know the alphabet.
All I know is that a generation or two of kids has been hooked on phonics and still can’t read or spell.
It’s not a matter of saying the letters. Sub-vocalization is the process of internally saying the words to yourself, not the letter. Good visual readers do not hear the words when they read.
Yes. Speaking for myself, I'm a visual reader and until college I was a notoriously poor speller. In this day of spellcheck, I'd probably still be a poor speller. I had to buckle down my freshman year and spend a couple of hours a night, every night for my first semester, forcing myself to learn to spell. A couple hundred hours later, I could still read better than my classmates, and I equaled or surpassed most them in spelling as well.
Me: "...put it in gelatin (guh-lay-tin)..."
Teacher: You stupid idiot! (Really!--he called everybody stupid idiot at one time or another.)
Me: Oh! jelatin.
BTW, those of us who survived his classes didn't have problems in college. Several of his C students in chemistry were tutors in college. One of his better students taught Physics at Rice, after getting his Ph D. Several future doctors, dentists, engineers were in H.S. the 4 years with me...and we had 300 kids at most.
His name always comes up at reunions...he passed many years ago but not forgotten.
I am a perfect speller ~ if I make a mistake it's simply because I usually type over 100 wpm. Modern keyboards are too weak for my speed.
Ever read the Oxford English Dictionary? I have ~ lots of words in there ~ incredible words ~ long words. I usually pick them up as fast as I see them.
NOTE: I have an unfair advantage here. I wrote vast quantities of postal regulations over a 10 year period AND several major handbooks (of hundreds of pages) explaining the intricate details of all sorts of processes and gadgets.
Later on, as my vision began deteriorating, I turned to simply reviewing monetary disputes and resolving them. They owed the money. It was my job to get it. There is actually a lot of very specialized writing in that sort of thing.
Then, they invented the internet and I never looked back.
She later entered and won beauty contests.
We hired her 'cause she was a good speller Fur Shur.
As others have pointed out, there is a BIG difference between learning to read phonetically and how one reads after becoming proficient.
I can’t speak for others, because I quite literally cannot remember knowing how to read. But from what I’ve read those who are natural sight readers will pick up reading without strain, while phonics allows those who aren’t natural sight readers to develop proficiency.
Exactly... and today we have a" talking" internet to tell us how it is pronounced :)
Practice, practice, practice. :-)
this is excellent, I was trying to write something along
this line and gave up.
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