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#31 of 49 Old 03-25-2009, 02:47 PM
 
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It has been the case that many who have argued for a phonetic approach to reading (and I would point out here, as I am sure you know, that there are different ways to do phonics and the current research shows that many schools doing phonics are not doing it in the most effective way) have also argued that reading instruction should start in pre-school.
I don't know why I've missed this connection, because, as you may have noticed , pushing early instruction is something that really rubs me wrong. But now that I think about it, I can see this connection.

The funny thing about all this is that I honestly can't even begin to fathom how people learn to read without learning about phonics - it's just that I know for a fact that it's not at all uncommon...among homeschoolers. Lillian
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#32 of 49 Old 03-25-2009, 03:28 PM
 
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In many ways, I agree with you. I have read research on both sides of the reading debate (my master's degree was in reading instruction). I can argue equally well for phonetic instruction and whole-word instruction.
How can you argue "equally well" for both, when the research does not support and never has supported whole word instruction? Equally well based on what? Your own experience? The experience of a minority of people here and there who learned with a whole word approach? Where is the research supporting whole word? How does a child who cannot sound out words learn to read a new word? Is a child really supposed to learn to memorize the look of every single word in the English language? If not, then how is that child going to be able to read all of them? If he is able, then he will have had to at some point pick up on the correspondence between letters and sounds, which means he understands the phonics. There is literally NO WAY to read a word that one hasn't memorized in print without understanding the relationship between letters and sounds. Either you have to teach it or they have to pick it up on their own, but it HAS to happen for a kid to be able to read every word in the language. Therefore, phonics is pretty much an open and shut case. Kids have to learn what letters stand for. Most of them will understand it a lot more thoroughly and a lot sooner if someone tells them.

The research even shows that the kids referred to as visual-spatial learners learn reading better with phonics. And that was in two studies paid for by a company which was selling whole word reading curriculum at the time! Additionally, your son already knew the letter/sound correspondence. He just wasn't reading when you thought he should. He's not an example of a kid being taught strictly whole word and I'm surprised that you're using him, a child who knew all of the appropriate letter sounds at a young age, as an example of a kid who has to have whole word reading instruction. Maybe he needed that to feel confident. Who knows? But I highly doubt he's going through life oblivious of what you taught him about phonics. He's seeing the rules in action and getting comfortable with how it all works by memorizing words. That has nothing to do with teaching a kid strictly whole word.

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We started early (well, about 4 1/2 to 5 years) with phonics instruction. We made sure ds#1 knew all his letter sounds, moved onto word families with short vowels, blended consonants, etc. We started the Explode the Code first book. He did great with it, but when we'd try BOB books, he struggled. He could spell phonetically, but not read phonetically. I have since done more research and realized ds is much more of a visual-spatial learner. Reading for him is whole-word. If he were in school, were a very well researched phonics-based instruction were taught, he'd struggle. He'd be in reading classes because at 7 1/2 he is still learning to read beginning primers. Pushing phonics on him at home, no matter how much research there is to support it, highly frustrated him and threatened to make him turn-off to reading (when in fact he LOVES books and LOVES stories and LOVES learning).
I don't understand what you're saying here, really. Maybe he's one of those kids who reads late and I don't see anything wrong with that (or him!) at all. I don't think this proves anything about whole word vs. phonics. How do you know it's the age and not the method?

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So, while I agree with you about the need to do your research as homeschoolers, and really seek out true research, we also need to really listen to our children.
I absolutely agree we should listen to our kids and never said otherwise or even hinted otherwise.

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There isn't any real harm in necessarily starting phonics instruction at age 5 or 6, but if there is resistance, we, as homeschoolers, need to respect that resistance and go back to the drawing board.
That doesn't necessarily mean that they shouldn't learn phonics. It means we need to try a different method of teaching them phonics, give them a break to let them mature or mix in some whole word. It doesn't mean phonics doesn't "work" for them.

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As we learn whole words, I am throwing in some phonics instruction too, if anything, to help eventually with his writing.
So again, your son is not a case for a strictly whole word method. He's a case for why whole word in addition to phonics might be good for some kids.

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But, phonics versus whole-word instruction is not a closed-cased, regardless of what the research seems to say. There are still many children out there that will not learn with phonics instruction because their brain is not wired that way. And though the majority of students do well with phonics instruction, that does not mean that whole-word instruction should be thrown out with the bathwater.
If it whole word means not teaching phonics, which is what the letter sounds you taught your son are (pointing that out for emphasis, not because you don't know lol), then yes, it should be thrown out with the bath water. Kids need to know what the letters stand for. And until some good research comes out showing that whole word can even begin to compete with phonics, the case is closed on a population-wide level. Again, this doesn't mean there aren't exceptions to the rule, but I already said that! My mother has her Ed.D. She's taught remedial reading and special education for over 25 years now. She's been saying the case was closed for years. She's read the research. She's done some of her own research. So while her expertise in no way makes me an expert, I'm not unfamiliar with the body of evidence out there.

And that's about all I have to say on the topic.
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#33 of 49 Old 03-25-2009, 04:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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:This thread really is so interesting and I am gaining valuable perspective on all sides, exactly what I was hoping for! Thank you to all of you for taking the time to get so detailed.

phathui5 can you tell me what you like about The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading ? How it differs from 100 easy lessons?

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#34 of 49 Old 03-25-2009, 04:06 PM
 
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The funny thing about all this is that I honestly can't even begin to fathom how people learn to read without learning about phonics - it's just that I know for a fact that it's not at all uncommon...among homeschoolers. Lillian
I guess there is a difference between "learning about phonics," (ie, being able to articulate the 70 or 72 different phonograms, and explain the rules for using them), and "knowing phonics" (which might mean intuiting the phonetic structure of the language, but not being able to articulate the rules). It seems clear to me from the research and from anecdotal evidence, that some children intuit the structure of language much quicker and easier than others.

But, understanding phonics (on either a conscious or subconscious level) is not the only issue. There are a whole host of other factors that go into reading. The speed with which your brain processes information, the way your eyes track and collect information, which brain hemisphere is active and many more factors impact reading ability. It is really a very complex learning process, and there are lots of places where it can go awry.


Anyway, I am really enjoying this thread!!!
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#35 of 49 Old 03-25-2009, 04:17 PM
 
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Go get a copy of Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: Why Our Children Should Play More and Memorize Less. Your library is sure to have a copy- it was a bestseller (edited to add that it's also an award-winner).

This book is written by educational researchers who specifically state in the book that children who are subjected to early formal academics are not reading any better than their peers who didn't have early formal academic training by third grade. However, the children who received early formal academics were found to be less creative, less enthusiastic about learning, and less likely to read a book for pleasure.

There's your evidence! Oh, and the book is pretty mainstream, and not a book about homeschooling. That really convinced my dh, who wasn't into homeschooling initially and now is a big advocate and supporter of natural and experiential learning.
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#36 of 49 Old 03-25-2009, 04:19 PM
 
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How can you argue "equally well" for both, when the research does not support and never has supported whole word instruction? Equally well based on what? Your own experience? The experience of a minority of people here and there who learned with a whole word approach? Where is the research supporting whole word? How does a child who cannot sound out words learn to read a new word? Is a child really supposed to learn to memorize the look of every single word in the English language? If not, then how is that child going to be able to read all of them? If he is able, then he will have had to at some point pick up on the correspondence between letters and sounds, which means he understands the phonics. There is literally NO WAY to read a word that one hasn't memorized in print without understanding the relationship between letters and sounds. Either you have to teach it or they have to pick it up on their own, but it HAS to happen for a kid to be able to read every word in the language. Therefore, phonics is pretty much an open and shut case. Kids have to learn what letters stand for. Most of them will understand it a lot more thoroughly and a lot sooner if someone tells them.

The research even shows that the kids referred to as visual-spatial learners learn reading better with phonics. And that was in two studies paid for by a company which was selling whole word reading curriculum at the time! Additionally, your son already knew the letter/sound correspondence. He just wasn't reading when you thought he should. He's not an example of a kid being taught strictly whole word and I'm surprised that you're using him, a child who knew all of the appropriate letter sounds at a young age, as an example of a kid who has to have whole word reading instruction. Maybe he needed that to feel confident. Who knows? But I highly doubt he's going through life oblivious of what you taught him about phonics. He's seeing the rules in action and getting comfortable with how it all works by memorizing words. That has nothing to do with teaching a kid strictly whole word.



I don't understand what you're saying here, really. Maybe he's one of those kids who reads late and I don't see anything wrong with that (or him!) at all. I don't think this proves anything about whole word vs. phonics. How do you know it's the age and not the method?



I absolutely agree we should listen to our kids and never said otherwise or even hinted otherwise.



That doesn't necessarily mean that they shouldn't learn phonics. It means we need to try a different method of teaching them phonics, give them a break to let them mature or mix in some whole word. It doesn't mean phonics doesn't "work" for them.



So again, your son is not a case for a strictly whole word method. He's a case for why whole word in addition to phonics might be good for some kids.



If it whole word means not teaching phonics, which is what the letter sounds you taught your son are (pointing that out for emphasis, not because you don't know lol), then yes, it should be thrown out with the bath water. Kids need to know what the letters stand for. And until some good research comes out showing that whole word can even begin to compete with phonics, the case is closed on a population-wide level. Again, this doesn't mean there aren't exceptions to the rule, but I already said that! My mother has her Ed.D. She's taught remedial reading and special education for over 25 years now. She's been saying the case was closed for years. She's read the research. She's done some of her own research. So while her expertise in no way makes me an expert, I'm not unfamiliar with the body of evidence out there.

And that's about all I have to say on the topic.
I don't think even die-hard whole-word teachers would say never teach a child the sounds letters make. What I am arguing (and I think sometimes terminology can hinder a discussion big-time ) is the difference between part-to-whole instruction (phonics-based) and whole-to-part instruction (whole-word based). My son learned all the letter sounds. He can spell most all short vowel words without any help. He does not read that way. He does not break words down part-to-whole to help him read. Even when we are reading together and I have him sound out a word, it is unnatural to him and I only have him do it to exercise his phonetic skills, not because I think it's going to help him read better. The point of whole-word instruction is that they have a good working vocabulary of words they know by sight (and I'm not talking about teaching Dolch words along with how to sound out others). As they mature and their brain begins making sense of it all, they are able to start applying what they know about one word to others. There is no need to learn every individual word by sight. Eventually, they will be able to make sense of the pieces of words. But, from the beginning they do better with whole pieces - their brains process the bigger picture much more easily than the pieces of the picture. (You should see him do puzzles. He can solve abstract math problems in his head and yet struggles at times with simple computation written out on a paper. Unless you've tried teaching a visual-spatial child, the research can only tell you so much.)

We have differing opinions. That is fine. We don't need to agree. (Heck, some of the most "educated" people in education can't agree. ) You have your resources to back you; I have mine. Yes, I can equally argue why whole-word instruction (whole-to-part) is the best way to teach reading and why phonics instruction (part-to-whole) is the best way to teach. I have done so quite successfully for my master's degree. Overall, I am a proponent of phonics-based instruction, when it is part of a whole language program. But, I am never a proponent of any program is used to the detriment of students, no matter how well proven it is.

I am sorry if my comment about listening to our children made you feel that I insinuated that you didn't. It was not my intention. I was simply addressing that the best research is for naught if it does not address each individual child. My son can learn all the phonics rules he wants. He can learn to spell based on phonics words. But, it does not help his reading. He still is not reading anywhere near "grade level" (whatever that means ... I have issues with that ). I have faith that it will click for him eventually, but pushing him through a way of teaching reading that is not working for him serves only to frustrate him, frustrate me, and eventually turn him off to learning completely. (I've seen that happen too.)

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#37 of 49 Old 03-25-2009, 04:21 PM
 
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I guess there is a difference between "learning about phonics," (ie, being able to articulate the 70 or 72 different phonograms, and explain the rules for using them), and "knowing phonics" (which might mean intuiting the phonetic structure of the language, but not being able to articulate the rules). It seems clear to me from the research and from anecdotal evidence, that some children intuit the structure of language much quicker and easier than others.
Yes, although I didn't phrase it well when I said "learn about." My own experience wasn't to "learn about" it - i went through the process of learning a lot of the rules in the process of learning to read. It was methodical, and it worked for me. But I really think there are a lot of people who absorb much of it without the kind of processes I went through.

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But, understanding phonics (on either a conscious or subconscious level) is not the only issue. There are a whole host of other factors that go into reading. The speed with which your brain processes information, the way your eyes track and collect information, which brain hemisphere is active and many more factors impact reading ability. It is really a very complex learning process, and there are lots of places where it can go awry.
Absolutely. The unique mind and body and environmental factors combined are altogether unimaginably complex. - Lillian
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#38 of 49 Old 03-25-2009, 04:26 PM
 
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Go get a copy of Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: Why Our Children Should Play More and Memorize Less. Your library is sure to have a copy- it was a bestseller (edited to add that it's also an award-winner).

This book is written by educational researchers who specifically state in the book that children who are subjected to early formal academics are not reading any better than their peers who didn't have early formal academic training by third grade. However, the children who received early formal academics were found to be less creative, less enthusiastic about learning, and less likely to read a book for pleasure.

There's your evidence! Oh, and the book is pretty mainstream, and not a book about homeschooling. That really convinced my dh, who wasn't into homeschooling initially and now is a big advocate and supporter of natural and experiential learning.
This is exactly what bothers me. You are conflating the two arguments. I agree that early formal academics is not beneficial and may be harmful. That evidence is in no way an indictment of formal, systematic teaching of reading. It is just an argument against doing it in the pre-school years.

Delayed academics does not equal "natural or experiential" learning.
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#39 of 49 Old 03-25-2009, 04:48 PM
 
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The funny thing about all this is that I honestly can't even begin to fathom how people learn to read without learning about phonics - it's just that I know for a fact that it's not at all uncommon...among homeschoolers. Lillian
When I was in school we did whole word reading instruction and learned to "sound things out" later on with larger words. There was none of that "buh ah uhllll b-a-ll" stuff. I guess "a is for apple" is sort of phonics instruction, but that was it. By the time I entered 2nd grade (age 7) I was bringing books to school to read for fun and I know I was reading easily before that.

Now, my homeschooled little brother on the other hand got the Bob books and I remember Mom and him going through lists of phonemes (bah, beh, bih, bee, boh, boo, etc). And he wasn't reading easily until age 10 and still doesn't like reading much, likes books, just aren't his thing. And he spells worse than me.

Same amount of being read to, in fact, he got hours more since I'd read to him and all his schooling was with being read to.

I don't understand how anyone can enjoy reading if they have to fight through sounding out every little word.
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#40 of 49 Old 03-25-2009, 04:49 PM
 
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There's your evidence! Oh, and the book is pretty mainstream, and not a book about homeschooling. That really convinced my dh, who wasn't into homeschooling initially and now is a big advocate and supporter of natural and experiential learning.
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This is exactly what bothers me. You are conflating the two arguments. I agree that early formal academics is not beneficial and may be harmful. That evidence is in no way an indictment of formal, systematic teaching of reading. It is just an argument against doing it in the pre-school years.

Delayed academics does not equal "natural or experiential" learning.
But wait... Even though they're not at all the same thing, there can end up being some overlap - in that by not starting all that so early, people have a chance to observe and see ways in which a lot of learning happens naturally and through experience, and they begin to move in that direction.

There would be children like I was (and my son, who never had any interest whatsoever in letters or reading till later he had something he wanted to read) who would just spend the early years in imaginative play, which is invaluable in its own rite, but there are others who would begin to take a look at reading and begin to learn naturally in their own unique ways. And that's not to discount the value of phonics at all - it's just that some children to seem to pick up reading in other ways.

And I totally understand your frustration! There have been any number of occasions when someone has asked online about how to teach a 3 year old to read, and I've commented that it's awfully young - only to have my hand slapped by people telling me the person hadn't asked about "unschooling" . It's not about "unschooling" - it's about honoring developmental readiness! But maybe it's just that many of us who are most concerned about that happen to also be people who are proponents of more natural learning. And maybe part of the overlap has to do with our also feeling it's not natural to try to teach things to children prematurely. There's a lot of complexity involved, and a new homeschooler coming to one of these forums to ask how to teach a young child to read has to sort out a lot of "stuff." Lillian
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#41 of 49 Old 03-25-2009, 05:20 PM
 
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I don't understand how anyone can enjoy reading if they have to fight through sounding out every little word.
This is true, but it is reflective of a fluency issue. Fluency is not just about whether you "know" by sight enough words. Rather it is often reflective of the speed with which the brain is processing information. Children who process information at a slower speed (and I am in no means suggesting that processing speed should be equated with intelligence, as has so often been the case) have a hard time gaining fluency. In order to read well your eyes literally have to be ahead of your brain (well that's a sort of crude way to put it, but you need to be looking ahead of the word whose meaning you are on so that you already have the next few words ready to go). These children need exercises that work specifically on gaining fluency. It is great that you were able to bring pleasure books to school in second grade. I have a great deal of sympathy for children who love books, but have to struggle with fluency so much that they don't get to do what you did. I see little reason for asking these children to wait to enjoy the pleasures of reading until they are older when we know there are things that can be done to help them gain fluency.

I guess on some level I see this as an equity issue. The people who have no problem reading often don't seem to see how assuming that all students should be able to do what they do means that you deprive many children of years of reading pleasure, vocabulary development, comprehension etc.
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But wait... Even though they're not at all the same thing, there can end up being some overlap - in that by not starting all that so early, people have a chance to observe and see ways in which a lot of learning happens naturally and through experience, and they begin to move in that direction.

There would be children like I was (and my son, who never had any interest whatsoever in letters or reading till later he had something he wanted to read) who would just spend the early years in imaginative play, which is invaluable in its own rite, but there are others who would begin to take a look at reading and begin to learn naturally in their own unique ways. And that's not to discount the value of phonics at all - it's just that some children to seem to pick up reading in other ways.

And I totally understand your frustration! There have been any number of occasions when someone has asked online about how to teach a 3 year old to read, and I've commented that it's awfully young - only to have my hand slapped by people telling me the person hadn't asked about "unschooling" . It's not about "unschooling" - it's about honoring developmental readiness! But maybe it's just that many of us who are most concerned about that happen to also be people who are proponents of more natural learning. And maybe part of the overlap has to do with our also feeling it's not natural to try to teach things to children prematurely. There's a lot of complexity involved, and a new homeschooler coming to one of these forums to ask how to teach a young child to read has to sort out a lot of "stuff." Lillian
Good points!!

When we don't start too early we do get to see the learning process differently. That's why I think there are lots of unschoolers who would make fabulous subjects for a research study.

But, I agree, it is hard when you are first starting out to sort through all this. Perhaps the only real consolation is that the schools are doing a dismal job or sorting through it all, so we can hardly do worse.
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#43 of 49 Old 03-25-2009, 05:41 PM
 
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When we don't start too early we do get to see the learning process differently. That's why I think there are lots of unschoolers who would make fabulous subjects for a research study.
I think that's why we're able to find so many stories among us about children learning to read in unusual ways. I found all those stories I linked to - How My Children Learned to Read, Two Brothers Who Learned Differently, Four Children Now Reading, and Persephonics - through an unschooling forum. And I thought at the time that it stood to reason that there would be more there, because those were people who'd had so much time during which natural exploration was going on. And let me say again that I'm sure I would not have been one of those who learned it seemingly through osmosis and exposure, even if I'd grown up in an unschooled environment - we're all different!

And that takes me to thinking about the way my creativity and fluidity in artistic things blossomed much later, and I think there's a connection - but that's a whole other conversation I don't have the time to get into right now...

- Lillian

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#44 of 49 Old 03-25-2009, 06:33 PM
 
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Yes, we are all different! And that is the main point I have taken from all my research.

One other thing I forgot to mention with regard to fluency is that you can often see these fluency issues if you work with a metronome. The kids with fluency issues will often have trouble staying on beat with the metronome. Their brains are simply not processing the information fast enough. But, again, this can be worked on and improved.

Recalling the metronome thing got me thinking about music education. I think there are some parallels between reading and music education. Obviously, some children are prodigious in music and can play instruments with very little instruction. They have perfect pitch and seem to intuit the structure of the language of music. Other children can learn to become proficient and enjoy playing an instrument with good instruction, and of course some of us really have to work at developing both an ear for music and musical skills.

But, I think like reading, there is good and bad music instruction. I love the Suzuki method. The whole philosophy is that with good, positive instruction anyone can become a proficient musician. And, it really does work.

We may all be able to learn to play an instrument in our elementary school band, but we will not have the proficiency that really good instruction would give us. Of course, the prodigious kids will do great anywhere. It's the rest of the population that really needs good instruction.

I think this is true of reading. Some kids will do great with any method, but most need good instruction to become truly proficient.

Ok, I am sure there are lots of flaws in this analogy, but it just occurred to me today
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I think this is true of reading. Some kids will do great with any method, but most need good instruction to become truly proficient.

Ok, I am sure there are lots of flaws in this analogy, but it just occurred to me today
I think its a great analogy!

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Still digesting back with reall toughts later
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briansmama Go get a copy of Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: Why Our Children Should Play More and Memorize Less. Your library is sure to have a copy- it was a bestseller (edited to add that it's also an award-winner).
I read this when it came out and loved it! Dh read *most* of it then too. Maybe we'll reread it.

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#47 of 49 Old 03-25-2009, 07:45 PM
 
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I think some of the disagreement comes from the different perceptions we have about how learning and teaching of reading works. I've always felt that the code needs to be shared with someone who wants to know how to read, and some people are arguing that yes, the code needs to be taught. But I think the thing we all sometimes miss is that some children are just able to figure out and therefore learn the code on their own without being taught - it's not that they didn't need the code, but that the little rascals - code breakers - figured it out on their own through close observation and creative thinking and thereby mess up all our theories ! And there seem to be others who instinctively learn to read from bigger parts without integrating the code - and maybe those are the ones who were referred to as doing better once they learn it. Lillian

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#48 of 49 Old 03-26-2009, 06:28 PM
 
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I might not agree 100% with all of the ideas in this thread, but I like that it's not the same old 'Oh, kids don't need anything...just read to them and they will learn how to read".

Exploring the complicated realm of the different ways people process reading instruction/information, and learn to decode print is important, imo.
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#49 of 49 Old 03-26-2009, 10:46 PM
 
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This thread is a very big help. Thanks.
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