Sunday, September 18, 2011

Find 3 Things Wrong With This Picture, Part 2

From "My Second Grade Reading Records", sent home with Younger Daughter.

I've got more than 3 this time.  As the parent of a child who was taught these kinds of strategies more than phonics, and as a result tries to guess and fake her way through reading, this one really winds me up.

 1.)  What's missing?  The one strategy that actually works -- look at all the letters and SOUND THEM OUT!

2.) What does "get your mouth ready" even mean?  And why should you "get your mouth ready" in preparation for looking at the pictures?

3.)  Kids should not be encouraged to "look at the pictures" before they start reading the words.  This is how we train kids to be word-guessers instead of readers.

4.)  Kids should not be encouraged to first scan the words and find ones they already know.   They need to learn to read the words IN ORDER, by reading the word's letters IN ORDER.


  1. Wow. I'm open to the idea that some kids learn to read in ways that are less linear than we ordinarily think, but it doesn't necessarily follow that they (all of them?) should be taught to pursue non-linearity as a strategy.

    For one thing, when these teachers say "Read SKIP Read -- Skip then go back," I think they have a very specific idea of what they mean, but is there any reason to think that the kids understand what they mean? I bet there are a lot of ways you could "skip then go back" that would be very counterproductive to learning to read.

    Even if you bought into some of these things as describing how some kids learn to read, are kids who are struggling readers really going to be sophisticated enough to follow through on this crazy formula? I just picture some poor kid staring at a book and thinking, "I've got to use my mouth and skip around and look for a part I already know . . ." Seems like it will just make the activity of reading sound like some kind of byzantine mumbo-jumbo.

    This chart makes it seem like non-linear "reading" is the goal, rather than a possible short-term strategy for getting to the goal of linear reading. If the kids so much as look at an adult who is reading a book, they'll see that in fact "good readers" don't do most of those things at all. What do they make of that?

  2. ***
    Seems like it will just make the activity of reading sound like some kind of byzantine mumbo-jumbo.

    Chris, this is exactly what happened to my younger daughter.

  3. This is just infuriating. It's the reason I have to spend the cost of a college education to send my dyslexic son to a school where they know how to teach reading.

    Not only do teachers need to start teaching both phonics and sight word memorization, but they need to do both these things systematically, not randomly or according to whatever the child happens to be reading or they're teaching. There's too much to memorize for a child having difficulties if each day she's trying to remember 5 different letter groups: ing, ough, str, etc. You shouldn't teach these things all at once, but little by little. When one is mastered then you start the next. The problem with the way stuff is taught in public schools is that they want to start the kids on content, independently, immediately, whether they have learned to read or not. As a result, the children never learn to read because they're forced to try to learn everything at the same time.

    These instructions are abysmally misguided.

  4. I sort of see what happened-you're right, the worksheet is poorly conceived. (although in defense of teachers who teach reading, the whole area of literacy has been such a political battlefield that often they're not given much of a choice in how they teach it. My friend in NY just start her son in kindergarten-they have to be able to read AND write by 1st grade now, because Bloomberg decided that's a good idea. If you're not willing to go along with that as a teacher, your only choice is to quit-not easy in this economy). The problem is that some of the advice on the sheet is for kids who are learning decoding (i.e., get your mouth ready-which is a way to get kids to start sounding out an unfamiliar word, and chunking), and some of the advice is for kids who are already reading and are having trouble comprehending. (The read ahead/read back thing is something I'd be willing to bet you do, even if you're not aware of it-if something doesn't make sense to you, you keep reading to see if there's more information later that will help. Or if you get to a point where you realize you have no clue what just happened, you go back and re-read). I would like to hope that this confusing sheet came with some good classroom discussion about when and where certain things are helpful. (the picture thing, I agree, is not helpful at this stage at all.)

  5. @Chris -- you've made a very important point. If these non-linear strategies were presented as something kids might use occasionally, I'd be OK with it. For instance, if kids were told at some appropriate point "sometimes you might need to guess a word from context", I could live with that. The problem is when kids are given the impression that guessing the words from context is what reading is all about, and phonics is for remedial work only.

  6. Similarly, with read ahead/ read back, sure, it's something I do occasionally, if I must. But it's wrong to teach it to kids as if it's the first strategy to try.

    And I NEVER skip read. Why would you teach that?

  7. Get your mouth ready means if you see a word starts with b, get your mouth ready to make the sound of b.

    Chunk- if your child knows the word families -an, -et, -ing, etc, she can quickly and easily sound out the word can, set, wing.

    Again, many of these are strategies to help with sounding out - they give kids a more concrete way to actually sound the words out without just repeating "Sound it out, sound it out!" "What does that mean?" I have heard students say. Well, get your mouth ready, you see it starts with a b. You know what sound b makes. (Gives them confidence when getting to a tricky word to know they have the skills to figure it out.)