• Fluency,  Reading Instruction

    Put a Finger on It! How Finger-Tracking Can Help Improve Children’s Reading

    As adults, we tend to take a lot of things about reading for granted.      For example, it’s obvious to us when book cover belongs in the front vs. the back. And everyone knows that English text is read from top to bottom and from left to right.  What we forget, however, is that children don’t come into the world automatically knowing these things; they have to be taught, either indirectly (from observing adults and older children read) or directly (from being taught by a caregiver or a teacher).  Even if children understand these aspects of reading well before they begin school, the actual act of turning squiggles on a page…

  • Phonemic Awareness,  Phonics

    Phonology, Phonemes, and Phonics

    Phonology Phonology is the system of speech sounds that make up a language.  Phonological awareness is the ability to recognize and distinguish between sounds in a language. It involves hearing only.  It allows people to do the following:  Count words in a sentence Count syllables in a word Identify rhymes Identify the sounds in a word  Manipulate sounds (e.g., replace the “g” in got with an “n”).  Phonological awareness has different levels.  For example, counting the words in a sentence and identifying rhymes requires a lower level of phonological awareness, whereas counting the syllables in a word requires a higher level.  Identifying sounds in a word and manipulating (adding to or deleting) those sounds…

  • Reading Instruction,  Science of Reading,  Teacher Training,  Three Cueing System

    The Science of Reading: 5 Key Concepts

    The Science of Reading has been in the news a lot recently, and not surprisingly, many people (including a lot of teachers) find the sheer amount of information it involves overwhelming. So, the basics: the Science of Reading is not a movement or a belief system. It is a vast body of research based on hundreds of studies conducted by dozens of researchers over many decades, and involving fields in the social and hard sciences such as psychology, linguistics, and neuroscience. While researchers still have questions about the exact processes by which skilled reading develops, a sufficient number of studies have produced similar results to allow them to conclude that…

  • Decoding,  Learning Disabilities,  Phonics,  Three Cueing System

    10 Signs of a Decoding Problem

    Written English is a code in which letters and groups of letters are used to stand for sounds, and to be able to read, children must learn to break it—literally, to de-code it. Although skilled reading involves many factors, decoding ability is the foundation on which it rests; after all, it is impossible to pay attention to meaning unless one knows what the words say! The following list is intended to indicate some key warnings signs that may indicate a decoding problem. It is not, however, intended to be used a source for any particular diagnosis. Keep in mind that children learn to read at varying rates, and that some…

  • Phonics,  Teacher Training

    What Does It Mean to Be “Phonetic”?

    One of the most common justifications for not teaching reading as a code in which letters correspond to sounds is that written English contains too many exceptions, and that attempting to teach them all will only lead to confusion. In reality, however, the vast majority of English words are spelled phonetically (50%) or contain only one irregular sound, usually a vowel (36%). (Research also indicates that children can often infer the identities of many common words with slightly irregular misspellings.)  I recently posted these statistics on Facebook and received a predictably snarky response of “How many perfectly phonetic words are in this post?” as if the point of the post…

  • Uncategorized

    And Seem a Saint

    We don't tend to assume kids can swim and toss them in the deep end with no preparation to teach them how to swim. We'd rightly assume there's a 50/50 chance they'd drown without first being shown how to swim step-by-step. Someone I met once, likewise, compared education to tossing baby birds out of a nest, and the thought naturally occurred to me that, just as an ill-prepared swimmer might drown, a baby bird with no flying experience has a good chance of dying of a broken neck on the forest floor without being taught how first.

  • Uncategorized

    Royal Jelly

    This column has been in process for over two years. It grew from thinking about the way Royal Jelly determines the life roles of bees. It is a special substance that goes to all bees—but some get more than others. What this fact of simple biology made me think about was something I see each day.  In our society there is a similar treatment, a special potion that admits the young person into the inner circle. For us, Americans in the 21st century, that special potion is learning to read.  Without it a child will be stunted and sterile—left behind and closed out. A child may become sad and withdrawn, or…