• Decoding,  Phonics,  Teacher Training,  Three Cueing System

    The Three-Cueing System and Its Misuses (or: The Biggest Problem in Reading Instruction You’ve Never Heard of)

    A couple of weeks ago, I attended a conference on the science of reading held by John Gabrieli’s lab at MIT. It was, if nothing else, an eye-opening experience—not always in good ways, but certainly in ways that laid bare the problems involved in implementing broad changes to how reading is taught in the United States. At the reception after the conference, I happened to be introduced to Nancy Duggan, one of the founders of the Massachusetts chapter of Decoding Dyslexia, an organization that advocates for screening and support for dyslexic students. In the course of our conversation, I mentioned one of the stranger reading problems I’d seen among my students—namely,…

  • Phonics,  Sight Words

    Sight Words Aren’t Just “Little” Words

    I was scrolling through my Instagram feed the other day when I came across an image that made me stop and do a double take (and not in a good way): Now, I’m admittedly not an expert in reading pedagogy for young children, but even I can tell that there’s something wrong with this picture. It seems obvious that is should be treated as a sight word because, well, it’s one of the most common words in the entire language and because it follows a semi-irregular phonetic pattern. Had is a different story altogether. Yes, it’s short, and yes, it’s super common, but the differences end there. There are a lot of words…

  • Uncategorized

    The Dyslexia Distraction

    In discussions about reading instruction, a commonly raised point is that students with reading disabilities—particularly dyslexia—suffer disproportionately when deprived of systematic instruction in phonics. In fact, this is virtually impossible to dispute—whereas many students in whole language classrooms do manage to figure out enough of the rules to become reasonably proficient readers, students who cannot make sense out of word/sound relationships have no way of keeping up. And if their difficulties are not noticed in time, or they lack access to competent reading specialists, either through their schools or privately, the consequences can indeed be extremely dire. (The percent of prison inmates with reading disabilities is, for example, astronomical.) I’m saying…

  • Phonics

    Unbalanced Literacy

    (Note: A PDF of this post can be downloaded here. Over the last year or so, an education reporter named Emily Hanford has published a series of exceedingly important articles about the state of phonics instruction (or rather the lack thereof) in American schools. The most in-depth piece appeared on the American Public Media project website, but what are effectively condensed versions of it have also run on NPR and the NY Times op-ed page. If you have any interest in how reading gets taught, I highly recommend taking the time for the full-length piece in APM: it’s eye-opening and fairly disquieting. While it reiterates a number of important findings regarding the importance of…