One of Richard McManus’s favorite stories about a student involves a young girl who was brought to the Fluency Factory to prepare for a private-school admissions exam. She was clearly very bright, and when she was asked to read aloud, she did so quite fluently. Richard assumed that she’d ace the test with little trouble. When he told this to her mother, however, the woman’s response was that her daughter sounded fine but in fact understood almost nothing of what she read. Richard was baffled. Luckily, though his friend Jean Tucker—a speech-language pathologist, reading specialist, and creator of the Spell of Language program—happened to be visiting that day and overheard…
- Balanced Literacy, Decoding, Dyslexia, Ed School, Fluency, Learning Disabilities, NAEP, Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Precision Teaching, Reading Instruction, Reading Wars, Science of Reading, Teacher Training, Whole Language
The Special Education Bubble
The reading world was recently rocked by an article from esteemed reporter, Emily Hanford. The longtime maven of whole language, Lucy Calkins, admitted she needed to change her Units of Study after decades of context clues, guessing at words, picture walks, and dismissing the science of reading. Of course, Calkins promptly responded with a statement that essentially tried to take credit for always being a phonics-minded practitioner (despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary). When you look at the latest NAEP data, the influence of decades of whole language-oriented instruction being the dominant pedagogy in the United States is readily apparent. According to this new data, roughly 63%…
- Balanced Literacy, Decoding, Ed School, Lucy Calkins, Phonics, Reading Instruction, Three Cueing System
Why Running Records and Leveled Readers Don’t Mix with Phonics
Last winter, Lucy Calkins (via the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, or TCRWP) issued a rebuttal to the Achieve, Inc.-sponsored report asserting that her Units of Study fails to provide the sort of instruction that would result in all children learning to read—particularly those who do not already arrive in school with strong language skills. Entitled “A Defense of Balanced Literacy” it is, in keeping with Calkins’s previous major statement regarding phonics, a veritable masterpiece of half-truths, evasions, contradictions, misunderstandings, and distortions. I don’t want to get pulled down into the weeds trying to offer a point-by-point analysis, but there is one major idea that I think is worth…
This column has been working itself out through my brain for months now. It starts here. Some years back I assessed a 5th-grade student, Jessica, and was very impressed with her skills. She could read seemingly effortlessly to the 12th grade level, and her math skills for all basics were at a high school level as well. She was going to prepare to take a test to enter a very competitive private school. When her mom returned to talk about the assessment told her how impressed I was with Jessica’s skills. But she shocked me by saying, “Yes, she can read to the 12th grade level, but her reading comprehension is at…
- Decoding, Dyslexia, Fluency, Learning Disabilities, Lucy Calkins, Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Precision Teaching, Reading Instruction, Reading Workshop, Science of Reading, Teacher Training, Three Cueing System, Whole Language
A Child is Not a Mollusk
In some sense, without evidence-based instruction, a child could be more like a mollusk in that they will withdraw from the learning process and build a shell to protect themselves from the emotional anguish of feeling less-than in the classroom.
- Decoding, Dyslexia, Fluency, Learning Disabilities, Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Precision Teaching, Reading Instruction, Science of Reading, Teacher Training, Uncategorized, Whole Language
Of Fluency and Fritters
t’s been clear for a long time that something is very wrong with the way reading is taught, but if we genuinely want things to change, we need to take a hard look at what actually works—and building fluency beyond a doubt does so. We owe it to students to get this right: their success in high school and beyond depends on it.
- Decoding, Dyslexia, Fluency, Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Reading Instruction, Sight Words, Three Cueing System, Whole Language
Tipping The Scale on Fountas & Pinnell
Fountas and Pinnell, as well as other balanced literacy programs, places a great deal of emphasis on this guided approach to reading and group work because, fundamentally, they see reading as a social activity, rather than an individual’s ability to decode text, something that happens in the confines of the brain in the reading circuit.
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…
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,…