• Uncategorized

    Some Advice for Parents Looking for a “Good” School District

    While searching online for something or other involving early reading instruction recently, I happened to come across what is perhaps the master list of Balanced Literacy strategies for decoding:  In addition to its ridiculous length (apparently more is always better), it seesawed so outrageously between the dangerously ineffective (“look at the picture”) and the absurd (how exactly are children supposed to “read fluently” if they don’t know what the words say?) that I couldn’t resist posting it on Twitter, where someone responded by asking “What is this, a manual for how to create reading problems?” Close, I said, but actually it’s from the Wayland, MA, public schools—Wayland being one of…

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    Reading in The Age of COVID

    Unprecedented. That’s a word we hear a lot these days. Unprecedented times? I think we can all agree the times are unprecedented. Before this year I can’t recall ever having heard the word used so copiously. I fell victim to the virus, or so I’m told by the amazing medical professionals at my local ER, and was laid up for eight weeks in one room. I would rate the experience somewhere between Christopher Nolan’s Doodlebug and Five’s journey through the Apocalypse on The Umbrella Academy (both of which I reviewed during quarantine).The scenario of students infecting their teachers with the virus that everyone is talking about? I lived it. Before…

  • Ed School,  Reading Wars,  Uncategorized,  Whole Language

    The Detachment of Literacy from Reading

    In a 2017 interview with Columbia linguistics professor John McWhorter, the cognitive scientist Mark Seidenberg (author of Language at the Speech of Sight) described the transition from discussions of “reading” to ones of “literacy” in education circles over the last few decades. I think that by now, the use of the latter term is now taken entirely for granted, but it’s not a minor point at all—it’s actually quite major, and it highlights the gap between public perception of the issues at play and the reality of them.  I suspect that when most people hear the term “literacy,” they understand it as a synonym for “reading,” in the sense that a…

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    Parent-Shaming and the Print-Rich Environment

    Notes from a bookseller’s daughter Books were an integral part of my childhood. Not just because my family valued reading, but also because my dad managed bookstores. Some of my earliest memories are of my little brother and me running up and down the stacks after closing hours giggling and screaming. Of course, not everyone giggled at the sight of books, my mom often grumbled about his penchant for filling the house with them, but the book tsunami was unstoppable! To sum it up, I never wanted for books and could easily challenge you to find another person who had more of a print-rich environment than the bookseller’s daughter. Eventually,…

  • 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.

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    Seeking Participants for Science of Reading Instructor Training

    Breaking the Code is seeking two initial groups (one teachers, one parents) of approximately 6-8 individuals looking for a crash course/bootcamp in teaching decoding skills according to research-backed principles.  The recent explosion of interest in the science of reading is obviously a welcome and heartening development, but we also realize that the glut of information now available can easily become overwhelming, and that asking teachers and parents to sift through it all and educate themselves—while continuing to juggle their many other responsibilities—is a very tall order.  Contrary to popular belief, we know from experience that learning to teach reading efficiently and effectively is not actually rocket science; however, there is…

  • Uncategorized

    When Should Beginning Readers Use Context Clues?

    One of the most serious, and most persistent, misconceptions in the world of reading early reading instruction involves the use of context clues. Regardless of whether they are explicitly taught an incorrect interpretation of three/multi-cueing system or simply absorb its tenets in graduate school or via professional development, many teachers of beginning readers erroneously learn that children should focus primarily on beginning/ending letters and then use a variety of guess-and-check methods (e.g., picture clues, other information in the text) to make educated guesses about unfamiliar words.  If you’re not familiar with the research, a reliance on context clues has been identified as a compensatory strategy for weak decoding skills (Nicholson,…

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    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.