Have you ever wondered:
- How is reading taught in schools?
- Is there a better way to teach reading?
Here you will find the answers to these questions and more
How is reading taught in schools?
Most teachers have been trained according to the constructivist theory of teaching which has its basis in the philosophical work of Piaget, Vygotsky, and Ausubel back in 1968. In short they suggested that children learn through a process of self discovery rather than direct instruction, and that teachers should be there to facilitate this process rather than to explicitly instruct the student in the things they need to learn.
This has lead to an entire generation of teachers, teaching children to read by what is known as ‘Whole Language’ instruction. In essence this means immersing students in as much written language as possible.
Does this method work :
Yes in about 85% of cases children successfully learn to read this way. As they read words repeatedly they memorise the most common words and become very adept at guessing words correctly from the context. As they progress many of these children subconsciously learn the phonetical rules governing English words and they are then able to apply these rules subconsciously to unfamiliar words allowing them to read these successfully.
What are the disadvantages:
Studies have shown that about 15% of students don’t learn to read adequately this way. There are a number of different causes for this:
- Taking a short cut, by memorising the entire book rather than the individual words, backfires badly when those words are needed for the next level of more complex books.
- There or too many words that need to be memorised.
- Guessing will often result in getting it wrong, and this is particularly upsetting to some children.
- Some children do NOT subconsciously learn the phonetical rules. This means they continue to find all new words challenging, and must memorise all new words they wish to read and write.
- The small amount of phonetics that is taught appears inconsistent and therefore confusing. (The varying sounds of ‘g’ and ‘c’ for instance.)
In fact what Piaget, Vygotsky, and Ausubel didn’t know, back in 1968, and what has now been proved by neuroscientists, is that our brains are not naturally programmed to learn to read. Reading is not natural. It is an arbitrary process imposed onto the spoken language for the convenience of communicating when we are not there in person. Not surprisingly there was never any evidence that their theory actually worked to teach children to read, and now all the evidence clearly shows that this is not the best way to teach children to read.
What is the better way to teach reading?
The news is out and teachers are starting to change!
After analysing multiple evidence based studies from around the world the Australian Government National Inquiry into the teaching of literacy concluded in 2005 that the best way to teach reading was through an approach that explicitly teaches:
- phonics (or the relationship between letters and sounds)
- phonemic awareness (or the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in oral language)
- fluency (or the ability to read quickly and naturally, recognise words automatically, and group words quickly)
- vocabulary knowledge (or understanding new words and what they mean)
- text comprehension (or understanding what is being read and developing higher-order thinking skills)
This is exactly the approach that Reading Dux employs!
With Reading Dux Structured Literacy children are able to confidently read short decodable stories early in the program that have been perfectly coordinated with their phonics instruction.
Children quickly discover the fun of reading while building a firm phonetic foundation!
Book 1 provides direct systematic instruction in phonics through its carefully designed and complete instruction of the basic sounds associated with each letter of the alphabet. This direct phonics instruction is continued throughout the series with additional sounds and letter patterns being taught in each book. Book 1 also lays a firm foundation of phonemic awareness through its instruction of how simple words are made up of the individual letter sounds that are being taught. This is further developed and reinforced in the later books. Phonics fluency is taught throughout the series through the daily practice of word lists which build phonetic fluency and reinforce the letter/sound relationships. Teaching of vocabulary knowledge and comprehension begins in book one with potentially unfamiliar words occurring in the simple word lists. This continues more significantly with the inclusion of a story in book two, and from book 3 on, comprehension questions for each story. All of the above instruction is very carefully integrated and ordered such that ALL words that occur in the story, have been previously practiced, and the sound/letter relationships, and associated rules, taught.
Dr. Caroline Leaf, a Communication pathologist working in the area of cognitive neuroscience, has shown that it takes 21 days for the proteins that hold long-term memory to fully develop, and another 42 days to firmly establish these memories. 1 To utilise this principle we have built into this course, significant revision of previously presented work. The result is a course where each successive book builds systematically on the previous book, reinforcing what has been previously taught and adding to it. This overcomes the problem of lack of retention that teachers often battle with.
This reading program has proved to be successful in teaching students that are gifted in literacy, enabling them to attain even greater levels of fluency, and those that are falling behind, enabling them to catch up and at times to surpass their peers. It is our desire that no student will have to battle against the mountainous difficulties of illiteracy, both during school, and on into their adult life. This has been our motivation and drive in producing this course.
1 Dr. Caroline Leaf Switch on Your Brain: page 153, Baker books 2013