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Sight reading vs. phonics for reading...

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#1 tntgoodwin

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 02:22 AM

I was taught to read by my parents, starting with sight words. Phonics I mostly taught myself as I memorized more and more words and began seeing the patterns.

This system seems to have worked (at least for me). In 7th grade I was tested and read 1270 words per minute, with 100% comprehension.

So, I see that most people here are fans of teaching reading phonically as opposed to using sight words, and I was just wondering what the reasoning behind that is? I understand every child is different...

#2 Alenee

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 02:30 AM

I think it's great that you did so well. I suspect I was taught similarly but I honestly do not remember. I don't want to have to go back and do any re-teaching so we do phonics from the beginning. I have recently seen a couple of friends having to do just that. Spell-check isn't always there when you need it. ;)

Here's a thread on the subject which might help:

http://www.welltrain...ad.php?t=234690

#3 Crimson Wife

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 08:10 AM

It's something like 30% of students who can intuitively figure out phonics on their own when taught via a "whole language" approach. You were one and apparently so was I (that's per my mom, as I cannot remember a time before I could read). The first time I encountered the phonics rules as an adult it was a bit surreal because they were all things I knew but had never formally been taught.

Even with kids who can learn via "whole language", it's still much more efficient to teach them phonics. My oldest figured out simple CVC decoding on her own at 3 3/4 but was getting frustrated when she ran into words with more advanced phonics. So I taught her the rest of the Orton-Gillingham phonemes and she just took off. She probably would've figured them out eventually through exposure but why go through all that unnecessarily when teaching phonics is so easy?

#4 4blessingmom

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 08:13 AM

Once a habit of sight word reading is in place, it is difficult to go back and teach reading by sound. It takes longer in the beginning, but learning "sight words" phonetically ensures that children are really gaining the skills they need to read.

I personally know someone who couldn't pass a CC class b/c they hit the "4th grade slump" and never got over it (learned sight words, never really learned to read). This person was a "good student" and graduated high school with good grades...still can't read.

This issue is one of the biggest reasons I homeschool.:001_smile:

#5 blondeviolin

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 08:44 AM

I suspect my husband was taught to read with a whole language approach. It SEVERELY impacted his entire schooling experience. He learned to read in kindergarten, but the school taught him. His mom is one of those to assume that the "experts" knew what they were doing so just helped with whatever homework he needed help with. He reads slowly, which made him feel like he was dumber than others. He is not your proverbial squeaky wheel, either, so when he needed help he didn't get it. I suspect he is an undiagnosed dyslexic. The whole language approach did nothing to reveal this to his teachers or parents. He is a WRETCHED speller. And, to be honest, his reading comprehension is not the greatest. Part of that is the dyslexia issues, but part of it is him seeing a word and assuming it is one one, when actually is another.

For example: last week we took the same developmental psychology pre-quiz. He scored VERY low and couldn't understand why as he had read the text and done the enrichment activities. That's when I noticed he had assumed that the word "causality" was "casualty." It was a typical mistake if it happened once. However, the word had appeared no less than 25 times on the pre-quiz and he didn't notice it was different at all, even where it wouldn't have made sense contextually to have "casualty" written there.

My oldest is currently learning to read and he told me the other night that he had never learned the phonics rule that if a word has the pattern vowel-consonant-e, then the e at the end is silent, but the vowel preceding it typically says it's name. He never learned how to sound out combinations as simple as "ai," "ee," "ea," etc. And these were epiphanies for him! At the grand age of 30!

There are more reasons why the whole language approach did more bad than good for him, but I think I've written enough. Needless to say, we will teach our children how to "sound it out." And I will be watching closely for signs of dyslexia in my children.

#6 Dawn in OH

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 09:05 AM

The phonics method of learning to read is best for the majority of the population. There is a small percentage of people that do better with sight reading, but they are the minority. A solid phonics background enables the reader to conquer more new words due to an ability to sound out the words.

I read about a study in the past few years while I was teaching my children to read that indicated that during the period of time while the U.S. experimented in schools with sight reading only, those children, when tested in a military entrance exam, had a lower rate of literacy than when phonics had been taught. When phonics was reintroduced and the next generation of children became adults the reading proficiency rates picked back up again.

#7 Margo out of lurking

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 09:14 AM

As a child, I was like you, a self-taught reader, spelling consistently at college level as a 4th grader. It wasn't until 30+ years later when I taught my kids phonetic spelling that I finally understood why words are spelled the way they are. It was a huge revelation for me, as I could finally make sense of what I'd known instinctively for so much of my life. I'm thrilled to pass that knowledge on to my kids now, so they don't have to wait decades to figure it out.

My passion may sound odd or extreme. I'm a very visual learner and, throughout my life, I continued to surprise myself by spelling countless words even though I couldn't pronounce or define them. When I finally learned phonics, it was as if I'd unlocked a room in my house that I'd not known existed.

When I hear now about sight words, or how teachers want the kids to learn sight words to help them reading before learning phonics, I cringe. (I work in our public library's children's department.) I know that method can be very effective. However, I believe that sets kids up to think that they can't depend on phonics rules, and that exceptions are the norm, both of which are blatantly untrue. Those two thoughts are passed on by teachers who don't understand the rules.

#8 merry gardens

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 10:29 AM

I was taught to read by my parents, starting with sight words. Phonics I mostly taught myself as I memorized more and more words and began seeing the patterns.

This system seems to have worked (at least for me). In 7th grade I was tested and read 1270 words per minute, with 100% comprehension.

So, I see that most people here are fans of teaching reading phonically as opposed to using sight words, and I was just wondering what the reasoning behind that is? I understand every child is different...

You seem to read well. What worked for you can be disastrous for others. Most people eventually learn to read somehow through whatever method used. Many times teachers use a combination of methods that is neither strictly phonics, nor strictly sight words.

There's a small but significant minority of the population who need very detailed reading instruction. It is estimated that dyslexia affects 15-20% of the population. Yes, every child is different, but just as there are patterns found within reading, there are patterns to reading problems. People with dyslexia often fail to notice the sound patterns within words--sometimes even when they are specifically pointed out to them! Some may have great difficulty hearing the individual sounds within the words, because those sounds get all "smooshed" together quickly in words. Many children with dyslexia need not only need phonics, but they require extra help just to recognize the individual sounds of letters within words!

Sight words and whole language was probably an attempt to help teach reading to people who had problems reading with phonics, (like those with auditory processing problems and phonemic awareness problems mentioned above.) Such people are at particularly high risk for reading problems. Until someone can detect the individuals sounds of letters within the spoken words, phonics is very difficult. Some of them can develop a large enough sight word vocabulary, and it may be enough for them get by okay with reading. But for many people, (most?) their memory for sight words often "maxes" out around the third, fourth or fifth grade reading level.

#9 Spy Car

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 10:47 AM

Even with highly proficient readers who learned mostly via the whole language/sight word approach, there does seem to be a tendency towards less than oughtstanding spellin ;) :D

Bill

#10 littlebug42

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 10:52 AM

Even with highly proficient readers who learned mostly via the whole language/sight word approach, there does seem to be a tendency towards less than oughtstanding spellin ;) :D

Bill


On the flip side, my nephew was taught completely via phonics and to this day, he spells everything phonetically and his spelling is the worst I have ever seen.

#11 simka2

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 10:53 AM

Even with highly proficient readers who learned mostly via the whole language/sight word approach, there does seem to be a tendency towards less than oughtstanding spellin ;) :D

Bill


:iagree:and it is something I really struggle with. I love to read and write, but I am often intimidated by my atrocious spelling and grammar. It's getting better, but i am having to relearn. Thankfully, dh had a rigorous private school education. He has become my "go to" guy whenever I get lost. I just wish I had been taught more thoroughly.

#12 Spy Car

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 10:53 AM

On the flip side, my nephew was taught completely via phonics and to this day, he spells everything phonetically and his spelling is the worst I have ever seen.


There goes that hypothesis :D

I do think most phonetically based readers have proved to be better spellers than those raised on sight words.

Bill

#13 kiana

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 11:02 AM

My SO and I both learned via a sight words approach.

My spelling and pronunciation are both excellent. But my mother *knew* the phonics rules herself, and worked them in constantly.

SO, on the other hand, can spell pretty well (due to an excellent memory) but cannot sound out a word to save his life. I am not kidding -- if he hasn't heard a word in conversation, his attempt at pronunciation will usually have most of the letters in the word, but in a garbled order. Examples: surreptitious ended up sounding something like superiptious. Grosvenor (which isn't phonetic anyway) ended up sounding like grovesnor. And Oconomowoc ... well, he refused to try. This has really made foreign languages difficult for him as well. I really think it's due to sight-word teaching.

#14 4blessingmom

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 11:04 AM

There goes that hypothesis :D

I do think most phonetically based readers have proved to be better spellers than those raised on sight words.

Bill


:lol: and :iagree:

My ds8 is one of those who is logical - *mathy* - and will argue his case (future lawyer maybe:tongue_smilie:) to a pulp. bird-berd-burd....all fit the spelling rules, but only one is right. 2+2 always =4, but "ear" doesn't always say /er/;)

Still - he learns the phonograms and spelling rules...we are just working mainly with a morpheme approach. It's all still grounded in phonetic reading. I'm taking what I learned from SWR (shhh! don't tell ds8) and using it as needed with Apples & Pears Spelling.

#15 ColoradoMom

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 11:15 AM

I was taught to read by my parents, starting with sight words. Phonics I mostly taught myself as I memorized more and more words and began seeing the patterns.

This system seems to have worked (at least for me). In 7th grade I was tested and read 1270 words per minute, with 100% comprehension.

So, I see that most people here are fans of teaching reading phonically as opposed to using sight words, and I was just wondering what the reasoning behind that is? I understand every child is different...



I favor your method as I was also taught sight words and phonics concurrently. I taught my youngest that way as well - he is an excellent reader and speller.

My daughter was taught only phoncs (PS) and is also an excellent reader and speller, but it took her a lot longer to learn to spell than it did my son.

#16 RahRah

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 11:59 AM

As a child, I was like you, a self-taught reader, spelling consistently at college level as a 4th grader. It wasn't until 30+ years later when I taught my kids phonetic spelling that I finally understood why words are spelled the way they are. It was a huge revelation for me, as I could finally make sense of what I'd known instinctively for so much of my life. I'm thrilled to pass that knowledge on to my kids now, so they don't have to wait decades to figure it out.

My passion may sound odd or extreme. I'm a very visual learner and, throughout my life, I continued to surprise myself by spelling countless words even though I couldn't pronounce or define them. When I finally learned phonics, it was as if I'd unlocked a room in my house that I'd not known existed.

When I hear now about sight words, or how teachers want the kids to learn sight words to help them reading before learning phonics, I cringe. (I work in our public library's children's department.) I know that method can be very effective. However, I believe that sets kids up to think that they can't depend on phonics rules, and that exceptions are the norm, both of which are blatantly untrue. Those two thoughts are passed on by teachers who don't understand the rules.


I have had a similar experience.

I was reading when I entered kindergarten and shuttled to higher grades to read at level, but more often than not, was not part of the group learning phonics (back in the 70's, our school was strictly phonics) - instead I was off in a corner reading something because the teacher couldn't figure out what to do with me (in K I was reading at 4th, in 1st at 6th, etc.) since I was reading way ahead of everyone else....no one seemed to notice I wasn't actually learning phonics even though I was reading like a champ. I'm darn lucky I got by like that and had really high reading comprehension and am still an avid reader...to this day, I still don't know how I learned to read since it feels like I've always been reading - but I had no clue about phonics.

As an adult, I have had no clue how to sound out words, or why certain combinations of letters are pronounced a certain way (ie. the word paradigm is a good example)....but because I'm specifically teaching DS phonics, I'm actually learning stuff now - at 44 - that I've managed instinctively, but really truly should have known.

#17 AmericanMom

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 07:59 PM

My experience was similar to some others here in that I learned to read before I got to school. I don't remember how exactly, just that when I went to school, I could already read and mostly played with blocks for the first couple of years. (At least that is all I remember doing!) My mother swears she did not teach me to read, that I must have learned from watching Sesame Street, although my older sister who teaches in public school says that is not possible, someone must have taught me. :lol: I told her she probably taught me, she just doesn't remember!

But growing up I used to joke that I must have been lucky to have learned before I got to school, because many of my friends could not spell at all. I used to think they spelled things wrong to be "cute" - I later realized that no, they just could not spell. I will never forget my very good friend who was class president and actually ended up going to a very good private college arguing with me that "could've" was really spelled "could of" - I tried to explain to her it was a contraction for "could have" but she wasn't buying it. My husband actually remembers asking his first grade teacher, "How are we suppose to memorize every word in English?" (This from a very mathematical mind who saw, even at 6, that that was not reasonable.)

I really think that the problem is this: A little bit of anything can be dangerous. My friends knew enough phonics to spell some things phonetically and to read fine. But they did not have the whole picture. I have a natural knack for spelling, and so intuitively (as someone else said) I knew how words ought to be spelled or pronounced that I had never seen/heard before. But if you don't have that knack (as some of my own children do not) you need to be taught it explicitly, and in depth. And I think that, even if you do have that knack, it is helpful to be taught the reasons behind it. I have learned so much from teaching my kids; not how to spell, but why. And my one that is a natural speller, I tell her the whys of what she is already naturally doing, and I believe it will help her in the long run.

#18 Ellie

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 08:02 PM

I second "Why Johnny Can't Read," as well as "Why Johnny Still Can't Read."

Some of us made it through with sight reading, but sight reading, overall, was a dismal failure, as well as its child, whole language.

#19 ElizabethB

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 12:10 AM

I second "Why Johnny Can't Read," as well as "Why Johnny Still Can't Read."

Some of us made it through with sight reading, but sight reading, overall, was a dismal failure, as well as its child, whole language.


:iagree:

And, the child of whole language, balanced literacy. (They must keep changing the names, people catch on to the old ones!)

There goes that hypothesis :D

I do think most phonetically based readers have proved to be better spellers than those raised on sight words.

Bill


There are always outliers!

But, as a whole, spelling dropped, on average, 2 grade levels after the switch from phonics to whole language. I have copies of spelling norms from the late 1800's, early 1900's, and from 1950. There was a drop of 2 grade levels by 1950. Also, there is a study from the 1960's that compares U.S. students with phonetically (at the time) taught students in Scotland. At that time, the U.S. students were 2 grades behind Scottish students in spelling.

#20 tntgoodwin

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 02:46 AM

I remember in Kindergarten I got a question on a school paper wrong because I spelled rabbit properly, instead of phonetically...my parents saved that one!

#21 Ester Maria

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 05:09 AM

Well, I'm going to be an odd semi-dissenter here. :)

I didn't know what the phonics approach was, I didn't know it existed, until I came to the US. Having said that, I didn't learn English in the US - upon my arrival I had already been using the language extensively in academia, I had been regularly reading in English for years and I had written papers, summaries and articles in English. All the problems I ever had with English were grammatical in nature (ESL - no matter how well you learn a foreign language, if it hasn't been your primary system or one of the primary systems growing up and in the context of formal education, there are likely to be some issues with your proficiency, even if often not very noticeable ones), not related to functional literacy: my mistakes were of the kind in which you misuses the type of article (since the "logic" of the English article use does not correspond perfectly to the "logic" of the Italian article use), misplace the words within a sentence (i.e. violate the principles of syntax - but there I ripe the consequences of not having bothered to learn the English syntax properly) or use a word or an expression which, albeit grammatically or "logically" correct, is not likely to be a native speaker's fist choice. But, I have never had serious issues with reading... or spelling, for that matter.

You might say, well, you were an odd exception.
But here's the catch: I wasn't. I was taught English in an institutional setting, by non-native speakers for the most part, as a foreign language. So were many others, and I don't know anyone who was taught phonics. Yet, in the case of everyone I know, their level of literacy directly corresponds to their level of command of the language - i.e. a near-native command of the language = a literacy level equivalent to that of an educated native speaker, etc.

Then you might say, but wait, you're Italian, you get a huge "discount" when it comes to "higher" registers of the English language due to transparency with your native one.
But, if so... How come my Austrian friends and relatives are highly literate in English, then, who don't have this advantage? How come Germans, Russians or the French are? Neither of those countries adopts a phonics approach for teaching English.

Sure, there are misspellings and mispronunciations, at all levels of education. But we do fairly well, especially if you keep in mind that we're not native speakers. At the point of writing this, or anything on this forum, I don't even have a spellcheck (it used to be automatic on this site, but it "disappeared" when I changed computer a while ago), and I doubt that I make many spelling mistakes which fundamentally stem from ignorance (as opposed to just typing very quickly, as I do, which will result in an occasional lapsus).
In theory, a native speaker shouldn't have mispronunciations at all past certain age when he reads, because he hears the language daily, he's surrounded by it in all forms and with minimal getting used to the literacy principles of his own language, he should function fine. How come we function pretty darn well, yet some of you claim that a "phonicsless" approach works only for a small minority? It worked for everyone I know, excluding LDs. The level of literacy in English corresponds to the level of general proficiency in the language.

People usually reply to this that reading is a skill and that, possibly, the fact that we acquired it first in another language makes it "transferrable" to the other ones - I cannot refute that. That fact alone does seem to bear a huge importance in this issue and I don't deny it. Monolingual English speakers don't have another, easier system to rely to first and have to cope with a more subtle logic of their language.
However, I don't believe it bears ALL of the difference here. Also, my daughters mastered both systems roughly at the same time and while their Italian has been better up until double-digits (and then, to my dismay, English started to prevail as their dominant language :glare:), I didn't notice any problems due to lack of phonics. Another two exceptions? I don't know. Maybe.

I'm not anti-phonics - I don't have a say in this professionally. I'm not even a "full" dissenter, just questioning whether phonics truly is the BEST approach overall. I do agree, however, with the principle of teaching that which has been proven to work the best, so I suppose that actually makes me pro-phonics at the end of the day. I don't know. Just wanted to a add a few random thoughts on this issue, I hope you don't mind. :D

Edited by Ester Maria, 04 March 2011 - 05:20 AM.




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