PHONICS TALK: The Dorbooks Newsletter
Volume 40 ~ March 2010
by Dolores G. Hiskes


...Could it possibly be? Did I see tiny pink blossoms peeking out of a bare cherry tree when I went jogging around the park? Yes! Eternal Spring might actually arrive! The cold winter has seemed endless, but now there are glimmers of warmth and light, and hope springs anew.

So too it is with learning as we struggle on and on, and at times wonder if we will ever learn. It is the winter of our discontent. And then one day glimmers of light shine through, and suddenly the light goes on and everything falls into place. And we blossom!








At the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of
Science) annual meeting *Education in the Classroom*
was once again the subject of a symposia. How to attract more
students to science and math is always a primary question
of great concern and ongoing interest to these folks.

It was agreed that the recruitment and training of the next
generation of scientists depends critically on the success of
K-12 and undergraduate education, and they recommended
directly teaching principles of scientific inquiry and reasoning.

Specific training in internal visualization skills was highly
recommended, stating Einstein and Feynman had said visual
imagery was central to their thinking. They examined how
to best engage students with external visualizations.

Teaching reading by logical patterns is a powerful tool to
develop the logical thinking required for math & science!
Conversely, if we have to guess at words it results in mushy

Most alarmingly, a teacher wrote to me reporting that:

*Guessing is not exclusive to reading. It is now used in
every subject including math. Students say *3 x 6 is, 4...8...15...18!* They stop when they see your
countenance change and they know it's the right number.*

She uses Pre-K Mind Benders to teach a thinking process.

There was a problem about a crocodile and two other
creatures. One was two, one was four, and the other was
six years old. *My student was supposed to figure out which
was each age. The first clue was: The crocodile is not two
years old. *Oh, he's six.* When she said *no* he said *Oh,
he's seven!*

It took her quite a while to teach him that you can only go
by what it DOES say, not what you think or feel.

The proof is in the pudding--math scores frequently rise
significantly when reading is taught using explicit phonics!
This has happened with my own students as well as



It seems to be a given in educational circles that sight words
are a basic component when teaching beginning reading.
Word walls adorn most classrooms, and Dolch sight words
faithfully appear in most beginning readers, including
common phonics reading programs.

Over a thousand years ago the old Greek Herotimus wrote:
*We are dragged on by consistency. A thing may be consistent
and yet false!* Truer words were never spoken!

Sooner or later sight words must be taught, but NOT in the
very beginning! That is when brain pathways are set up for
learning how to read, and sight words are like pictures
that activate a different hemisphere of the brain. This then
suppresses the activity of the mirror-image region on the
other side which acquires knowledge in logical bits, like
phonics or math.

Robert Calfee actually states *One of the best ways to
decrease performance is to present competing information
such as the use of pictures to accompany text.*

Here is an analysis of the sight words taught in first grade
from several commonly-used phonics programs:

Saxon Phonics: 88 sight words in first grade
Open Court: 130 sight words in first grade
Phonics Pathways: 21 sight words in the WHOLE BOOK

I rest my case!



Last year McKinsey & Co. monetized the cost of our inter-
national achievement gap. The report found that the under-
utilization of human potential as reflected in the achievement
gap is extremely costly.

Existing gaps impose the economic equivalent of a permanent
national recession--one substantially larger than the deep
recession the country is currently experiencing.

They summarized, *Our education system's poor results
cost the country $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion a year--as much
as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the stimulus package
combined! America cannot afford this kind of failure. We
must make this the decade of education reform.*

(McKinsey & Company are the trusted advisor to the world's
leading businesses, governments, and institutions. They
serve more than 70% of Fortune magazine's most admired
list of companies.)



The CARS+ Convention went very well, despite the miserable
cold weather. (Isn't San Diego supposed to be warm? We
thought so, and brought lightweight summer attire. Brrrr!)
My workshop was oversubscribed, and I am delighted to
report a growing interest in explicit phonics with these
reading specialists.

In April I will be going to the IRA Convention in Chicago to
give another workshop, which I am busy writing now.
Chicago is my home town, and I look forward to a visit to
some of my friends and favorite haunts which I have not seen
in years, such as the Art Institute. A small museum but filled
with the choicest pieces of art!

My presentation is Monday April 26th at 3:00 p.m. in the
McCormick Lakeside Center, Room E253c.

I will also be signing books at the Author's Table Tuesday
morning April 27th at 11:30. Hope to see you there!


I began this newsletter in early February, and now here it is
March 1. Where does the time go? Since then the Olympics
have come and gone, and perhaps I can get back to some
semblance of a nomal life again.

At this time the cherry trees are in full bloom, and fairly sing
with beautiful bursting pink blossoms. How wonderful life is,
and what a blessing it is just to be alive!

Enjoy the beautiful weather. (If it isn't beautiful yet in your
area, take heart--it soon will be! It will come! Have faith!)

Very Best, Dolores

Dolores G. Hiskes, President
"Phonics Pathways" - Six 1st-place awards-"Best Phonics Program in The Country"

Copyright Dolores G. Hiskes 2009- 2010

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