PHONICS TALK: The Dorbooks Newsletter
Volume 53 ~ December 2011
by Dolores G. Hiskes


BACK TO BASICS

Phonics programs of every flavor abound, and can be found in every school, with wildly varying degrees of effectiveness. Why such a difference? Is this due to the teachers? The demographics of the area? Or of the students? Or class size? Or . . .

************************************************

BACK TO BASICS

MY HEART SINGS!

SOMETHING NEW!

CHRISTMAS AND HOLIDAY BLESSINGS

************************************************

BACK TO BASICS

************************************************

Hammers can subtly chip away at otherwise great programs or mandates,
watering down and weakening their effectiveness. For example, the Summary
Booklet of *No Child Left Behind* (mandating explicit phonics) was not written
by the National Reading Panel itself, as was the education plan itself. It was
produced by the same public relations firm that had been hired by McGraw-Hill/
Open Court back in the 1990's. Whenever we summarize someone else's work,
sometimes it can result in unintended misrepresentations and inaccuracies.
For example, the timing involved when introducing literature and decoding.
(Of course both are needed -- but in the proper order!)

I am not aware of any basal classroom program today that truly fills the
teaching mandate of *No Child Left Behind.* There are a number of simple
direct phonics programs that can fill this gap and enhance any classroom
program, if used only 10-15 minutes a day as a supplement.

Here is my basic *Foolproof Recipe for Reading,* condensed and summarized
in seven easy pieces:

(1) Short vowel sounds first. They are difficult to learn and frequently confused,
and should be taught one at a time with frequent review of each sound as it is
learned, before adding others.

(We remember names better when we meet people one at a time.
It's the same thing when learning letter sounds!)

(2) Multiple pictures that begin with this sound should illustrate each vowel.
In the beginning many children are quite simply unable to hear these sounds
within a word. Multiple pictures more accurately and clearly depict the subtle
range of sounds comprising and delineating each letter -- similar in effect to
that of a 3-D hologram.

(Especially helpful to ELL or students with hearing or speech challenges.)

(3) Consonants are then introduced, one at a time, illustrated with pictures
beginning with the sound. Each consonant is only read in combination with
a vowel in the form of a two-letter blend. This eliminates the extra sound
resulting from consonants read in isolation. (i.e.: the word *cat* *c* in
isolation is pronounced /cuh/, so the word literally sounds like /cuh-a-t./
When pronounced together with a vowel *ca* is simply read /ca/ so it
sounds like /ca-t./)

(Reading two-letter blends establishes a strong left-to-right reading
habit, preventing or eliminating reversals.)

(4) Two-letter blends are integrated into real words as soon as possible.
Mnemonic experts have long known that it's easier to remember something
new if we can connect it to something already known. It also helps prevent
the *reading-without-understanding* syndrome sometimes seen when
phonograms are learned in isolation.

(Many children find it too daunting a task to memorize all of the
phonograms first prior to *real* reading.

(5) Graduated blending-and-building techniques are embedded in every
lesson, to continue developing strong left-to-right eye tracking skills.
Syllables become words, words become two-word phrases, phrases become
sentences of gradually increasing complexity.

(Many children find it too difficult to jump from reading a word
to reading a whole sentence. A gradual approach bridges that gap.
It's a gradual stretching, like that of a rubber band.)

(6) All practice readings are 100% decodable until reading is well-
established. Simple sight words such as *I* and *A* are introduced gradually,
by pattern, a few at a time. For example, *The* is not introduced until the
*th* digraph section later on in the book, along with *they.* Once reading is
smoother students can move to graduated and progressive readers.

(Just as we practice graduated piano scales before attempting
to play a sonata, so should we practice reading with controlled
graduated readers prior to attempting to read complex literature.)

(7) Large 24 point typeface. It's so much easier for students to learn from
large print. Once they are able to read they can then more easily move to
smaller print.

************************************************

MY HEART SINGS!

************************************************

At Christenson Middle School in Livermore there is a special and
much-loved teacher named Tasia James, who teaches a class of 7th and 8th
graders remedial reading. She invited me to come and visit her class, which
resulted in an amazing experience! I related how I came to write the book
and even shared a few family stories. They all wrote thank-you's afterward,
and here are just a few:

*The phonics book helped me a lot. I can say the words right now, and it
has helped my spelling too. And I loved the "Speaking" game! Now I speak louder.*

*Thank you for coming and sharing how you got started and about your life.
Your book has helped me spell and pronounce words better -- I can pronounce
"pseudonym" now.*

*Most importantly thanks for making your phonics book -- I learned so
much from it, and pronounce words and spell much better now. I liked the
exercise about "speaking" -- now I speak louder!*

*I had fun hearing about your past, and how you dressed up as Santa and
how your husband got up on the roof dressed as Santa and rang bells.
Mostly thanks for your book -- I can read better now.*

*The part I like best are the quotes. They are very meaningful to me! I also
hope you liked our slowly built clap that I led.*

*You are the reason that I understand phonics. The book really heaped me
a lot! I really enjoyed it when we got up in front of the class for the "powerful
speaking" exercise. My favorite part were the stories from the past. I liked
how Dewey's face was covered up in the first edition.*

*Ever since I started your book I've become an excellent reader. And I
loved the "strong speaker" activity!* I can now read more clearly and fluently.*

*I like that you spent time with us, and the book helps a lot. I can spell
better, and I am a powerful speaker in other classes as well!*

What a wonderful group of students this class is, and how fortunate they are
to have Mrs. James for a teacher. My heart truly sings!

************************************************

SOMETHING NEW!

************************************************

So exactly what IS this *Powerful Speaker* exercise I did with Mrs. James' class?
I will spell it out carefully and precisely in the new blog I will be launching after
the Holidays, with illustrations. I'm still formulating it, and haven't even decided
on a name for it But in a blog I can have graphics and photographs, for
example, which I cannot have in a newsletter. I will still write the Dorbooks
newsletter, but I'm also excited about this new venture! I will have more to say
about it in the next newsletter.

************************************************

CHRISTMAS AND HOLIDAY BLESSINGS

************************************************

I always love *talking* with you, and am most fortunate to know some of you
personally. I wish each and every one of you a most blessed Christmas and/or
Holiday Season. I love this time of year, when people are kinder, smiles are
wider, and things seem softer and gentler. Yes, it is a dark time in many ways
as well, but remember this:

*The darker the world, the more your own light will shine!*

Let us be thankful for what we have and reach out and give to others, in the
Spirit of the Season!

So ends 2011. Bless you all, have a safe Holiday, and see you next year!

Warmly,
Dolores

Copyright Dolores G. Hiskes 2011

 

Close this window

Return to homepage