PHONICS TALK: The Dorbooks Newsletter
Volume 74 ~ January 2016
by Dolores G. Hiskes

PHONICS TALK: The Dorbooks Newsletter
Volume 74 ~ January 2016
by Dolores G. Hiskes


Sometimes even when phonics is taught students experience difficulty in learning how to read. Why? Isn't it sufficient just to teach phonics skills in order for students to become fluent readers? Not necessarily so . . .

There are a few roadblocks that can get in the way of learning how to read. This newsletter is the first of a three-part series describing these roadblocks in detail, with some tried-and-true solutions:




At times even after students improve their
reading two or three grade levels comprehension
still remains static. They are able to read the
words, but have no understanding of what they
are reading. Why? A closer look at how phonics
is frequently taught reveals a significant factor
contributing to this roadblock that is sometimes

Many phonics reading systems require students to
learn all of the phonograms first in isolation,
prior to reading any real words. This has the
effect of divorcing reading from meaning and can
result in a reading-without-understanding syndrome.
After all, a phonogram has no real meaning in and
of itself!

Phonics Pathways is written so that meaning is
introduced as phonograms are learned. It is built
in from the very beginning. Short vowels are taught
first, one at a time, with multiple pictures
illustrating the sound being learned to hook meaning
into what they are learning. After short vowel sounds
are learned consonants are introduced, one at a time,
again with multiple pictures illustrating every sound
being learned.

Soon students begin reading words and two-word phrases
such as *sis sat*. Now ask your students *Who sat?*
and/or *What did sis do?* Do the same thing with the
next phrase: *sun set.* Ask them *What did the sun do?*
and/or *What set?*

Many students enjoy a Treasure Hunt - our own grandkids
went bananas over this! Write little messages that are
totally decodable on small strips of paper, fold and
put them into an empty kleenex box. Have them draw one
out, read it aloud, and do what it says. Sample messages:
*kiss Mom,* or *pet cat,* or *hop ten times,* or *hit
a desk.* It’s like a game.

You get the idea! Meaning is something that you and I
automatically attach to reading. But many children need
this concept to be specifically taught. Like blending
ability, it is not necessarily a skill students acquire
automatically. But once this connection is made meaning
will become automatic as the child progresses with his
reading skills.

Continue doing the same thing as you work through the
book, and check from time to time to be sure your student
is really reading and understanding the passage. Have him
read a page aloud to you every so often and ask him what
it was about. Listen with eagle ears for any misrepresenta-
tions. Stop him and ask him to read that word or section
again. Have him self-correct if possible - that is what
will train his brain to read accurately and not guess.

Does he understand the meaning of the words he is reading?
If he is an English language learner, he may need extra
help building his vocabulary skills. When YES Reading
Center in Palo Alto first got started there were many
English-language learners in the program with minimal
speaking and comprehension vocabularies. They would first
be taught enough phonics so they could sound out a few
words, and then they stopped Phonics Pathways for awhile
to build up their vocabularies before proceeding with the

Mary Jane Edwards was an ESL instructor and writes:
*I have used a variety of course books that provide drills
and exercises in listening, speaking, reading & writing to
teach practical, conversational English. Some of my favorites
were *Crossroads* by Irene Frankel et al. (Oxford Univ.
Press); *Side by Side* & *Expressways* both by Steven
Molinsky & Bill Bliss. These, as well as many others are
available at the Alta Book Center, located near the SF
Airport. The address is: 14 Adrian Court Burlingame, CA
94010. Tel: (650) 692-1285, or (800) ALTA-ESL. The website
is: In order to choose correctly, one needs
to know the students' previous exposure to English & other
factors, so visiting either the store or the website would
be very helpful.*

It's important that the habit of attaching meaning into what
students are reading gets established very early in the game,
because then comprehension will become automatic!

Stay tuned for *ROADBLOCK #2: REVERSALS*




*Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping them up.*

Simple but powerful words. Wouldn’t it be an absolutely
wonderful world if everyone put this into practice? (Just
wishing and dreaming here . . .)

With warm hugs and all good wishes for the New Year, Dolores

Copyright Dolores G. Hiskes 2016
May be reprinted in entirety with reference to author




Close this window

Return to homepage