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9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 9/14/2005 3:41:41 PM EDT
My son is in Kindergarten. His teacher is doing this sight reading thing with him and class and its not going well. He brings home "books" that he is suppose to memorize and told he is reading. No phonics, no learning the letters, no sounding out sounds or blends of sounds. My son brought home a book today called "April Ape Likes Acorns." Its a tiny book stuffed with different sentences surrounded around April Ape. For an example: April Ape likes to paint. April Ape likes to shape Clay. No rhyme or reason. There are pictures to association with such as an ape painting and playing with something that can be construed as clay.

I'm very much opposed to this type of "teaching."

Patty
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 3:52:14 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/14/2005 3:52:48 PM EDT by Penguin_101]
My 2 cents: (I am not a teacher) Talk to her one on one with the Principal (then it wouldn't be one on one, but you know what I mean ) in the room. If it continues, as for a new teacher.
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 4:04:52 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Penguin_101:
My 2 cents: (I am not a teacher) Talk to her one on one with the Principal (then it wouldn't be one on one, but you know what I mean ) in the room. If it continues, as for a new teacher.



There isn't a new teacher. Our school is small so only one Kindergarten teacher. The Principal's daughter is in our class too. I do plan on meeting with the principal over it though. However the Principal is out this week for Round up [Oregon's big Rodeo. You know how important Rodeo's are].

Patty
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 4:12:32 PM EDT
What's gonna happen when she gets older and only has the words memorized? What if she runs into a word she hasn't memorized? I think teaching them the alphabet and teaching them how to sound out words is not only easier, but better learning.
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 4:24:13 PM EDT
I have no idea. It drives me crazy. I'm trying to be open minded but I have no faith in my public school. I've heard that a whole language approach is best but find it difficult to believe this is how its started.

Patty
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 4:25:53 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/14/2005 4:31:33 PM EDT by Charging_Handle]
We have somehow managed to take what was once an effective education system and totally screw it up. Many of the people responsible for the changes claim our students are doing "better" based on results on paper. But when I take a look at the realities of the situation, I see something totally different.

The same thing has happened with education that's happened with everything else. We just throw money at it and think that alone will make it better. And far too many "liberal" ways of thinking have permeated and are in control of school policies.

The result? We have schools these days with virtually no discipline, no way to achieve it and a feel good curriculum that isn't as good as many would like to think. To be honest, I think the old school teachers and old school approaches worked much better in teaching the basics. In the old days, all many teachers had to work with was a chalk board and textbooks. They never had any fancy high tech gadgets to aid them. They didn't have the government pouring in millions of dollars. It seems that in many ways, we measure success based on how many fancy gadgets a school can afford. But I bet in a one on one showdown, the old school teachers would OWN the new ones. Because in the old days, they were expected to teach, not just be a sometime teacher who's a technology specialist. They had to actually TEACH.

To prove this point, take a look at the success of home schooling. Many parents with no training or background produce kids just as smart (and often smarter and more advanced when compared to peers) than the public schools do.

I seriously think I'll look at private schools or home schooling for my kids (if I ever get around to having them) just to get them away from the public school setting.
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 4:26:56 PM EDT
This is a failed method.

It's also partly why we home school.

Larry
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 4:28:41 PM EDT
I am a teacher. Home school. I would send any child of mine to Catholic school. ymmv
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 4:30:57 PM EDT
Sounds like a " whole language " approach, I thought that had been laid to rest by now, evidently not. That was hot when I was doing my grad work back in the early 90's but most found that while it worked well for some, it failed miserably for most. While we still don't really understand how kids learn to read, the best approach seems to be one that utilizes all techniques emphasizing that which works best for the individual student at the appropriate time.
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 4:32:30 PM EDT
When I was in first grade, my teachers thought that I needed special reading classes. They later figured out that I was just bored with the stupid memorization lessons. The special instructor taught me how to sound out words and the use of phonix. It gave me a head start on many of the other kids in the same level classes with me. 20 years later I'm glad that I learned the way I did and I feel sorry for those that didn't. Many teachers now use phonix in early level classes to help their students learn. As silly as those hooked on phonix commercials are, this type of teaching is very bennificial for most kids.
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 4:34:22 PM EDT
I teach second grade and have taught first grade. It's hard to comment on the situation as I don't see what's going on in the class. Some things to remember: Many words are called sight words as they don't follow the typical phonic rules and must be memorized (example if "was" followed the phonics rules it would be spelled "wuz"). Even with intense phonics instruction sight words must be memorized. She might be teaching phonemic awareness now. It deals with sounds but not related to letters. That's taught before phonics. You can PM me or e-mail me and I'll do what I can to help and send you to some places online where you can help if the teacher can't/won't.
Satch
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 4:38:54 PM EDT
I believe that you have stated that you are Roman Catholic.

Send your child to Catholic school. They actually "teach" there.
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 4:39:31 PM EDT

Originally Posted By SteveSatch:
I teach second grade and have taught first grade. It's hard to comment on the situation as I don't see what's going on in the class. Some things to remember: Many words are called sight words as they don't follow the typical phonic rules and must be memorized (example if "was" followed the phonics rules it would be spelled "wuz"). Even with intense phonics instruction sight words must be memorized. She might be teaching phonemic awareness now. It deals with sounds but not related to letters. That's taught before phonics. You can PM me or e-mail me and I'll do what I can to help and send you to some places online where you can help if the teacher can't/won't.
Satch



Thank you, IM will be sent after I fix dinner. Patty
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 4:44:40 PM EDT
Okay. I'm an elementary school teacher. I teach 2nd grade. I have not taught kindergarten so I'm not really familiar with it. I do know something about reading though. I have a masters degree as a reading specialist and have been very involved in setting up our school reading program. Now a days kids are started out very early reading. And what you are describing is how they learn. I can know all the letters in the alphabet and what they sound like and still not be able to read.
The book you are describing has a lot of sight words in it. Words like "it" "the" " play" etc. They make up the bulk of words that he is going to come in contact with when he is reading especially at his age. The books also have the repetition that early readers need. You notice that it says "April Ape likes to paint.". Then the picture supports what is written underneath by showing the Ape painting. The picture support is a very important part of early reading because it helps them gain meaning from the story and helps them figure out unknown words. Picture support is also helpful in meaning as the child gets older and the text gets more complex. I'm sure phonics is being taught but not necessarily the way we learned phonics.
What I would do is work on basic sight words with your son. Google "Dolch Basic Sight Words " and you will find a site you can print them out. Then practice with him. The other thing is read with him every night. You wouldn't believe how much progress he will make. I taught my daughter how to read strictly by sight and she is a good reader. She is 6. Her comprehension is wonderful and she is able to figure out many long words by using context clues.
Hope this helps. Let me know if I can do anything else.
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 4:53:36 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/14/2005 4:56:31 PM EDT by A_Free_Man]
Sounds like a " whole language " approach,

Yes, that is what it is. And I have seen the victims of this method, we all have... adults who stumble when they read anything with more than two syllables.

This method has been in and out of the schools since the '50's. Every few years they "discover" this better method, foist it upon our kids, and by the time they get to middle school and are doing poorly, scores are going down, and there are enough pissed off parents, they go back to phonics.

The whole language thing is what I call the "Look-say/Look-guess" method. They point to a word, tell the kid what it is, and he repeats it, and is supposed to be "reading". They look at the approximate size of the word, and the first 2 or 3 letters, and make their best guess on that. So proximity is confused not only with proximate, but profile, prophilactic, profitability, and any other words that begin with "pro". Students of this method rarely have a reading vocabulary of more than a few hundred words, 500-600.

A child that is taught this system also suffers in math, spelling, and any other subject that requires reading.

So, we wonder why Johnny can't read!

I and my wife have both spent long hours tutoring students who are cheated with this system. Your school won't change. They invested a lot of money in the textbooks for all the grades, and to teach your child phonics would be to admit they are wrong.

Take it upon yourself to get Hooked On Phonics, or any other phonics method, and teach your child yourself. You will have him reading in just a few weeks.

Link Posted: 9/14/2005 4:54:52 PM EDT
I am a certified teacher, PreK-12. What this K-teacher is doing doesn't sound right. I haven't read any literature (and I read quite a bit) in favor of the method you described. Teachers right now are supposed to be teaching in a method called "differentiated learning". This means that the teacher should be using all the methods available (rhymes, sing-song, picture-word reference, etc. in order to touch all the kids that inevitabley learn in different ways. (some learn best by sight, some by hearing, some by kinesthetics, etc.) What your teacher is doing goes against all this. It's kind of the opposite. I would talk to the teacher first, then the principal. I'm wondering how the principal feels about it if his/her kid is in the same class... weird.

As for Catholic school or other private schools, they don't pay teachers as much, about 70 cents on the dollar, so you get a lower caliber teacher. The up-side is that the classes are small, 10-15 students, so you child gets more individual attention.

To speak to the technical comment: Kids need to learn technology to survive in today's society. Teachers have to train using the same courses they always did, plus the additional technology stuff, plus additional special education courses (because of mainstreaming). Which is why most teaching degrees now take 5 years to complete. To say a typical teacher nowadays is a technology specialist who doesn't actually teach, shows a high level of ignorance. I'd like to see how he would do in a classroom of 25 kids for 7 hours. Better yet, sit in on a classroom for a week or even a day, to see how much goes into it.

I agree that a lot of homeschooling does work. One on one or one on three is a lot more effective than one on thirty. But there is also a lot of homeschooling that does not work. Ask any social worker.

Now I'll get off my
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 4:59:29 PM EDT
When I was in elementary school, my parents did lots of extra reading assignments lessons with me after i got home.

The result: I learned reading much faster than most other kids in my class, and it saved me a lot of pain later.

Lots of the books they used were special reading work books they got at the bookstores. It if worked for me, I'm sure it will work for your kid.
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 5:18:33 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/14/2005 5:20:11 PM EDT by Dance]

Originally Posted By excitableboy:
Okay. I'm an elementary school teacher. I teach 2nd grade. I have not taught kindergarten so I'm not really familiar with it. I do know something about reading though. I have a masters degree as a reading specialist and have been very involved in setting up our school reading program. Now a days kids are started out very early reading. And what you are describing is how they learn. I can know all the letters in the alphabet and what they sound like and still not be able to read.
The book you are describing has a lot of sight words in it. Words like "it" "the" " play" etc. They make up the bulk of words that he is going to come in contact with when he is reading especially at his age. The books also have the repetition that early readers need. You notice that it says "April Ape likes to paint.". Then the picture supports what is written underneath by showing the Ape painting. The picture support is a very important part of early reading because it helps them gain meaning from the story and helps them figure out unknown words. Picture support is also helpful in meaning as the child gets older and the text gets more complex. I'm sure phonics is being taught but not necessarily the way we learned phonics.
What I would do is work on basic sight words with your son. Google "Dolch Basic Sight Words " and you will find a site you can print them out. Then practice with him. The other thing is read with him every night. You wouldn't believe how much progress he will make. I taught my daughter how to read strictly by sight and she is a good reader. She is 6. Her comprehension is wonderful and she is able to figure out many long words by using context clues.
Hope this helps. Let me know if I can do anything else.



I taught 4th grade for a short time, and this pretty much explains it from what i learned. There are so many ways to teach reading, it's like a flavor of the year deal. I would find out what the program they use is called, read up on it a bit and make sure it is taught throughout the school years. Some schools teach phonics in k-1 then for some reason the 2nd grade teacher will use whole language instead of keeping it continuous. You can also see if the school has a reading specialist and chat with them, as they should be able to answer any questions.

Edit- Some concepts deal with the childs maturity level also. 2 months from now he may be dominating the reading assignments the teacher sends home.
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 5:19:38 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/14/2005 5:21:08 PM EDT by five2one]

Originally Posted By pattymcn:
My son is in Kindergarten. His teacher is doing this sight reading thing with him and class and its not going well. He brings home "books" that he is suppose to memorize and told he is reading. No phonics, no learning the letters, no sounding out sounds or blends of sounds. My son brought home a book today called "April Ape Likes Acorns." Its a tiny book stuffed with different sentences surrounded around April Ape. For an example: April Ape likes to paint. April Ape likes to shape Clay. No rhyme or reason. There are pictures to association with such as an ape painting and playing with something that can be construed as clay.

I'm very much opposed to this type of "teaching."

Patty



wiki kind of trashes it, but I'll try to look up a more authorative source,

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reading_education
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 5:19:49 PM EDT
Thank you for the info guncheck. I'll be asking you more questions, I'm sure. I taught my older two kids to read with the writing method to reading. It was simple, fun for both of us and they are both pretty decent readers, considering one is autistic.

I am interested in hearing the principals take on matters since before being a principal she taught the first grade. However I do not feel as if I will get the truth out of her. The teacher [although I like her as a person] is a horrible teacher and she was shoved to Kindergarten as a last resort [you know before retirering, where as most people would just loose their job]. The union made a stink about it and the school's answer was to make Kindergarten full day so my son is in school from 8-3:30. The class size is 10.

I've thought about just pulling him out of class at noon and homeschooling the reading [and math] but am worried that this method of teaching will conflict and make future problems.

I have talked to the teacher and she calms that the instant gratification gotten by the kids [and no doubt the other parents who think their child is reading] inbeds a desire for learning early on. I can see a point to that and can reflect on my own learning to read days. I was self taught with Cat in the Hat. Now good old Cat in the Hat also had phonics but it was also sight reading. I've always been an avid reader too. But I think that was more to my parents demanding no TV in the house as a child.

Anyway, I appreciate all the input. Its important how our kids learn and I hate gambling and don't know exactly what is best. Its not easy making decisions that can influence your child for the rest of its life.
Whoops gotta go, dinner's gonna burn!
Patty
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 5:24:00 PM EDT
I am not a teacher, however I live with a teaching Guru...
So I am handing over the laptop to my better half

I am a kindergarten teacher in Texas. In my school district, we have what is called a "balanced approach" to literacy. Basically what this means is we use a mix between whole language and phonics. This is a great approach. Not all children learn to read in the same way so our approach tries to reach all children in the way that they can learn. There are merits to both systems. Basically, it depends on how your child learns as to what system works best for them. As far as memorizing books, I have found that this definitely has benefits. I have never specifically told a child memorize a book, it just seems to happen. It makes them think of themselves as a reader which builds confidence and makes them more willing and excited to try to learn to read and take more chances. Even when a child has memorized a book, they are learning and cementing many print concepts and early literacy skills (like one to one matching, letter/sound association, etc...) This ape book seems to be focusing on the letter "a" so some sort of letter or phonics teaching must be in the curriculum.

On a related note, phonics are not the end all, be all. A child should not automatically be taught to sound out a word that he/she doesn't know. The whole purpose of reading is making meaning out of text. When a child stops to decode text, his cognitive function has switched from making meaning to decoding the word. I use phonics (stretching out sounds) as a last resort when a child can't figure out a word. I try to give them many tricks in their repertoire to pull out when faced with an unknown word. First, I do have them look at the picture clues. This is what the pictures are there for. Then I have them think about what word would make sense. Then I have them look at what letter the word starts with to see if what they were thinking would fit. I even have them "crash" into the word (read all the words up to that word) and see if their brain will tell them what it should be. I also encourage them to see if it looks like another word that they do know (like words similar to high frequency/sight words, word families, etc..) If all of these fail, then I have them sound out the word.

As far as what to do with your child's teacher, I would advise giving her the benefit of the doubt. There is nothing more irritating than someone second guessing what I am doing in the classroom. Definitely DO NOT get the principal involved just yet. Remember that your child is going to have this teacher for the next 8 or so months. You do not want to start the year off this way. If you have questions about the reading instruction, just ask her in a non-threatening way. I'm sure she would be happy to explain it to you. I am much more likely to respond in a positive way if a parent has approached me in a spirit of collaboration and curiosity rather than one of confrontation. This automatically puts me on the defense. I think that getting the principal involved will make her think that you are upset, unhappy, and ready to fight. Although many people don't agree, teachers are professionals. We too had to attend college and know what we are doing and why we are doing it. We do have the same goals for your child as you do. We want to see them succeed.

One more thing to keep in mind, it is still early in the year. Learning to read is a process. The best thing that you can do for your child is to expose them to books and reading. Lots and lots of books/reading. Children need to realize that reading is fun and useful. Give your child and his teacher some time to go through this process. If your child had not made ANY progress by November/December than that may be cause for concern. I have found that many students need more exposure than others and they all learn at their own pace. Sometimes all of a sudden one day a light comes on and they jump reading levels by leaps and bounds. Other times it is a slow and steady climb. It all depends on your child.

If you have any more questions, I'd be more than happy to give my insight/methodology or help you understand certain emergent literacy components. Best of luck!
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 5:43:23 PM EDT

Originally Posted By pattymcn:
My son is in Kindergarten. His teacher is doing this sight reading thing with him and class and its not going well. He brings home "books" that he is suppose to memorize and told he is reading. No phonics, no learning the letters, no sounding out sounds or blends of sounds. My son brought home a book today called "April Ape Likes Acorns." Its a tiny book stuffed with different sentences surrounded around April Ape. For an example: April Ape likes to paint. April Ape likes to shape Clay. No rhyme or reason. There are pictures to association with such as an ape painting and playing with something that can be construed as clay.

I'm very much opposed to this type of "teaching."

Patty




FWIW -- this guy describes whole language (sight reading) and then discusses using a strict phonetics approach called Direct Instruction. Its kind of long -- sorry. I saw a Frontline show on Direct Instruction and the results were impressive. I haven't talked to any teachers who used it though. Good luck and, I applaud you for being such an active part of your kids education.

Title: THE FIGHT ABOUT READING , By: Goral, Tim, Curriculum Administrator, 10825495, May 2001, Vol. 37, Issue 5
THE FIGHT ABOUT READING

With schools facing more public pressure, the always controversial decision districts face about their elementary school reading programs has become an even more thorny dilemma.

When Rudolph Flesch proposed to explain in his pivotal 1955 book Why Johnny Can't Read: And What You Can Do about It, he highlighted a debate that remains unsettled to this day. What method--phonics or whole language--works best to teach children to read? Flesch wrote that the reading process must be based on fundamental skills, enabling children to decode written words based on letter sounds, phonetic pairings and word recognition.

Whole language, on the other hand, takes a different approach. Instead of learning words by breaking down their phonetic components, children decode words by their context. Although it was popular during the last quarter-century, the whole language approach has fallen in disfavor, often called a failure, largely based on dismal test scores and an increasing national illiteracy rate.
Re-examining whole language

But is whole language a failure? To be fair, it depends on what your definition of whole language is. At its root, whole language is a literature-based approach to reading, emphasizing comprehension over phonetic skills. Whole language proponents say that, before they even start school, children acquire a vocabulary of some 10,000 words along with fundamental grammar rules. Children spend their time "doing" reading rather than endlessly drilling on spelling rules and letter combinations. In other words, they learn to read by reading. In the hands of a skilled teacher who can help young readers comprehend what they are reading, bringing in skills instruction as needed, whole language has indeed been successful in many places. That, after all, is what brought it to national prominence in the last 25 years.

But, whole language is also a catchall phrase for a wide-reaching approach that, while literacy is still its goal, sometimes is too open-ended to be effective for all students. For example, critics say the "whole language" approach (taken in this broader sense) places far too much value on understanding "messages," at the expense of critical basal reading skills. Primary students often "invent" word spellings (which go uncorrected) at the encouragement of teachers, to express their ideas without the technical restrictions of phonics, correct spelling and grammar. The result is more important than the process.

Whole language proponents say it keeps reading and writing from being oppressive tasks, allowing children to become expressive, independent thinkers.

But, in the face of declining test scores and increasing accountability, the whole language approach came under fire, partly because of its rather vague definition. Policy makers, themselves accountable to their constituents, are demanding that teaching methods be clearly defined and supported by research for continued funding.

And therein lies perhaps the biggest problem of whole language--its lack of a definitive structure. How can a program be deemed successful when it is taught in different ways with different emphasis on what is important?
A new, yet old program

In the last 10 years, a growing number of schools have abandoned the whole language approach for a different, and sometimes no less controversial, approach to reading. Ironically, the program called Direct Instruction has been around for quite some time.

Created in 1964 by preeminent reading researcher Siegfried Engelmann, it focuses on phonics-based instruction, characterized by repetitive drills and a teaching script. And it works.

"There was a point where people jumped on the whole language bandwagon and thought it was going to be the 'be-all and end-all' of teaching kids to read," says Donna Dwiggens, principal of the Christopher Columbus Elementary School in Chester, Penn. "Meanwhile, the people that knew Direct Instruction and taught it continued to do so because they knew that the whole language model was not sufficient for a lot of kids."

Dwiggens' own experience with the program began some 25 years ago when she was a research assistant for Project Follow Through. "Direct Instruction was being used primarily in programs like Title I or special education, because those groups weren't required to adhere to the state-adopted textbook lists."

When the government cut funding for Project Follow Through, she says, they made the cuts across the board despite the kind of progress being made. "It didn't matter that Direct Instruction or other programs could clearly show they were head-and-shoulders above the other models. They didn't look at performance of the models."

Then a funny thing happened.

"People began to see that although these kids were special ed or Title I students, they were starting to outperform kids in regular classrooms," Dwiggens says.

"Now whole language has started to burn itself out and doesn't have the data to support all the claims it has made," she says. "But all along Direct Instruction has continued to accumulate that database to show how effective it is across the wide range of ability levels, ethnic groups, ages and so on."

Out of 501 districts in Pennsylvania, the Chester Upland district ranks last. The Columbus School was at the bottom of the district's list, with 86 percent of the kids falling in the bottom quartile. The state, armed with a Read to Succeed grant, recruited Dwiggens to implement the Direct Instruction program in its Columbus School.

"They wanted to bring in one of the school-wide reform models and see whether they could turn things around," she says. "They knew they had to have someone here day-in and day-out to make it work; they couldn't just bring in a consultant once a month to help the school out." Dwiggens and her assistant, Rosella Givens, were recruited specifically because they had Direct Instruction experience.

(The Columbus School was taken over by the state last July because of academic failure. At press time administrators were awaiting the decision of what private vendors would operate the school, although Dwiggens has been assured that Direct Instruction will continue.)

In the short time the program has been in place, the school has shown steady academic improvement. "We collect data three times a year, and we are already showing some real success with the program, especially with the young kids that came into it with kindergarten and first grade," says Dwiggens. "For example, of our returning students who took Direct Instruction in kindergarten, where it is not mandatory, we have 10 percent already reading at an advanced first grade level. In first grade, we have about 25 kids, out of 120, who are reading at beginning third grade level."

That success has inspired teachers, who were initially reluctant to implement the program, to fight for its continuation. "The program was not voted in by the faculty, rather it was imposed from above by the board," says Dwiggens. "The teachers felt the blame was being laid at their feet because the children weren't doing well academically The first thing we did was to get past that and make them understand that in no way did we blame them, but that we thought the missing piece was the curriculum."

There were some teachers who asked for transfers to go elsewhere because they didn't want to do the program, but others were willing to try. Now, says Dwiggens, the teachers arc the ones fighting for Direct Instruction. "They've been out lobbying the vendors to keep the program, because they know it is successful. They know the kids arc learning, and they've seen a significant improvement in just one year."
Working for all students

Dave Philips, principal of the Woodbridge Elementary School in Roseville, Calif., says Direct Instruction has made a tremendous difference in his school. Woodbridge Elementary's student population is 30 percent non-English speaking, and 60 percent below the poverty line, yet the school ranks in the top 10 percent of schools with similar demographics.

"Our students are doing quite well with Direct Instruction," Phillips says. "We're dealing with students who statistically arc not doing well across California or across the country. We have a financially poor population and a large number of non-EL students, yet we can compete with other schools in our district in terms of academic performance. The Title I, non-ESL students scored an 823 on the API."

School-wide, the numbers arc as impressive: "We scored 703. Realistically, when a school like Woodbridge scores in the 600 to 700 range, well, there are many schools in middle-class areas that would kill to have those scores."

Most of Phillips' 26-year career has been spent with Direct Instruction. He has seen it work repeatedly in all situations. "It has had a track record of success," he says. "If used correctly, Direct Instruction and reading mastery are truly the 'whole language' approach, because you are teaching phonics, you are teaching decoding, you are teaching blending. You aren't teaching isolated phonics; you are teaching the application of skills. Then the other portion of your reading program should be rich with literature. It's one portion of a balanced reading program."
By the script

A key part of the Direct Instruction method--and the one that draws the most criticism--is its strict adherence to a carefully worded script that teachers follow throughout the program.

Each sentence in the teaching manual has been repeatedly field-tested in a variety of teaching situations for clarity and effectiveness, says Karen Sorrentino of SRA/McGraw Hill, which markets the Direct Instruction system. "The authors look at the tests and determine whether there are some things in the program that cause students to make mistakes, then they go back and revise the program to eliminate the errors."

In the new version of the program, says Sorrentino, the authors spent five years field-testing the manuscript. "Nothing from the first version of that manuscript survived in the final printed edition," she says.

Witnessing a Direct Instruction lesson for the first time is a bit unsettling to those who are unfamiliar with the program. The teacher, reciting from the script, keeps a nononsense, quick pace throughout.

Rapid-fire verbal cues, such as, "Next word. What's the sound? Get ready," followed by a finger snap to signal the students' turn to respond, may seem strict to some. However, the goal is to keep the lesson on track and encourage quick and confident responses from students. The students will learn higher-level skills, but only after they've mastered the basics and can access them quickly.

"We've seen that the teachers who are consistent and do follow the program exactly are the ones that have the highest achievement," says Debbie Burdick, principal at the Wilson Primary School in Phoenix, Ariz. Burdick's own background was in whole language. "I came from a district where we trained every teacher in whole language. That was pretty much how I thought we should be going, although I always believed phonics should be present in any program. I've been in this business long enough to know that everything doesn't work well for every child, but that's the key to teaching--finding what works best for every child."

The Wilson student population is 98 percent free lunch, 97 percent minority, 92 percent Hispanic and 75 percent Limited English Proficient. "That means the majority of our population spoke another language before they came to school," says Burdick. "Our job in kindergarten--besides everything else--is teaching these kids to speak, read and write English. Direct Instruction is the most phenomenal thing I've ever seen, and I'm kicking myself for not considering it sooner."

Although Burdick says she has seen whole language work with many children, they didn't have the huge risk factors present in the Wilson school. "It didn't work for children with many risk factors, because it was too open-ended, and the teachers weren't equipped to teach it correctly." Even in her former district, where whole language was the preferred approach, new teachers were not permitted to teach it until they had completed three years of training. "However, in Direct Instruction, you can give your art teacher--who has never had any reading instruction--the scripted book and they can teach a pretty good lesson if they read and say what is in that teacher presentation book."

All Wilson teachers, regardless of specialty, attend in-service for reading and spend time with a reading consultant. "Reading is the key," she says. "We teach reading in everything we do. With Direct Instruction, it's all down in writing; there is no guess work."

For all its documented success, the Direct Instruction method still has its critics, who say it is too scripted. "So were Shakespeare's plays," replies Dwiggens. "But when someone learns that script, how they present it is a very individual thing. Two actors can memorize the same script, but it will come off very differently because of what they put into it of themselves."

"The other thing is that the scripts are there for a reason. It doesn't limit one's ability to be creative. Yes, you have to teach by that script but that script is all research-based; it is based on how kids have performed in field-testing and what research has shown to be the most efficient way to teach a concept."

But doesn't that approach stifle teachers' creativity? "We have a 120-minute reading block in this school," Burdick says. "The first 45 minutes are Direct Instruction; after that they can be as creative as they want. They get the reading and basic skills in first and then they can bring in whatever they want."

Phillips agrees that the scripting is essential to the success of the program. "I've heard those criticisms, but my feeling is that it gives you the roadmap. It's already been tested; you know that the practices for a particular skill are built into the program; you are maintaining the same vocabulary and directions from grade to grade so that you aren't playing hide and seek from students. It's a very clear-cut message that 'Here is what is expected of you, and here is what you will learn.' With Direct Instruction, you are setting the stage for success."
A balanced approach

A second program to gain national attention is called America's Choice, created in 1989 by the National Center on Education and the Economy. "It's a balanced literacy approach with a little bit of everything involved, such as whole language, phonics and linguistics. You teach children a skill, but you also teach them to apply the skill to an everyday life situation so they take it to the next level," says Debbie Crotty, an America's Choice design coach in Florida's Henry Kite school.

Crotty says other programs fall short of this goal by not teaching applied learning. "The teachers didn't know how to teach it because they weren't taught it."

The effectiveness of the America's Choice model is evident in testing that reflects critical thinking. "The teacher can't 'teach the test,'" Crotty says. "Instead they teach the skill and how to apply it so students can master it on the test."

America's Choice is in its second year at Kentucky's Sheldon Clark High School. "There's a tremendous focus on literacy with America's Choice," says Principal John Haney. "It's a whole language approach that has students compare as they read an article. It teaches them to relate the article to themselves. As they make those connections, they become more interested in the story and in reading."

One feature of the program is the requirement that all students read 25 books a year. "The 25-book campaign is a method to increase students' vocabulary and reading ability," says Haney. "We track all the books that they read, and they are tested on each book before they get credit for it."

As part of the America's Choice reform design, the school has instituted a literary studies program, in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh, for students that don't read up to grade level. "It's a very structured class," Haney says. "The teachers have a set of lessons plans that they follow religiously."

The proof of the program's success is that students are reading. "The enthusiasm of the teachers and the enthusiasm of the students has just amazed us," he says. "Students come into class before the bell rings and are already in their stations reading and working on the literacy class for that day," Haney says. "They won't go so far as to tell you they now really enjoy reading, but these are kids who didn't read at all before this."

With new literacy goals being forwarded by the Bush administration, researchers and policy makers will watch programs such as Direct Instruction and America's Choice with a keen eye to results.
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 5:43:46 PM EDT
Thank you to the Lady Tonster. I'll read and re-read your post. I have talked with my son's teacher and I do volunteer in the class a lot [a few hours a day] so I am seeing what she does. I've tried not to be confortational although its one of my bad qualities so most likely I have. I was only thinking of talking to the principal for her insight to get her opinion since she too has a child that's struggling and was an early education provider.

I'll be honest with you though. I don't like it and I don't have a lot of confidence in it. My son particularly has a speech - language problem and could truly bennifit from the repetition of sounding out sounds of letters. The kids are confused and have no idea what is being required to them - consequently the majority of the teacher's time is focused on the two girls that seem to be grasping it. However out of 10 students only 2 are getting it. The odds are not good. But as you say it is early. I'll try to be open minded, but honestly where do you draw the line? If its frustrating your child, your child isn't learning when do you try something else?

Patty
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 6:27:16 PM EDT
More from Tonster's wife:

I'm so sorry that your child is frustrated. That is the absolute last thing that you want when teaching reading. I agree that children who have speech difficulties (especially articulation) usually need more practice with letters and sounds because they either don't hear or can't produce the same sounds that we take for granted.

At our school, letters and sounds are a whole separate part of our day apart from our reading instruction. This instruction should not be confused with reading instruction. We use a combination of Spalding & Neuhaus modified to fit our population’s needs. Many of our students come to kindergarten with a lot of exposure to reading and knowing all their letters/sounds with most of them reading or very ready to learn to read.

Exactly how is she teaching reading?

As far as when to try something else, I encourage you to do some research for yourself. When you find something that you like, try it at home. I highly recommend a book called Guided Reading by: Irene C. Fountas and Gay Supinnell. It basically goes through the whole continuum from reading aloud to your child to shared reading, to guided reading, and finally to independent reading. I think it also goes into the same continuum for writing. (Modeled writing, Interactive writing, Shared Pen, Independent Writing) It has been a while since I read it.

By the way, thanks for volunteering in your child’s class. I hope that your child’s teacher has expressed how great of a help it is to have parents’ support and help in the classroom.
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 6:42:39 PM EDT
Just think, in a few months or a year or so, you'll be able to sit down and read the advertisements in Guns N Ammo with your kid

My mommy bought me a subscription to Guns N Ammo when I was in 5th grade for my birthday
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 7:20:17 PM EDT
Thanks Mrs Tonster. I think she's a nice woman and I know she appreciates the help. She only has 10 but that's a handful. Keeping that many noses wiped and faces washed is a full time job.

She has a big poster board with sentences in it that she points too with a pointer that she goes over with the kids. Most of the boys in the classroom do not pay attention or seem to be able to concentrate on this.

When I taught my older two I used a book I bought at a garage sale called "An Acorn in your hand" I'll have to dig it out to tell you the author. Its old [written in the 50's] but it worked lickedy split even for my autistic child. Although it taught rules for everything and he is very rule oriented.

I know each child learns differently and can appreciate her trying this whole language approach and can see from your previous comments her plan now to incorporate it with future activities such as silly songs and poems. However I since most of the kids do not even know their letters yet I think this is the wrong approach right now. The cart before the horse so to speak - but admittedly I am not a professional.

Patty
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 7:46:24 PM EDT
From Mrs. Tonster:

Only 10 students.... WOW, that sounds like heaven! I have 21 wonderful little five and six year old friends that require every ounce of my attention from 8:10-3:10. Hopefully, things will get better. If not, post some more and I'll try to offer any suggestions/input that I can.

Well I'm off to bed; my 21 smiling faces will need me refreshed and rested tomorrow!
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 7:46:57 PM EDT
As with Mrs Tonster, I have used the balanced literacy approach. I believe it to be one of the best things going out there right now. Every one learns differently, and no one thing will work for every one. I would find out what program (if any) your childs teacher is using. Read up on it to the extent that you are privy to the strengths and weaknesses of it, and then suplement it at home.

I would agree that your child being frustrated is the abosolute worst case senario, especially at such a young age. You need to make it to where he is some how comfortable with the reading.

You mentioned that you have one autistic child, so I will assume that you are familiar with special ed services. If your kindergartener is having speach troubles, is he recieveing services, and what does his IEP entail? That is a powerful tool indeed.

I hope that this lady makes it through the year and gets on the ball a little bit more since she was nearly forced out. Although I know of several instances where this has been done to other teachers who were excellent educators and they started off a bit rocky, but had every one beging for more at the end of the year.

Also if she does not make it through the year, myself and my GF are still looking for a couple of contract positions.
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 8:03:28 PM EDT
killingmachine123 thank you for your input. I actually really like the teacher. I don't like this program but will give it some more time and do appreciate your input.

My son is on an IEP. He has since he was 2. Its a joke here. I live 120 miles away from the ESD so services are very limited. He talks at a 2 year old level and receives 15 minutes a week from the SLP. No other services.

I've worked with him at home and taught him his letters. He understands language very well but can not talk well [will not talk and has very immature verbal skills]. Its frustrating to say the least.

The long days are too hard on him. I'm thinking of taking him out 1/2 days [pick him up at lunch] and teaching him phonics at home. Not so much as to "undermind" the teacher but more so to help him with his language skills. I should say his talking is probably a bit better as he's starting to use verb tense now, which is a big improvement. He still calls everything male gender ["its his" while pointing to a girl].

Patty
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 8:13:34 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/14/2005 8:14:01 PM EDT by Tonster]

Originally Posted By killingmachine123:
Also if she does not make it through the year, myself and my GF are still looking for a couple of contract positions.



The REAL Tonster
Are you guys looking to relocate?
There are tons of positions here in the Houston area.
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 8:18:27 PM EDT
in public schools in california phonics, learning the letters, sounding out sounds, and blends of sounds are now taught in 1st grade. i am a tard but my girl friend is an elementary school teacher and is the 1st grade level chair.
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 8:58:04 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/15/2005 4:54:18 AM EDT by pattymcn]

Originally Posted By occaar:
in public schools in california phonics, learning the letters, sounding out sounds, and blends of sounds are now taught in 1st grade. i am a tard but my girl friend is an elementary school teacher and is the 1st grade level chair.



This is how I learned and how I taught my oldest two as well. Patty
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 9:01:39 PM EDT
like i said first grade is when this is taught but it never hurts to be ahead of the game.
Link Posted: 9/14/2005 10:07:07 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/14/2005 10:10:04 PM EDT by prk]
Patty,

This has gotta be frustrating, almost overwhelming at times. I went through this with my son and if you have a sense that the reading instruction is not working (or more on target, is poorly conceived), you're probably right.

After all, who knows your son better than you?

I really believe in being a strong adovcate for challenging school staff if you are not happy with the way your kid(s) are taught.

My son was in an elementary school that "encouraged parent involvement". Well, that was limited to fund raising and volunteer work. When there were issues with the teaching methods, they didn't want to hear it.

Don't worry quite so much about the teacher being unfairly assessed, or about not being supportive. Teachers generally have a very strong union.

My son's kindergarten class had a "job sharing" situation with two teachers splitting the class time. It worked to a point, but one of them was prone to find a need for psychological intervention with every little behavior she didn't like. To illustrate it, it got to the point where the woman running the child care center had a counterpoint series of articles on the bulletin board about letting kids be kids, that no, boys 'shooting' each other with their finger-thumb gestures is not a precursor to becoming a serial killer, roughhousing is OK within limits, and so on.

As I discovered, the one KG teacher was getting pumped by a professor running a Masters/PhD program in clinical/educational psychology, and was referring kids for assesments because the professor NEEDED referrals so that the grad students would have subjects to diagnose, in order to get that part of their ticket punched. And would you believe it? -- there was a bias toward making a diagnosis of a serious problem that would require intervention and referral to shrinks.

I'm not Tom Cruise, but when a school district psychologist came to a parent meeting talking about how our school had the highest proportion of student in special ed programs and he thought that the proportion was way too high, I had to wonder if the referral & therapy angle wasn't being overplayed and was being pushed for the wrong reasons. I'm saying this not to question what you believe YOUR son's situation to be, but to point out that if parents are too accomodating to the teacher's view of things, it can harm the children.

I would not wait to take action to get with both the principal and the teacher to voice your concerns, but get a clear idea of what alternative approach you would like to use, and be prepared to describe the advantages of what you'd like to see, and the disadvantages of sticking with the current approach.

You will probably encounter some resistance, and don't be shy about making you proposals in an assertive manner. Also set yourself and the school some dates for when you want to see things happening.

What you face if you just nicely have a discussion and then have no follow up, is that with the term getting well underway, soon Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, will be upon us and before you know it, half the school year will have gone by and you'll wonder where it got you.


The education industry is as subject to fashion as are hemlines.
When my son was in 2nd or 3rd grade, that teacher was a pariah in the school because she actually made a point of teaching such things as addition, subtraction, and simple multiplication. She actually taught the multiplication tables, though without any support from teachers in the higher grades, the knowledge tended to fade.

On reading, when I realized that my son was having difficulty sounding out some pretty basic words phonetically, I met with his teacher about it, brought up the subject of phonics-based instruction, and was told that it was discredited, wasn't taught in the district, etc. Also that there were NO resources available in the district for parents who wanted to make that an adjunct to the regular classroom work. What a load of crap. So try / suggest something that you think will work, get it into the IEP, and see how it goes. Reading to your child a lot really helps.

Math had its own trendiness. In 4th grade they made a big deal out of "tangrams". Multiple meetings to sell the concept to the parent group (some Chinese entrepeneur with a product) on sets of the little expensive plastic triangles that could have been cut from paper or cardboard. By the time my son was in Middle School, do you think they hadn't been tossed out?

When I was first juggling the job, getting him to the bus and picking him up from childcare, I was thinking that my home-schooling neighbors were nuts, or worse. After seeing the problems with public schools up close over those years in primary school, I was convinced they were absolutely right. Also during that time I soon got rid of that fantasy of teachers being almost god-like, iconic figures and saw them for the challenged and imperfect people we all are.

I hope this helps -- good luck and keep with it.


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