No child left behind
How I taught a teacher in Australia to teach her son to read
In December 2020 I met a desperate mother on Twitter who was at wit’s end as she could not understand why her son, despite tuition, was unable to read.
Here is our chat which is self-explanatory. It started on December 23rd, 2020, and ended on January 30th, 2021.
Her profile on Twitter says:
Australian Teacher. Highly Accomplished. Passion for literacy. Master Reading and Literacy. Mother of 4 boys. Out-of-field secondary science. Joined (Twitter) December 2020
December 23rd, 2020.
Your son has no acuity problems - right?
Let us start this with a simple exercise - just for me to see what his problem may be.
Write the letters on a book and ask him for the letter sounds from A to Z.
Record it and then send it to me and we can go on from there.
There are 3 videos.
First I asked him to say the letter names.
Then I asked him to sing the alphabet song and point to the letters, you will see why.
Then say the letter sounds.
The sounds of the letters are his problem. He has been taught many of the sounds wrongly.
We can get him to read. You need to follow exactly what I tell you to do.
Are you prepared to do this?
Teach him to say the letter sounds. This is important.
I want to do everything I can to help him.
I read the science.
I read the whole language and balanced literacy literature.
I'm open to doing what works for my son.
Next, let us start by telling him that he has been taught some of the letters sounds wrong.
You said he was saying some incorrectly......... and this is his problem. If this is not corrected, he will end up a shut down kid.
I see that you have subscribed to my channel.
Dec 23, 2020, 6:35 AM
What is important is to listen to my video 6 to 10 on shut down kids. Try to understand the first video - No 6. Do not go into further lessons yet.
He had stomach aches to go to school.
He cried when I got the tricky words out to practice.
I have spent two weeks just getting him happy to read some words from picture books (like hop on pop) with me and to do some writing from a Kumon writing book.
Please understand that your son is confused. Let us get him out of his confusion first.
Yes. You are correct. He is confused. Very much so.
And he's sad and emotional about learning to read.
This was not what it was like with my three older boys who are in year 6, 7 and 10 and get A's for English.
If you keep getting him to read, he will fall through the net when he gets to grade 4.
The year 4 slump. I deal with this as a teacher.
It's the year level I teach.
So, let us get this corrected now.
Yes. I am listening.
I was just telling you what I've done up until today.
He is pronouncing many of the consonants with extraneous sounds.
I will tell you what he has learned wrongly. Start from the beginning and he will read in no time.
The consonants he is pronouncing wrongly are b,c, d, g,j,k,p,t. I did not hear the sound for 'h'.
The sounds he is pronouncing correctly are l,m,n and may be s - (s is not clear)
As such this is what is confusing him. We don't have to correct him with all the letters. Just tell him that this new teacher has a method that may help him.
Teach the first lesson with the correct pronunciation of the consonants as shown on the lesson.
At the end of the lesson make sure he learns the Dolch words by heart. Forget all that you may have heard about Dolch words should not be memorised etc.
Dec 23, 2020, 12:42 PM
Get him to repeat the Dolch words by sounding out the names of the letters. Do not use the letter sounds. for example, ask him to repeat a-n-d and, o-n on. Say each 5 times. If he knows how to write then get him to write these words in a book five times each. Any child will be able to do this with no problem. When it comes time to write sentences all these words will come out and be spelled automatically.
Please, take an exercise book and divide the page into 3 columns. List down the Dolch words from top down on the first column. When he does the Dolch words in the 2nd lesson list them below the first set.
He has to read the dolch words each day until they become second nature to him. These words comprise 50 to 70 % of all words in kid's storybooks.
Dec 23, 2020, 1:19 PM
After the first lesson please record for me his sounding out the word families and reading the lesson. Then we move to lesson 2. I know you are a teacher and usually teachers think they know all about teaching but in this case please just follow instructions. Before the 5 weeks is up you will see that he is able to read. Wish you well.
I do not teach beginning readers.
So thank you.
Do you mean all DOLCH words or just as they come up in the lessons?
Just as they come up in the lessons, of course.
Go to the next lesson only when he is able to read the Dolch words confidently.
Yes, please ask me anything that you are not clear on.
Note: Alanna sent me a video clip of her son reading and I corrected a few of the letters pronounced with extraneous sounds.
Alanna, this is a joint effort between you and me. So, please make sure you get Louis to read and make me proud. Feel free to question me on anything on my lessons. Go at it one step at a time.
Please get Louis to memorise the first few Dolch words before going on to lesson 2. Keep me informed of his progress. If you have any questions on my book, please feel free to ask.
Alanna posted a photo of her holding my book ‘Shut down kids’.
Shall I make sure he can write them to know he has them memorised, or is reading them enough?
No need to write. Ask him to spell them and if he can that should be good enough. You will see the effects of this when he learns how to write sentences and essays later in school. I hope you have listed the words in a book as suggested by me.
Dec 24, 2020, 8:03 AM
Here is a video of my only student for 2019 who was unable to read even one sentence despite being in grade 4. If he can learn to memorise Dolch words and read them and spell them then any kids in the world should be able to.
Dec 24, 2020, 8:26 AM
Yes, I have written them in a book.
We will take a small break for Christmas day, and I will give you an update soon.
After just two lessons he is now asking me to help him read words from packages, from his games and he now sounds t p b l f d correctly every time.
Dec 26, 2020, 6:14 AM
we are only JUST scratching the surface of understanding how the brain reads, so how can these people claim to understand the 'science' of how to teach reading??? Especially when so many observations from the field contradict what they say.
I am sure if I told them about Louis they will say there is something wrong with his brain.
Exactly. I have questioned Mark Seidenberg and Sally Shaywitz - both did not respond as they do not have a response. Many so-called educators block me when I ask relevant questions. But there are many who read what I write on my blog. I spend a lot of time writing my blog to be useful to parents who have kids who have shut down from learning to read.
'I am sure if I told them about Louis they will say there is something wrong with his brain.'............ This I know. But I am telling you that Louis is a smart kid. I know he is, just from listening to the recordings you sent. I am not guessing. I hope you trust me on this.
I suppose it may be difficult for people to accept that someone from a non-English speaking country, with a different accent to theirs and without a 'qualification' would have a better understanding than they do.
I have been studying for a master’s in Reading literacy for two years and I know that you have a good knowledge of the main debates in reading and a good knowledge of who the main players are and then you have also taught me new things. Eg the teaching alphabet.
Thank you for your kind words.
When you read my book, please ask me any questions you may have or disagree with.
I have almost finished the book.
Great. Do let me know if there is anything at all that you want to question me. Don't worry about hurting me.... we are all learning.
For Louis, after he has learned to decode all you have to do is to read storybooks with him. Not just to him but with him and explain the meaning of words. As he reads the words will be orthographically mapped onto the brain.
Yes, I am very comfortable doing this as we have over 100 quality storybooks at home and he loves bedtime stories.
Build from the knowledge of word family. Once Louis has finished with my lessons teach him other word families and he will go from there. I believe I have included how to figure out words in lesson 20. We will come to that when it is time.
Ok, so you don't teach digraphs, what do you tell them about air in chair? Or if I understand, you just build from knowledge of DOLCH words?
air in chair?....... Once he has learned the word family 'air' he will be able to build it up to chair. air > hair> chair> chairs, Chairman and so on. Once you teach him this - I have explained this in my lessons- he will automatically do it. Wait till we come to that.
So why is he unhappy to be at school?
I believe he is clever. He is unhappy at school because he considers himself smart and is unable to do what his classmates are able to do. Soon, his self-esteem will be restored and even his gait will improve. Wait and watch.
So many such kids who when do not receive proper intervention have suicidal tendencies and many in fact commit suicide.
I will take a bet with you that Louis will be happy to go to school when the school reopens. You may think I am cocky but I know what Louis is capable of.
I don't think you are cocky.
I respect your knowledge and experience.
Dec 26, 2020, 5:59 PM
I admire that you are not afraid of tackling difficult issues head-on.
I read your blog about suicide.
Many kids who are shut down will behave like this. My Louis is such a good boy that he continued to be good and kind but he stopped asking questions and he said he was sick to avoid school.
It would take a lot for him to behave badly. But he is suffering inside.
But he is suffering inside.............. This I know first hand from listening to my former students. I am fortunate in that I taught only such kids on a one on one basis where the kids treated me as their friend. They all called me uncle as is the custom here. Children do not call adults by their names. Since it is on a one on one basis they ask all kinds of questions which they won't in a class setting. So, I learn a great deal from their questions. In a class setting, they do not ask questions due to shame avoidance. They do not want others to think they are stupid (which they are not.)
The reading wars need to end. Too many are so busy proving their own ways that they are blind to simple solutions.
You have presented as such, a simple solution. And I believe you.
I have 14 years of teaching experience and I am almost finished with a master's in reading and literacy. You make a lot of sense. You see clearly the issues. Unlike others, I trust you because you are not native to English.
I think this clouds the minds of a great many people who are otherwise clever.
‘Blind to simple solutions’. One podcaster said my answers are simplistic. Immediately after the interview I emailed him and asked him as to why we should make it complex and I have not heard from him. The interview was held 2 weeks ago and I believe he will not air it. That does not bother me. Podcaster is from Florida.
Dec 26, 2020, 7:06 PM
Another podcaster is from Georgia who said my interview will be aired more than one month ago but when I said a few things about another podcast of his he decided not to air it, I believe. Both interviews were requested by the podcasters after seeing my posts.
Once he can spell all the sight words - dictation of the first lesson - move on to the next lesson. Make sure to tell him the proper pronunciation of the consonants - no extraneous sounds. If you stick with the same lesson for too long he will get bored. Once you get to the 3rd lesson go back and ask him to read aloud the first lesson. After finishing the 4th lesson get him to read out aloud the 2nd lesson as well. You WILL see an improvement and his fluency as well.
Dec 29, 2020, 3:33 AM
If he is unable to spell a particular word, keep it in mind and ask him during his non-reading time like when you are driving with him. Soon he will be able to map that word orthographically and it will be permanent.
I am a good teacher; I just am not an early reading teacher. I teach middle primary. I will now be able to help these children a lot more too. Thank you so much!
Yes, I have seen you teach Louis.
He has had a fair bit of trouble remembering the word 'near'.
But we are getting there and his confidence is growing.
He is able to read the words from the first two lessons really quickly now and can read the passages with a lot more fluency.
Jan 6, 2021, 8:00 AM
Fantastic news. I am really happy for Louis and you. Keep spelling the word 'near' to him when an opportunity arises and he will learn it with ease.
Then I wrote to her only on 18.1.2021
How is Louis progressing, please?
Jan 18, 2021, 2:06 PM
He is doing well :-)
I will send you a video tomorrow.
He is slow with the Dolch words but he has finally mastered 'near'. He is able to read the first 4 lessons fluently and we are working on 5.
This is good news. If he repeats the Dolch words a few times he will be able to spell them when you ask him. This is important as he will be able to write these words without a mistake when he writes sentences and that will give him confidence.
Jan 19, 2021, 3:11 AM
My last student was a primary 4 student who was unable to read and was certified dyslexic. His parents were elated that he could read after a few lessons. He learned his Dolch words with his parents’ help. Here is a video of him reading the Dolch words during his 8th lesson. He could read all the Dolch words to lesson 7.
Ok, thank you :-) I will keep working on the Dolch words with him. I think these are very important.
Yes, make sure you do not assume he knows the meaning. Ask him if he knows and if not explain the words he is not sure of. More than 50 % of the words in a kid’s book are Dolch words.
How is Louis's progress, please. Let me know if he has any specific problem.
Jan 30, 2021, 1:26 PM
He is progressing well apart from being a bit slow with the Dolch words. We are all back at school now so life had gotten very busy! He is up to lesson 5 part 2 and can read without mistakes.
Jan 30, 2021, 1:29 PM
Note: I lost touch with Allana until today, 28.9.2021.
You really helped him and me get out of being stuck. Reading is now fun, he enjoys it and chooses to read rather than me having to make him.