April 14, 2022

This week at the Education Think Tank we learned about the current, popular (and ineffective) methods being used in the public school system to teach our children to read.  The “whole word” method expects children to recognize and memorize a word based on how it’s shaped and how it looks.   But there are a few problems with this method; many words are shaped the same and look a lot alike.  For example: “there, these and three” or “burn, barn and born”.  Not only do they look very similar but when you use this method children are relying on visual cues only to try and figure out what the word is.  This can be very frustrating to children who aren’t visual learners or who don’t have strong memory muscles yet.

Another widely used method is the “three cueing system” which teaches children to use cues to try and figure out what they are reading.  For instance, they are told to look at the picture for clues, have their mouth form the first letter of the word or to just skip any tricky words and carry on reading in hopes that the missing word will be easier to guess in the context of the sentence.  These may sound like good ideas but in fact we are just teaching our kids strategies to guess, not read.  What happens when children get into the intermediate grades where they are expected to read to learn but they don’t have the skills to decode unknown or unfamiliar words?

We then looked at the Guided Reading and Balanced Literacy approaches that believe kids are natural pattern makers who will just “pick up” reading and so they put their emphasis on reading being a social activity and developing a “love for literature”.  The problem is that most kids don’t develop a love of reading and are embarrassed in group work when they can’t read as well as their peers.  Please note that spelling has not been addressed at all with any of the above approaches.

Long before these methods were developed, phonics and direct teaching methods were used to teach reading and spelling and they were highly successful.  The English language is over 80% rule based but it seems as though most teachers do not know the rules.  When we teach phonics and the rules and generalizations of the English language, we provide children with the skills they need to “think” their way out of a language problem.  Ultimately, we give them the gift of confidence in themselves and their abilities.

If you’d like to learn more about me and my Time to Shine Teaching approach, I encourage you to “like” and subscribe to our YouTube channel and take some time to watch this zoom meeting where I take you through the ineffective methods being used today and show you some phonics strategies to make learning more fun, engaging and highly effective.

Click here to see this Education Think Tank zoom meeting:

Thank you to all who attended.  It is always such a pleasure for me each week to meet the new people joining us for the first time and to see all those that make time each week to come back and take part in our Education Think Tank.  You are all truly blessings to me.  Together we can make a difference.

Til’ we meet again,

Norma Jean Maxwell
Life Force Canada
Education Think Tank Facilitator