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Undecodable Sight Words
Author Message
Posted: Mon, 11 February 2002 13:14:04
Subject:

Undecodable Sight Words

Hello,

I just looked at the Dolch Sight Word list - the info given with the list stated that these were 220 undecodable words that need to be taught to children as sight words. . . . but looking them over the majority of them seem to be decodable to me . . . . down, black, etc.

Is there a list somewhere that lists those frequent words that are truely undecodable?

Thanks,

Pam (SC)

Anonymous
Posted: Mon, 11 February 2002 13:38:35
Subject:

No such animals (or hardly any)

The very worst are "one" and "once". Just about every other words met in children's reading are 90% to 95% sensible, ie the consonants and consonant clusters (kn, digraphs, etc.) are excellent predictors of sounds, and the vowels are pretty good predictors if you know the common combinations, and try short then long.

The Dolch lists are very good for frequency, and it is a practical help to teach the most frequent words early. Things like frequency, which depends on counting, obviously haven't changed much since Dolch's day (although language is changing so there are some slight differences even here.)

However Dolch's theories of education are grounded in 1930's psychology and medicine. If you wouldn't drive a 1930's car or go to a 1930's doctor (pre-antibiotics) then maybe you should question the science behind the reading theories too. The theory of memorizing words by sight and repeating at speed was popular for various reasons then, and the teaching suggestions depended on the popular ideas of the time.

Anonymous
Posted: Mon, 11 February 2002 20:49:54
Subject:

Re: Undecodable Sight Words

Have you read Beginning to Read by Harvard professor Dr.Marilyn Jager Adams who found that ninety-two (77 percent) of the most common120 words in print are not phonetic?

Are you aware of research that found that 15 percent of all English words are not phonetic? Would the number of such words reach the thousands? If they are ever learned, do they have to be learned by a non-phonetic method?

I will be happy to send you a copy of a list of common words that do not conform to phonetic principles.

Peace.

Anonymous
Posted: Mon, 11 February 2002 22:22:27
Subject:

Re: Undecodable Sight Words

1920's?? Old research?? sight words and speed?? I've spent 25 years working on the generalization of sight words - how to do it - how to make sure it generalizes - and to hear a lifetime of work summed up in rather trivial terms is ..... well, ....... demeaning. The teaching of sight words is rather simple, and obviously cannot be phonetically, nor rule based. It is the "generalization" of sight words that takes work. However we choose to present it to the public - I'd hope my critics to be adept. Ken C

Anonymous
Posted: Wed, 13 February 2002 00:03:40
Subject:

Re: Undecodable Sight Words

Ken:

You piqued my curiosity. How do you learn to generalize sight words? Many "undecodable" words are decodable except for the spelling of the vowel sound. Anyway, I'm curious about the generalization you spoke about.

Thanks,

Margo

Anonymous
Posted: Wed, 13 February 2002 03:04:40
Subject:

"Sight Words"

Ken -- I literally never learned a sight word in my life. Nor did my daughter. Nor did most of the other people in my family. We are a highly literate family, and each generation teaches the next phonics and hands them the basic books. Most of us were reading fluently before we hit school, with no instruction other than some hours of alphabet recognition and oral phonics. I know that nobody ever made me flash cards or gave me sight memorization exercises, and I know I didn't do any of this with my daughter. And before someone says this, no, we do not memorize from being read to - reading to children is very limited in a family where the kids grab the books for themselves.Yet we obviously read and write pretty well.

If there are so many "undecodable" "sight words" in existence, how is this possible?

I certainly don't mean to trivialize your research -- but again to have my life and experience and family's experience classed as a lie does not make me very happy either.

NOT you, but other posters here fall into all the faults of bad rhetoric, and when they cannot prove facts, they go to personal insults and snide comments and shifting the ground of the argument. Sorry if some of my comments may sound curt -- I get timed off the system so cannot give the whole book here, and was not talking to you but with regard to some previous comments.

I have taught a large number of tutoring students to read. Because I work outside the school system and people have to believe in what I do and fork out cash for it, I get the "hopeless" cases, after all the official channels have failed for them. One child brought ot me was mentally slow and was not ready for intensive tutoring. None of the others, physically handicapped, ten-year-old non-readers, or others, has failed to learn to read. When I worked as a volunteer in a local school, taking the "problems" in Grade 1,all four of my students learned to read. And I have never taught a "sight word".

Every modern and reputable piece of research I have seen favours early and strong stress on phonics and decoding. Within reasonable limits (of course you read connected text and real stories as soon as possible) the earlier and stronger the emphasis on phonics, the better.
This agrees with my life experience and teaching experience.

Anonymous
Posted: Wed, 13 February 2002 06:16:24
Subject:

Re: "Sight Words"

Re: the teaching of sight words
The teaching of the sight-symbol relationship is critical. Over 30% of children absolutely need pbonics to become fluent readers. (Sorry, to just clip/clip facts but I have a flight to LDA in Denver in an hour.) After children become rather accurate with CVC combinations, the team I work with recommend the introduction of sight words which lead to sight phrases. For remediation we begin immediately with sight phrases.
We use timed excercises in all of the above. Our research showed us that even when children could "read" sight words in isolation at speeds up to 100 words per minute with zero errors, they still made considerable errors (these same Dolch words). However, when we put these words into phrases which demanded not only high accuracy but close attention - sight word errors reduced signficantly with a resulting (not surprising) jump in performance at school and comprehension. This is how "sight words" generalize.
We have seen - I could call it a syndrome now - of gifted girls who make all A's for the first four years of school, then fall apart. They are blamed for being lazy, boy-crazy, etc. etc. Yet, when you have those little girls read aloud - you see in a minute a variety of errors - primarily sight words errors and the changing of prefixes and suffixes. This is extremely easy to "cure" and usually in about four to six weeks of five minutes a day of intervention - the reading problems disappear, grades improve dramatically, and the criticisms of being lazy, etc. disappear. I know they're there, we just haven't seen gifted boys with this problem.
It's a shame we are so quick to generalize what a child's social problems are without ever having the child read aloud.

Anonymous
Posted: Wed, 13 February 2002 14:56:22
Subject:

Re: "Sight Words"

Hi Victoria and Ken,

As a mom of a kid who has had a great deal of trouble learning to read. Phonix has helped him greatly, but I must say that also learning words by sight has help his fluency and confidence.

Anonymous
Posted: Thu, 14 February 2002 15:22:52
Subject:

Re: "Sight Words"

Well, Ken, I work with those same kids you do, the ones who fall apart after a few years of supposedly knowing how to read, and I get boys as well as girls. The worst I ever saw was a boy, totally unable to read even a pre-primer in Grade 4, with good B grades up to that point. And I do much the same thing, making them focus on detail. The thing is, I make them focus on detail by scanning over the reading left-to-right and pronouncing what phonics sounds they see.

I refuse to make predictions or promises, but have had incredibly good results in as little as five hours of intervention -- it depends on the student and how ingrained the errors are and previous knowledge and so on, so I won't promise. But since parents are paying me cash, if there's no improvement in ten hours of intervention, I'll never see that kid again. I do know that the improvements are stable and long-lasting, because the parents often bring the child back to work on other subjects after the reading has been cleared up.

I do agree with you that you want the skills of reading automatized and quick; it shouldn't be a painful slog, or both interest and message are lost. But I have found by experience as well as by studying the research that the best way to automatization and speed is to learn the skill *well* and thoroughly. Once you have the skill, then you can speed it up. But if you go for speed without control, you head for a crash.

The majority of the students brought to me have high "reading speed" - if you ignore the fact that they are not actually *reading*, assuming that by reading you mean taking in the message that the author wrote on the page. They are running their eyes over the page fast, answering multiple-choice questions fast, and if you ask them to read orally, mumbling words fast. Trouble is that the multiple-choice answers are wrong, if you ask them what the story is about they either say they don't know or give a wildly inaccurate answer, and the words being mumbled are not only not the words written but don't even make any sense. I see lots of speed, but totally without control or usefulness.

I have had great succes by making those students slow down, attend to details, and sound out the words so they *know* - not guess, not hope, not try to fake the teacher, but *know* - that they are actually reading the words from the page. Funny thing is that after a while of slowing down deliberately and sounding out everything, usually they speed up and end up faster than before.

Anonymous
Posted: Sat, 16 February 2002 11:02:56
Subject:

Re: "Sight Words"

I agree with Ken. I have his program. The phrase reading section really does get at that issue of miscalling high frequency words.

Most of the students I get in resource are painfully slow readers, as well as inaccurate readers. So, I like Ken's program, but I am not getting stunning increases in reading speed. Accuracy is picking up, speed may improve from 25 wpm to 55 wpm, but it seems to stagnate there. I have also purchased Read Naturally, but don't see big changes with this either. Some children are in both programs.

Someone has resurrected an old program that was popular when I was in college, Programmed Readers. I ordered single copies of the first 14-15 books. I have 4 students in the program. I believe this program is worth while because the vocabulary is tightly controlled phonetically and the student is asked frequently to select from two similar words:
nets
The hen is sitting on her .
nest

Or:

Jim can _ _ tch a fish in his net.

The program systematically FORCES the student to attend to the letters and letter order within the word. Also, there is a phenomenal amount of repetition, so even my young man who got nowhere with Ken's program (Great Leaps), he sounded out every word, every day, from the same list with no improvements in speed...........even this fellow is finally reading many words w/o sounding every letter out every. I recently administered a reading inventory (January) and his accuracy on small words and high frequency words was head and shoulders over what it was on the last inventory in November. There was no comparison.

Anonymous
Posted: Mon, 18 February 2002 11:18:07
Subject:

Re: "Sight Words"

I remember the program readers, but where can I order them?? Thanks! Olivia

Anonymous
Posted: Mon, 18 February 2002 11:36:34
Subject:

Re: "Sight Words"

Phoenix Learning Resources
12 West 31st St.
N.Y., N.Y. 10001
(800) 526-6581


www.phoenixlr.com

Request a catalogue. They have all kinds of good things for reading. I like the "old" New Practice Readers. They seem to have secured the rights to some good oldies and they have added some new stuff, too.