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Should I use phonics for older students?


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Joined: Nov 03, 2005
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Posted Sep 01, 2002 at 3:42:51 PM
Subject: Should I use phonics for older students?

I am teaching 6,7 and 8th grade students with reading and writing difficulties. In both areas the skill level averages k-3. Last year the teacher tried to teach them using phonics. I am just not sure about that method because they are older students. I was thinking about sight words. Any ideas? Thanks Sarah

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Anonymous
Joined Jul 23, 2014
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Posted:Sep 01, 2002 6:25:48 PM

What "phonics method" was used?

I've got lots of ideas on my site at www.resourceroom.net for middle school LD kids but both my feet are in the phonics camp.

The inherent problem with using a "sight words" method is that the English language is phonetic. It just is. Those symbols stand for the sounds of spoken words, not a visual idea.
Many students make that connection intuitively -- so it doesn't matter what method you use, they'll figure out that critical phonics part. However, it's precisely the students who *don't* intuitively make the connection who need to be taught it. On the other hand, lots of "phonics" programs assume students will use letter sounds to figure things out when I"ve watched kids do "phonics" worksheets and exercises and get everything right... only using visual memory. And when you take away the nice picture of a "cup" that they were matching to the /k/ sound (but were really matching picture to picture), they don't connect the c with the /k/ sound, so "cop" is a new word and they don't know how to approach it.

YOu can get a "quick success" with repeated readings with sight words. YOur students will get a little better in reading, you'll feel better for a while, they'll feel better for a while. And it would be better than nothing. Probably wouldn't be better than doing a lot of oral language development and working on vocabulary so that even though they couldn't read, the rest of their knowledge base wasn't being as held back by their low skills.

The question "what works for teaching older students to read" just ca'nt be answered in three sentences. Any way you can get some real training in methods that do work (and all the ones I"ve tried that worked would be what you'd call "phonics") and why they work? I've used Orton-Gillingham and SRA Corrective REading; Shay's had great results wiht Phono-Graphix. And of course sometimes the individual kids haven't read our little handbooks of how to teach 'em -- an awful lot depends on their individual needs.

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Anonymous
Joined Jul 23, 2014
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Posted:Sep 01, 2002 9:10:07 PM

Sarah,
I have a LD daughter that is being remedicated with Reading Reflex because the sight word route just didn't work....You must know all the phonix sounds before the words start to make sense....once the sound of a long /a/ and /e/ are known to have about 6 different spellings of the sound then the student can sound out any word and start to spell also.....it took my daughter about 2 wks to break the bad habit of guessing at the sight words and start sounding out the words now she is reading with a little bit better understanding and comprehension. Shay and Victoria are to very good people to contact...for Ms. Shay was my lifesaver for my daughter with RR -PhonoGraphic....a parent can even understand what to do and work with the children....any question please email me.....FORGET SIGHT WORDS.....we went that route from k-5 and now in fifth grade my daughter is reading at a third grade level...if she had phonics early on and understood the different vowels that worked together to form sounds she would probably had been better off.....Good Luck....CeciliaSarah Edwards wrote:
>
> I am teaching 6,7 and 8th grade students with reading and
> writing difficulties. In both areas the skill level
> averages k-3. Last year the teacher tried to teach them
> using phonics. I am just not sure about that method because
> they are older students. I was thinking about sight words.
> Any ideas? Thanks Sarah

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Anonymous
Joined Jul 23, 2014
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Posted:Sep 01, 2002 9:53:28 PM
Subject:Ideas

I established a middle-school remedial reading program two years ago serving special education and at-risk students. Students were given the Star Reading Test on computer, observed by their classroom teachers, and referred to me.

First, I administered some kind of reading inventory (Flynt-Cooter, Silveroli, Johns, etc.) to each student in the lower 10% (about 90 students) to determine specific reading issues. I was careful to measure fluency (rate/accuracy). I also measured listening comprehension. With some students, comprehension is the key issue without word attack problems, but it could or could not stem from slow or inaccurate fluency. For others, word recognition holds up the
whole process.

For those student with word recogntion issues, I used something like Wilson Language. (I also had SPIRE materials that I used with the bottom 1-2%.)
Language levels are higher in Wilson, but SPIRE follows a scope and sequence that more closely parallels K-3 basal series. Its cognitive requirement isn't as great at the lower levels. Both SPIRE and Wilson are structured, synthetic, and analytic phonics programs. SPIRE also includes a good dollop of phonemic awareness.

The only catch here is that you, the teacher, need good phonemic awareness skills in order to handle errors without telling the student the word they are trying to decode unless it is irregular. I've learned over the years that some people just don't have good inate abilities in this area. In that case, you would be wise to avoid phonics-based programs and serve students in a whole-word approach. Many, however, do not progress well without structured phonics.

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Anonymous
Joined Jul 23, 2014
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Posted:Sep 01, 2002 11:13:14 PM
Subject:Re: Ideas

I was glad to see you mentioned the Wilson Program. I have insisted that the school use the Wilson Program after it was recommended. They have used it, but not happy that it was my idea. I have noticed great progress,but the "administration" has told me they have heard it's not that great of a program. I told them, well it seems to be working much better than what you were trying before.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Sep 02, 2002 10:25:58 AM

For some unknown reason, schools just cannot tolerate parents getting into their curriculum. Most simply won't have it and by law don't have to let parents have any say at all. They must have felt this to be a wise path of lesser resistence. The question is, "Why?" What else, of a larger magnitude, was messed up that they didn't want anyone to notice?

Schools don't believe that parents have the ability to be a logical and accurate judge. Most teachers spend time openly criticizing parents in the private of the teachers' workroom (aka lounge). Some parents don't do their job, I know, but then neither do some teachers.

I hope, and it sounds like, your child's teacher isn't being passive-aggressive about this Wilson Language thing. Always keep a smiling eye on things...

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Anonymous
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Posted:Sep 02, 2002 2:04:52 PM

Sarah, most kids are LD or non-readers due to the fact they were not taught how to actually decode, so why would you continue with having them try to learn more sight words? I specialize in older students and I have had great luck with Phono-Graphixs. In fact, I have 10 students, grade 9-12, graduates from Wilsons that still can't read on grade level. One 9th grade student reads on a 1st grade level. That is a unbelievable! I will use PG for decoding for about 3 weeks and then other programs for other areas of reading: fluidity, vocabulary development, and writing. Usually after most kids becomes fluid, they can comprehend and may need study skills because this is the first time that they will be reading on grade level. If you want to know more information, email me privately.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Sep 02, 2002 9:44:39 PM

Sarah,

I am a parent, and have researched dozens of papers on reading. ALL reading methods (Phonics, Direct Instruction, Whole Language) state the basis of reading is phonemic awareness and decoding. I read somewhere the brain can only hold about 3,000 (?) sight words, and that isn't enough for higher level reading skills required in upper grades - where kids MUST be able to decode unfamiliar words in order to learn from their texts, and move forward with their peers.

Per Shay's advice, I used Reading Reflex/Phono-Graphix with my 9 year-old son over the summer, and his decoding skills are now good. We still have work to do on fluency and comprehension. I have a friend who tutored my son last school year, and when I told her he could now decode she said "It's a miracle" - and she wasn't being sarcastic.

(Thanks again Shay!)

Lil

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Anonymous
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Posted:Sep 03, 2002 11:10:43 AM

They've had sight words for seven to nine years and the method hasn't worked yet. By all means, if you don't want to rock the boat, and if you want to do what everybody else does, continue with sight words. What the heck, they won't learn any less.

On the other hand, if you are really interested in teaching them to read, they need phonics skills. Desperately. The pattern of stalling out at Grade 3 level with memorization only is classic.

An old story: a fifty-year-old woman is considering going back to school. She says "But it will be four years; by the time I graduate, I'll be fifty-four!" Her friend answers "And if you don't go back to school, in four years from now how old will you be?"

Another old story: an old man is planting an oak tree. A passerby asks how long until it will be mature. The farmer answers that it takes a hundred years. The passerby laughs at him and says "Why. you'll never see it! You'r children will be old and grey, and it won't be until your grandchildren and great-grandchildren are around that it will be full grown and they can enjoy the shade." The old man says "Well, I guess I'd better hurry and get it in right now!."

Moral of both stories: No matter how late you start and how long a job takes, the sooner you start at it the sooner it will be done. If you don't start it because it's late, well, it's going to get a heck of a lot later.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Sep 03, 2002 5:05:09 PM

You say the teacher last year tried phonics and it didn't work.

Let's see, these kids have had seven to nine years in school. They had six to eight years of sight "reading", which was a proven failure, prior to last year.
Last year one teacher bravely tried one (probably very much part-time) program, and it didn't miraculously overnight clear up six and more years of failure, so the entire phonics approach is judged ineffective.
Ummm -- perhaps you could give it a bit more time and work?
Please give it a chance! No promises, no overnight miracles, but Shay and I and a large number of parents will attest that we used phonics-based programs with kids just like yours, and yes, we get real reading results.

Reasons phonics programs fail:

(1) Inappropriate materials and levels, usually far too high.
If you have a student reading at a K or 1 level, and you get a program aimed at Grade 4 upgrading, it *cannot* work. Many teachers are worried about content appropriateness and kids' self-esteem, and these are noble goals, but first you have to be able to *read* if you are going to read for content. In my experience and according to the posts Shay has made, most teenagers have *real* self-esteem issues about being able to read, and most of them are greatly relieved to learn at last. They will put up with materials that are too babyish if you make it clear that this is a quick review and they will get through them fast.

(2) Self-defeating implementation.
By definition, phonics is concerned with *sounds* Silent phonics is a contradiction in terms. Some teachers figure workbooks are for seatwork and give kids the phonics workbooks to keep them busy silently while the teacher works with another group. The kids ignore the instructions to sound out and pronounce, and do the visual matching thing, which defeats the whole purpose. The work has to be *pronounced* and *repeated* orally in order for the sound-symbol relations to be learned.

(3) Insufficient time.
Some people try to squeeze the phonics in as an extra. Fifteen minutes two or three times a week is just enough to lead to frustration, not enough to learn much of anything in any subject. You need at least twenty to thirty minutes every day (best schedule), or a full hour two to three times a week (acceptable tutoring schedule), to keep any progress or continuity going.

(4) Lack of focus or cumulative development.
Some teachers use a set of dittos or reproducibles, for phonics as well as other subjects, and hand out whatever seems to connect to the theme of the week or month. When I was teaching in schools this was seen as a wonderful creative approach and highly recommended. Unfortunately, in a complex and interconnected subject such as phonics or math, this approach leads to more confusion and frustration than learning. Imagine in math being taught multiplication the first week of Grade 1 and subtraction after that and statistics and graphing after that and getting to basic counting and addition some time in January and then moving off into division. Well, this is what happens in pick-and-choose phonics programs. You will get real progress if you get a good, developmental, cumulative system and follow it step by step.

(5) Rushing
Many teachers are pressured to "cover the material". There's also the pressure to keep up with the Joneses -- the school across town finishes this phonics book in kindergarten, so we have to finish two books. Neither works. Take the time and do it right. If you do Book 1 and learn the consonants and short vowels over the course of a year, well, those topics are known, and next year they can go on to long vowels and digraphs. If you rush through books 1 to 4 in an attempt to get to grade level, you end up woith nothing but a bad taste in your mouth and have to start all over with another year wasted and a further loss of confidence and interest. Actually, *most *older kids can finish Books 1 and 2 in less than a year, but they do better if they know they can do it as they get ready.

(3) Insufficient knowledge -- teachers with poor reading skills themselves.
This is unfortunately all too common. If your former teacher fit this category, she does get points for trying, but would do well to do some retraining herself. If you are in this category, please ask for help -- we are all more than willing to step in!

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Anonymous
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Posted:Sep 03, 2002 11:22:40 PM
Subject:Re: Ideas

Sue-
Who publishes SPIRE? Thanks.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Sep 04, 2002 10:51:02 AM

Dear Victoria,

Well said, and just what I needed to keep me on track and moving along the slow road. Too often we are asked to do a "QuickFix" and frustration from students, teachers and parents makes us try to hurry it all along.

I will now continue with the small steps of the journey.

helen

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Anonymous
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Posted:Sep 04, 2002 12:45:55 PM

You could use a word wall as a way to get students recognizing words and word patterns without calling it phonics.. There is a neat program for older students that we used in summer school called "Nifty Thrifty Fifty" This program gives you ideas associated with teaching sight words and using word walls for older students.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Sep 04, 2002 9:58:39 PM
Subject:SPIRE

SPIRE is published by Progress Learning in Kennebunk, ME.
Their website is http://www.spire.org

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Anonymous
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Posted:Sep 04, 2002 11:46:08 PM
Subject:Re: SPIRE

Thank you Susan. I will look into it. Is it a program that can be used beginning in 6th or 7th grade, or is it best started in kindergarten? Are the beginning levels "babyish" for middle schoolers?

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Anonymous
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Posted:Sep 05, 2002 4:35:05 PM
Subject:Re: SPIRE

If my group was higher-functioning middle school, I used Wilson Language--much higher vocab levels. If they were immature or a little lower-functioning, I use SPIRE at middle school. You are at the top-end of the age level for the SPIRE program and near the bottom end for Wilson. If your group is very environmentally deprived (or even moderately so), SPIRE would be my choice. If a higher socio-econ or more enriched group, use Wilson at that age level. JMO

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