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Haley23 Haley23 is online now
 
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No such thing as a whole word reader?
Old 02-28-2018, 07:21 PM
 
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Let me just say that I really believe in phonics and do think that the majority of struggling readers benefit from very direct, explicit, and systematic phonics instruction. In fact, that's what I spend much of my day doing.

I know there is a lot of research around "whole language" not being effective as a method of teaching reading. Again, I full believe this. However, does this mean there is no such thing as a "whole word reader?" Is every single child a "phonics reader?"

I personally didn't learn through phonics, and was always an advanced reader. Many teachers at my school, myself included, have admitted they had no idea about many of the "rules" (such as syllable types-open, closed, etc.) prior to teaching them.

I wonder if sometimes the pendulum has swung too far toward phonics at my school. We base pretty much all reading instructional decisions on nonsense words. We're told that kids may be able to get along reading by sight in early grades, but will struggle once they're older and reading multisyllabic words.

I'm in support of that theory if the child has received some intensive "whole word intervention," (just focusing on Fry and Dolch lists, for example) which may cause them to make some artificial progress on early reading passages, or if they've been in some sort of leveled reader program that essentially just teaches various strategies to guess at words (look at first sound, look at picture, what makes sense in context, etc.)

I'm not sure I agree if the child received no specific support/intervention and "naturally" learned to read like that. Wouldn't they be able to do the same thing with multisyllabic words? If they're not needing to break them apart to sound them out, the fact that they're bigger seems irrelevant.

This is just something that's been bothering me...any thoughts?


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Everyone learns differently
Old 02-28-2018, 07:35 PM
 
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but I do believe that a strong phonics foundation is key for most people to develop as strong readers. I spend a lot of time in my own classroom working on phonics skills and it usually pays off. I do believe it gives them the skills needed to break big words into manageable parts.

That said, there are some students for whom phonics just never clicks. Usually these students are outside the norm in some way. Some students have poor speech or language skills, and never really hear the individual sounds in words. Without phonemic awareness, phonics doesn't work. Many of them benefit from sight word practice and a lot of repetition in their reading instruction.

I have had the experience of working with some young autistic students who seem to have skipped over all of the basic reading skills completely, and who read fluently without any real instruction at all. Of course, many of them had other challenges with reading, such as comprehension. Autism shows itself in many ways.

Finally, I do understand what you mean about overly attending to phonics measures to determine instruction. When you have a child reading at or above grade level in any other reasonable measure, but who cannot pass phonics measures, then we should be able to move them on. Sometimes the mandated testing fails to look at the "whole" child.
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I struggled with reading
Old 02-28-2018, 08:11 PM
 
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I was a whole word reader. I struggled to read and didn't really read successfully until 6th grade. My special education teacher in 6th grade did an intensive word list intervention with me. I remember doing some sort of read it, spell it out loud, write it, intervention. I feel like I was learning 20-35 words a week with this program. I made remarkable progress really quickly. I think people tried phonics with me earlier on and it never clicked. However, I am not sure anyone ever tried the right phonics program or spent enough time on any one intervention for it to work. When I hit 7th grade my comprehension in reading was at a post high school level and I was excelling in my literature class after struggling for years. Everyone was super excited. However, as I entered high school I found it hard to keep up and hard to learn subjects with more challenging words. I had no word attack skills. Without phonics reading history and science texts was impossible. Now with the internet I fare much better when I run into words I don't know because I can google them. Back then that wasn't an option. I had to ask someone, try to muddle through with a dictionary, etc. It made things very hard. The other thing is when you focus on whole word (even assuming it's a good strategy) you have to teach kids thousands of words. Many English letters make 1 sound (consonants), vowels make more but they still only have up to 4 options, this already makes way more sense.

As far as adults saying they didn't know the rules until they taught them... that doesn't mean they were never taught them. I think the rules are eventually internalized and then you don't need to remember the actual rule. I mean how much does anyone remember from 1st and/or second grade? I remember my teacher's name (special education and regular education), a few classmates names, and some other vague details. I definitely don't remember what we did during reading each day.
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Old 02-28-2018, 08:51 PM
 
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Lilly, I think your case was different because you were a struggling reader in the first place. Like I was saying, I agree that it can sort of be "artificial progress" if the child is given some sort of whole word intervention, like you got. If the child really has to work at memorizing all of those words, of course that's a highly inefficient way to learn to read. I'm more talking about kids that naturally learn to read that way on their own, without extra support or intervention.

For example, one of the students I'm thinking of is in 3rd and reads 120 wpm with 100% accuracy and good comprehension. This is above the grade level target. I've witnessed her reading multisyllabic/less common words many times just fine. She's never had reading intervention and I know for a fact there is no academic support at home. Yet they want to put her in an intervention group with kids who can barely read CVC words this year because of her nonsense word scores.

I do remember my teacher going on about phonics in 1st grade. My teacher was big on Hooked on Phonics. I remember her saying things like, "When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking," and me thinking, "What is she going on about? Why wouldn't you just know that word is 'take'?" If I was ever taught the syllable types, it must have been explained in very different terms. I truly didn't even know there was such a thing until I started teaching reading interventions.

When we started doing phonics screeners in gen ed this year, we had to sit down and teach some of the teachers the nonsense words because they didn't know those rules themselves. For example, many didn't know that the "c" in something like "cen" would be the soft c sound. A 5th grade teacher also asked me what 2 sounds "g" makes- it was on the test and she thought it was an incorrect question . So I'm not sure I buy that they're internalized for everyone.
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Old 03-01-2018, 03:37 AM
 
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My son was a very early reader. He was at the top of his group in fluency, comprehension etc. The “literacy specialist” was going to put him in remedial reading because of the nonsense words. His teacher and I nipped that in the bud. He was reading at least 4 grade levels above his at the time. My son’s comment “if they can’t at least find a paper with real words on it, I’m not wasting my time”. The poor kid just wanted to read.


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2 whole word readers.
Old 03-01-2018, 09:38 AM
 
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I have 4 sons, and two of them were whole word readers.
This doesn't mean they never had phonics instruction, but both were reading very early (before school age).
My oldest son amazed his K teacher when he read the word "continental" flawlessly the first time. He was reading (and comprehending) at a 5th grade level when he started K. He is also autistic, and was doing calculus in the 5th grade.
I remember listening to my youngest read, and he NEVER sounded out words. If he didn't know a word, he would either substitute, or skip the word. He wasn't quite as advanced as my oldest - I think he was probably reading at a 3rd-4th grade level in K. But he advanced quickly (read entire Harry Potter series in 6 weeks when he was 8. And remembered and comprehended).
So the whole word strategy worked well for both of them. HOWEVER, they are also in the 99th percentile, and are considered highly gifted. For the record, my other two are as well, but they were phonics readers. Also interesting is that my oldest/youngest were (are) VORACIOUS readers! They read ALL THE TIME, and everything they can get their hands on . My other two not so much (one hates to read).
I agree that some kids can successfully read using a whole word strategy. My opinion is that those who do subconciously understand phonemic awareness and phonics. It is something organic that their brains have deciphered without formal instruction.
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Old 03-01-2018, 07:55 PM
 
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I hate nonsense word fluency! My high kids bomb it because they try to make it into a word. My low kids rock it, because they only know sounds and haven't made the leap to words yet. I am not down with the NWF theory.
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Old 03-01-2018, 08:24 PM
 
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Thank you Zia. We’re using Horizons his year and a part of the program is nonsense words. I literally cringe when I have to do it. I was a whole word reader, started reading in pre-k, so I don’t know if that’s my issue or what, but I think nonsense words are garbage. We’re teaching kids to read words that aren’t words. And, there are so many exceptions to rules in the English language that nonsense words rarely make sense (think about adjacent vowels-it could be “we” or “ea”, with a nonsense word you don’t know).
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I'm with you too!
Old 03-02-2018, 06:22 AM
 
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I agree that the pendulum has swung too far toward phonics. Some kids are whole word readers.

I was one, because I just happened to go through school when and where that was the trend. I eventually picked up phonics, but I do think whole word reading is actually faster if you're comfortable with it. I'm a voracious reader, and have been as long as I can remember.

My son had the opposite experience. He unfortunately went through during a phonics swing, and just wasn't ready to read in K. (Looking back, and having a lot more experience now, I actually think part of his hearing was slow to develop and he had trouble distinguishing certain individual sounds clearly.) He saw reading as a horrible struggle, and it really messed with his confidence. He eventually caught up, and his comprehension was always ahead of his speed, but he still very rarely reads for "fun".

I hate giving the nonsense word tests, too! - Reading real things involves deciding if a word makes sense. I think we do kids a disservice by ignoring that.
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Old 03-02-2018, 01:17 PM
 
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Count me in for someone who hates nonsense word fluency.

I think that the magic of reading happens when the skill of sounding out words - phonics - dovetails with the skill of understanding words in context - meaning and/or structure. (Can you tell I am a fan of Marie Clay? ).

Some students use one skill over another. But most successful readers use all skills in concert.

**Why oh why does the pendulum have to swing all the way from one end to the other?


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@ word girl
Old 03-02-2018, 02:37 PM
 
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Quote:
Some students use one skill over another. But most successful readers use all skills in concert.

**Why oh why does the pendulum have to swing all the way from one end to the other?
Amen!!......
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Nonsense words are...
Old 03-03-2018, 06:34 AM
 
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Just an indicator not an overall picture of what a reader can do. I use them in benchmarking, but why would someone even think of grouping a third grader reading 120 wpm in such a group? Talk about making them take a step back and be frustrated. This has been an interesting post. I am enjoying reading the perspectives of all.

I taught for six years before I encountered my first whole word reader. She struggled as someone shared earlier with content reading in science and social studies due to the vocabulary...she couldn't use the context clues to scaffold her on these words. Rather than teach her nonsense words and the like, I found a resource called The Decoding Solution by Zinke. It uses rimes as opposed to lots of phonics rules because she could identify the hunks and chunks of most words, she was doing well within a month without drills and nonsense word instruction. I use it often with my struggling readers. It is a super easy strategy that takes little time or materials....and my favorite part is you use authentic text to practice.
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