When ideology trumps science

by WCE

This NY Times post on reading instruction reminds me of the disagreements my Mom had with her professors while she was getting a master’s in reading during the whole language movement. She had taught infantrymen who hadn’t learned to read in school during the Vietnam War, and she was a strong proponent of phonics instruction, which resulted in some poor grades in graduate school. Eighty percent of her students passed the GED, compared to 40% rates for comparable literacy teachers with the same soldier population, so she clearly did something right. That was true even when soldiers switched from a teacher with low pass rates to her class, so she didn’t cherrypick students.

What current ideologies do you think will change in 20-40 years time? Why is conformance to the reigning ideology so important in academia? (Industry is less rigid, IMHO, because we have to make money.)

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160 thoughts on “When ideology trumps science

  1. I can see where they get the idea that reading doesn’t involve converting the sounds the letters make into words.

    Learning to read obviously does. But “reading” doesn’t.

  2. I read this article when it was published with great interest. I was not taught phonics, at least not that I can recall. This explains why I am a terrible speller and do have trouble pronouncing words correctly. Additionally I massacred just about all Hawaiian names when I was there (sorry Finn and HM).
    When my oldest was learning to read I learned from her about the Sneaky E rule. She thought it was wrong that I was trying to have her guess the word by looking at the picture. I still find myself wanted to tell my youngest to look at the picture and recall what the story is about to figure out the word.

    In 20-40 years I wouldn’t be surprised if the emphasis on STEM decreases.

  3. I had a friend who taught remedial middle school English about 10 years ago. Her class was heavy immigrants and problem children. Schools had abandoned phonics (which we grew up with) and she had no idea how to teach them to read. “Sound it out” did not work.

  4. People are stubborn and don’t want to admit they ate wrong even when the evidence shows that they are.

  5. The linked article explains the opposition:

    https://www.apmreports.org/story/2018/09/10/hard-words-why-american-kids-arent-being-taught-to-read

    the curriculum is explicit and systematic, with every teacher on the same page each day. If the curriculum says today’s the day for kindergarteners to learn words that begin with the sounds “wuh” and “guh,” you can walk into any kindergarten classroom in the district and see the teacher doing that lesson.

    Everything I’ve read says that’s the best way to do it. And that’s how they do it in France. If it’s 11am in France then every kid in ever first grade is doing exactly the same lesson at exactly But many teachers hate it. They like spending time on “lesson plans” with each one reinventing the wheel. It’s sort of like how we went from “artisans” to the assembly line. People really didn’t like going from deciding how to build something to each person being told exactly what to do even if the resulting products were much better and much cheaper.

  6. When I was 4 I taught myself to read. I’m not sure how though. My mom said she never taught me either so it must have been through phonics and the accompanying pictures for context. When I was in kindergarten I was so shy and quiet that I was put in the remedial reading group. Imagine the teacher’s surprise when it was my turn to read and I was whipping through all the words.

  7. The way facts don’t get in the way of people’s gut feeling of “truth” has obviously been on many people’s minds. The first time it really hit home with me was when Trump was still a candidate. Someone was chatting with Milo about him and pointed out that something he had said in one context completely contradicted something he said elsewhere. Milo replied “he says a lot of stuff”. That was the moment I really understood that rational, logical argument is not the way to counter this man. We see it again and again throughout his presidency, and I don’t think any of us have figured out how to respond. Just this week I’ve seen articles written by scholars explaining how the tariffs are connected to the auto industry shrinking, that the ocean isn’t endlessly able to soak up trash, and that the racist, suppressive stance we see oungovernment taking now has long roots. All of them were clearly written, making strong connections from one point t the next. It is disheartening, because we know none of it matters. It is confusing, t say the least, to think about reaching common understanding and decisions with people as resolutely disinterested in facts as his supporters.

  8. That was the moment I really understood that rational, logical argument is not the way to counter this man.

    That’s what I’ve also found. For the vast majority of people their politics (on both sides mind you!) isn’t driven by logic or evidence. People have a feeling and then they try and justify that feeling.

  9. They use phonics in China! And a bunch of other methods. It seems a lot more complicated.

    Chinese children’s books are often written in dual-script; thereby showing both the character and the pinyin (拼音) phonetic sound.

  10. I can’t remember so much focus on learning to read in the home country. They were huge proponents of reading the daily newspaper and looking up words in the dictionary. Spelling was emphasizied. Remember, English is not the primary language for many of the home country kids. The biggest effort was to get kids to speak the Queen’s English and not corrupt it with local words.
    Both my kids have issues with spelling. Their grammar is also suspect. We are constantly on the lookout for poor spelling and grammar.

  11. Phonics phonics phonics FTW. I love phonics. I got DSS a little workbook on phonics when he was a pre-schooler, just in case he was stuck with “whole language” teaching when he hit school. PHONICS.

    Let’s see, what teaching fads are going to be gone in 20-40 years? I’m betting the 24×7 testing will have let up. I’m hoping that the crap about maintaining your notebook/binder in some fascist configuration will have passed, but stupid fascist rules just for their own sake are the hallmark of American education, so I’m not holding my breath. More stuff will be online…so what will be the result of that? “Turning in” your homework will be automated? That would be great.

    Here’s one British teacher’s opinion of current educational fads:

    https://www.teachertoolkit.co.uk/2016/07/10/education-fads/

  12. “What current ideologies do you think will change in 20-40 years time?”

    i really hope the current ideology on forest management changes.

  13. And why do the teachers love the rules? Because a lot of them are really dumb. Not my sister. Not NoB’s husband. But a bunch of other ones are, so clinging to rules works really well.

    The very best teachers have always smiled and nodded when the New Method came down from on high and the proceeded to use whatever methods actually worked best.

  14. I see this quite a bit in medicine. There are specialties that are very evidence-based focused, and there are others that are not, and there’s a real tension between the two sometimes.

    I think the tension is healthy, but it’s interesting to watch it play out.

  15. @saac – did you see the comments back to you on the fast food thread re: saac’s late arrival home?

  16. I was taught with phonics; in fact when I was 4 my folks had some learn-phonics-at-home program that I could do myself after a while. I attribute my ability to read well and spell well to the way I was taught using a phonics-based program. I was always in the advanced reader group in early elementary, that is until the teacher finally decided to let me sit at my desk and read something else of my choosing.

    Anybody remember the SRA card system (1st-2nd grade)? Loved, loved it. The competitive me loved the challenge of doing more of them each day/week than my friend Kip.

  17. “Anybody remember the SRA card system (1st-2nd grade)? Loved, loved it. The competitive me loved the challenge of doing more of them each day/week than my friend Kip.”

    Yes, I think….those were the cards that had some little story/science or historical fact and then you took a quiz on the back? Loved those.

  18. Anybody remember the SRA card system (1st-2nd grade)?

    Yes!

    Loved, loved it.

    Me too!

    The competitive me loved the challenge of doing more of them each day/week than my friend Kip.

    Me too! Well, substitute “Margaret” for “Kip”. But yeah! The S in SRA stands for Stanford, so it may have been a California thing that Stanford pushed on the local schools.

    Remember the colors? I can’t remember the sequence, but I think brown was pretty hard. So if you got through the brown ones you were aces.

  19. You’ll hear teachers telling kids to guess at words they don’t know based on context and pictures rather than systematically teaching children how to decode.

    I remember a wake-up call when my kid was doing a reading lesson and she was supposed to learn words based on context. The lesson had a choice of answers to fill in the blanks of a sentence like this. “When I did not get the birthday present I wanted I was ________.” She was supposed to choose “sad” but instead she chose “mad”, clearly not considered the appropriate sentiment a young kid should feel. And then she got mad because the answer was wrong! I realized that this method was not working for my kid. And since learning based on context can be so cultural-specific, it probably adds to achievement gaps in between groups and between genders.

    This topic has received a lot of discussion among many educators I follow. One thing that has come up is that some students, maybe totebagger types, DO learn to read early and well without phonics. And exposure to literature such as reading to children is also important in developing reading skills. Also, reading comprehension depends on other things beyond phonics, such as background knowledge. So while everyone does not need phonics and other methods are needed to develop reading skills, phonics should not be ignored and should be a core part of every school’s arsenal. I thought this was a good graphic to illustrate this.

  20. I think ideology often trumps science because science is so darn confusing! Or maybe I’m just a big dummy, but despite having completed a Master of Science and being very comfortable reading scientific research, I find newspaper/magazine articles trumpeting “the latest scientific research” to raise more questions than they answer. I like to read actual research studies that explain the specific test and hypothesis being studied, under what parameters, but by the time the results make it to mainstream press, they’ve often been completely distorted. And in education, true slam-dunk studies are really hard to find, because that would generally require dividing kids into test and control groups that would be instructed differently from one another (parents generally don’t stand for that). If there is a true slam-dunk study proving that phonics instruction is superior to balanced literacy, I’d love to see it (I’m not trying to say that it doesn’t exist, just that I legitimately didn’t spot this in a quick scan through the links from the NYT article).

    In terms of the reading topic, my personal belief is that both phonics and other reading strategies are important to learn. Good readers can extend beyond phonics to infer from the text or extrapolate patterns. My kids love to read about dinosaurs. If we read about a new dinosaur named the Felociraptor they’d read the name without hesitation, using a mix of phonics (beginning sound) and whole language (start with Velociraptor and replace the first sound). My kids’ school is fairly phonics-based, but there is also significant focus on reading comprehension from the start. They are expected to demonstrate that they are thinking about what they read and not just sounding out the words one by one.

  21. “both phonics and other reading strategies are important to learn”

    Right. That was the point I was trying to make in my previous comment.

  22. but by the time the results make it to mainstream press, they’ve often been completely distorted Yes, this, and especially when it comes to explaining absolute risk vs. relative risk. See, e.g., recent hysteria over alcohol and cancer.

  23. At our elementary school the first grade does SRA. Reading is a huge first grade focus. Both my kids loved the color sequences. Moving up to a new color is a boost of confidence.

  24. You know, I’m not entirely sure that kids who learn to read effortlessly do so entirely without phonics — what parent hasn’t “sounded out” words for their kids? You can learn phonics without systematic classroom-based instruction, and I think that’s what those “easy” kids do; we just don’t notice it because it was bit by bit over the kid’s entire early life.

    I am a strong phonics proponent — I was one of those early/”intuitive” readers, but to this day my 4th-grade basic Latin class has had a lifelong impact on my literacy (writ large). Learning that different prefixes and suffixes and roots have specific meanings that are the same regardless of what they are paired with was one of those keys that makes all of the locks click open; ever since that time, I have been able to decode unfamiliar words by their component parts. And it is a virtuous cycle, because when you know you have the tools to figure things out, you feel smarter, and you are less intimidated by “harder”/more complex writing, and then of course the more complex stuff you read, the more you refine your skills.

    IOW, it’s not just phonics — it’s also how words are put together, and grammar, and parts of speech, and all of those other boring “rule”-type thing that schools don’t really teach much any more. Phonics can help you learn to read individual words; knowledge of how different words are put together helps you understand what those words mean; and of course grammar and sentence structure help you understand the larger ideas conveyed by those individual words. It is, in a way, treating language as a puzzle, a system with rules just like math — focusing on the construction of the story so that you can better understand its meaning.

  25. Speaking of fads, I am the only person in the history of the United States who actually liked SMSG.

  26. I was not taught phonics and feel it hindered me in correct pronunciation. Fortunately I am a very good reader.

    My girls were taught phonics in their school, my son’s school did not. When my father-in-law heard this, he bought Hooked on Phonics. My son remembers that I gave him a Little Debbie something when he finished a portion at night (I was not above bribery). He is a great reader and a spelling champ.

  27. I find newspaper/magazine articles trumpeting “the latest scientific research” to raise more questions than they answer.

    That’s because they don’t provide the context and caveats of the studies. They want a nice headline, and most people don’t read past the headlines anyway, so even if the article has the appropriate nuance, people don’t read it.

  28. See, Rocky, we did go to the same school! I don’t know if I ever gave SMSG any thought…it was just what was used in my classroom(s). Maybe it was the grand conspiracy of elementary education in the mid-late 1960s Bay Area, you know with the Berkeley radicals and the Stanford thinkers dominating everything.

  29. At my school, we used workbooks from
    England. They taught many concepts at once. It wasn’t a unit of spelling, a unit of grammar or a unit of Reading Comprehension in isolation.
    Poetry Appreciation was also part of that.
    It was all tackled together. I found that to a be a better approach than the unit by unit method followed at my kids school. The students don’t get how it all fits together.

  30. Maybe it was the grand conspiracy of elementary education in the mid-late 1960s Bay Area, you know with the Berkeley radicals and the Stanford thinkers dominating everything.

    Yep. We were just rats in an educational experiment!

  31. I learned using the look-say method which was big in the 60’s (remember Dick and Jane?). My kids all learned through phonics, well, actually, the school TAUGHT phonics but it isn’t really how they learned. Oldest kid taught himself when he was 4, during the period we were largely ignoring him due to a sick little brother. I have no idea how he learned. He started by reading off the flavor information on the cat food cans – I can still remember that: “Salmon flakes!”, “Tuna-whitefish chunks!”. Number 2 kid was never going to learn via phonics because he couldn’t hear consonants and couldn’t break words into sound chunks. Still, he learned to read. I remember his first grade teacher saying that yes, he had learned to read very well but she had no idea how. I always respected her for admitting that, and also for letting him do things his own way. If he had started to struggle we would have probably taken him to Clarke, which has a well proven track record teaching hearing impaired kids to read.
    My last kid struggled a lot with reading, largely because she had undiagnosed ADHD and could not focus long enough on a page to even see the words. Once that was addressed, she started reading up a storm – but again, no one is sure how.

    But darn, they all sure did a lot of phonics worksheets.

  32. Also, I do not know how y’all remember all this. I have no idea how my children learned to read, and it wasn’t that long ago. I do remember that sitting and listening to them read made me want to pull my fingernails out. Let alone how I learned to read.

  33. My DD used a Leap Frog tablet that had Disney Princess stories. It was a Christmas gift and that more than anything else was her learn to read tool.

  34. I don’t know what SMSG is. I do remember SRA, though; I went to a Catholic school in the DC area in the 1970s. I LOVED diagramming sentences in 6th grade – like LfB said, it was like a puzzle. My oldest kid essentially taught himself to read by the time he was 4, but we had a house full of books and read aloud a LOT. The others learned just before or in kindergarten. I don’t recall explicitly what they were taught in elementary school, only that it’s changed quite a bit by now (all my kids are in their 20s.) Kindergarten was a half-day when they attended, and the goal by the the end of the year was that all kids could recognize the letters of the alphabet — there was no direct reading instruction until first grade.

  35. What current ideologies do you think will change in 20-40 years time?

    Thanks to a better understanding of genetics, brain science and behavioral economics we’ll have a more nuanced view of people always being the best judge of what’s in their best interest. Examples include how we treat the mentally ill homeless, modification to the 401k system, etc.

  36. When we moved, my DS was on the young end for his kindergarten class. The expectation here
    was that kids should be reading by the fall of kindergarten. I didn’t know this. DS was showing as behind in his reading. There was so much hysteria and pressure to get a child to read by a certain time. There was so much of my kid reads Harry Potter in the womb. Terrible and unnecessary.
    I am glad my neighbor with four kids told me that most kids catch up by third grade.

  37. I LOVED diagramming sentences in 6th grade…Loved, loved it. The competitive me loved the challenge of doing more of them each day/week than my friend Kip…When I was 4 I taught myself to read…Oldest kid taught himself when he was 4

    Sort of like they do with Noble Prizes – you’re going to have to share this one.

  38. “Anybody remember the SRA card system (1st-2nd grade)? ”

    I don’t remember them from my own childhood, but DS used them in 1st-3rd grade.

    ” I do remember that sitting and listening to them read made me want to pull my fingernails out.”

    YES. This too. I didn’t get too detailed into the intricacies of the reading curriculum because he was doing okay – he wasn’t a super early reader, but he got there right on schedule. As for myself, I went to kindergarten learning how to read, but I have no idea how I learned. Early elementary was quite painful because those were the days where it was completely ordinary and expected for normal, middle-class kids to go to school not even knowing all their letters vs. the Totebag norm today of fretting if your 4 year old can’t read chapter books.

  39. I also learned to read at age 4 without anyone teaching me. I was humbled to have slow readers for kids – all 3 of them are slow (didn’t read well until 2nd-3rd grade for both #1 and #2, and #3 is in 1st and not reading). My 1st grader is definitely learning a lot of phonics in school.

  40. @LFB – DS seems to do endless grammar work. Parts of speech, transitive vs intransitive, sentence diagramming, etc.

  41. Ohhh, I loved SRA cards. Thanks for the memories! I basically loved anything I could do at my own speed.

    DS2 was very slow to learn to read. It was very humbling for me to have a child struggle so with it. DS1 read at 3 (we hired his Montessori teacher as our nanny, and it turns out he’s also 99th percentile smart). DS2 and I read painfully every single night. He was finally reading by the end of 2nd grade. I am certain that in other households, this kid may not have ever really mastered reading (not humble bragging, evidence that non-totebag kids with learning challenges face an entirely different outcome). He wasn’t dyslexic, but it still perplexes me that he could read pages upside-down as easily as right side up. I have a special upside down reading power myself. Strangely helpful at different times.

  42. Ohhh, I loved SRA cards. Thanks for the memories! I basically loved anything I could do at my own speed.

    Yeah, that was at least 50% of it. The articles were interesting (as I recall), and you could go at your own pace. So it was a quiet hour or so just cranking through articles.

  43. I learned from Sesame Street and Electric Company, so phonics, I guess. With my kids, I would do the thing of ‘I read a page – you read a page’ at bedtime starting with some of those very beginning reader books, and those are pretty phonics based. My youngest learned the latest – as I recall he didn’t learn till he was in K – he had less motivation since his sister was happy to read him any book he asked for.

    Later we would do ‘I read a poem – you read a poem’ at bedtime, and my daughter would always pick for hers something with maybe six lines and then she’d want me to read something like The Eve of St. Agnes. The book had illustrations and between that and the length a child could discern which ones would tell a proper story. Which was fair enough.

  44. it still perplexes me that he could read pages upside-down as easily as right side up.

    Preschool and early grade teachers read picture books upside-down a lot because they’re showing the pictures right-side-up to the children, and then the children imitate that. I remember my daughter would read books that way to the other kids at preschool, so effectively she learned to read upside-down almost as soon as she learned to read right-side-up.

  45. Why is conformance to the reigning ideology so important in academia?

    I’d say conformance to a reigning ideology becomes important in any organization that doesn’t have regular objective feedback to act as a reality check. Consider a military organization that hasn’t fought an existential war within the last generation, versus one that is currently doing so — the former is likely to promote based on political skill while the latter promotes based on tested ability in combat or combat support. E.g. Lincoln starting out with McClellan but ending up with Grant. And industry is not immune to this.

  46. All three of my boys started reading with Go, Dog, Go. DS1 picked it out at the library, asked for it on the (30 min) drive home, and figured out all the words but “circle” while I was driving. The repetition and pictures worked well for all 3 of them. I also made a flash card game with the 25-30 most common English words so they would have those memorized. I will likely approach reading with DD similarly.

    My mom agreed with the phonics + other approaches, but she thought for 80% of kids, phonics was the best approach. As a literacy teacher, she focused on adults who’d managed to get to/through high school without learning to read, and obviously those are people for whom reading is difficult.

  47. “I have no idea how he learned. He started by reading off the flavor information on the cat food cans – I can still remember that: “Salmon flakes!”, “Tuna-whitefish chunks!”.”

    My mom tells me she figured out I could read when I read the cereal box to her at breakfast one day.

    @HM: Yes to Electric Company! SO much more interesting than Sesame Street!

  48. I’d say conformance to a reigning ideology becomes important in any organization that doesn’t have regular objective feedback to act as a reality check.

    Then again, they say science advances one funeral at a time. IIRC Lister had a hell of a time convincing surgeons that they should wash their hands before and after surgery. The existing practice was only to wash after.

  49. Some years back I volunteered with a literacy program. What they found was that a lot of the people who never learned to read were tactile learners, as opposed to visual or auditory, which is the least-used style of teaching in schools. Having them use physical objects like scrabble letters really helped them.

  50. My mom agreed with the phonics + other approaches, but she thought for 80% of kids, phonics was the best approach.

    That’s very important to keep in mind. Schools can get caught up in the idea that there is only one right way to do something that works for everyone. The reality is that a given method might work for 95% of kids but that 5% might need a different approach.

  51. Some years back I volunteered with a literacy program. What they found was that a lot of the people who never learned to read were tactile learners, as opposed to visual or auditory, which is the least-used style of teaching in schools. Having them use physical objects like scrabble letters really helped them.

    Our experience with Montessori had mixed results, but from what I have seen it is amazing for tactile learners – so many hands-on activities to facilitate learning, including phonics. Montessori schools can be pretty totebaggy these days, but the pedagogy originated from Montessori’s teaching in working class Italy as well as her work with children with learning disabilities.

  52. “both phonics and other reading strategies are important to learn”

    Right. That was the point I was trying to make in my previous comment.

    I agreed with your comment; I just hadn’t seen it yet when I posted mine. I like the chart that illustrates the impact of phonics instruction on different groups of children. My daughter is in kindergarten and probably doesn’t need phonics instruction (at least at the level provided) to become a better reader. Nevertheless, I’m still happy that she is receiving phonics-based instruction as I think it will help her become a better speller.

  53. Our experience with Montessori had mixed results, but from what I have seen it is amazing for tactile learners

    Aren’t Waldorf schools supposed to be really touchy/kinetic? I admit I only know a little bit about them. From what little I’ve read, I think I would have hated Waldorf schools, but I may have read the wrong things.

  54. Currently, our Waldorf school is very anti-technology/electronics and I’ve read this is common on the West Coast, at least. I didn’t consider the one I pass on the way to work for preschool, even though it is the most convenient preschool, because you have to commit to not having TV/electronic games in your home until your child is in 5th grade and you can’t have commercial characters (Disney, Sponge Bob, Thomas, whatever) on clothes/lunch box/backpack. I have better things to do than hunt down characterless preschool lunchboxes.

    I know people who really like the school. You keep the same teacher all the way through, which can be good or bad. The set of middle school essays I read from there were worse than the other local schools, probably because they don’t start reading/writing at school till mid? elementary.

  55. The philosophical foundation of the Waldorf approach, anthroposophy, underpins its primary pedagogical goals: to provide an education that enables children to become free human beings, and to help children to incarnate their “unfolding spiritual identity”, carried from the preceding spiritual existence, as beings of body, soul, and spirit in this lifetime.

    But what about the calculus track??

    Many subjects and skills not considered core parts of mainstream schools, such as art, music, gardening, and mythology, are central to Waldorf education.[77] Students learn a variety of fine and practical arts. Elementary students paint, draw, sculpt, knit, weave, and crochet.[78] Older students build on these experiences and learn new skills such as pattern-making and sewing, wood and stone carving, metal work, book-binding,[79] and doll or puppet making. Fine art instruction includes form drawing, sketching, sculpting, perspective drawing and other techniques.

    Seriously, it sounds great if you’re going to grow up to be independently wealthy. Some of that stuff is what my paternal grandmother learned in finishing school. You know, needlework, learning to play the pianoforte, taking a turn around the garden, learning to be gracious to the servants, etc.

  56. I’ve known two families that were really into the Waldorf schools. The one who lives up the street is sending their kids to a regular HS. I’ve lost touch with the other family so I don’t know what they did for HS.

  57. “Sneaky E rule”

    I had to google this.

    I learned it as, “Mrs. E knocking on the back door.”

  58. learning to be gracious to the servants

    Apparently the Duchess of Sussex isn’t doing so well at that and has been spoken to about it.

  59. My Colorado friends send their kids to a Waldorf school. They also sent them to a Waldorf school on the east coast. There are no electronics, but many of the kids do start use electronics outside of school when they are in the MS grades. These are very close friends of ours and it is interesting to see the differences in their knowledge about pop culture. Now that the kids are HS age – everything seems to have evened out and there is just as much Fortnite and Snapchat between the kids.

    I like most of what I’ve learned about Waldorf, but I don’t like the #1 reason that my friends chose this school. This was especially true in NY, but it is not as big a deal in CO. They do not believe in vaccinating their kids and this was one of the very few places that they could do this in NY. I don’t want to bring in a topic that belongs on the political thread so I won’t share more about this part of their program.

  60. I’ve known two families that were really into the Waldorf schools.

    The sister of a friend is committed to Waldorf education for her kids. And I’m sure it works really well for some subset of the children. Personally, I would have been sobbing and begging for math worksheets to get me out of puppet-making.

  61. @RMS – We toured a Waldorf school, and it was very much not my thing. While in the elementary program, they have a lot of tactile “specials” aka gym (outdoors), music (orchestra), art (handiwork aka knitting and woodworking), the actual reading/math curriculum seemed to be pretty “sit in a desk” focused. The lessons had a lot of mythology involved in every aspect. They stayed with the same teacher 1st through 8th grade which could be good or bad depending on the teacher. And they did not seem to be doing much accommodation for different abilities. (aka “everyone can learn from the Norse God lessons)

    We have really liked Montessori though. I have heard people equate them as “hippie schools” but to me, they are very, very different.

  62. Apparently the Duchess of Sussex isn’t doing so well at that and has been spoken to about it.

    Well, Grandma was actually a total bitch to the servants, but then again she was a total bitch to anybody who wasn’t in a position to hit her back, so to speak.

  63. Montessori and Waldorf are very different.

    everyone can learn from the Norse God lessons

    Sure! We should all spend nine days hanging from the tree Yggdrasill, pierced by a spear, in order to attain wisdom.

  64. “When I was in kindergarten I was so shy and quiet that I was put in the remedial reading group. Imagine the teacher’s surprise when it was my turn to read and I was whipping through all the words.”

    This would make a great movie scene.

  65. Rhett — How is the Duchess of Sussex mistreating the servants? (I love me some good royal-family gossip.)

  66. “What they found was that a lot of the people who never learned to read were tactile learners, as opposed to visual or auditory, which is the least-used style of teaching in schools. Having them use physical objects like scrabble letters really helped them.”

    Uh, education is full of these ideas that are not backed by science.

    Stop propagating the learning styles myth

    Abstract
    We all differ from each other in a multitude of ways, and as such we also prefer many different things whether it is music, food or learning. Because of this, many students, parents, teachers, administrators and even researchers feel that it is intuitively correct to say that since different people prefer to learn visually, auditively, kinesthetically or whatever other way one can think of, we should also tailor teaching, learning situations and learning materials to those preferences. Is this a problem? The answer is a resounding: Yes! Broadly speaking, there are a number of major problems with the notion of learning styles. First, there is quite a difference between the way that someone prefers to learn and that which actually leads to effective and efficient learning. Second, a preference for how one studies is not a learning style. Most so-called learning styles are based on types; they classify people into distinct groups. The assumption that people cluster into distinct groups, however, receives very little support from objective studies. Finally, nearly all studies that report evidence for learning styles fail to satisfy just about all of the key criteria for scientific validity. This article delivers an evidence-informed plea to teachers, administrators and researchers to stop propagating the learning styles myth.

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131516302482

  67. “I wonder how they teach reading in China.”

    I was going to guess, not phonetically. TMK, written Chinese is not phonetic, and the characters are often amalgamations of characters, so they learn to recognize the basic characters.

    A prof I knew grew up in China, and he told me that when he lived there, there was no common dialect throughout the country, but there was a common written language. As a result, literacy was high because much communication was necessarily written.

    There is a long history there of written language being separate from spoken language.

  68. My German lit/stat friend observed that her daughter is way more socially skilled than my friend is, thanks to daycare. I’m hoping DD gets something out of her regular conversations about “favorite Disney princess” with the other 3 year olds, ’cause I missed that part of social skills training.

  69. NoB – up at 5 am raring to go, sending lots of texts, supposedly. The news seems to have finished with the “marvelous breath of fresh air” phase and entered the tear her down phase of bringing a new royal-by-marriage into the family.

  70. Based on my experience with my kids, not sure that phonics was good for their spelling. They will hem and haw over a word, deciding on what the spelling is. Painful ! (Clutches pearls).

  71. “Both my kids have issues with spelling. Their grammar is also suspect. We are constantly on the lookout for poor spelling and grammar.”

    One reason it’s more difficult to learn to write these days is there is so much poorly written material available now, e.g., most newspapers no longer proofread articles, and those can miseducate readers who don’t know any better.

  72. “I was taught with phonics”

    I still remember our first grade phonics textbook: Breaking the Spelling Barrier, with a picture of a jet plane on the cover.

  73. “Anybody remember the SRA card system (1st-2nd grade)?”

    We used in in 4th and 5th grades. I really liked the stories it included, and remember first reading about Bannister and Landy in that system. OTOH, it wasn’t very challenging and I don’t know that it improved my reading skills any more than spending the same amount of time reading stuff of my choice.

  74. “I’m not entirely sure that kids who learn to read effortlessly do so entirely without phonics — what parent hasn’t “sounded out” words for their kids? You can learn phonics without systematic classroom-based instruction, and I think that’s what those “easy” kids do; we just don’t notice it because it was bit by bit over the kid’s entire early life.”

    Yes, I was going to make a similar comment.

    IMO, the big problem with phonics education is that so many words don’t follow them.

  75. “I have a special upside down reading power myself. “

    I remember being a kid sitting across from whoever was reading the newspaper comics also reading them.

  76. Well, Grandma was actually a total bitch to the servants, but then again she was a total bitch to anybody who wasn’t in a position to hit her back, so to speak.

    Her grandmother the Duchess of Cornwall?

  77. I remember SRA! I’m surprised it is still around. My friends and I liked it.
    Lauren, I had never heard of the Waldorf School until the one in Asheville had a major chicken pox outbreak that has been heavily covered in my area.

  78. Since Grandma was born in 1894, she would have been more likely to be Camilla’s grandmother.

  79. When we were very young, my sister and I found some old Archies comics at our grandparents’ house. We had never known of anyone named Reggie, so we weren’t sure how to pronounce that name. Should the gs be hard, like in grab? Soft, like in gentle?

    We went with the phonetic pronunciation. The first g wasn’t followed by an e or i, so it was hard. The second g was followed by an i, so it was soft.

    I found the pronunciation of Khashoggi one of the interesting aspects of that story.

  80. My mom told the story of how my brother came across the word, “uranium,” when he was around first grade or so. He had no frame of reference for pronunciation, so he pronounced it phonetically, with a long i.

  81. Since Grandma was born in 1894, she would have been more likely to be Camilla’s grandmother.

    The Queen Mother was born in 1900. Who are you thinking of?

  82. Rhett, RMS is talking about her own paternal grandmother. The one whose finishing school education, as described by RMS, included learning to be gracious to the servants and thus started you thinking about royal gossip.

  83. Rhett, RMS is talking about her own paternal grandmother.

    Ohhhhhh – I didn’t know the RMS came from “servant rich” stock.

  84. TMK, written Chinese is not phonetic

    Interestingly enough it can be:

    Chinese also usually writes foreign loan words phonetically. For instance, English ‘microphone’ becomes 麥克風 màikèfēng in Chinese, written ‘grain’ + ‘conquer’ + ‘wind’. Since the three characters have been chosen for their sound, the meaning is irrelevant. On very rare occasions, there is a happy conjunction of meaning and sound, e.g., the loanword for ‘gene’, written 基因 jīyīn (‘basic element’), and the word for ‘hacker’, adapted to Chinese as 黑客 hēikè (‘black guest’). With the trend to use English words among educated urban speakers, English words are sometimes written in their original form, e.g., OK or Call.

  85. My kids were in Montessori through kindergarten, then a whole language program. It was a disaster for dyslexic DD and dysgraphic DS. They were both very bright and articulate, so their struggles were treated as willful disobedience. It took me longer than it should have to catch on that I needed to advocate for them, because I always assumed that schools had the best interests of children at heart. Yeah, I know.

    I’m a huge proponent of phonics. It won’t hurt the kids who don’t necessarily need it and can learn to read through whole language, but the inverse is not the case. Using whole language with kids who need phonics just doesn’t work.

    The part that shocked me the most is how punitive some teachers can be to kids who struggle. Intentionally humiliating children in front of their peers is actually employed as a motivational tool by some.

  86. And lest I come off as overly critical of teachers, they each had wonderful ones that made a big difference some years. The really harsh ones stand out, though.

  87. I didn’t know the RMS came from “servant rich” stock.

    The primary time that the upper middle class didn’t have servants was during and after WWII. Many middle class white women had a “colored girl” who came in and helped out. Grandma had a couple of full-time household employees (all women of color) but it wasn’t that different from other upper middle class white women.

    And the women who clean my house are Latina. I tip them and am polite to them, but I don’t see how I’m that much better than Grandma (well, other than that I don’t accuse them of getting into the liquor cabinet.) I benefit from institutionalized racism and oppression just like all the other rich white women.

  88. “And the women who clean my house are Latina. I tip them and am polite to them, but I don’t see how I’m that much better than Grandma (well, other than that I don’t accuse them of getting into the liquor cabinet.) I benefit from institutionalized racism and oppression just like all the other rich white women”

    I dispute this. You are hiring someone who willingly cleans your house. Your housekeeper is provided a valued and important service and that is likely as good a job as she can get that fits her various constraints. I do the same. For many years, my housekeeper worked for me because the hours were flexible and because, since her dad was a misogynist and that was ok in the country she was from, she didn’t go to school beyond the third grade. Her English speaking skills and options were limited. A year or so ago, she realized that with her youngest in college and that she didn’t need to work so much any more. That made my life more difficult, but what do you do?

    My next housekeeper likes to clean, and is trying to sock away as much money as possible so she and her husband can move out of state. She also has an elementary school kid and wants the flexibility to be with her child after school and whenever necessary. I hate to clean, so we can strike a bargain.

    I guess you could say that I was benefiting from institutional racism and oppression, but my first housekeeper’s options were limited in a different country and time. Her daughters do not face the same issues. One has graduated college, and the younger one will in about two years.

    My current housekeeper has options as well.

  89. Sorry I’m late to the party, but I haven’t been able to get to leisure activities until now!

    I loved the OP’s title; the topic fascinates me. There are many cases where folks let ideology trump science. It’s particularly amusing/frustrating to see it among people who (self-righteously) claim to be pro-science, but the love turns out to be (quite) selective. They are anti-science, a-science, or science moves down the list for them– on issues ranging from GMOs and trade policy to abortion and the minimum wage. The practice of science itself is having problems too, with the politicization/”ideologization” of gender (did you see the kerfuffle with Brown U. and ROGD?!) and likely, with climate studies.

    The thread has been focused on reading, so I don’t imagine we’ll get away from that. But in terms of other applications, I appreciated Cassandra’s reference to “forest management”. I use that example to talk about the theory vs. practice (or more sophisticated theories) of govt activism/regulation. If I had to pick two areas where I’m hopeful (but hopefully realistic), I’d pick health care and education. On the former, I think we’ll continue to see more consumer involvement and knowledge, as folks get accustomed to high-deductible plans and HSA’s, better low-cost info, and hopefully fewer restrictions in the market. On education, I think we’ll continue to see an expansion of choice in K-12 (albeit at a rate that is far too slow for my tastes) and people will continue to back off college (to trades) and accruing debt for college.

  90. We used SRA in 1-3 grades when I was in school. It was a very central part of how we learned to read in first grade because we got pulled out to read in very small groups with kids on the same reading level. This was the 70s in NYC so even my first grade class had 34 – 36 kids, and we weren’t tracked until 3rd grade. SRA was the only time that we had a chance to work in small groups with a teacher or aide. The stories were boring, but I think it helped. We had phonics workbooks too, but I think that they used to start with phonics in K. I know that DD used phonics when she was in school, but now they have all of these fancy literacy programs that they are always asking the education or PTA to pay for new books. The latest is Fountas and Pinnell. I don’t know anything about it because they had some other program when DD learned to read.

  91. since her dad was a misogynist and that was ok in the country she was from, she didn’t go to school beyond the third grade.

    Aka oppression by the patriarchy.

  92. “Chinese also usually writes foreign loan words phonetically. For instance, English ‘microphone’ becomes 麥克風 màikèfēng in Chinese”

    I presume that is Mandarin. What do Cantonese or Wu speakers do with this?

  93. On the former, I think we’ll continue to see more consumer involvement and knowledge, as folks get accustomed to high-deductible plans and HSA’s, better low-cost info, and hopefully fewer restrictions in the market. On education, I think we’ll continue to see an expansion of choice in K-12 (albeit at a rate that is far too slow for my tastes)

    What burden of proof would you require to admit you were wrong?

  94. Chinese actually has a significant phonetic component, though not in the sound it out way of alphabetic languages. A character usually has a piece that gives a clue of pronunciation, and another piece that gives a meaning. The word “clue” is important here – the phonetic part is just a clue.
    “To show what I mean, let’s look at an examples. 洋 (ocean) – this character consists of water 氵 and sheep 羊. Now, it should be obvious that this is not simply a combination of two related characters to form a third related character (such as 木, 林 and 森). Instead, the semantic component 氵 tells us that the character is related to water and 羊 tells us that the character is pronounced the same way as sheep is, i.e. yáng.”
    from https://www.hackingchinese.com/phonetic-components-part-1-the-key-to-80-of-all-chinese-characters/

    So for a Mandarin speaker, there are important clues to pronunciation. I have seen cases where Chinese speakers can tell me how an obscure character is probably pronounced without being able to tell me the meaning.

    What always amazes me is that the Japanese use Chinese characters at all. Japanese is not related at all to Chinese, so the pronunciation clues in the characters are absent for a Japanese speaker. And Japanese already has a perfectly good phonetic writing system! In fact, two of ’em! And their phonetic system, based on syllables rather than individual sounds, is ridiculously simple and easy to learn. So why do they use kanji?

  95. “as folks get accustomed to high-deductible plans and HSA’s,”
    Given all the screaming I hear about deductibles under Obamacare, I would say that folks are not getting accustomed to high deductibles….

  96. What do Cantonese or Wu speakers do with this?

    A quick googling says all Chinese schools teach “recieved pronounciation” Mandarin Chinese and the speaking of dialects in schools is forbidden.

  97. Back in first grade, my kids always came home with these dreadful little black and white booklets with very simple sentences clearly designed to reinforce phonics. My kids all hated them and ignored them completely. They had a name – a lot of people told me their schools used the same series – but I can’t remember what is was now. I personally think they were specially designed to make kids hate reading.

  98. “the speaking of dialects in schools is forbidden.”

    Everywhere, or just in China?

    I think there are a lot of Cantonese speakers outside of China.

  99. In Hong Kong, 90% speak Cantonese. And yes, there is a push to teach Mandarin in their schools and a lot of debate as to the proper balance of Cantonese. Mandarin, and English.

    But this is recent. How did Cantonese speakers handle these phonetic loaner words say 20 years ago? I also wonder if the phonetic clues in characters map to Cantonese in the same way. Does the sheep clue work for a Cantonese speaker?

  100. One reason it’s more difficult to learn to write these days is there is so much poorly written material available now, e.g., most newspapers no longer proofread articles, and those can miseducate readers who don’t know any better.

    Not to mention it’s all over the internet.

  101. Interestingly I have one Chinese friend who only speaks Wu, and another who only speaks Hokkien (he grew up in Malaysia).

  102. “So why do they use kanji?”

    My guess is that it’s kinda like Rhett’s first post in this thread. As you learn written words, you look at the whole word as opposed to individual letters; kanji probably facilitates faster reading.

    It probably also minimizes homophone confusion.

  103. In the home country having household help is common. This practice extended from the wealthy to the middle class. Women worked as household help out of necessity. The families at the time were large and parents couldn’t support so many kids.
    Women who could cook well became cooks. They were paid more, could come during the day at whatever time suited them, cooked lightening fast and went to the next house. They usually cooked for two/three homes. Some women ran a meal delivery business from home. Now, as opportunities have improved, significantly less women want to take up jobs as household help. Where previously relatively few women worked in stores, now with malls and department stores, there are scores of sales women. There are jobs in the call centers, all types of office jobs. Families have become smaller and kids complete high school and college. It’s been a huge societal change.

  104. Does Japanese have a lot of homophones? Chinese has tons, but their words are all so much shorter. Japanese is very multisyllabic

  105. My German lit/stat friend observed that her daughter is way more socially skilled than my friend is, thanks to daycare. I’m hoping DD gets something out of her regular conversations about “favorite Disney princess” with the other 3 year olds, ’cause I missed that part of social skills training.

    I don’t think it has anything to do with being in daycare, it’s an innate personality trait.

  106. Interesting:

    1. A vheclie epxledod at a plocie cehckipont near the UN haduqertares in Bagahdd on Mnoday kilinlg the bmober and an Irqai polcie offceir

    2. Big ccunoil tax ineesacrs tihs yaer hvae seezueqd the inmcoes of mnay pneosenirs

    3. A dootcr has aimttded the magltheuansr of a tageene ceacnr pintaet who deid aetfr a hatospil durg blendur

    Long story short as your brain figures out a word it then predicts what words would follow to make a coherent sentence. If you use English words with British English phrasing you start to stumble a bit.

    https://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/stories/why-your-brain-can-read-jumbled-letters

  107. Rhett, #3 is pretty unreadable. It’s like a series of word jumbles.

    When I first saw “magltheuansr” I thought it was some sort of dinosaur.

  108. Finn,

    How much harder was 3 than 1? For me it was only slightly harder. I noticed you said your first thought when seeing “magltheuansr” was dinosaur. Mine was to think of a bad thing a doctor would admit to starting with m and containing a g. Manslaughter.

  109. Finn and Rhett – I glanced at each sentence in total first and figured out what it would say. Only then did I read the words.

  110. Rteht, I didn’t realize the dinosaur was manslaughter until I read your post.

    “as your brain figures out a word it then predicts what words would follow to make a coherent sentence”

    For #3 especially, if it takes too long to figure out a word then you lose your train of thought and have to look at the whole sentence again, this time knowing most of the words.

  111. Rhett, I didn’t figure out it was manslaughter. I couldn’t come up with a word. I hate those type of word jumbles. I can usually slowly puzzle out the meaning, but it is difficult and I lose the thread of meaning.

  112. Rthet, those word jumble, especially #3, were instructive in developing some empathy for poor readers who need to figure out sentences word by word.

  113. The word jumble was interesting. My kids schools emphasize Vocabulary but many of the kids don’t read much and when they study (or skim through) they review the definitions in isolation. The teachers have been emphasizing using words in context of a sentence. In school I had a lot of “does this sound correct to you ?” checks. This wouldn’t be an issue for Totebaggers who tend to read a lot but it is for non readers (the vast majority of the population).

  114. This is a weird story, tangentially related to this topic because the girl’s name might be a challenge to pronounce. (And then I learned “328 girls were named Abcde in the United States between 1990 and 2014”.)

  115. There is a lot of research that shows that orthographic depth, which is a measure of how frequently a language deviates from a one to one correspondence between sound and letter, has a large impact on how long it takes to learn to read. For example, Finnish and Italian have shallow orthographies – there are few deviations, whereas French and in particular English have deep orthographies.
    For example
    https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/02724980343000819
    but there are lots more of these papers out there.
    That may be a reason why kids seem to struggle more with reading in the US

  116. In elementary school, my DS was an excellent reader but an atrocious speller. This apparently is a very unusual combination. We couldn’t figure it out, and his teachers couldn’t either. He’s gotten better at spelling as he’s gotten older, but what has really saved him is that he is now old enough that he does all his writing for school on the computer, and he thus has spell check. He has no trouble picking out the correct choice when there is a homophone (e.g. choosing “their” instead of “they’re”, but spell check prevents him from spelling “their” as “thier” (for example).

  117. NoB, this is my oldest daughter who is in 4th. To compare, she is reading at a 10th grade level, but her spelling is at a 1st grade level. Her 504 allows her to write to her hearts content without getting docked for spelling. Her sentence structure is fine, but it looks like #1 in Rhett’s example.

  118. From what Finn and Cassandra have said, I wonder if I compensate for my dyslexia in part by relying more on prediction than other people. More “long word with a g that a doctor would admit to” and less on seeing a one to one relationship between the letters on the page and the stored pattern in my brain.

  119. Spell check and typing to the rescue current day.
    My brother in the home country got docked for both. He tried to make his writing neat and it looked neat but was not legible ! The nearer it became the worse it was. I went to parent teacher conferences in place of my parents and I just couldn’t decipher his writing.

  120. There is an ugly dark side to all of this online shopping. Delayed packages and customer service people in other counties that can’t help. I already have several delays from Amazon and Target. I had a coupon from Saks so I ordered some Ugg slippers that never go on sale from Saks. They are a gift. They sent me used slippers and now I can’t get new ones until December 13. It took at least an hour worth of calls to learn this info. When I tried to virtually speak to someone at Target about my missing order – even that had a wait time of 17 minutes to text with a service rep. This would just be a hassle, but I actually need some of this stuff since Hanukkah starts on Dec 2. I bought a light fixture yesterday in a local lighting store. It cost more than the online store in Illinois, but they helped me choose the right finish/size and there was an actual human to help me right away. shop local equals less stress even if it costs a little more.

  121. I would agree with you Lauren. On Black Friday I ordered from Kohl’s bunch of winter gear for a charity event. Delivery was scheduled for today. I just checked the order status and it hasn’t even been “fulfilled” yet. The event is this weekend, so now I’ll have to schlep myself to the store and deal with the returns later.

  122. Both my elementary-teacher DH and all of my sons’ teachers throughout elementary school were 100% sure that DS didn’t have dyslexia. That’s what puzzled everyone so much about his spelling — there didn’t seem to be any diagnose-able reason why he was so bad at it. I often wondered if if was just laziness on DS’s part –like he just couldn’t be bothered to memorize hard-to-spell words, or to proofread his writing. Who knows. I’m just glad it didn’t seem to hamper his long-term school trajectory. He’s not in Honors English this year, but that’s entirely because he hates literary analysis; he could do it, but he doesn’t want to. Didn’t have anything to do with his spelling.

    Lauren — I have become very totebaggy with my shopping, and I do try to buy from local, independent stores as much as possible. It’s much more pleasant, and it helps local business owners (many of whom I know personally, and many of whom are very generous with our community).

  123. “In elementary school, my DS was an excellent reader but an atrocious speller. This apparently is a very unusual combination.”
    Really? I know lots of people like that. My daughter is particularly bad. She reads voraciously. I have trouble spelling unless I can write the word and see it. I can’t spell in my head. But I am a very fast reader. I never learned phonics so maybe that is why

  124. NoB,

    When and how did DS learn to read? If he taught himself to read while training his brain to compensate for his dyslexia (which would be my guess) that’s very impressive.

    or to proofread his writing.

    He can’t because his dyslexia compensation system is automatically fixing everything before he perceives it.

  125. NoB, my daughter has a particularly toxic combination of indecipherable handwriting and really bad spelling. I think it is the ADHD. It is just too hard for her to slow down enough to write nicely.

    I actually flunked handwriting in elementary school and had to stay after school for remedial handwriting. The problem was fixed when we moved to Germany where everyone had to use fountain pens. The right writing instrument made all the difference

  126. NoB,

    You should ask him how he knows his left from his right. Does he intuitively know it or does he have a trick to figure it out.

  127. This discussion is fascinating. In the home country we learnt the basic words with phonics but as soon as we moved past three letter words it became whole language. Spelling was emphasized. Also, there was lots of translating going on in the background.
    For French, we heard the word pronounced but it was easier to write the word in Hindi and then using that to get the French pronunciation correct. English didn’t work nearly as well.

  128. Rhett — DS’ process of learning to read was nothing particularly remarkable. He wasn’t a particularly early reader, or a particularly late reader. He showed no signs either of gifted-ness at reading, or of learning disabilities (other than the spelling issues). His process of learning to read was, I guess, some combination of our reading a lot to him at home (and having a totebaggy number of books in our house), DH doing some lesson-like stuff with him (e.g. giving him clues about how to sound out words, or guess the meaning of an unfamiliar word), and just the regular reading lessons at the local public school (he never was recommended for special ed or any pull-outs or other special services). It all just seemed totally normal and age-appropriate, except the darned spelling.

    Mooshi — It was my teacher DH who told me that it is unusual to have a kid who is a great reader but a poor speller. I guess that’s been true of kids he’s had in his classes through the years. It’s interesting for me to hear here that maybe the good reader/poor speller combo isn’t so unusual.

  129. “You should ask him how he knows his left from his right. Does he intuitively know it or does he have a trick to figure it out.”

    That’s interesting. I’ll have to figure out a way to ask him without him rolling his eyes at me. :)

  130. I still struggle with left vs. right. I thought needing a trick well into adulthood was rare. Maybe not.

  131. I thought needing a trick well into adulthood was rare.

    As a kid they tried to tell me that the index finger and thumb of my left hand formed an L and that’s how you could tell. And I’m like L or ⅃? That doesn’t help at all.

    I eventually found that L is to the left of M in the alphabet and that’s what I use.

  132. My husband absolutely cannot tell left from right. It is really annoying when he is driving and I give him directions, or conversely, when he is giving me directions. There is nothing else especially unusual about him though – he is a good speller, good reader, and scary good at math.

  133. he hates literary analysis

    IMO, literary analysis needs to be made more entertaining. More discussion, more background information of time and place of the novel possibly with a movie thrown in.
    It helps certain readers visualize the context of the novel better and makes the entire process less tedious.

  134. Re: “sounding it out” — I remember being in early elementary and thinking the word “determined” was pronounced “DE-ter-mined (long i sound)” I only knew the word from reading, and guessed base on phonics.

    Re: left and right — I spent some time in college as a tour guide, facing people while telling them about what they were seeing. We were taught to use our opposite hand and point across our body, so we would be using our right hand to point to something that was on our left, but on the group’s right. (Of course, that only helps if you know your own right and left…)

  135. “IMO, literary analysis needs to be made more entertaining. More discussion, more background information of time and place of the novel possibly with a movie thrown in.”

    Please! not the movie! We always had to see whatever weird old movie went with the novel we were reading.

    I agree with more historical background though. I think that is badly missing in literature classes, both the ones I took in HS, and my kids. We had to read All The King’s Men in senior English knowing absolutely nada about Huey Long or populism or Louisiana history. And Cry The Beloved Country, as well as Heart of Darkness with no background at all on Africa or colonialism. The teachers discussion was very sterile because she treated these novels like closed, standalone systems.

  136. I love reading, but I absolutely hate literary analysis classes. It always seemed like a bunch of people trying to one-up each other with BS. “Oh, what I think Emerson really meant was that unicorns are delightful” WTF? There is no right answer, just who can churn out the most ridiculous BS to “make us think”. Poetry is the absolute worst in that sense. HATED every minute of those classes in HS & avoided them like the plague in college.

    DS is able to memorize the words for 2 weeks and ace his spelling tests, but then he doesn’t retain much of it. His first drafts of anything (school or leisure) are riddled with spelling errors. He learned to read at an average pace without a ton of struggle, and he reads voraciously now. I always assumed it was a lack of caring about spelling more than anything.

  137. but spell check prevents him from spelling “their” as “thier” (for example)

    Flipping the letters sure sounds like dyslexia. Was he writing letters backward longer than typical?

  138. Honolulu — No. That’s another thing that was well within age-appropriate development. One time, fairly early on in Kindergarten, the teacher showed us a capital-letters alphabet that DS had written. It was in perfect order — but completely backwards. He’d started at the right of the page and wrote an A, then one space to the left a backwards B, then one space to the left a backwards C, and so on until he reached the left-hand side of the page with a perfect backwards Z. The teacher said she would keep an eye on that to see if it persisted, but it didn’t — DS quickly caught on to start-from-the-left, and to writing his letters the right way.

  139. The teacher said she would keep an eye on that to see if it persisted, but it didn’t

    Then it sure sounds like he’s dyslexic but figured out a way around it. As the article mentioned, “Poor spelling may well be the last remnant of dyslexia that a person has otherwise compensated for.”

    I assume diagnosing dyslexia is harder when the person has above average compensation skills because it doesn’t manifest in the typical way.

  140. “an excellent reader but an atrocious speller. This apparently is a very unusual combination.”

    I can conceive this. My guess is that he’s learned a whole bunch of words, and he’s kinda like Rhtet in that he’s just learned the words enough to identify and differentiate them, but not necessarily spell them.

    You mentioned the word, “their.” My guess is that he often gets the e and i backwards, because there’s no such word as, “thier,” so that order doesn’t matter to him, because either way he recognizes the word.

    Is it just certain words with which he had difficulty? I’m wondering how he does on spelling though, through, trough, tough, and thought.

    “Autocorrect” makes it difficult to properly create a post like this, with intentional misspellings.

  141. You mentioned the word, “their.” My guess is that he often gets the e and i backwards, because there’s no such word as, “thier,” so that order doesn’t matter to him, because either way he recognizes the word.

    That makes a lot of sense.

  142. Sorry, I was just applying to your handle your point about words being identifiable with letters jumbled if they maintained the correct first and last letter.

    I’ll go back to not intentionally misspelling it, which takes more effort anyway.

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