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A Quick Look At How Sight-Words Harm Children

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A Quick Look At How Sight-Words Harm Children
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Reading is the single most important skill that children learn at school. Without reading, everything else proceeds slowly.

American children are taught to read in two different ways: phonics or sight-words. This is unfortunate. As English is a phonetic language, phonics should be the default setting for teaching this skill.

Progressive educators forced Whole Word into the classrooms starting around 1930. The results have been disastrous. Our country now has 50 million functional illiterates.

Many graduate schools of education teach dogmatic untruths about reading. Young teachers, having been told that up is down, teach Whole Word in good faith. It’s important to look clearly at what this method is actually asking children to do. They have to learn words as diagrams. It is very difficult to memorize hundreds of diagrams (of any kind). It is almost impossible to memorize thousands.

Today, the prevailing fad is called Balanced Literacy. The end result is that the child reads some words phonetically and some visually. This induces a disastrous sort of cognitive schizophrenia.

The best thing that teachers can do for their students is to avoid sight-words entirely. All phonics experts say they can teach virtually every child to read by the end of first grade. Whole Word doesn’t even promise literacy by the sixth grade, if ever.

If you have any doubts about how reading should be taught, please read this short booklet (an 8-page pdf).

By: Bruce Deitrick Price (Improve-Education.org)

Keywords: reading, literacy, phonics, whole word, sight words, illiteracy, alphabet, sounds, comprehension, Rudolf Flesch, functional illiterates, high-frequency words, look-say
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8
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On  February 25, 2014,  Buyer said:
This is definitely something to think about. I taught Language Arts at the secondary level for 8 years, and this year I am teaching first grade. I am new to teaching Reading, so I am not "set in my ways", and could take a new approach next year. I am willing to try anything that will help my kids become better readers. I certainly don't want to be training functional illiterates.

I agree that many of the sight words that my kids have to "see and say" follow the phonetic rules. Many of the sight words of the week are part of the weekly assessments I have to give my kids. I have a curriculum that I must follow, and I don't think my administration would be on board if I told them I was doing away with teaching sight words.

I was thinking that I might look at all the sight words that I have to teach and group them phonetically and make sure that I teach them as part of the phonics lessons. They could still practice reading them in isolation each week, but exposing the kids to the words with the appropriate phonics lesson might be the way to go. I would definitely have to take this approach next year since we are almost through the school year.

Since this is my first time teaching Reading, I would like to know what you would suggest I do in lieu of using sight words.
On  February 27, 2014Bruce Price answered:
On my site Improve-Education.org, see "54: Preemptive Reading." In a few pages, this article describes phonics instruction as practiced through the centuries.
http://www.improve-education.org/id81.html

Here is my interview with phonics crusader Mona McNee, which will give you a sense of how reading looks from our side. (She actually allows 2 sight words. I wouldn't dare argue with her but I see no reason why you need any.)
http://www.examiner.com/article/interview-with-mona-mcnee-advocate-for-reading-by-writing?cid=db_articles

To understand the conceptual points made in pdf, see this clever 3.5 minute video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdiWO_Ntdxw

Children arrive in your class already knowing how to pronounce almost 10,000 words! Phonics lets a child connect to sounds and knowledge already in his head. This whole process takes only 4-10 months. (See my YouTube video "Reading is Easy.")
--
Keep in mind that ever since 1931 there have been guerrilla teachers in every stupid school, doing what works when the door is closed.

If you were a parent, I would actually advise you to tell your child to stay silent or lie, frankly. How does a teacher know what skills a student is using?...I think your situation depends on the rigidity of your administrators and your diplomatic skills. Bottom line, it's probably best to tell your administrators what they want to hear, but do what works best for your students.

Good luck.
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On  May 8, 2013Sonya Mejia (TpT Seller) said:
Very interesting!!
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On  March 21, 2013,  Buyer said:
Interesting article. Read with an open mind.
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A Quick Look At How Sight-Words Harm Children