A Variety of Readers Learning to Read With or Without Phonics

In my combined first and second grade, each successful beginning reader after being offered materials and guidance and support, in one way or another, taught herself to read. She may have participated fully in all parts of the program offered, or perhaps only in part of the designed program with special attention unique from anything offered. But she, and every beginning reader, made choices along the way, perhaps unaware of making those choices, but choices never-the-less about how she learned to read. She chose to use phonics or avoided them because innately, she knew a better way.

Although there were commonalities among children, no two children learned in exactly the same way as indicated by the following:

  • Marie’s mother related the pediatrician’s comment that if a child had hearing problems during pre-school years when language was developing, the child would always have poor auditory skills. (And  I found this true with other non-phonics users.) Marie, a very bright child, attended an all-day kindergarten with much one-to-one teaching of phonics. Many classmates started to read – but not Marie. Her teacher said she couldn’t apply phonics. During first grade, Marie was a very dedicated reader often reading at Choice Time as well as Book Time – learning all phonics but never applying them to her reading. It wasn’t long before she broke-the-code and became an excellent student in all but complex spelling.
  • Seven-year-old Heinz, from Germany, was placed in my first grade instead of second because English was so new to him. At home, he had learned to read German. When he arrived in the United States the previous April however, his parents couldn’t convince him to learn English until they bought a book and tape from a favorite movie he had seen. In September he appeared to be speaking English fluently and reading at a 22 level. Did he learn with a phonics program? Unlikely. He finished both first and second grade in one year.
  • Jim, with a very low I.Q., only spent first grade with me. He learned phonics well and read many of the old basal books. Whenever I told him I’d help him find a more interesting book, he’d reject it saying he preferred the ones he had. He also broke-the-code and comprehended very well at his level in story books of interest.
  • Amy broke-the-code so quickly, that I couldn’t find enough time to teach the phonics before she broke-the-code. She learned them later. And she learned them just as fast and easily as she had learned to read.
  • Chase loved phonics. He arrived at a second pre-primer level, sounding out every letter of every new word as he had learned, such as s-s-s, tuh, eh, puh, hesitating before saying “step”. Good Heavens!!! First he had to remember his sounds and then translate those sounds before pronouncing “step” – and how could he ever become a smooth reader that way? So as he learned phonograms, he was helped to give up his old way as he learned to read well, relying heavily on a new phonetic approach.
  • Isaac entered second grade in late winter from another state. His records revealed on-grade-level reading in a basal program. He knew phonics well, including most phonograms. After finishing one reader after another, in a month he had broken-the-code and relished reading all kinds of novels.
  • Then there was Bernice, a multiply handicapped, low I.Q. student, fully mainstreamed from a special education class, functioning throughout, I’d guess, at a kindergarten level. We all helped her to read. She learned phonics and ended second grade reading comfortably in second grade readers or easy literature books. Reading was by far her greatest strength academically.

It was always hoped that during and after learning how to read, these choices allowed each child’s self-confidence to grow, leading to continued motivation, responsibility, and independence – and realizing the purposes for learning how to read and enjoying many different books, stories, and articles.

Read more about the reading programs in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

Becoming an Independent Reader

Peggy’s Tips for Teaching Young Children

For children in my combined first and second grade  classes, phonics worked well for many but for some others who couldn’t thrive with phonics, they became fluent readers so successfully by reading book after book. Each child had her own book and read for 30 to 45 minutes each day. The children in September that were not independent had an adult or child partner until they, too, could become independent readers. The goal was for each child to be a motivated, responsible, and independent reader with excellent comprehension, including an appreciation for fine literature. And for each child to recognize the need for reading; to read for enjoyment, for learning, and for satisfying a great accomplishment – their success in learning how. Children should have the opportunity to reach their highest level of literacy. This, of course, is very optimistic but I felt that way every September.

See more about this in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success, on page 47. See 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

   Teaching Young Children © Peggy Broadbent 2011 - All Rights Reserved