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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Why Repetitive Teaching of Letters is an Inefficient Use of Your Time

Many reading programs have the letters and sound cards in front of the room, and teachers review them on a daily basis.  Parents spend time focusing on their children acquiring letters and knowing what sound each letter makes.  Money is spent on gadgets, flashcards, etc.

Now, I understand that kids learn letters and sounds and it is a step toward reading.  I am not talking about kids who learn their letters right away, and certainly not the kids who read early.  The average student, the one who knows some letters and sounds in Kindergarten or the First Grader who needs extra help in reading are the students to whom I am referring.

A..ah....aligator,  B...buh...ball,  etc.  I can't stand to even think about the time wasted.  First, the students who learn letters like that, are coming to school already knowing their letters and sounds.  And the kids who don't?  There are better methods and reasons they don't know their letters.

The main reason is that they don't hear those sounds in words.  For example, if Matthew doesn't know that the letter R says /r/, then chances are he doesn't hear /r/ in words.  We don't talk in sounds.  We don't even talk in words.  We talk in streams of words.  I barely breathe when I am on a roll and words will just keep coming until someone gives me the "okay we know you are passionate but lets move on" look.

So Matthew is hearing "rabbit", "run", "record", etc.  He does not hear /r/ by itself.  When you tell him that R says /r/, he doesn't know what you are talking about.  He does not have that sound isolated in his brain.  But with phonemic awareness activities that focus on hearing different sounds in words, as soon as he knows what you are talking about, he will say to himself, "Oh, that letter makes this sound in my head" and connect the two.  If he does not hear the sound, it is very difficult to memorize the letter and sound.

I had a friend who did her master's thesis on "Does Homework Help With Math Mastery?"  Her answer was no.  The high kids got it the first time, the low kids had reasons they did not get it that were not going to be addressed during homework, and the medium kids got it the second time when it was reviewed in class.  Standing in front of a class reviewing the alphabet and sounds is kind of like that.  The high kids already know what you are talking about, and the low kids are not going to get it through that activity.  The medium kids may benefit, but could probably benefit much quicker with the phonemic activities that need to be taught anyway.

Have a great 2013!!!!


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