Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I've Noticed...

...that I haven't gotten a whole lot of comments lately. So in the hopes that it'll goose your creative juices, I present you a clip of Peter Sellers on the Muppet Show.

If that doesn't do it, I don't know what will.


ElizabethB said...

I actually didn't even watch the muppets, although I was tempted...

Don Potter sent me your post about phonics vs. sight reading, and I just had to comment on that.

I'm a "friend" of Don's and have, like him, taught a lot of remedial students harmed by sight words.

I thought you might be interested in my post, sight words: a root of all reading evil ( http://kitchentablemath.blogspot.com/2008/02/sight-words-root-of-all-reading-evil.html ). While you know most of it from reading Don's website, some might be new, especially my explanation about how to teach 218 of the 220 words phonetically.

For your daughter, I would recommend Don Potter's excellent 1824 version of Webster's Speller. My 5 year old improved her spelling and reading abilities dramatically after working through Webster's Speller.

If she's still suffering guessing habits from all the sight words, I'd work with some nonsense words with her. I work with nonsense words with my daughter, we have fun laughing hysterically at the funnier ones.

Here's a short post I did on Webster's Speller:

and you should make sure you click the link to my page at my website showing how to teach it:

I'm going to write another post later tonight linking to your sight word post--hopefully a few less people will learn the sight word lesson the hard way after reading it.

Also, if you decide to use Webster, both Don and I would be interested to learn how it goes.

Oh, yes, here's a great game that makes nonsense words and real words: http://www.thephonicspage.org/On%20Phonics/concentrationgam.html

ElizabethB said...

OK, I did watch the muppets.

My 2 year old and 5 year old come in and saw muppets and said please, please, please.

How can you say no to that?

Timothy Power said...

See, I knew I would get some interesting comments if I just put up a link to the Muppet Show! Works every time.

Thanks for dropping by, and for your vote of confidence. I'm honored that you saw fit to present my post on your blog and expand on it, and I'm humbled that the post was recommended to you by Don Potter himself.

Just so you know, we do have some old copies of Webster's Speller around, although they are much later editions than the one from 1824. My wife is very interested in figuring out how to use it in our studies; but it's difficult to find adequate instructions on this.

For example, while the Trivium Pursuit site recommends Webster for spelling, grammar, handwriting, etc., it does not recommend the book for phonics--arguing that we pronounce things differently now, so his phonetical rules are a bit out-of-date. Also, they don't recommend using the book until the kid is 10 or so. Needless to say, your take on it is very different than the Bluedorns'!

And my wife--who does most of the day-to-day teaching--isn't as much of a theoretician as I am. I like getting into the whys and wherefores; she just wants to know what do I teach on lesson one, what do I teach on lesson two, etc. We liked Hazel Loring's approach because it was very clear on this point: here's the list of words, and this is what you do with them. Alas, we haven't yet found such a clear step-by-step prescription for using Webster in the teaching of phonics. We've seen a lot of good ideas, but nothing that could be described as a complete program that incorporates all these ideas. I suspect that such a program would look a lot like the Hazel Loring method, just starting with Webster's syllables instead of her word lists; but I haven't had the time or mental energy to figure out myself how to do it.

And it's no mere academic question: we have another three-year-old now who's learning her letters and sounds, so we need to figure out what we're doing here pretty soon--otherwise she'll start reading without us. ;)

Anyway, in the five months since I wrote that post, things have progressed reasonably well. Developments come quickly when the child is just five! The Pillowfight Fairy finished Spelling Workout Level A, and Tonya decided to shift to vocabulary building for a while, extracting words from the Spelling Workout book's glossary. It appears that the Fairy's decoding skills are a lot better than they used to be. So long as she concentrates, she can usually sound out two- and three-syllable words now without too much help. (Although it should be noted that she's frequently not in the mood to concentrate. She's only five, of course.) The other day she wanted to read a chapter from E.B. White's The Trumpet of the Swan--and she made it two-thirds of the way through the chapter before she got fatigued and pooped out! I did have to help with a lot of hard words, but it's clear that she's feeling a lot more confident than she did even a few months ago.

Anyway, we'd love to incorporate Webster's Speller into our children's education--and we're more likely to if we can find good resources that explain exactly how to do this. If you come across any, let us know. (The article from Trivium Pursuit is the closest thing we've found, except for the fact that it contra-indicates it before age ten.)

Thanks again for dropping by!

ElizabethB said...

I have some instructions on how to actually teach Webster here:


Don also has a movie and mp3 of the syllabary if you're unclear on any of the syllable sounds.

My daughter actually already know a lot of phonics when we started Webster from a mix of good phonics programs (as a remedial phonics tutor since 1994, I have quite a collection!)

We worked on sounding out and spelling the syllabary first, then through the rest of the lessons in order. I never work longer than 10 minutes a day with her on formal Webster work. Sometimes she'll "play" Read, Write, and Type (recommended by Don!) for hours, however. She doesn't realize it's educational, and requests to play it like she would a movie or a website. I'm not sure if she's noticed yet that it's one request I always say yes to!

I did all of the syllabary, and review it periodically (and refer back to it when she's stuck with a syllable in a multi-syllabic word.) However, I don't teach her words that are too esoteric. I pick several from each lesson and have her either read them or spell them. We usually read around 20 words a day or spell 8 words a day. I point out spelling rules (you can learn them all from our online spelling lessons: http://www.thephonicspage.org/On%20Spelling/spellinglessonsl.html), but she seems impervious to them. She seems to just learn by the patterns. I point them out anyway. When she's mastered the spelling and reading of most of the words in a section, we move on to the next one. (Again, I don't teach her very obscure words, I teach a smaller percentage of the words as the words get longer. Eventually we'll go back and work through it again, adding in words that were omitted due to their irrelevance to a 5 year old.)

I talk about dividing words into syllables in explaining how to use Webster. You may be interested to see this link to excerpts from a 1851 First Reader that had ALL word of more than one syllable divided with a hypen: http://www.thephonicspage.org/On%20Reading/parkerfirstreade.html

Our daughter was not capable developmentally/wouldn't try/would balk for whatever reason (she wouldn't/couldn't explain) when faced with a word over 5 or 6 letters that was not divided into syllables. After several months of dividing up words for her, she can now divide words she hasn't seen before up in her head.

We were at the post office and she asked me, "Mom, what does incorrect mean?"

When she saw the word "wilderness" for the fist time, she said it correctly, then stated (very astutely for a 5 year old) "but it looks like it should be wild-erness (long i wild.)"

If your wife has any questions, she can e-mail me, liz91 at thephonicspage dot org. I'd love to see more people using Webster's, I've been so pleased with our results and would love to see more families benefit from all Don's hard work typing up the version of Webster's. (Although the print is actually too small for a 5 year old, and we use a whiteboard slate anyway for reasons explained in the first link.)

We have the exact same concentration problem, especially for math and handwriting, which don't come as easy to her as reading and spelling. I mandate movement between 5 to 10 minutes of concentrated work periods.

ElizabethB said...

I also enjoyed your post on vertical/horizontal socialization.

I like the idea of one-room schoolhouses if you have to have a school environment, or at least some kind of pull out where older/more advanced students do some tutoring. I think it is helpful for both the tutor and the student. You learn a lot when you have to learn to a level to actually teach something, and it is also good character building and good "work" experience. It also might help a lot of people figure out if they were good at teaching and/or enjoyed teaching at a young age, which could only be a helpful thing for everyone involved--both these future teachers and their future students (and the future non-teachers that might have been teachers had they not realized they didn't like teaching/weren't good at teaching!)

I also think it would be helpful for younger students as some of the higher level knowledge floated down to their level, and also give them an idea of what they had to look forward to.

Chris said...

Ye Gads! I wanted to leave a comment about the cultural significance of the Muppets, but in light of the deep comments thus far re phonics, sight reading, and horizontal / vertical / diagonalley socialization, I'm somewhat intimidated.

Just kidding. I just wanted to note that my commenting activity has been as sparse as my blogging activity - slim and none (reminds me of the old Far Side cartoon about a cowboy and a nun, but that's beside the point).

Rest assured that I'm still here faithfully reading and enjoying your dazzling intellect and savoir-faire.