180 Tools for Reading and Spelling

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When I begin teaching reading students, whether in public schools or in private or university settings, I offer them a choice. I explain that to become a skilled reader with the Ineffective Method, they will need to memorize about 250,000 words for instant recognition and pronunciation. With the Effective Method, they must learn to use 180 absolutely necessary tools for skilled reading and spelling. I even keep my tools for teaching these tools in an antique toolbox and I am writing a book about this teaching process.

Never has any student chosen the Ineffective Method although almost all teachers, principals, curriculum consultants, textbook publishers, and textbook adoption committees make the wrong choice every time. But remember, Ineffective Textbooks assure another round of Expensive Ineffective Book Purchases. To further compound the problem, teacher training professors no longer understand how to teach future teachers how to teach reading. The circle of Money-Reinforcing-Ignorance continues with its ever-widening diameter of destruction.

The long prevailing and very Ineffective Look Say method of reading instruction – although constantly renamed and repackaged – continues to destroy potential and create deep-seated reading and self confidence problems. Flashcard memorization. Dick & Jane. Whole Language. Balanced Literacy, Dolch word lists and more serve to retard the nation and ruin lives.

These variations of the same mistake all fail badly and Whole Language cannot even be called a method. It is a dream; a hope; a wish; and a prayer. I liken Whole Language to a process in which a musically ignorant person is forced to listen to pieces by great composers. After hours of listening, the person is given a violin and expected to replicate the music heard. I almost burst out laughing the first time that someone explained the …ah, rationale…behind Whole Language but I stopped in horror as I visualized the implications and unexpected consequences of such craziness. The Whole Idea was too dangerous to be funny. Other “new” curriculums are almost as goofy, especially one that has beginners read a couple simple words, then read a picture, then read a word or two, then read a picture… Only fools, or those who purposely set out to destroy America, can stand behind such destructive options.

Wisely, my students always choose my 180 Method. America would return to educational excellence if only curriculum directors, teachers, school boards, textbook publishers, college professors and the rest of the Error Makers were as wise as those individuals who suffer the stings and the embarrassment of illiteracy.

180 Tools To Repair the Damage

  • 26 ABCs
  • 70 Spellings for the
  • 44 Sounds of American English
  • 29 Spelling Rules
  • 6 Syllable Types
  • 3 Types of Writing
  • 2 Types of Questions

26 ABC’s – After 13 years in American public education, almost all of the kids actually have learned the alphabet although huge numbers remain illiterate. Absolutely no applause is warranted.

70 SPELLINGS – These are best taught using an individual set of Spalding phonogram cards. These spellings should be taught so that the students learn the order in which certain spellings are most used in English to represent the sounds of the English language. Examples: Teach students that the letter “A” can represent three different sounds in this statistical use order – /aa/, /ay/, /ah/. The letter grouping “CH” can represent three different sounds in this statistical order – /ch/, /k/, /sh/. By training the brain to sort through possibilities in their most likely order of usage, the decoding of written English will become automatic and rapid.

**Note: Letters say nothing! The letter “f” represents the sound /f/ but the letter “f” says nothing. Never teach “B says /b/.” Instead, say “The letter B is used to represent the sound /b/.” Remember, English is written in a CODE which the schools no longer understand how to teach. We cannot expect students to DECODE if they only have been taught bits and pieces of the CODE in which English is written.

44 SOUNDS – Teach students to clearly hear and clearly speak the speech sounds of English. Students cannot accurately spell if they cannot accurately hear and precisely speak English. Students with dialects and lazy speech patterns will be especially prone to errors and illiteracy. How can such students accurately spell a word like “bathroom” if they say and hear “baf roo”?

I teach students that they must learn many levels of English and that Standard English must be the level used in situations where they need to be accurate, articulate, and literate.

I explain that dialects are fine at home but not in school. To help them better understand what I mean, I tell them this true story: My baby brother, Reed, was deaf and he could never say the term “whipped cream” and he so loved whipped cream on pumpkin pie. Reed always called it “creama whippa”. The family was so tickled by the term that we all took to using it, as well. Reed was killed by a drunk driver in 1973 but to this day – and in his memory – the members of my immediate family say things like: “Who will buy the creama-whippa for Thanksgiving dinner?” Then I ask my students, “Do you think that any of us go into Kroger and ask “Where is the creama whippa?” …Silence as the students see the problem and “get it”. They come to understand why they must speak the level of English appropriate to their surroundings. “Baf roo” is simply not appropriate for use outside of the home and friendship circle. Neither is creama-whippa. These are not “bad” words if their use is restricted to limited and appropriate situations. Teach children to speak, spell, and write Standard English so that they can participate fully and skillfully in the larger world outside of the home.

29 SPELLING RULES – I teach these rules using the Spalding Reading Method and the book THE WRITING ROAD TO READING by Romalda Spalding. Do not teach students to memorize the rules! Teach students to logically USE the rules. I have written about the rules here Spelling Rules Rule, and here Spelling: A Lost Art, and here Spell Logically

6 SYLLABLE TYPES – Every English syllable has to have a vowel and most English syllables fall into one of six categories. Understanding these are essential to rapid Decoding (reading) and correct Encoding (spelling).

**Note: The vowels are a, e, i/y, o, u. Vowels are made with an open throat that does not restrict the flow of air, although the mouth and face do shape the sounds. Consonants are made when parts of the mouth and throat act in some way to stop, squeeze, restrict, explode, or redirect air through the nasal passages. Try to sing /d/. How about /h/? We sing vowels. Skilled singers produce vowels skillfully.

1) Open Syllables – end with a vowel and so the mouth is open. Usually, the vowels at the ends of open syllables say their long sounds; say their own name: me, my, ba con, va ca tion. ** I/Y do not always obey these rules because of Latin and other influences. Y can say the sounds of I; I can say the sounds of Y. Consider these: Short I – in or gym. Long I – silent or my. Long E – police or baby. Y – yellow or onion.

2) Closed Syllables – end with a consonant and so the mouth has to close to make it. Because of the mouth closing to produce the consonant, most often the vowel in a closed syllable is “clipped off” so that it says its short sound: met, bet, bug, in, fin, rich, patch, con cert

3) E-Controlled Syllables – end with a Silent Final E which forces the vowel before it to say its long, or name, sound: hat/hate cut/cute mat/mate

4) R-Controlled Syllables – These syllables contain an R that changes the expected vowel sound to something different: Instead of a short e, one hears /er/; instead of a short i, one hears /ir/; instead of a short u, one hears /ur/, and so on. Have your students memorize “Her Nurse First Works Early” for a basic range of statistical usage options.

5) Consonant-LE Syllables – These syllables end with a consonant +L +Silent E. The reason for needing the E is that all English syllables MUST have a vowel. Examples: lit tle, med dle, cra dle

6) Vowel Team Syllables – In these syllables, the vowels are spelled with two or more letters: pain, play, cow, bow, bread, break, foot, boot, floor, eight, thought, etc.

Poor spellers should be taught to carefully check their spellings. If they are creating syllables that fail to meet one of the above 6 standards then they either have a spelling error or they have spelled a foreign words. They should check with the dictionary. Skilled readers use the knowledge of the syllable types to rapidly anticipate pronunciation and speed up decoding, as well as to spell with accuracy and insight.

3 Types of Writing – When readers pick up a book, they take a moment to understand what type of reading they will need to process in that particular book. We do not open a physics book with our mind prepared to read a Victorian novel. Our brain handles such adjustments so automatically that we are unaware of the process but remedial readers need to be taught how to spot and prepare for the three different kinds of writing.

Narrative Writing – Teach students to expect a story line, characters of some type, and other story aspects. Teach students to be alert for the answers to the questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? What happens?

Informative Writing – Teach students to expect and be alert to Facts, Facts, and more Facts. Since textbooks (are supposed to) fall in this category, the students must learn to focus their minds on understanding and retention of Facts and Information.

Informative-Narrative Writing – Prepare students to expect to learn new things while they read an interesting story with characters. The Laura Ingalls Wilder books are a great example. While reading of the family’s interesting moves and adventures, the reader also learns how to smoke meat in a hollow tree; how to butcher and process a pig; how to cross the Mississippi River in the winter; and many more facts, interesting bits of information, and good down-home common sense.

Forewarned is to be forearmed and this goes for the reading process as well. Teach your students to quickly analyze what they are about to read, as well as the reason they will read it, then adjust their expectations and attention accordingly.

2 Types of Questions – There are 1) Literal questions and then there are 2) Inferential questions. I teach this by dramatically pointing out to students that, “The answer to a literal question is literally right in front of your eyes!” The answers to Literal questions can be found and pointed to; can be copied from the page; can be underlined or highlighted. But, Inferential questions need to be pondered and considered as the reader sorts and sifts through the information learned in order to make the mental connections necessary to answer Inferential questions. A Literal question asks, “When was the Declaration of Independence signed?” and the reader’s finger can literally point to “1776”. An Inferential question asks, “What might be a more appropriate title for this book?” There will be no pointing to discover answers to inferential questions. Think. Make and consider connections. Make a decision.

TOTAL = 180

If teachers would make sure that these 180 tools were taught and re-taught as students develop new and higher skills, America could again become an educational model for the world. Without knowledge about, and skilled use of these tools, individuals will never read – and often never mentally process – above the elementary levels. Jails and prisons, as well as welfare rolls, are filled with Look-Say readers who could never move above a 3rd grade reading level. What life option do they have other than crime or living off others who can read and process at higher levels? One cannot help but wonder what these people might have become if they had been taught by wise, knowledgeable teachers working in a Pro-Student system.

My mother, Doris Sneary Regnier, was absolutely correct when she said:

“The children who do learn to read in today’s schools, learn in spite of the curriculum and the instruction.”

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