The Brain – Processing Patterns and Learning to Read

SnipBlog77Our brains are programmed to perceive patterns.  Many people enjoy puzzles, whether they are jigsaw puzzles or manipulative puzzles or Sudoku puzzles. They all involve patterns. Art often uses patterns. Architecture and landscaping often follow patterns and they are more pleasing to the eye when certain patterns are followed to achieve visual balance.

Math follows patterns.  Many children who are poor readers do very well in math (except for reading the word problems) because math follows a pattern and if they understand the pattern, it makes sense. Algebra students soon find out that if they do not follow the correct pattern—the order of operations, they will not get the correct answer.

Reading involves patterns also, although many people who teach reading do not understand the patterns as well as we would like. Students who are very good in math enjoy the logic and sequence of math. What about the logic and sequencing of reading instruction? How does pattern perception in the brain affect learning to read?

The brain recognizes patterns.  When children understand the spelling patterns contained in words, it makes sense and they will remember what they learn. If we teach phonics, reading, and spelling together logically and sequentially, one piece of the pattern at a time, students will understand it and they will learn to read well.  But if we teach reading randomly by picking up a book and just pointing out words, many students will not learn to read well.  Reading does not make sense to many kids when presented randomly.  Just as we do not expect students to multiply before they know how to add, we should not expect students to learn to read without teaching it step-by-step, in a logical pattern.

How can reading be taught in a sequential pattern? First, teach some letters and the sounds they make, such as: a, t, s, c, f.  Build on that by making words with those letters such as: cat, fat sat. Then teach students to blend the sounds of the letters to pronounce the words.  Take it a step further, and teach a sight word like “A,” and make a sentence with your new words like this: “A fat cat sat.”

This kind of reading instruction is presented in a logical sequential pattern and it makes sense to students. It is easy to remember because all of the instruction is related.  Instead of teaching separate phonics lessons and handwriting practice with letters and words that are unrelated to the stories a child is reading, use the same letters and sounds students are learning in phonics lessons to sound out words, teach spelling, and to read stories. The same path in the brain is now being used for phonics, reading, and spelling so it will be a stronger pathway.

Each new lesson should add to and build on the previous lesson. This type of instruction makes learning to read easy and fun, just like putting a puzzle together. It makes sense. When we teach students to read by helping them build logical step-by-step patterns in their brains, they become strong successful readers.

You Can Teach Your Struggling Child to Read – Now!

Is your child a struggling reader?  Have you tried to help your child learn to read and it just doesn’t seem to click?  Learning to read does not come easily for many children, so you are not alone.  Many people will tell you that some children just need to wait longer—but that is just not true!

Children struggle with reading because the method used to teach them is too difficult or it introduces too many new things at one time.  If your child is taught in a sequential step-by-step way that allows him/her to focus on only one new letter-sound a day and practice reading that new letter-sound in a story that does not include anything the child has not learned yet, you will see your child begin to experience success in reading and grow in confidence.

One of my children had difficulty with reading (the only one that I did not teach at home first) and I was told that my child might not be “ready” to learn to read until 3rd grade—but I knew that was not true.  So I taught my child every day after school. That child was at the top of the class in reading at the end of the year. If I had waited as recommended, it would have been very difficult to catch up later on.

Here’s what one parent wrote to me:

“I had spent week looking for the perfect reading instruction book. First of all let me start by saying what an awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome (and I can’t say it enough) book Sound Bytes Reading is. My daughter has dramatically improved in her reading plus she keeps saying reading is so easy. She went from being a struggling reader to the very best in her class in a few weeks!! Your book makes reading so much fun. Particularly, for me as an extremely busy working parent with a tight schedule, it was easy for me to follow and teach.  My kid never once got confused or overwhelmed. She continues to excel and exceed reading expectations for her grade level. Your book is so well sequenced; every child would no doubt feel like a winner reading from your book.  (Ida Joiner-Elliott, Technology Executive, Sugar Land, Texas)

Another parent wrote:

“I wanted to tell you what a wonderful book you have written. My daughter has always struggled to read and up until January she had never been reading at grade level. My husband and I read with her each night, talked with her teachers, and shopped for different “How to Learn to Read” books and tapes. From everything I read regarding early readers, if you weren’t at grade level by the end of first grade there was an 80% chance you would never read at grade level. This was a terrifying thought since [she] is very bright and excels in all other subjects.  “When Mom gave Sound Bytes to my daughter we could see the change take place over the course of the next six weeks. Prior to this time she would actually say that she just wasn’t going to be able to read. With this book she felt successful. Your way of zeroing in on a few sounds in each chapter was just the approach she needed. Also, she enjoyed reading the book. Some nights it was a struggle to get her to put the book down. Currently she is reading just above grade level. Thank you so much for this wonderful book. It has been a critical part of my daughter’s success in reading.”  (Stacy Smith, Parent)

A parent with a four-year-old beginning reader wrote this:

“My 4 year old son and I loved Sound Bytes Reading. The book is comprehensive and covers reading, spelling, writing, and testing. It goes step-by-step and has fun stories. It also covers more phonics and blends than other books I looked at. The program is so easy and takes about 15-30 minutes a day. (This is not one of those reading programs that make the process of reading so complicated that they intimidate you.) By the middle of the book my son was reading easy to read books from the library and sounding out new words without difficulty. Every day he asks to read to me. It’s one of his favorite activities.”  (Theresa Nelson, Author, English Teacher, and Parent)

If you love to read and you want your child to love reading also, it is difficult to see him/her struggle with reading.   Don’t wait to help your struggling reader. Parents, you can help your child learn to read in as little as 15 minutes a day whether he/she is a struggling reader or a beginning reader.  In just four months (with instruction given five days a week), your child can be reading at a beginning third grade level.  Try it and you’ll love the results!

 

You can read Cathy Duffy’s recent review of Sound Bytes Reading here:   http://cathyduffyreviews.com/phonics_reading/Sound-Bytes.htm

Cathy Duffy is the author of 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.

Is Vocabulary Instruction Important for Beginning Readers?

When children first begin reading instruction they should be learning to decode easy words that they already understand. A good reading program will begin with simple reading texts so that beginning readers will be successful. The program should then gradually build the difficulty of the reading material as students become more skillful.

All students will encounter words that they do not know when they are reading. This is why it is important to include vocabulary instruction in a good reading program.  If students do not understand the words they are reading, they will not have good comprehension of the meaning of the text.  Teachers must give their students appropriate reading vocabulary instruction.

It is also vitally important that ELL (English Language Learners) students are given specific definitions of the vocabulary words they will encounter while reading. While students are learning to speak the English language, they do not yet have an extensive vocabulary. We need to be aware that ELL’s may not ask about words they do not know the meanings of, and this will greatly limit their comprehension. Proactive instruction in vocabulary is essential for these students.

What can parents do?  A child who has been talked to frequently and exposed to advanced vocabulary at home, in particular from listening to and interacting with adults,  and one who has been read aloud to frequently, will have a larger listening and speaking vocabulary than one who has not had this exposure.  A child who has had much exposure to television and less exposure to books and adult conversation, will have a lower level of vocabulary acquisition. This information is well documented.*

Make sure you have books in your home. Read to your children. Talk about the stories you read to them.  Talk to your children many times every day and don’t be afraid to use big words.  Make sure they have plenty of exposure to appropriate adult conversation and limit their television viewing.  Statistically, children who start school with larger vocabularies tend to become better readers.

You can improve your children’s chances to become successful readers by talking with them often and reading aloud to them every day.

*Work Cited:   http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/startearly/ch_1.html

What Is A Good Reading Program—How Should We Teach Reading?

Landmark research was conducted on reading instruction by The National Reading Panel from 1997-2000.  Their job was to analyze the research on reading and to discover what was most effective in teaching children to read. This study resulted in the Report of The National Reading Panel, Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction (1).

The conclusions of the National Reading Panel were that children needed specific kinds of teaching that should be included within a good reading instruction program.  Summarized, these were:

  • Phonemic Awareness Instruction—This simply means that children learn that there are sounds (or phonemes) in words, and that these sounds can be moved around (add a sound or subtract a sound) or manipulated, to change words into different words.
    • Example 1:  Add the sound /s/ to the word ‘pot’ and it becomes the word ‘spot.’
    • Example 2:  Tell me how many sounds you can hear in the word ‘me’ (two sounds: /m/ and /ee/).
  • Phonics Instruction—Knowing that written letters represent sounds, and that we can connect the sounds to make words.  This instruction is much more effective if the instruction is systematic and sequential and followed up by reading real words using the phonics instruction just given.
    • Example 1:  The letter B makes the sound /b/.
    • Example 2:  Connect these sounds, /t/ – /o/ – /p/, to make the word ‘top.’  Connect these sounds, /h/ – /o/ – /p/, to make the word ‘hop’.  Read the sentence: ‘Hop on top.’
  • Fluency Instruction—Reading with accuracy, expression, and enough speed to understand the meaning of what you read. Reading aloud (with guidance) and having reading material at the right level of difficulty helps students develop fluency.
  • Comprehension—Understanding and thinking about the meaning of what is being read.
  • Vocabulary Instruction—Teaching students the meanings of the words he/she will be reading.

When you, as a parent or teacher, are considering a reading program for your students, look for a program that will include and integrate these elements along with the stories that students are reading.  Phonics instruction is much more effective when it is used in meaningful reading right after it has been taught, rather than as isolated practice.

Next time, we will talk about teaching phonemic awareness.  Happy Reading!

Work Cited:  1- http://www.nationalreadingpanel.org/Publications/summary.htm

Further Reading:  http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs_details.cfm?from=&pubs_id=226