Friday, January 26, 2007

Teaching Children to Read

It's days like this that I think I should have stayed in the academic world and gotten a lot of money to study something that most of us assume to be common sense. So I came across this article, which was the summation of study done, that shows that one method of teaching children to read was no better than the other. The specifics escape me and of course I lost the link to the story, which I know is horrible blogger etiquette, (the fact that there is such a thing as blogger etiquette is a topic for another day) but the gist of it was that the phonics method was no better or worse than the standard method. The difference between success and failure seemed to be more about giving individual attention to students and making sure the were reading the correct stuff for the reading level they were at as opposed to the method used. Wow, imagine that! Spend some time working with the kids at a level they are comfortable with and they will learn how to read.

I realize we could debate the reality of being able to or not being able to do that in today's over crowded class rooms. We could also talk about the software like Accelerated Reader (shameless plug) that address this very concern. However, neither would address my concern, which is the fact that we need a study to to verify stuff we already know.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the need for studies and I am not saying we shouldn't look into the reasons some things work and some don't, or why one thing is or isn't better than another. I am just tired of someone having to have a Phd. in some discipline to be considered knowledgeable on the subject. There are some things in life that we all observe or take part in on a daily basis, and those observations and experiences can make us experts in that field. Our fields of expertise are different, and they change as our lives change, but make no mistake, you are an expert on something and you don't need a Phd. to prove it. Again, no offense to all of my friends with Phd's (I think they will both be OK with it) but sometimes it seems that the Phd crowd likes to thumb their noses at any one else who might have a thought on a topic just because they haven't studied it in depth. I think we all have examples or can recall a time when something in our daily lives might be in direct conflict with a theory of how things should work, based on some study, by some guy with a really hard to pronounce last name from MIT or Harvard, with some advanced degree.

Ask any teacher on the planet who has been teaching little kids to read for any length of time, and they will tell you exactly what this study told you, and they didn't need lots of money or an advanced degree to do it. They just live it, and I happen to think that should be enough. Maybe if we started listening to the people who live it, and acknowledge their credibility as experts in that field, we wouldn't have to fund studies to prove what is already known and we could fund, oh I don't know, maybe getting the kids who need them some winter coats and snow pants for school. Just a thought.

Have a great day!

"Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life."
-Immanuel Kant

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