The Missouri Reader Vol. 41, Issue 2 - Page 24

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individual learners is a major reason to observe children who are having reading difficulties and to try to determine why those difficulties are taking place. We cannot afford to use a cookie cutter approach for everyone. My best suggestion is that you please not allow yourself to be overtaken by the recurring idea that Orton-Gillingham developed in the 1930’s, is the only answer for children who struggle with decoding. In fact although observation says that it works well for a number of children, others are not convinced. One source says, “This systematic review empirically documents that the effectiveness of Orton-Gillingham and Orton-Gillingham-based reading instruction remains to be determined.” (Turner, III & Herbert, M. 2008). I believe that we cannot “put all of our instructional eggs in one basket”and that only observation and experimentation will tell which methods work for individual students. Many programs are expensive to buy and take specialized training. Some of them work well for struggling readers, but there are other good techniques that can be tried first.

In my years of working with children who had reading difficulties, what I found most helpful occurred almost by accident. I was experimenting, using different techniques with children who were severely disabled in reading. I put together a couple of very old techniques ( designed long before my time as a teacher) to develop a smooth combination that worked so well for the children I taught that I still teach it to my graduate students. I was a learning disabilities teacher as well as a reading teacher, and I taught children who were not called dyslexic in those days, when it was said that the diagnosis was too neurological to be used in schools. Instead, those children were simply diagnosed as language-based learning disabled…but what I saw when they came to my room was simply one more child who could not read. Many of my children were fifth graders in the inner-city schools where I worked. Some barely knew the alphabet, some were confused by trying to write letters correctly, and some had just given up and didn’t want to continue to fail.

By putting together two old techniques, I taught many children how to read and also how to write. It takes time, and it takes one-on-one work. I know that most classroom teachers do not have the time to work one on one with a struggling reader, but if you can possibly squeeze in 10 minutes each day, or even for three days a week, with one child, it can make a difference. Some teachers may tutor in the summer, and this is an excellent way to make good strides in limited time, as long as the teacher also spends time reading books and enjoying the pleasure of the written word with the child. The combined techniques that I use can be used with people of all ages, including adults, because they are not based on children’s curriculum, but rather the language and knowledge of the learner . The combination of a very old technique called The Fernald Method (Fernald, 1943), combined with a specific way to teach the language experience stories (George (1989), provide natural phonics-based learning combined with a VAKT approach and sight words that are reinforced through the child’s own growing comprehension. The instructions for the most effective way to combine these techniques must be read carefully, and followed precisely or they are not as effective as they can be. Since it is a somewhat complicated process, and it needs to be seen, the directions will be made available on YouTube during the next few months for those who are interested.,

My “new dogs” are young teachers who are my graduate students. in literacy education. For one of my courses, I ask them to “follow this format exactly as written” with a child in their classroom. They are asked to bring back the child’s written work, along with the teacher’s comments about how effective their lessons were. Many of the teachers find these combined techniques so effective that they continue to use them with children who struggle. Like every technique, it won’t work for everyone, but it does work for quite a few children who struggle to learn to read. I’m always happy to share these ideas with fellow teachers.

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The combination of a very old technique called The Fernald Method (Fernald, 1943), combined with a specific way to teach the language experience stories (George (1989), provide natural phonics-based learning combined with a VAKT approach and sight words that are reinforced through the child’s own growing comprehension.