Should struggling readers just have to 'figure things out'?

in the news reading Jan 30, 2019

A recent 9 News article suggests modern approaches to reading is the reason for the high level of illiteracy in Australia. Schools encourage students to take a ‘detective’ approach to reading through visual clues or using story context.

Let’s take a closer look at these two methods.

The first is visual cues. Students are encouraged to use pictures on a page to help them figure out the words and storyline. Problems start to appear when they read more demanding text without pictures to guide them. When students rely on external rather than internal cues, they cannot decipher words which would hinder their ability to understand what they have just read.

The second method promoted by a lot of teachers is to use the story context to fill in the gaps. This assumes that students already understand what is going on. When students are attending to decoding words on a page, they are not focussing on vocabulary or meaning. This requires higher level thinking skills.

The notion that students struggling with reading have the capacity to effectively decipher a language as vague and complex as English using techniques such as ‘context clues’ or ‘visual clues’ is setting them up for failure and giving us the alarming results portrayed in the article.

The Sound Spell solution is to teach students skills to decode words internally by looking at letter patterns, listening for the sounds and using spelling rules to guide them.

Read the original article 'Unacceptably high' level of children not learning to read and write on 9 News Australia.


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