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Part 1 – Methods of teaching reading

There is a brief introduction to the three main methods of teaching reading and writing, as well as information about the causes of problems experienced by many children.

 

Part 1: Methods of teaching reading

 

First of all, let us look at the causes of reading problems, as opposed to writing problems. On average, about a quarter of children find learning to read difficult. There is a tendency to think that these children are not very bright but this could not be further from the truth. I have known many highly intelligent children who have had problems with learning to read and vice versa.

 

Now, in order to understand why some children struggle, it is necessary to know a little about the methods of teaching. There are basically three methods:

 

  • Whole-word memorising: Children are told the word and learn to recognise it by its shape.
  • Synthetic phonics: From the beginning, children learn the letter sounds and are taught how to read words by blending the letter sounds (which is known as decoding).
  • A mixed approach: Children are taught using a combination of the above two methods.

 

There is no doubt that the whole-word memorising method is the least effective for teaching children to read. Synthetic phonics is the most effective method, and using a mixture of the two methods reduces the effectiveness of the synthetic phonics, particularly for those children who struggle.

 

Teachers know very well that in each class there is a group of children who learn to read easily, whatever method of teaching is used; a group who learn steadily and gradually succeed; and a group of children who struggle and frequently fail. I have often asked teachers why they think this happens, when the teaching is basically the same for all the children. Their replies tend to be that the children who struggle:

 

  • are not mature enough
  • come from a poor environment
  • have not had stories read to them
  • are not interested in reading
  • are poor at speaking and listening
  • are limited in their vocabulary
  • do not have English as their mother tongue
  • have parents who are not willing or able to help them
  • have parents who are too pushy

 

The list goes on and on. All these explanations may have some validity but, to my mind, they are not the main causes of the children’s difficulties.

 

  • Korean words

    If unfamiliar with the Korean language, try memorising these words. Whole-word learning is not easy!