This page links to what Shanahan has to say. You might be wondering who Tim Shanahan is and why he matters to the discussion. He’s a literacy guru who has been active in the world of reading for decades. You can read his bio here.
Last, but certainly not least, Mark Seidenberg is a the cutting edge of all things Science of Reading. In fact, his book is well worth reading–even if you are only teaching one child to read! The science behind this really is fascinating. Stanislas Dehaene’s book is excellent, too.
THIS is where it’s at for teaching reading! In fact, a Facebook group that I belong to that dedicated to the Science of Reading surpassed 50,000 members this month — and it’s only been in existence for about a year! That sort of growth is unprecedented. While it’s a very technical page, usually dedicated to educators in schools, there are some parents in there who are trying to change things for their own kids. What that means is that YOU REALLY CAN TEACH READING. Arm yourself with the best practices and you will be amazed at how far you will go!
This book is fabulous, as is this one. Both will arm you with more research than you probably need when you are only teaching a few children of your own how to read.
If you need curriculum that is easy to use and is aligned with the science, you can take a look at All About Reading and All About Spelling. Another good option is Spell to Write and Read. Both are geared toward neurotypical students, though. AAR and AAS can be helpful for mildly dyslexic children, but someone with more profound disability will need more. If you cannot find an Orton-Gillingham tutor near you, look to the Barton program. It’s pricey, but it it is available in levels so you don’t have to buy the whole thing all at once. Plus it’s completely scripted and was designed for a parent to be able to use it at home with a child. You can do this!
This PDF shows what balanced literacy is supposed to look like in a classroom. On the surface, these things don’t look awful … but look more closely. Nowhere is the child told to sound out a word! That’s the crux of the matter. English is a phonetic system. Granted its phonics comes to us via several language backgrounds which makes it hard to decode at times, but it CAN be done. When morphology and etymology are considered before phonology is consulted, most words in English are indeed decodable!
The answer to that question will take some time. Sorry. Here goes:
On the surface, the name Balanced Literacy sounds wonderful, right? I mean, what could be better than something completely balanced? We hear about balanced meals, balanced approaches to work life vs family life, and a host of other applications. The thing is, balanced literacy is nothing more than Whole Language (think Dick and Jane readers) repackaged for the new century. In case you are wondering, Whole Language was debunked during the 90s and Balanced Literacy arose from its ashes.
“The fatal flaw of balanced literacy is that it is least able to help students who most need it. It plays well in brownstone Brooklyn, where children have enrichment coming out of their noses, and may be more “ready” for balanced literacy than children without such advantages.”
The thing is, some of Balanced Literacy’s ideas do work … but ONLY after someone’s reading skills have reached the level of automaticity. They are not at all appropriate for someone still learning how to decode or how the English language works.
Here’s a report about Balanced Literacy and why it doesn’t qualify as “Good Instruction.” If you need more ammunition against Balanced Literacy, here’s Shanahan’s take. Learn what GOOD Instruction consists of and provide it.
While every student will benefit from a systematic, explicit, intensive literacy program, dyslexic student REQUIRE it! This is where Structured Literacy comes into play. Read about it here.
Structured literacy differs greatly from balanced literacy. The University of Michigan has wonderful information here.
Don’t forget about the MULTISENSORY part, too! That doesn’t have to be elaborate, using all sorts of manipulatives. You can do it with just your fingers, your voice, a pencil, and paper! Fun stuff is fine to use, but it isn’t necessary to make things multisensory!
I’m all for bring you both sides of the equation so you can make up your own mind:
This is the link from the above report about how kids learn to read. It’s a classroom-based model, though, so it might not seem very useful to you. Look beyond the classroom, school-y ideas and think about what they would look like if you did them 1:1 around your kitchen table.
The Reading Wars don’t have to be waged in your home!
In schools all across America these days, there is something called RTI taking place. RTI means Response to Intervention and it is a way of grouping kids, especially when talking about reading. Tier 1 is all about average readers in a classroom, so it doesn’t really apply to homeschoolers. Because of our ability to target our instruction, almost all homeschoolers are going to be Tier 2, with Tier 3 being reserved for the kids who are struggling for whatever reason. Interestingly, all homeschooled kids could have what is known of as Tier 3 Instruction. Here’s more about what the different levels mean.
If getting the testing for dyslexia done wasn’t enough of a struggle, once the test is done, what do you do with the report that is provided? Some of them are not easy to read! Understood has some help, as does this page at UMich. Every practitioner has their own way of writing reports. Reports also differ if they are only are going to be seen by a parent and not be used as part of an IEP or 504 meeting. For example, since I only work with homeschoolers, I have no need to provide something that would be used in court or for a meeting with the public schools. Instead, my reports contain information on the assessments used, how the child performed, and what I think would be a good plan of action going forward.