TOWARD A FAILURE-PROOF METHODOLOGY FOR LEARNING TO READ

 

 

BYRON THORNE

 

THE THORNE READING METHOD

 

Currently under revision.

 

     “Flatter me, and I may not believe you.

    Criticize me, and I may not like you.

       Ignore me, and I may not forgive you.

              Encourage me, and I may not forget you."

 

Wm. Arthur Ward

Preface

If you could choose the most beneficial education for your child, would you opt for school programs that emphasize learning to read and spell and which guarantee the understanding of math concepts such as algebra, or programs designed to provide for the healthy physical and mental fitness of all its students? Yes, this is a trick question! But, if you had only one option, which would you choose?

Would you opt for your child to achieve Straight A grades, who may have varied overweight concerns, limited social and leisure time skills and may become a future mental health candidate or, Oh! I’m sorry, the other option? It doesn’t exist! But... we could create one that does!

While the Straight A option is still available for a select few, the majority of today’s student population are still receiving substandard basic skill knowledge and virtually no meaningful life coping resilience skills, while their physical health, social connectivity and increasing mental health issues continue to go uncorrected.


The Future of Education

As I am writing this preface, I am bothered by the fact that too many of today’s students do not have the discipline to stay on task to acquire knowledge from a world exploding with new ideas and more information than they will be able to consume. There are too many obstacles that are preventing students from acquiring knowledge. It is my belief that the “i Generation” will be entering into an arena for which they are totally unprepared.

The future will require minds that have learned how to adapt, innovate and be self-sufficient. In a future society of nanotechnology, 3D Printers, virtual reality and avatars, no scientist or engineer will be able to create life-like robots with artificial intelligence with the one skill that separates us from machines, that of empathy.

Knowing how to be empathetic will be of great value in a future where technical skills will become the norm. Students will need to acquire all the skills they are capable of learning in order to be able understand how adapt to the future, since by the time they graduate, 60% of the jobs they will be applying for have yet to be invented.

Parents need to understand their responsibility to monitor the time of their children’s connectivity on electronic devices; the consequences of not doing so could limit the future for their children who do not take their schooling seriously. I watched CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s show, September 16th. 2017. He interviewed Professor of Psychology, Dr. Jean Twenge, Author of “iGen.” Her research proves that since 2007, the addictive use of iPhones have increased student depression and suicides by 50%. The iPhone has isolated the young minds of our young people. To quote Michael Smerconish, “Our children are being raised with so much connectivity, yet they’ve never been further apart from one another”. In the early 70’s, economist and author E.F. Schumacher, maybe sensing what technology advancement was about to inflict upon us, predicted in his book, “Small Is Beautiful,” that depression would be the second most common social problem we would need to address by the year 2020.

It seems that he was correct, that globalization and corporate greed would fuel a technology that would require us to change our lifestyles and how we will need to adapt if we wish to be competitive in the workplace. I believe that he sensed that everyone will require a mastery of a great many skills in order to survive in a future where knowledge is being doubled every twelve months—and by the time our grade one students graduate, knowledge may be doubling every twelve months—soon to become every twelve weeks?

To quote an article in The Globe and Mail, September 18,2017. Ken Robinson, former professor and educational guru states, “Yes, we need to raise standards. But we don’t do it by standardizing everything. You end up with McDonald’s if we do that. The way to raise standards is to get kids motivated, curious, engaged and interested. And that will get standards as high as you want.” We can accomplish this by providing students with the tools that should enable them to be innovative, adaptive student graduates who have the critical problem solving skills that allow to them to think outside the box.

It has to be out with the old and in with the new. The problem is that we really don’t know what the "new" is. I watched Fareed Zakaria’s GPS, Sunday, July 23/17, his guest, Professor Harari of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, commented, “We don’t even know the most basic things about how the world will look in 30 years.” I believe a good start would be helping students to focus on a curriculum that teaches students to think for themselves. As Matt Ridley states, “Education, done properly, is an emergent, evolutionary phenomenon.”

Mr. Ridley is implying that today’s teaching strategies and curricula are not evolving. They are becoming less relevant to how children will be required to learn once they leave school. Alarmingly, as Professor Harari predicts “In the year 2050, a new class of people might emerge - the useless class.” He warns us about the future of education for our children, “We have no idea what to teach in school today so that they will have the necessary skills for the world of 2040.”

The one saving grace that I stated in my first paragraph, will be that every student will have been offered the opportunity to learn to read to understand, and be prepared to adapt to whatever skills are required in order for them to get and hold on to their jobs. We must be alert to the fact that there will also be enforced unemployment, and there will be consequences for those unprepared students who don’t have the skills to cope with their enforced leisure time. I hope that their teachers taught them how to play.

Unfortunately, the technology of interruption, most notably the addictive use of the "smart" phone, has outpaced the technology of concentration, as noted in an observation by Thomas Friedman in his latest book, ‘Thank You for Being Late.’ “Students need to learn the discipline of sustained concentration more than ever and to immerse themselves in practice - without headphones. No athlete, no scientist, no musician ever got better without focused practice, and there is no program you can download for that. It has to come from within.”

North American students, as well as those in other English speaking countries, will need to realize that to be prepared for the future will require all the sustained concentration they can muster. If they fail to do so, then welcome to the generation in a world in which they and their skills will be considered “useless.”

Beginning with grade one, it is crucial to begin teaching students to learn how to persevere in solving difficult tasks. How will students learn to overcome frustrating problem-solving solutions unless they experience failure once in awhile? Success will depend on the student’s ability to acquire the discipline of sustained concentration in order to attain a high level of performance. This being the case, I see few reasons why every student should not have acquired the level of “adult functional literacy” by the time they graduate grade three.

This standard applies toward arithmetic/math, science and social studies concepts. I would expect the same performance level in all their physical education activities, as well as the arts. The challenge will be to design programs that are interesting and easily understood and that will instill and inspire students to want to accumulate information and then use what they have learned to gain more knowledge. If students are going to develop into bright, adaptable citizens of the future, it will be through their achieving more than a mastery of STEM subjects. To be happily engaged with life activities, they will need all the human interaction skills they have been acquiring since starting grade one.

While the 3Rs are necessary, maybe with the exception of writing, which I believe should only begin when the student has complete mastery of reading and spelling, tomorrow’s education will most likely be “the four Cs”, creativity, collaboration, communication, and coding. These will be the skills that employers will expect once they graduate. Students will also need to develop their tolerance toward gender equality and working with students from other cultures. This will require an appreciation and understanding of how well they have learned to interact with their teachers, classmates, friends and family.

It is incumbent upon us to not only educate our students with the technical skills that they will require for a productive work future, but with those social skills that many students will require in order to help them survive not only school but for the rest of their lives. These special skills will be of intrinsic value in determining the level of success and fulfillment that can be expected in any of their futures.

We will need teachers and curricula that produce students with the skills that new technology will require once they graduate. Who do you think will teach these students for the next few generations? Our best teachers for the future haven’t even graduated high school. If we plan things wisely, we will have time to implement programs that will prepare students with the technical skills that the workplace will require.

As usual this responsibility will be that of the front line of the education system, the elementary school teachers. To keep learning at a high interest level we must restructure the boring factories. School must become the place where students look forward to attending, not a place of "boregasisms," (that’s what today’s youth call subjects that bore them to distraction). Yuval Harari, author of “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” discusses how computers will eventually take over the world inside us, leaving me to believe that we must try to prevent this from happening or at least delaying it for a several decades.

We need to find ways to actively engage with the environment. It will be necessary to begin restricting everyone, not just our children, to the toxic effects of electronic devices and a connected society. According to Alvaro Rentana, a technologist with Hewlett-Packard, there are fears that those students who spend “most of their waking hours under the influence of hyperconnectivity” will begin to lose interest in the real world. They will become bored with everything that isn’t electronically connected: that includes their peers, parents and teachers. To protect us from this insidious invasion of our minds and bodies, we need to connect with nature’s buffer from the negative effects of the computer world with positive coping mechanisms that individuals could turn to and stop being bored with life.

TOWARD A FAILURE-PROOF METHODOLOGY FOR LEARNING TO READ

 

No student should fail to learn to read. The way to encourage successful learning experiences is to provide students with reading programs that are designed to facilitate how the student is able to learn. Failure to accomplish this may be the reason that we have so many students leaving school as functional illiterates. Students need reading methodologies that encompass learning strategies that provide learning experiences that are easy to understand. As educators, we need to act immediately to correct the cause for children not understanding their reading instruction, and work toward a solvable solution for the elimination of functional illiteracy, and then remediate the problem to the point where it no longer exists.

 

Learning to read requires a specific set of readiness skills. Without these skills, potential curriculum casualties will find their reading programs as being chaos-yet-undeciphered. The Thorne Reading Method is a construct that replaces the chaos with reading comprehension.

 

It will be a “Brave New World” for children expecting to become literate in an environment that is already being compromised by socio-economic factors facing families and schools all over the nation. If students are to have a chance to become literate, then we must replace the continuous obsolescence of reading programs of the past that created the chaos in the first place - our children’s futures depend upon it.

 

We seem to be spending too much of our energies teaching those students who will never experience reading difficulties. By offering reading programs that are designed to remove the confusion from reading concepts, this one factor alone should result in more students being motivated to want to learn to read. Effective lesson planning would take every student from their reading readiness level to the next step in developing reading skills that will eventually lead to reading comprehension.

 

Our learning scientists have provided us with the reasons why certain children will fail to learn to read. Diagnosing why children can’t learn solves nothing unless we use the science to design learning strategies that will make reading more easily understood. We need methodologies that help the problem readers to overcome their learning deficits.

 

It always comes back to readiness skills. To teach reading lessons before the student has acquired every essential learning skill necessary to understand the lesson would be like, “putting the cart before the horse.”

I have addressed every one of these skill sets necessary to learn to read in this manifesto. When readiness skills sets are not mastered before the reading programs begins, then the Thorne Reading Method will be less productive. If the objective is to help children to become literate, then students should have a precept that makes learning to read failure-proof.

Building A Better Mouse Trap

 

When I began teaching, it was imperative for me to find out why so many of the students who were sent to me for remediation had failed to learn to read. It became more than:

    “Why Can’t Johnny Learn to Read?”

than finding a methodology that would make it possible for:

     “Why can’t we teach all the Johnnies to learn to read?"

Over the years, I've found most of the answers to why the skill of learning to read is beyond so many children. For my Mouse Trap to be effective, it is important to follow each developmental strategy as was designed. This should result in your mice learning to comprehend what they are reading and more importantly, to remember what they have read.

Curriclum Casualities

 

Learning scientists indicate that 90% of what we view is encoded by the brain and is responsible for our ability to recognize, categorize and remember what we just viewed. “How” the brain assimilates what it sees and remembers is extremely important to the cognitive development of children trying to learn to read. If this is interrupted for any reason, learning is slowed down and children will become as Educational Researcher Jane Fell Green points out, "curriculum casualties."

These potential curriculum casualties are easily recognized. They are the squirming, fidgety and easily distracted kids who simply just can’t learn to read. They are likely to become struggling learners who lack the facility to understand what they hear, and like our subject children, they may also have difficulty remembering what is taught visually. There is little chance for these students to learn to read, yet here they are and as Dr. Green states, “This is not because these students failed school but in recognition of how schools failed to help these students learn to read.”

I have met few educators who understand the relevance of spatiality/directionality as being fundamental to the development of reading comprehension. To prevent any further curriculum casualties, children need to strengthen all learning modalities before formal teaching lessons begin. I recommend that students engage in learning games as soon as they enter school. There are many cognitive learning games that help train that part of the brain that is responsible for acquiring essential neurodevelopmental skills that will facilitate learning to read.

Poor concepts of directionality affect up to at least twenty percent of the population who are otherwise neurologically normal. According to a study by Dr. Gerard Gormley, an academic general practitioner at Queen’s University in Belfast, “poor directionality concepts interferes with neuropsychological processes that involve several higher functions, including memory for and the ability to process visual information.” So it seems that directionality may be a little more important than the inversion and reversal of a few letters of the alphabet?

Here is a quick test to see if there is really such a thing as Dr. Gormley suggests, “a neuropsychological process.” First, lift your right foot from the floor and make ‘clock-clockwise’ circles, now draw the number 6 in the air with your right hand. Notice anything? This kind of neuropsychological confusion interrupts the learning process for students with cognitive learning issues. This is a neurocognitive problem and has nothing to do with intelligence but unless it is corrected, it will hinder many students in their quest to find success in learning to read.

The Most Important Learning Modality That Is Seldom Taught

 

Unless the student is taught how to focus on what they hear and can process what is said, then listening to understand will be neutralized to the point where learning to read will be delayed. Many students who are visual learners and are good word readers may find learning more challenging when lessons require that they listen for information. Learning is always limited to how much a student understands from what they hear. Poor listening skills are responsible for more grade retention than any learning modality. Failure to listen to understand influences learning performance which in turn will affect a student’s motivation to learn. A kind of a vicious circle.

 

It is essential that I convince you that of all the learning modalities, acquiring the ability to listen and remember must be mastered or I will have lost my resolve.

 

Dr. Ralph Nichols, the ‘Father of Listening’ believes, “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” This is a generation of children who are entering a learning environment to which they are totally unprepared. The challenge for teachers is to be absolute in their belief that all their students will have the facility to see and hear in order to understand and remember. All learning begins with strong listening skills. When this is not a priority in our efforts to help students learn, then as Dr. Nichols states, “If we fail in this, then future listeners will listen like past listeners and that will not be good enough.”

 

Statistics show that the average adult understands only 25% of what is spoken to them. The one deficit that PhD and graduate students bring out of their job interviews and find themselves looking elsewhere for employment is “poor listening skills.” “How many new learners have to be frustrated in their early learning experiences simply because our reading programs are like those reading programs of the past, and this is not good enough,” Byron Thorne.

Synthetic Phonics

 

Phonics taught incorrectly will both frustrate and confuse children trying to learn to read. A Thorne Synthetic Phonics lesson can’t frustrate anyone since it always begins at the student’s learning level. Before I ever start a phonics lesson, I make certain that every student has the capability to understand everything that I explain to them.

 

In order for every student to remember what I am about to teach requires that I use "reinforcement learning." This method produces 100% learning mastery. After a word has been decoded, I present the word visually, then provide as many episodes of auditory reinforcement as needed until the word is mastered. "Mastered" includes the ability to recognize the word, spell it and to be able to provide at least one definition for the word. I do this with each student.

But it is where I start my synthetic phonics program that differs from every reading program that is currently being taught. To save you time, scroll to Where I Start the First Reading Lesson and see if any of my theories are of value to you.

 

Learning scientists Watson & Johnston, as well as Siegel and Metsala, indicate that well planned synthetic phonics is the recommended curriculum to introduce reading in primary grades. Some learning scientists disagree with my findings that synthetic phonics taught to fruition, along with developmental reading strategies, will enable students beyond the primary grades to gain reading skills. This includes children at all grade levels. These can be children with learning deficits, grade retention students, children with language barriers, children with medical issues, as well as children from low income families. All children can learn, but they all need to start at their own square one in order to learn to read.

 

The War on Phonics has many naysayers trying to hold on to outmoded ‘look and say’ methodologies combined with explicit, systematic phonics programs. If they look at the science, they will find learning theorists have exposed these reading curricula as being detrimental to the learning process. Students need learning strategies that make sense and will motivate them to learn. Not one Educational Ministry in Canada has endorsed SP, in spite of the evidence that students are able to learn more readily using this methodology. The only countries with government approval for Synthetic Phonics are Australia and the United Kingdom. The UK has government approval for Synthetic Phonics but the teacher’s union won’t be told by the Ministry how reading must be taught. It should be noted that the UK has one of the lowest literacy levels in the English speaking world.

 

As educators, we need discover what is prohibiting the acquisition of basic language skills in English speaking countries, especially in North America. Why are literacy levels in all major English speaking countries dropping, while Asian, Russian and Nordic countries have high literacy levels?

 

The English language has too many inconsistencies, contradictions and lacks logical congruities to make for the easy acquisition of literacy. Our ‘future functionally illiterates’ see only chaos in the instructional strategies that are offered to help them learn. Steve Sinnot, from the American National Union of Teachers, states that, “Teachers need the flexibility and trust in their professional judgment to respond to children’s individual needs.” This would work in a school environment that didn’t include overcrowded classrooms, students with language barriers, as well as, an influx of children from low income families with motivational and learning issues.

 

All teachers want to encourage their students to learn to read but they will need science-driven instructional strategies from their language superintendents and a willingness to change to new reading methods. There is a need to use methodologies that make learning more easily understood. The learning environment is already at the threshold of becoming overwhelmed by students with reading problems,  and teachers must have the tools to adapt or there will be consequences.

Trust Motivation Learning and Success

“The highest cliff you can fall from is trust.” A quote from Mozart in the Jungle but more than apropos after observing my students’ improved attitude upon discovering that they could indeed learn. A student who has experienced learning to read as something that was always been beyond their ability to comprehend needs a learning environment where all of their learning deficits are addressed before their reading program begins.

Every student that I encountered came to me from a failing learning environment. They wrongly believed that they were unable to learn. These students, after five years of failing to learn Grade One reading and arithmetic skills, had given up on learning. It was up to me to help them realize that reading taught correctly could be realized. I accomplished this by creating learning activities that were designed to be failure-proof. I began teaching reading only when I was positive that every student in my class was capable of understanding what I was about to teach. I started with simple projects, such as requiring every student to be able to recognize and auditorily produce all consonant sounds of the alphabet.

Phonics taught incorrectly often frustrates those children who are destined to become "curriculum casualties." This is why I created my own program of Synthetic Phonics. This program may take a little more time to learn at first but once students understand the formula, their ability to use important decoding skills makes word recognition a certainty. No student should be rushed to finish any lesson. It is essential that every student learns every developmental concept being taught. To do otherwise is why too many students find learning to be difficult when the understanding of that concept is required to go on to the next developmental stage.

While the teacher takes the time to teach those students who are delayed in grasping important concepts, the students that have completed their understanding of the process are given “free time” tokens to use whenever they wish (other than teaching time). When the rest of the class has caught up, everyone continues to the next developmental stage in the reading program.

Having everyone at the same learning level in the reading program was one of the reasons that many of my students began enjoying coming to school. This is why it important for students to have someone whom they can trust to help them to feel adequate toward their learning while at school. This person must be the students’ advocate, their teacher.

My students’ success levels evolved because I was able to immediately diagnose what was inhibiting their progress in learning to read. Knowing what was inhibiting their learning allowed me to begin the process of helping each student to understand basic reading skills. The one common factor that many of my new students brought into my learning environment was poor self-esteem. Children experiencing difficulty with learning to read usually develop a weak self image. There is a direct correlation between motivation to learn and success in learning to read. It is essential to provide every student with the skills necessary to ensure success in learning to read. The challenge to the teacher will be to make sure that whatever they are trying to teach is within every one of their students’ ability to understand.

Another advocate in the students’ lives should be their parent/parents. After a hard days’ struggle at school, the last thing children want to hear is “What did you learn at school today?” or “Do you have any homework?” All children need encouragement and should never be made to feel that they aren’t living up to standards they may find difficult to achieve. A child needs to be encouraged by their parents for what they have accomplished and never criticized for what they are unable to understand at school.

Trust in the Classroom

Children feel secure in a learning environment where they feel that it is almost impossible to fail. For me, this was achieved by breaking down every new learning concept according to each student’s ability to understand what they were expected to learn. If the student is provided with the skills to understand what is being taught, then there is ever the likelihood of their being motivated to learn. It is important to plan reading lessons that take the confusion out of whatever concept is to be taught. Any lesson that initially seems too arduous to assimilate needs to be broken down into smaller tasks that are easier for the student to understand. This "predictive analysis" requires the teacher to collect all those seemingly small bits of student confusion toward understanding concepts necessary to learn. With this information, it makes it possible for the teacher to predict the success or failure in planning lessons for that student. Success for any student can be guaranteed simply by making each lesson easy for the student to understand.

This kind of task analysis learning made it possible for all my students to gain grade two reading comprehension skills in a matter of a few short weeks and by the end of the first term, every student had word recognition skills and word value, spelling and reading comprehension skills at a grade two level.

My program was designed to last two years and in that time students would have accumulated reading, vocabulary, and spelling skills upon graduating into grade six with midterm grade six vocabulary and spelling skills. Not a single student needed remediation and often out-performed some of their grade six classmates.

This same strategy worked exceptionally well when teaching arithmetic. Students who came to me from Grade 3 with zero numeration skills, learned to regroup addition and subtraction problems into the tens of thousands. They learned grade six multiplication with five digit multiplicands and three digit multipliers. They learned to divide a three or four digit divisor into six, seven or eight digit dividends. They enjoyed this challenge so much that they asked to solve long division problems using a seven digit dividend with four and five digit divisors, and they never made a mistake. How could they multiply and divide without memorizing number facts? The same way they learned to read, write and spell. If you take a long scroll to the end of this essay and look for the "Magic Conch" story that I wrote for children who have mastered all the word exercises included in this essay, in the 2nd paragraph at the end of Chapter Two, I slipped in how the hero of the story (who was a challenged learner) was able to solve 6 times 8 plus 8 without knowing number facts during a math quiz. This same concept allowed all my students to outperform the bottom half of all three grade 8 classes in addition, subtraction, multiplication and long division.

Ensuring success for any student always begins with discovering the starting point of the child’s cognitive skill level. All children learn differently. Knowing the way each student was capable of learning allowed me to plan each day’s reading lesson according to their strongest learning modality. This way it is possible to build success into each step of the learning process. While I individualize my lessons according to each student’s comprehension level, I would teach the same lesson to the entire class. This is the only way to clean-teach reading concepts and is crucial toward each student’s acquiring the ability to understand and remember before going on to the next developmental stage of learning to read. Those students who learned quickly were rewarded with enrichment activities. My teaching methodology doesn’t hold back the class, having to re-teach concepts or risk them not learning does.

A daily monitoring of every student’s learning performance is the only way to ensure each student’s progress. To avoid finding out what concepts needed to be re-taught for even one lesson risks putting some students in danger of missing an important learning concept. This should never be allowed to happen.

What’s the hurry, anyway? Students should work at their accomplishment level and not by some superintendent’s timetable. In the long run my method saves time and there are zero residual effects such as functional illiteracy.

Let me tell you the story of a regular education Grade 5 student who came to me twice a week for remedial help. His mother came in to tell me that Sean wasn’t feeling well that day but he insisted on coming to school. When I asked why, she said, “He had to come today because today was his time with Mr. Thorne and it was the only time that he felt smart at school.” Can you imagine the implications of this? This meant Sean spent 95% of his time at school feeling “less than smart.” When I informed Sean’s reading teacher of Sean’s reading skill level, he pointed to the reading syllabus and commented that he taught Grade 5 reading. I was able to provide some “Sean-proof” reading programs for mom and Sean to work with. As a result, Sean managed to catch up two lost years of learning to read.

How to Motivate Students to Remain in School

 

There is nothing like success for any student when acquiring meaningful instruction at school that will motivate them to remain in school. We must make sure from the very first day the student enters the classroom that whatever they are about to learn will be presented at their ability to understand and that the lesson plan is interesting enough to want them to pay attention to their teacher. If we bore student minds, than it’s our fault if they leave us.

 

There are so many things to learn in school that have nothing to do with the 3 R’s. Just ask yourself, who taught me parenting skills? Who was there to provide me with relevant information to understand buying on credit and how impulsive decision buying affected me for the rest of my life? Do we really have to go through ‘trial and error’ learning to know what qualities to recognize before making relationship decisions. Not the school’s problem! Then who do you recommend to share this information with children of any age?

 

Students would be more likely to attend to a math lesson when learning the concept of  percentages that revolved around buying on credit when purchasing a car. You could slip in the moral value of saving to buy, all under the cloak of the math lesson.

 

How do you motivate students to read? First, make learning to read easier to understand and then provide reading materials that you know will interest them. In my case, I often wrote stories for my students. My students choose my stories over published works mostly because my stories had them as main characters solving everyday problems. My stories avoided the errors that many writers of children’s books overlook by using words that are not always at the reader’s recognition levels. I tried to use many of the words that my students learned from previous reading lessons. I’d like to mention that I wrote skits for my students to perform for the entire student body and parents for special ‘Parent Night’ occasions. Our skits were always the best received.

 

When it came to spelling, I used to sing my spelling dictation and my classes enjoyed spelling because of this one little change. My colleagues just thought I was crazy. It’s the same thing for all subjects. For example, try to make physical education and learning for life classes the most valuable subject of the day. Build in all the social learning and carry-over value that is learned through play or active games. What a student learns in gym class that day may influence their participation in similar activities with their friends after school.

 

There are a lot worse things for students to do during their leisure time than being active in positive play activities. We need to distract those young people addicted to their phones and show them the value of being active in the social benefits that result from play. It may seem out of the question to teach any of the above skills during school time but by not teaching them, we may be denying them a better future.

 

If it is our intention to motivate students to remain in school, then design reading, math, and the entire curricula that is relevant to everyday living. Ask them how they think their lives would be if they left school before graduating? Then tell them the truth, it should be enough to scare them to remain in school.

The Importance of Play Toward the Intellectual Development of Children

Before children enter school, most of the specific set of readiness skills that are essential to be successful in school have developed. By the time children begin their schooling, this rapid rise in their learning curve has flattened out. Our school systems do not allow for this phenomenon or they wouldn’t put children under such a restrictive regimentation of learning guidelines.

If children are to grow intellectually, they must acquire the linguistic structure that controls the way they think and learn. It is essential that we provide play space and an enriched play environment in order for children to develop the “expressive language” skills necessary for them to understand and learn. Once they reach school age, it is necessary to make sure that every student comes into the learning environment with the same strengths essential to understand reading instruction. The most efficient way to accomplish this is through a well designed program of play activities. The program should be designed to enhance both the academic and behavioral abilities of every student in the reading class.

Whether the learning skills be academic or social, play activities help to modify the development of neurons of the prefrontal cortex. It is this part of the brain that enables every child to remember what they see, hear, feel or touch. An enriched playing environment is what helps shape a child’s social and moral growth and is what is required for children to grow intellectually.

As neurologists Dr. Fraser Brown and Dr. Sophie Webb noted in their study of play deprivation (2003), “It has often been suggested that the cognitive aspects of the brain are not fully switched on until around the age of six or seven.” This may explain why some children take longer than others to learn basic reading skills. Even with this kind of research, educators still do not recognize the value of play to enhance learning. If they did, they would expand the child’s learning curve instead of curbing it. Brown and Webb’s research revealed that there are serious consequences for children whose intellectual development is marginalized because of play deprivation.

Once a child enters school, the physical energy and learning fostered through play that most children have become familiar with, becomes stilted. Activities such as running, jumping, skipping, wrestling, dodging, hopping, sliding, splashing, swinging, bowling, tossing/catching/throwing, crawling and digging in the dirt fun activities are suddenly squelched.

Children are attending school fraught with a great many socioeconomic factors that complicate how they will learn. Not all children who enter school come to class with the same enriched family history. Those children from a play-deprived environment will not perform as ably as children from an enriched play environment. Children from poverty or low-income families will especially challenge our best teachers to help them learn. These children will find learning to read beyond their ability to comprehend, and to complicate things even more, they will bring stress to school because of family issues. The number one inhibitor for any type of performance is stress. Children from disadvantaged families are coming to school hungry, as well as stressed by violence either in the home or on the streets that will influence the entire sociodynamics of how they will learn. For many schools it may be necessary to change some of the past pedagogical priorities in order to help children cope with the stress of just attending school.

It is at this time in the intellectual development of all children that steps need to be taken to develop every skill necessary to begin to learn to read. You will hear me repeat this time and again, “no student can learn if they don’t understand the language of the teacher.” Some teachers just assume that all children are able to listen to understand. Until they learn to listen to understand and remember, they won’t learn to read.

“Listening to understand” needs to be taught and reinforced through carefully designed programs that encourage the use of verbal expressive language skills. This one skill—listening to understand—can be strengthened by a carefully designed play program. This is easily accomplished through play activities found in the aesthetic energy they find by expressing themselves through drawing, sociodramatic play, rhythmic movement, singing and dancing and storytelling. These are the same activities that children have been engaged in since the advent of child’s play.

As educators, we should be using play as a prime contributor toward the intellectual development and mental growth of the children the first day they begin school. Play should be used as the vehicle that will enable every child to strengthen all the learning variables that being a student requires. By doing so, it should lessen some of the stress and help those students needing play activities cope with the challenge of attending school.

Too many educators remain steadfast in their belief that “playtime” during school is reserved for recess and that incorporating play into the curriculum is seen as a waste of time. Society seems to be in such a rush to go nowhere that some school boards have eliminated recess as time that could be put to better use. As Professor John Byres (cognitive scientist), states that “if children don’t play, their brains do not grow.”

Professor Byres, researcher Stuart Brown and neuroscientists Sergio Pellis and Jill Englebright Fox have scientific evidence that prove that informal play activities enhance brain development which will help the child learn once they enter school. It’s when play is not part of the school curriculum that boredom, stress and lowered self-esteem occur. These kind of play activities enable children to develop most of the cognitive skills essential in determining how successful they would become upon entering the school system—and likely for the rest of their lives.

Play provides children with the opportunity to learn skills like sharing, cooperation, flexibility, coping with peer pressure, making new friends, self control, politeness, as well as developing a sense of  self-esteem. Play gives children the opportunity to express themselves creatively. If we don’t include the value of creative play in every child’s learning process, how else can we expect their young minds to have the ability to THINK? There would be no great architectural monuments, classic symphonies, sculptures or works of art were it not for the fact that the  creators of all that we now enjoy today were influenced by play.

There are numerous studies that show those countries who promote longer recesses for their students increase student productivity and the students reveal an overall improvement in their social behavior. These countries who provide more free time to their students have lower levels of mental illness, social issues and are more productive economically.

Why aren’t we paying attention to these kinds of studies? There are no rules that prevent the reading teacher using one of their reading periods to go to the gym to allow their students to burn excess energy by romping about the gym floor and climbing apparatus.

There is a great deal to be said about just leaving children to sit and use their free time daydreaming. Daydreaming can be as productive as playtime since it may allow children to express themselves in creative ways. One thing is for certain, playtime will reduce stress levels in the class and provide for a healthier learning environment.

Those children who may become one of the school’s “curriculum casualties” often come from a play-deprived environment. Studies have shown that a stilted playing environment retards the social and intellectual growth of children. This is why it is necessary for us to use play to enable children to acquire all the learning modalities and social skills that will make for an easier transition to learning to read.

As a remedial teacher, I was always able to trace a student’s reading performance profile to those language skills that were left unlearned before graduating Grade 3. Our learning scientists have told us that many struggling readers come from a family environment that failed to provide their children with the expressive language skills necessary to be successful at school. It is the responsibility of every teacher to recognize these students and provide lessons that will help strengthen their auditory and visual learning, and to provide learning games that are directed toward improving their verbal communication skills. Since most struggling readers do not achieve reading skills past grade three, then we must be absolute that no one graduates Grade 3 without the cognitive skills necessary to be able to discriminate both visually and auditorily every single letter of the alphabet. This will provide those students who are unable to remember sight words with the ammunition needed to decode in order to learn to read and spell. Learning these skills is a major requirement toward a failure-proof reading methodology.

No teacher can possibly know who the children are who will need intervention in developing all the essential learning modalities for obtaining success in learning how to learn. Observing children at play will provide the reading teacher with some answers as to how well their students interact with others, who are leaders and who may become bullies. It is during playtime that the teacher will find out which children have difficulty in listening and following instructions. By playing games the teacher will be able to access their student’s gross motor skills and may explain why some of their students refrain from playing active games.

“One of the true evils of civilization is that no child has ever had enough time for play.”—A. S. Neill. Mr. Neill, possibly one of history’s greatest school headmasters, believed in the value of play as an alternative philosophy about how children learn. In my opinion, every child should be provided with a curriculum that includes play as part of how they will learn. It is my belief that if the classroom is reserved as a place that only teaches the “three R’s, then who will there be to teach children the positive values learned through play that not only enrich student's lives, but may help children from a play deprived environment forget the unpleasantness of their home environment?

The active involvement of play will prepare each child for whatever the future has in store. It falls upon the homeroom reading teacher to fill the breach. Everyone of their students will take what they learned from positive play experiences to each grade level. When they become teenagers they will have been provided with life skills taught to them through a well designed “play program.”

School physical education programs are being expunged by budget restrictions that deny all students a program of daily exercise necessary for healthy bone and muscle development. With an almost epidemic growth of childhood obesity, one would think that a program of healthy physical exertion would be mandatory.

If we examine the lifestyles of today’s youth, we find that physical activity is foreign to too many children. Our social scientists have told us that strenuous activity helps in lowering stress levels in children. Stress lowers the productivity of an individual’s ability to function, whether they are students or adults. If we take “stress” to a national level, it costs industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year because their employees never learned how to play. Industry needs to examine the time their employees are given to get away from the stress of their work. The smart employer will provide the playtime or get-away time that has proven what researchers have said all along, that free time increases productivity. The same thing applies to students when provided with sufficient free time—their productivity improves.

The Canadian Council On Learning states, “Play nourishes every aspect of a child’s development - it forms the foundation of intellectual, social and emotional skills necessary for success in school and in life.” Anyone observing how our children spend their leisure time, only need to examine the child’s play history. I am sure that any child who has had the opportunity to learn the skills required to play active games or discover the fulfillment and enjoyment of social play will choose to do so over engaging in less positive pursuits that could lead them into trouble or have them using their leisure time as screentime.

It seems to me that the proverb, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” could be the anthem for signifying how to play might be the prime ingredient for improving the chances for the future success for all children to not only learn to read but as a lifestyle for the rest of their lives. We have managed to get this far in our development as civilizations because of play and not in spite of it.

As Steven Johnson states in his anthology of the history of play, “Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World,” “Everyone knows the saying 'necessity is the mother of invention' but if you do a paternity test on many of the world’s most important ideas or institutions, you will find, invariably, that leisure and play were involved in the conception as well.”

Classroom instruction will be a challenge for all teachers who will be confronted with overcrowded classrooms, children with language barriers, children with emotional issues, children will learning difficulties, not to mention all the deficits children from low-income families will be bringing into these overcrowded classrooms.

The teaching problems will not be confined to those mentioned above. There will those average students, as well as the gifted students, who will quickly lose interest in learning if they don’t have their intellectual needs met. All leaders in every community need to fully understand and appreciate the enormous responsibilities our teachers are given and find better ways to improve the learning environment for everyone. It always comes down to the to the old saying, “You can pay me now or pay me later.” We will get what we pay for: our children’s futures.

 

We need to find a more productive way to make learning more easily understood. As Dr. Judy Willis states, “Lessons can be stimulating and challenging without being intimidating, and the increasing curriculum requirements can be achieved without stress, anxiety, boredom and alienation as the pervasive emotions of the school day.”

The above quote was from an article from Edutopia, July/14. Dr. Judy Willis, a neurologist, as well as a teacher shows that there is a need to find different ways to motivate a child to learn. School should be fun and never be a place that a child hates attending. She indicates that there is a need to design learning strategies that offer a different way to teach our children. At present, I would say that things need to change. We should be paying attention to what our social scientists are telling education departments about the importance of play in motivating our children to want to learn.

You can only go so far with teaching methods that don’t hold a student’s attention before our children’s young minds become bored and frustrated, and they give up on trying to learn. Bore them enough and they will leave school.

To create a healthy, well-rounded learning environment, use part of the class time as playtime by providing them with games like Pick-Up Sticks, Chinese Checkers, Monopoly, Dominos, and various games with dice or cards. Have plenty of manipulative materials on hand for them to create whatever comes to mind like Playdough, Kinetic Sand, modelling clay, building blocks, Lego and drawing materials and toys for pretend time. And never forget the value of reading an interesting story or telling them stories. Have children tell the rest of the class stories, or involve them dramatic play activities, singing activities and dance.

KEEP ELECTRONIC DEVICES FROM CHILDREN UNDER TWELVE

Which is more dangerous in the home, a gun or a smartphone? If parents understood the detrimental consequences that electronic devices had on their children’s physical and intellectual development, they would lock up all electronic devices along with their guns.

Since the introduction of the smartphone, violent video games and Internet use, there has been an increase in stress levels and feelings of depression/isolation in our children. Teachers in most school districts are unable to help children learn to read and solve basic math concepts because the minds of these children are incapable of sustained concentration due to the influence of electronic devices. In the past 10 years, children’s attention spans have dropped from 12 seconds to a low of eight seconds, one second below that of the common goldfish. Children preoccupied with electronic devices are more likely to have limited language development, fewer cognitive skills essential toward learning to read and spell, and to lack the social and emotional behaviors found in children who actively play with one another.

What are the parameters for a child’s healthy physical and intellectual development? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, every child requires a healthy diet, at least one hour daily of robust physical activity, a recommended 9-11 hours of uninterrupted sleep, and a healthy diet of play activities that exclude blue screen devices.

In a September 16, 2018 publication in the HealthDay Reporter, "Can Too Much Screen Time Dumb Down Your Kid?" Dennis Thompson comments on the research done by Dr. Jeremy Walsh which reveals that children between the ages 8-11 years old who devoted less than two hours on their cell phones, tablets and computers, coupled with 9-11 hours of uninterrupted sleep and who participated in least an hour a day of robust physical activity had greater cognitive abilities than children who failed to meet the same criteria. While the study doesn’t include diet, those children who come to school hungry and/or whose usual meal is often from fast food menus, need to be included as children at risk to learn.

Who should be protecting our children, if parents are unmindful of their parenting responsibilities toward the dangers of electronic devices, physical activities for their children’s health and weight management, healthy diet and recommended sleep patterns for their children? At a time when children need counselling and carefully planned health and physical education programs, our educational system hasn’t the resources to provide the release valves for our students to cope with educational expectations, family and peer pressures our youth face each day.

Jeremy Walsh, a postdoctoral fellow with the CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa, Ontario provided statistics from a longitudinal study of 4500 American children, called the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study that showed only 5 percent of the children studied in his research met all three guidelines. The research also revealed that about 41 percent met one of the guidelines and only 25 percent met two of the criteria. What disturbs me the most was that 30 percent of the children tested met none of the criteria. I would venture that the same results that Dr. Welsh found in his research would reveal themselves with 8-11 years olds anywhere in North America.

Before it is too late, start investing in the physical and mental health of our children. Failure to do so will cost our students more than what the human infrastructure of relevant programs and properly trained professionals may cost. If we are truly not going to future-proof our children’s lives, it will be like the old car repair commercial, “You can pay me now or pay me later.” The consequences for latter is obvious.

Aside from being denied full access toward their intellectual development, a child who doesn’t receive an hour of healthy, robust physical activity risks developing unhealthy weight problems that may lead to obesity, cause depression, poor self-esteem and self-image, sleep disorders, hypertension, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The good news is that every one of these health issues can be controlled simply by having schools provide all their students with well-planned health and physical health curricula. The bad news is there are few if any such programs that exist and fewer qualified teachers to carry out these programs. I have only mentioned the weight issue which is just one of many health problems that are putting our students’ welfare in jeopardy. We’d better do something to help kids find their way out of the dilemma that may face them.

On March 18, 2018, the scientific journal, Nature, reported that neuroscientists found “No new brain cells are being produced after the age of 13.” The area of the brain affected is in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for mood, stress, spatial navigation, learning, memory function and attention span. What has this got to do with our children’s welfare? With students reaching near epidemic blue screen dependence, the cognitive development of our children’s minds is at stake. If our children truly want to be connected, they will have to stop hiding behind their cell phones and learn to interact with other students. There is no time to lose. Children must be protected from the negativity that electronic devices have upon every child’s physical health and mental health development. Our educational psychologists have scientific proof that children who participate in cognitive activities as simple as playing active games, learn cursive writing skills and apply pencil to paper to solve basic arithmetic problems are more likely to have higher intellectual development scores.

I am sad to report that schools no longer teach cursive writing and worse still, some schools require grade one students to bring calculators to solve basic arithmetic problems. So much for their cognitive learning development! Why is it that teachers fail to recognize that most children find it difficult to, or are unable to, sit still and listen. Listening is the key word. Far too many students come to school with attention deficits. Some children come to their first grade incapable of making sense of what the teacher is trying to explain to them. If this learning problem is not corrected immediately, heaven help the grade eight geography teacher trying to explain the concept of a rain shadow. Teaching any subject before developing listening skills is like putting the cart before the horse. The cognitive values learned through play are not part of modern day learning, certainly not in our schools. We will need Professional Development Days, just to explain to teachers how important play activities are in developing the cognitive learning required that permits them to listen and remember. Realize this: before they started school, these same kids were outside running, wrestling, hopping, skipping and actively engaged in developing every cognitive skill necessary to find success in school. Once they started school, the cultivation of skills learned through play ceased to be part of their learning curve.

Put play back into the student’s learning environment if you expect them to learn. My colleagues look at me with astonishment when I tell them, “The gym is the perfect learning laboratory for students to learn how to learn.”

It is during gym time that their cognitive learning can be enhanced. Play activities will help them catch up on all the cognitive input needed to learn and understand. Besides these kind of school classes are fun! This is where you teach them how to listen and follow directions, and gain the basic motor skills needed when they are sitting at their desks writing, etc. Don’t leave school without them!

In case you think that I am exaggerating about the detrimental effects of electronic devices in student’s school and social life, examine the June 18, 2018 report from the World Health Organization which designated the excessive playing of video games as a “gaming disorder” and a mental health disease. A persistent or recurring behavioral pattern, it will significantly impair personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functionality. "Gaming disorder" is an official diagnosis that can be used by health workers and doctors.

Everything that our neuropsychologists have researched about the impact of digital and cyber technology indicates that electronic devices will be second only to climate change as the most serious threat facing the future of today’s youth.

Nothing that I have said so far can be any more relevant than what Fredrick Douglas stated over a 150 years ago, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” The broken men are the consequences that I mentioned earlier in this article.

As noted psychologist and play advocate, Bruno Bettelheim states, “Play is the most useful tool for preparing children for the future.” When children become seduced by their cleverly contrived electronic toys, this often results in screen time replacing playtime. Don’t let this happen to your child. The stress that I mentioned earlier will make itself known in short order if parents don’t monitor and limit screen time use. It should be noted that the cognitive learning modalities that physical play invokes are reduced correspondingly by the hours spent on smartphones or video games. If we are to increase a child’s healthy brain development, electronic devices will never get them there.

The entire premise of this article can be easily summed up from an ancient Kurdish saying, “The root of all health is in the brain. The trunk of it is emotion. The branches and leaves are the body. The flower of health blooms when all parts work together.” Allow your child’s cognitive development to bloom. No child’s brain should be distracted by the digital diet of today’s youth. Keep digital devices from slowing down the intellectual development of your child by allowing the flowers of play and socializing to bloom. You will likely end up with a happy, wholesome child.

From a fable many years ago.... One day Mr. Innovation entered our home. He wasn’t much of a communicator but watching him was entertaining. After several years, Mr. Innovation (aka Mr. TV) met and married his wife Ms. Computer. They continued on with their usual nonverbal form of social intercourse until they had their first child whom they named Cell, last name Phone, from his grandmother Tela’s side of the family. Later, they had a second child they named iPod. iPod and his gang of electronic friends were always hanging around playing violent video games where they killed with enthusiastic abandon. They never speak to one another, they only text.

Today there is a new generation of iPads and their close cousins smartphones. They have recently acquired more new digital friends named MySpace, Facebook and the annoying Twitter. Recently they have begun sharing too much information online and way too many photos. As a group, this electronic family is rapidly contributing to the dumbing down of what is left of our verbal expressive language. As one enormous dysfunctional family, they might be effective enough to divert and destroy most forms of verbal communication and social interaction for the generations to come.

The introduction of video games, smartphones and the Internet may go down in history as one of mankind’s greatest miscalculations. Smartphones! Wow! Talk about your oxymorons! Is there anything that is dumbing down the intellectual growth of our children’s brains more than their preoccupation with cell phones or video games?

I believe that I may have found a way out of this conundrum. I recently read an article by Anthony North in the January 29, 2018, Globe and Mail ("No Cell Phones Please, They’re Kids"). Mr North details how his children’s screen time is run as a dictatorship and how they have learned to adapt to a lifestyle without them. He goes on to state, “We may not look it, but my wife and I are tyrants. At least when it comes to technology and our kids. We have said no to smartphones, and we plan to keep saying no. They have never had a phone, Xbox, a PlayStation or even a handheld Nintendo DS."

"We don’t want them to become the kids who spend five hours or more a day on social media or who check their phones what seems like every few seconds. Our continuous family joke (which our kids don’t find funny) is that they get one when they are 22.”

Both the North’s agree, “When it comes to school, we don’t want our kids struggling because they are half asleep after using their phones late into the night or because they are distracted in class while trying to covertly text their friends, or because they are they can’t focus on the teacher after becoming overstimulated by hours of video games. My wife and I also try to model behavior, and this is tough. How do we best parent in a smartphone era? We want them to be kind and happy and to socialize effectively. We want them to achieve success in school and end up in careers they find fulfilling. So yes, we are tyrants, but hopefully the good kind.”

When researching what is a safe age for children to be given the trust and responsibility to own a cell phone, I settled on the age of twelve since Bill Gates believes twelve to be a rational age for most children to accept responsibility for limited cell phone and Internet use, including playing video games.

The illusion created by electronic devices is the genesis responsible for our kids to be not only being revved up and stressed-out but primed for a nervous meltdown. I find it revealing that CEO’s of the largest digital technology industries have advised their employees to limit not only their own time spent with electronic devices but all members of their families as well. These CEO’s know the crippling implications of their product but haven’t the moral convictions to warn their buyers to beware. If you are old enough to remember the Smokey the Bear ads, my version of the ad would read, “Only you can prevent your child from being manipulated into becoming a video game addict.”

Too many parents are unaware of the physical damage that blue screen devices can have on a child’s healthy development. Watching too much TV, cell phone and video games screens may not only cause eye strain but prolonged use can damage the retina of the eye, and over time cause early macular degeneration.

Watching blue screen devices one hour before bedtime will interrupt sleep patterns, causing interference with the child’s ability to pay attention in school the following morning and often becoming frustrated with staying on task or task completion because of their sleep patterns being interrupted by blue screen devices.

Orthopedic specialists have noticed an increase in neck, back and spinal injuries due to repeated unhealthy posture while watching TV or playing video games. Between the ages of twelve to eighteen children are experiencing rapid bone and muscle development, and poor posture while watching blue screen devices will have a detrimental impact of their bodies. This is crucial when bones and muscles are developing and is resulting in permanent curvature of the spine. There are young adults walking our streets with curvature of the spine that one would expect of a 70 yr. or 80 yr. old.

Not to be lost in this conundrum are the harmful psychological stresses caused by these devices. Children are becoming less attentive to friends and family, and find themselves with fewer friends and with feelings of loneliness and isolation. These are just two indicators for mental health concerns. The obsession with, and the overuse of, electronic devices is not only impairing the physical and psychological health of today’s youth, but middle-aged smartphone and gamer addicts are now seeking medical help for memory loss. The results of brain scans revealed middle age digital users had the same kind of plaque deposits found in Alzheimer’s patients. Remember those consequences that I keep talking about?

Our present generation is delaying adulthood, helped by education departments unable to find a solution as to why their students find school so boring. Digital consumers don’t feel they need to listen to parents or instructors in school. School is seen as a boregasm and bored students don’t care if they learn or not. This need not be the case if they are taught to play and aren’t overcome by their reliance on electronic devices.

If parents and schools fail in their attempt to become better connected with meeting the needs of today’s youth, then we will have failed in our attempt to meet our prime goal that I addressed in my preface. Do you remember what that was? It’s our children’s futures that I referred to; and examining how things are going thus far, we’re not even close to future-proofing it.

As Amity Gaige so wisely comments, from her article in Good Housekeeping, February, 2009, “Childhood is supposed to be happiness, what hope have you later, when life starts handing you fresh grief?” If we are to truly future-proofing our children’s lives, what is it that you wish for your children to remember from their childhood, their highest scores playing video games or how many friends they had on MySpace and Facebook?

Parents will know if their children have been future-proofed because they will see their children mature into happy youngsters that have experienced success at school, are content with their place of work and have an active leisure lifestyle that includes having many friends. Everyone will find it possible to obtain this kind of future for their kids but only if today’s parents learn to be more like the tyrant parents that the North family exemplifies.

Trouble in River City  

I recall an event while on yard duty in an upper-middle class neighborhood in Southern Ontario many years ago. A grade five student came up to Brianna, one of my students when I was teaching reading to regular education grade ones. He gently began knocking on her head, asking, “Hello, is there anyone in there?” “Why did you do that?” I asked. He simply replied that Brianna wasn’t very smart. I told him that she was quite smart and asked him two basic grade one spelling and word-meaning questions that I had recently taught to Brianna’s class.

First I asked, “What does the word prompt mean?” He didn’t know. Brianna said, “It means to be on time.” Then I asked the grade five student to spell prompt. He spelled the vowel sound correctly but messed up the mpt ending. Brianna spelled it perfectly. When I asked him what does the word squelch mean, he told me there was no such word as squelch. Brianna told him, “It means to put out a fire by throwing sand on it.” When it came to spelling squelch, the older student got the vowel sound wrong and generally messed up the entire spelling of the word. Brianna spelled it perfectly.

There is trouble in River City when a regular-education grade five student who has all the amenities that middle class Canadian students are expected to have, has failed to acquirer the ability to visualize and auditorize the letters of the alphabet in order to spell. Every one of my grade one students had mastered the above-mentioned skills in less than two months of instruction—plus all initial blends and digraphs, consonant endings and final digraphs. How can any student be expected to spell when they do not have the above-mentioned skill set? I have never understood why students are asked to write in sentences before they have mastered learning to read. Talk about putting the cart before the horse!

We wouldn’t have struggling readers in any grade, if all students were given reading instruction according to their ability to understand. If the goal is to help students learn to read, then don’t allow students to go on to the next developmental concept without having first mastered what was just taught. Learning reading concepts without mastering the previous developmental reading concept is wasting everyone’s time. Failing to teach this way will negate any chance of these students becoming successful readers. Not demanding mastery of all basic reading concepts before continuing with new lessons could result in students remaining struggling readers. These students will bring their unlearned reading skills into each reading lesson and find learning new concepts even more difficult to understand.

If students become frustrated in learning to read because they cannot understand their reading lessons, then expect them to struggle to learn generally. These students will become curriculum casualties. Without intervention, many of these students are likely end up as one of secondary school principal Tim McGreer’s "half-Grade 8’s" by the time they reach high school. Dr. Sergio Pellis, professor at the University of Lethbridge and his associates discovered in one of their studies: “the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child’s performance in third grade.”

In an interview on CNN, Jan.17/17, Eva Moskowitz, former New York Councilwoman, Founder and CEO of the Charter Schools “Success Academy Schools.” stated that “two-thirds of our eighth graders cannot perform at the basic level in math and reading, two-thirds of our eighth-graders! We have a national crisis on our hands. We need leadership, talent, ability to attract talent; to re-think our way out of this crisis.”

The only way out of what is really a world-wide literacy crisis is to be sure that all children that come into the learning environment, along with their various levels of skill development, be taught to their ability to learn and remember. If educators fail to recognize this, then expect a lot more of the same performance levels that Mrs. Moskowitz has recognized. For many students, it all starts with those first few formidable weeks of reading instruction when the teacher has the opportunity to evaluate and then design reading  lessons that their students can comprehend.

If we are serious about eliminating functional illiteracy from the English-speaking world, then it is essential that we "clean teach" learning-to-read concepts and design reading programs that will meet these goals. No student should be promoted to a next level of reading skill development until they have mastered those skills which are required for the next concept to be taught. If we keep making the error of meeting curriculum timelines at the expense of student proficiency, then many students will be left behind in a sea of non-learning. It will then be up to us to find out why they didn’t learn, and fix the non-learning problems before these students give up and begin to drown.

Many children come to school with learning deficits that make learning to read almost impossible. These are students with learning disabilities, students with behavioral issues, students with language barriers, and educationally impoverished children from low-income families.

What the educational community fails to recognize is that every one of these children will be expected to learn to read as though they had acquired the same intellectual development that their more advantaged classmates were able to achieve. All children learn differently. We need to spend our energies on those children who are different and teach  according to how they are able to learn.

If teachers know the strengths and weaknesses of their students before any formal reading lessons begin and teach to these strengths, their students are likely to learn. We have university professors who still write words in the air before they put them into print because they never overcame their inability to visualize words in order to spell.

The one constant that our subject students have in common is that most of them will be lacking verbal expressive language skills. No student can learn to read if they are unable to understand the language of the teacher. Until these children are provided with sufficient basic learning skills that make learning to read more easily understood, then send out the lifeguards, because there there will be a lot of students who will be in need of saving.

Schools in River City have failed to realize that most of their students will learn to read in spite of whatever reading programs are being used or the quality of teaching instruction that is provided. If we are going to take up the challenge to erase functional illiteracy from our schools, then we must provide reading programs that are designed to help all future functional illiterates to understand each developmental concept that is required for them learn to read to understand. Stop this cycle of continuous obsolescence of reading programs that are unable to address the issue of literacy. It really isn’t that difficult. All that is required is to make whatever reading lesson that needs to be learned be designed to be failure-proof.

Learning to Read and Low Income Families  

In a statement in The Child and Adolescent Health, Health Care Policy, March 3, 2016, “Nearly half of American children are living near the poverty line.” That is 46 million American families who are without sufficient food, housing, healthcare, electricity and most amenities that the rest of us take for granted. There are serious consequences in not addressing the learning deficits that students from low-income bring into the learning environment. If the learning deficits are not corrected as soon as they enter school, the consequences will end up costing us more than just money.

In 2013, the National Center for Educational Statistics reported that “51% of students in US schools were from low-income families.” Far too many new families have recently been added to an already long list of low-income families. Most of these families are forced to live in neighborhoods where living conditions are unfamiliar to their way of life. They are forced to live in neighborhoods that are detrimental to their own and their children’s way of life.

These children may be required to live in noisy, over-crowded conditions, with no safe playgrounds, with inadequate health care, often in industrial areas that expose them to the toxicity of poor quality air and lead-laden water. These are special children from families that for many generations have been denied the opportunity to learn to read.

Children from low-income families should be regarded as the victims of long-standing socio-economic status that lessens their ability to find success at school. These children are often deprived of the most basic of nurturing practices. Some lack such basic neuro-developmental amenities as being hugged, felt loved, being read to, and of great importance, to have been engaged in play with their parents.  Children without these simple amenities are at a disadvantage when it comes to learning to read and/or finding success in school. Given enough time, these children will become struggling students who eventually will become really good at not learning. Who will be there to act as advocates for these children? Who will there be to help them learn?

Any time that children from low-income families are placed in overcrowded classrooms with reading programs that do not address how they learn, it lessens their chances of acquiring reading skills. If the correct course of reading instruction is not provided immediately upon their entering the school system, as neuroscientist, Dr. Kimberly Noble noted in her studies and states, “These children will go on to be designated as persons of ‘less ability.’ It is likely people who have less ability will go on to marry people with less ability and have children who, on average, have less ability.” This is known as inter-generational transmission of illiteracy, and we find it in almost every economically depressed community. These are children of the homeless, children who live in poverty, and our subject children of low-income families. Unless federal government agencies begin to prioritize that all funds are designated for schools to follow the poor and stop giving any monies to the rich, then there is little hope for eradicating functional illiteracy among children of poverty or children from low-income families. As I mentioned earlier, it will end up costing us more than just money.

One way to break this cycle of children becoming just another statistic ‘of less ability’ is to provide them with a curriculum that will encourage them to want to learn. Most children from low-income families lack the most basic of learning skills. I suggest these children be put into a program of play activities that will motivate them to want to develop all the learning modalities necessary for them to become readers. Do this correctly and they might have a chance to learn to read and hopefully, begin to read to learn. For these children to be successful in acquiring reading skills, it is essential that they be provided with the identical learning opportunities that more affluent school districts and families are able to provide for their children.

The first skill that we need to teach the student is to learn to listen and follow directions. Children from low-income families need to be involved in a learning environment of play activities that will stimulate their intellectual development with learning to listen being the most important learning modality. This can be easily accomplished through a well designed program of play activities that will strengthen verbal expressive language skills. These skills are essential for the student to understand the reading program.

It is only when the student can understand and follow the directions of their teacher that learning to read can begin. It is also important for teachers to realize that children from impoverished families come to school with more stress than children from more affluent families, so it is important to try and provide these students with classrooms that are stress free.

Most children from low-income families seldom, if ever, have stories read to them or told to them. This could be because their parents are functionally illiterate or there was too little time since both parents were working and there was too little time to be reading bedtime stories to their kids. This should be the goal of educators worldwide, to make it possible for all students to learn to read, if only to one day to be able to read stories to their kids.

This is not such a daunting task as it may look. Everyone needs to start to learn at their own square one. Why not give all our students the same opportunity? I wonder how many bright, creative students became frustrated with being unable to learn and left school early. These may be students who could have gone on to provide the world with inventions or creative strategies that would have made a difference for all of us today. We must not let this happen to any future difference makers.

By providing children from low-income families with all the essential learning skill sets that are required to understand and remember, their learning to read will end the cycle of inter-generational transmission of illiteracy. I am positive it will begin a new cycle of positive learning behavior that may help reduce many of the social problems found in these poor districts. It all begins with success at school. Do this correctly and schools are likely to improve our children’s chances to learn to read and with any luck, provide for a life of personal happiness.

If we are looking for some answers for any inequalities of children from low-income and children from affluent families, read the study published in Nature Neuroscience and led by Dr. Noble, who discovered differences in a cross sectional study of nearly 1,100 brain scans. Dr. Noble’s scans showed children from low-income families had a six percent smaller brain size than children from affluent families. This smaller brain size was found in the cerebral cortex, that part of the brain that makes it possible to acquire memory and language skills. Another study linking income and cognitive test scores showed a 57% performance score for low-income families, compared to 91% for children from high income families in reading tests and math scores. I wonder if you see any inequalities here?

These studies revealed that the brain surface of the cerebral cortex was linked to family income. While we can’t correct the income inequality for these families, we have the expertise to help children from low-income families catch up with their more affluent classmates by starting them at square one and developing all those missed specific neuro-developmental components that make learning to read possible.

It is my contention that if we were to involve students in neuro-developmental activities such as learning games, teaching children how to play active games and having them participate in aesthetic energy activities such as drawing, socio-dramatic storytelling, song, and dance, these play activities could result in altering future learning outcomes that will doubtlessly favor the child to have more tools in order to learn to read. Do this as soon as children start school, their futures depend on it.

We have known for years that intelligence is inheritable. Our learning scientists are now able to access reading skills level and home environment influences in order to track down exactly how a parent’s intellectual levels could affect the cognitive development of their children.

Our research tells us that the higher the education of the parents, there is ever the likelihood of a larger brain surface and increased cognitive ability for the children of that family. Keeping students interested in what they are learning and making sure they find success at school, may result in them wanting to remain in school, which  makes it possible to end inter-generational transmission of illiteracy forever.

Children With Interrupted Cognitive Functions Can Be Helped to Learn

Those children from low-income families, or illiterate adults for that matter, with delayed reading skills, can be taught to re-gain all of the cognitive skills required to learn to read, to then begin to read to learn. If we teach reading skills correctly, everyone can learn to read and become more successful not just at school but in how it will impact the rest of their lives.

As a remedial teacher, I was able to help ten year old students from grade three with below grade one reading skills and zero numeracy skills to acquire grade six proficiency levels in two years of instruction. There are many similarities between the cognitive performance of children deprived of basic learning skills and children with learning disabilities. Both groups need to learn how to learn.

All students who are struggling to learn to read, need carefully designed reading lessons directed to strengthen all learning modalities. Without this skill set, few students will be successful in school. Helping these children learn will require reading curricula and teaching techniques that may be unfamiliar to the way teaching has been taught in the past. Today’s teachers are now confronted with issues such as poverty, hungry students, overcrowded classrooms and the challenge that requires them to meet all the learning abilities that each student brings to school. To accomplish this requires a new construct.

It took me several years of failed trial and error reading lesson plans to realize that the reason my students weren’t learning was that I wasn’t providing them with reading lessons that they could understand. Once I began to design reading lessons that my students could make sense of, they began to learn. Thus began the evolution of what would become the Thorne Reading Method.

I might add that it took me many more years of experimenting for my methodology to evolve into what I have produced today. You may have noticed on my title page that this entire document is still in the revision stage. I am still doing research to discover more efficient ways to make learning to read failure-proof.

There are learning scientists who do not recommend remediation beyond the primary level. I strongly disagree! For those students who have difficulty understanding learning to read, it’s the educational system’s responsibility by way of the teacher, to plan each reading lesson to make learning to read more easily understood.

There should be no reason for a student to not achieve success in learning to read. As soon as there is the slightest indication of confusion in learning any subject matter, including arithmetic, basic science concepts, etc., it is pointless to continue the lesson until that student is at the same success level as the rest of the class. Nothing is lost by taking lesson time from the rest of the class to help the struggling student to catch up. A concept that is re-taught may be important for other students who also hadn’t mastered that particular concept. While my reinforcement learning strategies often takes more time, it always results in excellent vocabulary, spelling, and reading development. Because I require mastery from every student that I teach, every student learns. This methodology doesn’t allow for students to fail to learn.  

There is light at the end of the tunnel when you teach to the student’s level of understanding. Do this correctly and there will be no need for a review or intervention. To neglect to do so is unfair to the student and will likely lead to that child becoming another curriculum casualty.

There seems to be some confusion regarding when to use intervention. You don’t intervene when the student is drowning. Provide every student with lifesaving reading skills before they begin to struggle to learn. This just does not apply to reading. My grade three students who had zero numeration concepts when they came to me, left my program with the ability to divide a three digit divisor into a six or seven digit dividend with 100% correct answers. There are a great many grade eights who never learned to multiply or divide. They go on to become adults who can’t solve basic arithmetic problems.

Our best learning scientists are not in agreement as to the effectiveness of various interventional approaches to enhance literacy and numeracy concepts. In a report from The National Strategy for Early Education, 2009, “it must be emphasized that there is a lack of systematic research evaluating such Canadian programs.” In addition, the report states, “the true impact of most Canadian literacy instruction and intervention programs is presently unknown.”

If I understand this report correctly, no one knows if intervention is the answer. My  answer is a loud yes! It has been my experience that discovering a student’s weak learning abilities as soon as possible and then using planned intervention methods is the only way to correct a bad learning outcome. Don’t let curriculum guideline timetables keep you from doing what is best for every student in your class. This will apply equally to the "gifted" students in your class.

Unfortunately, I didn’t keep statistics back when I was asked to help grade three students who came to me with skill levels below grade one. Every student gained grade six reading comprehension and arithmetic levels after two years in my program. If I had kept stats, maybe the education community would be more inclined to use some of my teaching strategies.

What is on record though, is that compared to the the five other classes similar to mine that taught the same age group, with the same weak student performance skills, only my class graduated 100% out of Special Education on to regular grade six. Not a single student returned to Special Education from my program. Fewer than 10% of the students from the other remedial classes managed to graduate out of Special Education. It was because of the success level of my remedial class that the Superintendent of Instruction asked me to participate in a Grade One reading experiment with the two grade one classes in my school.  See Grade One Reading Experiment (between Basic Evaluation  and Where to Begin)..

Unless the researchers have new evidence, I have yet to find any information from literacy experts or learning scientists as to how their science-based findings have had any impact toward improving the literacy levels in Canadian schools. We had better find out soon because too many students are leaving Canadian schools functionally illiterate. The situation gets more complicated since the functional literacy levels are becoming more demanding every decade or so. The PISA recently ranked a worldwide group of Grade 10 students and Canada was ranked 2nd in the world in reading skills. This is meaningless because we are still failing Canadian mainstream struggling readers and far too many of our Aboriginal Canadian students in learning to read to understand.

This world ranking does more harm than good. The BC Teachers Federation criticises the world ranking in that these tests are, “emphasizing a business oriented, competitive model of education, sometimes at the expense of the social and cultural purposes of education.” (Dec.26/16) Vancouver Sun.

This world ranking doesn’t make me proud, it frustrates me that we aren’t tackling the main issue which is functional illiteracy. It would be of great interest to me if these literacy experts shared their scientific evidence with all departments of education to create effective strategies to help all children to find success in learning to read. I’ve spent my entire career trying to accomplish just that.

Literacy and the Real World

In a report from World Literacy of Canada, its author stated that, “Unless people analyse literacy from a class perspective you’re not going to address literacy ever.” The real world is very unforgiving. Every person can improve their lot in life simply by playing by the rule of the real world. The rule is: be functionally literate or there will be consequences.

There seems to be an unintentional conspiracy toward the dumbing down of literacy levels in North American schools. As of the writing of this manifesto, there are more children with learning problems, children with language barriers, and children’s learning being stunted by poverty and low income than any time in history.

Now add in the ineffectiveness of overcrowded classrooms, the malignancy of electronic devices and the part that social media plays toward distracting learning, and we might be able to appreciate that becoming literate has become an almost impossible task for many of today’s students.  

As of 2017, dyslexia has increased up to 3.3% from 2.5% and there are more children today with autism than ever recorded. I wonder how much of an effect smoking and recreational drugs have had toward changing the DNA of the parents who might have unwittingly passed on mutated genes to their children that could affect their ability to learn?

Many children fail to learn because of the detrimental effects of poor air quality and unhealthy drinking water. This also accounts for the increase in asthma which retards learning. Americans families in the north-east will see an increase of asthma in their children, when coal will be allowed to pollute the air for the purpose of producing electricity. The burning of coal that degrades air quality retards those students who are most affected by this needless incursion to their health and learning. As national reading levels continue to plummet, learning hasn’t been restricted to only the usual problem learners. Recent tests have found that the learning abilities of gifted students have dropped as well, from 2.5% to 1%.

In the United States, 30 million adults are unable to perform everyday literacy functions and 21% read below a Grade 5 level. The United States ranks only 23rd in the world for literacy, 30th for numeracy ability and—I kid you not—2nd in the world for ignorance.

These studies were done by the Program for International Studies (2013). I was shocked to find that the UK scores 44th in the world for literacy, with one in five adults not just functionally illiterate but illiterate. Canada has little reason to feel superior. While they rank 2nd in world literacy, it was found that forty per cent of most Canadians could not pass a functional literacy test. Fifty-five per cent of Canadian adults have inadequate numeracy skills, worse than a decade ago.

It is estimated that if Canada were to compete with Asia as part of the Global Economic Fabric, they would be reduced to the status of a Third World country. Students will need a strong work ethic to compete globally, and the motivation to get better grades. Canada’s overall literacy rate is among the lowest of OECD countries, in spite of having one of the highest proportions of post-Secondary graduates.

Toronto Dominion Bank’s Chief Economist, Craig Alexander recently declared, “It stunned me that 4 in 10 young Canadians were lacking in literacy and that 5 in 10 adults when it came to numeracy.” Literacy experts proclaim, “By 2031, more than 15 million Canadian adults (3 million more than today) will have low literacy skills which will result in an increase of 25% of lesser functioning adults in the next two decades. This will create a literacy dilemma unless we solve this problem, starting immediately.”

How is all this relevant for those of us in the real world? As of today, if literacy skills were improved only 1%, it would mean an increase of $32 billion in Canada’s national income and 81 billion pounds in the UK. No country can afford not to invest in improving the functional literacy levels of their citizens. Those Canadian students who were struggling readers in grade school, were later found to have literacy levels at only 42%, and 20% had serious problems with reading. No bedtime stories for their kids.

Although both American and Canadian secondary schools have recently had more students remain in school until graduation, it has not resulted in higher literacy and numeration levels for those student who have always struggled to learn. I believe that for students to improve their learning levels and be motivated to remain in school, the curriculum needs to address the way these students see their education as being relevant. This is easy to accomplish—just ask them.

Students who leave school or graduate with weak literacy and numeration skills will find fewer opportunities for meaningful employment and higher income. They just might produce a 2017 version of what my generation referred to as the "ditch digger syndrome." There are even worse consequences, like low-income, unemployment, poverty, homelessness, increasing mental health issues, addiction to alcohol and drugs, crime, incarceration and for some, the finality of suicide.


If you read my discussion on the values of Play and Intellectual Development of Children, I believe in the carry-over effect of gaining important life-altering skills and how it may help educators to recognize the values of play and how engaging students in social activities could influence a student’s willingness to remain in school.


From an economical point of view, economists discovered that by remaining in school, the average Canadian worker would earn an estimated 8.3% more for every year of schooling.

 

In an article from the editorial page of the Vancouver Sun, “It should be noted noted that literacy programs return to the public purse $7.16 for every dollar invested.” This doesn’t include the advantages of having adults capable of reading a repair manual, being able to pass a driver’s license exam, use the library or Internet, and possibly the best reason of all, to be able to read bedtime stories to their children.

Consequences if Children Fail to Learn to Read

 

As I stated in my introduction, we are directing our reading programs toward the wrong group of students. No matter the reading methods or teaching strategies are that employed, three quarters of those students will learn to read before they leave school. Our challenge is to provide all students with the opportunity to become literate. We need to connect at the source where becoming illiterate begins.

“Everything connects to everything else,” that was Di Vinci’s quote not mine. Until we start connecting the “why’s” of what is keeping our children from learning, then expect both a social and economic fallout for our failing to teach children to learn to read.

It makes economic sense to strengthen all cognitive functions to help children achieve success with learning to read since nearly 25% of the educational budget from Kindergarten to Grade 12 is earmarked toward Special Education. It is our responsibility as educators to fulfill the educational needs and instill a feeling of self-esteem for every student.

 

This can only be achieved by providing a learning environment that does its best to encourage successful learning experiences. Not doing so has its consequences, especially for those students who may be struggling to learn. Some of these students may become discouraged, and, given enough negative learning experiences, drop out of school. If this happens, expect these ‘school leavers’ to work for minimum wage or to join the ranks of the unemployed. Many may end up on welfare or social assistance and for some, prison.

Although he wasn’t addressing the individual needs of students with cognitive issues, Vancouver’s Superintendent of Education Steve Cardwell didn’t have them in mind when he stated, “To me success is a much more broad term. It is being able to demonstrate that one has done a good job and feels good about what one has done.”  This is all well and good for those students who never experience difficulties with learning, students who do a good job, and do feel good about their achievements, but there is “Trouble in River City.” What about those children who never experience this same kind of success? We need to be aware of how many struggling learners involved in Mr. Cardwell’s view of success seldom feel “good” about anything they have accomplished at school. Try as they may, doing “a good job” is usually out of reach for many students.

We have educators like Tim McGreer, a secondary school principal in Vancouver South, who recognizes that there is a problem and tries to improve both the reading skills and self-esteem of all his students, especially his “half-grade eights.” He and his associates have embarked on a literacy initiative for their students outside of school time. This project was undertaken to help students gain an appreciation for reading and improve their reading skills. Subsequently they will have discovered the joy that is found in learning to read. It is possible, that if whatever caused these “half-grade 8” students to fall this far behind in their learning was corrected in earlier grades, it might have made a difference by the time they reached Tim’s school.

Whoever began the practice of promoting an already struggling learner into a learning environment where success is virtually impossible before they have the skills to understand what is expected of them, needs a swift kick in their “flawed thinking.”

The Joplin Plan

There may be a plan to achieve literacy for everyone. No matter the grade level or the school or even the country for that matter, there will always be those students who will fall behind in their ability to comprehend their reading program. The conundrum is how do you keep students motivated to learn and catch up? It's either catch up or give up. There is a way to help motivate students to believe that they can learn. This strategy is known as the Joplin Plan. It's either, teach our students to read, or lose them to the ranks of the functionally illiterate.

Failure to learn has always been with us. The answer for this problem was dealt with over 60 years ago in Joplin, Missouri, by educators who believed students could learn to read, but only by grouping all students, no matter their age, according to to their performance levels. In the good old days of the one room schoolhouse, this was the only way teachers were able to teach skill levels from grade one to grade eight.

This bold idea was called the Joplin Plan. I wonder if there is an administrator brave enough to try this plausible “modern day” Joplin Plan, as a possible experiment to help all those educationally fractured non-learners? The concept is an excellent one and might just fix what is already broken. We wouldn't need a Joplin Plan if we taught learning concepts to a mastery level, the first time. What needs to be demanded of us is to own the “pedagogical theories” we teach and to do it right every time. What do we have to lose: if students are faced with failure often enough, they'll drop out anyway.

Johnny, His Parents and Reading Problems

 

It is necessary to recognize that current pedagogical practices are failing at least 20% of students who can’t learn to read. These are students who are incapable of learning to read using reading programs that are designed for students without learning problems. The Thorne Reading Method uses learning strategies that include the use of all learning modalities to teach decoding skills that will help students understand the reading program. For any struggling reader to gain reading comprehension, all instruction must be presented visually with repetitious auditory reinforcement until the lesson is learned.

 

Students who are promoted to the next grade level without achieving the basic skill set that I mentioned in my introduction, will have their ability to attend in other subjects compromised. I am stating for the record: most Grade 8 students who can’t understand math, who find attending to science and social studies classes a problem are those problem readers who never acquired strong listening skills, or were never helped to correct weak directionality concepts before they graduated from Grade Three.

Basic Assessment Information

 

Using my own research, I developed an assessment evaluation for my students that seldom differed with, and was often more to the point than the school ‘psychometrist’ report. I’d use this assessment to discover what was hindering my students from understanding reading and arithmetic concepts before starting any formal lessons. This assessment often provided specific answers regarding grade-appropriate word recognition levels, as well as determining what could be hindering the learning process. This assessment is designed for my own use to assess each student’s ability to listen and follow directions. It also provided answers for me to recognize if there were any right/left problems and to assess the student’s verbal expressive language levels.  Below, I have some very simple tests that may help a parent to understand “Why Their Johnny Can’t Read.”

 

It should be noted that I’d use this same assessment for every student regardless of their grade level. This assessment could include children from a 5 year old to a struggling student's inability to recognize the sounds of the letters below.

 

All vowels are to be produced as short vowel sounds. The letters c and g are produced as ‘hard’, c as in cat, g as in good.

 

      o  m  p  i  b  s  z  g  t  j  c  a  d  f  e  x  q  l  r  w  u  n  k  v  y  h  

 

Part 1) Since I am only interested in how effectively the student can produce the sound of each letter in the list above, it is not necessary to ID the letter name. Do not be alarmed if the student is unable to produce the correct sounds for the consonant sounds of q x y z and all short vowel sounds. If there are incorrect responses, do not show any reaction, just make notes. The objective is to access the child’s ability to recognize and produce correct sounds for letters of the alphabet. For example:

  • point to a letter and have your child produce the sound that the letter sound makes.

 

Part 2) This evaluation is meant to help you determine how well your child is able to listen and follow directions.  For example, show the row of letters above (you might make your own chart) and ask your child to:

  • point to the letter that says mmm and then

  • point to the letter that says ttt

  • point to the letter in front of the letter that says sss

  • what sound does the last letter in the row make

  • what is the sound of the letter after the fff sound

  • what is the sound of the third letter from the left of the row

  • point to the bottom left corner of the sheet in front of you

  • point to the top right corner of the sheet

  • point to the top middle of the sheet in front of you

  • etc.


Part 3) Sequencing and Directionality. This is as much a listening exercise as it is to discover how well your child can sequence two commands:

  • with your right index finger, touch the big toe on your right foot, then touch your nose

  • with your right index finger touch your knee and the back of your ear

        

Try sequencing three commands:

  • with your right index finger touch your lower lip, your chin, and the outside of your right knee

 

Part 4) Mixing right and left; as well as, above and below; inside and outside; to the right of; to the left of; in back of; under and over:

  1. cover your right eye with your left hand

  2. point to the wall in front of you, now face that wall, now point to the wall in front of you

  3. point to the wall to your right and face that wall, now turn and face the wall behind you

  4. with the index finger of your left hand touch the back of your left heel

 

Next is to go on with the same commands but sequence them to the level that they don’t become overwhelmed.

  1. with your little finger on your right hand, touch your left elbow, behind right ear and inside of your left knee

  2. take this paper and put it under the red cup on the table

  3. fill this glass with water to half-full and put the glass on the table to the left

 

By now you will have discovered all that you need to know about right/left and your child’s ability to listen and follow instructions. Below, I have my version of sight word recognition grade levels. There are Grade Ones who will be able to read most of the words below. There will be Grade Five students who will not recognize most of the words below.            

 

Basic Evaluation for Your Child’s Sight Word Recognition Level

 

This is an unofficial assessment tool that I give to  every one of my students for assessment. It may help you to get some idea as to the sight word recognition grade level of your child. It may not coincide with your school’s test scores but then you wouldn’t be giving this assessment. This should however give you some idea where reading concepts are weak and where to begin fixing the problems. This is only a word recognition assessment. All words presented below will be taught to a mastery level once the reading program begins.

push

left

twelve

shrimp

dish

help

bench

slash

spell

four

the

them

they

how

new

three

blue

black

white

fresh

of

to

go

buy

pod

dug

web

wed

put

two

Grade One

squeak

sloth

color

water

strong

chose

busy

many

said

squirrel

wall

bowl

want

threw

foolish

circus

which

growl

squelch

pocket

hair

store

cheer

down

mother

father

some

book

crowd

garden

Grade Two

straight

cheerful

museum

drawer

anxious

thought

round

square

circle

balloon

laugh

morning

stomach

leash

although

invisible

eight

worry

hurry

surprise

birth

right

noise

pear

world

strength

shook

prompt

snooze

quickly

Grade Three

The Grade One Reading Experiment

I was asked by our Superintendent of Instruction to teach the Thorne Reading Method to one of the two Grade One classes in my school. I began by testing both classes using the same evaluation model that you can find under Basic Assessment Information. You will find this evaluation text following Johnny, His Parents and Reading Problems.

Both groups tested about the same for sight word recognition levels, vocabulary skills, directionality for left/right, in front of/behind, etc., as well as, the ability to listen and follow instructions. Both classes had students who could read above grade one and children without the ability to read or decode. The latter group were the children that the reading experiment was aimed at. Could I help these students to learn to read?

I was given forty minutes a day to teach reading to the experimental group. Their homeroom teacher would teach my remedial class art, music and crafts, while I was working with her class. She kept the program from starting until after Halloween and then delayed my program near Christmas concert time. She was never in favor of some "special ed" teacher working with her students, especially when I kept taking them into the gym for reading lessons.

From the first day I met the class, I began an extensive evaluation of each student’s learning abilities and decided that I could not begin teaching reading until I was positive that every student was capable of understanding and remembering what it was that they were listening to. I began teaching listening skills to the class by playing learning games that would strengthen each student’s ability to listen and follow directions.

Of all the learning deficits that consistently hinder learning to read is the student’s inability to understand instruction. There was no point of going on with reading lessons until every student could understand what it was that I was explaining to them. The only way to teach children to listen and remember is to provide them with activities that are carefully designed to help strengthen every student’s ability to listen in order to understand and follow directions.

Even those students who could already read, still mixed up b’s, d’s and p’s and had difficulty with remembering and sequencing simple instructions such as, “with your right index finger touch the inside of your left knee and then cover your eyes with the back of your hands.” Until everyone was capable of listening, sequencing and following directions, no reading lessons would begin.

My first formal reading lesson began with teaching every student to be able to recognize and pronounce every consonant letter of the alphabet, especially the letters s, l, r, z, f and y. I held back on vowel sounds until the class had mastered all consonant sounds.

If consonant sounds were mastered in grade one, we wouldn’t have so many sibilant s students (tongue thrusters) graduating grade eight. Few parents and teachers understand the difficulty in mastering the sounds of l and r. This requires a great deal of patience on everyone’s part. I will provide a lesson on the production of both l and r. (See index).

To follow my methodology on how I expect my students to learn to read, spell and gain word value skills, see Where I Begin, just below Basic Assessment Information.

The Results of the Reading Experiment

My Grade One reading instruction ended when the homeroom teacher requested that I end the reading experiment the last week of May. It was at this time that I retested both Grade One classes. The results were as follows:

Control Grade Ones

  • reading levels at the high end of grade one

  • spelling levels mid grade one

  • vocabulary levels at high end of grade one


Experimental Grade Ones

  • reading early grade three levels

  • spell levels early grade three

  • vocabulary levels at early grade four


Every one of my grade one students were promoted into Grade Two, a level that they had already achieved. What was the outcome of this experiment? The answer was “We don’t teach reading this way in our system.”

WHERE TO BEGIN

 

The only way to teach students to be successful in learning to read is to never allow them to go on to any level of skill development until they have mastered the lesson that was previously taught. This applies to all grades and all subjects.

 

There is a continuous obsolescence in how we teach reading. The moment we assume all students are capable of managing the reading program they are expected to learn, is where functional illiteracy begins. I never assumed anything, whether it was remedial reading, or when I was asked to use my reading methods to teach 22 regular education Grade Ones as an experiment to see if my reading methodology really worked. When reading programs break down, it starts with new concepts being taught before the rest of the class has them under control.

 

Those students above primary grades without all essential developmental reading skills will find learning to read difficult or may never learn. These are the very students that my methodologies are directed toward. Teach every student to a mastery level before they leave primary school and reading programs will no longer become obsolete.

 

Of all the reading programs now being applied, I have not seen basic phonics skills begin where I am sure all students need to start and where The Thorne Reading Method begins.  I am positive that anyone starting to teach reading skills where I recommend will have students who will immediately begin to experience success in understanding their phonics program.

 

I will say it again, students who can’t understand what they see or hear before they leave primary grades will not only struggle to learn to read, but will have difficulty understanding all their subjects. It is essential that all students experience the cognitive strengthening activities that facilitate viewing and listening in order to understand reading lessons.

 

If these learning skills are not addressed then expect many more ‘half-grade eights’ entering secondary school mentioned by Secondary School Principal Tim McGreer.

Where I Start the First Reading Lesson
 

Learning to visually recognize and be able to revisualize vowel sounds is a challenging task for most beginning readers and spellers. My belief in the mastery of vowel sound discrimination is the foundation of how I take the chaos out of learning to read. I have found that to make reading less difficult to understand, it is helpful to begin the reading program with regular, short vowel words. I avoid all words that have vowel irregularities until I am positive that every student has mastered all the concepts required to begin to decode and commit to memory any irregular vowel sounds.

 

The first vowel sound I want my students to learn is the world’s easiest sound for the human voice to produce, many teachers called it the Doctor Sound. I start my first reading lesson with the Short Sound of O, the  ah sound (ŏ)

 

Since I’m trying to make learning to read an easy experience for every student, I stay with the Short Sound of ŏ to teach all initial consonants, blends and initial digraphs, as well as, all final consonant endings and final digraphs.

 

My first reading lessons begin with the teaching of consonant sounds and blending them with ŏ. It is important that every student has no reversal/inversion problems before I introduce the consonants  b d p q. I teach L and R when I’m sure each student has the ability to produce L and R. Since L & R are usually the most difficult letters for many students to vocalize, I have included a section on how to teach the mechanics of how to produce the sounds for the letters L and R for any parent wishing to help their child.

 

My first reading lesson begins with the consonant m. All babies produce the mmm sound while they vocalizes ah and when they close their lips it produces mmm.  I'm sorry to tell all you mothers that mo mo is not the child recognizing you but only their opening and closing their lips and vocalizing maw maw. As you might expect, the first word I teach the student to decode, spell and provide a meaning for is mom.

 

The objective of my beginning my first reading lessons with Short ŏ is that I stay with Short ŏ to lessen any confusion my students may encounter when learning simple initial consonant and final consonant endings. The vowel sound is never an issue since it never changes. When these concepts are mastered, every student has the foundation to begin learning to recognize and remember all initial consonant, double and triple consonant sounds, as well as, initial digraphs, blending them with the Short Sound of ŏ.


Since my goal is to make every lesson failureproof, I choose words that begin and end with the same consonant sound. Words such as:

 

mo  mom

mom

to     tot

tot

po  pop

pop

po  pop

pop

po  pop

pop

bo   bob

bob

bo   bob

Bob

I begin by blending the initial consonant with the Short Sound of O, then I teach the blending of Short O with the Final Consonant. Next, I teach the complete word to the point where every student can read, spell and give a word value to every word they have learned. For parents who wish try this, I would recommend you go to a web-site for pictures of letters and their sounds to help your child learn initial consonant sounds.

There is a reason students are always successful with these lessons. I plan every element of each lesson to be well within the comprehension level of each child. If there are students who may not be at the level of learning as other students, I remain at the lowest learning level of where learning needs to be reinforced before I go on. Those students who have mastered the lesson are given “free time” to play learning games. It may take only a single lesson to have everyone prepared to go on. I can see teachers arguing that this methodology will only slow down the time they have to complete the reading program. Remember when I told you the story about Brianna? If I left Brianna behind when she needed me to “reinforce” an unlearned concept, she would never have been able to score at an early Grade 3 reading level at the end of her first grade school year. By the way, Brianna was simply promoted to Grade 2. I wonder if I did her any favours by getting her to a Grade 3 reading comprehension level?

What I do that may be different from most synthetic phonics programs is to insist on 100% word recognition, spelling and word meaning for every word presented. After a few weeks, when my students will have completed the Short Sound of O, they will be able to recognize words with triple initial blends and digraphs and multiple consonant endings and final digraphs. Every student will be expected to spell all words and provide a definition with 100% success. Words such as:

lost   cost    moth   sloth   cloth   clock   shock   long   song   strong   thong   

stomp   spot   shot   shop  chop   stop  rock   crock   flock   stock  loft  soft

I firmly believe that given the correct format, all Grade One students will have few, if any, problems learning any of the words from the list above. There will always be some children who will be challenged by this methodology. Even though some learning scientists do not subscribe to the use of learning modalities to help a student learn, they worked for my students and this helped them learn. I will provide you with several of my theories on how to teach basic reading concepts that might explain how some “challenging” concepts can be easily turned into lessons learned.

Short Vowels Sounds With b d p

 

I would never offer this wordlist to students who still reverse or invert b d p. First things first. All visual learning will be inhibited until directionality concepts have been learned. I deliberately place d’s & b’s or p’s to help reinforce directionality concepts.

 

As always, I help the learner identify every word in each column. Then I help them to learn to spell each word in that column. Most importantly, every word must have at least one word meaning. Use Google pictures to help bring meaning to the words.

 

Read initial consonant with o. Read o with final consonant. Read entire word, then go on to the next part, ie. co, od and cod, etc. Use picture below each word for word value. After the lesson has been learned, ask the student to spell each word.

po od  pod

co od cod

co ob cob

so ob sob

so od sod

so op sop

mo op mop

mo ob mob

ro ob rob

ro od rod

to op top

po ot pot

 This is why my lessons are “failure-proof”.        

 

After a few weeks, my students will have completed the Short Sound of O and will be able to recognize words with triple initial blends and digraphs and multiple consonant endings and final digraphs. Every student will be expected to spell all words and provide a definition with 100% success. Words such as:

sloth  shot  chop   stomp  frost     honk    clock     flock   shock  

 

cloth  scot   shop   block   strong  slosh   prompt  throb  throng

 

I firmly believe that given the correct format, all Grade One students will have few, if any problems learning any of the words from the list above. With Google pictures and explanations from the teacher or parent, you will have expanded vocabulary skills at an above average Grade 1 level.

Less Chaos and More Learning

 

When I was convinced that every student had mastered the concept of the Short Sound of O, as well as, all initial and final blends, digraphs and consonant endings, my next lesson was to simply repeat the same format but with Short I ​ and then go on to teach ​ the rest of the Short Vowel program.​ To create a ‘failure-­proof’ methodology, it is essential that each lesson be designed to carry ­over previously over-­learned concepts into the next stage of instruction. I chose Short I because its vowel sound is the next easiest vowel to produce. I start with similar three-letter words beginning and ending with the same consonant. This may not be necessary since every student has already mastered all initial and final consonant sounds from the previous Short Sounds of O lessons.


bi​   b​ib ​​     di​   d​id​  ​  gi  ​ gig ​  ​  mi​   m​im​ ​   pi ​  pip


It wasn’t unexpected that every student understood the Short Sound of I lesson in half the time it took for Short O. I continue this repetitive methodology until I have completed the entire concept of Short Vowels words. When I completed Short I, every student could recognize to read and spell with word value, words such as:

 

shift  strip  chill  quiz  squish  shift  shill  squib  squid  pinch​  quit  chip  squint  stiff  shrill  whiz  splint  spring  strict  quilt  quick  grinch  which  ship


It should be noted that I often reviewed Short O words when they had the same initial consonants, blends or digraphs. Words such as:


hip/hop   tip/top   hit/hot   lit/lot   sift/soft   lift/loft   bing/bong   ding/dong   sing/song   sick/sock   lick/lock   tick/tock   slit/slot   spit/spot   flip/flop   slip/slop   chip/chop   ship/shop   drip/drop   slit/slot   click/clock   stick/stock   chimp/chomp   string/strong


The remainder of the Short Vowel concept simply continues with Short A Short U and finishing with Short E. I teach Short E last because I found that it was the most challenging short vowel sound for many students to re­-visualize and remember for later lessons. I stay on each concept until I am positive the entire class has mastered whatever skills that are necessary to go to the next level of reading development. I’d defeat the whole purpose of ‘failure-­proof’ lesson planning if I left anyone behind.

In the long run, there was never a need to review. What is required though, are daily evaluations of every student’s performance. First, to know if the entire class is prepared to learn a new concept, and secondly, to recognize concepts that weren’t mastered and needed to be re­taught. My lessons allowed students to learn that some words have several meanings. I would like to remind you that this is how I teach all struggling readers, whether they are Grade 3, 4 or 5 needing remediation. Depending on the student’s skill level, I start at everyone’s “square one” learning level.

I used my methodologies to teach regular education Grade One reading classes using all the above reading skills. The class mastered regular pattern Short Vowel Sounds and Long Vowels by Christmas. By this time they were ready for irregular vowel patterns that included all vowel digraphs and vowel diphthongs, as well as modified vowel patterns - patterns that included vowels with R, controlled vowels such as aw, ow, oi, oy, au, etc. - all homophones. Scroll to find examples of all irregular vowel patterns. When I am sure my students have complete control of all vowel patterns, I introduce my reading comprehension lessons.

When I tested my experimental Grade Ones in May, they scored at an early Grade Three in reading comprehension and spelling and at a Grade Four level in vocabulary skills. I tested the other Grade One class which scored at an early Grade Two level in reading comprehension, but scored at an upper Grade One in spelling and vocabulary levels.

 

Here is a sample of a basic “Thorne Synthetic Phonics” Grade One wordlist for Short Vowel Sounds. Each word has been mastered in order to recognize to read, spell and use for vocabulary purposes. Later I will provide you the list for the entire Short Vowel program.


wish whit whip whim when then this that quit quick quest​ guest which witch cloth branch dwell brunch prompt strength strong pledge thrift twist twitch thrill spring sprung sprang twang squish scrap crunch sloth sketch quench strict stretch squib squid skunk quack chance crutch guess fudge squelch whack twelve twinge Grinch grudge whack thrust scalp clench branch squint


You may need to go to Google Images for pictures to explain word meaning for some of these words.

At  the completion of the Short Vowel program, all students were able to recognize to spell and provide definition to words such as:

squelch    dwell   whiz   scalp      squid   champ  clasp    squint    strict   stretch   

strength   twitch  shrug   prompt   quick   shelf     chant   shrunk    chest  sloth

Short To Long Vowel Sounds: Final E  or VCV

 

The reason that I chose to teach Short Vowels before Long Vowels is that there are fewer ‘irregular’ vowel patterns to confuse the learner. Next, The Doctor Sound  makes it easier to begin the decoding process with Short Vowels. Lastly, teaching Short Vowels first makes the learning of Final E Long Vowels an easy transition for comprehension, as you will note.

 

I start with simple three letter short vowel words, such as:

 

fin  mad  pin  rid  pan  Sam  cut  fat  tot  din  man  rip  cub  lob  dim  tub  hop  

 

The transition from Short to Long Vowel Final E is made easier to comprehend simply by adding a Final E to the three letter short vowel words, explaining the concept of the “First vowel Long  and Final E silent”. Thus, the VCV vowel pattern.

 

fin/fine        pin/pine  Sam/same  cut/cute   fat/fate    man/mane  lam/lame   

man/mane  rip/ripe    cub/cube    lob/lobe   din/dine   tub/tube     hop/hope

 

When it came to learning the Final E Long Vowel concept with blends and digraphs, the results were the same, lesson learned. All that was left to teach was word meaning.

 

Here is an example of some of the words from this lesson:

 

plan/plane   slop/slope   spin/spine   scrap/scrape   sham/shame   sprit/sptite

 

whit/white    strip/stripe    skat/skate    plum/plume    glob/globe     slim/slime

 

I chose this time to introduce and explain words that break rules. With irregular vowel patterns, the first vowel isn’t always long.

 

 live/live   dove/dove   gone   done   love   some   shove   glove   come

 

Long Vowels Two Vowels Together Or TVT

 

While the concept of Two Vowels Together or TVT is easy to teach, TVT words have too many irregularities for students to depend on their decoding skills for successful results. I cover this concept in later lessons dealing with Vowel Digraphs and Vowel Diphthongs.

 

For this lesson, the rule is “Two Vowels Together with First Vowel Long and the Second Vowel Silent.” Every lesson is easily learned. The only challenge will be remembering the spelling of words that are Homonyms. An example of remembering the spelling and meanings of homonyms would be with words such as:

meat/meet   sees/seas  leak/leek  peak/peek  please/pleas   feet/feat   toad/towed

 

There will be a problem with Final E spellings that are Homonyms with TVT vowel patterns. Words such as:

 

road/rode maid/made  hear/here    pain/pane    plain/plane    pail/pale    peat/Pete

 

Simple concepts like the one above help you understand that there are way more things that hinder learning to read and spell, than there are that make learning to read easy to comprehend.

 

The one thing that remains constant in my methodology toward gaining reading skills is that the student must master all initial/multiple consonant blends and digraphs and all final consonant endings and digraphs. These concepts never change but Vowel Digraphs and Vowel Diphthongs are constantly changing. To provide your student/child with a “failure-proof” reading curriculum, insist on over-learned concepts of all vowel patterns.

 

The Concept of Syllabication and Suffixes

 

I introduce the concept of Syllabication after all Regular Short and Long Vowels concepts have been mastered. Children speak using words with more than one syllable, so it makes sense to teach them how to read and spell words with more than one syllable.

Starting with words they already learned, I explain the basic concepts of syllabication. Since I base syllabication lessons on vowel patterns, I review VCC  VCV  TVT concepts and then introduce the concept of the suffixes of -er,  -est, -ing, -ly,  -er, -ful.

 

ly - means having to do with the word ie:

hourly - happening every hour
sadly  - feeling sad about something
carefully - being very careful doing something
cowardly - acting like a coward would behave


ful - means full of or feeling a certain way: 

​careful - taking great care in how you act
wishful - hoping things turn out as you wish
beautiful - full of beauty


er - more than before or better:

smarter - knowing more than before
sadder - feeling more sad than before
happier - feeling even more happy
meaner - being more mean than before

Word Endings That Keep the Vowel Short

 

There is no problem with keeping the Vowel Short if the word has multiple consonant endings, as in:

{quick: quick-ly, quick-er, quick-est}           {prompt: prompt-ly}

{stiff: stiff-er}     {stretch: stretch-er, stretch-ing}           {squelch: squelch-er/ -ing}

{twist: twist-ed/-er/-ing}  {sweet: sweet-er/-est           {mean: mean-er/-est/-ing/-ful}

 

If a word ends with a single consonant and the word ending begins with a suffix that begins with a vowel, like: ed, er, ing, est, then you must "double" the consonant before you add the ending. If you do not double the consonant, the word becomes a VCV pattern and is spelled incorrectly. The rule is: first long. ie. mader (vcv)   runer (vcv).

 

{mad: mad-der mad-dest}   {ship: ship-per, ship-ping}    {run: run-ner, run-ning}

{gun: gun-ner/-ning}              {grip: grip-ping/-per}              {step: step-per/-ping}

​If the word has a long vowel sound just add: ed, en, er, est, ful, ing; as in words such as:
 

{leap: leap-er, leap-ing} {dream: dream-er/-ing}   {pain: pain-ful}  {plain: plain-er/-est}  

 

Syllabication with VCV Final E and ING

 

Words ending with a Final E: such as smile, the rule is to drop the e and add ing, thus, smile/smiling, bike/biking. I found this concept to be easily learned by all Grade Ones. Some more final Final E words with ing are:
 

dine...dining  spike...spiking  tease...teasing   scrape...scraping...   freeze... freezing


The learning of word endings VCV should provide a solid basis for correct spelling in future exercises. Later, I will introduce the concept of prefixes after I have completed all important Vowel Patterns.

When it come to words with open ended vowels such as: do,  go,  ho, no,  so,  hi,  pi, the vowels are often long vowel sounds. Notice that this doesn’t work with words such as do and to. Look for this rule when decoding multi-syllable words such as: to-day, go-ril-la, ho-ly,  no-ble,  no-tice,  no-tion,  so-ber,  so-da,  hi-jack,  pi-lot,  and pi-rate.

Finally, words spelled with a double consonant such as: bul-ly,  pul-ly,  sil-ly,  bub-ble, and words ending in: -ful, -ly, -ble, -ple, -ment in words such as: play-ful, Bil-ly, sta-ble, mul-ti-ple, and en-joy-ment, is where you syl-lab-i-cate the spelling of the word.

A E I O U and Sometimes Y

Decoding will only take you so far in reading. I’ll show you some examples of words containing the letter Y and why the student must begin to memorize the varied sounds that Y produces.

AY/EY (as a)

bay
lay
say
pay
may
pray
Gray

ray
slay
hay
day
maybe
prey
grey

aye
play
hey
payday
way
whey
they

 Y (as e)  

ba/by
la/dy
bo/dy
fun/ny
chil/ly
chim/ney

can/dy
mon/ey
mon/key
fan/cy
close/ly
near/ly

leaf/y
Snoop/y
Grump/y
Sleep/y
sneez/y
creep/y

 Y (as i) 

my    
by    
buy
guy
cry
dry

why
shy
try
ny/lon
By/ron
gey/ser

cy/cle

 Y (as i)

gym
gyp
gyp/sy
hymn
lynx
Lynn

bi/cy/cle

Read down each word group with the same Y Vowel Sound. Then, using pictures, etc., teach word meaning.

Up until this lesson, I have shared how to understand all Short and Long Vowel Sounds. Everyone will be able to recognize all initial consonant and initial digraphs, as well as, all final, multiple consonant ending and final digraphs.

Up until now you have learned to recognize words that follow the rules. The next lesson is about Words That Break the Rules. From now on, the only way to learn new words will be to memorize all new words.

Words that Break the Rules

Up until now we have learned words that follow rules. Here are words that do not follow the rules and need to be memorized. Notice that words like have, give, done do not follow the the VCV rules. Notice that words like great, steak, grief do not follow the TVT rules. There are TWO wordlists below that are Short Vowel Words that break the rules, followed by words that break the Long Vowel rules that you have learned.

ă (as in fat)

have
laugh

ĕ (as in Ed)

any
many
meant
friend
health
wealth
leather
feather
weather
measure
treasure

said
says
lead
head
read
ready
steady
bread
spread
pleasant
pleasure

Ĭ (as in is)

live
give
busy
women

ŏ (as in not)

all
call
fall
wall
tall
hall
small
water
father

gone
talk
walk
hawk
squawk
stalk
stall
wash
squash

ŭ (as in up)

one
won
wonder
wonderful
blood
flood
honey
money
brother

done
come
some
dove
love    
glove
shove
above
mother

The same thing happens to the Long Vowel Words below. This wordlist has words that look like they should be pronounced the way that you have learned to decode but these words break the rules.

 ā 

great
break
steak
range
strange
change
rein
reign

say
way
whey
weigh
eight
weight
freight
sleigh

  ē  

brief
chief
grief
thief
thieves

shield
wield
yield
fiend
suite

  ī  

wind
mind
find
hind
blind
mild
wild
child

sigh
sign
high
height
light
tight
night
knight

  ō  

cold
hold
gold
told
toll
bolt
molt

most
post
host
ghost
troll
colt
clothes

  ū  

view
ewe
yew
you
chew
flew
flue

The above lessons showed how some words break rules. There are more words that break rules than follow rules. The next lesson will be Vowels with R and the way these words are spelled really doesn’t make sense. Unless you memorize them and can recognize them, they can fool you.

For example: for... four... floor... war... warm. Notice that they all are pronounced with an ôr vowel sound but are not spelled the same way. There are many words containing Vowels with R and you will need to learn to recognize the different vowel sounds that they produce.       

Vowels with R

 

Lesson One: Vowels with R

 

Vowels with R produce many different Vowel Sounds. For example:

Ũr (er) as in her... or as in word... ir as in fir... Ũr (er) as in fur.

 

The first lesson has words that all say er but there are many different ways to spell the Ũr sound when spelling Vowels with R. The symbol for the "er" sound is Ũr; as in er,  ir, ear,  or,  our,  ur,  and  ar.

 

This lesson is designed to show you that Vowels with R look to fool you. Every vowel sound in this lesson says Ũr.

You may notice the occasional  red letter that means that letter is a silent letter and is not to be sounded out.

were
herd
heard
word
third
thirty
thirst
thirsty
Thursday
murmur
surplus
surprise
surround

sir
girl
pearl
whirl
whirled
world
worth
birth
girth
mirth
Earth
hearth
search

worm
worse
worst
cursed
turn
turnip
turkey
jerky
quirky
courtesy
journey
nourish
flourish

nurse
purse
person
curve
nerve
serve
swerve
swirl
twirl
curling
current
currency
certainly

urge
arrow
narrow
sparrow
hurt
spurt
spurn
sperm
squirm
syrup
stirrup
certain
curtain

spur
spurt
shirt
skirt
squirt
lurch
church
perch
purchase
sailor
actor
factor
factory

fir
first
furry
hurry
worry
worried
worse
worst
burst
dollar
collar
caller
scholar

polar
molar
solar
lunar
sugar
cougar
tartar
lizard
wizard
blizzard
mustard
custard
mallard

Lesson Two will still help you understand why you must be careful with Vowels with R. When the letters e, a, r are in a word, they can produce four different vowel sounds. 

Lesson Two: Vowels with R that Contain E A R

The letters that Spell EAR have several different vowel sounds. Many students will become confused by words with the letters e, a and r in their spelling. For example, the word hear has ear in its spelling and follows the TVT rule with the first vowel long and the second vowel silent. When you add the letter d to the end of the word hear, the vowel has changed to an Ũr vowel sound and is pronounced (er) heard (herd).

Below are examples of several words containing the letters e,a and r, but have different vowel sounds:

 ē 

fear

hear

gear

tear

near

 âr (air) 

pear
pare

pair

tear

wear

 Ũr (er) 

pearl
heard
search

learn

 är (as in art) 

heart

arch

The next lesson will be Vowels with R but with more different spellings. It is important that you remember the different spellings so that you won’t be fooled.

Lesson Three: More Vowels with R

It is important that you keep reviewing Vowels with R. This list has many of the vowel sounds from previous lessons. You will notice that some of the words are pronounced the same but have different spellings.

är =R

arm
harm
barn
farm
arch
alarm
charm
shark
star
starve
smart
guard

 ÔR  and  our = ÔR   

war
warn
warm
warp
ward
warren
warrant
warrior
oar
boar
board
warm

wore
for
fore
core
sore
store
storm
sworn
sword
shore
chore
swarm

tore
four
fourth
mourn
morning
coarse
course
cork
pork
stork
shore
your

 OO (as in boo)

tour
poor
pure
sure
cure
lure

OU (as in cow)

hour
our
sour
flour

âr (as in air)

bear
pear
tear
wear
where
pair
pare
hare
hair
chairs
stairs

stares

ēr

fear
hear
tear
beer
near
cheer
steer

The final Vowels with R has many of the same words as before but I’ve introduced homonyms (words that sound the same but have different spellings and different meanings).

Lesson Four: Vowels With “R” But With Different Spellings

Ũr (as in er)

fur
fir
first
thirst
burst
worst
were
word
world
whirled
worth
birth
shirt
hurt
pearl

urn
earn
learn
flourish
burn
birch
church
lurch
lurk
jerk
quirk
squirt
squirm
firm

germ

Ôr ( as in 4)

for
fore
four
fort
sport
warts
quarts
quarter
storm
wore
war
warn
mourn

morning

dwarf

or
ore
oar
boar
board
bored
horse
hoarse
coarse
porch
scorch

score
pore
pour
drawer

OU (as in cow)

our
hour
sour
flour

âr (as in air)

bear
bare
fare
fair
hair
hare
pare
pear
pair
their
there
where
wear
stare

stair

You may have noticed that there were several words that sounded the same but were spelled differently. These kinds of words are called Homonyms. They are words that sound the same but have different spellings and different meanings. You learned a few words that were homonyms in the Vowels with R lesson. I will give you a list of everyday homonyms for you to learn. All words with silent letters will be shown with red letters. The words with a G that says j or consonant digraphs that don’t say CH will be colored blue.

Homonyms

 

Homonyms: Words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings. You will remember seeing many of these words from previous lessons. Homonyms are fun; enjoy.

Exercise A

you yew ewe
do dew due
to too two
for fore four
or oar ore
flew flu flue
new knew gnu
hew hue Hugh
so sew sow
do doe dough

pane pain paine
read reed rede
write right wright
threw thru through
meet meat mete
tale tail tael
Kidd kid kyd
main mane Maine
high hi hie
flow Flo floe

pear pare pair
wear ware where
way whey weigh
sees seas seize
tot taut taught
not knot naught
gale Gail Gael
berry bury Barry
Mary marry merry
Jean Gene gene

our hour
knee nee
knap nap
knit nit
know no
knob nob
kneel Neil
knock nock
knight night
mite might

Exercise B

cot     caught
jewels   Jules
great   grate
her      Herr
gaits   Gates
flow    Flo
fey      Fay
carry   Cary
Coke   Koch
seas sees seize

dug   Doug
gene  Jean
hue    Hugh
homes Holmes
cord   chord (k)
shoot chute (sh)
wane  Wayne
gnash  Nash
gym    Jim
how    Howe

none  nun
some  sum
earn  urn
lead  led
read  red
read  reed
fourth  forth
fairy  ferry
pray  prey
gray  grey

I  eye
in  inn
fir  fur
lie  lye
tow  toe
towed  toad
shoo  shoe
new  knew
who  hoo
hair  hare

bow  bough
guys  guise
haul  hall
nay  neigh
wait  weight
waist  waste
gate  gait
heel  heal
peel  peal
steel  steal

As you can see from the above lesson, there are many words with silent letters. Words such as: gnu, gnash, write, wrong and (silent gh): Hugh, bough, though, taught, weigh. The next lesson will be on words with Silent Letters.

Silent Letters

 

There are many words that have letters that make no sound. These are called Silent Letters. All the words in the chart below have silent letters. It will be easy to identify the silent letters because I have made every silent letter red.

There are also some letters that have letter sound of "fff." The letters ph & gh make the fff sound and I have put them in pink print.

Silent Letters (k  w  gh  b  h  l  n  p  s  t)              ph & gh=f

knife
knives
know
knew
kneed
knack
knap
knapsack
knight
knighthood
knit
knot
knock
knuckle
knowledge

wrangle
wrangling
wrap
wrapper
wreck
wren
wrench
wrest
wrestle
wriggle
wright
right
wrong
wrist
wringer

phonics
phone
phony
phantom
pharmacy
photo
physical
elephant
alphabet
laugh
laughter
enough
cough
rough
tough

hymn
honest
honor
ghost
gnu
bough
dough
though
thought
through
straight
naughty
caught
fought
daughter

island
psalm
receipt
doubt
comb
debt
thumb
climb
plumber
tomb
bomb
dumb
lamb
calve
castle

sight
fight
light
might
high
higher
sigh
sign
design
resign
eight
weight
freight
straight

straighten

The better you get at learning new words, the better a reader you will become. The next lesson is The Consonant Sounds of C and G. This lesson will help you learn to read words that change when the letters C and G are followed by the vowels e or i.

The Hard and Soft Sounds of C and G

The letters C and G have two distinct sounds. Up until this lesson, C always was produced as the hard sound, such as cat, cut, crow, crown, etc., and G has a hard sound as in good, girl, go. When C or G are followed by the vowels a, o, or u, they are pronounced as hard sounds. Hard C: cat, cot, cut. Hard G: game, go, gum.

When the letters C and G are followed by an e or i, their sounds are soft. C has a "sss" sound, as in cell, celery, space, etc., and G has a soft sound that you hear in the letter j, as in giant, germ, page.

 

Soft C followed by e: ace cell celery cent cedar

Soft C: followed by i:  city cigar circus circle

Soft G:followed by e: age gent gentle George

Soft G: followed by i: city circle circus cigar

Hard Sounds of C

call
cook
cute
cove
crush
cluck
crane

candy
cane
clover
castle
club
clues
come

cry
cloud
Canada
crash
crayon
common
candle

catch
caught
country
crush
correct
clutter
crumb

class
came
count
county
clock
curve
crept

Soft Sounds of C

ace
face
city
circle
circus
certify
Grace

cell
cellar
celery
celebrate
celebration
cellophane
Cecil

certain
cement
cemetery
cedar

cease
cereal
Nancy

cycle

ceiling
cent
center
century
cylinder
Cinderella

The consonant G has two sounds. The hard sound is g (as in go good glad). The G is a hard sound when the g is followed by an a, o, or u. When the letter G is followed by an e or i, the G has a soft sound, like the letter j

 

Hard Sound of G

gun
gum
graze
glass
garter
grease
glory
grump

gone
glove
ghost
guess
green
grow
gust
gloom

glow
grim
glad
garden
grass
golf
glue
gallop

grow
growl
good
globe
gulf
game
gold
ground

plug
bang
lagoon
magnet
eagle
forgot
google
goose

Soft Sound of G

giant
gentle
germ
genial
genius
general
German
Germany

gibberish
magic
danger
orange
ginger
genie
porridge
pidgeon

age
page
wage
wager
bridge
range
strange
beverage

gyp
gypsy
gyro
gym
gymnastic
geography
generous
Roger

Words Containing Both the Hard and Soft Sounds of C and G

circle
circus
concert
concept
conceal
conceit
circuit
cyclone

accident
gigantic
college
baggage
luggage
allowance
gymnastic
gyroscope

cigar
magic
guage
congest
congestion
concede
concentrate
concentration

concrete
concession
conference
congenial
practice
precinct
prognostic
disgrace

recess
receive
receiver
recurrence
recognize
recognition
reconcile
resurgence

cycle
bicycle
recycle
regency
gorgeous
George
Grace
Cecil

The Three Sounds of CH

The digraph CH has three different sounds. Up until now CH was pronounced as ch as in church, but CH also says K as in ache, echo, and school. CH has one more sound, it is pronounced as sh as in Chicago, parachute and machine. Below you will find some examples of the Three Sounds of CH.

 CH = ch 

church
checkers
chicken
cherry
chose
choose
chess
chew

China
Chinese
Charles
itch
rich
arch
archer
chase

 CH = k 

ache
echo
anchor
chord
chorus
chaos
epoch
stomach

school
scholar
scheme
chemist
chemistry
chemicals
chrome
Michael

 CH = sh

cache
cachet
ricochet
crochet
brochure
chauffeur
chivalry
charade

machine
anxious
chute
parachute
champagne
chaperone
Chinook
Chicago

The SH or Shh Sound can also be produced by "tion" "cion"  "sion" "cian" and "tian"

The shh sound is found at the end of many words and can be spelled ‘tion’ which is pronounced as shun and can be spelled in several ways:  "tion," "cion,"  "sion," "cian," or "tian." Here are some “shun” words:

Some “Shun” Words

action
reaction
direction
nation
hibernation
mention
attention
intermission

position
attraction
addition
subtraction
multiplication
division
conversation
inspection

celebration
permission
pollution
inspection
expression
confession
suspicion
invention

musician
magician
physician
optician
technician
politician
electrician
deception

Martian
Dalmatian
Asian
Persian
Egyptian
ancient
gracious
decision

sure
insure
insurance
treasure
ocean (sh)
issue (sh)
tissue (sh)
detention

Some of these words may be beyond the comprehension ability of some students just learning to decode. The object of the lesson is to show the varied ways to produce the digraph sh. A way to make these words easier to learn is to break the words into smaller parts and then add "shun." For example, take the word mansion and mention: students already recognize man and men, now add the shun and they will be able to decode or remember both words when they need to recognize them.

There are so many words that break the rules that the student needs to learn. The next few lessons will have exercises that will contain homonyms and silent letters but the main focus will be on learning the various vowel sounds that each vowel diphthong will produce. For example: OW that says OU (as in cow) and Long O as in grow, AU says Short O as in caught, and Au says Short A as in laugh, etc. This will be challenging and interesting for any student to learn to read.

The Vowel Diphthong Sounds of OW

The Vowel Diphthong OW has two sounds. OW says Long Ō and OU as in cow. Both these diphthongs can change vowel sounds by adding an extra letter. For example:


crow (Ō) becomes crown (ou) by adding the letter n.

grow (Ō) becomes growl (ou) by adding the letter l.

flow (Ō) becomes flower (ou) by adding the letters er.

Those letters that have the color pink (eg. ow) show that the "ouch" vowel sound in some words contains a Long Ō as in words such as show-shower,  grow-growl. In the word "coward," I colored the ar purple to indicate that the ar says er as in fur (Ũr). 

OW says  Long Ō

bow
bowl
low
lower
blow
blown
flown
grow
grown
growth

know
snow
show
shown
slow
glow
row
crow
rowed
throw

owe
own
owner
follow
hollow
yellow
mellow
bellow
fellow
window

OW says OU (as in cow)

down
town
clown
brown
drown
frown
crown
crowd

bow
wow
sow
cow
coward
fowl
howl
prowl

pow
power
powder
powerless
gunpowder
flower
tower
shower

The next lesson is more diphthongs that have the same vowel sounds: the sound of oi (as in oil) and oy (as in boy).

I'll introduce prefixes a-, an-, un-, re-. Prefixes are letters or words added in front of a word to change the meaning. For example: clean-unclean, soil-unsoiled, void-avoid, coy-decoy.

I’ll also review suffixes. Suffixes are endings to words to change their meaning. I have the following examples: boy-boyish-boyhood, point-pointless-pointlessness.

The Vowel Diphthongs OI and OY

 OI 

oil     
boil    
soil    
coil    
coiling
soil    
soiled  
unsoiled
foil    
toil    
toiled  
broil   
spoil   
poison  
toilet 

oink
droid
android
asteroid
voi
ce
choi
ce
rejoice
noise
noisy
void
avoid
moist
spoiled
poisoned
l
awyer

coin
coined
coining
soil
unvoiced
annoy
join
joint
point
pointless
hoist
moisture
unspoiled
poisonous
sawyer

 OY 

boy
buoy
coy
employ
Roy
Joy
joy
soy
hoy
convoy
busboy

boyish
b
uoyant
coyness
employee
royal
Joy
ce
enjoy
soybean
ahoy
deploy
cowboy

boyhood
flamboyant
decoy
employment
royalty
loyalty
joyful
oyster
annoy
destroy
voyager

 Y (as ī ) 

coyote

In the next exercise we have vowel diphthongs that say three vowel sounds: o͞o (as in boo), o͝o (as in book), and the short sounds of ŭ. Be careful, these are tricky words and will fool you unless you work hard to remember them.

There are some words that follow rules but only to show similar spellings but different vowel sounds - words such as:
 

cost / mōst    but / put (o͝o)    rush / push (o͝o)    zoom (o͞o) / wool (o͝o) / blood (ŭ)

 o͞o (as in boo) 

cool
fool
pool
tool
spool
stool
loose
goose
juice
sluice
Bruce
spruce
suit
fruit
rude

school
schooner
shoe
shoeshine
zoo
new

knew
crew
true
truth
booth
shrewd
ruin
bruin
loon

 o͝o (as in book) 

sure
soup
group
troop
loot
boot
booty
lute
flute
choose
news
mood
food
lose
bruise

put
look
took
cook
crook
book
brook
hood
stood
should
foot
wood
good
shook
brood

 ŭ/o͝o 

wool
wolf
sugar
bush
push
bull
bully
pull
full
cushy
football
would
goodness
hook
woman

but
bl
ood (ŭ)
flood
bushel (o͝o)
r
ush
bullet
bullies
pully
fully
cushion

wouldn’t

The next exercise contains words with au spellings but with different vowel sounds:

Words With AU Spellings but Sound Ŏ, Ă, ÔR, OU, ü, Ō

In this next lesson all the words have au spellings but have vowels that are Short ŏ, as well as ôr, ou and ă. The tion spellings at the end of some words should be pronounced shun. Remember the letters gh and ph can be both silent and sounded as fff.

 Short ŏ (as in mom)

auk
aught
caught
naught
naughty
haughty
daughter
slaughter
author
authorize
authority
auklet
assault
gauze
gaudy
taut
taught
fault
flaulty
auburn
auger
auxiliary

cause
causeway
because
Santa Claus
applause
clause
pause
laud
applaud
applause
vault
vaunt
daunt
daunting
haunt
gauntlet
taunt
taunting
daunt
daunting
bauble
pauper

auto
automobile
automatic
sausage
squat
audience
Autumn
Auckland
Austria
Australia
autograph
autopsy
Aubrey
Audrey
Paul
Pauline
Saul
haul
maul
faucet
August
Augusta

auction
auctioneer
launch
paunch
staunch
sauce
saucer
saucy
sauna
saunter
fraud
trauma
traumatic
traumatize
cauterize
nausea
nautical
laundry
plausible
caution
aura
audit

ôr (as in 4)

Laura
Laurel
Laurence
Maurice
Maureen
Laurentian
laureate
Taurus

ou (as in ouch) 

Audi
Faust
Mauser
Schnauzer
Maui

ă (as in cat)

Laugh (fff)
laughter

Ŏ

audio
auditory
auditorium
aught

You have learned so many new words that have silent letters or gh silent and gh and ph saying (fff). The next few lessons will contain words requiring you to recognize different sounds from similar looking words, especially homonyms. Watch out for words like wound (says o͞o as in boo) and wound (ou).

The Different Vowel Sounds of the Vowel Digraph OU

ou (says ŏ)

thought
sought
fought
bought
cough
trough

ou (says ō)

though
poultry
mould
boulder
shoulder
dough
soul

ou (says ŭ)

cousin
couple
country
southern
touch
tough
slough
enough

ou (says o͝o)

could
would
should
shouldn’t
boulevard

ou (says o͞o)

wound
coupon
cougar
goulash
soup
group
troupe

ou (ouch)

wound
found
hound
round
ground
bough
drought
count

our (says or)

four
pour
poured
mourn
source
course
court

our (says our)

our
hour
flour

sour

 

ou (says ouch)

doubt
shout
pout
spout
sprout
trout
house
south

loud
cloud
proud
shroud
shout
scout
mouse
noun

ouch
couch
pouch
crouch
grouch
slouch
douse
announce

count
county
bounty
Mountie
mountain
fountain
grouse
pronounce

The Letter A With L and W

As you have learned from previous exercises, vowels sounds don’t always follow rules. This is the case with the Vowel A when placed alongside either the letter L or W.

For example, clam says ă but when you put the l on the other side of the letter a, it changes to the Short Sound of Ŏ, calm. The same thing happens with the letter a beside the letter w. The word swam is changed to Short Ŏ when you add the letter p, to spell the word swamp; or when you change the last letter of swam to an n and you spell the word swan. The word band says ă but replace the b with a w and the vowel changes to Short Ŏ and spells wand.

Then there is the sound that the letter A has at the end of words such as Canada, China, Alberta, and Atlanta. Then the letter a becomes a Short ŭ vowel sound.

Here are a few examples of the Letter A with L and W:
 

ball   bawl   balm   calm   palm     call      fall       hall      halt    mall   malt    Walt

salt   walk    talk    walk    chalk    false   waltz   walrus   tall     stall   wall    psalm

wad      was    want     wand     wander    water    watt      wall         wallet      wallop

swab    what    swat     swath     wash      swash   swan    swamp      wallow   swallow

For some reason, the person who invented the English language decided that the letter i was not to be limited to just a Long and Short Vowel Sound but also the sound of Long E. This concept is not unique to only the English language.

Here are some examples of words with an i spelling but saying Long E:


machine   period     police    marine    polio      folio     gasoline   vaseline   magazine    
Scorpio   scorpion  nicotine  dentine   visine    saline    vaccine    chlorine     listerine
Jeraldine   Muriel  Maurice   Bernice  Denice  Clarice   Caprice      Nice (also nīce)


The next exercise will review some vowel sounds and help the student realize that it’s really the control of vowels that makes for a good reader.

A Review of Words That Both Follow and Break Vowel Rules

ŏ

calm
swamp
bro
ad
w
ant
gone
wash
salt
w
hat
wand
w
as

ă

clam
swam

ant

ash

hat

ō

doe
dove
hove
cove
stove
grove

ŭ

does
dove
hover
cover
color
love
glove
shove
dozen
was

ĭ

give
live
wind
busy
pretty
women
foreign

children

ī

dive
live
wind
sign
sigh
high
height
sleight
child

ā



great
eight
weight
freight
straight
reign
sleigh





break

ē

chief
lead
read
mean
heave
plea
please
shield
eat

heal


breathe

ĕ

said
lead
read
meant
heaven
pleasant
pleasure
treasure
weather
wealth
health
friend
says
breath
breakfast

ă

plaid
have
laugh
calf

ŭ

but
dull
hull
gull
skull

hush
rush

brush

âr (air) 

tear
pear

bear
scare
scarce
mare
mayor

ow

bow
bowl
crow
crow
grow
glow
show
tow

ow

bowel
howl
crowd
crown
growl
glower
shower
towel
coward

är



heart

scar
scar

o͝o

put
bull
pull
full
wolf
woman
push
bush
cushion

ŏ

cost
lost
shone
moth
broth
father

ō

host
most
post

roll
poll
troll
cold
told

ũr


pearl
heard

search
learn

ē

tear

hear
beard
sear

ŭ

blood
flood


mother
brother

Homographs


Homographs are words that look exactly the same but are pronounced differently with different syllabication and word meanings. Here are a few examples of sentences containing homographs.

 

  • I re-fuse to take out the ref-use.

  • I will not de-sert my friends who are in the hot des-ert.

  • Does do not eat meat but a bear does.

  • The dove dove straight at me.

  • He wound the bandage around the wound on my hurt knee.

  • He will lead you to the lead mine.

  • The farmer can pro-duce his own prod-uce.

  • I bought a pre-sent to pres-ent to my mother.

  • I bought some Po-lish pol-ish to shine my shoes.

  • I had to shed a tear when I found a tear in my pants.

  • The wind will wind the kite around the tree.

It Is Time To Begin To Read

It has always been my intention to keep reading stories out of The Thorne Reading Method until every student has mastered each lesson beginning with the Short Sound of O. I never discouraged students from reading on their own, but oral reading doesn’t begin until I know that every student has the decoding skills, sight word recognition skills and vocabulary to understand what they were about to read. My goal is to continue to put success first, especially when it comes to reading. That is why I concentrate on oral reading to start the reading program. There will be no questions to answer after each student reads. Just listening to each student read tells me all I need to know as to each student’s oral reading ability. There is lots of time for questions and answers when every student has the ability to understand and remember what they are asked to read.

Since no author knows the skill level of my students, I write my own stories. I never put any student in a position where they can fail. The stories that I have written could confuse some readers unless the student has the word recognition and vocabulary skills to understand that the words they are reading, so that my stories make sense. That is why I provide a word review before each oral reading exercise.

I have also provided some relevant information about “do’s and don’ts” as to how parents or family can influence children in the family to want to read to them.

First Story                                                     Flying Kites at the Beach

The first oral reading story for beginning Grade One readers, “Flying Kites at the Beach.” The procedure will always remain consistent, so be sure that what the reader is expected to read is well within the reader’s ability to do so. A simple word review will provide you with the answer as to how well the reader understands the words in the lists below.

 

Word review first to establish word recognition and word meaning, and have then an uninterrupted oral reading exercise.

 

Let’s begin.

First Story Word Review

wind
feat
paper
light
good

ache
unwind

great
simple
wooden
brought
mood

machine
purchase

first
flew
many
fly
owl

near
cones

retrieve
soaring
newsprint
Christmas
concession

centimeters
sandwiches

gallant
realized
thread
anchor
women

foreheads
enough

quickly
nearby
solved
twice
ruined
hollow
built

zoo
knew
echo
quiz
eight
shared
balance

Flying Kites at the Beach

There was a good breeze the day we went to Owl Beach to fly our kites. Bob, Doug, Johnny, Gwen and I had finished making kites from light wooden sticks, some string as thin as thread and last year’s Christmas paper. We made kite tails from old newsprint and thread to anchor each kite. The last time we tried to fly our kites, it was near trees and the wind blew our kites into the tree branches. It took us all day to unwind our kite strings and retrieve those parts of our kites that weren’t ruined.

This time we knew better. We were in a good mood to try our newly built soaring machines. Gwen was the first to get her kite in the air. A group of women at the beach cheered her gallant feat as the kite took off into the sky. My best chum Doug tried twice to get his kite to fly until he realized that his kite’s tail wasn’t long enough to anchor the balance of the kite. He quickly solved this simple quiz by adding eight more centimeters to the tail.  I went to a nearby stream near Echo Hollow to fly my kite where I found the breeze to be strongest. My kite flew like a soaring gull.

There were many people flying kites that day but our kites flew the best. After an hour of watching our kites soaring in the wind, we took time for lunch. Everyone brought something different and we shared a picnic lunch by the beach. We forgot to bring something to drink so we had to walk back to the concession stand to purchase something to wash down our sandwiches and cookies. We all bought ice-cream cones and ate them until we got an ache in our foreheads. What a great way to spend the day. Next week, we are going to the zoo.

How to Encourage Children to Want to Read to You

I want a successful reading experience from every reader, so I take every precaution to to make the oral reading exercise "failure-proof." To accomplish this, I provide a wordlist review of words from the story. As a result, the reader already can recognize and understand the meanings of most of the words that they will be asked to read.

If I prepare the reader with words from the story that may have been forgotten or digraph sounds and vowels that may still be a little confusing, than it is up to me to review any weaknesses before I ask the child to read the story.


If problem words arise, then re-teach those words. I expect the reader to be able to read words with ch spellings that produce K or Sh sounds, words such as purchase, ache, machine, echo and Christmas. Why spoil the reading experience by finding out that the reader forgot the digraphs lesson regarding CH sounds? I would ask you to determine whether the reader understands "the wind blows" and "wind a spool of string."

What the Listener Must Do to Make the Oral Reading Experience Successful

 

Try not to stop the fluency of what is being read to you.


Firstly and most importantly, be a silent listener. How do you like it when someone interrupts you when you are speaking? It’s the same with children trying to impress you with their reading skills. The most important responsibility that a parent or anyone listening to oral reading has is to refrain from squelching the enthusiasm of the reader by stopping the fluency of their reading by stating:

"Stop!" or even worse still, "Read that word again.” Never ask a child to sound out a word; if the reader could sound out the word, they would. When there is a hesitation, simply give them the word and let the fluency continue. It takes a great deal of discipline to be a good oral reading listener. The listener only intervenes when a word is read wrongly and that incorrect reading of the word could distort the direction the story is taking.

Parents, it is okay for a child to make mistakes in their oral reading. Be an encouraging listener. One more important thing I would suggest is that to avoid a bad reading session, parents should scan any reading material the child may choose from the school, the public library or bookstore. Book covers may look exciting to the child but its contents may be too overwhelming for the child to successfully read that book to you.

Second Story                                               Pirates of the Southern Seas

While this is a Grade One oral reading exercise, it can only make reading and understanding the story more successful if the wordlist is mastered. All of the words below are from the next story, “Pirates of the Southern Seas.” When the reader has difficulty in recognizing words from the story, forgetting the concept of "CH says CH K and SH" or understanding the inferences of sharpening swords with their hands and "all hands on deck" (ask, What do we mean by "hands on deck?"), then a review may be necessary. That’s how they have been learning since the program first began.

Second Story Word Review

lot
lit
bow
hands
wind
sees
posts
early

invincible
dangerous
sharpening
broadside
invincible
immediately
southern
treasure

bountiful
adventure
several
sighted
either
sprang
range
mighty

rough
anchor
cache
evil
mean
eaten
ready
supply

ocean
action
blood
flood
stood
sharks
vessel
buried

dreaded
ghostly
strength
enemy
cannon
mission
billowing
ablaze

coward
position
among
symbol
swords
squelch
alarm
heard

busy
know
colors
took
depths
giant
crew
clue

Pirates of the Southern Seas

It was dark the night that our pirate ship the Invincible slipped out of the cold waters of Bountiful Bay into the rough and dangerous ocean depths. Our mission was to hunt and destroy the most evil warship on the Spanish Maine, the dreaded Avenger. This was going to be an adventure that children would be reading about for years to come. Never had the crew been so prepared. They were all brave sailors, not a coward among the lot. The crew kept busy sharpening swords by hand in case there would be a fight aboard either vessel. Giant cannon were placed into position in case of a broadside blast when they sighted their dreaded enemy.

With a strong wind behind her sails, the Invincible sailed for several weeks hunting for the Avenger. Then, early on the morning of what was to be known as the "Battle of the Seven Seas" the lookout sees the ghostly sails in the fog that could only mean that the enemy had been sighted. Everyone sprang into action. It took great strength to wind down the billowing sails and drop anchor. An alarm was sent to all the crew that their prey was at hand. “All hands on deck,” yelled Captain Blood. Immediately they sent up their colours, the symbol for all pirate ships, the Skull and Crossbones.  The crew took their positions and stood at the ready. As soon as they were in range, the order to fire was given and the battle was underway. Cannon fire lit sails ablaze. There was fire everywhere. The crew tried to squelch the flames but prompt action had them shoving burning parts of the ship overboard into the ocean and the Invincible was saved. All hands knew that it was time to fight or die trying.

Smoke and gunfire filled the air. Blood flooded the decks of both ships but no one left their post. The Invincible took a few shots to her bow but the mighty ship held fast. The battle finally ended when a well placed shot from the pirate ship hit the gunpowder supply that was stored just behind the captain’s quarters of the Avenger. The blast could be heard for miles and miles. Quickly the pirate ship came alongside the warship. Captain Blood ordered his men to board the enemy’s vessel. Swordplay favored the pirates. It was the one-armed first mate Tesfaye who came to the rescue of Captain Blood who was trying to fight off three of the Avenger’s men. Finally the battle ended. It was a victory for the pirate crew. Any sailors aboard the enemy ship who survived were thrown overboard to drown or be eaten by sharks.

Before the Avenger began to sink, Captain Blood ordered his men aboard the enemy boat to search for jewels, gold, silver or valuables to take aboard the Invincible.  As soon as the pirates returned to their ship, the Avenger sank like a stone. There were cheers of victory from the pirates aboard the victorious vessel.

There was a celebration in store for the entire crew. Everyone of the crew received forty "pieces of eight," as well as a good supply of rum, oysters, clams, oranges, pears and roasted lamb as reward for a job well done. After the celebration they sailed to Treasure Island where they would cache all their booty. They used a chute to empty the fortune of gold, silver and jewels onto the island. Only Captain Blood and his First Mate Tesfaye knew where the treasure was buried.

To this day, no one has found where the stolen treasure was buried, but I heard that if you read the right kind of books about this great pirate adventure, you may find clues as to where the treasure might be found.

The Magic Conch

(Book One)

Byron Thorne

The screeches, snarls and scraping claws of the monstrosity behind me were getting closer and closer. I was fleeing from one of the most bloodthirsty creatures that lurked in the dark corners of The Poison Garden. I was being pursued by the wolf-like Kinnaras. I knew immediately what I was in for. This hideous, foul smelling killer of men was now after me. The Kinnaras’s skin began to glow as it closed in for the kill. I could feel its hot breath and slobbering snout begin to open and sensed its sharp fangs and powerful jaws that were about to clamp around my throat. I turned around just as it leapt high in the air toward me. I had only two weapons that might save me, a small vial of acid that I could throw into the eyes of this evil beast and blind it and Demon Dust that would confuse this terrifying monster and allow me time to escape.

I chose the acid since its was liquid and I had it already in my hand. Just as the Kinnaras was about to pounce, I stepped to my left and flung the acid into my pursuer’s deathlike eyes. It let out the most ear piercing shriek of agony that almost deafened me. It blinded the deadly demon but as it landed, it managed to leave a long gash from its sharp teeth on my leg just above my right knee. While I felt some pain, my only thought was to run as fast as I was able and flee from The Poison Garden and continue my quest of rescuing The Magic Conch.

Since the Magic Conch was stored in a vault in The Crypt of Black Magic, my only path to the crypt would lead me through The Labyrinth of Despair. No one had ever found their way into or out of this incredible maze. I had memorized enough of the maze to locate my friends who would join me in the pursuit of the powerful Zemi of the Genies.

Trying very hard to remember the correct paths to take as I got farther into the maze, I was confronted by a few occasional attacks from lesser beasts that I managed to avoid. After many hours of twists and turns in the maze, I was confronted by a horrid Red-striped Viper. The bite from this most deadly snake meant instant death. It struck so close to me that its fangs barely missed its aim. The snake then reared back for another strike and I could feel death as it brushed my elbow. As I jumped away from its deadly pass, I turned to my right and I sped down a dark tunnel with the vicious viper close at my heels. Just as it was about to strike again, a fearsome Galaka swooped out of its den in the walls of the tunnel grabbing the serpent and swallowed it in one gulp. Then the ferocious fiend turned and began moving toward where I was hiding. When it found me, it began wrapping its powerful long tentacles around my body, pulling me toward its large beakish mouth with the intent on having me for its supper. It started to squeeze and shake me as it drew me closer and closer to its menacing gob. “Wake up Buz! It’s time for you to get ready for school”, my mother said as she shook me awake.

While I remember very little of my dreams, I would often awake and find myself feeling as though I was in some mysterious Arabian Nights World. It was a world with wizards, genies, dragons that included adventures that were as exciting as they were dangerous. When I went to sleep the next night, I found myself in the same dream as before but this time my dream began with my being drawn toward the mouth of the Galaka. Dreams are how you travelled back and forth from Genie Land to my world. There was no taking a train or jet plane to this dreamland.

Just as I was about to be devoured by the Galaka, I felt as though I was spinning through space and time. I found myself suddenly transported into a dark passage. It was the same dark passage that would lead me to my friends and where we would resume the dangerous task to rescue The Magic Conch. First, I needed to find my friends. If my memory was correct, I would find them waiting for me in a large cave where the tunnel divided itself into three different passages. I took the tunnel straight down the middle. There was a resounding cheer of excitement as I entered the cave. After a happy exchange of welcome, our next challenge would be finding our way through the maze to The Vault of Doom. From here it would lead us to the Crypt of Black Magic. This secret crypt was hidden deep in the catacombs of the palace of the Wicked Wizard Ackwand. The crypt would be impossible to find without the special map that was obtained a month ago from one of Ackwand’s most trusted servants. His brother had been put to death by the wicked wizard and the servant gave us the map to avenge his brother’s beheading.

The reason that I was chosen by The Master Genie for such an important mission was they needed help from someone from my world to gain possession of the conch. Its recovery would not only save Genie Land but in the wrong hands its powers could be used to control the entire universe. It seems that only a ‘chosen one’, a child of lowly birth and brave heart could enter the Crypt of Black Magic to retrieve the Magic Conch.

I would not be alone in this mission, I would be accompanied by Afsheen, the guardian of the Magic Conch, Oshwiss, a kind of teen-aged dragon, who had three hundred years more of growing before he reached full size, Alleel the warrior and Gasheem, a powerful magician whose magic spells would be needed before the night was over.

It seems that anyone chosen from my world would be protected from of the black magic of evil wizards and sorcerers. This didn’t mean that they would be immune from all evil forces that lay in front of us but only the incantations or curses conjured up by evil wizards like Ackwand. Our small band of heros made our way toward the crypt.

As we worked our way toward the Crypt of Black Magic, our most difficult task would be to avoid being bitten or stung by poisonous man-eating plants or bitten by the numerous vicious vipers and powerful serpents that stood in our path. The plants were the most difficult to avoid. They had tentacles and sharp poisonous endings that just a small touch would cause you to become unconscious or die. There were asps and cobras whose bite resulted in instant death and large serpents that could crush you to death if you were caught in their powerful coils. Both plants and serpents were at our feet, as well as, crawling on the ceilings and walls inside the crypt. We had to get to The Vault of Doom which held the prize that we were sent to retrieve.

Before any of the poisonous plants and snakes could attack us, Gasheem used a spell to freeze the entire tunnel that killed all the poisonous plants and caused the serpents to become sluggish and fall asleep. But the spell would last for only an hour, it was necessary to hurry. As we moved closer to our destination, we would still need to confront the two legged lizard guards that watched over the entrance to where the Magic Conch was concealed. The lizard guards were hideous creatures with crocodile heads, short arms with razor sharp claws and tails with powerful, poison endings at their tips. At first we were at a loss as to how to protect ourselves from these devilish monsters. Alleel didn’t hesitate, I stood in wonder as Alleel took out his scimitar, a long, curved sword whose blade that had just been polished from the wax of the hives from the bees of The Poison Garden. The magic wax made the sword into the sharpest blade a warrior could use to fight off these evil creatures. He rushed at the first lizard guard, ducked at the swipe of the sharp claws and avoided the on coming sweep of the poisonous tail and with a mighty strike of the sword, cut off the crocodile head and left the beast thrashing in a sea of its own blood. No sooner did he dispatched the first guard, when the second attacked from behind. Alleel had been trained for years to be prepared for an attack from all sides. He sidestepped the on rushing lizard guard and stabbed the monstrosity through its evil heart.

All that was required was for me to enter the vault and recover the Magic Conch. I knew no fear, even though there were monstrous forces at work to stop me. There were ugly, misshapen beasts trying to repel me from obtaining the Magic Conch. None of this worked since I was protected from the black magic of these aberrations. All that remained was to obtain the Magic Conch and escape the maze. Our next and most difficult challenge would be to find our way through The Labyrinth of Despair to where there was a small opening in the east wall of the palace. It was the only part of the palace that could lead us to our freedom. Fortunately, the opening would be large enough for Oshwiss to squeeze through even though it was high above the ocean waters below. We must find our path and escape into the tunnel that led to the portal and to the safety of the ship that awaited our return. We would follow the map to get from the vault and our prize. Like all mazes of this design, it contained many false floors that would give way into a chute that emptied in room full of huge, hungry crocodiles.

It wasn’t just the darkness or the wetness that made the running difficult, everyone had to lookout for the Grugon that Ackwand used to guard the maze from intruders. The Grugon is a hideous three-headed monster with jackal-leopard-serpent-like heads and the body of a huge lizard. It had lion front legs and claws and powerful hare-like hind legs. You could not hide from the Grugon because it smelled you no matter where you ran or tried to hide. No one had ever lived to tell of how they escaped this ferocious creature.

Getting to the opening would be difficult, the path we had taken had led us to where a Grugon was guarding our only way out. We needed to think of a plan to lure him away from the opening. Our band of warriors shot arrows and threw rocks and spears in an attempt to draw the Grugon away from the opening. The plan barely worked. Oshwiss had just learned to breathe fire and drove the Grugon back but not away from the entrance. We tried to find another path that might lead us to the escape portal. It was then that we heard the unmistakable growling and screams of another Grugon and he was heading straight for us.

The Grugon knew every passage in the labyrinth and we were following a map in a dark tunnel. We could hear him howling and screaming just behind us. Gasheem used his magic to cause the tunnel behind us to cave-in to stop our attacker. It delayed the monster for a short time but he just clawed away the tunnel rocks and resumed the chase.

The safety and future of all genies was in the powers held in the Magic Conch. Keeping the Zemi safe from Ackwand was of the greatest importance. We must take it from This World of Genies and Evil Wizards. It must be hidden in a place where Ackwand or other evil forces could not find its hiding place. The Magic Conch must be hidden safely from all evil forces until the time came when it would be required to save the Genie Land.

Gasheem used another magic spell that made us all invisible but the Grugon didn’t stop for a second, he charge right at us or the smell of us. Alleel was the first to face this evil beast. He managed to dodge the first thrust of the beast’s clawing swipe. His sword cut deeply into the neck of the beast. It let out a savage scream, turned and continued his attack on the brave Alleel. Alleel was unafraid but no match for the giant Grugon. As Alleel lunged toward the creature, he stuck a blow to the side of the head that was a serpent but was caught off guard by the swishing tail and was hurled into the side of the tunnel across from where we were standing. As he lay there stunned, Ali, one of my closest friends asked that Hafamanadad, The Genie of Good to make him into a Gothomon Ape, a huge gorilla-like creature, to battle the Grugon. Even a colossus of this size failed. His brave act went for not. The Grugon was too strong, even for the Gothomon and Ali met death in a most horrific way. It was then that I saw the Grugon sniffing his way toward me. As it was just about to pounce, Afsheen used his magic powers to conjure up a huge wall of fire that held back our pursuer. Now all we needed to do was outsmart the other Grugon that was now in front of the portal that would lead us to our freedom.

We needed to distract the Grugon and trick him to move away from our only way out of the maze. Alleel had regained consciousness and worked his way to the other side of the tunnel. He bravely yelled insults toward the Grugon and was met with a screeching yell that was followed by a giant leap in the air that almost caught Alleel. Alleel knew immediately what to do next. He edged his way along the side of a false floor, still yelling taunts and insults at the giant beast. Just as the Grugon leapt at Alleel, he jumped clear across the false floor to our side of the tunnel floor with the Grugon right on his heels. The trick worked. The Grugon landed on the false floor just behind him and went plummeting toward the open jaws of some very large, hungry crocodiles.

It was a long way to jump to our freedom from the portal into the cold ocean waters but everyone managed to land safely to where the Kismet was waiting to take our precious cargo to the safety of my world. Afsheen decided that we better not used magic to travel to my world, since The Black Magic Wizard might be able to find out the whereabouts of the Magic Conch through his wicked powers. This is why we travelled by sea.

For many months we sailed from the Arabian Sea down to the southern tip of Africa, around the treacherous waters of the Cape of Good Hope, across the South Atlantic Ocean to the most southern tip of South America and around the even more vicious weather and currents of the waters of Cape Horn and then headed north along the Pacific Ocean to our destination. Of course none of these oceans and capes were ever sailed on before my crewmates and I discovered them. I have to admit that some of the passages were known to me from some of the geography lessons that I remembered from school. Mr. Henderson would be proud to know that I was actually listening to his lessons. I might have been the world’s first global navigator.

The seas were especially cruel on the voyage to where the Magic Conch was to be hidden. We were faced with fierce winds and huge waves that nearly capsized the Kismet. I myself was swept overboard by a giant wave and began to sink below the surface because of the heavy clothes that I was wearing that caused was dragging me under. As I was about to disappear into the darkness of the sea, I could just make out the form of my dragon friend as he dove beneath the waves and plucked me out of the waters and dropped me safely aboard the deck of our ship.

After many months of this ocean voyage, the Kismet rounded a point of land by the ocean where a large river was flowing from a thick forest of trees. Our leader ordered us to hide the Magic Conch and he would stay with the conch until it was safe for it to be returned to Genie Land. When the time came for the conch to be returned to Genie Land, Afsheen would know who it would be for him to be summoned and free him from this secret hiding place.

It seemed strange that the top of the mountain forest trees resembled the form that could only be described as the shape of the head of a demon. The crew came ashore and trekked deep into the thickest part of the forest and buried the conch shell deep beneath in the bank of what would some day be called Devil’s Ridge River located in Ghost Hollow. The crew returned to the Kismet and sailed to the safety of their own land. I did not return with my friends back to Genie Land, nor did I remember even one of the exciting adventures that happened over ten thousand years ago.

Chapter Two

I hated going to school, not because of school but because of Billy the Bully. It didn’t seem to matter that whatever path I took to get to school, Billy was always there waiting to hassle me or take my lunch money. Everyone was afraid of him. He was big, fat and really strong and to make things even worse, he seemed to enjoy making people afraid of him. I heard that his dad used to beat him. His dad was a large, ugly man who had lost his left ear in a drunken fight. Maybe that’s why he took out his anger on his son. I kind of felt sorry for Billy.

At school, I was kind of cool. I had a few friends who laughed at my stories and liked the songs that I sang. I was just starting to become interested in sports. I could always run fast, jump as high as anyone at school but swimming was what I did best. I found out that I had a strong throwing arm when I played catch with my friend Johnny. He took me to my first professional baseball game.

The one thing that I was a little ashamed about was the clothes that I had to wear to school. Although I didn’t realize it, we were poor. While the other kids had cell phones, the latest running shoe style and new jeans with their knees worn on purpose, mine were jeans that had their knees out because I wore them out. I got one pair of shoes each year and they had to be sneakers because my mother couldn’t afford runners for my gym classes and sports. Having enough food for us was difficult for my mother. She needed two jobs just to pay for food and rent. There was no cable TV or computers in our apartment. We couldn’t even afford a landline phone.

School was a place where it was difficult for me to learn things, especially reading and arithmetic. Some of the kids thought that I wasn’t very smart and even made fun of me. My problems were that words that I saw in front of me didn’t always look the same each time I looked at them. Sometimes, words danced up and down so that I couldn’t recognize them. Some words even appeared upside down, backwards or both upside down and backwards. Remembering words was really hard for me. As for arithmetic, forget it, I just couldn’t remember all those number facts but did I managed to learn my doubles for addition and multiplication. I didn’t like reading and arithmetic classes because it was hard to understand what the teachers were teaching to the rest of the class. I was always better in social studies, history and science because I didn’t need to read to find out answers. I found out that I could learn by listening and remembering what the teachers were saying. I certainly couldn’t understand what they were writing on the blackboard or what was on my IPad. All that I needed to do was remember what the teachers had explained to us. It wasn’t that easy during test time.

During our last science class, we learned how to construct a homemade telescope from pieces of glass and cardboard. The hardest part was grinding down the glass to make lenses but with hard work and patience we got them to work and some of us had our own telescopes. Next week we’re going to learn how to made a compass.

It was at recess and lunchtime that I had my biggest problems and they usually came in a big, fat bundle of trouble called Billy. Billy tried sports but he sucked at them. I think that that was one of the reasons that made me Billy’s enemy. Here I was, a little guy like me who wore glasses and even took the glasses to bed at night in case I needed them to see better in the dark but I could still outrun, outjump the only guy at school who liked to make my life miserable.

Everything changed that first day of spring. My best buddy, Johnny Northfield and I were walking along the shore of Indian Spirit Point where the ocean meets Devil Ridge River close to the mountain forest where the ridge gets its name. Johnny was my best friend. I like him because he didn’t care that I couldn’t read or write. He did like the fact that I could throw a baseball higher than the top of the school when we played catch.

We usually came to the river to fish or swim but that day and for some strange reason we seemed to to drawn toward a bend in the shoreline where the trees in the forest became so thick you would think we were in a jungle. People used to tell stories about children who went into this part of the forest and were never seen again. But those were just stories, they couldn’t be true or could they? We weren’t about to find out. We thought it best to turn around before anything bad could happen. Then came an eerie sound like someone or something screaming to get out of trouble. The sound came from deep in the forest. Johnny and I were a little scared but our curiosity got the better of us and we made our way into Ghost Glen, the deepest part of Devil’s Ridge, the part of the forest that our parents told us to never enter.

The eerie sounds continued as we trekked deeper into the forest. All of a sudden we knew what those sounds were. It was a doe who was trapped under a tree branch. The doe was the mother of five babies bunnies who depended on her for their food. A doe does her best to feed and protect her young but she couldn’t escape from under the tree branch. There were three other does nearby but they fled into their warrens as we approached. I managed to free the mother rabbit from the tree branch and she scampered down the closest hole to her warren.

We were pleased that we helped the doe get safely home to her family. We thought it best not to tell our parents about going into Ghost Glen but before we took one step to return to the path to lead us back to the way we came, we both saw the ground begin to move. It was coming from the same hole the doe dove into. Something was being pushed up toward us. The ground kind of rumbled and shook and tiny pieces of rock and dirt were being pushed up from the rabbit hole toward where we were standing. After a minute or so the shaking stopped and just beneath the entrance of the rabbit hole was what looked like a sea shell. It was a small conch shell, the kind you hold up to your ear to listen to the ocean. What I’m about to tell you will be hard to believe but guess what happened next?

I bent over and picked up the shell and began to brush the dirt and small rocks from the back part of the shell. Then, just like you hear in fairy tales when you rub a magic lamp, huge genie the size of a giant bear appeared. Johnny didn’t wait to find out what was about to happen. He turned and fled all the way home and never once looked back to see if anything was chasing him. I don’t know why I didn’t follow because I was just as frightened but I’m glad that I stayed. It helped that the genie shrunk to the size of a boy my size. He spoke in a gentle tone that made me feel unafraid. He told me me that my act of kindness in freeing the mother rabbit freed him from where the conch shell had been hidden. It seems something important was happening back in Genie Land and a Chosen One was needed to free him from where had been hidden over ten thousand years ago. No one had been near this hiding place for thousands of years.

The genie told me that I would be rewarded for giving him his freedom. I didn’t know what he meant by rewarding me. There were no three wishes or anything. Then, all of a sudden, he just vanished and disappeared into thin air without another word. I was stunned to say the least. What just happened? Who would believe me? Since Johnny ran away, I was the only one to speak to the genie.There was nothing for me to do but just go home and pretend the whole thing was a dream or my imagination playing tricks on me, except I still had the magic conch clutched firmly under my arm.

The next morning I got ready for my usual journey to school and tried to avoid meeting Billy. No such luck! Just as always, there he was blocking my path but for some unexplained reason, for the first time ever, I wasn’t afraid of Billy the Bully.

What happened next is hard to explain. Billy came running at me like a charging bull. I never moved from the spot as Billy sped toward me. Everything seemed as if it were in slow motion, I just shifted slightly to my right and Billy went crashing to the ground. He got up really mad now. With clenched fists, he charged again but with intent on laying some serious pain to my head and shoulders. He swung at me with a roundhouse right cross which I easily ducked causing Billy to lose his balance and go tumbling into a garden of rosebushes, thorns and all. He was all scratched and bleeding as he tried to get up but by now my path was clear and I easily ran to the safety of the school playground. It never occurred to me how I was able to move out of the way so fast but I was safe for now.

I didn’t see Billy for the rest of the day, he was probably at home picking out the thorns from his trip into the rose garden. After school, I grabbed my baseball glove and headed for the ball diamond to try out for the school baseball team. I had never tried out for any kind of team before. The only way to make the team was to be able to hit a batted ball that reached the side of the school gym on the fly. I had never come close to hitting a baseball that far. Only Mr. Mr. Henderson and maybe a few Grade 8’s could reach the gym on the fly.

The next morning it poured all the way to school. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my mother about what happened at Ghost Glen. When I saw Johnny, he just pretended that he didn’t remember what appeared from the conch shell and that was OK with me. What was really on my mind was the number facts quiz scheduled for the first period after recess that morning. I just hoped that they would give me an easy question like 5 plus 5 or 5 times 5, I always remembered my doubles.

Wouldn’t you know it. They picked teams for the quiz and you know who the last person was to be picked on our team? Sonia was our team captain. She never had anything but A’s on her report card since Grade One. She never liked me and I think that’s why she tried to put me on the spot when the hardest questioned was given to our team to answer. The quiz question was 8 X 9 + 8. I didn’t know why but I saw the question like I was reading it from a piece of paper. I just saw the question kind of written in the air in front of me. I saw 8 x 8 and because I learned my doubles, I remembered 8 X 8 was 64 and it was simply adding one more 8 more plus another eight for the correct answer. Our team sat in silence, I had the correct answer, 80. My answer started our team on a winning streak and every time a hard question came up, Sonia gave it to me to answer. My success in the arithmetic quiz made me feel even better than hitting the baseball over the school gym onto Hornby Street and making the team yesterday.

After school that day, I stopped at the public library on the way home. I looked for books that had magic and genies as part of the story. I settled on The Thief of Baghdad. I never realized that reading could be so much fun. This book was one of the stories from One Thousand and One Nights but the genie in this story wasn’t as kind and friendly like the genie I met just two days ago.

Chapter Three

Ever since the day that I discovered the conch shell or was it the day the conch shell discovered me, many strange things began happening. Little did I know that today was going to be the day that would change my life. Up until then my life wasn’t very exciting, in fact it was a little boring. From now on things were going to change. Boy, did they ever change!

I still hadn’t figured out why I was now able to make sense of what I was reading or why I could figure out math questions. It never occurred to me that when I needed to be fast or strong, I could run faster and lift things that would have been impossible to lift before. These kind of things and the fact that I wasn’t afraid of Billy or anyone was the genie’s doing. He was looking after me, kind of a Cinderella Godmother thing. When I needed courage, I became courageous. When I needed to understand things in class, I was suddenly the smartest kid in the class. Oh, yeah, to get back to about how things change.

Lately, I noticed that the conch shell would vibrate or send sounds from inside the shell that only I could hear. Today, I heard my genie’s voice and he was speaking to me from his genie world. It seems that Ackwand the Wizard was creating chaos back in Genie Land and only someone who was brave of spirit and kind of heart could save the genie and all his fellow genies from this evil wizard. The someone that they chose to save their world was me.

When the genie told me how important it was for me to help save Genie Land, I said yes and then another adventure began. He told me that no one would know I was missing because time kind of stood still when you were transported back to the time of the Arabian Nights. The genie told me that I would go to bed at night and the next morning I would wake up as if I had never been away, even though I may have spent spent months or even years in Genie Land. I told him that I would help him and the next thing I knew, I was standing beside a large pond in the middle of a magnificent oasis.

I noticed that I wasn’t in my pajamas. I was now dressed in the same clothes as the rest of the people at the oasis. I was wearing a blue silk shirt with pearl buttons from top to bottom. My pants were tight around the waist and kind of ballooned to the knee, then tapered toward my ankles. It was my shoes that were really cool. They fit me perfectly, kind of like slippers but you could really run or climb in them. They were better than any sneakers that I ever owned. I would soon discover just how important my new runners would be in getting me out of danger. By the way, I found my glasses in the pocket of my bright yellow harem trousers.

The oasis that I was at was beautiful. It was surrounded by a desert as large as our oceans back home and mountains just as high as the mountains in my town. I walk into the largest tent that I’d ever seen. It was the tent of the leader of the land of the genies. There were the most beautiful curtains and decorations that I had ever see. The walls and floors were decorated with the most wonderful carpets. There were colorful silk cushions everywhere. There were all kinds of oil fueled lamps, colorful flowers, birds in cages, painted vases taller than myself and beautifully carved tables and stools throughout the tent. There were special places for everyone at the oasis to sit and have their meals. The food was different than any food that I had ever tried. There was Fattoush, a wonderful salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, lemon juice, olive oil and the spicy sumac. The fried Kebbe was really tasty. It was tender lamb with stuffed pine nuts and baked in honey. My favorite dish was Batata Harra which was diced potato baked with coriander spice, chili, garlic and olive oil. If I had any room left to eat dessert, I loved the pastries cooked with almonds, pistachios, pine nuts and an assortment of fresh fruit.

I was amazed to find so many kinds of animals, birds and reptiles at the oasis. There were the usual camels but there were also magnificent horses that only the strongest riders could handle. There were dogs and cats but not like we have back home. There were bat eared red foxes, antelope jackrabbits, golden sand hares and honey badgers. Because this was a watering hole for so many animals, you would see jackals, wolves, striped hyenas and sand cats who would hunt at night for hedgehogs, the white oryx and gazelle. What was more surprising was how many different kinds of birds were at my oasis. Besides the occasional eagle, there were sparrows, ducks, geese and swans. And anywhere you find death you would find the lesser buzzards and vultures looking for prey. My favorite bird was the the saker falcon. It would be this very falcon that one day would save me from danger. But of all the animals in the Arabian Desert that I liked best was Squeaky, the mongoose. Squeaky and I became friends. He was more than just a pet. This is one friend that I would soon need to save my life. But that’s another story.

It was at this oasis that I first met Afsheen in person. He asked, “And what do they call you back in your land?” I told him that I was known by my friends and some teachers as Buz. He liked my name but thought it sounded better as Buzeer. He explained why he needed my help. He needed someone from my world because most of the terrible spells that evil wizards used did not work on people from my time or world. He asked me to help recover the Ring of Goodness. It was in the possession of Ackwand who had stolen the ring and all he needed to control the universe was the Magic Conch. I told Afsheen that I would do my best to help recover the magic ring. Little did I know what dangers lay ahead of me.

Ackwand was in his palace in Damascus and we were several days journey through the desert by camel. It was then that Afsheen suggested that I learn to fly on the back of Oshwiss. He then introduced me to his dragon friend, Oshwiss. Oshwiss was a handsome dragon with a dark green skin and striped with red and yellow markings that are found on only the most special dragons in the land. It is told that Oshwiss was on the journey to bury the magic conch in Ghost Glen over ten thousand years ago.

Oshwiss could speak every language in Genie Land and all the languages from my world. I would later find out that Oshwiss could share thoughts with almost all creatures which would helped me in my pursuit of The Ring of Goodness. He was a handsome dragon, bigger than our largest whales and had wings that spread out the length of the wings of most jet planes. Oshwiss could sing the most beautiful music that I ever heard. I later found out that when we sleep, the music that comforts us are the songs that Oshwiss sings so we can dream the dreams we dream. We became fast friends.
 
Chapter Four

Meanwhile back in Damascus, a secret meeting was being held to locate and re-capture The Magic Conch. ”We must find the Magic Conch Shell”, barked Ackwand from his wizard throne. “Arbad, it will be up to you to command all search parties. We will send out many spies and messengers to locate the Magic Conch”. They were then told to search the entire land, even the deserts. “We have The Ring of Goodness and as soon as we capture the Magic Conch, Genie Land will cease to exist and I will be the most powerful wizard in all the universe”. He then brought Arbad and his council of sorcerers, thieves, pirates and soldiers together and ordered them to find the whereabouts of the precious Magic Conch.

This was a challenge for Arbad, if he should fail to located the conch, he could be beheaded. He had only failed Ackwand the one time and he had lost his left ear and had a large scar just below his left eye that ran almost to his throat. This was Arbad’s punishment to show what happens when you fail to please the Powerful One.

Just as Ackwand was giving his orders, Hasheem was leaving home and on the way to Genie School, Hasheem looked to make sure that Abad wasn’t in sight. Abad was the fat, mean kid at Genie School who made Hasheem’s life miserable. Abad’s father was the wizards chief soldier and his son seemed to follow in his father’s footsteps. Abad never liked Hasheem mostly because he was from a poor family and the fact Hasheem was liked by most of the students at Genie School.

Hasheem was smart and was quickly learning the art of magic spells and the skill that was required to learn to fly on a magic carpet. It was Abad who kept interrupting lessons and getting sent out of the tent during classes. I really think he did that to hide the fact that he hadn’t studied his homework for the day’s lesson and that he was afraid of heights, especially flying on magic carpets. Today’s lesson was to learn the spell of “The Silly Dance” that once cast it would cause your attacker to start doing a silly dance and allow you to escape.

Back at the Oasis, there was still no plan to obtain The Ring of Goodness from Ackwand’s secret vault. While plans were being discussed, Afsheen thought it would be a good time for me and Oshwiss to begin our first flying lesson. Afsheen had a special saddle made for me to safely ride on Oshwiss’s back and fly among the clouds and over the mountain tops.

Chapter Five


There was always dust and sand being fanned into the air as Oshwiss began his take-off. Those huge, powerful wings fanned the earth that most people on the ground failed to witness our soaring into the sky above. As I mentioned before, Oshwiss had the ability to read the thoughts of all creatures, so I wasn’t surprised that when I thought soaring up and to the left, he flew to exactly to where I was thinking we should fly.

It was during one of our practice flights which required us to suddenly dive to the deck of the desert, turn to the right and then rocket upward above the highest mountains in order to search for any strangers who may be a danger to those at the oasis that I spotted a caravan coming toward us. I was able to see a caravan of soldiers with their many camels through a telescope that I made a couple of days ago. Everyone at the oasis was surprised that I could make such an amazing device. They all wanted to try it. No one had ever been able to see such great distances. I had to explain to them that my telescope was not magic but science, science that I had learned in Mr. Henderson’s science classes. I was glad that I had my reading glasses at the oasis because when I was transported to Genie Land, my glasses were transported with me. I used the lenses of my glasses to construct a homemade spy glass. Glass will not be invented for nearly five thousand years, so my glasses came in pretty handy. Because I didn’t have glasses to wear any longer, Afsheen conjured up some magic that gave me 20/20 vision for both of my eyes. This is why I was able to clearly see the large man with a missing left ear and a large scar running down the left side of his face. It was Abad and he was leading the caravan toward our oasis. It was fortunate that my dragon friend had such acute hearing because he was able to listen in on the conversation of the leader of this dangerous group of men. He heard them speak as to the whereabouts and capture of the Magic Conch. It alarmed Afsheen when I described the stranger that I saw and what I heard from the men approaching our oasis. Fortunately they were several days away from reaching our hiding spot and we had plenty of time to travel to a safer hiding place in Baghdad. I would be there where we would make plans on how to recover The Ring of Goodness inside Akwand’s palace.

At the oasis, I got into the habit of taking my new friend Squeaky wherever I went. Squeaky was the mongoose who I met that first day that I was transported to the oasis. While Squeaky couldn’t speak, his squeaky chatter and jumping often explained what he needed or if danger was present. Every once in awhile he begged to come with Oshwiss and myself when we went on our flying missions. He was like a dog sticking his head out of a car window and enjoying the wind in his face.

The other day, after a hot afternoon in the sun, Oshwiss, Squeaky and I set down on a small oasis not too far from our home base. Oshwiss and Squeaky moved into the shade to tell exaggerated stories of past adventures while I went for a swim in the cool waters of the lagoon near where my friends were chatting. I managed to collect materials from date palms, flax grasses and papyrus stalks and by twisting and braiding them I constructed a rope. I made sure the rope would be strong enough to tie to the highest part of a palm tree so I could swing from the next closest palm tree, let go and fly into the air splashing down into the middle of the pond. I found the perfect coconut palm close to pond that was higher than my three story school building back home. The date palms were tall enough but there were too many insects and birds feeding from them so I chose a coconut palm that was tall enough. I found climbing this palm tree to be a lot of work. I had to be careful because it was quite a drop if I were to slip my grip and fall. I got better and better each time I climbed but it was a lot of work but it was worth the effort. I started swinging from my rope with feet-first landings into the water, then I tried somersaults and back flips. When I had my fill of swinging out into the water, I decided to go back and relax on a mat that I made from papyrus leaves.

While I was enjoying my Tarzan activities, something was slowly moving under the leaves and through the tall grasses and making its way toward the water. No one noticed the black, sleek skin of one of the deserts most deadly, poisonous snakes, the Black Desert Cobra. I guess I don’t have to tell you where this black creature of death decided to crawl under. Yes, right under the mat that I was heading for. I never thought to look for any snakes. I had just began to lie down when the cobra darted out from underneath the mat and turn to face me. I was lying down on my stomach staring into the eyes and open jaws of the cobra. I was frozen with fear and couldn’t move. Just as the cobra was about to strike, Squeaky charged from out of the jungle, squeaking out his deadly challenge. The cobra forgot me and focused his attention toward a cobra’s most feared enemy. I hadn’t realized how quickly a mongoose could move. A mongoose has lightning reflexes and can swiftly move out of the way of any cobra’s strike.

First, Squeaky gained the cobra’s full attention and lured the snake away from me and toward a wall of large rocks that would limit the cobra’s ability to coil and strike with its venomous fangs. The battle was on. The cobra rose up into its familiar cobra pose but this didn’t bother Squeaky a bit. Squeaky just managed to stay out of the range of the cobra’s striking range. He kept the cobra busy striking and missing. The cobra continued this defensive attack for several minutes and missed its mark every time. Each time the cobra went through his attack, he used up valuable energy to continue what was going to be a losing battle for him. As the black messenger of death struck for the final time, Squeaky jumped high into the air and came down onto the back part of the cobra’s head and with his razor sharp teeth, bit deeply into the serpent’s brain that rendered the cobra’s ability to move. All that was left was to deliver one final bite and then drag the snake into the shade to devour what was probably Squeaky’s favorite meal.

By the time we arrived back at our home base oasis, Afsheen had decided that we must leave and move on to Baghdad in order to plan how to take back the Ring of Goodness that was stored deep in the catacombs of Akwand’s palace.

The plan would be a difficult one since the ring was secured in a well guarded vault beneath the palace walls. The palace itself was surrounded by a moat filled with enormously huge, man-eating, alligator-like creatures and squid-like monsters that could swim faster than any person could swim and ate anything that was in or on the moat. Getting past the moat would be the easy part. We would need more than magic and luck, if we were to succeed in obtaining the Ring of Goodness—but that’s another story.

THE END....

Stay tuned for the further adventures of Buz and The Magic Conch in Book Two, "The Ring of Goodness"