Category Archives: Teacher Forum

So tired of ‘motherhood’ statements … We’ve heard it all before – adnausium.

images“Neither whole language nor phonics alone are the panacea.However, a combination of both along with listening and speaking language makes for a well balanced learner.” – This sit-on-the fence motherhood statement needs some serious qualification.

The reality is that Phonics and Whole language are competitive in infant grades. Whole language with it’s quick guessing, picture driven approach wins with many children because they are young and impulsive and attracted to anything colourful & above all quick.

Phonics is a lot of fun too. It’s not even that it’s difficult to teach – it’s not. The difficulty that comes in a ‘balanced’ classroom is from the competitive whole language directives. The children are receiving conflicting and confusing messages.

There needs to be a PHONICS FIRST approach because there is a natural hierarchy of skills. This is being ignored by teacher trainers with an ideology that totally messes everything up and has done for over 2 decades. It has to stop. Until it does we will continue to see high functional illiteracy no matter how much money is thrown at this unnecessary and highly critical problem.

Bill Gates, in supporting Common Core, is not only wasting his money, he is paying to consolidate the heart of the problem.

Whole language is developmentally and cognitively inappropriate in INFANT grades. Once phonics has set the foundation skills in place whole language strategies start to come into their own.

The interesting outcome is that the WL strategies end up playing a different and more powerful role. They are not for aiding ‘word identification’ (read on & see if you can ‘guess’) – they are more about the ‘meaning making’ that WL proponents go on about.

Using phonic skills the unfamiliar word can be ‘articulated’ but the meaning may not be clear – context is used to suggest the ‘meaning’ (vocab). The other advantage is that, with accurate word identification skills in place context assists ‘fluency’ and the more you read the greater the fluency and comprehension becomes.

In contrast, a context DEPENDENT inaccurate whole word guesser gains little in the way of either vocab or fluency. WL became it’s own worst enemy when incompetent proponents like the Goodmans (US), Frank Smiths (UK) and Cambournes (Australia) pushed it into infant grades.

Whole Language die-hards need to get off their arrogant high horses and ackowlege that phonics taught first in infant grades actually supports WL strategies at a later stage.

You have to acknowledge the hierarchy and stop abusing it.


Shock Horrors ! There be Hidden Ghosts !

ghost of Whole language past


I accidentally shone a light on

The Ghost of Whole Language Past ……

and was stunned.


I have a brother and sister attending tuition. The brother is the younger of the two and also the most impulsive so I put him on a programme called SCORE. The incentive is to ‘beat the dragon’ by reading all of the words on the page accurately. Misread one of the words and you are locked in to the ‘practise’, which is around 6 or 7 pages before reaching the next ‘Dragon’ page.

The incentive is to focus & maintain attention (the antithesis of ‘guessing’). The reminder is “Remember, read what you actually ‘see’ – not what you ‘think’ you see.

Every student begins on book 1 – page 1. Here it is …

ran       pan      man      tan

tan       man     pan       pan

man     fan       ran        tan

pan      tan       man      ran

ran       fan       tan        fan

The brother has completed book 1 (6 Dragon pages with the need to stop & pactice only once. He is as competitive as he is impulsive, which is a blessing). His ability to focus & maintain attention is improving .

Now, having seen her brother earn ‘Dragon Stamps’, the sister pleaded to do SCORE like her brother. She is currently using left to right processing competently & is accurately reading words such as – sinkers, slivers, whisper, clever, duller, plover, undone, nothing, covering, plovers, blistered, shovels, walkers, quickest, smothers, discovered. (these lists come for Phonics Unlimited / Level 2)

It’s a big web site – this link will get you directly to the file if you are interested.

Two things happened:

1. As you might note, the sister is just starting in on Unit 7. It was evident she was struggling with the concepts involved in the use of the final ‘e’ mad/made etc. So I had already stopped and used the Ease into Reading Kit name/sound confusion cards (Free download at this link

Name Sound Confusions is the first PDF on row 2. A ‘click’ will automatically start the download.)

2. She wanted to begin doing SCORE & get ‘Dragon Stamps’ like her brother. So I gave her Book 1 page 1 (all students begin there & skip through the ‘Dragon’ pages till reaching a sound pattern that needs attention, at which time they stop & practice).

What happened next blew me away – for the first row above instead of reading  ran     pan      man      tan   – she read    rain    pen    man    pan !!! 3 tries later she had not managed the first line.

The learned ‘guessing’ confusion from infant grades is still debilitating her! So many cvc words are visually similar and here she was still taking a stab at them!

No wonder she began to struggle when we met the ‘final ‘e’ concept. (Unlike other letters, vowels can say both their name and their sound in words).


Now we need to go right back to the start and begin mopping up that early ‘muddy puddle’ made by Whole Language methods applied inappropriately to infant grades.


Guess who will be screening her students on that first page of SCORE? How many more are suffering from an early ‘muddy puddle’ of confusion? I should have known better. Our research indicates that, while 2 syllabic words become manageable, simpler 3 syllabic regular words take a hit (think about how similar they are – complement/component).

So there you are. You can’t assume that because students can read complex 2 syllabic words that they will be able to read the simpler (though longer) 3 syllabic words, with cvc components.

Now we need Dragons to purge the Ghosts of Whole Language Past …

baby dragonL-B-J-image-l-b-j-36430574-1008-792<- Ummm perhaps a bit

too small for the task just yet.

That one ->

might be up to be up to the job.


Makes you wonder just what other debilitating  consequences might be lurking as yet unseen…


Changes are afoot ……

curiosity_catThis blog is about to undergo a massive remake. The reason for this is that it will soon be attached to our new web site. We are excited to report that our family of beta testers will begin using the new on-line assessment system this coming week. They will be reporting back to us, alerting us to any difficulties they encounter. This process will take some months, so we expect to launch the system in the first half of 2015. It has been a long time coming, but then all quality programs are.

Please, as the last act you take regarding this blog, watch the youtube link that Bob Rose kindly shared in the Guess Posts section .. thank you Bob

A big thank you to all of you and we hope you will stay with us through these changes. You will still be able to use our current URL – or reach us via our web page when that is set up. I will post a link when that happens.