Volume 4 • #3 • March 2005


Sometimes when I am sitting in a blue funk (or a panic) trying to think up a subject for the next newsletter, someone will write me an e-mail with a question in it that is just what I was looking for . This happened to me recently when a tutor asked about a third-grader who has become a good reader and speller. The tutor had been teaching the child some grammar, but wasn’t using Workbook 2 because it might be too advanced. The question was when to start using the second workbook and how far the tutor should go. Implicit in the question was that you do Workbook 1 first and Workbook 2 second.

Well that is my mistake in naming the books numbers one and two, because that implies that you do number one first and number two second. Maybe Shakespeare could claim that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but in other contexts, names can make or break you! The two workbooks should have been named something like Phonics Workbook and Grammar Workbook . No numbers.

I foolishly thought I had it covered in Chapters 8 where it says to start grammar lessons right after you do page 11 in RfS Phonics. The need for explicit and detailed syntax and grammar instruction for the dyslectic student is acute. A substandard reader of any age must acquire an awareness of the construction of his language-- a conscience awareness, that is. Without that, he merely talks the way he has heard speech all his life and when he has to read something more complex he is up a creek without a paddle, as we used to say in Junior High.

The instructions in the Tutor’’s Guide do say that you must start grammar early in the program, beginning with the difference between nouns and verbs right after page 11 in RfS Phonics. If you are teaching about verbs, you must include tenses, of course. Now there are lots of exercises in all this in Workbook 2 ( er, Grammar Workbook ) which save the teacher from having to make up all that stuff herself. Of course the child can’t yet read the workbook, so this is all done orally. But by the time he can read and write well enough for the later exercises in prepositional phrases, adverbs, and sentence construction, he writes in the workbook. Toward the end of the book, he must invent his own sentences, so of course he has to write. Your third grader will probably not get that far, but the tutor goes as far as the student can manage, with oral instruction as necessary.

Unfortunately, many schools in this country teach such a filmy version of grammar that it doesn’t have enough heft to penetrate a student’s brain. Spelling is worse. I am always part amused, partly shocked, at the number of tutors who are pathetically glad that the spelling rules are written out in the back of the web site and the back of Tutor’s Guide. They never heard them before!

American education needs some fixin’!

Teaching Tip:

If you are using the disk instead of the phonics book, it helps some students to enlarge the print. I go up to about 125% on my computer, but computers vary. I have no idea why the kids want these exercises enlarged when they are used to reading at normal sizes of print elsewhere, but- hey, whatever helps.



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