Volume 4 #3 March
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
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
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’!
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,