You wrote: I am currently using Reading Reflex by Carmen and Geoffrey McGuinness. Mrs. Sanseri quotes him in her speech
to...is it Congress? I believe they agree much on the subject of bad phonics & other such topics.
My response: I am not familiar with Reading Reflex. The McGuinness that I quote is Dr. Diane McGuinness not Geoffrey McGuinness.
You wrote: Personally, I don't see the difference between
their "Phono-Graphix" and "Phonograms". The difference I do see is in the method of presentation.
In the beginning only, "sound pictures" are presented in the context of 3-letter, short vowel words. The rational
being that letters (sound pictures, phonograms) only exist to represent sounds in words and have no meaning or purpose in
and of themselves. Example: a picture of a cat is presented along with 3 letter tiles: C-A-T, the teacher points to each tile
and sounds out the phonogram.
My response: There is a big difference between our approaches as you describe them. You were concerned that you child
did not remember the phonograms from one day to the next and so you found RR as an aid.
First, I don't understand how you could have taught the phonograms just with the The Phonogram Fun Packet. That is a game
designed for someone to use to reinforce our phonograms, not a substitute for our cards and CD.
Secondly, the normal process of learning a code like the
phonograms takes time. The child will learn and forget and learn and forget and eventually know it as if by second nature.
There are ways to short change the process but none that I know that will not later backfire.
I found the comment interesting that "Letters only exist to represent sounds in words and have no meaning or purpose
in of of themselves."
I disagree. The letters have the vital function of symbolizing the sounds that we use in writing. I agree that the process
comes alive when we see how the symbols can be combined in various ways to make actual words. The key is when and how to do
My goal is not speed at initial mastery but rather long- term automaticity and adaptability with the code. The approach
you describe will give quick result but not long-term speed or adaptability.
English is not like Spanish where each letter represents one sound.English has over five times the size of the Spanish
English words have many "code overlaps." Example: EA can sound like /E/ (seat), /e/ (stead), /A/ (steak). If
you add R is can sound like /er/ (search). If you add U it can sound like /O/ (bureau). English also had numerous "spelling
alternatives." Many sounds can be spelled a number of different ways. Example: /A/ can be spelled a (ate), ay (pay),
ai (paid), eigh (eight), ei (rein), ey (they), ea (bear).
The above illustration with C-A-T sets up the child for false expectations of how the language works. The C doesn't just
say one sound, the /k/ as in "cat." It also can say /s/ as in "cent" or "city" or "cycle."
Our students are prepared for both sounds because they have learned from the beginning that the C can say /k/ or /s/ with
/k/ the most common sound. The A does not just say /a/ as in "cat."
I can say /A/ as in "cater" and /ah/ as in "wasp." Our students are prepared for all three sounds
because they have learned from the beginning that A can say /a-A-ah/. We purposely do not clutter the code with a quide word
or picture because experience has shown that these kinds of prompts slow down the student response from the symbol to the
sound. You want to input a concept the same way that you want it to be retrieved. Every added step will ultimately slow down
the retrieval process.
You wrote: Thus the child makes the connection between the sound & the sound picture. Letter sounds are introduced
this way, all along teaching spelling to write and read!
My response: In our program the sound picture we create is not one to a drawing of a common object like an animal. We
connect the sound(s) of the phonogram to the letter symbol that represents the sound(s) not a sketch of a word that cannot
fully represent that phonogram. Is the mental picture of a cat going to help a child remember to spell
"race" as in "running a race"? The A does not say /a/ here and the C does not say /k/! Will it help
the child spell "water" or "bacon"?
The A does not say /a/ here as in "cat." Ultimately such cute exercises will become a roadblock in application.
We aim at long term and enduring success not just quick "seeming" success that will not hold up over time.
You wrote: Previous to this and continuing for some time to come, there is practice "segmenting"-sounding out
their individual sounds. This builds phonemic-awareness needed to build reading on.
My response: That is the ideal beginning activity. This is the number one skill needed to master English spelling.
You wrote: My inquiry has arisen from what RR is NOT. Learning the construct of our language has been so pleasant with
RR and I would like to continue in the study of it through spelling lessons.
I am afraid memorizing large groups of phonograms simultaneously (is that perception even correct?) will
overwhelm her and cause a wall to go up. She is brilliant and intense, with a very low frustration level.
My response: We do introduce the code (the basic phonograms) quickly but do not expect instant mastery. When done correctly
our approach is a pleasure. It does not need to be done intensely. Commonly teachers assume that this will be too difficult
for a child. Many of us fear that child will free up with this information because we don't
know the code yet and it feels difficult to us. We are older and we imagine that if it is hard for us than how can we
expect them to get it? However, small children are at the prime time in their life to learn this. Women are not. Do you know
a non-English family who has moved here from a foreign country? Who learns the language fastest, the adults or the children?
The children of course. Don't underestimate your daughter. Usually the children will not wall up doing this unless they feel
pressure to have it mastered before they can do so. If you show them the code in a non-pressured manner, they are commonly
Right now she is having fun learning an incomplete version of the English code. It will be much harder to reteach her
later than to start her off with the complete code from the beginning. Right now she is "reading" words from a screened
vocabulary with short vowel sounds. How many normal English sentences are made up of only short vowel sounds?
You wrote: However, I would like to start integrating some of it slowly into her spelling, writing and reading. Would
this be possible? Would my efforts to do this be so contradictory to the SWR that we would be doomed to failure?
My response: It will help her greatly to learn the full code as quickly as possible, but going slowly will be better than
not doing it at all. We teach the 26 single letters of the alphabet and five multi-letter phonograms and then start spelling
instruction. Before every lesson we introduce four or five more multi-letter phonograms until all 70 are presented by around
the twelfth week of first grade.
We like to teach these before we assign reading. Some have decided to slow down the presentation of the spelling lessons
from twenty words a week to five words a week. In some cases this is wise. If anyone does make this change, I would recommend
that they not delay introducing the rest of the phonograms. It is important for a child to get exposure to the entire code
rapidly. Mastery will come with time, but they need to see the big picture as soon as possible. Once they learn how words
are built they will want to try to read the words in the world around them. If you have not show them the full code, they
will have great difficulty doing so and their new excitement often turns to discouragement.
You wrote: I really don't have the immediate option of purchasing the core kit, just to wade through and try to find the
answer all by myself. Please, feel free to persuade me. I am open.
My response: Many on this loop have been the path of teaching initially with short vowel sounds only and picture clues
for phonograms. I'm sure some will share their journey. The main thing that I can say is that for long term success you need
to match the foundation you present to the language you are teaching. If you were teaching Spanish the one sound to a symbol
would work fine. I would
never recommend teaching English spelling that way.
The following 53 words (and their derivatives) make up 50% of everything we read and write based on the respected research
of Leonard Ayres: the, and, of, to, I, a, in, that, you, for, it, was, is, will, as, have, not, with, be, your, at, we, on,
he, by, but, my, this, his, which, dear, from, are, all, me, so, one, if, they, had, has, very,
been, were, would, she, or, there, her, an.
How many of these are two or three-letter words with a short-vowel sound and single-letter consonants that make their
most common sound?
Only nine out of the the fifty-three fit that description: and, it, not, at, on, but, if, had, an. Your student is prepared
for these, but not the other forty-four words. How do most programs provide for this inadequacy? They teach a list of "rule
breaker" words. Many of these other words are only "rule breakers" in the sense that their program is not prepared
to address them.
You wisely want to teach spelling to your child. In the
high-frequency list of 53 words above, only three of the words has an irregular part based on our phonograms and rules
and even these can be explained.
1. In the word "of" the F represents the sound of a V. The F and V are close in sound. We shape our lips the
same way. The difference is that one is voiced and the other is unvoiced. Hold your throat and say each sound. The F is unvoiced
and the V is voiced. Somehow in the development of the language we changed the way we said this word but
retained the old way of spelling it. Perhaps we resisted changing because English words do not end with V. Notice other
words that show the F/V connection (wife/ wives; knife/ knives).
2. In the word "one" we say the word as if there is a W at the beginning (won). It used to rhyme with "lone"
and "alone." For some reason we changed the way we say it but retained the spelling. In Korea paper money is called
a "won." In Korean letters which are phonetic, it is spelled /O-on/. The first syllable in my name is spelled the
3. In the word "would" we have a strange silent L. It traces back to the base word "will." This again
goes back to how we have changed the way we say words. Spelling endures even after the pronunciation shifts. The sound of
the OU here is only used in "would, could, should." We teach these three words together at the same time rather
than adding a phonogram sound just for them.
You sound like something is pulling you to teach SWR but you are hesitant because it is not what is familiar to you and
you are uncertain about how your daughter will respond. You are also pleased with the results you have witnessed. You want
to supplement it but not discard it. I sense your joy. It is delightful to see a child sound out words for the first time.
On the other hand it is sad to see the
same child later give up in frustration because they have been lead to expect that certain letters will make given sounds
only to be wrong again and again. If you start with a partial code you will more likely have sadness to contend with later.
I'm glad you want to avoid that.
In SWR our first goal is not reading. Our first goal is to build the framework for a successful experience in reading.
We do this through phonograms, spelling rules, and spelling words. We do not push for reading. We give the student the tools
and we watch the magic happen as he learns to apply what we have taught. The first book my son picked up and read was a King
James Bible. Turn to John chapter one.
How far you would getting reading the gospel of John, or any other book in the Bible with only the short vowel sounds?
More is needed.
One thing that might be helpful for you would be to give your student one of our spelling diagnostic tests. Perhaps one
of the moderators for the loop could post one of the test to the loop along with the placement grid. It would be helpful if
you could see where your child currently places in comparison to others of her grade level. Remember that it is ideal for
an elementary student to be at least two grades ahead in spelling.
My youngest dyslexic son was spelling at a third grade level before he on his own picked up the Bible and "read"
it for the first time. Prior to that he had only "read" the spelling words he had written by my dictation into his
"Learning Log." Often he needed patient help to do that. He was one of the students who can hear, sound out a word,
and write it accurately from dictation but then look at the word and not read it without assistance. I did want push him
to read a sentence in a book when he was still stumbling to read individual words. We kept working on phonograms and spelling
day after day.
I'll never forget that breakthrough moment when he first read the Scriptures out loud for the family. He did not falter
at all. He read fluidly, with expression, and with understanding. From that day on he seemed to always have a book in his
hand. We could not keep him in books and we are book people. One month he read fifty short books.
This victory was especially meaningful to me because I know that many with his type of struggle to ever learn to read.
The methods we use make a big difference, especially with certain types of learners.
Can you use both RR and SWR? I personally think it is better to use SWR as-is rather than add dabbles of it to help fill
in the missing gaps in your other program. Remember it is always harder to switch a program mid-stream. You will have unlearning
to do. The longer you
wait the more unlearning will be needed.
TATRAS vs. SWR
Date: Wed Oct 1, 2003 11:54 am
Ok, I'm an incurable information junkie, LOL. The questions about TATRAS got me curious & I visited their net site.
From the posted information this is what I learned about it & can compare to SWR.
TATRAS uses vertical phonics rather than horizontal which means that all sounds of a letter are taught in the beginning.
Phonograms are taught & a clock face is used. The program is based upon 500 most often occurring words plus some common
misspelled words. This is where it is
similar to SWR but it soon begins to depart from any similarity.
Reading is the goal, not spelling. TATRAS is against marking the words thus the spelling is not included. I'm sure that
the other ladies here will be able to explain this better than me, I can only point out the topics for argument. (is this
a good or bad thing? LOL).
TATRAS states that it uses 1 minute timed readings instead of word markings. I'm not sure what this means, reading replaces
spelling? But they want to wait a year or two to work on spelling.
Their newsletter is called The Reading Road to Writing.
TATRAS thinks it confusing to mix teaching spelling rules w/ decoding rules; that learning decoding will produce natural
spellers. I think a number of us will attest that many dc do NOT become natural spellers. The natural way
is to be poor spellers.
There are 12 phonics rules taught for decoding and there is very little writing. SWR teaches 29 spelling rules.
TATRAS also states, "But the Spalding (WRTR) method is a stern task-master that takes much of the fun out of teaching
reading, particularly if the instructor is using it for the first time. Parents comment that the TATRAS method is warmer,
more fun, easier for parents to understand and presents a quicker, more efficient way of helping children enjoy reading and
spelling." This is amusing to me as that was always my impression of this method. But I have since learned that a good
makes learning a delight. It was my fault that I didn't know how to make it fun. Also, Wanda sells the phonogram fun packet
that has given us the fun & games that I wanted. I suppose any program will be a drag if the teacher is.
Some more quotes from the site will help to illuminate the differences between programs.
"20. Less than three percent of the 3000 Most Often Occurring words are irregular by the TATRAS method. Those words
are listed in one place in the S&H manual. Spalding claims about 15 percent are irregular by its method but then does
not cite the irregular words or the list used
to obtain that figure." Actually, Spalding teaches that 93-97% of English words are spelled phonetically.
"21. Ability to identify syllables should not be required in decoding rules because syllables cannot always be identified
until the word can be pronounced." SWR teaches us that it is important to look at the syllables to obtain clues as
to how to pronounce a word.
"22. TATRAS teaches 38 sounds. For teaching reading to English-speaking children it is probably necessary to use
only 36 sounds. TATRAS, however, uses 38. Using 44 or 45 sounds is confusing to both parents and child and serves no useful
purpose. For example, it is not necessary for a beginning reader to be able to distinguish between the sounds of r (rose)
and er (her)" Again, I'm no expert but this does sound to me as if it's an incomplete program and will serve to lower
a dc spelling ability. ER is such a common phonogram that I can't imagine not teaching it.
I know that SWR program is about twice the price of TATRAS. But you get a complete spelling program for K-6. You get a
reading program and language arts instruction as well.
TATRAS offers phone help and SWR has this list. Wanda & the other trainers have been so helpful as well as all the
moms' experience to use the program.
I've learned more about the skills in teaching from Wanda not just how do I use your book.
Honestly, I didn't really want to use this program for a long time b/c of a mistaken perception that I had. But the more
I tried to find other, better programs, I kept finding SWR to be the best approach. I find SWR to be the best choice in all
categories: price, support, thoroughness,
product quality, in my not-so humble opinion, LOL
I hope that this has been helpful to you looking at choosing a program. I was interested just to see what another program
"Those who struggle reap the greatest reward, for by tackling a difficult thing, their harvest is twofold: the knowledge
they acquire and the will they develop. Those for whom things come easily are the most pitiful, for they are deceived into
thinking that victory is simple."
Thank you for your comparison of TATRAS and SWR. I have used TATRAS to teach my first child to read, and have just started
on it with my 4yr. old. It works well as a reading program, but not as a spelling program. I have been teaching her to look
for the phonograms in her spelling words. When she wants to know how to spell a word I dictate the sounds to her.
However, I have been looking for a more structured program. SWR sounds like the right fit.
TATRAS does teach er as a phonogram. It is taught as /R/ as in her, and as /AIR/ as in very. The one minute timings of
the phonograms are to help the student know the sounds automatically. It really makes a difference. It's like drilling the
math facts. When the students get higher level math they are able to work the problems without laboring over the basic facts.
By drilling the phonograms, the student is able to recall them quickly while decoding a word.
Thank you again for your comparison, it was very helpful.
I used another program w/ my older dc and it seemed to work well as a reading program, too. The thing that I now understand
is that w/o having the training in spelling as SWR provides, my dd doesn't know how to sound out words. She is a voracious
reader whose reading level is about
Still her skills in spelling and sounding out new words are not strong.
Now I understand TATRAS better, the ER sound is taught later, not early as w/ SWR. This will limit the books that can
be read in the beginning. I didn't understand about the 1 minute drills. Thank you for clarifying this for me. I like collecting
all of this information.
Becky and Ginger,
Your comparison, Becky, between TATRAS and SWR/Wise was interesting and helpful. Ginger, you had a valid question in response
to the issue of syllable breaks.
TARTRAS teaches: "Ability to identify syllables should not be required in decoding rules because syllables cannot
always be identified until the word can be pronounced."
Becky you said in contrast, "SWR teaches us that it is important to look at the syllables to obtain clues as to how
to pronounce a word." I would like to restate the comparison. We do teach that syllable clues are helpful but our primary
focus is not on reading. We focus first on spelling.
Identifying syllable breaks helps clarify spelling rules. For example, in "apron" the A said /A/ at the end
of a syllable."
Ginger you asked, " How can you break a word into syllables if you don't know how to say the word? I guess this is
when we need a dictionary."
Our students know how to break words into syllables because we tell them when we dictate each new word. We do not teach
syllable rules per se. For the teacher's benefit we list the reasons for syllable breaks in the appendix of the Alpha List.
Most of us never learned how to do this properly, but our students will be trained without realizing it. In teaching this
program this will also become second nature to us.
If we don't know a word we will not have any foolproof way of knowing how to pronounce it or even to break it into syllables.
Two words can look the same but be divided in different ways. Example: re-bel/ reb-el. By sight we will not know which word
is which without the context. In spelling we are not surprised that the syllable breaks after the E in "re-bel"
as in the "Child should not rebel against his parents." E usually says /E/ at the end of a syllable. We call a syllable
ending with a vowel an "open"
syllable. When we say a vowel our mouth is open. Usually an open syllable has the long vowel sound. In spelling we are
not surprised that "reb-el" has a syllable break after the B as in "The southern soldier gave a rebel yell."
In a syllable closed by a consonant(s) we usually have the short
You gals are really learning to think about these things using good analytical skills! Good work.
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Invented Spelling vs.SWR
Invented spelling is one of the biggest educational forms of malpractice possible. It is even worse than pure sight memory.
I remember years ago showing in my seminar samples of student work taken from an article from the Oregonian. The local schools
were teaching inventive spelling. The article had a selection of some of the "best" paragraphs written from students
throughout our metropolitan area. The selections were all like the one you quoted: “Ther ouns was two flawrs. Oun
was pink and the othr was prpul." Next I showed some typical examples of first grade work from children taught with our
approach. The content was good, the spelling accurate, and the penmanship neat.
On the front row of that class was a mother with her teenage daughter. The was attending the seminar since she was the
main reason her mother was going to start using my program. The woman started crying when she saw the inventive spelling samples.
She raised her hand and begged other to never teach that way. Between sobs she said, "That's what they did to me."
I then talked about an interesting day I had in the Columbia Gorge when I first moved to Portland twenty some years ago.
I visited two sites. One was a small museum. It contained a display of first grade work from a one room school house in the
1800's. There were multiple student samples. I did not see one spelling error or grammar error. The penmanship beautiful.
I'm not positive, but I am
fairly certain that the work was in cursive. The thoughts were organized logically and effectively. Each paper had outstanding
hand drawn artistic illustrations. These students were not just given some coloring pencils and told to draw something. They
had been instructed in principles of art like foreshortening,overlapping, shading, density, and contour. I might have attributed
the work to older students except in the upper right hand corner I could see clearly written by the child his name and age.
The samples were from six and seven year old boys and girls. I stood at
awe as I carefully studied these samples. While I was still soaking in the wonder that museum experience, we made another
stop. We did a tour of Bonnerville Dam. In a display room they had one showcase that they change from time to time. On this
day it contained samples of thank you notes from students throughout the Portland area who had gone on a field trip to Bonnerville.
About 15 different hand written notes were posted from a large number of schools. These represented the best work of hundreds
of students. The contrast was heartbreaking to me. This was the same area of the country a century of so later. We should
be more advanced. Far more time and money is
spend on education. The Portland public school provide over a thousand dollars a year per student. Each year they demand
Yet, here I was looking at what should have been the best of the best and I could not find a single paper that did not
have multiple spelling and grammar errors. More money is meaningless when the new "progressive" teaching techniques
produce massive failure even by the samples they praise.
It is not logically to start by teaching a child incorrectly and then expecting that on their own they will correct the
mistakes as they grow. We would not do that in teaching piano or typing or ballet or math. We don't say, "I want to make
sure I don't slow you down, so we are going to ignore the basic requirements of this subject. In time we expect you to make
the adjustments and eventually figure out on your own how you should really do it."
In my experience students with a faulty foundation by third or fourth do not overcome that troublesome start without concentrated
effort. We do not input spelling words into our brain incorrectly and then have them automatically fix themselves without
intervention and extra work.
When we teach a complex skill, the most sound approach is to start with the essential basics which we present in a way
that will not need to be unlearned. Inventive spelling is like building a house on the sand. Spell to Write and Read builds
the house on a rock.
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