No Guessing Zone


The sign to the left is a gift from two of my tutoring students. I had taught them Mr. Potter’s Secret of Reading, “Look at all the Letters the right way, and no guessing.” They came up with the sign.

I would like to invite every first-grade teacher in America to consider posting a “NO GUESSING ZONE” sign in their classroom. It is over dependence on context guessing that is causing most of the reading and comprehension problems that students coming to me are experiencing.

Furthermore, I would like to invite them to consider adding 15 to 20 minutes Blend Phonics Directional Guidance Training to their daily reading instruction.  The complete, easy-to-teach method is contained in a 35 page pamphlet, including “Teacher’s Instructions” and a comprehensive list of 1,557 words teaching the 44 English speech sounds and their most common spelling patterns.

The “Teachers’ Instructions” are so simple and complete that once they are understood there is little or no need for daily preparation to teach the lessons. My tutoring students, without exception, look forward to the Blend Phonics lessons. I have seen many students of all ages succeed after a history of failure.

Dolch Sigh-Words

To the left is a Dolch Sight Word List one of my student brought me recently. Every first- and second-grade student coming to me, without exception, has a list of sight words that they are expected to be memorizing. The teachers have been told that kids who sound out words will never be fluent readers. The children are timed daily reading these lists.

It is the firm conviction of the Blend Phonics website that requiring children to memorize sight-words (high frequency or pop words) create a reflex on the right side of the brain that hinders learning to read accurately and fluently. The damage caused by teaching sight words can be accurately measured with the Miller Word Identification Assessment.

I wrote the following poem as a response to the dubious claim that the new phonics basals reading programs have delivered us from the clutches of whole-language.

              Whole Language is Dead and Gone?

We are told that whole-language is dead and gone,
Yet, when we walk into the classroom, it’s still going on.

The publishers tell us they have it together:
Going with phonics, richly bound in leather.

But open the Reader, have a look inside,
You’ll find whole-language, going along for the ride.

So we have a choice, the right path is clear.
There’s no turning back, for those who will hear.

Supplemental phonics-first will save the day,
And our precious children,  will never betray.

                                                                          by Donald L. Potter, February 25, 2012

Classic Formulation of THE PROBLEM

With all due respect to other professions, including my own, all of us together don’t amount to much compared to the impact of classroom teachers on reading.  We aren’t going to  get anywhere changing teachers one at a time while universities turn them out by the hundreds, already indoctrinated into the myths and falsehoods of reading that are the real problem.

Most children in this country are taught that the first thing to do when you come to a word you don’t know is to use little or no letter/sound information and guess at what would make sense.  So long as that is allowed, so long as people who do that and teach that are in control of university programs, this problem isn’t going away.  Training more and better Speech Language Pathologists, tutors, schools psychologists, and others won’t change that.

Steve Dykstra, PhD

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