He offers plain talk in plain language, without resorting to the jargon of pedagogy. Professor Johnson Unhinged should be required reading in every teacher methodology and parenting class.
Tom Phelan
English Teacher - 30 years, Monassas, VA

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The absolute joy of reading

The Absolute Joy of Reading

Tallahassee Democrat 

Gadsden County Times 

I had an experience recently that I have had hundreds of times before, but the thrill never goes away. A child who I had been “tutoring” in reading turned to me excitedly and exclaimed, “Mr. Bill, I love reading!” Then, after some thought added, “I think that I might get an “A” next year.” These two phrases were definitely not in this child’s mind when I first showed up at mom’s request, but now that I had heard them, I realized that my job was 90% done. The rest is just a matter of continual refinement of reading skills, or more simply put, reading a lot of cool stories.

There are millions of children out of school for the summer and there are also millions that aren’t reading so well. The combination of the two is an opportunity for real growth in reading ability, including a sea-change in attitude, if reading is taught properly. If not done properly, however, sometimes deep-seated negative attitudes towards reading just get deeper seated, with more attitude. And, truth be told, a child’s attitude towards reading is, as stated above, AT LEAST 90% of the ball game. If a positive attitude is internalized within the child, then the brain will naturally learn the skills at its optimum pace and efficiency. So, parents and tutors, here is a crash course in successful reading techniques.

Parents, you can do this all by yourself, but if an outside person is involved, whatever you do don’t call them a “tutor.” If a child has a negative view of school or reading in particular, the thought of spending their time over the summer being “tutored” in reading is enough to make them run for the air-sick bag. “Reading coach might work, or better yet, just “Mr. Bill is here to read about monsters today.”

The first rule is “loving, kind, fun, laughter, clowning around and fun.” It is a long rule, but it dissipates all of the stress that a child that is struggling carries deep inside them. Most reading problems are actually stress problems and bad experiences associated with reading, such as bad grades, pressure of being pushed too hard, being given tasks that they can’t do, which leads to ridicule, which leads to shame.

The antidote to all of this is unrelenting praise when they are succeeding at what you are asking them to do. The first thing that you are going to do is ask them to read out loud to you. You have got to find their success level, where they can read most of the words, with a certain amount of smoothness. I usually bring books from all age levels with me, and we read until I get the right feel. It’s sort of like the “Goldilocks” method, not too hard and not too easy. Then find a story at that level that is interesting to the child. Some old Disney stuff is great, but whatever. Then take it one sentence at a time.

Have the child read a sentence. Do not let them struggle too long sounding out unfamiliar words. Tell them what it is, repeat it and reread.  Once they have mastered the sentence, have them read it until it is smooth. “Reading to smoothness” is important, because reading is like music, it has a rhythm, and once that child starts to read with that smooth “rhythm’, they feel it and begin duplicating it. A child whose reading is very choppy needs to hear what real reading sounds like, so they read it, you read it back with smoothness and tone (Modeling – feel free to ham it up) and then they read it again. Once the child has mastered a few sentences, then have them reread the entire paragraph to smoothness. Once a child who has a history of struggling with reading can read entire paragraphs smoothly and correctly, you will see them light up like a 100 watt bulb. The “Aha, I can read “ moment has arrived, the confidence soars, as well as the joy that goes with it.

What about phonics, you ask? Slip phonics in there, but don’t make it the central issue. It completely slows up the reading flow. The child is building a sight word vocabulary through repetitive readings. After a paragraph is read well, then point out little items, like ph makes an “F” sound. When the child tells you that is crazy simply nod your head in agreement and tell him “wait until you hear about “tion.”

When the story is done ask the child questions about it, pretend like you don’t believe it, fold your arms and make him “prove it.” When she goes back to the story and proves her answer correct, you know that she can both read and understand the material. It doesn’t get any better than that. Have a great summer with your children.

 

Sharon: How much money do you think, exactly, that society is willing to spend on these people? You think those millionaire politicians give a tinker's damn about whether you can understand Carol or not? Or if Bob can finally put the correct change in the soda machine?
Second Period at the Center

7 Minute Lecture Series

 

01. Introduction
(7 minute Lectures)

02. How to Create a Dropout
(Positive Behavior Shaping)

03. The Phone Call
(Reward Effort)