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Philosophy for Children: A Simple, Cost Effective Way to Improve Child Education

philosophy for children

Philosophy for Children: A Simple, Cost Effective Way to Improve Child Education

End Bullying by Closing the Achievement Gap

philosophy for children The most common thought process most people have is that children don’t have the ability to think critically until they’re twelve years old. But I’d like to make the case that children are actually very receptive to critical thinking, Socratic dialogue, and reason and evidence before that age. The trick is to introduce them to a method that that promotes this kind of thinking early on, and that method is Philosophy for Children.

As is true with most if not all children is their shared desire to be happy. Part of this is wanting to have their voice and ideas heard (I guess this applies to adults as well), so it makes sense that they’d resonate with the old’ Socratic mantra of reason=virtue=happiness. But, it’s even more than this. Children are very curious about the deeper elements and aspects of life. They even want to voice their opinion and thoughts on bigger issues that affect the world.

One of the Most Influential People in Helping Children Speaks Out

Who is this person that is so influential? This person is Matthew Lipman, one of the most influential people to have ever helped children. He posits that the use of a community of inquiry method is a great way for children to practice and learn the basics of reasoning and critical thinking, i.e., philosophy. This method is rooted in the work of John Dewey. The Philosophy for Children (P4C) movement started out in the 1970’s in the US.

Ironically, great homeschoolers and teachers already incorporate a lot of techniques in the P4C method. Most philosophy for children notably the ‘talking circle.’ Before we go any further, I think it’s important to understand why it’s so important for children to learn P4C. If children are taught early on to reason they’re less likely to be susceptible to propaganda. They’re also more likely, in the spirit of Americanism, to grow up with a critical thinking enabled brain which is able to question the dogmatic and ideological facets of things that they’re taught, not necessarily because everything they’re taught is wrong, but rather that they’re able to disseminate false information from the factual. They’ll be able to question everything which is at the heart of healthy thinking and encapsulates the scientific method to a tee. They’re also more likely to be well adapted individuals who go on to lead successful lives.

If we close intellectual achievement gap between children, it simultaneously closes the gap of most invitations of bullying. @yesphonics Click to Tweet

The Beauty of the Talking Circle

One of the primary aspects to the the talking circle is asking children, “What would you like to discuss?” In this form, it engages children in a way that allows them to express themselves in a safe environment. They have the educator (for the purposes of addressing homeschoolers and teachers, I refer to ‘educator’) there that acts as a guidepost for the conversation. This enables children to speak their minds on subjects that interest them, which is VERY exciting for them.

philosophy for children One of the main concerns that advocates for P4C have is that a lot of young people who arrive to college are hyper sensitive, bad at debating and overly politically correct: a recipe for disaster for free speech and intellectual growth. One of the main causes of hypersensitivity, I would argue, is that they’re the generation that has been exposed to day care the most, which is a breeding ground for disaster because it produces the same symptoms of parental abandonment as actual abandonment does. If this is the case, then we need to take a step back and start applying more voluminously and fervently the method of P4C. In this way, students will be prepared to encounter new ideas, even if they seem foreign or scary, with open mindedness and spirited debate, rather than safe spaces and hysterical outbursts. Like they say, the best disinfectant for bad ideas is sunlight. The talking circle readies children for new ideas by teaching them how to debate and discuss information in a respectful and thoughtful manner. It also prepares them to analyze new information and ask questions in a way they might not otherwise.

Teaching children how to use logic and reason is the front runner to improving literacy and numeracy and other cognitive functions. Essentially, with P4C, you’re teaching children the fundamentals on how to think.

How is P4C Implemented?

P4C is intended for primary grade children (K-3rd grade), but it can be implemented as a whole school approach. Training days for teachers take place when schools are not in operation. All staff, including administrators, superintendents, principals, etc. are invited and encouraged to join the training.

The instructors of P4C have teachers and administrators play the role of children where they teach methods ofphilosophy for children how to use P4C. Teachers get a hands-on, up-close view of how such a system works. Some examples include: sitting in the talking circle, moving to different parts of the room to “defend” different positions or schools of thought. Sometimes these scenarios don’t’ always transition exactly the way they should in a real time classroom setting. Understandably so, some teachers have a reluctance in giving up control over their students–but that’s the key to its successful implementation.

A great example of this situation was in a Catholic school: a student suggested that perhaps “hell” didn’t exist. The teacher refused to even entertain the thought, much less have a discussion about it. It’s an extreme example, but it’s worth highlighting. The ‘take-away,’ in this case, is that when giving children a vehicle for logical inquiry and rational thought, it may lead them down a path of questioning that may be ‘uncomfortable’ for those in a position of power or authority.

Day-to-Day P4C Proceedings in the Classroom

Most of the time, however, teachers allow the system of P4C to run it’s course. Usually the talking circle plays out in the following way: a student asks a question, and they are met by their fellow peers, where they discuss the issue until a logical conclusion is reached. At the end of the discussion, the class will take a vote on a particularly contentious issue, or, they can write their down their own conclusions.

philosophy for children If you would like to learn more about P4C, I suggest listening to this podcast, it’s has a fantastic explanation and it touches on the trials and data surrounding P4C. This video also covers rules to the P4C exercises, what subjects P4C covers, and what the process looks like in the classroom from an educator’s perspective. It also covers how disadvantaged children benefit more from P4C than advantaged children–which is well worth everyone’s time as educators, politicians and everyone in between have been trying to find a way to close the achievement gap. They also discuss how the results of Philosophy for Children is tracked and how it’s measured over time.

Closing the Achievement Gap Will Close the Bullying Gap

I think the most wonderful and fascinating aspect to Philosophy for Children is that early results indicate that when the achievement gap is close that the bullying problem will start to recede as well. Most bullying problems come from the class gap, i.e,, new cars, clothes, more money, etc. etc.. In other words, if we can close the gap of cognitive attainment and the intellectual achievement, it simultaneously closes the gap of most invitations of bullying. Ultimately, this would have a dramatic effect on school culture for kids.

At the end of the day, this is not only an effective solution, but it’s also a solution that’s cost effective. It kneads in values that are universally preferable and develops empathy and compassion in children to the max. If we want a society free of malcontent and one that is prosperous and kind, Philosophy for Children is the starting point.


Philosophy for Children website:

Professor Gourd:

P4C Research, Data, and Studies:

The Dangers of Daycare:

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Teaching English as a Second Language

English as a second language

Teaching English as a Second Language

Think to Spell, Schwa, Word Markings, ESL, and Free Learning Tools

English as a second language If you’re looking for a great way tot teach your English as as second language students, starting with our Mnemonic Phonic Technique is a great start-this free tool teaches the 72 Orton phonograms and the 45 sounds that are associated with these phonograms.

Teach Manuscript Writing

After you’ve taught the 72 Orton phonograms and your English as a second language students (ESL) are comfortable with most of the sounds and sound sequences (you don’t have to wait until mastery), I suggest using our 4 Point Circle Technique to teach manuscript writing portion of the aforementioned phonograms. This technique is another free tool that we offer here at YesPhonics.

After you’ve taught the phonogram letters a-z using the 4 Point Circle Technique I suggest introducing the multi-letter phonograms. Unfortunately, we don’t have a video up yet of the multi-letter phonograms, but we’ll update this article as soon as it’s available on our YouTube channel.

The use of a picture dictionary is of great value to students that are learning English as a second language. @yesphonics Click to tweet

The 29 Spelling Rules

Now that you’ve taught all 72 Orton phonograms via the Mnemonic Phonic Technique and you’ve introduced the 4 English as a second languagePoint Circle Technique, It’s time to introduce 2-4 spelling words from the Ayres spelling list. It certainly helps for students to learn (or at least be familiar with) the 29 spelling rules. Introduce 2-4 rules per day (with practical review at the end of each session) until you’ve introduced each spelling rule. Once you’re students are fairly comfortable with all 29 spelling rules, it’s time to move onto the Ayres spelling list.

Using the Ayres Spelling List to Construct Sentences

Students learn to construct literate English sentences by using high frequency words as taught in the Ayres Spelling List (not only low frequency words in categories or of the letters/phonograms being taught). From the beginning they construct oral and written sentences using the spelling words. The student’s first reading “in context” experience is to read the sentences they have written from words in their Spelling Notebook. Correct spelling of words are the same as standard “book print.”

Accurate spelling facilitates fluent reading and creative writing. In the program manual the Ayres Spelling List of words are in syllables and are written from dictation. The intention is not to memorize, but rather to learn how to spell words by listening to and writing the sounds. The sound/symbol relationships and spelling rules that should be taught with the phonograms and spelling words are highly relevant because those who do not know them cannot learn to spell except by whole-word memorization. Spelling must be learned in syllables along with the spelling rules. When the phonograms are taught with the spelling rules, 93-97% of English is phonetically accurate. This knowledge is a real short-cut to spelling accuracy. Learning one rule for many words is much easier than learning each word individually. The spelling words are referenced to the 29 Spalding spelling rules that are taught with Lesson Plans and Worksheets.

English as a second language In the spelling lessons the students obtain the basic knowledge of how the written language works. At the completion of the spelling list at the end of the 3rd level (sequenced: kindergarten, first grade, second grade and third grade) the student can decode (read/pronounce) the longest of unfamiliar words syllable-by-syllable. At this point, students are able to read anything in their comprehension vocabulary of about 30,000 words. Compare this with the 900 words third-graders are able to read using Whole Language.

Think to Spell, Schwa, Word Markings and ESL

Think to Spell: Worldwide English Spellings are relatively uniform, whereas speech is very diverse. We use ‘Think to Spell’ as a memory device, the word should be sounded and spelled the way it is written as in: b/ee/n (not bin), s/ai/d (not sed) /a/ round (not /uh/round), then said the way that your culture says it.

Schwa: In the rhythm of speech, vowels in unstressed syllables are often muffled and sound like /uh/. In these syllables the vowel’s sound should be stressed and taught as it is written as in: rel/a/tive (not rel/uh/tive), unless we ‘think’ the vowel as it is written, spelling will not be accurate.

Word Markings: Marking the spelling words by using numbers, underlining and identification marks, identifies the phonogram’s sound as it is used in the sequence, multi-letter phonograms and indicates spelling rules.English as a second language

ESL: Write and Spell to Read and Speak: In many cases individuals whose first language is not English, who have good memorization skills (about 10% with photographic memory), will learn to write, spell and read English but are unable to fluently speak English. When the learner has the combined tools of: 1) knowing the sounds in sequence of use for the 72 basic Orton phonograms that say the 45 individual single sounds of English speech, 2) learn to spell words in syllables with spelling rules, 3) use the memory devices of ‘Think to Spell’ and word markings, then their ability to pronounce the word is enhanced.

Picture Dictionary: The use of a picture dictionary that has many words with pictures is of great value to students that are learning English as a second language of all ages, as well as elementary students. In the space under the word, the word may be written in syllables with word markings thus giving the student clues to its correct pronunciation.

Subscribe to the YesPhonics blog and YouTube channel for more classroom advice—and try our Mnemonic Phonic Technique for free to learn the 72 sounds of English.

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Teach your Child to Read English

Teach your Child to Read English

classroom-squareMemory research has verified the efficiency of teaching all of the sounds of the phonogram at one time, rather than in layers. When the phonogram sounds are introduced together, the brain can store the information in one place for easy retrieval. The easiest way to learn to read and spell is to know all of the sounds of the phonogram. This is needed quickly for simple and often used words, such as in the word “all”. If the student doesn’t know the three sounds of the phonogram “a” it isn’t possible for them to read this word.

Phonogram Sound Sequences & Decoding

If you’re a new reader and you’re looking to start teaching all 72 Orton phonograms today, I recommend our Mnemonic Phonic Technique. It’s a free learning tool that teaches the sounds of the phonograms in their ‘use frequency’ (sounds that are used more frequently than others, in sequential order).

Some phonograms have the same sound in every word in which they appear. Others have several sounds, and deciding which sound to use is one of the skills need for decoding (reading ) English. The sounds of the phonograms are in order of their frequency of use. For instance, the sound sequence for the phonogram “a” is 1. /a/ (have), 2. /a/ (letter name), 3. /ah/ (ball). It says its first sound about 70 percent of the time, its second sound almost 25 percent of the time and its third sound less often. When the students try the first sound in a word they will most often be right. If the first sound doesn’t work, then they should try the second sound, and the third sound last.

We cannot be concentrating on identification of letter sounds at the same time we are trying to understand what weManual page #4 are reading. For skilful comprehension, readers first must be able to sound out letters and spelling patterns quickly and automatically. As phonics skills develop and become automatic, focus begins to shift naturally from decoding to meaning. Equipped with these skills, students often seem to read whole sentences at a time. Explicit phonics instruction is a critical step leading to a truly balanced “whole word” reading.

Deciding which phonogram sound to use is one of the skills needed for reading English. Click to tweet

English: Sound/Symbol/Rules System

The sound/symbol relationships and spelling rules that should be taught with the phonograms and spelling words are highly relevant because those that do not know them cannot learn to spell except by whole-word memorization. About 10% of students have enough photographic memory to do quite well. Around 30% lack this visual ability and another 50% cannot perform this task well. The failure to teach English as a sound/symbol/rules system causes sustained frustration, slow thought, low self-esteem and failure for at least 60% of writers and readers.

Teaching the 72 Orton Phonograms, the 29 Spalding Spelling Rules with the Extended Ayres Spelling List of the 1,000+ most commonly used words taught in the order of use frequency explains most spelling problems in the English language of the thousands of words that we use most often.

Who uses YesPhonics 2In order for beginning students to learn to construct literate English sentences they must learn spelling words taught in the order of use frequency, not only words in categories or of the letters/phonograms being taught. From the beginning the students construct oral and written sentences and paragraphs using the words from their Spelling Notebooks.

In the spelling lessons the students obtain the basic knowledge of how the written language works. At the completion of the spelling list at the end of the 3rd grade the student can decode (read/pronounce) the longest of unfamiliar words syllable by syllable. At this point, students are able to read anything in their comprehensions vocabularies, about 30,000 words. Compare this with the 900 words third-graders are able to read using Whole Language.

Spelling must be learned in syllables along with the spelling rules. This knowledge is a real short-cut to spelling accuracy. Learning one rule for many words is much easier than learning each word individually. The importance of the spelling rules may be demonstrated with the “Silent Final E’s”. The language  has many words that end in a silent e with no apparent reason. The Silent Final e’s have at least 5 functions in English: 1.The silent e “lets the vowel say its name (time). 2. English words do not end in u or v (true, love). 3. The e makes c say /s/ and allows the g to say /j/ (dance, large). 4. Part of the -le suffix (lit.tle). Every syllable must a  vowel. 5. Odd Job e: dye, are, come. Any not listed above (city, cycle).

The phonogram sound sequences are incorporated with the spelling rules. For instance, the phonogram “c”  has two sounds,/k/ and /s/. Most of the “c” words use the  /k/ sound (cat). The student learns to use the /s/ sound when the word is taught with the rule: The “c” says /s/ before e, i or y (cent, city, cycle).

Spell and Write to READ!

Phonics awareness and auditory processing skills can be more precisely and efficiently taught through spelling rather than randomly taught through “implicit” phonics applied to pronouncing words for reading. Phonics for reading alone gives only approximate pronunciations for many words. Early learning of correct spelling patterns (while avoiding programming of misinformation such as “invented” spellings), allows elementary students to write with increased precision and creativity. As a result, they can then read at their interest and speaking vocabulary levels enjoying quality literature with its obvious benefits.

For my new readers, you can subscribe to the YesPhonics blog and my YouTube channel for more homeschool and classroom advice—and try our Mnemonic Phonic Technique for free to learn the 72 sounds of English, it’s especially practical for ESL students trying to learn English.


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Orton-Spalding Method for All Learners

Orton-Spalding Based Method for all learners

Orton-Spalding Method for All Learners

English Reading, Spelling & Writing Language Arts

Orton-Spalding Based Method for all learnersDr. Samuel Orton, a famous neurologist, isolated the 70 most used phonograms, the “Phonics Codes”, of the English language. A “phonogram” is either one letter or a set combination of letters which represent one or more single ‘voiced’ sounds in a given word. The phonograms are the 26 alphabet letters and 46 multi-letter teams  consisting of 2-4 letters. Each phonogram has 1-6 single sounds.

The English alphabet is a sound/symbol system. It contains 26 letters that singly and in combination represent the 45 sounds heard in English speech. The 70 Orton Phonograms represent the common spelling patterns of the 45 sounds. With these phonograms and the 29 simple Spalding spelling rules, 93-97% of the English language is phonetically accurate.

How Do Voiced Sounds Work?

All letters and letter-combinations say a single “voiced” sound. Reading is saying single “voiced” sounds in rapid succession. When the phonograms are taught there is simply no need to teach the single “voiced” sounds of hundreds of blends (br=/b/+/r/) and endless word families (at, bat, cat). These spelling patterns are quickly and easily learned with the phonograms and spelling words.

The phonograms are taught explicitly. Explicit phonics moves from the smallest part to the whole. Students first learn the phonograms (letters and combinations of letters) and their sounds. They then build and recombine them into syllables and words.

All of the sounds of each phonogram are learned at once and filed in the computer brain in one folder for easy recall.Orton-Spalding Based Method for all learners All of the sounds of the phonograms must be known from the beginning for reading  and writing of common words (“all” says the 3rd sound of the letter “a”; “by” says the 2nd vowel sound of the letter “y”; “do” says the 4th sound of the letter “o”).

All letters and letter-combinations say a single “voiced” sound. Reading is saying single “voiced” sounds in rapid succession. @yesphonics Click to tweet

Why We Don’t Teach the Alpahbet Letter “Names” First

One of my writers, Griffin Johnson, recently penned a  blog on why teachers and parents shouldn’t teach the alphabet letter “names” first–essentially that means to not teach, “A, B, C, D” etc.. You can read why it’s so critical to teach the phonogram sounds first in our previous blog Teaching the Alphabet First: Debunking a Myth. Teaching the names of the letters first is confusing and non-productive. We don’t talk, read or spell by saying and thinking names of letters. A most important skill is correct pronunciation in clear, distinct speech. The phonograms are a direct aid to this.

Four Revolutionary Educators

I think it’s important to talk about some of the most brilliant educators of our time who cemented explicit phonics as a viable and effective way to teach children how to read, write and spell effectively. We use combine their methods and add our signature Mnemonic Phonic Technique in our Express Programs.

Leonard P. Ayres was a successful teacher, school administrator, statistician, researcher and director of the Department of Education. Dr. Ayres ferreted out the thousand words in most common use in the everyday world and has by numerous tests arranged these in the order of increasing difficulty, marking off the points at which each successive grade could use the spelling list. Teaching spelling with the words sequenced by use frequency,  the way the language works, is important for a complete education.

Orton-Spalding based method for all learners Romalda Spalding was a teacher and a student of Dr. Orton. She discovered that her learning disabled students, using Orton’s methods, were learning to read better than her other students. Using Orton’s methods and phonograms, an Extended Ayer’s Spelling Word List, 29 simple spelling rules and word markings, she developed the highly successful multi-sensory, phonetic language arts method known as the “Spalding Method”, set forth in the teachers textbook “The Writing Road to Reading” which is designed for all students. The multi-sensory method is taught by seeing, hearing, and saying the phonograms and spelling words while writing them from dictation.

A Big Thank You!

And here, I have to give a big shout out to my former primary school teacher, Mrs. Zier–without her, I doubt I would have the skills necessary to read effectively, nor would I have the love of reading that I have today.

Jean Zier, a long time Spalding Method teacher and curriculum director in an award winning Montana public school, developed, integrated and school tested the concept of illustrations with captions that depict the sound sequence of the phonogram. For fast, accurate and fluent reading it is vital to know the phonogram sounds in the order of use frequency. The “key words” of the caption, an easy-to-learn mnemonic device, gives the sound sequence of the phonogram which is easily and quickly learned never to be forgotten.

What Can Students Expect from Explicit Phonics and Ayres Spelling List?

In the first 5 weeks the students learn 56 phonograms and 150 of the most commonly used words in the order of use flashcards_collage_jan2013frequency the way the language works. Potential reading abilities now include hundreds of words which are made up of the same spelling patterns. All students not neurologically impaired will start reading literature of their age-interest which educates and develops a love of reading.

Today, more than ever, kids need an effective way to learn how to read. As I point out in one of my videos, three quarters of children who interact with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and there are roughly anywhere from 30-45 million illiterate adults in the United States. Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen to our kids in the future–let’s teach them phonics.

For my new readers, you can subscribe to the YesPhonics blog and my YouTube channel for more homeschool and classroom advice—and try our Mnemonic Phonic Technique for free to learn the 72 sounds of English, it’s especially practical for ESL students trying to learn English.

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The Evolution of Public Education

The Evolution of Public Education

A Case for Parents to Start Homeschooling?

Many teachers, students, and parents don’t have a positive outlook on programs such as No Child Left Evolution of education Behind, despite its catchy, encouraging name. Even more clearly, the science and data has shown that standardized testing isn’t necessarily the best thing for our students; in fact we could say it’s detrimental. If our government programs designed to helping students clearly isn’t doing their job, and arguably is counterproductive, how did we let such programs come in existence in the first place? What can we do about it now? Let’s take a look.

Back in 1965 the Elementary and Secondary Education act of 1965, or the ESEA, was passed under president Lyndon B. Johnson. It was a 32 page law (pretty slim compared to today’s standards), and it was a central part to LBJ’s War on Poverty declaration. The main goal of the ESEA was to distribute money to schools who enrolled a large number of poor children. Fortunately, for teachers of that era, testing and accountability were not a part of the original bill. You can see how testing and accountability has failed in my last blog.

As the federal government became increasingly involved in Education, the original bill (ESEA) changed in 1994 under the Clinton administration. The major change that took effect was that schools were offered grants to develop their own standards and assessments

In 2002 things changed. It was the year that would go down in infamy for educators in public school sector. This is the year where George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act. This may seem mundane, almost innocuous, but the problem was that it changed the the federal law’s directive from equity to accountability and testing–a nightmare scenario for teachers and educators. Let me elaborate. The problem with transitioning to testing and accountability (as opposed to an equity view towards teachers) is that it stripped the power and individuation from the hands of teachers and handed it over to an entity that could enforce, indiscriminately, any changes or directives that it wanted. This new law centralized more power into the wide net of government and left teachers powerless–not to mention children who couldn’t read.

A new paradigm has to occur. Teachers need to be able to be flexible to the needs of their very individualistic [email protected] Click to Tweet

The Big Lie

evolution of education The lie at the heart of No Child Left Behind was the assumption that testing and accountability would usher in equity. It did the exact opposite. NCLB failed to close the gap between racial and ethnic minorities, it also failed to stimulate the brighter children. As I’ve argued before, if a federal directive is mandated (in this case test scores), the ‘place’ that children have to ‘arrive’ to is common.

Common places are usually boring and not very satisfying to bright children. So, in the end, not only did it not help the original demographic that the ESEA originally intended on helping (poor and ethnic minorities) but it also held back the brighter children by limiting the amount of success that they could attain. The same kids who were struggling before NCLB was implemented were the same ones who were struggling a decade later


Principals and Teachers Predict Failure

Before the implementation of NCLB (and more recently the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015) educators could see, before the implementation even occurred, that students would fail with these artificial standards in place. They could see, plain as day, that every child was unique and individualistic, I mean, they’re in the classroom EVERY single day, this isn’t news to them–hence the madness that national standards could be achieved. As with most bureaucrats, though, they didn’t listen to the feedback that was given to them.

These ghouls that we call our politicians became radical and die hard in their belief of reform through assessments and testing and punishment for teachers who didn’t achieve the scores that standardized tests called for. Instead of having NCLB repealed in 2007, which it should have been as it had became increasingly clear that it was unpopular and ineffective, they did what all bureaucrats do when faced with data and facts–they re-branded it under another name so that they could retain the power structure. Welcome “Every Student Succeeds Act,” the same awful standards and whimsical ideals that are impossible now with a new name!

Congress Fails Again

I feel like I’m starting to repeat myself here, but it is important to note that the new aforementioned law made hardly ANY changes. It certainly didn’t eliminate the failed practice of assessments, tests and punishment routine–which is what teachers were dying to see happen most. To be fair, though, and to give credit where credit is due, it did restrict meddling in local affairs by secretaries of education (*cough* Arne Duncan). It didn’t fix the fundamental issue of testing and accountability, but, as the old saying goes, “You have start somewhere.” It also reduced the role of the federal government in state education–it gave testing and accountability over to the states. So props to the bureaucrats for that. But, as you’ll soon see, it wasn’t enough.

Evolution of education

Well, it’s time to play that game again– the Congress fails game. I’m not surprised that Congress’ approval rating is sitting somewhere around thirteen percent (at the moment). Instead of identifying and addressing the root causes of poor academic performance they kept plodding along with the ole’ testing and accountability idea. As we’ve talked about before, there can be no measurable changes made when every single teacher is asked to move a mountain. There will be no progress for students.

What is Needed?

A new paradigm shift needs to occur. As I’ve argued before, teachers need autonomy–they need to be able to be flexible to the needs of their very individualistic students. A few things that could be done to make this idea work look something like this:


  • Minimize testing and accountability
  • Respect and value teachers who choose the field of teaching by treating them as professionals
  • Pay them as professionals (does that mean that teachers have to work summers then, though? That’s a blog for another time.)
  • Higher standards for entry into teaching positions
  • Teachers should be knowledgeable about the subject that they’re teaching
  • They should be capable (and demonstrate this on a regular basis) of running a classroom.
  • Teachers should be concerned with communicating in the most effective ways with their students.
  • Paying special attention to how students learn and develop on an individual basis would be very helpful for both teachers and students.
  • Teachers should be given the training on how to teach children with disabilities; psychometrics and strengths as well as weaknesses and ways of testing what students have learned.
  • They should be aware of the ethical and legal responsibilities that are required of them.
  • Teachers might do well with being versed in economics, history and politics of the American systems and society. This is especially important considering the fact that we have a large swath of non-native English speakers. These students (and their parents) need to adopt the American way of life; adherence to freedom of speech, limited government, sound money and liberty, freedom, and equality of opportunity for all.
  • And lastly, a reduction in the size of classrooms, and more one-on-one time being made available to students.

What About Principals and Superintendents?

Evolution of Education Oh yeah, baby, I’ve got a few suggestions that would help principals and superintendents as well. Here is a list, most of it’s pretty straightforward and simplistic:


  • Superintendents and principals should ALSO be educators–this means being wise in the needs of their students and their teachers and being respondent to these needs.
  • They should ensure that their school/district is staffed with professionals and be active in the classroom from time to time.
  • Superintendents and principals should adopt a phonics based approach to learning. The evidence of success is overwhelming.
  • Principals and superintendents need to foster the value of collaboration between teachers. Competition is fantastic, and has it’s place, but collaboration is more in line when trying to educate students in a cohesive fashion.
  • The goal of principals and superintendents shouldn’t be to raise test scores but rather pay diligent attention to the intellectual, social and emotional development of their students.
  • And lastly, superintendents and principals need to recognize that their are no silver bullets or quick fix schemes or overnight cures. The only road to improvement lies in hard work and attention to the well being of students.

The Question of the Decade

One of the most frequent questions I hear is, “What has actually happened after fifteen years of government programs designed to help children?” Well, after fifteen years of “reform,” what we’re essentially left with is experienced teachers that are retiring early. Simultaneously, teacher preparatory programs have declined sharply. Many states are facing teacher shortages–and, really, why does that surprise anyone? What sane person would want to enter the teaching field when they’re set up for failure? They have long hours with low pay, along with the fact that society, corporate executives, billionaires, and the media have been adding fuel to the fire in the form of abuse, making their jobs lackluster at best and a dreadful at worst.

The question of decade remains to be answered: can public education along with the teaching profession survive the systematic efforts to dismantle them? I have hope. In 2015 more than 220,000 students (with the support of their parents, of course) living in New York refused to take the state standardized tests, despite threats of federal sanctions on the purse strings of school districts. Another 500,000 students across the nation have opted out of standardized tests as well. These brave individuals have acted in the long held and cherished tradition of civil disobedience: no taxation without representation! Not only that, but states are already adopting legislation that allows parents to opt their children out of standardized tests. Good job bureaucrats, you’re finally getting something right.Evolution of education

Students in cities such as Newark, Rhode Island and Providence have created high school student unions to reduce the high stakes testing which helps their school from the dreaded “reforms.” That’s pretty impressive. A Nationally created organization by teachers called the Badass TEachers Association (BATs) have been quick to mobilize, protest and testify against federal/state injustice as well, and they’ve been promoting positive improvement in their districts ever since.

Hope for the Future

Like I said, there is hope. We just have to realize that the federal government is less and less of trustworthy entity. They don’t have the best interests of the people at heart. Their only motivation is for more power, more control. This may sound like hyperbole, but it’s not. They’ve literally measured the effects that power has on people. The more power one seeks and attains, the more addicted they become–as I’ve mentioned before, seeking state power is as powerful as a drug addiction. Like all addicts, they don’t want to relinquish the drug, and they’ll do anything to retain it. Including selling the monetary future of the unborn to Chinese banksters. Let’s take back our freedom, let’s send a message loud and clear to DC that we don’t want their stinkin’ standardized tests anymore.If all else fails, let’s just start homeschooling more.

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Race to The Abyss

Race to The Abyss

Race to The Top is A Failed Program

Well, as with most government programs, Race to the Top has failed– and not just in terms of helping Race to the abysschildren succeed in their educational endeavors, but it has also failed taxpayers and teachers.

I should probably start by explaining what Race to the Top is, and where it metamorphosed from. In 2009 the Obama administration offered 5 billion dollars to schools who adopted what is known as ‘Common Core Standards.’ This was an effort by the federal government to double down on it’s previous failed program known as ‘No Child Left Behind,’ or NCLB which was enacted by the George W. Bush administration in the early 2000’s. Essentially Race to the Top is NCLB on steroids. The same tired, old tactics being pushed: evaluate teachers based on student test scores with impossible standards to reach and if they don’t meet those standards, come in and fire all the teachers.

The major difference between Race to the Top and NCLB is that Race to the Top ushered in more federalized control and more punitive punishments. It promoted the theory that teachers needed harsher punishments and children needed more tests. Instead of states designing their own curriculum and making their own tests and being subject to the penalties of the federal government, they lost all control (save for fifteen percent, which we’ll get to in second) of how they design their curriculum and they STILL are subject to harsh penalties if they do not meet one hundred percent of the federal mandated guidelines. Sounds pretty great, right?! Oh, and Race to the Top also required more funding, LOTS more. They have one thing in common, though–the federal government can still come in and fire (or as they like to put it in ingsoc: “turn around”) every last teacher who doesn’t meet the artificially mandated results. My question is: how is this not Orwellian?

One thing that really bothers me about Common Core standards that Race to the Top includes is the program has created a longitudinal database of all students and their test scores. Now, this seems like a great idea on paper (not really, but for the sake of the argument), but the stark reality is that, 1.) it’s not effective at all, and 2.) this data base isn’t actually measuring any metrics that would actually be helpful. On the contrary, it’s measuring teachers based on students that they’ve never taught in subjects that teachers aren’t specializing in. It’s also measuring teachers on which students attend their classes rather Race to the Abyssthan which teacher was there actively teaching and doing a good job.

Race to the Top has also mandated that states adopt “college and career ready standards,” whatever that means. But I think important questions need to be asked when ushering in something as complex as a national curriculum.



Race to the Top ushered in more federalized control, less teacher autonomy, and more punitive punishments. @yesphonics Click to tweet

What Is The Race?

Some of those questions might go as such: 1.) What is the race? 2.) Where is the top? 3.) Who will get there? And 4.) Who will be left behind? Of course, most of these questions are rhetorical, especially when you start from a common sense position that holds that not every child is exactly the same, as I stated in my last blog. This is another instance where the federal government is meddling in affairs that they have no business in (cue cranky old man image). The bottom line is that education isn’t a race, that’s doing education a disservice. Indeed, where is the top? I’m suspecting that the ‘top’ is subjective at best. Most of the students will not get to the ‘top,’ many factors influence this including: IQ, diet, home life, unshared experiences (experiences outside the home life) and their cultural environment–to bet that all (or most) students will succeed in attaining this artificial standard is impossible. And lastly, a good majority of the children will be left behind, that’s just what happens when you have central planning.

I’m sure some of you will say, “Ah see, this blogger is just another anti-government nut who hates the thought of the government improving education,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I’m actively helping children everyday. Parents, teachers, educators and students alike love our Mnemonic Phonic Technique which teaches the 72 Orton phonograms. Now, let me use an appeal to authority as well; Diane Ravitch has made a similar argument that I’m making right now. She’s one of the top authorities on Race to the Top and NCLB because she was instrumental in in getting the legislation to pass, and now she regrets it wholeheartedly.Race to the Abyss

Equality of Opportunity Not Equality of Outcome

Ultimately, Race to the Top is promoting a hyper egalitarian approach to education, and there isn’t anything wrong with egalitarianism inherently, but when your stated goal is to have every child succeed and the exact opposite is happening, perhaps you should rethink your approach.

Race to the Top is importing a corporate culture into education. It’s promoting competition, bottom line, profits and losses, and bankruptcy for those that fail to show profits. Now, the only caveat I have here is that I think competition is a good thing, especially for young kids. It helps them integrate into the free market as successful humans. Competition is also a huge factor in products becoming better. However, all of the other things that Race to the Top is importing via it’s semi fascistic corporate culture is horrendous. This includes abrupt firing of employees (teachers) that fail to meet ‘targets,’ and bonuses for those that do.

Test Scores Are Not Profits

Look, the bottom line is we need to educate all students, not just the ones that win the lottery of standardized tests. Education is about learning and questioning. It’s about discovering what’s around you and inquiring into things you’re not very knowledgeable in. Ultimately, it’s about development and growth, and to become a better person who can serve their local community in the most effective and joyful way possible. This includes learning to become a good citizen. Teachers need to have the freedom to foster good habits in their students, and this includes instilling a sense of personal responsibility in students for their actions. Ideally, children should be getting this from home, but unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.

Awakening a Love for Learning

Unruly kids love learning to read!If you were to ask most teachers what their goals are as a teacher, most teachers would tell you that they want their students to succeed in every way possible. Part of this dream includes awakening a love for learning in their students and to promote self discipline and ethical behavior as desired habits that their students can carry with them for a lifetime.

Race to the Top acts as if test scores are the be-all-end-all and inculcates the idea that these standards can’t be questioned. It’s totally one sided: Race to the Top only measures test scores, but it fails to measure originality, creativity, kindness, persistence, diligence, and courage. Most importantly, it fails to measure the ability for students to critically think for themselves. But then again, I’m not so sure the government wants students to have this trait. IF they did, why are the promoting such an outrageous ideology when an overwhelming majority of the data is showing that their half baked plan is failing? I would guess it’s because of their addiction to power, which, coincidentally, they’ve found is the same level of addiction that cocaine addicts experience.

The Problem With More Federal Funding

Obviously, the answer to this headline is debt. The U.S. is currently in the hole to the tune of 19 trillion dollars–along with 100-200 trillion in unfunded liabilities, figures vary from source to source. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that more funding isn’t the answer. We’ve been doing this for a long time in many areas of education and it’s failing to garner legitimate results. Not to mention the moral issue of forcing tax payers at the point of a gun to pay for things that they can see isn’t working and having no say in the matter.

The other (and more direct) problem with more funding is that it opens up education to a long line of vendors selling stuff that schools supposedly need (which usually they don’t, old fashioned paper and pencil is really what they need, but I digress), and schools go along with this to meet the new federal guidelines and to escape the sanctions that may be imposed upon them.

A list of new things that schools supposedly need are as follows: turnaround specialists, learning coaches,race to the abyss rubrics to measure performance, data analysts, professional development workshops, experts in teacher evaluation, curriculum specialists, leadership trainers, new software and hardware, new programs, and textbooks aligned with Common Core Standards. All of this is a costly waste of time. Are you starting to see a trend, though? If the federal government mandates these artificial test scores and then requires teachers and schools to purchase all or some of the aforementioned things, doesn’t it seem like it’s a huge transfer of wealth to those who have vested interests in seeing Common Core succeed? All of these things are not aligned in the interests of children, much less teachers.

A Look Back At History

All of this nonsense (Common Core) was the byproduct of the close collaboration of the US Department of Education and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In order for states to get funding, they had to adopt the principle of teacher evaluations. Dozens of States went for the bait, and almost all of the states changed their laws to be in accordance with Common Core standards.

Meanwhile, there was absolutely NO evidence to support evaluations for teachers. But, the Gates foundation promoted this approach by offering multi-million dollar grants to a few districts to demonstrate test based accountability. Test based accountability failed everywhere it was tried, kinda reminds me of communism. Researchers pointed out time and time again that this approach was ineffective. Teachers who taught ESL, challenged/disabled, troubled and gifted students were less likely to see their scores rise. Compared to those teachers who taught in affluent suburbs. Again, that is why artificial mandates always fail, they never take into account the complex inter-workings of individuals.

Going From Bad to Worse

Race to the abyssAs if the whole program couldn’t get any worse, it does. Race to the Top mandated the rating of teachers for students they had never taught in subjects they had never taught as well. Let that sink in for a second. Seventy percent of teachers didn’t teach reading or mathematics grades three through eight. What’s even more stunning is the fact that hardly anybody knew whether or not teachers who were fired or given bonuses were deserving in either respect. This made test scores even more God like in the eyes of bureaucrats than they were in NCLB.

I’m sure some of you are wondering how the US dept of Education could be so moronic. I’m wondering the same thing, but as it turns out, there is an answer. A coalition of Inside-the-beltway groups decided that national standards and national tests would create a ‘dynamic and coherent re-alignment of public education.’ They thought that national standards and tests would bring about better everything, including: technology, teacher education, professional development, teacher evaluations, promotional and graduation standards, and better text books. It didn’t happen. As a matter of fact, the exact opposite happened–a hodge podge of nightmares.

This wasn’t a new idea, nor novel, though. In the early 1990’s it was called “systemic reform.” The theory held that the American system was too fragmented and decentralized to be effective (I’m pretty sure I heard almost the same thing from the thought police in George Orwell’s 1984). George H. W. Bush’s administration funded voluntary national standards–hoping other parts of the model would align. They didn’t, and for good reason; states were still smart and weren’t quite as desperate for cash at that time. Then came the Bill Clinton administration who promised a ‘national system of standards and assessments.’ That never happened, another bullet dodged. But ultimately, freedom would have it’s day in court when George W. Bush came along and used NCLB to persuade states to write their own standards and tests. He also used it to penalize schools who didn’t meet the standards.

Long story short, the Obama administration announced Race to the Top, but states were ineligible to compete for a share of the 4.5 billion dollars unless they adopted the aforementioned “college and career ready standards.” States understood that it meant adopting Common Core standards even though the standards hadn’t even been finished yet and they would be sight unseen until they had already signed the dotted line! The 2008 financial crisis left most states in dire financial straights. All but five states adopted the Common Core standards sight unseen; they got greedy for that cash-money. Eighteen states received funding.

Where’s the Autonomy?

Race to the abyssStates were allowed to add a meager 15 percent of additional content to the Common Core standards, but in order to do that, they had to agree to not change the standards in any way, shape, or form. The US department of Education awarded three hundred and sixty million dollars to two consortia of states to write tests that were aligned with Common Core standards. This was unprecedented in American history. Previously, markets operated on a state-by-state basis, often by district-by-district–even more local, more autonomous, more transparent. A quote by Joanne Weiss, Executive officer of New Schools Venture Fund and close confidant of the Obama administration had this to say in the Harvard Business Review about the new Common Core standards:

“The development of common standards and shared assessments radically alters the market for innovation in curriculum development, professional development, and formative assessments. Previously, these markets operated on a state-by-state basis, and often on a district-by-district basis. But the adoption of common standards and shared assessments means that education entrepreneurs will enjoy national markets where the best products can be taken to scale.” Now all of this doesn’t sound terrible, I’m all for more entrepreneurship and innovation. But this isn’t true entrepreneurship. This is stacking the deck for your friends and calling it a fair competition.

The Pesky Question of Legality

The promotion of Common Core by the US department of Education and funding of national tests was legally questionable, as it turns out. Federal Laws prohibits federal officials from attempting to direct or control curriculum. Ironically, Arne Duncan insisted that he had no role in directing, assisting or promoting the direction of curricula. But, that’s exactly what he did. The Obama administration and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation thought they had pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes, but, it backfired almost immediately. There was a huge outcry over how the Common Core standards were devised. The Common Core standards were deliberated behind closed doors, lacked transparency and lacked inclusion of stakeholders and most damning of all, no revisions allowed.

Solutions for The End of The Day

Race to the abyssUltimately, what schools really needed wasn’t more testing and more punishment, they needed smaller classes, more experienced teachers and health clinics; instead they were mandated more testing. The Obama administration and the DOE’s Arne Duncan built on the cracked foundation of NCLB by transforming schools from humanistic, child centered and community oriented to shaped by ideas and interests of statisticians, economists and entrepreneurs. We need to get back to a common sense place when it comes to education. The way things are being implemented and ran right now are a total disaster. The illiteracy rate is just as high as it ever was (and, actually, it’s getting higher), we need solutions, and we need them fast.

One place we could start, as I’ve advocated for before, is the abolition of the Department of Education, nowhere in the Constitution does it call for such an entity. After we disbanded that trainwreck, we can proceed by giving back freedom to states by letting them choose which curriculum they want to use. They can choose a curricula that has actually been proven to work, not some pie-in-the-sky, bureaucrat’s wet dream. After we have given the freedom of choice back to the states and districts, the final thing we need to do is abolish national tests and standards and repeal Common Core.

I really don’t care about ‘looking’ like I’m helping children, I ACTUALLY care about helping children. Even more so, I don’t care about ‘looking’ (read: virtue signaling) like I’m helping teachers, I actually want to help teachers. If the American school system is to recover from this death spiral she’s in, we’ll need to take swift, comprehensive measures to ensure her recovery. Time to give teachers back their autonomy. Time to tell bureaucrats to back up and step down. We don’t have any time to waste. In order for America to be innovative we need to have innovative, critcal thinking students, and the simple fact of the matter is that is slowly coming to an end. We need action, and we need it now.

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Standardized Testing Vs Teacher Autonomy

The Rise of Bureaucratic Control

Standardized testing vs teacher autonomyI’ve been reading a book every teacher, homeschooler and educator should read. It’s Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System and it’ makes a compelling case for more teacher autonomy and less Standardized testing. At first, I threw it down upon hearing that idea that competition doesn’t bolster innovation. Competition is the one of the most integral things that stimulates production/innovation and quality while simultaneously decreasing price (economics 101), you can check out Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman’s ‘Top Dog,’ for more evidence on how competition is not only necessary in our everyday lives, but without it, we’d still be living in the stone ages. Not only is competition importnat in the adult world, but it’s especially important for developing children. I also don’t necessarily agree that privatization is a bad thing if it’s in the hands of competent individuals.

OK, enough preamble.

However, after getting over my ego tantrum, I picked up the book again and continued reading. And to my amazement, Ravitch succinctly diagnoses the problem that teachers face on a daily basis: too much bureaucratic nonsense and control and WAY too many standardized tests.

Just to be clear, I’m not getting a commission or being paid in any way to recommend Ravitch’s book or ‘Top Dog’–I just like to recommend fantastic books when I get the chance. Ravitch outlines a clear and concise plan of action: give teachers control of tests (and how they administer them), and give them more autonomy in their classrooms so they can do what they do best: teach.

The idea that teachers should be confined to a National curriculum like No Child Left Behind or Common Core is ludicrous. @yesphonics Click to Tweet

The Inherent Flaw of A National Curriculum

The idea that teachers should be confined to a National curriculum like No Child Left Behind or CommonStandardized testing vs teacher autonomy Core is ludicrous. It’s ridiculous in more than one way, but let’s start with the biggest and most glaring inconsistency first, which is: to assume that a one size fits all curriculum is going to be a success for every single (and very individualistic) child.

Children are very unique in that they have very different needs and standards: one child’s need is going to be vastly different than the next. Ravitch uses and excellent metaphor: one child might run a mile in 5 minutes and another child might run a mile in 10 minutes–both children have very different needs. Unfortunately, those that are proponents of Common Core or national curriculums often overlook common sense; that children aren’t the same–and a one-size-fits-all approach can’t possibly work. On this premise alone, it’s easy to see why Standardized testing (and mandating that schools “get to this level of scores or you’re funding is cut and we fire everyone”) is falling short. Just to be clear, that IS what is happening. Teachers are forced to comply with federally mandated test scores and if their district doesn’t meet those standards then they’ll be met with funding cuts and teacher firings.

The Importance of Letting Teachers Have the Reigns

Another even more important reason why teachers should have autonomy in the classroom is the simple fact that when resources are focused on actually training teachers extensively in their field of study, instead of training them on ideology (insert Dept. of Education), they’re competent individuals who can then teach their students to the highest degree. Which in turn, produces well rounded, highly educated, critical thinking enabled individuals. If teachers don’t have flexibility to teach in a way that not only helps students, but also suits their very individualistic needs (some students need more help than others and vice versa), well, we don’t have much of a functioning education system.

The biggest complaint I hear from teachers is that the standards that the state or the Federal government is putting forward are unrealistic. If the standards (and when I say standards I mean test scores) are Utopian, obviously the results will fall short. But, if standards are realistic, teachers and students will have a much better chance of success.

This brings up the issue of certain students who do exceedingly well vs. students who are failing. If we Standardized testing vs teacher autonomy have a one size fits all curriculum that is mandated by the State or the Federal government, the students who are bright will be held back by the students who are struggling. It’s really that simple. The problem with having a common standard is that the standard has to low. This is just another example of how having a federalized one-size-fits-all curriculum doesn’t help teachers (or students) at all. It de-incentivizes teachers because they’re not able to teach in a way that is flexible. The very nature of teaching relies on flexibility. Teachers have to be flexible to address the differing needs of their students. It amazes me that bureaucrats still don’t understand this.

If You Can’t Beat Em’, Cheat Em’

A case-in-point example of a national/federal mandated curriculum going awry was in 2012 with Beverly Hall in Atlanta. She was the superintendent of all schools in Atlanta. She was having incredible (or seemingly so) success with her students even with the NCLB act–which, was the earlier version of Common Core. However, it was discovered that widespread cheating had infiltrated the standardized tests. But not from the students! It came from none other than Beverly Hall herself.

In order to get those utopian test scores, she instructed her staff of teachers to mark answers right that were actually wrong. This is what happens when you try to mandate something that is impossible from the onset. Essentially the only ones who profit from all of this are the billionaires and mega millionaires in the Standardized testing industry. They simply don’t care about the success of students or teachers, only their own coffers.

Even Tom Loveless, a former sixth-grade teacher and Harvard policy professor, who’s an expert on student achievement, education policy, and reform in K-12 schools said that standards (mandated by the federal government) don’t matter that much and that essentially Common Core was going to be a failure. It’s a disaster. I’m not using this as an authority fallacy argument, but the fact remains that someone with the authority to speak on this subject is telling the bureaucrats in Washington that this garbage isn’t working. They should listen.

Homeschoolers Have It Made In The Shade

Now, I realize that I have a lot of homeschoolers who read this blog, and I’m so happy to say that thisStandardized testing vs teacher autonomy affects you hardly at all–other than the fact that your children have to interact with other children who are being robbed of a good education, but I digress.. Keep on homeschooling and fighting the good fight. And, as it turns out, a recent study came out proving what most homeschoolers secretly suspected: that homeschooled children are actually smarter than children educated by the state.  and of course there are all the caveats, I’m not saying that this is cut and dry rule across the board, but it stands to reason. Homeschoolers can provide the detailed, tailored curriculum that other public school parents can’t…Just another reason to consider going the homeschool route.

Positive Vision of Accountability In Action

I know some people out there might be skeptical about all of this. The government knows best, right? Well, there is an entity out there who is actually walking the walk and talking the talk (besides homeschoolers), and that’s the New York Performance Standards Consortium. A great example of a waiver purchase (exempting them from ‘National standards’ or Common Core) is this group. They’ve administered their own assessments in the form of portfolios, essays and research projects instead of using Standardized tests.

They enroll the same number of impoverished students as other public schools do, but they have a much higher graduation rate. And to top that off, suspension rate and teacher turnover rate are much lower. In essence these twenty eight schools demonstrate accountability by long term results NOT by annual testing. This is so important to understand, they’re doing the exact OPPOSITE of what the mainstream public education system is doing and it’s working fabulously.

Accountability Vs. Responsibility

To put this into perspective, Ravitch met Finnish Educator Pasi Sahlberg and discussed the idea of ‘accountability.’ As it turns out, The Finnish education system doesn’t even have that language or ideology in their teaching system at all. Instead, Sahlberg stated that they have a word that comes close: Responsibility. Sahlberg went on to say that, “All of our teachers take responsibility for their work.” Those two ideologies are worlds apart. One suggests punishment, while the other suggests freedom. Ravitch then visited Finland the next year and witnessed first hand the marvels of the Finnish education system.

standardized testing vs teacher autonomy Children received fifteen minutes of recess between each class (see our article on the importance of exercise and diet for children). Ravitch also witnessed children participating in jazz bands, film classes where they learned to make their own videos. She saw first hand what the Finnish were doing. Test scores held absolutely no sway whatsoever, but students were engaged and eager to learn. She witnessed something entirely different, and arguably superior.

Something even more important than ‘how’ they operate in Finnish education is ‘why’ they operate. The Finns have an attitude of building and sustaining competent and well educated teachers that society at large respects. They also have the children’s wellbeing in mind–something so important, but yet, somehow very hollow in American education, even though we routinely say, “It’s all for the children.”.

The Power of Solutions

What are some of the solutions to the problem of Standardized tests and teacher autonomy? A step in the right direction would be to scrap the idea (and the government program) of making everything about test scores. That’s obviously failed.

Yes, testing has it’s place. But it’s gotten to the point now that standardized testing is the be-all- end-all, and that’s simply fallacious. States should have curriculum “guide lines” but not mandated guidelines. Teachers should have a general idea on what subjects to teach in which grade. This will ensure that teachers everywhere have flexibility and autonomy, but they’ll have a general guideline as well. This will also ensure that students who move from state to state won’t repeat courses they’ve already taken.

We have to trust teachers to use their skills and their knowledge in their areas of their expertise. We also have to trust them to know their students and understand them as professionals. Punishing teachers with “accountability” is foolish and has been proven not to work.

Let’s get back to the good ole’ days of allowing teachers to actually do their job. Let’s let teachers actually teach their students without being hampered by red tape. Let’s say no to Common Core. Let’s say no to more bureaucratic control. Let’s say yes to more teacher autonomy. Teachers need autonomy.explicit phonics

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Multi Sensory Teaching Can Decrease Juvenile Crime

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Multi Sensory Teaching Can Decrease Juvenile Crime

A Plea to the US Public School System

Multi sensory teaching is an important topic, and one that needs to be addressed immediately. It may be uncomfortable to discussMulti Sensory Teaching  for some people as it requires a fundamental paradigm shift from the current public school model. However, the most uncomfortable topics (in any arena of life) must be discussed in order to make progress. Perhaps if we had this discussion thirty years ago, we wouldn’t have 32 million illiterate adults. Don’t get me wrong, I love teachers, but I dislike the politics.

First off, I think it’s pertinent to discuss what multi-sensory teaching actually is. Children have very different learning styles. When a multi-sensory approach of seeing, hearing, saying and writing the phonograms and spelling words directly from dictation is used, then all students will learn whether they have a learning mode that is auditory, visual or kinesthetic. A multi-sensory method has a synergistic effect of addressing the stronger learning mode while reinforcing the weakest; it is effective for beginning, remedial and advanced students.

What do the Statistics Say?

Some of the statistics that go along with the aforementioned illiteracy of adults are absolutely shocking. It’s almost criminal.

According to an article by the Huffington Post, 32 million individuals that are illiterate account for 14 percent of the population. Even more alarming, 25 percent of adults in the US have a reading ability of an average 5th grader. It’s no wonder that books are slowly becoming a thing of the past.

The most shocking statistic, though, is 19 percent of high school graduates can’t read. There are more bleak statistics in the aforementioned article, and I suggest that you take the time to read it as it’s an eye-opener… I’m not here to talk about statistics today, though. I want to talk about a far greater problem. I want to talk about what happens to these individuals who never learn how to read effectively. 

“Nearly a billion people will enter the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names and two thirds of them are women.” Click to Tweet

As the title of this article suggests, reading ability and crime closely correlate. Two thirds of all children who don’t learn how to read effectively by fourth grade will end up in prison or on welfare. Let’s take a moment to let that sink in… According to UNICEF:

Multi Sensory Teaching “Nearly a billion people will enter the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names and two thirds of them are women.”

The horror continues. 85 percent of all children who interact with the juvenile court system are FUNCTIONALLY ILLITERATE. Not to mention 60 percent of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate.

Out of inmates that receive remedial instruction for reading, there’s only a 17 percent chance of them returning to prison versus a 70 percent chance if they don’t receive help. Correlation doesn’t always equal causation, but in this case, I think the numbers speak for themselves.

The Solution: Teach Explicit Phonics (For Free)

What do all of these grim statistics mean? And more importantly, what can people actively do to avoid this grizzly scenario happening to their children? And how can public schools combat literacy problems in a fundamental way?

The solution is a hands on approach to reading, spelling and writing; an explicit, kinesthetic way of teaching phonics. As a matter of fact, people can access our Mnemonic Phonic Technique for free and start teaching their children the sounds of the English Language RIGHT NOW. It’s a unique learning tool designed by my Grandma Pauline to help students sound out the phonogram’s sound sequence. But, here’s what makes it really special: it provides colorful illustrations AND mnemonic catch phrases that help students remember each sound. Simply listen to the narrator the first time as he introduces the sounds of each phonogram and repeat the second time. Actively listen to this video three to four times a day and your child will be MEASURABLY ahead of all of his peers. 

I fully believe (research and science confirm this belief) that if public schools adopted our Mnemonic Phonic Technique (much less a comprehensive explicit phonics curriculum), not only would they reverse the trend of illiteracy (and see their students’ test scores increase), but they could help a VAST majority of non-English speakers that are currently flooding the public school system, but that’s a topic for another time.

Caveats to Learning English

I like to put all the caveats out there front and center. I’m a decent human being and I don’t like to bury anything in the fine print. Most children will benefit from multisensory phonics instruction. However, just like in any field, there will be those who won’t.

Unfortunately, many children (the majority who can learn effectively from explicit phonics) aren’t receiving any form of phonics instruction in the public school sphere. It hardly matters that a minority won’t benefit from it (There are solutions to the minority; Maryanne Wolf’s “Proust and the Squid” is a great book that addresses this very issue and their learning center is designed exactly for students who have special learning disabilities–I don’t receive money for promoting her book or their work, by the way).

The MAJORITY are still suffering, the majority are still receiving whole language/Common Core Multi Sensory Teaching instruction and seeing no light at the end of the tunnel. It’s time we take a step back and ask ourselves if the public school system is really doing all it can to help these children, or if it’s really just about posturing and being politically correct.

What Can Teachers Do?

I understand that a lot of teachers would rather not risk their tenure (and their livelihood) to speak out about the injustice these students are exposed to, but the problem will continue without their help. Illiteracy rates will keep rising until a systematic, explicit phonics approach is adopted in each and every school in US. I urge teachers to talk to their board of directors and their superintendents and bring them the research and the facts–heck, bring them the Mnemonic Phonic Technique. If every teacher did this, I guarantee their students would be immeasurably more effective in their reading ability. Plus, incarceration rates would plummet which, I think, the tax payers wouldn’t mind. Locking people up is expensive.

I run this blog to solve problems teachers and parents have. If you like what you’re reading please subscribe to our blog. The fact of the matter is that millions of children are on their way to becoming functionally illiterate, and subsequently on their way to prison. I’ve argued before that using a bottom-up, explicit, multi sensory phonics approach not only teaches children to read, spell and write effectively, but it also helps develop empathy. Empathy is one biggest contributors by which these children can avoid the deep pit of wasted human potential: prison.  

Until we disregard the politics and the sophists, until we gird our loins and pull up our boot straps, until we demand an effective method to teach our children to read–there will be no hope for our children, or their children. We need hope to survive. Forget all the politicians who routinely use children as their rhetorical platform to gather votes, this is real talk about children. Our children need us, and they need explicit phonics.

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Explicit Phonics Instruction: The King of English and Empathy

Transforming learning through teaching phonics

Explicit Phonics Instruction: The King of English and EmpathyExplicit phonics

I’m going to be bold, very bold, because I’m going to make the extraordinary claim (backed by scientific research) that explicit phonics instruction is hands-down one of the most effective ways to teach K-3rd graders how to read. It will also help develop mirror neurons-the key to empathy.

My Experience with Explicit Phonics

As a child, I grew up in a rich learning environment. My grandma Pauline would always read to me every evening before bed. This is where experienced being in a completely different world–subject to the whims and creativity of the writer.

I mentioned a little earlier that using phonics will help develop empathy in children; this happens when parents read to their children. An exerpt from the Guardian has this to say about the effects of reading to children:

A Cambridge University study by Maria Nikolajeva, professor of education, found that “reading fiction provides an excellent training for young people in developing and practising empathy and theory of mind, that is, understanding of how other people feel and think”.

They elaborate even further on the science surrounding reading and empathy:

Neuroscience backs this up. Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, US, say that fiction tricks our brains into thinking we are part of the story. The empathy we feel for characters wires our brains to have the same sensitivity towards real people. Carnegie Mellon University studies discovered that when you get lost in a book your brain lives through the characters at a neurological level.

Parents and teachers should be encouraged to ask their students about what their thoughts are on the characters, i.e.; how do you feel about the character? what did this person struggle with? how can this person overcome their struggle? By asking these kinds of questions, children will begin to see the importance of being able to empathize with others and, ultimately, they will develop into caring, empathetic and virtuous individuals. But don’t believe me, check out this research by  , M. Ed..

As I became older I would help with the day to day operations of the business: answering e-mails, mailing packages, and sorting flashcards. All of this was part of the learning environment and I really enjoyed it!

Teaching Phonics to improve concentrationI attended a small public school in Roberts, MT and had the opportunity to meet one of the best teachers I’ve ever known: Jean Zier. She was known for her award winning curriculum directing and teaching. I was also lucky, in that, my Grandma Pauline (she founded YesPhonics and developed what is now called the Express Program) was a huge advocate of teaching explicit phonics, and for good reason! So, one thing led to another, and I found myself in a phonics rich environment not only in the home, but also at school. I believe that explicit phonics and caring teachers gave me the tools to use the English language effectively.

What Are Explicit Phonics?

Explicit phonics move from the smallest part to the whole. Students first learn the phonograms (letters and combinations of letters) and their sounds. They build and recombine them into syllables and words. This method teaches the phonograms explicitly. The whole purpose of explicit phonics is teach sound-spelling relationships and how to apply those relationships to  read words. Literacy Connects says  this about explicit phonics:

“… Phonics instruction should be explicit and systematic. It is explicit in that sound-spelling relationships are directly taught. Students are told, for example, that the letter s stands for the /s/ sound. It is systematic in that it follows a scope and sequence that allows children to form and read words early on. The skills taught are constantly reviewed and applied to real reading. Systematic and early instruction in phonics leads to better reading. This is because phonics knowledge aids in the development of word recognition. Word recognition, in turn, increases fluency. Reading fluency, then, improves reading comprehension since children are not struggling with decoding and are able to devote their full attention to making meaning from text. Inadequate decoding is characteristic of poor readers.”

The Aftermath of a Post Phonics World

After attending three years (1st-3rd grade) at Roberts school, I transferred to a school in Red Lodge, MT to attend middle school. At the time, my dad and I lived in the country on a little farmexplicit phonics . We were right between Roberts and Red Lodge, but a little closer to the latter.

It was in my new classroom that realized how important explicit phonics were-even if I couldn’t fully understand the tools I was using. To me, it was just the way I had been taught to read, spell and write, and it seemed odd to me that the other students weren’t being taught the way I had learned.

I remember clear as a bell my first day of fourth grade being able to sound out words, spell, and write them with ease. Most of my other classmates, sadly, were unable to do that. They were struggling. Why? Because this school did not teach explicit phonics. They taught some form of whole language (with NO phonics instruction), which, while this method can have some benefit to a small percentage of students, especially when combined with an explicit phonics strategy; most students aren’t able to memorize more than a few hundred words, which is what whole language relies on. Children may also find the loose structure of whole language confusing and daunting if they haven’t been exposed to the systematic and organized teaching landscape of explicit phonics.

To be fair, there is a raging debate between proponents of whole language and explicit phonics; I’m not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. There seems to be an emerging belief (although, as of yet, unproven) that a combination of whole language and explicit phonics is benefiting students. However, explicit phonics remains and has remained a tried and true and effective way of teaching the English language.

They were struggling. Why? Because this school did not teach explicit phonics. Click to tweet

Students Learn to Read Like Magic (Minus the Magic)

explicit phonics As my fellow students and I learned the phonograms under Mrs. Zier’s instruction, we were continually delighted! We had so much fun coloring the phonogram handout worksheets. Seeing ‘Have a ball,’ and then coloring a ball with a cat was fun. Not only were we being creative, but we were also reinforcing what we had learned. We stimulated our right brain (normally associated creativity). We were taught how to physically write the phonograms (which you and your student can also do for free right here). Every day we would repeat the phonograms we had learned the day before and then we would learn two to four more–each phonogram had an illustration (we added the mnemonic catch phrase to each phonogram while developing our Express program) which helped reinforce the sounds of the phonograms.

We went on the learn the 29 spelling rules of the English language as well as the 1300 Ayres most commonly used words in the English language. By the time we were done with third grade, we were reading novels, and LOVING it. That was the ultimate payoff, developing a love of reading.

As students who learned to read effectively at an early age, we received numerous benefits over our peers, some of these included: psychological, neurological, educational, social, and linguistic improvement. For instance, because we learned to read from an early age, we developed stronger pathways via our brain neurons. If brain neurons are stimulated appropriately at an early age, children have the capacity, with EACH individual brain cell (neuron), to sprout close to 20,000 dendrites per cell. Another good example is the psychological effect it had on us; we developed confidence at a very early age because we were able to expand our learning almost without barrier. Teach Reading Early has some more in-depth  information on the effects of children learning to read early.

I’m Not Selling Anything-I’m Giving Stuff Away For Free

Unfortunately, fewer and fewer people are reading these days. Most of it has to do with the falling literacy rates; anywhere from 20-45 million adults are illiterate in the US alone. And this is explicit phonics devastating for our species and for our culture-especially for the up-and-coming generations. Reading is one of the tools that allows the reader to really experience someone else’s thoughts and feelings, their likes and dislikes-their story. Reading develops empathy, which, again, I would argue is the most important resource a child can develop.

If you’re concerned that your child may not be getting the proper phonics education that they deserve, then by all means please watch our free Sound-A-Long DVD which presents all of the 45 sounds of the English language. Simply listen to the narrator as he vocalizes the first round of sounds for each phonogram and repeat with the narrator as he vocalizes the phonogram sounds the second time. You can play this DVD in the background or actively listen to it with your student.

You can also teach your students with a more hands on approach using our free Flash Cards. Simply click these three links (here and here and here) and you’ll open a tab that allows you to print and cut our flash cards that are embedded in each article. You will find instructions on how to teach the phonograms in  each article. It’s best to start with Part 1 as each article progressively teaches the phongrams from a-z–no pun intended.

Also, I wouldn’t be a good blogger if I didn’t encourage people to sign up on my e-mail list. You can sign up for weekly blog postings right here:

In closing, the future depends on our children developing empathy and critical thinking. By doing so (nurturing our children and students with reason, virtue and empathy) we can fundamentally change the entire world. We can not only change the illiteracy rate for the better, but we can also stimulate human capital to it’s maximum potential. And that’s a bright future.

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How to Teach Phonograms: Part 3

Teaching phonics with mnemonics

Flash cards

How to Teach Phonograms: Part 3

This is the third and final installment of, “How to Teach the Phonograms.”.  How is it going with your student? If you have any questions, sign in on the blog site and ask. Better yet; we would love to see a comment from you.  If you are popping in for the first time, reading Parts 1 and 2 will be very helpful.

A Few Pointers

  1. Teaching the alphabet phonograms first (see parts 1 and 2) help lay the foundation in letter formation, called manuscript or printing, as well as with reading and spelling those sounds. The rest of the phonograms are referred to as multi-letter phonograms or sounds.
  2. YesPhonics and all Orton-Spalding methods of reading take the clutter out of learning the English language. Whenever the alphabet sounds combine to make new sounds they are taught as multi-letter phonograms. But if the sounds remain the same when they are joined with others, they are not taught again.  Some examples will make this clearer.
  3. Examples: When the /o/ and /u/ come together as /ou/, the /ou/ makes 4 other sounds. We always underline multi-letter phonograms while building the word list. But when letters join together that do not make new sounds, such as, the /s/ and the /t/ to make /st/, we do not reteach the /st/ as a separate sound.  Students already know how to say the /s/ and how to say the /t/.  It is not necessary to teach them again, thus making the teaching of the English language much less chaotic than how it is often presented.
  4. Remember the Checklist:
  • Write each phonogram 5 times as prescribed, not in a rote way.
  • When needed, reinforce the language learned, such as, top line, base line, and points on the circle.
  • Review previously learned phonograms every day. You may choose several rather than all 30, 50 or 70. Do not let much time lapse before reviewing older phonograms. Student do forget. Review is the greatest tool in your arsenal.
  • Play with the phonograms. See Part 2 for ideas.

Teaching the alphabet phonograms first help lay the foundation in letter formation as well as with reading and spelling those sounds. Click to tweet

And Now for the Rest of the Phonograms

(Words that should be spoken by the teacher and student are in bold, and they are also accompanied by the command, “say.”)Flash cards


sh: Say: /sh/ used at the beginning of a word (she), at the end of a syllable (fishes), but not at the beginning of any syllable after the first one (nation), except for the ending –ship. * (Do not say, she, fishes, nation)

Now write it.  sh Then say it again, the whole thing, plus the key word caption: she fishes for friendship.

*Students will not understand everything they say for a while, but it is important to establish a point of reference for later.


ee : Say: /ē/ double ee always says /ē/.  Now write it.   ee   Now say the whole thing again plus the keyword caption peek.

th: Say:  /th/-/th/ . Now write it th .  Now say: /th/-/th/ three of them.

ay: Say:  /ā/ 2-letter /ā/ that we may use at the end of English words.  Now write it: ay.  Remember:

Now say: /ā/ 2-letter /ā/ that we may use at the end of English words,  play sailboat. *

*Since this is the /ay/, place emphasis on the word “play.”  Make it louder than the word sailboat.


flash cards ai: Say: /ā/ 2-letter /ā/ that we may not use at the end of English words. Now write it: ai

Now say:  /ā/ 2-letter /ā/ that we may not use at the end of English words, play sailboat. *

*Since this /ai/, place emphasis on the word “sailboat”.  Make it louder than the word play.


ow: Say: /ow/-/ō/ that we may use at the end of English words.  Now write it: ow

Now say: /ow/-/ō/ that we may use at the end of English words, cowboy show.


ou:  Say: /ow/-/ō/-/o o/-/ŭ/ that we may not use at the end of English words. Now write it: ou

There is no keyword caption for /ou/. Students should make karate-type hand motions while saying it.

Here are 4 words so that you know how to pronounce the sounds:

/ow/ (sound), /ō/ (soul), /o o/ (youth), /ŭ/ (trouble)


aw: Say: /aw/ that we may use at the end of English words.  Now write it: aw

Now say: /aw/ that we may use at the end of English words, auto law.*

*Since this is /aw/, place emphasis on the word “law.” Make it louder than the word “auto.”


au: Say: /au/ that we may not use at the end of English words. Now write it: auflash cards

Now say:  /au/ that we may not use at the end of English words, auto law. *

*Since this is /au/, place emphasis on the word “auto”. Make it louder than the word “law.”


ew: Say:  /o o/-/ū/ that we may use at the end of English words. Now write it: ew

Now say: /o o/-/ū/ that we may use at the end of English words, brew a few.


ui: Say: /o o/-/ū/ that we may not use at the end of English words. Now write it: ui

Now say:  /o o/-/ū/ that we may not use at the end of English words, fruit juice.


oy: Say: /oy/ that we may use at the end of English words. Now write it: oy

Now say:  /oy/ that we may use at the end of English words, noisy boy. *

*Since this is /oy/, place emphasis on the word “boy.” Make it louder than the word “noisy.”


oi: Say: /oi/ that we may not use at the end of English words. Write it now: oi

Now say: /oi/ that we may not use at the end of English words, noisy boy. *

*Since this is /oi/, place emphasis on the word “noisy.” Make it louder than the word “boy.”


flash cards oo: Say: /o o/-/o o/-/ō/. Now write it: oo .  Now say: /o o/-/o o/-/ō/, foolish crook at the door.


ch: Say: /ch/-/k/-/sh/, /ch/-/k/-/sh/ said gradually faster,  resembling a train. Now write it: ch

Now say: /ch/-/k/-/sh/, /ch/-/k/-/sh/ said gradually faster three or four times.


ng: Say: /ng/ used at the end of a word or syllable (a nasal sound). Now write: ng

Now say: /ng/ used at the end of a word or syllable, sing a long song.


ea: Say: /ē/-/ĕ/-/ā/. Now write it: ea  Now say: /ē/-/ĕ/-/ā/, eating bread is great.


ar: Say: /ar/ the /ar/ of car. Now write it: ar  Now say: /ar/ the /ar/ of car, car (not a mistake)


ck: Say: /k/ 2-letter /k/ used only at the end of a root word after a single vowel that says /ă/-/ĕ/-/ĭ/-/ŏ/-/ŭ/ Now write it: ck   Now say it again, the whole thing, adding the keyword caption: prick a pickle.


ed: Say: /ed/-/d/-/t/ past tense ending.  Now write it: ed Now say: /ed/-/d/-/t/ past tense ending, spotted, starred, striped.flash cards


or: Say:  /or/. Now write it: or   Now say: /or/ form a sword.


wh: Say: /wh/ (as if to blow a feather off your palm). Now write it: wh  Now say: /wh/, whisper to whale.


oa: Say: /ō/ 2-letter /ō/ that we may not use at the end of English words.  Now write it: oa

Now say:  ō/ 2-letter /ō/ that we may not use at the end of English words, toad on a boat.


oe: Say:  /ō/ 2-letter /ō/ that we may use at the end of English words.  Now write it: oe

Now say: /ō/ 2-letter /ō/ that we may use at the end of English words, tiptoe.


For the next six phonograms use the following sentence in the presentation of each.  Emphasize the word being highlighted. Students really enjoy this.

Her first nurse works early on her journey.


er: Say: /er/ the /er/ of her. Write it: er  Now say: /er/ the /er/ of her (and the sentence emphasizing”her”).

ir: Say: /er/ the /er/ of first. Write it:ir   Now say: /er/ the /er/ of first (and the sentence emphasizing”first”).


ur: Say:  /er/ the /er/ of nurse. Write it: ur  Now say: /er/ the /er/ of nurse (and the sentence emphasizing “nurse”).flash cards


wor: Say: /er/ the /er/ of works.  Write it: wor   Now say: /er/ the /er/ of works  (and the sentence emphasizing “works”).  The wor = /w/-/or/, often, “w” before “or” makes “or” say /er/.


ear: Say: /er/ the /er/ of early. Write it: ear  Now say: /er/ the /er/ of early (and the sentence emphasizing “early”).


our: Say:  /er/ the /er/ of journey. Write it: our Now say: /er/ the /er/ of journey (and the sentence emphasizing “journey”).


ey: Say: /ā/-/ē/ that we may use at the end of English words. Now write it:  ey Now say:  /ā/-/ē/ that we may use at the end of English words, they have the honey.


ei: Say: /ā/-/ē/ that we may not use at the end of English words.  Now write it: ei

Now say: /ā/-/ē/ that we may not use at the end of English words, their leisure.


eigh: Say:  /ā/ 4-letter /ā. Now write it: eigh Now say: /ā/ 4-letter /ā, eight freight cars.


ie: Say:  /ē/-/ī/. Now write it:  ie   Now say: /ē/-/ī/, piece of pie.*

flash cards *Remember that we say the phonogram sounds in the order of frequency used.  The first sound is used more often than the second sound.  Students will rise to the challenge of learning this one.


igh: Say:  /ī/ 3-letter /ī/. Now write it: igh  Now say:  /ī/ 3-letter /ī/, night light.


kn: Say: /n/ 2-letter /n/ used only at the beginning of a root word.  Now write it:  kn

Now say: /n/ 2-letter /n/ used only at the beginning of a root word, knight’s knockout.


gn: Say: /n/ 2-letter /n/ used at the beginning and at the end of a root word. Now write it: gn

Now say:  /n/ 2-letter /n/ used only at the beginning of a root word, gnat sign.*

*Be sure to explain vocabulary or ideas as students may not understand.  Ask: What is a gnat?


wr: Say: /r/ 2-letter /r/ used only at the beginning of a root word. Now write it:  wr  .

Now say: /r/ 2-letter /r/ used only at the beginning of a root word, don’t write wrong.


ph: Say: /f/ 2-letter /f/. Now write it:  ph  .  Now say: /f/ 2-letter /f/, photograph.


dge: Say: /j/ 3-letter /j/ used only at the end of a root word after a single vowel that says /ă/-/ĕ/-/ĭ/-/ŏ/-/ŭ/. Now write it: dge  .  Now say the whole thing again plus the keyword caption: hodge-podge


tch: Say: /ch/ 3-letter /ch/ used only at the end of a root word after a single vowel that says /ă/-/ĕ/-/ĭ/-/ŏ/-/ŭ/. Now write it:  tch  . Now say the whole thing again plus the keyword caption: pitcher.


ti: Say:  /sh/ tall-letter /sh/ used at the beginning of any syllable after the first syllable. Now write it: ti Now say:  /sh/ tall-letter /sh/ used at the beginning of any syllable after the first syllable, nation.flash cards


si: Say:  /sh/-/zh/ used at the beginning of any syllable after the first syllable.  Now write it:  si  .

Now say: /sh/-/zh/ used at the beginning of any syllable after the first syllable, mansion excursion.


ci: Say:  /sh/ short-letter /sh/ used at the beginning of any syllable after the first syllable.

Now write it: ci .  Now say: /sh/ short-letter /sh/ used at the beginning of any syllable after the first syllable, special social.


ough: Say:  /ō/- /o o/, /uff/-/off/, /aw/-/ow/. *  Now write it: ough .

/ō/ (dough), /o o/ (through), /uff/ (tough), /off/ (trough), /aw/ (sought), /ow/ (bough) Learn in pairs.


are here for you to know the pronunciation.  Check with the DVD if you are not sure. The picture on the phonogram card is of someone falling down a hill on skis.  Allow students to be dramatic and imitate the guy falling while saying this phonogram.


gu: Say:  /g/ of guilty guy.  Now write it: gu  .  Now say: /g/ of guilty guy, guilty guy. (Not a mistake.)


Teaching students the phonograms as a foundation to any reading program is highly recommended and beneficial. It will help your students flourish as readers and spellers. Going beyond the basics of the phonograms and teaching a systematic way to use them is even better.

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