Category: Education

Teaching the World to Read
by Richard R. Tryon

We may have to come to realize that for all of the many explanations about the failures of our nation's schools, we may have overlooked the most important reason!

In spite of poor teaching standards, union based destruction of merit in favor of common mediocrity, and failed methodologies, we may have overlooked the most important cause of educational failure.

If students discover that schools do not offer the chance to develop the skills that meet their perceived needs, there is no reason for motivation. In a world of pictures, TV and images for all sorts of life situations, we may have come to the point where many students have simply discovered that learning to read is not important to them. If a comfortable life of pleasure is available without taking the time or making the effort to learn to read, no progam will work.

Is there a way to reformat our past teaching systems in a way that such can compete for students attention? Can we get any help from family, friends or other social concern agencies to help motivate young people to want to learn to read and do math?

We may live in a world that has become progressively dominated by TV and its messages that sell products. The high cost of selling is supported by the image that super athletes and other stars earn big pay for doing their skill in public. A basketball or football player could not make big money, if TV did not generate the revenue to pay for it. Help may be on the way as we now have computers and TV working in tandem to record a digital copy of the game and we can stop watching for a break and come back to watch and catch up by stripping out the commercials! That leads to a time when the ad revenue goes away and with that so too goes the big salaries for so many! Give us 500 channels and a computer with a hard drive and we can change the face of America!

That might just provide a new motivation for students to learn something other than basketball or other sports as their ticket to fame and fortune. But, if one must learn other skills that demand a capacity to read well, and it takes 12 years of whole language reading to get to the point where we can guess the words we have not seen before, will we find a new reason to learn a better method of reading?

The answer is no as long as the method used requires boring drills to memorize the phoneme codes to be able to use phonic skills to read. It is not possible to get students to be taught this way for 12 years. So, we must find a way to teach this skill more rapidly. How?

We must recognize that we should not teach phonics at random. It will not work to introduce letters and sounds in the wrong order as students will not build the right structure in the process. But, if we start early, when the young mind wants to do almost everything in a repetitive way to give the brain a chance to learn and insulate the mental circuits needed, then we have a chance to offer an alternative to whole language right brain reading. So, while it is good that we can store pictures of words that are hard to spell any other way, it is even more fortunate that a much higher percentage of words that we speak can be ‘seen’ in print and recognized by using phonetic skills that are developed in the left side of the brain. Because the left side can learn to build words from sounds and since many words have common roots and sets of sounds, it is a very good shortcut for us to use, if we can teach the left side of the brain to handle this chore in our brain’s need to be able to quickly learn to read and understand. The logic of building words from an alphabet was unknown in history until about the last 4,500 years. Until that time the only way to store thought was to use pictures or a type of writing that contained many very complex sets of symbols.

The invention of the alphabet and later movable type and printing, gave mankind the chance to use the left side of the brain to build the phonic based skill set that makes most of what we want to read be a lot easier to comprehend. The “See-a-Sound” ™ program is designed to help any would be reader learn quickly to convert the sounds of words that are spoken into the printed versions, using the left side of the brain to build the words out of the phonemes or sounds that compose it. Learning the exceptions comes later, as we must learn to spell those words that defy phonetic structuring.

But, this approach to learning requires many other considerations, if it is to be employed in a way that generates a skilled reader. First, we do need to determine that the student is ready to learn to read, not only from an emotional point of view. Without a will to learn, and an ability to pay attention, no student will be able to learn much, no matter how hard we try to teach.

In addition, we do need to know that the student has been tested for any problems of laterality. These simple tests are shown below, but for now you only need to know that it is important that a student not have a mixed set of left-right preferences. It is ok to be all left or right in terms of hands, feet, eyes, and ears, but it can be very troublesome to have a mixed set of preferences! It is not hard to get them in step, and it is equally important that we learn to coordinate both sides of our mental activity. That is why some physical exercises in the “S-a-S” program are aimed at providing both a ‘recess’ from one form of learning and a chance to build the left-right coordination that is very vital to success with the program. We do it with simple ‘marching in place’ as it builds the same left-right circuit coordination that is needed for many activities like reading!

The “S-a-S” approach is basically a means of developing a set of neuron pathways in the brain that become the engine needed to let us read. This structure, once built via exercises that let the human brain coat these circuits with an insulation called mylin, can be used for the rest of one’s life, and the interconnections provide the skill to read and to comprehend a very high percentage of words, so that we only have to recall from memory the images of those words that defy construction from the sounds.

By building the S-a-S program in a manner that lets each student move at their own individual pace, we have eliminated one of the major problems in teaching- making all of a group of students learn together at the same pace- that of the lowest common denominator, if all are to learn. By using a computer to deliver the program in a way that lets it communicate with the student even in step one, when it is assumed that all instructions must be given vocally to those who can not read at all, we have a way to interactively determine when the new skill parts are sufficiently put into our brains network of insulated circuits to be useful.

Sophisticated software is needed to interact and know when the student is not just guessing, but actually knows the correct answers! It is just as important that the computer as a teacher, be able to determine why and what part of the testing is showing that more learning of a specific neuron pathway skill is required. It is like building a house from the ground up. If the main base pieces are not put together soundly, the danger is real that the structure on top will not stay together!

By avoiding difficult combinations of sounds and letter images that cause confusion to the eyes and brains of those learning to read, we can encourage evidence of real progress such that students can actually be reading very simple stories at the end of step one! By using just ten letters and thirteen sounds this is possible. The later six steps are designed to use the skills learned in the earlier steps to reinforce their learning, and only new skills require vocal interaction to assure learning.

By the time a student completes all seven steps, we have produced a full set of reading skills. Yes, it integrates both left and right brain functionality by providing a set of skills that enables the brain to truly handle the reading function is a way that produces a highly qualified reader. Yes, the burden if greater on the left side of the brain, as most words can be decoded faster that way and it fits with the linear need of comprehension that matches the order of input designed by the brain of the writer!

This introduction is intended to help any parent or teacher or friend read about the basic approach of the “See-a-Sound™” method. It is a system that can be learned in as few as 40-50 hours of instruction- faster, depending upon the student, who is not held back by a classroom of students all trying to march in lock-step!

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