Does your child guess words when reading?
If you have a guesser on your hands, you probably know it. Your child takes wild stabs at words based on the first letter. Or maybe fairly decent guesses based on context clues – a sort of “fill in the blank if I don’t know the word” approach. Or they confuse similar common words, like of, and, for, from, etc.
It can be frustrating, to say the least! (For everybody.)
What’s so bad about guessing?
At its core, guessing is a way to compensate for a weak phonetic foundation. It masks a hole underneath that can only grow over time as children progress to higher levels of education.
But why do some children seem to learn to read through memorizing whole words and guessing the rest, while others (even siblings in the same family) can sound out words easily?
Well, this is the common story… meet Lizzie.
Lizzie was always a bright little girl, reaching milestones right on schedule and strong in the imagination department! She was a keen artist and visual learner in the preschool years. When she turned 5, she started to pick up those early reader books right away… even to the point of being able to quote them verbatim after only a few reads. She sailed through the first year of school.
But partway through the second, her reading ability seemed to falter. It’s like there were too many words to memorize and she couldn’t hold them all in her brain. She would interchange for/from/of or saw/was. Her eyes would dart over the page, looking for picture clues to help figure out the next word. She would easily read a long, distinctive word like “elephant”, but trip over “the”.
Her parents received the wake up call when she failed her phonics assessment at age 7. Because Lizzie had coped so long using her visual memory, she had masked her inability to decode new words. It wasn’t for lack of intelligence, or lack of trying… ..she just hadn’t been taught phonics in a way her brain wanted to learn.
Try some training wheels: trainertext visual phonics (TVP)
About 1 in 5 children are like Lizzie. Very bright… but so highly visual that they bypass phonics and go straight to memorizing whole words by sight. Unfortunately, this isn’t a sustainable strategy for English. The visual memory wasn’t designed to hold half a million words (which are, after all, just visually uninteresting squiggly black lines!)
The solution for these children is quite simple: you have to teach their brains how to decode words in a way that matches their learning style. A new kid on the education block is finally making this a pain-free process for parents and teachers. It’s called Trainertext visual phonics (TVP). And everything you need to get started is available for you free of cost – truly!
Since reading is a subconscious skill like riding a bike, rather than a conscious rules-based process like building an IKEA table, TVP uses a training wheels approach. The training wheels are its Trainertext images, a set of 45 memorable (even hilarious!) visual characters that represent each of the sounds in the English language. When floated above the letters in a word, they help a child sound out even the most irregular word. (You can print them out free here, or purchase them pre-printed here.)
The images keep the process fun and engaging with their comical bent. And the TVP methodology as a whole is packed with a games, short lesson chunks good for attention-poor schoolchildren, and real books to read from day 1. An independent randomized control trial of TVP showed that after around 120 lessons, children who had been 2 years behind we now on average at the national standard.
The genius of the visual phonics method really is simple. It takes what science tells us works best (reading by decoding phonetically) and uses the natural strengths of the child’s brain to make learning to read in that way easy.
You can now try TVP yourself using the free resources at the TVP website – Helping Children to Read. Free printables, a TVP manual, workbooks and flashcards are all available to you (did we mention it’s all free?!) to help your beginner or struggler. And if you want more information on why YOUR child is struggling, we’d recommend The 9 Main Causes of Reading Difficulty, our Amazon bestseller that can take you through a baseline assessment to help pinpoint what is going wrong for your child, and how to fix it.
** This is a guest post **