When the initial teacher education and national curriculum revisions were announced, I thought of my young friend Maryanne, the kind of teacher your son would like.
His training covered sociology, the arts, and critical thinking, while my previous teaching course focused on the psychological, linguistic, and cognitive development of children, including the teaching of reading. When Maryanne didn’t feel ready to teach, her teachers advised her, “Follow the teacher in the next room.”
But she told me that “the teacher in the next room doesn’t know what to do either and we can’t understand the curriculum.” I assured him that teachers who knew how to teach reading couldn’t understand it either; esoteric jargon pages that promote nonsense strategies such as “look at pictures to guess words”, “guess words by prediction” and “teach spelling for meaning”; ideology that has no evidence.
Initially, I was not as effective a classroom teacher as later, but with my previous curriculum, I knew what to do from the start. The core three years covered direct teaching of the alphabet, phonological awareness of 44 sounds, how they are represented by letters in words (phonetics), and then meaning. Oral language makes every word sound.
Initially, young children learned vowel-consonant and consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words. In grade 1 CVCC / CCVC words with one syllable, then words with consonant digits and in grade 2, words with vowel digraphs, then words with two syllables in grade 3, always with vocabulary. Three skill levels allowed all the children to learn. The reading practice books coincided with classroom learning and a lot of literature was read to the children until they could read themselves.
In her classes, Maryanne encountered a large number of anxious and misbehaved children who could not read. The staff explained, “some children cannot read because their parents have not read to them, so nothing can be done now,” which she knew was false. She taught for five years before quitting, tired and frustrated, potentially a great teacher, a loss to education.
Since 2005, all reviews find that basic evidence-based literacy instruction consists of teaching explicit, systematic synthetic phonetics, sequentially from simple to complex.
So far the recommendations are blocked by the full language of advocates or balanced literacy theories in teacher unions and universities, using misinformation and intimidation. They blame illiteracy on furphies such as lack of funding, low wages, large classes of 20, poor parenting, poor diet, lack of sleep, lazy and / or anxious children, screen time excessive, the evils of society; anything but the truth of their ineffective ideologies.
With 41% illiteracy among 15-year-olds (PISA 2019), too many hundreds of thousands of illiterate children and potentially good teachers have been victims of these ideologies for too long.