Friday, October 30, 2009

putting myself in their shoes

There's nothing like getting into my literacy students' heads and experiences by way of trying it myself - learning a new writing system in a second (or third) language. Learning Arabic definitely puts me in their shoes. After trying to make my way through a short article in Arabic, I notice that the words I read in Arabic break into three categories of non/comprehension:

1) the 98% I sound out and don't understand
2) the 1% I sound out and do understand
3) the other 1% that I can recognize without sounding out, like السلام عليكم (salam alekum) and such

For some time I have stressed phonics on my ESL students, I now believe, at the expense of word-recognition strategies. That is until I realized how much we really read by recognition of words.

Do we really have a library of thousands of words in our heads so that we don't really read letters so much as word shapes? According to the National Institute for Literacy website:

Rapid and effortless Word Recognition is the main component of fluent reading. Words that beginning readers initially sound out through Word Analysis or phonics come to be recognized as whole units after readers encounter them repeatedly in connected text.

At least I can say that I figured it out on my own before checking with other sources (like I probably ought to have done...). In any case, I think regardless of how much formal training teachers go through, that is, more than any other way, how we learn to teach.