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Final thoughts...

This last section charged me up some. The questions to encourage a personal response to the text and to encourage reflection about the plot were refreshingly comfortable. I say that because the institute has given me so much to process. The questions for response I WILL use.

Another reason I got charged up was because of the political nature of literacy education. Beers comments that phonics alone won't cut it. Phonics has to be pared with semantics if kids are going to make any advances in their learning and automaticity. There is a generation of kids lost in the whole language wasteland--where a panacea approach bankrupted many kids. This is frustrating. Of course, there is the joke about kids being "hookd on fonix." So I liked the point about the necessity of pairing the two. Beers: "But none of that will matter if we fail to give them plenty of opportunity to read at their instructional and independent levels, give them repeated chances to hear us read aloud while they follow along, and teach them how to cross-check cueing systems so that as they sound out words (phonics), they are asking themselves, 'Does this make sense?' (semantics)." Indeed.

Even after taking linguistics for language teachers, I don't remember going into such great detail about how sounds go together in words. To be reminded about the need for one vowel sound per syllable was great. Something that I'd like to try to do (because I'm a geeky terminology person) would be to teach explicitly the terms that Beers describes as a common vocabulary for word recognition strategies. Also, I've never taught rules about syllables. That is knowledge I depend on for pronunciation. It would be a wonderful set of skills for my students to take with them for the rest of their lives.

Reading this part also brought me back to linguistics and graphemes. When I was in elementary school the teachers were very patient with me. I made progress, but I remember making it more slowly than the other kids. In fact, the book we used was called Gateways, which seems rather euphemistical at this point in my life. Anyway, we had to read words that the teacher had on flashcards. I remember being frustrated about not being able to read some of the words. A smart teacher had a box of the same words that we were working on, but they were printed differently on the cards...a different font. Something about the typography was different. I had much greater success with the clearer text, for some reason. I've always remembered that and realized that with students the smallest, seemingly insignificant change can make a huge difference. Go figure!

Beers' book will have a permanent spot on my desk from now on!