Dick and Jane Learn
Rocket Science
Trudy Stegelman, MS
Learning Disabilities Specialist
Center for Learning Disorders
Topeka, Kansas
Fellow, Orton-Gillingham Academy of
Educators and Practitioners
American Reading
Instruction
Nila Banton Smith
Silver, Burdett and Company
1934, 1962, 1965
“At any given time, and particularly during a period of
transition in teaching practices as we are now passing
through, it is not uncommon to find within a single
school different teachers whose procedures exemplify
the outstanding characteristics of several of the more
recent movements. Furthermore, one teacher may be
using some of the techniques and materials
associated with three of four different movements. In
either case it is advantageous that the teacher know
about these movements and that she understand the
one toward which she is primarily tending.”
Nila Banton Smith, 1965
Emphasis of Reading Instruction
in America
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Before 1776
1776-1820
1820-1880
1880-1910
1910-1925
1925-1935
1935-1965
1965 – Present
Religion
Nationalism
Intelligent citizenship
Reading as a cultural asset
Science and quantification
Research and application
International competition
Reading Competency
Aaron, P. and Joshi, R. (1992) The History of Reading Instruction and Reading
Disability Research in America. Reading Problems: Consultation and
Remediation. New York: Guilford Press, 28-54.
Before 1776
Religion
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Purpose:
Method:
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Materials:
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To learn to read the Bible
Alphabetic method
 Reciting letter names and
syllables
Learn by spelling words aloud
Hornbook
Primers, Spelling books
Scripture, Catechism
The New England Primer, 1690
1776-1820:
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Purpose:
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Method:
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Materials:
Nationalism
To stir patriotic fervor,
promote nationalism
Essentially the same as
earlier; spelling and
memorization of letter names
Noah Webster 1783-1807
American Spelling Book, a treatise on grammar, history
and geography of the US
First books on pronunciation and
enunciation
1820-1880: Intelligent Citizenship
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Purpose:
Gaining general knowledge
becoming a good citizen
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Methods:
Beginning of “Reading Wars”
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Materials:
Horace Mann – Look and Say
Francis Parker – Meaning Approach
McGuffey readers
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Published from 1836-1907
Graded readers, drill and limited vocabulary in
earlier readers, later readers emphasized
literature
Forerunner of modern-day basal readers
The Sentence Method of
Teaching Reading
1881
George Farnham, Superintendant of Schools, New
York
“never pay attention to letters”
The teacher repeats the story until the children are
familiar with it.
Written story is presented, each sentence is
analyzed into words.
“The pupils should develop the ability to look
directly through the written expression to the
meaning.”
1880-1910 :
Reading as a Cultural Asset
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Purpose:
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Methods: Emphasis on meaning; whole-word
and sentence methods
Professional books on
reading first produced
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Culture, literature
Materials:
McGuffey readers
Literature-based reading
Adapted alphabets
The Shearer System, 1894
Initial Teaching Alphabet (ita)
Scientific Alphabet, 1902
1910-1935:
Assessment and Research

Purpose: To provide more scientific information
To determine why so many
individuals were not learning
to read well
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Methods:“Remedial reading”
First used by Uhl in 1916
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Materials:
Test development
In spite of the popularity of the meaningbased methods of teaching beginning
reading during the 1920’s and 1930’s,
authors of basal readers made provisions in the
textbooks for the teaching of phonics.
For about 3 decades, starting with the
late 1920’s, the whole word method and
controlled vocabulary predominated.
Aaron & Joshi (1991)
1935-1965:
International Competition
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Purpose: Need for a educated populace
WWII and Sputnik
Soldiers and college students deficient
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Methods:
Mostly whole word, some
analytic (workbook) phonics
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Materials:
Basal readers
Used by 90% of the schools
8 or 9 Publishing companies
“It would seem, at our present state of
knowledge, that a code emphasis—one that
combines control of words in spelling
regularly, some direct teaching of letter-sound
correspondences, as well as the use of writing,
tracing or typing– produces better results with
unselected groups of beginners than a
meaning emphasis.”
Jean Chall (1967) Learning to Read: The Great Debate. (p. 178-179)
1965 – Present:
Reading Competency
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Purpose: Intense concern over reading
competency
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Methods: 1960’s and 1970’s – phonics
Materials: Basal readers, supplemental
materials
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Methods: 1980’s and 1990’s - “whole language”
Materials: Literature-based curriculum
Reading Research
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Between 1884-1910
34 studies (Smith)
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Before 1966
15,000 studies
(National Reading Panel report)
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After 1966-present
Approximately
100,000 studies
(National Reading Panel report)
Current Teacher Training
“Most teachers of the primary grades take
one course in the teaching of reading.
Some take two, so that the average is
about 1.3 courses per teacher.”
Goodlad, 1997
From: Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children, National Research
Council, 1998
Teaching reading is rocket science!
What do teachers need to know?

The Psychology of Reading and Reading Development
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Knowledge of Language Structure and Its Applications
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Practical Skills of Instruction in a Comprehensive
Reading Program
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Assessment of Classroom Reading and Writing Skills
Moats, L. (1999) Teaching Reading IS Rocket Science: What Expert Teachers of
Reading Should Know and Be Able to Do, American Federation of Teachers.
"I have not failed. I’ve just found
10,000 ways that don’t work."
Thomas Alva Edison
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Emphasis of Reading Instruction