It turns out we’re teaching reading all wrong

Do you like to read? I love to. But many people don’t. It may just be that they weren’t taught properly how to read.

People are born wired to talk and communicate. But not to read.

Another big takeaway from decades of scientific research is that, while we use our eyes to read, the starting point for reading is sound. What a child must do to become a reader is to figure out how the words she hears and knows how to say connect to letters on the page. Writing is a code humans invented to represent speech sounds. Kids have to crack that code to become readers.

The best way to learn is to associate the sounds of words: phonics. When you know how to sound out a word, you can connect the written word to the word you already know. This makes it easier to read. But for a very long time, reading education was based on the belief that learning to read is natural. It’s not, and we have to change the way we teach kids how to read.

Teachers Sharing

Today we had a faculty meeting where we shared some of the special things we do. Some of the things that were mentioned were screencastify, quizizz, peardeck, and edulastic. I’ll be looking into using one or two of these in the future.

Self serving biases and your own knowledge

How much do you know? Really? That much? Are you sure?

It turns out that there are lots of ways to think that you know more than you really do. Here’s a good scischow youtube about it. One of my favorites is the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which I see lots of. Basically, the less you know about something, the more you think you know. As a teacher I see this when students think they understand the topic, but then proceed to bomb the test. It works like this: When you have a beginners knowledge of something, you don’t know the intricacies of it. You don’t know just how much more there is to know.

I teach middle school science, so the material has been simplified—there’s a lot more to it than what I teach. Some students don’t get the simplified version, and they think that what they’ve gotten (the very simplified) is easy. Then they have to take a test on what they should know, and they have trouble with it. And when they get to a question on higher-order thinking skills … watch out!

The thing is, I think they could do much better. But when they’re studying, they think they know it, so they don’t study much. If they understood how much more they need to know, I think they’d realize that they needed to study more.

Anyway, watch the video.

Smarts isn’t the most important thing

Being a student is all about being smart right? If you’re smart you’ll do better in school. If you’re smart you’ll be more successful in life. Right? Right?

Well, not really. The most important thing isn’t IQ, or being smart, or learning things fast. The most important thing is grit. Grit is being determined, and able to keep going despite mistakes. It would be great if teaching how to do this were part of teaching curriculum. Please watch the TED Ed video.

Two senators are trying to promote the use of open-source textbooks.

Back in the mists of time, when I was in college, my textbooks cost a lot of money. Upwards of $50 each. But that’s nothing now. Today’s college students can easily pay over $1000 on books a year. But two senators are trying to reduce the cost by encouraging colleges to use Open Source books. Books with an open license could be freely used by students. I hope these bills (S.1704 and H.R.3538) pass and students can have access to information for free.

This isn’t exactly new. The CK-12 foundation makes textbooks available at K-12 levels with an open license.