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. The influence of books . . . . Sam Blumenfeld gives lessons


By: Samuel Blumenfeld

The English alphabetic system may be complex, but it can be taught and it ought to be taught. We have an alphabetic system of great range and flexibility. Our spellings reveal much about the history and development of our language, and once the eccentricities of the system are learned, they are learned. They do not change. The reward for learning this system is to have for oneís personal use and enrichment the entire body of our published literature. Such a literary treasure is indeed the priceless inheritance of everyone who can read.

Our English alphabetic system is complex for a variety of reasons: (1) it uses 26 letters to stand for 44 sounds; (2) it uses five vowel letters to stand for 21 vowel sounds; (3) many consonant letters stand for more than one sound; (4) some sounds, particularly the long vowel sounds, are represented by more than one spelling; (5) the invasions of foreign languages have enriched English but complicated its spellings (6) pronunciations have changed over the centuries but the spellings have not, creating many irregularities.

Despite all of this, our system is more than 80 percent consistent or regular, with most of the irregularities consisting of variant vowel spellings.

In devising this instruction program, we have taken all of the above into account. Therefore, we start out by teaching the pupil the short vowels, which are the most regular in spelling, in conjunction with the consonants. Then we teach the consonant blends - final blends first, then the initial blends. Last, we teach the long vowels in their great variety of spelling forms.

Thus we proceed from the simple to the complex in easy stages, giving the pupil plenty of practice and drill along the way. The pupil learns to read and spell in an orderly, systematic, logical way, as well as to pronounce the language with greater accuracy.

To some teachers this will seem like an overly academic way to teach reading. And it is, on purpose, because we want the pupil to learn to enjoy using his or her mind.

In teaching someone to read English, we must decide what should come first: learning the alphabetic system or enjoying inane stories with lots of irregular sight words. The latter may seem to be much more fun for teacher and pupil; but does it accomplish what we want to accomplish? If our goal is high literacy, it does not.

We know from experience that the pupil will derive much deeper satisfaction by learning the alphabetic system first, because it will give him or her much greater overall reading mastery in a shorter period of time.

Competency and skill are the two most important ingredients of self-confidence, and self-confidence is the cornerstone of self-esteem. Learning to read is the pupilís first real exposure to formal education, and a positive attitude can be instilled in the young mind by how we approach the subject at hand.

It is obvious that one learns faster and better when the knowledge one is expected to acquire is organized in such a way as to make its acquisition as easy as possible. This is the concept behind ALPHA-PHONICS. Our aim is to provide the pupil with the kind of basic knowledge that will become the solid foundation of all his or her future academic work.

Of course, no instructional program teaches itself. Its success depends a great deal on the teacher. This program has a good deal of flexibility and provides many ways to measure the pupilsí progress. But since pupils vary greatly in their prior knowledge and capabilities, the teacher in some instances will have to tailor the instruction to the individual pupil.

While we have organized this course in a certain order to make sure that what should be learned is learned, we have also done this to make the teaching of reading as easy for the teacher as possible. We therefore advise the teacher to read this book in its entirety before using it.

From: Alpha-phonics A Primer for Beginning Readers

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