Board of Governor's
Professor of Neuroscience
and Co-Director of the CMBN
Co-Founder of Scientific
Learning Corp (SCIL)
Paula Tallal is one of the advisors for CHERAB.
Here is some wonderful information that she shared with our group
when she answered some of our member's
Phonics approaches focus on helping a person understand that words
can be broken down into smaller units or sounds and it is these
sounds that need to be attached to letters and then combined again to
pronounce a word. The best approach to helping a person understand
this (called phonological awareness) can be done by simply playing a
few simple word games. The first is to recognize the sound (NOT the
letter name) at the beginning of a word, and then to think of other
words that begin with that same sound. The problem with teaching the
letter names rather than the sounds in words is that the letter NAME
may not actually occur in a word that includes that letter. For
example, the letter name for B does occur in the word before, but not
in the word balloon, even though both begin with the same letter.
However, both begin with the letter sound "bah" as do all other
that include this letter. So it is much better to teach a person the
letter sounds first rather than the letter name and then to play word
games that help them find a particular sound in spoken words. After
working on initial letter sounds, see if the person can say whether
that sounds is inside or at the end of spoken words. Do not introduce
the actual written letter until this skill is well mastered. Once the
letter sounds can be recognized within words, it is usually easy to
learn which letter(s) goes with each sound. Start with consonants and
do vowels after consonants are mastered.
Another game is to say what a word would sound like without the first
sound. For example, ask " how would you say the word STOP without the
first SOUND (s) ? Play this game orally, do not use letters or
writing. Answer: The word STOP without the first sound (s) is the
word TOP. You can also move on to final sounds once the person can
master the initial sound deletion task. For example : "How do you say
the word PLATE without the last sound (t)?" Answer: PLAY. If someone
has trouble doing these games you can start with compound words to
give them the idea. Example: "How would you say the word COWBOY
without the COW ? Answer: BOY.
Another good word game is rhyming. Begin by pronouncing a word like
HAT and ask the person to say a word that rhymes with HAT, such as
CAT, MAT, SAT etc. Think of words that have lots of rhymes. Play this
game orally at first. Then you can show the person how rhymes work by
making up a card that just has the rhyme part on it, like AT and then
thinking up new first SOUNDS that when attached to AT will make up a
word. Then using a series of cards with single letters on them, find
the letter that goes with that first sound and put it in front of the
AT showing how sounds/letters can be combined to make new words.
All of these games are designed to get the idea across that words can
be broken up into sounds and that it is these sounds that must be
attached to letters in order to learn how to read.
Whole language does not teach these phonological awareness skills.
Although many people will just intuit them without explicit
instruction, many do not and will then struggle to learn to read and
will alway just rely on memorized letter patterns and the words they
represent, but will not be able to figure out new words.
To learn more about how the brain learns language and reading skills,
see the brain connection website.
Also check out the Fast
ForWord training programs that train phonological and other language
skills necessary for learning to read and become a good reader. To
find out more about Fast
ForWord see the website
Scientific Learning Corporation has developed a computerized
assessment of basic reading skills. It is called Reading Edge and can
be administered at home by a parent or at school by a teacher. You
can find out more about Reading Edge as well as Scientific
family of very successful language and reading training programs that
have been based on over 30 years of neuroscience research