How NOT to Teach Reading: Whispering Words

I Guess Not!

Part Eleven of a 12-part video series showing the flaws of common word reading strategies taught in schools– Moral: Do not teach struggling readers to guess!

Whispering WordsStretchy Snake

In this strategy the advice is to whisper each of the word’s letter-sounds, with the assumption that when the reader whispers sounds they will “naturally” be connected (i.e., blended).  In whispering, words are spoken without vocal vibration, but a reader can certainly whisper sounds without connecting (blending) them. If the reader is able to decode each letter-sound in a word it is not clear how whispering could help. If the reader can not decode the word, then this is just another guessing strategy.

In Structured Literacy readers learn how to segment and isolate words’ speech sounds (phonemes).  Moving fingers or objects to support memory and attention, readers are taught to isolate every speech sound in every syllable (informed by an understanding of syllable types) and then to blend the sounds to say the entire word.  Readers produce each speech sound aloud, with accurate precision and then, with the support of movement of objects or fingers, if necessary, blend the sounds to say the word aloud. This method supports spelling as well as reading.

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Jennifer Salisbury

In 2004, Jennifer joined Teach for America as a special educator where she taught kindergarten through fifth grade. Her passion for reading instruction led her to be trained in a program based on the Orton-Gillingham method. After achieving significant results with her students, she began conducting trainings to help strengthen other teachers’ reading instruction. “My motivation as a teacher is to share my love of learning, and my gift has been working with struggling readers. There is no better feeling than to help someone become a strong reader and independent learner.” Jennifer earned a B.A. in Global studies University of California Santa Barbara and M.S. in Special Education from Lehman College.