Posts Tagged ‘reading rules’

Reading Rules versus Patterns?

AT&T Archives, Britannica Online

Reading Rules versus Patterns?

If you’re a child of the ‘60s… strike that. If you’re a human being other than a teacher, the word “rules” tends to have a negative, or at least a mixed, connotation. Being a reading podcast and webinar addict, the “r” word is a frequent subject among two prevailing approaches to teaching reading: speech to print and print to speech. As a gross generalization (rule?), adherents to the former tend to be anti-rule, and practitioners of the latter tend to be pro-rule.

Although I have gained much from the speech to print approach to reading instruction, I find the anti-rules focus to be much ado about nothing. I recently benefitted from a wonderful set of reading intervention video trainings by an anti-rule advocate. Throughout the video series, the presenter used every synonym for “rule” in the thesaurus e.g., “generally,” “usually,” “almost always,” “most often,” “hardly never,” to teach students how to become flexible, problem-solving readers.

Now, we can certainly overly-complicate reading instruction with too many rules. We’ve all seen reading and spelling programs which major in the minors. However, my take is that reading, spelling, and syllable rules (or patterns, which I prefer) do have value. As the presenter repeated several times: “We are pattern-seeking machines.” Of course, Abe Lincoln is not all there in the featured visual; however, it doesn’t take a Gestalt theorist to complete the pattern.

If you’re a baseball fan, you understand the importance of rules. In baseball, the “rule” is that the first pitch to a batter is a fastball. Good major league batters expect the fastball and adjust to the curve, change-up, slider, etc. Poor batters apply no statistical learning and are soon sent down to the minors.

Likewise, identifying and applying reading and writing rules facilitates statistical learning. Sure, the consonant-final e makes the preceding vowel a long sound is not exactly 100%. However, it’s a good starting point to begin set for variability cueing. And we all know, as do our students, that even the best rules have exceptions.

Let’s not ditch all rules. Such a solution is worse than the problem.


Check out the author’s Eight Conventional Spelling Rules, each with a catchy song.

Grammar/Mechanics , ,