Not long ago, I was sitting in a Princeton Review course for the LSAT. As I sat there, I learned how to tackle the LSAT so I can go fast and efficiently. Little did I know that I had a huge gap in my reading skills.
Now, I am not the only applicant who at the time had a huge gap, I am sure.
Today, the national median LSAT score is 150. That means that average person scores below that probably at 148. So half score below this and half score above this.
Fewer high-quality students are applying. To remain in business, a number of law schools have had to lower their admissions standards.
This says something about our education system. In the first place, there are several shortcomings: the reading programs leave little room for reading, discussion, and writing.
What programs need are high quality books, discussions, and explicit writing instruction. Most programs are deficient in the areas that require the ability to read well, write well, and speak well.
This is why I chose to homeschool my son. I wanted to find the best curriculum out there and enhance it with an intensive phonics regimen. That’s indispensable. As well as abundant amounts reading, writing and speaking in all disciplines. We do a large amount of reading and listening to large amounts of fiction and nonfiction books thanks to Usborne Books & More.
What schools must do to make their reading programs stellar is first realize that kids come to reading at their own pace. Some kids start reading at 4 years age. The average kid starts reading at 6 years of age. That means that half of the students start reading before that and half start reading after that.
So in order for all students to become proficient at reading, we need to stop putting kids into grades and start matching kids by reading level. And writing should be started at 7 years of age.
The following is a comprehensive English curricula I have created that works for my child. And I believe would work in most schools.
Reading. When my son started reading at 6, I started him on a solid intensive phonics regimen. That is indefensible. But I don’t just do phonics, I read aloud a lot, and discuss the reading with him. I read a loud in all subjects. And have audio books for him to pop in as well. My son also has to read some. So we read books that are dual readers. My son got actual reading and reading along as I read aloud to him. He read aloud for at least 15 minutes per day but we read for more than an hour each day. Reading vocabulary and fluency requires the teacher and the parent read for at least an hour per day.
Because I homeschool, I am the curriculum developer and I know exactly how many quality books and text books my child-student is actually reading each week for every course offering. And we have an over abundance of quality texts. Thanks to Usborne Books & More. I started letter recognition and number recognition in kindergarten and just made sure he knew the basic letter sounds.
Discussions. Your student should be engaging in discussions and debates and seminars starting at 7 or 8 years of age. I considered my son a preschooler at 6 years of age thus, he engaged in lots of free play with some work. They need regularly and specific instruction in how to speak clearly, audibly, and civility in every subject and grade level. My son is required to give a presentation for his Classical Conversations Community every week. These are vital communication skills that I wish I had growing up. As early as 2 through 6 years of age, I would read nursery rhythm stories with my child and we would sing nursery rhythms and memorize prayers that were essential.
Writing. In this area, I feel some children don’t acquire the motor skills until 7 years of age. So, I wouldn’t start writing until the child is 7. When my son was 2, he loved art. I would give him an enormous amount of things to do that dealt with art, drawing and coloring and the only thing I did that helped him develop his fine motor skills was correct the way he would draw. I would remind him of how to place his crayon or pencil. This is crucial so that they can later learn to write. I did not start him in writing until my son showed me he was ready. And he was ready at 7.
I think and feel that the problem teachers have is that they have 30 kids in their classroom with many different levels of reading, writing and speaking ability and it is hard for these teachers to teach to everyone at one time.
Therefore, I believe it would be better for school administrators to place kids by reading level and writing level classes.
Grammar. I have started doing grammar now, but lightly. I believe that grammar should be started once a child is reading chapter books, like at age 8. Because I believe they need to master phonics and reading. So at age 8 along with grammar being taught, students should be writing about what they read. Learning how to analyze what they read. Learning how to compare what they read. Learning how to explain what they read. At around 11 or 12, they should be taught how to make arguments and justify what they interpret. Before then, they should learn how to look up words in the dictionary and learn how to use encyclopedias. Writing should consist of copy work starting at 6. And a child should continue copying and tracing until he or she is reading chapter books. The average child begins chapter books at age 8.
All children before the age of 8 should be playing more than working. So, I would NOT pile on the work load until 8. Schooling before then should be informal. And gradually making school work more formal by the age of 8.
Reading comprehension. Once a child is reading fluently and proficiently, and if a child has been read to a lot and has listened to a gazillion different fiction and nonfiction books, teaching a child how to read and understand what they read should be included in a strong grammar program. This grammar program should embed vocabulary instruction and background knowledge prior to every reading. A teacher should model what it looks like to read with purpose. Teaching kids how to analyze what they read and how to answer questions about what their reading. The teacher should show how to underline, annotate, and take efficient notes as early as 8 years of age. But in the early grades, the teacher should not impose doing this. It should be gradual and guided. Depending on the child’s reading skill. If a child isn’t in chapter books yet, that child should be placed in classes by reading level not age. This is crucial so that they don’t fail a grade because of lack of reading skill. The teacher should monitor and adjust instruction. Making sure that the students are successfully comprehending and analyzing what is read.
Additionally, many schools should shed their prejudice against grade level placement and place kids instead by reading level. And there should be an exponential increase in teacher contact time. Small group instruction is great when the teacher takes the time to read along side the students pointing out and decoding what is read. It should not be a time when they spend a disconcerting amount of time at independent learning centers. Students in the early grades need to play and just learn to read. Kids in the middle grades need to learn and be taught how to read with comprehension. But comprehension will not come if they haven’t mastered how to read and decode.
As commercial, philanthropic, district entities start developing and improving literacy we must demand that they honor what I have said above. Because if they do, then we will see a rise in reading proficiency rates across the country and significant improvements will ensue all academic areas.
Thank you for reading…
With all my love,
P.S. check out our phonics programs by visiting my book store.