Almost everyone has seen flash cards with an apple on them and at some point heard someone say “a is for apple.” Like so much in education, teaching the alphabet letter by letter prevents students from learning. While almost all research shows that those who can read can recognize the letters of the alphabet and those who cannot read cannot recognize all the letters, research also shows that those who can read learned the letters by reading! But somehow this research is forgotten and so hours are spent trying to get students to try to learn nonsense, which individual letters are since they have no meaning whatsoever. And of course the way they are pronounced is dependent on where they occur in words and sentences. The pronunciation of “a” alone and in apple is of course the most obvious example of the discrepancy between letter and sound.

For non-native speakers of English teaching them apple, book, etc. in isolation is even more damaging because they are prevented from becoming aware that we never say apple without an or the. We can say apples without the articles but not apple. This is one of the many reasons that ESOL students fail to master the use of articles.

The billions being spent to supposedly not leave any child behind are in fact having the opposite effect.

A few weeks ago, I urged you to read articles by R. McDermott by going to the Stanford University School of Education Website. Some of what Ray has written will provide some commentary about my claim. I find him brilliant, full of fun and always able to turn things inside out and upside down.