The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Readers Respond Thoughtfully to the Treasure Hunter

on January 20, 2016


Over the time this blog has been in existence I have received many comments from readers. As long as they were not nonsense or a plug for a commercial product, I  approved them for publication. But, unfortunately, all comments appear at the bottom of the blog page and quickly fade when a new essay is posted.  Today, I am giving myslef a day off by posting  comments on two recent essays by readers who took the trouble to write thoughtful responses. I hope that other readers will read them and consider their points of view.  My plan is to do this again in the future as long as I continue to get serious and well written responses.

Responses  to “Learning to Sing and Read are Natural Human Developments”

Music can be a powerful component of a reading program. Dr. Timothy Rasinki, well-known expert in fluency, regularly advocates singing songs while looking at the text of those songs as an important practice for promoting fluency. (By the way he is not a half bad singer!). Some individuals who stutter are completely fluent when singing. So, you’re on to something. Proponents of analytic phonics have long considered the importance of meaning cues. Their critics quickly fall back and cite research showing the limitations of context clues. What those critics fail to consider (or research) is the power of crosschecking. I wrote a little song for my kids “Say the first sound, think of the clues, then you’ll know all the words to use.” It works for many of them. It’s designed to help students use both meaning and visual cues concurrently. It often helps those students who will simply do nothing, to take the first step in problem solving their word. That said- there are also children who thrive when synthetic phonics are used. Why must teachers choose one or the other? Why can’t teachers learn to teach both analytic and synthetic phonics, and use the approach that best works for the particular student they are helping? Kids are natural born problem solvers. Our job as teachers is to coach them into problem solving their words with whatever strategies work for them.

Sam Bommarito, retired reading specialist.


I don’t think I learned as much about reading theory as I should have but I do know that it’s difficult to say there is any one way that children or adults learn to read. When I was in grad school we learned every method known to teach reading — we did it all. And it was a tremendous amount of work. I suppose if most children lived surrounded by books and people reading (modeling) and being read to, they would more easily learn to read. I personally learned to read at 5 because my mother read to me constantly. I memorized what was on the page. However, it wasn’t the best way to learn for me because I have to read every word, and I am terribly slow.  I rarely used phonics when I taught. I still think there are many better ways to teach including reading to them every day, telling stories, singing songs and memorizing rhymes and poems, providing lots of reading materials, teaching them sign language (rudimentary), making books, writing sentences that they say to tell about a picture, take dictation (in other words) about their dreams, encourage their telling stories, read the same book over and over, let them catch you reading all the time too — now I’m speaking as a parent. But many of these activities can take place in the classroom. We set up writing stations where young ones could pretend to write letters. Also, starting with tactile letters is fun. Writing down their favorite words, seeing if they recognize them next day. (Sylvia Ashton-Warner). This is from many years ago so my memories are rusty. But never did use phonics really.

Joan Kramer, blogger and retired educator


Response to “Our Schools Are Not Businesses–And our Kids are not Products”

Mr. Garnett presents evidence for his anti-testing stance with rhetorical flair. I am having trouble ferreting out his reason for assuming metrics are providing absolutes and will operate in a vacuum outside other, less objective standards which are applied to most “evaluations” involving all aspects of education efficacy. Mr. Garnett has acquired this insight in his business environment; my understanding of the concept comes from the domain of the English lit classroom, where we teach kids about similes like Andrew Lang’s: “Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.” Mr. Garnett’s life experiences and Andrew Lang’s poetic observation are inarguably worthy considerations lest we overvalue what we glean from the much-maligned “standardized” Good classroom teachers use tests not only to evaluate and rank students, but to motivate and increase self-awareness–both behaviorally and existentially. Mr. Garnett’s essay presumes that test results are used detrimentally; he would be nearer the truth if he argued that they CAN BE. This is self-evident, and a danger that requires built-in safe guards and steady diet of oversight and scrutiny. But numbers are the language of the physical world, and measurable, objective standards have a valuable function, especially in a domain like public education, where there lives some understandable concern about transparency and accountability. The anti-testing people must not realize how much they sound like the gun owners on this one.

Don Bellairs, blogger and retired educator


Response to “The New Law is Better but Not Good Enough’

Educate, cultivate and advocate. A Nation At Risk was debunked by the Sandia Laboratory Report that never got published. Our public deserves accurate information on the true status of our educational system and how we got to where we are today. Not many people in Oregon know about what I call the test audit bill, HB 2715, co-authored by Reps. Lou Frederick and Shemia Fagan which tasks our Secretary of State to do an audit of our summative evaluation system. This bill has passed; it is one page in length and very specific as to what must be audited. I for one can not wait to see the required report back to the Oregon Dept. of Ed. and to our legislators. The audit could point the way towards a more sensible assessment system such as the highly effective assessment system being crafted by the ODE in collaboration with the OEA and the now defunct OEIB. I recommend that people take the time to write the Secretary of State, the Governor, and their legislators letting them know that HB 2713 is very important to the decision making process. Paul Pat Eck, Leader of AGHAST

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