Dehaene: whole language training does not work, explicit instruction works (teaching reading to children)

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Dehaene: whole language training does not work, explicit instruction works (teaching reading to children)

Postby Kraut » Wed May 15, 2024 12:27 pm

Making the Most of Neuroscience for Teaching Reading


https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog ... r-teaching

/.../

Professor Dehaene reports that reading is a visual system for accessing one’s already existing spoken language to create meaning. As an expert reader, you are making meaning from this sentence by automatically and unconsciously, without effort, connecting the English alphabetic code on the page with the meanings and sounds of the English words you already have in your spoken language. All readers across languages read the same way and use almost precisely the same areas in the left hemisphere cortex for reading. No matter what writing system one uses, there is only one reading circuit in the brain, and by and large, all readers use that same circuit.

5 Key Points for What Works and What Needs to Change According to Neuroscience

I gleaned five key points from Professor Dehaene’s brilliant and compelling presentation, along with other insights.

Explicit instruction for beginners in phonics for decoding, and spelling for encoding words, works! Discovery learning for word study with minimal guidance, currently a dominant practice in many American schools ensconced by decades of whole language training and whole-language-inspired published resources, along with what’s popularly known in education circles as “balanced reading," “does not work” to quote Dehaene. He avers that “whole language or even balanced literacy confuse the attention of the child” due to now debunked cueing practices, such as guessing by looking at pictures, remembering the word’s shape, or guessing from context. These signature whole language practices prevent the child from paying attention to mapping sounds to letters.
Dehaene describes early acquisition when beginners in first grade begin to decipher words slowly and analytically, requiring a lot of short-term memory; they must effortfully analyze words letter-by-letter, he says, convert each grapheme into a phoneme, then “listen” in their mind to the word on the page and connect it to a word in their spoken language in order to enable understanding and comprehension. Beginners “listen” in their mind’s ear and begin to connect what they hear to a spelling pattern or brain word in their mind’s eye in a specialized cortical area in the left hemisphere called the "visual word form area."

/.../
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Re: Dehaene: whole language training does not work, explicit instruction works (teaching reading to children)

Postby iguanamon » Wed May 15, 2024 12:40 pm

Kraut, can you explain to me, and us, what relevance this has to adult self-learners of second languages?
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Re: Dehaene: whole language training does not work, explicit instruction works (teaching reading to children)

Postby ryanheise » Wed May 15, 2024 1:23 pm

iguanamon wrote:Kraut, can you explain to me, and us, what relevance this has to adult self-learners of second languages?

Adult language enthusiasts might be inclined to raise their children multilingually, and it may be interesting in that respect. (Just one thought! As for whether it is relevant to the adult's own learning process, I'll leave that one for Kraut.)
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Re: Dehaene: whole language training does not work, explicit instruction works (teaching reading to children)

Postby Cainntear » Wed May 15, 2024 3:37 pm

iguanamon wrote:Kraut, can you explain to me, and us, what relevance this has to adult self-learners of second languages?

For one thing, there are a lot of people that will happily say that the best way to learn language is to learn like a child, and all too often they aren't really aware of what that means. Krashen's Comprehensible Input stuff all talked about reading, but reading isn't even language in any direct sense. Dehaene is far from the first to say this -- I believe Lev Vygotsky said something that was translated as "writing is a second-order approximation of language", and I think the book Understanding Comics: the Hidden Art presented the notion that writing is essentially a picture of language.
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Re: Dehaene: whole language training does not work, explicit instruction works (teaching reading to children)

Postby Xenops » Wed May 15, 2024 4:35 pm

Cainntear wrote:Dehaene is far from the first to say this -- I believe Lev Vygotsky said something that was translated as "writing is a second-order approximation of language", and I think the book Understanding Comics: the Hidden Art presented the notion that writing is essentially a picture of language.


I never thought I would see mention of Understanding Comics on this forum. :D
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Re: Dehaene: whole language training does not work, explicit instruction works (teaching reading to children)

Postby Kraut » Wed May 15, 2024 4:59 pm

Learn like a child, as some CI enthousiasts would like us to do, better not!

The article was meant to be read until the end to Dehaene's four pillars of learning, which can be seen as a scientific answer to the CI narrative (CI is OK in the consolidation phase) and a critique of discovery and implicit learning.

I once learnt that only the faculty of language is inborn, "phonemes", "letters" "words" and "grammar" are arbitrary. "Writing" is a human cultural invention.
A German example:
a recent alphabetisation method called "Lesen durch Schreiben" suggested to children that there is an inner connection between a sound and a letter, for instance /f/ is written F (children then wrote Fater or Fati not Vater or Vati): the children then produced texts from within, and "discovered" writing themselves, with catastrophic results.
In Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia, the method has been banned since the 2019/2020 school year.
Die Studie kam zu dem Ergebnis, dass Kinder, die nach dem Konzept Lesen durch Schreiben unterrichtet wurden, zum Abschluss der Grundschulzeit eine um 55 % höhere Fehlerquote aufwiesen als Schüler, die mit der Fibel gelernt haben
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The study came to the conclusion that children who were taught according to the concept of reading through writing had a 55% higher error rate at the end of primary school than pupils who learnt with a primer


https://www.fon-institut.de/rechtschrei ... schreiben/

This wrong method must have impacted pupils during two decades at a young age and physiologically it's now in their heads.
Imagine they bring this to their adult learning of English. Yet, if they study Spanish now, no harm done.
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Re: Dehaene: whole language training does not work, explicit instruction works (teaching reading to children)

Postby dubendorf » Thu May 16, 2024 4:56 am

I came upon a similar notion recently in the Chronicle of Higher Ed in regards to learning to read through context clues:

Rather than learning the building blocks of words through phonics, they were taught to rely on context clues — an approach not backed by research.


Does that mean just consuming CI is not gonna teach you to read?
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Re: Dehaene: whole language training does not work, explicit instruction works (teaching reading to children)

Postby Cainntear » Thu May 16, 2024 8:00 am

Xenops wrote:
Cainntear wrote:Dehaene is far from the first to say this -- I believe Lev Vygotsky said something that was translated as "writing is a second-order approximation of language", and I think the book Understanding Comics: the Hidden Art presented the notion that writing is essentially a picture of language.


I never thought I would see mention of Understanding Comics on this forum. :D

Why not? I bought it because it had been quoted in one of the Open University modules is studied in English and general linguistics. It had a pretty profound effect in my thinking in a lot of ways.
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Re: Dehaene: whole language training does not work, explicit instruction works (teaching reading to children)

Postby jeffers » Thu May 16, 2024 8:18 am

iguanamon wrote:Kraut, can you explain to me, and us, what relevance this has to adult self-learners of second languages?


Just reading the paragraph Kraut quoted, it seems obvious to me, if you're willing to bridge the gap from "explicit instruction is needed to learn to read" to "explicit instruction is needed to learn 2nd language grammar".

Kraut wrote:Learn like a child, as some CI enthousiasts would like us to do, better not!

The article was meant to be read until the end to Dehaene's four pillars of learning, which can be seen as a scientific answer to the CI narrative (CI is OK in the consolidation phase) and a critique of discovery and implicit learning.


For reference, the four pillars as described in the article are:
1. Attention
2. Active engagement
3. Feedback (from the teacher, tutor, or parent)
4. Consolidation and automatization: transfer from conscious effort (in beginners) to unconscious automatic reading of brain words after readers have broken the code

As Kraut pointed out, these four points are easily applied to second language acquisition. Whether they are absolute or not, isn't proven in any way by this article, but it is certainly food for thought.

My takaway point from the article is that even children can't "learn like a child". The "Learn like a child" mantra refers to how a child learned their first language, without implicit instruction. This article implies to me that this doesn't work after that point. I would argue it's probably because nobody has time for the ~9000 hours of input a toddler would have had by the age of two.
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Re: Dehaene: whole language training does not work, explicit instruction works (teaching reading to children)

Postby Kraut » Thu May 16, 2024 10:22 pm

As I expected, Krashen is also involved

https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... nstruction

Stephen Krashen
Defending Whole Language: The Limits of Phonics Instruction and the
Efficacy of Whole Language Instruction


Abstract
The Reading Wars show no signs of stopping. There appear to be two factions: Those who support the Skill-Building hypothesis and those who support the Comprehension Hypothesis. The former claim that literacy is developed from the bottom up; the child learns to read by first learning to read outloud, by learning sound-spelling correspondences. This is done through explicit instruction, practice, and correction. This knowledge is first applied to words. Ultimately, the child uses this ability to read larger texts, as the knowledge of sound-spelling correspondences becomes automatic. According to this view, real reading of interesting texts is helpful only to the extent that it helps children "practice their skills."
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