My Compelling “Why?

Why I Teach Visual Phonics

It is my calling. One of my most favorite and influential teachers, Margaret Miller, made a profound statement when I was a senior in high school when I asked for advice on what to major in when I went to college. She recommended speech therapy because, as she said . . . “You have a good ear for sound.” A long career as a speech pathologist eventually led to Visual Phonics, which is all about “sound.” Prophetic on her part . . . a life’s purpose now realized by me.

It is because of children who struggled with learning to read and reading to learn, and children who had speech & language issues . . . elementary & secondary students like Connor, Faith, Sheila, and Travis. It is because of children like Michael, who could talk about what he did with his dad for 2 minutes without taking a breath but could only put a clump of letters on paper when he was asked to write about what he had just told me. It is because of high school students like Brandon who could finally make enough speech sounds so that what he said could be understood by others, and Danielle, who was able to say her name with all of the sounds correct and in the right order . . . for the first time in all of her 17 years.

It’s because of all of the students who I have either worked with or observed in Reading Recovery, Title One, ELL rooms, LD-Resource, Mental Disabilities, or in the regular classroom reading groups . . . who struggled with decoding, making sound and word guesses that didn’t make sense, or who were almost painful to listen to as they struggled to piece the individual sounds together to read a word or sentence . . . and then couldn’t remember the whole word or even the rest of the words in the sentence. It’s because of the students who can’t “remember” sight words consistently, despite the best and most creative efforts of their teachers. It’s because of teachers who become trained in Visual Phonics and tell me that Visual Phonics is the “missing link” for them in working with struggling learners. It’s because Visual Phonics gives students multiple modes to use to “break the code” when they read and write and gives teachers brain-friendly instructional options that touch more of the learners in their classrooms. It’s because of speech & language students with whom I worked and saw increases in rate of change and stability of carryover all because they could “see” the sounds as a result of the Visual Phonics hand shapes and/or written symbols.

It’s because Visual Phonics makes the elusive print representation of the sounds of English “visible” and “concrete” and makes a difference for struggling learners . . . for some, the first time anything has helped them to “break the code”.