Variation Validated for Learning to Read
It has been so long, that I cannot say I remember learning how to read, but new research suggests that the way I was likely taught, and how you were likely taught, may not have been the best way. The researchers at the University of Iowa tested a slightly different method of teaching phonics that resulted in much improved reading performance, across all students.
The traditional method of teaching phonics, which links sounds to letters, uses similar words with shared sounds such as maid, mad, paid, and pad. The method the researchers tested introduced more variety by using lists of words like bait, sad, hair, and gap. Though both methods have the same fundamental rules, the results were far from similar. In no case were the traditional, similar word lists more helpful than the newer, varied lists. Boys and girls both benefited and while struggling readers continued to struggle at the same level with the traditional method, those taught with the varied words did improve. The researchers did not expect this outcome.
This is definitely good news as it could help students everywhere become better readers and more. After all, this technique of variation could be applied to other topics as well, such as math and music. Perhaps most importantly though, this research demonstrates the value of collaboration between science and teaching to discover how children learn.