After I used the Riggs Institute’s methods and materials to teach my daughter the basics of written English, I became fascinated with the possibility of helping some of the children in my community, many of whom seemed to be struggling.
Since I try to stay informed about how teachers and parents are using the Riggs Institute’s materials, I sometimes hear of people who use them in fun-looking ways.
When I recently searched YouTube and Pinterest for “Riggs Phonograms,” for example, I found a number of videos (none of which had been approved by Riggs) in which teachers were using hand signals to practice Riggs phonograms. Have you seen them?
Last week my friend told me about yet another Pinterest pinner who had created a cute set of cards to help children learn phonics facts. Instead of presenting each letter, or multi-letter combination, in isolation, as the Riggs Institute recommends and as the Riggs Institute’s phonogram cards do, this pinner’s set of “Riggs” cards included clever pictures that were intended to give students a visual signal for the associated speech sound.
Many beginning and remedial readers are being asked to complete “learning activities” without being told how they will be helped by them. This is a problem.
In order to read efficiently, explains Dr. Hilde Mosse in her Complete Handbook of Children’s Reading Disorders, students must understand what they are supposed to be learning. Do yours?
Many teachers of beginning and struggling readers do not realize that the activities they've been told to use will create students who continue to struggle.
Having been mislead into teaching phonics and other decoding skills from worksheets (a recipe for failure), these teachers pass out worksheets throughout the day. They have never been shown how to create champions.
Do you feel that you were well prepared by your college of education? How were you trained to teach children to read, write, and spell? Did you get an opportunity to study the elements of written English?
Sometimes teachers begin using the Riggs program exactly as written and then slip away from it (often through no fault of their own). Although they will start off completely committed to Riggs, they may slowly but surely begin to change key details, to drop important practices, and even to flirt with other programs.
If you want all of your students to become proficient or advanced readers, it will take hard work and a new understanding of what is effective in the classroom. In fact, it will take something called “deliberate practice.”
Since parents of school children are generally eager to help them with their homework, some parents may become confused when Riggs teachers do not send home traditional spelling lists. Unless you help them understand why you are not doing that, they may even become concerned. I’ve heard from many parents who say: “Isn’t that how things have always been done? Why can’t I have a list of spelling words so I can help my child study them? His other teachers always sent one home, and my child needs a lot of help!