One of the first things we do in our training seminars is practice teaching with the Riggs phonogram cards. During these activities, I always give new-to-Riggs teachers (and homeschool parents) corrective feedback as they pronounce the Riggs phonograms, and I’ve never had a training class in which this feedback was unnecessary. Since these phonograms are not generally taught in our colleges of education, and since most of us did not learn how to pronounce English phonemes during our own schooling, I’m not really surprised that so many people come into our training classes with some misunderstandings about how to pronounce them.
Unfortunately, most of the people who have put together Riggs teaching videos make similar pronunciation errors. While this is not really surprising, it’s a very big problem. The fact that so many of these non-approved “Riggs videos” are ones in which the presenter is mispronouncing the Riggs phonograms deeply concerns us. It should concern you as well.
On one of these videos, for example, the letter B is being held up while a presenter is telling parents and teachers that it represents the sound “buh.” That is incorrect. If you think about it for a minute, you will easily see that when you say “buh” you are actually saying two phonemes (/b/ and /u/), not one. To represent the speech string “buh” in writing one would have to use two graphemes (B and U), not one. “Buh” can not be represented in writing with a single B grapheme. Not ever. Since the grapheme B represents the single consonant phoneme /b/, the phonogram card should be presented to reflect this truth. (Tip: you can avoid adding an “uh” sound to /b/ by keeping your lips pressed lightly together while pronouncing /b/.)
On another video, I saw someone making a similar mistake with the letter D. The letter D may represent the single consonant phoneme /d/ but it cannot represent “duh.” (“duh” contains two phonemes, not one).
Similarly, the single letter R represents the single sound /r/ (not the sounds “er” or “ruh”). If you think about it, this will all make sense to you. We do not make a sandwich with “buhruheduh,” do we? No, we make it with “bread” (/b/,/r/,/e/,/d/)..
These are just some of the small but very important pronunciation mistakes that I have seen on unauthorized “Riggs videos.” A significant number of children will never become efficient decoders unless they receive accurate information about the English spelling system, and too many of “Riggs videos” present misinformation. Avoid them.
Since the above errors are examples of the type of incorrect information that is currently being taught to children by well-intentioned “Riggs video” producers, and since this is the type of misinformation that may prevent some children from learning to read (especially those children who struggle with auditory discrimination), we do not encourage teachers and parents to make use of any of these “Riggs videos.” We do not want children to practice incorrectly, and we have never seen a video that did not teach children to do so.
A different but equally serious concern is that some of “Riggs videos” are being produced to directly teach children. Although the child is supposed to be learning how to say his phonogram sounds by watching the video, how can this be done? The videos have no way of providing students with the necessary corrective feedback that they may need. While the teacher on the video may indeed be pronouncing the letter B correctly, how can the video know if the child is doing so? It can’t. Children need a teacher: that teacher is you!
A third concern is that the presenter on some of these videos is dangerously misrepresenting how these phonograms are to be taught: she is not making it clear that the student must see, hear, say, and write the phonogram during every practice activity. For some children, not doing so is a recipe for failure.
Dr. Samuel T. Orton and Dr. Hilde L. Mosse (two of our scientific authorities) insisted that this kind of multimodal practice must not be omitted. It is an essential tool for the prevention and correction of reading and writing disorders, and it is essential because some children simply cannot learn these grapheme-phoneme correspondences unless they see them, hear them, say them, and write them (simultaneously) during focused practice activities. Unless the information enters their brain through four sensory pathways (sight, sound, voice, and writing) virtually simultaneously, their primary learning pathway may not be addressed. This is an especially important kind of practice for children who have been diagnosed with any type of learning disorder, and it is a highly efficient form of practice for every kind of learner. Some children simply must engage in this type of practice—and all children should.
If the student (or teacher) is trying to learn the phonograms from a video, he or she may not be practicing the grapheme-phoneme correspondences in a highly-effective way. And they may not know it!
For these and other critically important reasons, if you cannot attend a Riggs-approved training seminar before working with your student(s), we encourage you to do the next best thing: In addition to purchasing the Riggs phonogram cards, we encourage you to purchase the Riggs phonogram CD. This audio CD will teach you the correct pronunciation of each of the phonograms, and when used along with the cards it will show you how to teach them to your student(s). We also strongly encourage you to purchase the Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking, and we encourage you to study it carefully. This is the Riggs Institute’s approved teaching manual, and it will show you how to teach Riggs accurately. It was especially designed for this purpose, and it will keep you on track. Dive into it. Use it.
Although we do not doubt the intentions of those who have created “Riggs videos” for the purpose of helping you teach Riggs, we do not approve of them, and we urge you not to use them. We are concerned that they may contain misinformation and that this will deprive your student(s) of the opportunity to learn accurate and essential truths about their language. An equal concern is that these videos may actually prevent you from becoming the excellent Riggs teacher that you are fully capable of becoming. We encourage you to trust your intellect. We do. We encourage you to teach yourself how to teach Riggs, using the materials that we have created for this purpose. We believe in you. We encourage you to read our blog posts for additional tips and pointers. We are always adding to them. You may also, of course, call us directly with any questions you may have while working with our materials. We are here for you.
The Riggs Institute does not produce videos for teaching the Riggs phonograms or for teaching any of the components of the Riggs program (letter formation, spelling dictation, etc.). We have not approved any of the “Riggs videos” that you may come across, and we encourage you to avoid them. You do not need them.
The Riggs Institute’s teaching materials will do a much better job of preparing you to teach Riggs than will any of the many unauthorized videos that you may be tempted—or encouraged—to use. Our essential teaching materials will provide you with the expert knowledge, the sequenced lesson plans, and the detailed checklists that will enable you to teach Riggs with fidelity. They will teach you how to teach Riggs. The videos won’t.