I tutor a sweet, easily distracted eight-year-old boy in reading. It drives me crazy having to try to undo the idiotic teaching methods that have been inflicted on him. He guesses all the time, even using "context clues" (his own words!) which he interprets to mean pictures! What's this poor boy going to do when he's past picture book age? He knows the sounds of the letters, but he hasn't been taught (and then drilled) to put the sounds together in the same order so as to get the proper word. Over and over, he says that "saw" is "was"! That is an absurd thing to do for any reader with an understanding of the correlation between letters and sounds. He already has glasses, so this is not a case of an untreated vision condition. He doesn't seem to have problems telling the "b" from the "d", so it's not an inability to distinguish left from right. When forced to it by me, he can sound words out properly and get the correct word. It appears that instead of being taught to sound words out routinely, he is being told to guess based on what letters are in the word (regardless of the order of the letters) and context clues, including pictures on the page.
I'm sorry, I know some of the arguments for balanced literacy and I can see its appeal, but right now I HATE it. What I see is a basically bright boy being mistaught and set on a course for failure for the next ten years (assuming he makes it through high school). He needs weeks, if not months, of reading with no pictures or other context clues until phonetic reading becomes automatic for him.
Any ideas out there on how to break him from these horrible habits that are holding him back? I wish I could just homeschool him for a while to keep him away from what they're teaching him to do at school, but since I'm not his mom....
Update: I just talked to his mom and found out that his teacher last year was most likely the problem. That teacher tried to have the class writing essays and did other things that the mom fought against. I'm glad that I'm not having to feel like I'm fighting his current teacher, but I'm sad that he was stuck with the previous teacher for a whole year. I love it that my mom transferred us out of classes when the need arose. :) Thanks, Mom.