Global, analytic, or mixture of two

The Education Beat

Techniques: Any child can be taught to read if the teacher adjusts to the child's learning style, a New York college professor says.

May 14, 2000|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

RITA DUNN SEES reading as a matter of style.

Dunn is a 71-year-old professor working full-time at St. John's University in New York. Since 1949, she's been watching children learn and monitoring research on how they learn. In Baltimore recently for a meeting of Catholic educators, she said any child can be taught to read if the teacher adjusts to the child's learning style.

All God's children are global, analytic or a mixture of the two, Dunn said. The majority, about 55 percent, are global: They learn through short stories or anecdotes, humor, illustrations, symbols and activities.

For these children, particularly if they are visually oriented, "whole language" is the preferred method of instruction, Dunn said. Teachers should read stories to children and permit them to see the words up close as they're read, she said.

About 15 percent of any group of early learners - that is, three or four in each classroom - are analytic, Dunn said. They learn in step-by-step sequences that introduce one detail at a time. Phonics is the preferred method for these children because it requires them to hear and remember the differences among sounds in a systematic way.

The mother of six, Dunn said she began building vocabulary with her children as early as possible and never taught them baby words. "They just have to unlearn them." She said teachers should start elevating vocabulary as early as kindergarten and not be afraid of big words like "dinosaur" and "scandalous."

Dunn said research suggests schools are tailoring instruction for the convenience of teachers rather than the learning styles of children.

For example, only about a quarter of children are at their best mentally in the morning, Dunn said, when most schools schedule reading instruction. Ideally, schools should teach reading in the late afternoon, the professor said.

Similarly, educators don't give much thought to classroom lighting. A research project from the 1980s showed that analytics need bright light, while globals need soft lighting. Dunn suggested teachers reserve a softly lighted corner of their classrooms for children who learn better when the lights are low, and that illumination be dimmed on the day before a holiday, when children (as all teachers know) are naturally on edge.

Then there's the matter of grouping children in reading instruction. Twenty-eight percent of learners are "peer-oriented," according to one study. They prefer learning with other children, usually in pairs. The same percentage are teacher-oriented, and 13 percent of children learn better on their own.

This finding has profound implications for education and has spawned such widespread practices as "cooperative learning" and "paired reading."

Finally, there's the comfort of seating. Dunn said one reason boys are more physically active than girls is that they're less comfortable in school. Some children learn better while they're in motion, Dunn said, and shouldn't be ordered to "sit still."

"When a person is sitting on a school chair, three-fourths of his or her body weight rests on 4 square inches of bone," said Dunn. "Boys aren't as well padded as girls."

I have yet to see padded chairs in school, but it's not a bad idea.

College reading teachers among lowest paid faculty

If the quality of reading instruction in America is related to the salaries of college and university reading professors, it's mediocre.

A survey of 1999-2000 faculty salaries shows professors who teach reading are among the lowest-paid among 80 disciplines. Average salaries of reading professors this year are $47,184 in private colleges and $51,878 in public colleges, compared with the average for all professors, $56,308.

Generally, the lowest-paid professors tend to be in the arts or the helping professions. Law professors lead the list at $102,513 in the private sector and $95,829 in the public. Engineering professors are earning $76,060 and $78,024; sociology professors, $53,242 and $54,471; business and management professors, $65,077 and $66,464, and all education professors combined, $49,137 and $54,369.

An urgent and growing shortage of teachers exists across the land and a glut of lawyers. What happened to the law of supply and demand?

The survey, the work of the College and University Personnel Association (, was reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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