Amazing EBLI Stories: Victoria Lutz

The Negative Impact of Memorizing Sight Words

by Nora Chahbazi

In this blog you will learn about Victoria Lutz, a bright 2nd grader who is the youngest of 12 children. She was receiving Title I instruction at school where memorizing sight words, looking at the first sound in a word and guessing, and looking at the picture were some of the strategies taught to her. After 12 hours of EBLI instruction at Ounce of Prevention Reading Center, Victoria's fluency increased from 61 words in a minute with 4 mistakes to reading the entire passage (80 words) in 50 seconds with 1 mistake. She made 1 grade level gain in the Word Identification assessment (reading real words) and 1.8 grade level gains in Word Attack (reading nonsense words).

Here is her story.

Cindy Lutz is the mom of 10 boys (!) and 2 girls as well as a substitute teacher in the district her children attended. A few weeks after Victoria – her youngest – started 2nd grade, the school informed Cindy and her husband that Victoria was behind in reading. She was put in the Title I program at her school and instead of improving, her struggles and ineffective reading habits actually intensified.

After hearing about EBLI on Facebook, Cindy brought Victoria to Ounce of Prevention Reading Center in September of 2014. Right away it was obvious to Cricket, her EBLI Interventionist, that Victoria was a hard worker who was motivated to learn. However, she had a lot of anxiety about reading.

When trying to read, her automatic strategies were to guess words, especially the sight words, and freeze with trepidation when she came to multi-syllable words. She also tried to look for little words in big words. Like most students, she learned very well what she had been taught. In our experience, these strategies are typically detrimental, especially for emerging readers. This article succinctly explains why.

Her spelling and writing have improved tremendously.

While Victoria’s guessing habit was deeply ingrained and automatic, by her 5th weekly EBLI session she was using the skills she’d learned to actually read the words. It was noted at this session that she had a marked decrease in guessing. The classroom teacher told her parents that she had ‘improved 100%’ in both reading and math. Her mom chose to take her out of the Title I program at her school at this point so she no longer received those daily services.

Now starting 3rd grade, Victoria is a confident, competent reader who loves to read! Her spelling and writing have improved tremendously. At one of her last appointments she wrote a note and Cricket helped her with correcting the spelling errors.

There was to be a new student in her class that day and Victoria wanted to reach out to her. This is what she wrote:

This is the power of literacy: being able to communicate with others through reading and writing. Our hope is to continue to greatly expand the reach of EBLI, replicating the experience Victoria had, by teaching students how to read and teachers how to teach reading without needing to memorize sight words – or memorize any words for that matter!

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