Sunday, May 28, 2017

The case against heavy phonics

Sent to the Sydney Morning Herald, May 28, 2017

Monica Dux claims the evidence supporting explicit systematic instruction is "overwhelming" and that whole language is "non-evidence-based" ("Phonics debate sorts friends from the literally deluded," May 26).
Published studies show that intensive systematic phonics is effective only for performance on tests in which children pronounce lists of words presented in isolation. It has only a microscopic influence on tests in which children have to understand what they read -- tests of reading comprehension given after first grade.
Whole language is based on the hypothesis that we learn to read when we understand what is written, when we understand the text. Some knowledge of phonics can be helpful in making print more comprehensible, but there are severe limits on how much phonics can be directly taught and consciously learned: many of the rules are very complex with numerous exceptions. They cannot be taught but are gradually acquired, or absorbed, through reading.
Study after study has shown that performance on tests of reading comprehension is heavily influenced by the amount of self-selected free voluntary reading that children do, strong evidence for whole language.
Ms. Dux is free to disagree with this body of work, but is not free to ignore it.
Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

original article:

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Responses to critics

38. Krashen, S. 1977. Some issues relating to the Monitor Model. In H. D. Brown, C. Yorio, and R. Crymes (Eds.) Teaching and Learning English as a Second Language: Trends in Research and Practice. Washington, DC: TESOL. pp. 144-158.
45. Krashen, S. 1978. Is the “natural order” an artifact of the Bilingual Syntax Measure? Language Learning 28: 187-191.
56. Krashen, S. 1979. Response to McLaughlin, “The Monitor Model: Some methodological considerations.” Language Learning 29: 151-167.
66. Krashen, S. 1981. Letter to the editor. Language Learning 31: 217-221.
88. Krashen, S. 1984. Response to Ioup. TESOL Quarterly 18: 350-352.
89. Krashen, S. 1984. Response to Faltis. TESOL Quarterly 18: 357-359.
93. Krashen, S. 1985. The Input Hypothesis. Beverly Hills, CA: Laredo Publishing Co,
101. Krashen, S. 1987. Letter to the editor. TESOL Newsletter 21, 3:21.
109. Polak, J. and Krashen, S. 1989. Response to Duff. TESOL Quarterly 23: 164-167.
122. Krashen, S. 1991. How much comprehensible input did Heinrich Schliemann get? System 19/3: 189-190.
135. Krashen, S. 1993. The effect of formal grammar study: Still peripheral. TESOL Quarterly 27: 722-725.
138. Krashen, S. 1994. Self-correction and the Monitor: Percent of errors corrected of those attempted versus percent corrected of all errors made. System 22: 59-62.
203. Krashen, S. 1997. Steve to Jill: You’re Unprofessional (Response to Jill Stewart). CABE Newsletter 21,2: 9,17.
211. Krashen, S. 1997. A response to Green. ETAI Forum (English Teachers’ Association of Israel) 9 (1): 11-12.
229. Krashen, S. 1998. Comprehensible output? System 26: 175-182.
232. Krashen, S. 1998. Response to Chavez (letter to the editor). Commentary  106(3):12
246. Krashen, S. 1999. Condemned Without a Trial: Bogus Arguments Against Bilingual Education. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing Co.
247. Krashen, S. 1999. Three Arguments Against Whole Language and Why They are Wrong. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing Co.
252. Krashen, S. 1999. What the research really says about structured English immersion: A response to Keith Baker. Phi Delta Kappan 80 (9): 705-706.
302. Krashen, S. 2002. The lexile framework: The controversy continues. CSLA Journal (California School Library Association) 25(2): 29-31.
310. Krashen, S. 2002. Is all-English best? A response to Bengston. TESOL Matters 12.3: 5
325. Krashen, S. 2003. Explorations in Language Acquisition and Use: The Taipei Lectures. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
331. Krashen, S. 2003. Comments on Rogers, “Computerized reading management softwore: An effective component of a successful reading program.”  Journal of Children’s Literature 29 (2): 31-36.
358. Krashen, S. 2005 Is In-School Free Reading Good for Children? Why the National Reading Panel Report is (Still) Wrong Phi Delta Kappan 86(6): 444-447.
364. Krashen, S. 2005. Second language “Standards for Success”: Out of touch with  language acquisition research. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching 1(2): 12-16.
402. Krashen, S. 2008. Letter to the editor: The Din in the Head hypothesis: A response to de Bot (2008). Modern Language Journal 92 (3): 349.
428. Mason, B. and Krashen, S. 2010. The reality, robustness, and possible superiority of incidental vocabulary acquisition. TESOL Quarterly 44 (4): 790-792.
434. Krashen, S. 2011. A note on error correction: The effect of removing one outlier in Ryoo (2007). International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching 6(1): 5-6.
435. Krashen, S. 2011. Incidental acquisition of spelling competence: A re-analysis of Pérez Canado (2006). International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching 6(1): 15-24.
437. Krashen, S. 2011. Nonengagement in sustained silent reading: How extensive is it?
What can it teach us? Colorado Reading Council Journal 22: 5-10.
450. Krashen, S. 2012. The Limited Effect of Explicit Instruction on Phrasal Verbs: A Comment on Magnussen and Graham (2011). Applied Language Learning 22, numbers 1 & 2: 81-83
451. Krashen, S. 2012. Direct Instruction of Academic Vocabulary: What About Real Reading? Reading Research Quarterly, 47(3): 233.
457. Krashen, S. 2013. Reading and Vocabulary Acquisition: Supporting Evidence and Some Objections. Iranian Journal of Language Teaching Research, 1 (1): 27-43, 2013.
475. Krashen, S., Mason, B. and Smith, K. 2014, Can we increase the power of reading by adding communicative output activities? A comment on Song and Sardegna (2014). RELC Journal 45(2): 211-212.
492. Krashen, S. 2016. Response to Sugiharto, "Comprehensible input as social alignment." Turkish Online Journal of English Language Teaching (TOJELT), 1(2), 105.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What successful readers need

Letter to the Editor, Published in Education Week,.
May 16, 2017
It is satisfying to know that 94 percent of the more than 4,700 pre-K-12 teachers and principals interviewed for a recent Scholastic report agree that students should have time to read a book of their choice independently during the school day ("Study: Teachers Value Independent Reading But Lack Class Time for It," April 26, 2017).
As the blog post notes, the National Reading Panel concluded in 2000 that there was not enough evidence of academic improvement to support silent or independent reading programs in school. Reanalysis and discussion of these results, published in several books, journals, and other publications, including Education Week, show otherwise.
Research has indeed confirmed that students participating in independent reading in school outperform on tests of reading comprehension and vocabulary their peers who do not participate in such reading. Contrary to the National Reading Panel's conclusion, there is enough evidence to support independent reading programs in schools.
Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, Calif.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Why we think creativity is limited to the young

Letter sent to the AARP Bulletin, May 16, 2017

John Goodenough's magnificent breakthrough in physics at age 94 certainly is evidence that "creativity stays sharp as we age"  (AARP Bulletin, May 2017).

Dean Simonton, in his book Genius, Creativity and Leadership, has suggested that the false belief that creativity is limited to the young is based on an "illusion of contrast": great ideas that come very early in a a career are sometimes so striking, so different, that they overshadow later discoveries. 

As AARP noted, Einstein's work on relativity, published when he was only 26, known as the "special theory" of relativity, is often mentioned as an example of the power of youth. But Einstein's general theory, published 11 years later, was considered to be a greater leap forward.  Hans Ohanian, in  Einstein's Mistakes,  quotes three Nobel Prize winners' comments on the general theory: Paul Dirac called it ".... probably the greatest scientific discovery ever made," Lev Landau said that the general theory "represents probably the most beautiful of all existing physical theories" and Max Born said it was "the greatest feat of human thinking about Nature."

As Simonton notes, "Because Einstein's 1905 contribution had changed the way scientists viewed the universe, his 1916 contribution may look less momentous."  Young people certainly do make outstanding contributions, but they continue to work and their later work may be even better than their early efforts.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Ohanian, H.  2008. Einstein's Mistakes. W.W. Norton.
Simonton,  D. K. 1984. Genius, Creativity, and Leadership. Harvard University Press.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Closing the access-to-books gap: A suggestion

Sent to the New York Times.
Re: "Libraries are fining children who can't afford to be without books." May 5)

When library books are overdue, others lose access to them. If we can increase the supply of books, it will reduce this problem.

I am a member of Bookmooch, a book swap organization.  Members post titles of books they want to give away. When another member claims your book, you send the book to the person and pay the postage, and earn one point. You can then use this point to claim somebody else’s book, and get books you want for only the cost of postage. If you earn more points than you can use, you can donate them to one of charities listed by Bookmooch, which includes public and school libraries.

I have estimated that if Bookmooch had 2.5 million active members who donated just a few of their extra points each year, libraries could get about a million free books a year, and have their choice of any of the half million books listed on

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Original article: