Fishing With Phonics – History
Fishing With Phonics History
Necessity truly is the mother of invention.  The author’s, Donald Clark’s, flood year happened when he was given the task of teaching reading to seventeen special needs fourth grade students whose reading levels varied from pre-primer to the fourth grade level. Several students had severe behavior disorders and at least half had some form of attention deficit.  Several were ESL students. His assignment  was to teach all these students at all these levels during a fifty-five minute class period.

The task seemed insurmountable and he could find no instructional tool to teach reading to so many levels in such a short time. With the behavioral and ADD and ADHD problems, small rotating groups with learning centers were out of the question. The kids needed direct instruction for a prolonged period of time. Don was discouraged and felt like he was drowning. There was no supervisor or co-worker on shore throwing him a life preserver or even holding out a branch he could hang onto. 

During the first six weeks of that same year Don was attending an all day conference on how to teach and work with children who had attention deficit disorders. (He calls these children multi-tasking specialists.) He called his father, also an educator, during one of his breaks.  Don told him about his “impossible” situation.  His father gave him the idea to create a multi-level phonics program where he could address four different reading instructional levels at the same time.  Being attention deficit, a multi-tasking specialist himself, Don drove from the hotel where the conference was being held to a nearby department store at his next break and purchased a pocket dictionary. Then for four more hours that day during the conference, while listening and learning about ADD and ADHD interventions, he began making the blueprint for this program.

Over a period of about five to seven years he produced and refined the program. Don field tested it in his own classroom for several years.  Five other educators in various positions in his school, Taylor Ray Elementary, then began using the program.  Some portion of the program is now being used by all of the special needs teachers, the entire second grade team, several third grade teachers, and the school reading specialist at this school.  During the summer of 2007 Don introduced the Fishing With Phonics program to educators in the district where he teaches, Lamar CISD, by providing a series of training workshops. The program is now being used by other schools in the district.  

As Don talks with regular and special education reading teachers – they all must deal with the same problems he dealt with that year – teaching phonetic decoding, sight words, fluency and word comprehension at multi-levels at the same time in the same class with many ADD/ADHD and ESL students.  It is his hope this tool will be a lifeline for you to help instruct ALL those learning to read in your classroom, especially the under and over achievers who too often get left behind or left alone.
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