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Introduction to the Ziff Technique for Teaching Children to Write and Read

You may be a beginning teacher or a seasoned veteran. Maybe you’re a home school parent or an administrator looking for a meaningful and effective way to give your students a fast track to literacy. You might be a professor of education in a university or a director of instruction in a large or small school district. Perhaps you are just trying to find a way to meet the challenges of the recent changes in the standards (the Common Core Standards)

Mr. Yossie Ziff has been a classroom teacher for over 25 years and a kindergarten teacher for the last eight. He has developed a revolutionary process to teach comprehensive literacy to very early learners. Working within the structure of a state mandated public school system, he and his wife Joan, also an educator, have evolved a “whole language”approach and successfully taught their kindergarten students to read by teaching them first to write.

Donald Graves, the father of the “Writing Process” and “Writer’s Workshop,” supported this idea of writing first in order to read back in the 1980’s. Other educators have and are using this method in the classroom. We are presenting a codified and simple to use technique for early reading acquisition, incorporating the use of phonics and sight words while at the same time emphasizing writing skills.

As you are probably well aware, children learn best when they feel the joy and freedom to invent and create their own stories and ideas. Mr. Ziff is highly successful in allowing the children to take their thoughts and create their own sentences on paper even at this early stage in their learning. From the writing that they do, the invented spelling that they use, and the use of sight word recognition they ultimately learn to read comprehensively.

The goals in this teaching program are not simply to teach a child to read, though read they will! We aim to give structure and the right learning tools to inspire and promote that innate genius which, we believe, every child has, and to impart a sense of joy in their learning, which will hopefully last for the rest of their lives.

In this guide and throughout the video, Mr. Ziff will show you each step necessary for implementing this method of teaching. We will give you Ziff Tips and templates that will support and clarify the method, to ensure success. Mr. Ziff believes every child possesses his or her own genius, but children today are exposed to highly sophisticated levels of language and ideas via the media and the internet. Computer technology makes this barrage of ideas instantly available. It is our goal to get past these external influences and tap into what is going on inside the mind of a child. In this way, we can help them to regard their own ideas as more interesting to them than the things that are coming in from the outside. Using this method, it is easy to ignite a spark for each child’s sense of curiosity and natural intelligence.

It is our job and our aim as teachers to make learning a living experience. As teachers, we instill our own values — our sense of courage, action, and love to our students. We have the gift and the responsibility of affecting our charges in the most positive way we know how. Additionally, a strong sense of play, coming from you, their teacher, must be present for them to absorb and accept what you are trying to give over to them. We strongly encourage your own personality and brand of teaching while using the technique.

It can further be tailored to suit your needs. This method is great for beginners, intermediate and advanced readers. It can be used in a classroom or a home school setting. Its concepts can be transferred into other areas of curriculum such as math, science, and social studies.

We wish you and your students the very best as you embark upon this joyful and fascinating journey.

A Review of the Different Methods for Teaching Children to Read

Posted on November 27, 2016

There are many methods that teachers have tried over the years to teach children to read. Below is a brief history of some of the most prominent ways, who developed them, and a few definitions of what they are.

Basal readers:
Includes a specific set of words found on the Dolch word list.The Dolch list is the Standard list for basic sight words. Developed by Dr. Edward William Dolch in the 1930’s and 40’s, he studied the most frequently used words in children’s books and cited a list of over 300 high frequency words. The Basal readers, first espoused by Dr. Edward McGuffey in the 19th and 20th centuries, were graded primers for grade levels 1-6. They are often still used today to teach reading, including phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Also they often include phonetics which includes learning short vowel sounds, and rhyming and other word attack skills. The ‘Dick and Jane’ series was created in the 1930’s by William S.Gray of the University of Chicago’s School of Education, and focused on reading whole words, rather than phonics. Dr. Gray was instrumental in the decades long dominance of whole word reading vs. phonics. Along in 1967, Dr. Jeanne Chall of the Harvard University Reading Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, wrote a noteworthy book, “Learning to Read: The Great Debate” and cited a wealth of research which pointed to the importance of the phonics approach. It was a direct assault on the ‘Look-Say’ ‘Dick and Jane’ approach to learning to read. In 2000 the National Reading Panel released a report which said that the early systematic instruction of phonics is the best way to teach children to read. Today, most reading programs include a balance or mixed approach with a strong emphasis on phonics instruction.

State District Approved Teacher Directed explicit teaching of phonic and comprehension.
These Teacher editions and children’s anthologies contain stories, both fiction and non-fiction, which guide the teacher through the program with a script and includes all the components of reading and writing to create a complete Language Arts Program. These types of books are used in the public school systems throughout the United States. Open Court and Treasures are the names of a couple of these type of reading programs.

The Phonics method:
Relies on children’s prior knowledge of the alphabet , including the names and sounds of the letters and depends on the child’s ability to blend the sounds together to decode and write more complex language. Dr.Seuss books fall into this category.

The ‘Look and Say’ method:
Children learn to recognize words with he help of a picture. Teachers teach the students to write short sentences and use word cards to build their vocabulary. The ‘Dick and Jane’ series falls into this domain.

Language Experience Approach:
Uses student’s own words to help them read. Students can draw pictures and teachers will write a sentence explaining it. (i.e. Mom is in the kitchen). This supports children’s conceptual development and vocabulary growth.

The Context Support Method:
The teacher finds easy books that emphasize the children’s interests so they can be motivated and feel enthusiastic about reading.

Science Research Associates (SRA)
Diagnostic and prescriptive method which incorporates sight vocabulary, phonics, and comprehension at each level of proficiency.

The Ziff Technique Method:
It is really a combination of many of the ideas listed above. It develops Lucy Calkin’s (Columbia University’s Teacher’s College) and Donald Graves’ ( University of New Hampshire) combined research about how children learn to read by writing first. The ideas that 1) children will want to write if you let them and 2) the technique of ‘quick writing’, whereby a student writes non-stop on a topic for 10 minutes to find his writer’s voice, are the impetus for developing this method and teaching early readers through the Ziff Technique. It includes the Language Experience Approach but begins on Day 1, with Writing. Even if the student doesn’t know the alphabet, he begins to learn it gradually with each new lesson. The letters and word recognition skills are reinforced daily using the child’s own personal spoken language and ideas. The topics and the direction that the content of the writing takes are 100% driven by the students themselves. The students share their thoughts on a particular topic and the teacher records them, which the child then writes down and eventually reads back to the teacher. The program can be summed up as a successful way for early readers to verbalize their ideas by learning to write sight words, use phonics, and then read their own written thoughts or ideas.