Frequently asked questions

How does BRI-ARI instruction help spelling?

If a child has learned how to handle the correspondences that form a word via reading instruction, spelling is largely reduced to the mechanical matter of writing the letters. Spelling is more complicated because one has to generate the correspondences in the absence of letter cues. The BRI protocol is: 'Think the sounds and write the letters.' Children instructed with BRI-ARI can do this because they have previously learned how to 'Say the sounds and read the word.'

My child has a good memory and seems to be memorizing words. Is the programme designed to encourage memorization?

This program is not designed to be a whole word memorization programme; it is just the opposite. If your child is using the programme that way you need to click on GETTING STARTED and re-read the directions. The programme is designed to demand that the child 'say the sounds and read the word' without picture clues and by using words that look very much alike: Mit/Mat, sit/sat, fell/fill, will/well. Most, if not all beginner readers, will need to say the sounds as least once to read these words. Some may look as if they are memorizing if they acquire automaticity very rapidly. Others need to do the blending many times to acquire automaticity. All children should slow down to 'say the sounds' sub-vocally when encountering unfamiliar words.

What is reading fluency?

The term fluency is used very loosely in the field. It is identified with reading speed, because speed can be easily measured. That is maladaptive, particularly with tender beginning readers. Trying to go too fast, like trying to drive a bike or car too fast, interferes with other complicated aspects of the task. In BRI-ARI the focus is on three aspects. Crucially, the text seeks to teach children to vary reading speed, in the same way conversational speech is controlled. It is appropriate to read some texts rapidly, other texts slowly. The child should be in charge. The second aspect is automaticity. The over-learning in BRI-ARI and the mantra 'Say the sounds...' insures that the response becomes automatic. That is, the child does not have to think about it. Again the analogy of driving a car is helpful. The third aspect is expression. This can be observed when the child is reading out loud. Once there is reasonable automaticity, the expression should match or even exaggerate the communication (like acting). This can be modelled and encouraged by the teacher/parent. What the child is saying out loud will be achieved when the child is reading silently. In this way she/he learns to gain the same enjoyment from written language as from spoken language

Is BRI-ARI consistent with the Rose Report?

Yes. The Rose Report recommends the use of Synthetic Phonics (SP). SP is fundamentally Alphabetic Code-based reading and spelling instruction. BRI-ARI instruction teaches a child how to handle the whole Alphabetic Code in reading and spelling. The instruction also incorporates matters of morphemic characteristics (such as prefixes, suffixes, verb endings and such) and syllabification.
The Rose Report describes the 'Simple Theory of Reading'. That is, reading is composed of two elements: 'Wod Recognition' and 'Comprehension'. BRI-ARI instruction further simplifies the teaching/learning by using text that is well within most children’s spoken language repertoire. This essentially eliminates concern for 'Comprehension.' The child does have to learn how to treat written communication in the same manner as spoken instruction. Right from the start, children learn the 'how to' of comprehending, just as they learn the 'how to' of blending.
With 'Comprehension' uncoupled, BRI-ARI focuses on the 'Word Recognition'. This is a matter of first teaching the child to handle the letter/sound correspondences that comprise the words in a text. Together with rigorous attention to, and practice of, decoding, BRI stories harness the expertise the child has acquired in syntax through spoken language. Furthermore, the books involve learning to handle punctuation marks, and such conventions as contractions and abbreviations. From the very beginning, BRI instruction encourages reading with automaticity and fluency.

Why does the BRI-ARI program work?

Teachers, teaching assistants, volunteer helpers, and parents rapidly and easily learn how to use the books, confident that children will avoid faulty guessing habits. The text is cleverly designed to extinguish damaging reading strategies such as guessing and reward skills-building strategies such as blending. Even today, confusing read-guess strategies are often promoted. In the United Kingdom, this approach was emphatically rejected by the Independent Review of the Teaching of Early Reading (Rose: 2006). BRI-ARI is based uncompromisingly on a solid decoding foundation that provides struggling readers with the precise practice they require. It is through this intensive focus on decoding skills in BRI instruction, and the thorough build-up of sound-letter knowledge, that confidence to ‘take off’ into reading for pleasure is nurtured and the later ability to tackle the complex reading required in the secondary curriculum is fostered.

Using BRI-ARI: When should the notched cards be discontinued?

As soon as your child learns what is involved in decoding, the notched card should be discontinued. You can then use the eraser end of a pencil to do the same thing when a new letter/sound correspondence is introduced.

Using BRI-ARI: Why doesn't BRI include flashcards after BRI-1?

In any separate word practice, outside the context of text, it is impossible for a child not to memorize these words, irrespective of what he/she appears to be doing or is told to do. The essence of reading is doing these things in the context of text. That is exactly what BRI does. As the BRI protocol demands that your child’s approach to blending is right, it encourages the necessary skills and prevents use of any other technique.

Using BRI-ARI: My child has great difficulty remembering code. How can I assist without being over-helping?

The best and easiest thing to do is to slow down. If the child is trying hard that is all that can be expected and all that is necessary. Encourage your child to read the books she/he has learned how to handle to anyone who will listen, and praise. If the child does not mind rereading the same books, do so as often as necessary. Buddy/team reading with other books is helpful. What you want to communicate to the child is: 'You are learning to read!' The structure of BRI-ARI ensures that the child will acquire expertise in handling text of increasing complexity with increasing independence. Whatever the pace and whatever the task, that is as good as learning/teaching gets.

Using BRI-ARI: Why do you advise giving as little help as possible?

Children are clever at coping as easily as possible. They quickly and unconsciously learn that waiting will bring help from the instructor. At worst, this results in learned helplessness that is difficult to eradicate. In BRI-ARI instruction some struggling with new code is healthy and to be expected throughout the instruction. But all new correspondences continue to be repeated with variations to give the child experience in figuring it out independently. If your child has difficulty with a correspondence (which may happen the first time it is encountered), say 'The sound here is / /' and ensure the child says the sound and reads the word. Nothing more is required, other than giving praise for trying hard. You will find that he/she soon encounters the same correspondence and will have an easier time on each subsequent occasion. You will see the learning happen before your eyes. In the view of the instructor, some children need endless practice. But the child is going as fast as possible. Don’t try to do it all in a single session. Space the sessions to make the workload tolerable and as enjoyable as possible. By frequently reading books earlier in the sequence, your child will see the progress being made and experience reading with automaticity and good expression.

Using BRI-ARI: Why is it so wrong to encourage guessing for those children who find decoding hard?

While it may appear to be the easy way out, the tactic of guessing a word will eventually get the child into trouble. Guessing inevitably leads to inaccuracy and the damage this does shows up very starkly when the child is trying to tackle the Secondary School curriculum. Skilled readers don’t guess words. They sometimes skip and skim, but there is no short-cut to 'saying the sounds.' That is what skilled readers do; they do it with automaticity and they slow down on unfamiliar words. This is what you want your child to learn how to do. Children try all kinds of short cuts. Some of these are adaptive; others aren’t. Guessing words is among the shortcuts that aren’t adaptive.

Using BRI-ARI: How can I prevent a child from continuing to sound out and blend long after he/she is capable of reading text automatically?

The ability to blend sounds can take time to master. Most children then naturally transfer to complete-word reading, but some require specific direction. It may be as simple as prompting a child that she/he can actually read the word in question without sounding-through-the-word. A few children need to be prompted to progress to silently sounding out any unrecognised word.

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