What is Action Phonics


Using Action Phonics


What is Action Phonics


Action Phonics is the product of over 40 years of research and classroom work. It meets the criteria set by both sides of the great "phonics" vs. "whole-word" debate. Action Phonics uses proven methods which have been offered in graduate workshops as a tutorial method since 1975 and is used in undergraduate college methods classes. It has been proven to be extremely effective when used in private tutoring clinics. Action Phonics is used in homes throughout the U.S. and Canada, and classroom teachers are excited about the results they are getting in public schools. Because Action Phonics uses a speech-based method, it has been shown to be an invaluable tool for students of English as a second language.


Phonics attempts to assign a sound to each letter, then combine the sounds to make words. A common result of phonics is that students read a string of unconnected sounds that have very little resemblance to words. The success of phonics depends on the student's ability to generalize. Students with learning disabilities have even more difficulty with the blending process. As normally taught, phonics has helped some but confused others. It has little or no use beyond the fourth grade level and in some cases it interferes with comprehension.


As our name implies, we make full use of the phonetic system, but we move away from the fractured character of traditional phonics into a speech-based approach. Rather than isolating sounds as done in phonics, we focus on the actions or gestures of speech. The result is extremely accurate decoding without loss of freedom, enjoyment, or attention to ideas.

Teens and adult students recognize that the Action Phonics program is not just for children. It will diagnose the reading skills level of people at any age. From that point it advances them immediately toward full mastery of all that reading encompasses, even to the college level. This cannot be achieved with normal phonics.


One of the first things you will notice in the Action Phonics program is our use of Lalemics. The word "phonics" is derived from a Greek word that means sound. "Laleme" comes from another Greek word that means speech gesture.

Lalemics is the appropriate professional term for Action Phonics. We do not isolate sounds; we focus on the actions or gestures of speech. This may sound technical. It is technical - technical enough to work where other methods have failed. The videos use learning strategies to make those technical points slide easily into place.

The Lalemics approach works back through the brain's already operational speech-control programs while directing attention to the letters as signals. Even small doses of this technique make an intense impression that produces very accurate decoding. Our unique method of perceptual adjustment then transfers this into whole perception that retains all the accuracy of the decoding process.


Fundamental to its success, Action Phonics is designed to integrate with the system of organization the brain has already set up for talking and listening. This principle is interwoven consistently, from the beginner level all the way through to the most advanced. There is nothing to unlearn and no excess baggage.

New skills are taught only at the level where they can provide a real lift. Each new skill is shifted into automatic perception before introducing the next level.

Educators want the student's attention focused on the story or the idea, not on an array of rules and decoding activities. They appreciate the way Action Phonics develops perceptual identification without the memorizing of rules. They especially like the way this prevents interruption of the flow of thought and gives comprehension a chance.

Most people who work with reading problems have seen a lot of students who seem to read well but comprehend poorly. In many such cases the student has unseen word-recognition problems. Word-recognition is work to them. It's not automatic. Comprehension is hindered by the distraction of decoding strain.

Decoding alone, of course, is not reading. Reading should be as automatic as talking and listening. In reading, the mind must be free to give attention to the ideas presented. The Action Phonics perceptual adjustment eliminates the kind of distraction from comprehension that comes from the struggle to recognize words.

Action Phonics uses many exciting ways to reach the mind and change the way it functions for reading.

Our vowel cards, consonant wheels, and suffix flash cards combine to make an almost complete phonics program of themselves.

The same information and more is organized in another type of presentation, graded word lists. This allows an entire phonetic program to be presented in a more advanced vocabulary at each new complexity layer of our complex English written language.

Syllable recognition is made automatic just when the transfer must occur from sequencing letters to sequencing syllables. And this is timed with the student's need to cope with the longer words in the Latin element of our language. A complete new set of skills is provided to cope with peculiar suffix spellings in this new advanced layer.

All these elements combine to give flexibility and a complete range from pre-primer to college level.


In the past Action Phonics was primarily used as a one-on-one tutorial. In recent years the addition of new materials and use of specialized techniques has enabled teachers to use Action Phonics with large groups as well.

At Potentials we realize that teachers are busy. Unless a program is user- friendly, implementing it in the classroom may stretch the most ambitious teacher's resources of time and energy. Therefore, we back the teacher up with an array of supports. These include video and audiocassettes, both phone and classroom consultation, workshops, and conventions.


Our Criterion Test for Reading Placement provides an independent and an instructional level diagnosis. There is precise prescriptions and instruction for the teacher on just what materials and methods to use with the student. This is placed right with each new level of the test. In addition, the videos cover many techniques, strategies and the psychology of learning.


Action Phonics provides a special kind of experience in left-right sequencing. This helps students that readily use both left and right brain but get confused about which direction they are moving. When they get by the single problem of keeping things going in the right direction, they have all the advantage of using both spatial (right brain) and verbal (left brain) reasoning without the handicaps of visual dyslexia. These kids have special potential.

For those who have difficulty with auditory sequence and speech coordination, the emphasis on speech action fills in the elements missed in early learning. Action Phonics follows the developmental sequence of the brain's language system in such a way that reading, talking, and listening end up in one master file in the brain. Many of our clients say that Lalemics was the only method that could provide any measurable progress.


Action Phonics simultaneously focuses attention on vision, the action processes of speech, auditory feedback, and even the process of breathing with the postural adjustment essential for breath support. When this is accomplished there are no channels left open for distraction. The student can then learn to concentrate.



Q. I'll start with a very general but major question. How does Action Phonics work?

A. The first major difference you'll notice will be Lalemics.

Phoneme is derived from a Greek word that meant "sound". We also get our word "phonics" from that word. Laleme is from a Greek word that means "speech gesture". Lalemics would be the appropriate technical word for Action Phonics. We don't isolate sounds, but focus on gestures.

One reason your student may have had a hard time was that the available methods were based on ways of organizing knowledge that aren't comfortable or acceptable to the system of organization the student's brain has already set up.

There are three ways for a brain to remember any given thing. One is under "things that I saw" or visual memory, another is under "things that I heard", or auditory memory. The third way is under "things that I felt or I fit together". This third way is tactile or functional memory.

Hearing = Auditory memory

Seeing = Visual memory

Touching or Function = Tactile or Functional memory

Many people really learn best this third way, and yet no reading programs were based on functional memory until the Action Phonics program came along.

Most programs are based either strongly on visual, (seeing,) memory, or strongly on auditory, (hearing,) memory. People who didn't remember things they saw or heard well were labeled perceptually handicapped. and, they really were handicapped, too.

Problems with perception can really mess up the smoothness and accuracy of the decoding process when using visually or auditory based learning programs.

Q. How does Action Phonics help dyslexics?

A. Problems with perception can really mess up the smoothness and accuracy of the decoding process.

Ordinary phonics and sight-reading have historically been the only options for learning to read. Neither of these options has worked very well for dyslexic people whose dyslexia is a perceptually based problem. Why?

Perceptual problems mess up the ability to judge angles and directions, to remember shapes and sequences in any visually organized way.

Action Phonics uses a perceptually balanced approach to decoding.

That's what reading really is, you know, decoding. It's done at high speed like speaking, for most people. You don't stop to think about all the little movements of your mouth when you speak, (unless your tongue is numb from novocaine after a dental visit.) We usually don't think about all the complicated things we're seeing and decoding when we read either, unless for some reason that process isn't working smoothly and automatically.

Q. Why would a person with perceptual problems have trouble with conventional phonics?

A. Phonics happens in two steps. First the student learns all the isolated sounds, and then they're supposed to learn to blend them together into words. It's the blending step that can pose a problem.

You may be able to figure out quite easily what a cuh a tuh is. That's easy, cat. But what is this word: Suh Tuh er uh Cuh Tuh ur a uhL.

The trouble is that all those extra little sounds that are fairly easy to weed out in small words like cuh a tuh and duh o guh (cat and dog) are quite a nuisance as you get into larger words like "structural". It's hard to remember what you just heard so you can blend it.

That's why Potentials Learning Systems worked over forty years to develop and test the methods we use.

Q. Does Action Phonics program help people to read smoothly at high speed?

A. The goal at Potentials is to have everyone reading as smoothly, easily, and naturally as they speak and think. We do this in several phases, or hurdles. Sometimes we think of this program almost like a decathlon, or race with hurdles.

Q. What are the important steps toward smooth reading?

A. One of the first techniques we use to develop that kind of smoothness at high speed is something called Pointer Control. It's the part where Lalemics are taught. Action phonics leaves out the blending step by blending the sounds right from the start.

You may have seen the students and teachers using their pointers. They are doing Pointer Control. We don't teach Pointer Control on real words at first. We use the whopper words in the pink Intro book. It's actually the most difficult book in the whole Action Phonics program. It's so important that it's not just a difficult number one hurdle, it's the base to the whole Action Phonics learning experience. Everything else is built on top of it. During Intro we re-teach the whole speech process using letter symbols to trigger the mouth to make tactile pressure releases.

Q. What does that mean?

A your mind is much more complicated and wonderful than a computer, but God designed it to file things systematically under headings that help us remember. A computer is the tool that reminds us most of how the brain works, today. In the past I might have called the brain a "filing cabinet". The point is, the brain stores information in an orderly way. When I think of the word "onions", for instance, there are lots of onion memories. There are different ways to remember the same thing. You can file it under things that I saw, things that I heard, or things that I touched. (Or, in the instance of onions, under things I smelled.)

Most people learn to read using hearing files or seeing files to store the memories. Scientist call this auditory or visual memory, remembering how a word is supposed to look or sound.

The Intro book teaches a new way to read through touch or functional memory. We learn how the mouth feels when a consonant and vowel are combined together and released. That way the memory is stored in a new part of the brain that hasn't already had a whole lot of mistakes stored in it.

Q. What's the next important step?

A. When the student has mastered Pointer Control on pre-primer level we move to word lists on the level the Criterion Test showed the student should be working.

Q. How is the student placed on the level he or she should be working on?

A. Action Phonics is a feedback teaching process. Our teachers go through a lot of classes and hands-on training in how to adjust the use of these lists for each student. No two students ever take exactly the same trip through the materials in our program. The teachers have been trained to give the student exactly the material needed at that point to bring about the most decoding results in the shortest piece of time.

Q. Is that all?

A. Oh no. There are several other steps involved in the progression to smooth automatic reading. By the next time the student is ready to move from lists back to application in graded readers, that student is ready for another very special technique. It's called Trade-A-Syllable.

During all this we introduce the next steps. The teacher will apply these steps at the exact right time for each student. Some of the students go through advanced lists, then early lists, then more advanced, then some vocabulary work and some super advanced. Some finish several of the early lists first. Each student uses the parts of the lists that fill in his or her specific learning gaps.

Q. How do the lists work?

A. The word lists have these two next steps built into them. The approximately fifty-five vowel sound combinations and their occasional irregularities are being introduced in the lists. At the end of each book is a section called Flasher Lists. These Flasher Lists are the beginning of introducing whole word recognition at high speed, (while maintaining a phonetic base for accuracy).

Q. Are the lists the main thing in the program, then?

A. No. There are some other ways of reinforcing these concepts too. One way is to use the Vowel Cards. They are fifty-five flash cards with phonetic reading lists on the back. At about level three, the instructor will also begin taking the student through a Perceptual Adjustment every time they transfer from lists to graded readers.

Q. What's a perceptual adjustment?

A. It's a five-step process beginning with Pointer Control and ending with instant tachistoscopic recognition.

Q. Tac tac ta what?

A. Tachistoscopic? Oh, that's just the official fancy word for flash work. At that point the student begins to use very high speed flashed recognition of first one word, then two, then three, and maybe even more words at a glance.

Q. Is that all?

A. The Action Phonics program doesn't stop with technical accuracy. When the student has reached three grade levels above the desired end level of achievement and is functioning there with technical accuracy, we begin another hurdle. This is the Comprehension and Retention program. We have already been preparing the student for this work through vocabulary breakdown lists that are included in the lists at levels five through fifteen.

Q. What about spelling?

A. Action Phonics is a lot more than a reading program. The educators at Potentials Learning Systems recommended a program that focused on removing reading difficulties completely before addressing other difficulties. When reading problems are cleared up, other areas may dramatically improve, so many parents withdraw at this point. However that's not all that's offered. After learning about roots, and the prefixes and suffixes that go around them, it's much easier to go back through the same experience with a program designed to help your mind organize the spelling probabilities of our complex language. The exceptions are also taught through a process involving intermittent reinforcement. We do have a spelling program, but we consider the reading program to be the first part. There's also a math program, a history program, an English grammar program and of course the teacher training program. Call 1-800-452-READ to ask about videos, seminars, workshops, and the Instructional Psychology courses.

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