The law of first principles recognizes the challenge of retraining individuals who have already learned a particular approach or method. I learnt this from talking to airline pilot instructors who explained that the hardest job is when aircraft or flight law procedures change, and they must retrain their crews. A problem further compounded by stress in the cockpit, which is the primary contributor to reversion to first principles - when you need it least. I realised this is what I find with students who have learnt reading and writing using other less effective strategies.
This long-term issue can affect readers for the rest of their lives if not addressed adequately in retraining. For example, I have worked with readers who occasionally jump to a word on seeing the first letter or who can read a word correctly many times but then inexplicably get it wrong because their brain has filled in a word their brain has suggested should come next instead of the word on the page. This is a classic symptom of someone who has been taught to look at the first letter, guess the word or look at the picture. Essentially, these are classic signs of 'whole word' reading strategies.
Fortunately, the in-built self-correction abilities of phonics-trained readers can go some way to help pupils overcome this knee-jerk reaction. Still, some lower-ability readers may not realise the mistake if the context makes sense or, in the case of lower vocabulary readers, they do not know the word they have read. The impact of this is that they do not realise there is a new word they need to learn, which compounds the problem of having a smaller vocabulary and affects their comprehension of the text.
The problem becomes more pronounced when pupils are reading books with pictures because they have become accustomed to using picture cues, so retraining pupils to adopt a phonics-based approach can be a demanding task as their early training muscle memory can take over if they are not consciously focused on the GPCs and ensure that they have checked the whole GPCs of the word before they say it.
One of the strategies I use is the "No-thinking allowed strategy, where I aim to override their previously learned behaviour by explaining that on first sight, the word goes "from eyes to mouth, no thinking allowed". This frees up the brain to be engaged with the content and meaning of the terms instead of consciously having to decode and then comprehend. I also encourage "Capital letter to full stop. No stopping." Read the whole sentence first and then, if required, break it down to gather meaning and context, which leads to comprehension.
Similarly, correcting improper pen-holding techniques presents its own set of challenges. Once individuals have learned to hold a pen incorrectly, whether due to poor instruction or personal habits, retraining them to hold it correctly can be difficult, incorrect pen-holding can lead to discomfort, fatigue, and inefficient writing. Retraining someone to hold a pen is probably the most challenging job I have ever undertaken.
Addressing this issue requires focusing on the fundamental principles of proper pen grip, hand posture, and wrist movement. Individuals must over-ride or unlearn their previous habits and develop muscle memory for the correct pen-holding technique. Breaking ingrained habits and establishing new ones.
Some people ask why holding a pen matters. And that children should be able to use whatever method they feel comfortable with, and I wonder if that strategy would work with the pilots I talked about previously. It matters. English and American education is heavily focused on essay writing to show comprehension of a subject. If pupils can't maintain sustained writing in their later lives, this can hold them back from fulfilling their potential in any subject.
There are also some effects in the early years. Firstly, correctly holding a pen makes writing and forming letters much easier, speeding up classroom learning. Secondly, and as a consequence of the former, and in my experience, some students are unhappy with the work they produce because they feel it looks untidy. Being able to produce high-quality writing encourages pupils to write more.
In both cases, the law of first principles highlights the challenges associated with retraining individuals who have already acquired a different approach or habit. It underscores the importance of initially teaching and reinforcing the correct methods to avoid the need for extensive retraining later on. By establishing strong foundational skills and principles from the outset, educators can minimize the need for extensive unlearning and retraining processes, leading to more efficient and effective learning outcomes.