2. Mixture of methods / NLS Searchlights / A Medley of Reading Strategies / Three-Cueing System / A Variety of Approaches (Hewitt p88) / Leveled patterned-text book-by-book method / Eclectic Approach / Integrated Approach / Balanced
Instruction (USA) / 4 Resources (Aus.) / ''Phonics with a happy face'' (K.Anderson.Reading Wars), incorporating: analytic
phonics / intrinsic phonics / contextualized phonics / embedded phonics / cumulative phonics (term used by ECaR:Reading Recovery to describe its phonics content. Rose 2009 p66) / onset-rime phonics / analogy phonics...
Recommended links for student teachers = X
''The definition of what reading actually is, was hijacked by the
whole language movement to fit in with their world view. Reading was to be reading
for meaning, comprehension came from making meaning from the text. Quite how you
were supposed to do this without being able to actually decode the letters on
the page is how we arrived at the Searchlights model — by guessing, and
by memorising, also known as ‘a range of strategies'.’'(Shadwell)
Instruction in mixed method classrooms follows what many early years academics and teachers believe is a biologically dictated, developmental progression; that, as time passes, young children 'naturally' become able to perceive smaller and smaller units of sound (whole-words ->syllables->onset and rhyme-> individual phonemes), so teaching needs to follow this strict order too. Despite a lack of empirical evidence, the early years educationalists strongly suggest that deviating from this supposed developmental pathway, or anything but child-initiated, intrinsic learning, will damage children's development of phonological awareness and spoil their love of reading. Explicitly teaching reading using synthetic phonics (which goes directly to the phoneme level) to children under the age of seven is, they warn darkly, likely to be, ''Too much, Too soon'' (Open EYE conference 16/02/08) and, ''(A) recipe for disaster'' (Whitehead 2009 p76).
Along with 18th century Romantic developmentalism (see Developmentalism), many early years academics' anti-phonics beliefs are influenced by the philosophy behind Steiner Waldorf education. ''Steiner education is based on an esoteric/occultist movement called anthroposophy, founded by Austrian mystic Rudolf Steiner'' (The Observer. 13/05/12). ''Steiner was very clear about why delayed reading was a good idea – not because older children can learn to read better, but because memorising and reading interfered with the incarnation of the etheric body. It could damage a spiritual protective sheath around the child leading to illness and spiritual degeneration. ’Developmental needs’ in the Steiner world are to do with the incarnation of spiritual entities. Only after adult teeth have appeared is a child spiritually ready to learn to read'' (Dr.Lewis.www.quackometer.net)
The UK's most prominent Steiner advocate is Dr.Richard House. He is a trained Steiner Waldorf teacher and now a Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Winchester. Dr.House campaigns vigorously for a Steiner-style (anti-intellectual, no reading, no phonics, no number work, and definitely no ICT) curriculum for all children until the age most have lost their milk teeth, around the age of seven. The spiritualist beliefs behind the Steiner devotees' demand for an age seven start to formal education are not communicated openly to the public or even to the parents of children attending Steiner schools. see Room 101
As evidence of the benefits of waiting until children are aged seven to start direct and systematic teaching of reading, the anti-phonics lobbyists can be relied on to flag up Finland, where all children achieve literacy within weeks of starting formal school - aged seven. What they don't say is that Finland has a completely transparent alphabet code, and most parents teach their children to read pre-school as it's so easy to do. They also omit to mention Denmark where, as in Finland, the school starting age is seven, but it has an opaque alphabet code. Danish children ''experience difficulties in acquiring the logographic (sic) and alphabetic foundation processes which are comparable to those observed in English, although less extreme'' (Seymour/Aro/Erskine) ''Foundation literacy acquisition by non-English European groups is not affected by gender and is largely independent of variations in the ages at which children start formal schooling'' (Seymour/Aro/Erskine p150)
X Map of Europe showing % of errors in word reading at the end of first year of formal school, by country. 2003.
N.B Two cultural factors hugely influence the speed & ease of learning to read and spell a written language accurately: transparency of the language's spelling code (orthographic depth) + the teaching method used.
PIRLS international reading results: both orthographic depth and instruction method are important
Don't use Finland as a case against 'early' reading instruction.
N.B. synthetic phonics practitioners are not in favour of attempting to teach babies and toddlers to read, especially through the use of 'sight word' flash cards, but would agree with the following advice given in the Rose Report: ''(F)or most children,
it is highly worthwhile and appropriate to begin a systematic
programme of phonic work by the age of five, if not before
for some children...'' (Rose Report 2006.
Pre-schoolers can have a gentle introduction to the English alphabet code through appropriately designed resources such as
Teeny Reading Seeds http://www.phonicsinternationalpreschool.com/trs_test.html
Spelfabet's First Phonics Picture Book- free download
Mixture of methods instruction begins with children memorising a bank of sight words (high frequency words/HFW) as whole shapes. This is based on the belief that children are biologically primed to view words as whole units at the start of reading instruction; 'Initially, whatever we try to teach them, young children recognise words as unanalysed wholes, making no attempt to map the component letters into speech sounds. [Frith] terms this the logographic phase..' (italics added. Prof.Dombey. Literacy Today 20). Aside from the fact that, as a recent invention, the way written language is viewed cannot be wired into the brain, research in Germany (Wimmer/ Hummer) has
shown that children do not go through a 'logographic stage'
when they are taught with the synthetic phonics method from
the very start of reading instruction (RRF 45. p6/ D.McGuinness ERI p339-347) )
Advocates of the *Dual Route reading theory also believe that beginning readers should learn a bank of sight words without phonic decoding. They hypothesise that this ''sets up the direct lexical route to word reading''. Early Years teachers may be unaware of these academic theories but still want their beginning readers to memorise the HFWs as quickly as possible. Until the children know many of these very common words 'on sight', they will find it difficult to read the leveled whole word scheme books which still make up the bulk of beginning reading practice material in the majority of reception/Y1 classrooms.
Early reading instruction in the old National Literacy Strategy (NLS. 1998) was based on multi-cueing strategies (searchlights); the NLS directors suggested that, 'More extreme recommendations from phonics evangelists to teach children not to use other reading strategies alongside phonics, should be treated with great caution' (Stannard/Huxford p189). In their Civitas paper 'Ready to Read', Anastasia de Waal and Nicholas Cowen wrote: ''(I)n order to accommodate the more established academic orthodoxy (i.e. child centred rather than anything resembling didactic or mechanistic teaching), a medley of reading strategies was included in searchlights. This attempt to keep everyone happy, while also attempting to address reading standards, led to a rather chaotic model which would frequently prove ineffective. Searchlights encouraged children to learn to read using four distinctive methods simultaneously''(p10)
The NLS Searchlight Reading Strategies
''£500m was spent on the National Literacy Strategy with almost no impact on reading levels''
Tymms &Merrell (2007) Standards and Quality in English Primary Schools Over Time: the national evidence
2001. Analytic phonics makes a come-back - but where is synthetic phonics?
X 2004. Diane McGuinness: A Response to ‘Teaching Phonics in the National Literacy Strategy’
Then, in 2006, all of the Rose report's recommendations, including that
the NLS 'searchlights' strategies should be dropped and replaced
by the 'simple view of reading', were accepted by the government. Now, even if *synthetic phonics is being taught in daily discrete lessons, expecting beginning readers, and those who are slow to learn to read using phonics, to use multi-cueing for word level decoding at other times in the school day such as in independent and group reading sessions, is a strong indicator that a teacher is continuing, perhaps unwittingly, to use mixed methods.
In his blog post 'The Enemy Within', Gordon Askew describes what is happening with synthetic phonics teaching in the majority of primary schools eight years after the Rose report: ''Almost certainly the biggest issue of all in many schools around the country is that, although good practice and the new NC require that phonics is taught as 'the route to decoding print', this is not yet happening. Many (I would say most) schools that are teaching a discrete phonics session, even those teaching it very well, continue to encourage multi-cueing when children are practising their reading or applying it at other times in the school day. This means that the benefits of the phonics teaching are seriously diluted and even countered. Phonics does not become the habituated prime strategy and dependence on alternative, unreliable strategies is perpetuated. This will never raise standards in the way that true systematic synthetic phonics teaching indubitably can. To evaluate phonics on the basis of such bad practice is a nonsense. It is like evaluating vegetarianism on the basis of a sample who eat a vegetarian breakfast but then eat a diet including meat for the rest of the day''
X The Enemy Within:
In 2014 Ofsted reported on ‘How a sample of primary schools in Stoke-on-Trent teach pupils to read’. John Walker examined the report and rightly declared that ''It makes shocking reading. It is a small sample of only twelve primary schools (out of 77) in Stoke-on-Trent and yet the report declares that in seven out of that twelve, ‘reading was not taught well enough’ and that six of the schools ‘were not well prepared for the requirements of the new national curriculum’'
Beginning readers and those who are slow to learn to read using phonics should not be encouraged at any time, either in or outside of the discrete phonics lesson, to use different strategies for decoding words, such as guessing from the picture or context, in the belief that different children need different reading strategies. This is because these strategies lead to inaccurate reading and fail when pupils are faced with unknown words in texts with few context clues. It is true that some pupils are able to absorb phonics by osmosis using these strategies, but pupils who find phonics difficult cannot do this and are unlikely to use phonics if other strategies are encouraged. On the other hand, pupils should be encouraged to use picture and context clues to understand what they have already read (Nonweiler)
X The three cueing system in reading: will it ever go away?
Reading ability is based on two major, essential, interacting but different components: phonics decoding ability x language comprehension.
The Y1 Phonics Screening Check examines children's word level decoding ability, not their language comprehension or 'reading'. The Check is a quick (it takes about 5 minutes for a child to complete), easy and **valid way to identify, at an essential early stage, those children who are in need of extra help with their phonics code knowledge and blending skills. Children who do not meet the expected standard in year 1 are required to retake the check in year 2. Note that children's language comprehension is assessed in the KS1 SATs at the end of year 2 and in the KS2 SATs taken in the final year of primary school.
The screening check was piloted in approximately 300 schools in June 2011. The results, released in December 2011, showed that only 32% of six-year-olds who took the pilot Check reached an “appropriately challenging” expected level, which was set by about 50 teachers whose schools were involved in the pilot i.e. 68% of Y1 children were unable to decode simple single words accurately. This low level of decoding achievement can be explained by the fact that *only 27% of the pilot schools said they taught phonics systematically, as opposed to teaching children mixed methods such as picture clues and sight memory to read words. ''This ratio is believed to be broadly in line with the picture across England’s primary schools'' http://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/inthenews/a00200672/a-third-of-children-reach-expected-level-in-pilot-of-phonics-check
In 2012 'Around 235,000 children [42%] were identified as needing extra help' (Truss.18/09/13) as a result of the Y1 Check.
In 2013, 31% of children were flagged up as needing extra help with phonics decoding as they didn't reach the 'expected standard' in the Y1 screening check.
In 2014, 24% (153,468 children) didn't reach the expected standard in the Check, but 611 schools had 95% or more pupils reaching the required standard, up from 276 in 2013. Only 61% of children eligible for free school meals (the DfE's measure of poverty) reached the standard compared to 77% of other pupils, but the gap narrowed by 1%.
That poverty is not a bar to achieving excellent results in the Check is exemplified by the ARK chain of academies. ARK schools are located in areas serving many pupils on free school meals. 88% of students at ARK schools passed the phonics check in 2014, well above the national average of 74%. Three ARK schools got 100% pass rates; Ark Globe in Elephant and Castle, Ark Academy in Wembley and Ark Conway in Acton saw all of their pupils reach the standard. Furthermore, in Newham, one of the poorest parts of London, 80% of Y1 pupils passed the Check.
''Some 99% of pupils who had passed the phonics check in year one went on to meet or exceed the government’s benchmark levels for reading [comprehension] in year two, compared with only a third of pupils who had failed the check – suggesting a possible association between successful phonics teaching and later levels of literacy'' (Richard Adams.Guardian Education 25/9/14)
The first actual Check took place in June 2012. It consisted of 20 real words and 20 pseudo-words (see below). Afterwards, many teachers complained that children whom they judged as “good readers”, including some they had registered as gifted and talented for reading, did badly in the Check. A Year 1 teacher grumbled, "I had over 50% of my class fail the check and, given some of the children are reading above the level they should be in Year 2, to have to report to their parents that they have not met the standard in decoding seems ridiculous. Many children made mistakes trying to turn pseudo words into real words - 'strom' became 'storm'. The lack of context meant many children made mistakes they would not have made if the word was in a sentence - read 'shine' as 'shin'." (London Evening Standard 03/09/2012)
Children taking part in the Check would have been told that it included 'alien' (nonsense) words, and these particular words were clearly differentiated. The DfE's phonics check sample materials included the following information,''All pseudo-words in the screening check are accompanied by a picture of an imaginary creature to provide a context for the pupil (naming the type of imaginary creature) to ensure that they are not trying to match the pseudo-word to a word in their vocabulary''.
Psychologist, Dr.Steven Dykstra, explains why nonsense words are essential for assessing phonological decoding skills:
''The biggest argument for nonsense words in assessment is that it lets us isolate a given skill from other skills which could be used to compensate. When I show you a nonsense word I know you don't have it in your memory because you've never seen it before. You can't rely on anything except phonological decoding skills so I know I'm assessing your phonological decoding skills and nothing else. You can't recognize the word from memory because you've never seen it before and you can't infer it from context because there is no context''
Synthetic phonics trainer, Elizabeth Nonweiler, is confident she knows why some children didn't meet the expected standard in the phonics check, despite being described as 'good readers' by their teachers. She says, ''Their teachers thought they were good readers because they could guess their way through school reading schemes. These are the children that begin to fail at around seven years old, because guessing strategies fail with books that are not designed for teaching reading by guessing. It is a good thing if teachers realise that they must ask children to read accurately and not guess, if they want them to succeed in the Check, as this is what they should do anyway''. 'Good' readers should be able to accurately decode simple words in a list whether they are real words or pseudo-words.
On the thorny subject of nonsense words in the check, Elizabeth Nonweiler points out that ''there are plenty of real words even able six year olds are unlikely to have come across before. It would be better to ask them to read one a day that fits in with what is being taught that day. Then they will get plenty of the practice they need to read the non-words in the phonics check'' Here are some examples for practising reading the graphemes that children are expected to know (the common pronunciations) for the phonics check:
newt scribe farthing sphinx paw ploy tar ail glide joist prime glade void adorn croak gloat shoal shorn theme thorax bait twine plight mope probe hark yarn larva moat curd lurch spurn bane dale stoat hake abode
The Phonics Screening Check 2012 technical report included the following information: ''Comparing real and pseudo-words of similar structure (that is excluding the first page of three letter pseudo-words and the last page of two syllable real words), the average facility for pseudo-words was 69.4 and the average facility for real words was 75.2). The difference between the two scores is similar to that found in the analysis of the pilot data'' p12. It indicates that there's little basis for the argument that good readers (fluent and accurate decoders) do fine on the real words but fall down on the non-words because they are so used to reading for meaning. If children are competent decoders they do well on both non-words and real words, and if they are poor decoders they do badly on both types.
In May 2013 the government published NFER's evaluation of the phonics screening check: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evaluation-of-the-phonics-screening-check-first-interim-report
The following is on p.23: ''...some confusion was evident among those who identified themselves as teaching phonics using a ‘first and fast’ approach. Of these schools, 85 per cent ‘agreed’ or ‘agreed somewhat’ with the contradictory statement ‘'A variety of different methods should be used to teach children to decode words’', as discussed in Section 2.1. This contradiction in teacher responses reflects the misunderstanding described in Section 2.1 regarding what ‘systematic synthetic phonics’ means, and what ‘first and fast’ in this context implies. The guidance makes it clear that phonics alone should be taught initially, and that teaching other strategies for decoding alongside phonics is not recommended. It would seem that the figure of 53 per cent of schools who claim to be teaching systematic synthetic phonics ‘first and fast’ is potentially misleading, and does not provide an accurate representation of actual practice in phonics teaching. A high proportion of schools are clearly teaching phonics, but not necessarily in the way a systematic synthetic approach would prescribe'' [bold in original]
The May 2013 (and the May 2014) NFER report confirmed that most teaching is still not consistent with a genuine ‘systematic synthetic phonics approach’. The report also noted that ‘The most frequently used ‘core’ phonics programme was Letters and Sounds’ (p. 23) In the L&S 'Notes of Guidance' it states (p.12) that children should not be taught to use other strategies for decoding.
Mike Lloyd-Jones blogs on the 2013 NFER report: ''But the report is also a warning of how far we still have to go to develop a teaching profession that, as a matter of course, has the understanding and the skills needed to teach reading properly''
X Y1 Phonics Decoding Check ppt. with the facts
John Walker comments on the Journal of Research in Reading report on the phonics screening check:
Leading whole language advocates, Henrietta Dombey and Frank Smith, are happy to recommend guessing as a word reading strategy; 'Every child also needs a third key, careful guessing from context' (Dombey. Guardian Comment 30/04/08), and, 'Reading without guessing is not reading at all' (F.Smith. Psychology and reading). It's notable that many other whole language enthusiasts prefer to use a euphemism, 'predicting': ''(I)s it 'Mam' or 'Mummy', a 'horse' or a 'house'? This highly skilled predicting can be more highly tuned and corrected in retrospect if the reader is given the opportunity to go back and self-correct'' (italics added. Whitehead.2010. p160)
X Word Guessing
Teachers who are reluctant to use synthetic phonics often protest that they, ''aren't against phonics'', with most adding that they, ''have always used phonics'' to teach reading. They usually mean 'last resort phonics' as one of the Searchlight cues, but they may also be referring to onset and rime sound units. Onset and rime is taught using whole words that the children have previously memorised by sight; first the
word's onset is separated out (beginning consonant letters are taught as one
unit even if they represent individual sounds) and then the rest of the word
is analysed to find its rhyming family; for example, the 'ing' family - s/ing, br/ing, str/ing,
th/ing... After much practice in orally breaking previously memorised whole words into onset and rime units it is assumed that children will then be able to use this strategy with previously unseen words; ''Recognising word families and patterns helps children develop inferential self-teaching strategies. If they can read 'cake', they can work out and read 'lake' without blending all the individual phonemes'' (Lewis/S.Ellis p4)
Dr Macmillan explains that, 'teaching children about onset
and rime as a route to discovering individual phonemes is
similar logic to thinking that a person can be taught to read
music by memorising chords on, say a guitar or piano. Although
it may be relatively easy for a person to learn the names
of some musical chords and how to play them, there is little
possibility that this knowledge will lead to the ability to
read musical notation, to the ability to play individual notes
on these instruments in response to the corresponding written
symbols.' (Macmillan p82).
Recent studies 'have shown conclusively that children do not
use rhyming endings to decode words; hardly ever decode by
analogy to other words; and that ability to dissect words
into onsets and rimes has no impact whatsoever on learning
to read and spell. (D.McGuinness WCCR
'Teaching word parts, analogies and word families creates the "part-word assembler''. This is the child who searches for little, familiar word parts and assembles them into a nonsense word, hoping it will be close enough to guess what it is. Jane sees the word "watermelon", which has these parts in it: wa wat wate at ate ter term erm me mel el lo on. Which of these 13 parts would you use? Jane chose "weatermeon" (D.McGuinness.THE.29/05/98)
'It is ethically unacceptable to pursue teaching methods that may cause anxiety and stress', says synthetic phonics opponent, Marian Whitehead (Whitehead. 2010 p.141). Following, is an example
of the **'decoding' rigmarole that a child taught to use a range of strategies is expected
to go through on encountering any word they don't immediately recognise: ''(I)f a child met the word ‘nightingale’
he would use a combination of initial sound (n), segmentation
(night-ing-(g)ale), letter clusters (ight, ing), sight vocabulary
(gale) and context (it’s a bird)’' (Fisher. Practical answers to teachers' questions about reading. UKLA
p8) A better method of inducing anxiety and stress in a beginning reader is difficult to imagine.
Note, that as only the simplest and most consistent GPCs are directly taught in traditional mixed methods instruction and leveled scheme books are used from the very start, 'sounding out GPC by GPC all-through-the-written-word', one of the central tenets of synthetic phonics, will fail as a strategy and is therefore discouraged; 'Sounding out a word is a cumbersome, time-consuming, and unnecessary activity. By using context, we
can identify words with only minimal attention to grapho/phonemic cues' (Weaver. Reading process & practice: From socio-psycholinguistics to whole language) 'Many ways of teaching reading rely on children learning to ‘sound out’ words they don’t know, but in Reading Recovery we are sceptical of the usefulness of this approach' (Running Record. Dec. '04 p8)
In her book, Language Development and Learning to Read, Diane McGuinness describes the decoding strategies that children taught in whole-language /mixed methods classrooms ACTUALLY use. 'In my research on children's reading strategies, I found that by the end of first grade, children in whole-language classrooms were using three different decoding strategies. A small minority were decoding primarily by phonemes (one sound at a time). Another group, whom I call "part-word decoders," searched for recognizable little words or word fragments inside bigger words. A third group ("whole-word guessers") decoded the first letter phonetically, then guessed the word by its length and shape – the overall visual pattern made by the letter string. Very few children used a pure sight-word strategy (the telephone number strategy -see Method 1*), and the children who did usually stopped reading before the end of the school year. Reading test scores reflected these strategies, with the phonemic decoders superior, part-word decoders next, and whole-word guessers the worst. When these children were followed to third grade, the whole-word guessers had not changed their approach and were the undisputed worst readers in the class. Some part-word decoders had graduated to phonemic decoding, but the majority of the third graders remained primarily part-word decoders. Once more, phonemic decoders were far and away the best readers. This shows that children are active learners, and when confronted with vague or misleading guidelines for how to read, they try out strategies to overcome this difficulty. The fact that these strategies are different, and that they tend to stay constant over such a long period of time, is strong evidence against a developmental explanation.'(D. McGuinness. LDLR p3)
Those who recommend teaching children to use a range of decoding strategies say that this is necessary because,
''All children are different'' and therefore learn in different ways depending on their personal thinking or learning style, commonly expressed as, ''One size doesn't fit all''. As 'Equus' comments on the Guardian website, ''How often do we see this statement made as if it is the unanswerable clincher to the debate? Try applying the same argument to learning another skill, say, driving a car. Adults are all different and one size doesn't fit all, but they'd be in deep trouble if they didn't learn the correct sequence for using the pedals of a car, the correct procedures for signalling, and the rules of the road. There may be small variations in the way they acquire this knowledge, but there is only one body of knowledge which has to be learned'' (Equus.Guardian comment). In his 2006 report, Sir Jim Rose also responded
to this very widely held view saying, ''(A)ll beginning readers
have to come to terms with the same alphabetic principles
if they are to learn to read and write... Moreover, leading
edge practice (in synthetic phonics) bears no resemblance
to a 'one size fits all' model of teaching and learning, nor
does it promote boringly dull, rote learning of phonics.''
(Rose Review 2006 para.34)
Substance not style
''Excluding students identified as “visual/kinesthetic” learners from effective phonics instruction is a bad instructional practice—bad because it is not only not research based, it is actually contradicted by research''(Stanovich p30)
The opaqueness of the English spelling system is another excuse
given for teaching with mixed methods: ''In Scottish schools
there is a preference for a mixed method which combines the
teaching of a vocabulary of sight words with the teaching
of the letters and decoding procedures. These methods are well
adapted for deep orthographies in which commonly
occurring words contain letter structures which are inconsistent
with the principles of simple grapheme–phoneme correspondence'' (Seymour/Aro/Erskine) Wyse and Goswami express the same view: ''The phonological complexity of syllable structures in English, coupled with the inconsistent spelling system, mean that direct instruction at levels other than the phoneme may be required in order to become an effective reader'' (Wyse/Goswami p.693)
Dr.Sarah McGeown: ''In my own research, I have found no evidence that relying on a phonological reading strategy impairs children’s ability to read irregular words. In fact, I have found the opposite''
Asking children to memorise scores of high frequency words (e.g. Dolch words, or the HFWs listed in the government's Letters and Sounds programme) as random strings of letters without phonic decoding is a
harmful practice, and why no genuine synthetic phonics programme
expects children to learn any words as logographs. Firstly, because
words viewed as whole units form abstract visual patterns which
humans find difficult to memorise; examination of different
writing systems reveals that the usual memory limit for whole
words is around 2,000-2,500, since no true writing system,
past or present, has expected users to memorise more than
this number of abstract symbols. When children reach their
visual memory limits they will struggle to read texts containing
more unusual words if they haven't, in the meantime, been
taught or deduced the alphabet code for themselves.
Secondly, for most children memorising words seems easy at
first and, if its use is encouraged, it will become their
main strategy, subverting their phonological abilities and
setting up a habit or reflex in the brain which can be hard
'If children 'receive contradictory or conflicting instruction,
most children prefer to adopt a 'sight word' (whole
word) strategy. This seems 'natural', it is easy to do initially,
and has some immediate success, that is until visual memory
starts to overload...becoming a whole-word (sight-word) reader
is not due to low verbal skills, but is a high risk factor in the general population, and something that teachers
should curtail at all costs.' (emphasis
in original. D. McGuinness. RRF51 p19)
Common Exception Words and the Muddle over Tricky Words
X Teach 100 first spellings, not 100 first words.
X What should parents do when the school sends home lists of HFWs for their child to learn?
Homeschooling dad, Timothy Power, learnt the dangers of teaching global sight word memorisation the hard way. He says, of his small daughter, ''The skill of sounding out simple words, that she had been able to do shortly after she turned three, had been completely lost. If she didn't know a word by sight, she was stuck. Now, with that memory of hers that was able to memorize the 50 states by age two, she could get around this problem without too much trouble: she could just get someone else to read it for her a time or two, and then she would remember the word thereafter, and could even recognize it in new sentences. But this was still a work-around (although an effective one); even if a word was in her spoken vocabulary, she couldn't recognize it on the page if she hadn't seen it before in print, even if it was totally phonetically regular, with all short-vowel sounds. And when she came to these words she didn't recognize, she would try to guess, coming up either with nonsense words or with words that were similar-looking (same starting and ending letter, totally different middle), or with a synonym that bore no visual resemblance to the correct word on the page.'' http://tdpower.blogspot.com/2007/09/phonics-vs-sight-recognition-reading.html
In a paper presented at the 2003 DfES 'phonics' seminar, Ehri wrote “…when phonics instruction is introduced after students have already acquired some reading skill, it may be more difficult to step in and influence how they read, because it requires changing students’ habits. For example, to improve their accuracy, students may need to suppress the habit of guessing words based on context and minimal letter clues, to slow down, and to examine spellings of words more fully when they read them. Findings suggest that using phonics instruction to remediate reading problems may be harder than using phonics at the earliest point to prevent reading difficulties (www.rrf.org.uk/51%20In%20Denial.htm)
''Today, most primary schools
still insist that children read commercially available storybooks
(real books) or 'graded readers' before they have
mastered the alphabet. This is equivalent to asking children
to add or subtract before they can count to ten'' (Turner/Burkard.
Summary) In stark contrast, in those schools that teach
reading using pure synthetic phonics, beginning readers are given books from one of the phonically decodable book schemes and are not expected to read storybooks or whole word graded readers, ''until they can read the
words in them independently with reasonable accuracy.'' (Turner/Burkard
‘'The selection of text used very early in first grade
may, at least in part, determine the strategies and cues children
learn to use, and persist in using, in subsequent word identification....
In particular, emphasis on a phonics method seems to make
little sense if children are given initial texts to read where
the words do not follow regular letter-sound correspondence
generalizations. Results of the current study suggest that
the types of words which appear in beginning reading texts
may well exert a more powerful influence in shaping children’s
word identification strategies than the method of reading
instruction'’(Juel and Roper/Schneider.
Reading Research Quarterly 18)
''Students tend to perceive
words in the way they are taught to perceive them. This appears
to be the case whether or not they are taught in a transparent
orthography (Cardoso-Martens 2001)'' (Rice/Brooks
p34) The method used first,
whether whole-word or synthetic phonics, forms a habit or
brain conditioning that impedes the future use of the other
method. This is the reason why it is more difficult to remediate
difficulties in readers who have received faulty reading instruction
for even a short period of time. With this in mind, parents
should ignore any publications (even school or government ones) that
advise them to use multi-cueing methods and encourage
guessing. Typical of the type of advice given in these publications for parents
is, ''If they get stuck, encourage them to use all the available information and everything they know to make a guess. They should look at the pictures and remember what has happened in the story. Their ability to predict and guess accurately will gradually improve'', and,‘'(P)ause, prompt, praise’ helps – wait before you correct a mistake so that your child has a chance to get it right themselves, then give your child clues to help them get the word right, and finally praise them if they get the word right or even try to!''
Marian Whitehead believes that, '(I)t was in order to subvert instructional material like [read simple words by sounding out and blending the phonemes all through the word from left to right] that Dr. Seuss introduced 'The Cat in the Hat' to the English-speaking world' (Whitehead. 2009. p125) As a matter of fact, the children's author Dr. Seuss created his famous books
using what was described in those days as 'a controlled "scientific" vocabulary' (high frequency sight words supplied
by the publisher), but he was well aware of how useless the sight word method
was to teach children how to read. In an interview he gave
in 1981, Seuss said, ''I did it for a textbook house and
they sent me a word list. That was due to the Dewey revolt
in the twenties, in which they threw out phonics reading and
went to word recognition as if youre reading a Chinese
pictograph instead of blending sounds or different letters.
I think killing phonics was one of the greatest causes of
illiteracy in the country. Anyway they had it all worked out
that a healthy child at the age of four can only learn so
many words in a week. So there were two hundred and twenty-three
words to use in this book. I read the list three times and
I almost went out of my head. I said, "Ill read
it once more and if I can find two words that rhyme, thatll
be the title of my book." I found "cat" and
"hat" and said, the title of my book will be The
Cat in the Hat'' (Gatto p72-3)
*The learning of HFWs as global sight words right from the start by beginning readers is considered necessary by advocates of the Dual Route reading model hypothesis. They think that it is important to give children immediate practice in using a 'Direct Lexical route' to reading; ''A useful strategy for learning [HFWs] might be to learn them as sight words rather than decoding through them. By learning such a sight vocabulary children can begin to set up the direct lexical route to word reading'' (Flynn&Stainthorp p50). In Stuart, Snowling & Stainthorp's paper on the simple view of reading (UKLA.Literacy Vol42.July 2008) they wrote ''Children need to acquire two sets of processes in order to become proficient readers who can link the orthographic forms of words to their meanings and pronunciations...The first process is one of sight word recognition, the other is a phonically based decoding process’'.
Advocates of the model believe that 'word recognition is the product of orchestrated activity that occurs within a number of different cognitive sub-systems [brain modules] which operate at least partially independently one from another' (A.Ellis p24). They say that there are two, independent 'routes' or pathways the brain uses to read words; a fast, lexical/semantic route which cannot read non-words (see familiar printed word -> sequence of letters matches those of a word trace in whole/visual word store -> word meaning store -> finally, pronounce whole word) and a slower, sublexical/phonological route (see unfamiliar printed word -> no letter sequence match found in whole word store -> 'map letters onto their phonemes' in GPC store -> sound out word -> word meaning store)
Dual route model supporters acknowledge that teaching some ''phonemic and alphabetic knowledge'' to beginning readers is necessary because ''it gives children a means of decoding words'', but also because it ''sets up the sublexical route of the dual-route model'' (Flynn &Stainthorp p50) They believe that once a word has been processed correctly a few times along this 'slower phonological route', a 'permanent trace' of the word is made in a soundless and size-wise apparently almost limitless 'orthographic store' in the brain with, 'all letters of the word in correct sequence' (Rose Review Appendix 1. para 54), The dual route theorists say that once a word is in this visual word store in the brain, when seen in text, it will pass immediately to a ''pre-existing store of word meanings'' (Rose Review Appendix 1. para 52), with no subconscious phonological decoding being necessary: ''(A) competent reader almost never decodes anything - they have a visual memory function, as I understand it, capable of storing a sight vocabulary of anything up to 40,000 words'' (E. Carron RRF messageboard) This hypothesis ties in conveniently, if unintentionally, with the whole language rhetoric of 'reading for meaning' (Dombey). The sublexical / phonological word-reading route is, followers of the theory say, only used as a back-up by the brain when the 'direct to meaning route' fails or a new word is encountered (Kerr p19-22, 44-50)
Most of the evidence for this theory came from a study of a small group of adults who suffered brain damage and as a result acquired 'dyslexia' (Flynn&Stainthorp p41). As the British Psychological Society say, ''The research supporting a dual route model comes primarily from work with adult patients who have various forms of brain injury or insult. These findings may not be applicable to children who are in the process of learning to read and who have not suffered any known neurological damage (Karmiloff-Smith,1997)'' (BPS.2005.p24) There is no evidence that these findings are applicable to skilled adult readers who have not suffered any known neurological damage either.
A theory can be wrong despite being supported by many authorities, including those such as Coltheart and Dehaene who oppose whole language. Coltheart has said that, ''Skilled readers do not recognize or understand words by translating them to their sounds. In my view, being good at phonics helps a child in the early stages of learning to read, but then children subsequently have to give up this way of handling print if they are to become adult-level skilled readers''. The dual route model theorists have yet to explain the mechanism and evidence for this 'shift' (Molly de Lemos)
The Dual Route theory may sound intuitively correct; skilled readers may feel that they are bypassing phonic decoding but, in addition to lacking a credible research base, the theory was challenged convincingly by Glushko back in 1979. He argued that the brain automatically processes ALL the information available about the input signal from each and every word in parallel, processing multiple modalities simultaneously (much of which does not reach consciousness) and processing is NOT carried out along separate routes or pathways (D. McGuinness ERI p289)
Modern eye-movement studies also show that expert readers, even when reading silently, process all the information about a word at once using parallel processing; 'the word-superiority effect demonstrates that skilled readers process all of the letters when identifying a word' and 'represent complex aspects of a word's phonological form, including syllable and stress information' (italics added. Ashby/Rayner p57/p58), but this is done at a subconscious level. Only when the skilled reader comes to a previously unencountered word do the skills of phonological decoding come back into consciousness.
Brain studies show that 'the process of
mentally sounding out words is an integral part of silent
reading, even for the highly skilled'. In addition, studies of the profoundly deaf (Aaron et al.'98), who have no phonological sensitivity, have found that they are incapable of learning to spell words correctly after the age of 8-9 years, because they cannot decode via the phoneme-grapheme route at all and rely on two visual processing modes: sight word memory (which is limited to approx. 2,000 words (D.McGuinness / Mair)) and by visual matching of spelling probabilities (the repetition of visual spelling patterns in words). This latter is something the brain does automatically, and we are not aware of it.
This research clearly shows that skilled readers do not read words as wholes or as a sequence of letters, eschewing sound, as Coltheart and others believe. Additionally, research by Share, Siegel and Geva revealed that struggling readers behave much like deaf readers, relying mostly on visual information to decode words as they lack knowledge of the phonological information contained in words; the alphabet code. (D.McGuinness ERI. pp338-347)
X What's the difference between synthetic and analytic phonics?
X Year 1 Phonics screening check
X 2. Phonics screening -why read nonsense?
X 3. Phonics screening -what next?
Free downloads of the DfE's past phonics screening check materials
X The Enemy Within:
A litany for failure. Reading practices that set up children to struggle:
''It is a dangerous fallacy to think that guessing at words from context helps developing readers to make meaning from text.''
Long-term effects of synthetic v analytic phonics teaching on the reading and spelling ability of 10 yr old boys and girls
Fact and Fiction about the Synthetic Phonics Study in Clackmannanshire
X Balanced literacy / mixed methods teaching seen through the eyes of a beginning reader.
Maggie Snowling et al's study focused on the reliability and validity of the year one phonics screening check.
''We have shown that the new phonics screening check is a **valid measure of phonic skills and is sensitive to identifying children at risk of reading difficulties. Its slight tendency to overestimate the prevalence of at-risk readers (as compared with standardised tests of reading accuracy and fluency) is arguably a favourable property for a screening instrument. We agree that early rigorous assessment of phonic skills is important for the timely identification of word reading difficulties''
Debbie Hepplewhite examines three different, but inter-related, reports on synthetic phonics published in May 2014: the Snowling et al study (see above), the 2014 NFER Phonics screening check evaluation report and Dr.Grant's study 'The Effects of a Systematic Synthetic Phonics Programme on Reading, Writing and Spelling'.
Illiterate boys: The new international phenomenon
Developmentalism. An obscure but pervasive restriction on educational improvement by J.E.Stone
Evidence-based practice in the classroom
McGuinness comments http://www.syntheticphonics.com/articles/Torgerson%20article.pdf on the review of the Research Literature
on the use of Phonics in the Teaching of Reading and Spelling,
by Brooks, Torgerson and Hall
Why do children need to be able to decode pseudo/nonsense words?
So that, along with reading any new words they come across, they can confidently read books by authors such as Roald Dahl and Lewis Carroll who often use nonsense words, of course! http://www.listsofnote.com/2012/02/gobblefunk.html
Whole language high jinks: How to Tell When “Scientifically-Based Reading Instruction” Isn’t:
X Kenneth Anderson: The Reading Wars.
Phonics and Book Bands.
Daniel Willingham: Collateral damage of excessive reading comprehension strategy instruction
Nurture a Reader blog posting on leveled books
http://nurtureareader.blogspot.com/2010 ... books.html
X The case for decodable text.
Goswami and the onset-rime theory
X The three-cueing system in reading: Will it ever go away?
Marilyn Jager Adams: ''In the world of practice, the widespread subscription to the belief system that the three-cueing diagram has come to represent has wreaked disaster on students and hardship on teachers''
Hempenstall- Three Cueing System
*In England, the now most widely used synthetic phonics programme, the government's Letters and Sounds (L&S), was not intended, according to the DCSF (now DfE), to replace the fully-resourced, 'tried and tested in the classroom', synthetic phonics programmes which were already available commercially. L&S was hastily produced by the DCSF purely as a fall-back/stop-gap programme for schools, with the official status of 'guidance'. The then Labour government wanted all English primary schools to get aboard the synthetic phonics bus as quickly as possible, with no excuses, after its acceptance of the recommendations in the 2006 Rose Report. Most schools turned to L&S automatically because it was free (the government sent 6 copies of L&S to every primary school in England) and government-produced and therefore viewed as being unsullied by commercialism, but also because most LEAs put pressure on schools in their areas to use it along with their (LEA-provided) training. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, the LEAs' L&S trainers were exactly the same people who had been delivering NLS 'mixed method' training only a short time previously.
To limit the conflict of interest with the commercial programmes, L&S was produced without any essential resources such as decodable books. Many of the schools which are now using L&S have simply carried on using the school's old, leveled, whole language scheme books with their beginning readers. There are also schools using whole language readers alongside commercial, synthetic phonics programmes, despite the fact that all the main commercial programmes produce linked, phonically decodable books. The use of the early levels of whole word scheme books for reading practice by beginning readers can damage the effective teaching of synthetic phonics, creating reading difficulties for a significant minority of children.
Schools seem to be unaware that in Oct 2010 the DfE introduced a revised set of criteria for synthetic phonics programmes. It included new advice on early texts to practise reading: ''(E)nsure that as pupils move through the early stages of acquiring phonics, they are invited to practise by reading texts which are entirely decodable for them, so that they experience success and learn to rely on phonemic strategies. It is important that texts are of the appropriate level for children to apply and practise the phonic knowledge and skills that they have learnt. Children should not be expected to use strategies such as whole-word recognition and/or cues from context, grammar, or pictures''
That weasel word 'Systematic':
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less' Lewis Carroll. Alice in Wonderland.
Describing phonics solely as 'systematic' is open to abuse by those who wish to keep genuine synthetic phonics out of the classroom or who have no real understanding of the synthetic phonics principles. Even Sir Jim Rose seemed to feel it was politically expedient to avoid using the 'synthetic' description as much as possible in his final report and, instead, focused on the phrase 'high quality phonics'. This is unfortunate as the mixed methods advocates have misappropriated the word 'systematic' and regularly use it to describe their type of teaching using analytic / contextualised / cumulative phonics with the justification that, ''the phonics concepts to be learned can still be presented systematically''. www.readingrockets.org/article/254
Caution is also needed with the words 'predict' '**decode' and 'discrete' as teachers who prefer to use mixed methods are likely to interpret these words differently from synthetic phonics teachers.
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