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Above average readers fail phonics screening test!

Discussion in 'Primary' started by ginger22, Jul 5, 2012.


  1. No there isn't. The thing you are dimly remembering is
    an internet meme which has been doing the rounds for years. Although it
    starts (in an unscrambled version) 'According to research at
    Cambridge...' there is no Cambridge research. It is worrying to
    think that teachers are willing to believe something prefaced with the
    magic words 'according to research' without checking out the 'research'
    for themselves.

    http://www.mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk/people/matt.davis/Cmabrigde/

    On
    the other hand, this is some real research, described in an excellent
    book by Keith Stanovich called 'Progress in Understanding Reading'
    (2000)
    Stanovich was very interested in the use of context by
    readers. He was very much enthused by the theories of Frank Smith (still
    very influential if these discussions are anything to go by) When he
    started researching them he found them to be quite erroneous.
    His
    research found that it was unskilled readers who were more likely to
    use context. Here he discusses some research by another cogntive
    scientist, Perfetti.
    (The
    next passage is about the fictitious phenomenon of 'word calling'.
    Also very interesting but not entirely relevant here...)
    http://www.amazon.com/Progress-Understanding-Reading-Scientific-Foundations/dp/1572305649
     
  2. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Yes it is interesting that the erroneous views of Smith etc on reading do still seem to live on.
    Accuracy in decoding "new" words (real or nonsense) is essential for a reader. If one twists words into ones that one expects to see too frequently you are never going to make a great reader - there's going to be nothing stopping you applying that "habit" to words you do know as well as words you don't know. A bit of accuracy in reading goes a long way.
    Now one of the posters said, well if you ask the child to do it again and they get it right the second time, doesn't that show they can do it and that there's nothing wrong, so the test is still kind of pointless (I'm paraphrasing). Well that's kind of right and kind of wrong.
    I work voluntarily with a lot of children who have this "habit" or whatever you like to call it. Their knowledge of GPCs in isolation is good, and they have the skills to be able to work out words using their knowledge of GPCs .......... but they have a very high inaccuracy rate - reading words in the way they want to see them rather than how they are printed. When asked to do it again they do it correctly. But until somehow they learn how not to do this ........ and they do this so often that using "context" is not going to solve the problem ........ they are never going to be good readers of the kind of material that they could actually read .......... I am talking about children whose verbal comprehension way exceeds the level of material they can currently read accurately.
    A child could perfectly well be 2b reader by some other measure, and fall into this category of needing greater accuracy. Good readers do not have to be stopped for 20% or more of the words being wrong and have a second chance to get the words right.
    If a child did arithmetic like this you would think that something needed doing about their accuracy - yes you might also know that their grasp of maths concept was great, but you would appreciate that longer term they need to develop higher accuracy if their arithmetic is ever going to do justice to their mathematical prowess.
    I feel sorry for parents of children who are in schools where if a child doesn't pass the test but the school thinks they are a fantastic reader, they are going to be fobbed off with a load of stuff about why the test is wrong. When really just quite a small amount of focussed tuition could make a huge difference to the child's accuracy.
    32 / 40 means that the child got 8 simple words wrong. That is one in five words. I find it hard to believe they are giving a flawless performance when reading ordinary text, unless it is text where they have met every word several times before.
    Of course there isn't anything to worry about if you are going to carry on teaching those children to read (and I would suggest that the test is so basic that there's still a long way to go even for those achieving 40/40, they may struggle to decode "regular" polysyllabic words containing complex code ) but I would suggest it would be unwise to completely ignore the result of this or similar tests which show that your "high ability" readers are inaccurate.
     
  3. I would suggest, mystery, that your inaccurate readers need to be given more motivation in order for them to read accurately. If they are capable of reading accurately as you suggest, and they are not using that capability, surely it must be because , for some reason, they can't be bothered. Maybe the answer lies in the fact that, if I understand you correctly, they are being given texts which are well below their comprehension level. The bad habit of not decoding could be more to do with a bad habit of reading without looking for meaning and being interested rather than an inability to decode properly. I sometimes think we are too quick to refocus a child on the word they got wrong. It is sometimes useful to let them get it wrong and then ask them about the sentence they have read. When they realise they know nothing about it they tend to re-read with more concentration. I also blame the practice of hearing readers in busy, noisy classrooms, although I know that can be unavoidable.
     
  4. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Finding a motivation to read accurately certainly is part of the answer. And there will be different ways of doing that with different children - and it might even vary from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute with one child.
    However, I'm not sure that it is all motivation. It is a skill which needs developing too. I read accurately automatically. I can't read inaccurately just because I lack motivation. I might stop reading, or not take in the meaning if it bores me, but I don't switch off from reading the individual words accurately.
    There are ways and means of improving a child's accuracy. I know only a small number of them. However, it would still be a shame to overlook this point with certain good readers and assume that if they just continue to read masses of interesting books the way they do now that their accuracy will continue to improve at the same pace as their other reading attributes.
     
  5. I agree you should not assume anything, and hearing children read unseen texts of appropriate level is the best way to find out how well their reading skills are serving them. Hearing them read nonsense words at a level below their reading skill is a bit of a nonsense. They may not decode accurately, as people have said, because they are not used to reading nonsense. And many have said that if they are re-focused they do read accurately.When you write about your experiences of reading, ie that you cannot read inaccurately, I think that you need to consider the differences in circumstances. When a child reads to a teacher they have to : read out loud, which adds a different dimension to the task; read what the teacher chooses or judges 'good to read'; read to impress the teacher with their fluency so they get the next book and read to get to the end of the book. In contrast, when you read: if you don't want to read you can put the book down and play with the playdough instead; you read texts you are interested in and can abandon others; you read for information which you want to know. The differences in purpose may help to explain why a child might read inaccurately - they may be in a hurry, uninterested, unwilling, wanting to impress etc. Additionally, they are in the early stages of acquiring reading skills. When everything comes together they will read , like you and me, for the meaning. They will forget about decoding and getting it right because, as you say, they will not be able to get it wrong. This 'habit' will ensure that they will decode even nonsense words accurately, because of their confidence that they can read correctly and are not mistaking a word through not being an expert reader. New readers of English must always carry this insecurity with them. Once skilled a reader will be reading for themselves, with no one refocusing them on words, and they have to do that, if necessary, for themselves because they want to know what the text is telling them. This is what good readers do. They look back at what they have read to check they have it, and they do that without any feeling of shame at 'not reading well'. It's a part of good reading. So what I am saying is that the good readers who failed the test may very well not have the confidence to accurately decode words as nonsense, because they expect them to make sense, whereas you, as an adult has no such insecurity. Less able readers do not have it either, because they are at the stage where they expect to decode everything, it is their number one strategy. More able readers, as has been said, outgrow the decoding strategy. It becomes their number 3 or 4 strategy because for most words they already know the word or can decode it because they know many words, by analogy. This 'knowing' would be felt as an instinctive thing, not a conscious process of comparing words to words already known, because instantaneous. So in a sense not a strategy at all, but an unacknowledged process. Which may well be another reason why some children did not read the nonwords correctly - their instantaneous response was to read them as real words without stopping to think,"What strategy do I need with this word?" because, not of bad habits, but of good habits of reading efficiently and automatically.
     
  6. I do see what you are getting at Thumbie- but why are good readers in some year one classes universally confident enough to decode nonsense words nd in other classes good readers arent? It doesn't stack up.
    You have to ask WHY some readers are much more dependent on context than others. Most of these successful kids will of course go on to be good readers because they probably have grasped the alphabetic principles behind reading but the test is still doing its job- highlighting a weakness in their reading. If you try to make words you see into words you know well you WILL be inaccurate. My son has been taught to read using first letters as a cue and so persistently reads went as want (he's 4). He can decode well but he isn't going to read well till he pays more careful attention. The same is true of good yr 1 readers.
    It's not confidence it's habit. These kids habitually guess from cues because that is what they have been taught to do as a first strategy, befoer decoding.Those kids that have not been taught to guess from cues pass the test because they don't have this bad habit.
     
  7. Thumbie I really do respect your sincerity but your long post has some very questionable assumptions in it. It is based on speculation from your observation of how children read when taught using your methods. The fact is they are not reading as 'confidently'' as they could if taught using other methods.
    There is an assumption by posters questioning the screening check that Michael Gove dreamt up its format one night on the back of an envelope. It is in the format of diagnostic checks that have been used for many years because they identify weak reading. Non words are routinely used in these tests because they show whether a reader is overly reliant on context - the hallmark of weak reading. You can't argue that a child's reading would be fine if they had context - thats the whole point. I have two friends with dyslexic kids at special schools and every few months I hear in conversation whether their sons have made progress in their latest assessment- of individual context less words. They know that it is improvement in this that would show their sons are making progress.
    Anyway we can easily observe that if a reader relies on context they will be inaccurate.
    If you think the check is poor then you cannot trust the tests done to identify dyslexia. Critics like Thumbie are basically saying that the way reading problems are diagnosed routinely and the assumptions behind the diagnostic tests are wrong... Do lots and lots of research before you wade in saying such things.
     
  8. I agree it is an interesting phenomena that some good readers read the nonwords without problems and others did not. I am just suggesting possible scenarios to explain this, and don't believe I have the answer. I'm suggesting these possibilities because it is somewhat simplistic to say that those readers who did less well than expected on the phonics test are therefore not good readers, and that they need support in phonics, when evidence from other sources contradicts this. It is well known that good readers do not slavishly decode when reading, even when they encounter an unknown word, so I am speculating that children who seem to be becoming good readers and who are out-performing others in their cohort, are also not slavishly decoding even when they encounter an unknown word. Other children may be further advanced, and are able to see discrepancies with their known vocabulary instantly and then be able to read the nonword, then choosing to decode on this isolated occasion.Of course there could be other factors that affect the two groups ie able readers who succeeded well and those who didn't. One of these could very well be method of instruction, so that one group always decode words and the other group don't. But, if both groups are in the 'good reader' category should we therefore suddenly decide that some are not good readers? If we do, that rather goes against the idea that this is a decoding, not a reading test. If these anomalies in test results show anything it is that we need to rethink what makes a good reader at age 6. But I don't believe making that decision just through the results of the phonics test is good practice. That would only be worthwhile if good decoder=good reader. Is SP about teaching children to read or to decode? The answer to that is that it can only teach children to decode. As for some children being more dependent on context than others, I don't think I said that. I am saying that the children who read the nonwords are more dependent on their known sight words than others, and this is reasonable in a person who has a lot of sight words and the intelligence to use inference from known words to read unknown words. Context doesn't really come into it when the words we are talking about are context-free. To find out if context is a factor you would have to compare a child's performance with words of the same difficulty in context and context-free. As regards your son habitually reading 'went' as 'want', I would imagine that it is more than just the first letter that is prompting this. I'm sure he will grow out of it if you keep drawing attention to his mistake.Of course there is nothing wrong with a 'cue' as such, we all read from cues whether it is phonic cues or others. Children who rely too heavily on context cues are usually the ones who find phonics difficult, and all we can do is carry on re-focusing them on the letters on the page. It is a bad habit to use context on its own, but it is something we all use alongside other reading skills every day. So these children have to learn that the context and the word have to be matched.
     
  9. No, that is not what I am saying. I have no problem with the use of nonword tests to assess the problems of weak readers, or, indeed, as part of assessment of any reading skills, if felt necessary. I do object to the elements that are new with this test. Briefly: the test is used in isolation, there is no statutory test in Y1 to cover other elements of reading, therefore it will skew teaching towards children learning to decode words out of context including nonwords, when they could be learning to read; it is being used on its own to asses all children, even when some of these children do not display any reading problems; also that the design of the test is a nonsense in itself as it has a combination of real and nonwords, with different criteria for marking each; additionally it has become clear from these forums that some teachers are confused as to how to mark some of the words and what constitutes a 'plausible' reading, and there even seems to have been some mistakes in the published guidance regarding this.
     
  10. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Sorry but some teachers are ...
     
  11. Sorry, I meant "children who misread the nonwords." [​IMG]
     
  12. Thumbie i have read your posts but you have written at such length that i would have to sit down for half an hour with a piece of paper making notes to address what you say. I am sorry,I'm too tired...
    Suffice to say that I don't agree,, it's not in line with what research shows and is an elaborate justification of what you see your children doing in which you try and have your cake and eat it. Anyone that teaches phonics well knows its plain wrong.
    You do get to the crux of the matter though, which kids end up better readers? When we statistically allow for deprivation etc, which type of kid ends up a better all round reader on average. Ones taught with your methods that don't do so well in this phonics screening or ones taught using a strongly phonics based approach. As I said before I would be willing to lay good money down on systematic synthetic phonics being a clear winner. Looking at the research I'm not running any risk.
    The boys I know with bad dyslexia, now in yr 4 and 6 wre both told their reading was fine at the end of yr2, which makes me so angry. Both have such difficulties their parents are now sending them to specialist dyslexia schools, at great expense. The screening check would have picked up what the school couldn't see and now means schools can no longer be blissfully unaware that children going up the levels are relying on guessing and can't even sound out simple words which is, like it or not, a warning that all may not be well.
    If I have energy later I'll try and be less sweeping and address what you say...
     
  13. Zigmania, I do not have a method, nor any Y1 pupils. So I am not seeing 'my children' doing anything. I am not trying to justify my own approach, as that doesn't actually exist. I always use the method prescribed by the school, as do all teachers as far as I know. Nowadays the prescribed method is SP.I am writing as someone who has been following the threads about the screening and observing what teachers have said about their results. I don't see any reason to disbelieve them when they describe this phenomenon of good readers not succeeding as well as expected, or their descriptions of pupil responses to the nonwords. So I am speculating about why this might have happened. I don't agree with you that the research shows unequivocally that SP, taught in the exclusive way we see currently recommended, is the answer to reading problems. The main piece of research mentioned in the Rose Report is the Clackmannanshire study, which was flawed. Other things in your post are simply assertion and anecdote. I apologise for the length of my posts, unavoidable to address the issues raised.
     
  14. I did use anecdote but to illustrate - not prove. We both used assertion, in my case because referencing all I have said would take forever, it's all readily available if anyone is interested in doing the research, like I have over the last few years.
     
  15. SP proponents on here are always saying there is loads of evidence to support the use of SP. I have followed up these claims on several occasions and found the evidence inconclusive or even contradictory. Eye movement studies, for instance, are quoted as showing that experienced readers decode graphemes as they read, but there is nothing in the research to support this. So, if you are claiming that the evidence and research backs you up please explain how, and what you are referring to. Past experience tells me that what you take as good evidence might well be questionable.
     
  16. If you haven't found much evidence you haven't been looking very hard.
     
  17. Well, it's for the SP proponents to provide the evidence for their so-called evidence-based approach, isn't it? I'm not an SP proponent and so I don't need to look for it. Some have attempted to provide evidence on here, as I said, but when one looks at it it is not conclusive. The Rose report only refers to the Clackmannanshire study as evidence. You're saying you know of lots of evidence - tell us more.
     
  18. I am not about to list a pile of research because you aren't actually interested and it would take me ages.Witness response to MSZ on a related thread. This article makes excellent reading for anyone interested:
    http://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/Stanovich_Color.pdf
    I am rubbish at using my new iPad so if my link doesnt work the article can be googled. It is called 'Using reason and research in Eduction.' It's author is Keith Stanovich. Please do google him as his credentials in the world of research are rather good.
     
  19. It's for proponents of 'mixed methods' to prove there are problems with the phonics check if thy wish to complain. List me some articles....
     
  20. I am very interested actually and spend quite some time looking at reading research, thank you. What response to Msz are you writing about? As far as I know you can't link using IPad, I'm in the same boat. I'll read your Stanovich article (I've read some descriptions of his work) and you might like to read http://www.ite.org.uk/ite_readings/simple_view_reading.pdf
     

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