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How were we taught to read?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by Lilybett, Feb 29, 2012.

  1. If your student has been offered nothing but phonics

    I expect that, not having your insight, she as probably lying to me! The impression I gained however, is that she still had an open mind and was reluctant to have it closed by having to conform to a strategy which she knows is failing one fifth of the population. Perhaps I should advise her that you would make a superior mentor.

  2. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Well done Eddie you've just managed to provide a fine example of your own ability to do just that
    I mentor many students Eddie and they all tell me they have had little if any phonics instruction on their ITT courses. I also know a number of people who provide training for these students. One tells me she is given two sessions out of four years and another 2 hours ... by your logic you probably want to go with the lying assumption.
  3. Another of your fantasies, eddie. Good, structured phonics instruction has barely got into its stride. The Searchlights guessing strategies which did the damage were only officially dropped in Autumn 2007 and about three quarters of schools still seem to be hanging on to them and failing pupils.
    What is really worrying is that people appear to believe what you say...
  4. However, I'm not sure that 98% of all children could learn to read successfully from scratch

    You'll have to tell that to the billion or so Chinese who learn their tens of thousands of phonics-free characters with no difficulty whatsover perceptually. When you ask a Chinese person how they do this, they always say '"Its very easy!" This is because with perceptual learning there is nothing to forget because there is nothing to remember.
    Perceptual Learing doesn't need to be proven because ultimately, ALL learning is perceptual learning. Good teaching simply understands and facilitates that. The abililty to acquire high standards of literacy skills is perceived by many teachers as being only available to those with high IQs - they fail to understand that it is only concepts assimilation and not skills acquisition that is limited by IQ. Teachers generally use the word 'skills' without fully appreciating the difference between a skill and a cognitive process.

  5. "However, I'm not sure that 98% of all children could learn to read successfully from scratch by being placed in front of a computer running "learn to read" software, no matter how well put together,"
    I am currently working with a very large number of infants who, in their teacher's view, have failed to acquire any reading skills in the same classrooms and receiving the same 'teaching' as their peers, the majority of whom have learned to read without difficulty. This makes them the same vulnerable group who ultimately leave school unable to read or write.
    The strategy they are being exposed to takes at most , 5 minuntes per day. It is an exclusively perceptual learning strategy and in the same way as the billion Chinese learn to read, it has no phonics content whatsoever.
    The participating schools that have returned 'Early Reaction' proformas so far, report that without exception, every non-reading child is able to use the strategy independently. Almost all are subseqeuntly able to read their prepared texts confidently and about 80% are also able to read the previous days' text confidently. This is an objective pursuit of the truth - the sample of children in the study is an entrely credible one.

  6. 'The big question is about how the studies define reading'

    This is a key question.
    As long as we are a profession with no professional definitions of its key technical terms, we will never be able to communicate with each other productively. As long as teachers define the word 'reading' idiosyncratically, we will always be going round in ever decreasing circles - heading nowhere. Imagine the kind of chaos that would exist if every other profession allowed its practitioners to define their key technical terms idiosyncratically - well that the kind of chaos that exists in teaching and its the 100,000 children who leave school illiterate every year who pay the price.
  7. Also I still don't understand who the masses of children are that Eddie refers to who can read by blending through the word but don't understand a word of it- the so-called "barking at print" phenonemon.
    I dont understand who they are either and I certainly have never referred to any such 'masses' The 'barking at print' phenomenona has been in the literature for many years but personally,I have met very few children indeed who I would categorise in this way.'Barking at print' is just one of may sound bytes that caught on in the sixties and seems to have stuck around. The ultimate literacy skill is language which expresses meaning in sounds. Writing is recording language in textual symbols and reading is the business of retrieving these meanings.
    It has been shown in practical experiments in the M.I.T that the reading process involves subvocalising eg returning the text back to speech in order to be understood.

  8. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Ah I'm sorry I attributed something to you that you did not say. But I am sure you have talked about children who can decode but don't understand. Could that be because it is such hard work for them decoding they lose the meaning - indeed you just suggested that I think in a slightly earlier post. So there are two basic choices of method - more practice with phonic decoding until it becomes more automatic, and treating everything as "sight words" ( a bit like Chinese as you suggest but with the difference that over time that might lead to some understanding of the English alphabetic code).
    So then we are at the moment just relying on the various bodies of research to know which is the "best" way of going ahead.

    I've just done a literature search in an online university library and there are children with reading difficulties in China too who can't remember all those picture symbols. Oh it is complicated.
  9. " there are children with reading difficulties in China too who can't remember all those picture symbols. Oh it is complicated."
    There is 1.8% of all populations who will never be able to learn to read
    Its not really complicated unless you make it so.
    Consider the teaching of other people's languages. Schools by and large,like the SP fundamentalists, prefer the 'structured' approach and succeed mainly in putting people off languages for life. The most successful language teaching strategies are those which abhor the structure of grammar, vocabulary, rules and exceptions and go instead for an exclusively perceptual learning strategy. The best example of this is the Rosetta Stone strategy which succeeds with people who failed to acquire a language in school and is exclusively a PL approach.
    SP fundmentalists like their Phase 1 and Phase 2 graphemes etc etc and find what they regard as a lack of structure as unsettling and incomprehensible. The reality is that perceptual learning is also about structures, patterns and relationships but it differs from rote exercises mainly in HOW these patterns are learned.
    The most interesting work in PL is currently taking place in UCLA but Dr Phil Kellerman there is mostly focused on the acquisition of mathematical rather than literacy concepts. I know of no other work in the UK which is specfically targetting the use of PL to boost literacy skills. Certainly the future in language teaching is very firmly PL.
    Because English orthography is phonetic, the teaching of reading has to have a phonics basis - no sensible individual would challenge that statement and of the many phonics approaches that have emerged over the past 6 or 7 decades, synthetic phonics is undoubtedly the best. Those who are pursuing SP with almost religious zeal are the ones who are causing the damage. SP should figure prominently but not exclusively in the reception and infant stages but continuing with SP exercises year after year with chldren who are clearly not responding well to that exclusive strategy are being conditioned to expect failure and that is when SP becomes counter-productive. It is not of course SP that is causing this damage - it is those whose idea of SP is fundmentalist.

  10. And your evidence for this assertion is... what, eddie?
  11. And your evidence is?
    Primarily the 100,000 children who, quite unnecessarily are consigned to the dustbin of illiteracy every year but also my own several decades of experience as a teacher, head teacher, researcher and publisher in this field.
  12. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    and your evidence that those children have been taught phonics rather than by perceptual reading

    or by any other method of reading instruction or combination methods
  13. Since the 20% figure has remained constant since it was discovered objectively in 1939 and since in these intervening decades children have been subject to a variety of phonics incarnations including SP, ita, reading recovery, searchlights, looksay, whole word ete etc it is quite reasonable to assume that none of these 'euraka strategies' has made any unique impact. It is also reasonable to claim that whatever structured approach is used, about 80% of children learn to read and 20% don't. Not only does this appear to hold true in every other English speaking country but also when no particular strategy at all is used. This suggests that if all advice on the initial teaching of reading was withdrawn and teachers were encourage to do their own thing, it would make not one iota of difference to the proportion of children to leave school illiterate.
    Early reports from my own current Y6 project in 25 schools indicate that virtually none of the children predicted to achieve Level 3 English are failing to respond to the PL strategy. This is quite remarkable when it is remembered that the children targeted are a very special lgroup in that they are exclusively those predicted to fail at Key Stage 2. These children have now been using the approach since mid-September 2010 and the success or otherwise of the project will be determined solely and objectively by their Key Stage 2 results as measured against the school’s own predicted and historic outcomes. There will be no 'opinions', 'assumptions' or socalled 'evidence.'

  14. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    The only problem with your logic Eddie is that Reading Recovery isn't a phonics program neither is Searchlights, neither is Look and Say neither is Whole words etc etc etc ...
    In fact your method has much more in common with Look & Say and Whole word than they have with phonics
  15. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Just to point out there aren't any graphemes in phase 1
  16. The only problem with your logic Eddie is that Reading Recovery isn't a phonics program neither is Searchlights, neither is Look and Say neither is Whole words etc etc etc ...
    In fact your method has much more in common with Look & Say and Whole word than they have with phonics
    I have never claimed that reading recovery or any other strategy was a phonics strategy so why you would assert that I have escapes me entirely. Clearly, you have no uderstanding of perceptual learning. I have said repeatedly (but apparently unsuccessfully) that all reading teaching is ultimately phonics because our othography is phonetic. I am left with impression that, like all fundamentalists, you see only what you want see and you simply distort or erase anything you don't want to see.
    Perceptual Learning cannot be 'my logic' since is has been pursued in many areas of learning in many august institutions over many decades, most recently in UCLA. It is the product of our brains evolutionary programming and its function is the perception of patterns and relationships from the host of disconnected information which constantly assails our senses. It is the basis of all cognition and its opposite function is rote learning.
    What could be described as 'mine' are the resources I have produced to test the effectiveness of Perceptual Learning in boosting literacy skills. It may yet prove to be the case that the resources I have devised are not up to the task of resolving the difficulties of the 100,000 children who currently leave school illiterate but that would not invalidate perceptual learning which, unlike the 'eureka strategies', which was not devised by man but by mother nature.

  17. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    No Eddie but you claimed that SP /phonics method are responsible for the 20% failure and I askedhow you had reached that conclusion ...
  18. No Eddie but you claimed that SP /phonics method are responsible for the 20% failure and I askedhow you had reached that conclusion ...
    I have no recollection of making that claim but If I did then that was no my intention and of course I apologise if I gave that impression. 20% of childen were failing to learn to read long before the Clackmannanshire work on synthetic phonics. I actually did some work with an educational psychologist in neighbouring Dundee schools. I have said that ALL euraka strategies (including the many phonics ones) resulted in only 80% learning to read. I regard the responsibility for the 20% who leave school illiterate as resting with those with closed minds who refuse to countenance any strategy other than the one which they support whatever that strategy might be. There is a 'whole word' movement in the US who are vicious and totally fundamentalist in defense of their views which are of course the opposite of those held by SP zealots - they can conceive of no approach to the teaching of reading other than the one they advocate. I know ofcourse that many teachers who use SP do not regard it as a religion and do in fact also use other strategies.
    I well remember the SP zealots on the RRF forum saying that if they had their way, head teachers would not be allowed to teach anything other than SP. I also remember the president of that august organisation posting a message on their forum claiming that they should keep quiet about this aspect of their policy since it could be held against them.
    I have been an exponent of SP since Mona McNee's time - long before its present advocates climbed on the bandwagon but I have always been against it as a remedial strategy to be used on children who have been put off reading for life by years of unsuccessful phonics training courses.
    I haev been working on a PL strategy for about 25 years now. Unlike SP enthusiasts, I have never regarded it as an exclusive strategy. It has always been my view that since English orthography is phonetic, the principal means of teaching reading should be phonics. That does not of course mean that the principal means of LEARNING will be phonics - I believe the principal means of learning always was and always will be, perceptual learning.

  19. You are completely mad, eddie.
  20. Evidence/proof

    That's why I asked about the data about the impact of your programme on spelling. All I can find so far is tenuous 'evidence' based on assumptions. You assert that accurate practice will improve their spelling, but don't offer any evidence (or proof) that it actually does so. I'm not saying that it doesn't, indeed it seems very likely that it would work, but it seems a bit unfair to criticise others for something you are doing yourself! Get the schools to assess spelling before and after the programme (using a standardised test) and then there would be data to show whether it works for spelling. Saying that their NC levels have gone up is not enough evidence.
    The year 2 programme sounds interesting too, though I do wonder how well it would work for children with limited English (which is the main reason why the children that I've worked with have had difficulties learning to read - on top of phonological difficulties). I can think of several children I'd like to try it with though!

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