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Literacy Strategy made no difference. Will phonics do better?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by mashabell, Dec 8, 2011.

  1. http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/blog/4169_could_do_better_latest_overview_of_adult_literacy_in_the_uk
    The report tried to establish
    What has been the impact of the massive government investment in adult basic skills over the last decade? Has the National Literacy Strategy in schools raised the literacy levels of a new generation of school leavers? ....the statistics suggest that the approaches of the last decade have been successful in improving the literacy skills of adults who have already mastered the basics, whilst not impacting significantly on the 1 in 6 for whom the issues are more complex.

    Rather depressingly there was little variation between the 16-18 year old cohort literacy levels in 2003 and in 2011. Most of the 2011 cohort will have been pupils who experienced the first years of the National Literacy Strategy in their primary education.

    The fundamental challenge posed by the report is how are we to support the literacy of the 5.1 million adults (15%) who still read below the level the National Curriculum expects of 11 year olds? These seem to have been only slightly impacted by the push of the past decade.

    ......My blogs http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.com/2010/01/english-spelling-is-worst-for-weakest.html

    and
    http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.com/2010/02/catching-up-is-hard-to-do.html

    explain why improving the weakest literacy levels is very difficult.
     
  2. http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/blog/4169_could_do_better_latest_overview_of_adult_literacy_in_the_uk
    The report tried to establish
    What has been the impact of the massive government investment in adult basic skills over the last decade? Has the National Literacy Strategy in schools raised the literacy levels of a new generation of school leavers? ....the statistics suggest that the approaches of the last decade have been successful in improving the literacy skills of adults who have already mastered the basics, whilst not impacting significantly on the 1 in 6 for whom the issues are more complex.

    Rather depressingly there was little variation between the 16-18 year old cohort literacy levels in 2003 and in 2011. Most of the 2011 cohort will have been pupils who experienced the first years of the National Literacy Strategy in their primary education.

    The fundamental challenge posed by the report is how are we to support the literacy of the 5.1 million adults (15%) who still read below the level the National Curriculum expects of 11 year olds? These seem to have been only slightly impacted by the push of the past decade.

    ......My blogs http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.com/2010/01/english-spelling-is-worst-for-weakest.html

    and
    http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.com/2010/02/catching-up-is-hard-to-do.html

    explain why improving the weakest literacy levels is very difficult.
     
  3. Not quite sure that your thread title has much relevance to the content of your post, masha, but I would point out that the failure of the NLS was apparent when it was still in force; as was pointed out by academics (e.g.Prof Tymms of Durham ) and SP advocates for many years. (In fact, its failure was predicted just about as soon as it was implemented....)
     
  4. Regarding the NLS:
    This article is from the RRF newsletter Feb. 2001
    The ‘Searchlight Reading Strategies’
    http://www.rrf.org.uk/archive.php?n_ID=23&n_issueNumber=45
    In their Civitas paper 'Ready to Read' (p10),
    Anastasia de Waal and Nicholas Cowen wrote that, ''(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''.
     
  5. Indeed. But many threads on this site make it clear that lots of teachers are not convinced by the 'nothing but phonics' message either.
     
  6. Me being one of them.
     
  7. I believe that there is far more to reading than just phonics.
     
  8. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I'm not sure anyone would disagree ... phonics allows a child to decode the words in a text which I think you will admit is a pretty important part of the reading process.
     
  9. I have to admit that I haven't personally analysed the research, but wasn't the Rose report (and it's associated, comprehensive research) pretty emphatic that the evidence shows that synthetic phonics is the best approach for all children when it comes to the early years of learning to read?
    I've met lots of fans of Searchlights, but it makes no sense to me at all to tell a child who cannot decode a word to 'look at the picture...'
    The report out today that pilots of the new phonics test, suggests that almost two thirds of Year 1 children fail it. The suggestion is that only 27% of schools are actually teaching synthetic phonics properly, and those results, if they are correct, seems to show that is true. Anecdotally, it certainly seems to be the case that a majority of schools/teachers are still using Searchlights to a greater or lesser degree.
     
  10. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    I'm a fan of teaching synthetic phonics. But clear it isn't the only way to learn to read as many children have learned well without being formally taught synthetic phonics. But that's a different issue from choosing a way forward that will have the most benefit for the vast majority of the population. And taught well, as currently recommended, I can't see that it could do any harm, and done thoroughly could extremely effective.
    The thing that puzzles me big time is how do you "teach" a child to read without synthetic phonics? I thought my older child had learned via synthetic phonics as the school told us they did phonics ......... but they did very little so in effect my first child learned via ORT sight books and a smattering of phonics generally lagging the reading and the second child via me teaching phonics at home in advance of her meeting it in the text. The results of my tiny and accidental experiment - I preferred the synthetic phonics. The "whole word" method seemed illogical by comparison, not really teaching reading so much as hoping for the best and waiting for things to click, and my first child never really enjoyed reading until she was really competent, whereas child 2 has enjoyed it right the way through the learning process. I know this is not a scientific experiment.
    And it wasn't phonics alone - I've read loads of books to both children, shared loads of books with them, told stories together etc etc, and of course school has provided a good dollop of literacy lessons too.
    How is the whole word method taught in school? Do you hope that children will learn from the ORT books sent home? Or from holding up thousands of flashcards? Maybe if there was a rigorous way of teaching it, it would have fantastic results with the majority of the population in the way hopefully that teaching synthetic phonics will have? But I fear it's one of those things where either you can learn that way or you can't, and if you can't you've had it. Whereas I would assume there are very few who couldn't learn from a very well taught synthetic phonics course involving a lot of overlearning for those who need it?
     
  11. The 'flashcard' method was trialled for a while in some schools in the 1980s. My brother, rather spectacularly, failed to learn to read properly until he was almost 11 because of it! The policy was overwhelmingly a disaster, and for the reasons you point out - a child who learns to sight read, has no 'tools' for reading unfamiliar, longer words. It is impossible to teach all the thousands of words available in English, simply by sight - although many children will manage an 'acceptable' level of reading with far fewer words than that.
    The point about phonics, is that this is how children have always been taught to read. It is seen as 'new' by many younger teachers (and parents), but is actually how our grandparents and parents (if you're my age!) were taught. There are some differences, and the model promoted via synthetic phonics is much more rigorous and systematic, but the principle of learning sounds and blending them together to decode words, is certainly not new.
     
  12. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Some schools seem to fall into the trap of not moving on fast enough with all the different graphemes. They get a hang-up that the child doesn't "know" it until they use it correctly in their spellings, so they could spin out the 144 or so graphemes until GCSE at that rate.
     
  13. is this caused by the "Phase"-structure of Letters and Sounds? I meet many teachers who believe that each phase must be "mastered" until a child can move on and this includes spelling. Obviously spelling (encoding) is more difficult that decoding (reading). LA advisors who are badly trained and often set in their whole language ways have not helped.
     
  14. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    I don't know. I think there might be more to it than that. There are schools I know who have adopted Read Write Inc and still go at the encoding pace rather than the decoding pace. The teaching manual stresses many times in many different places (and I presume the training does too - I haven't been on it, too expensive for a volunteer) that children should progress though the RWI phonics at the pace of their decoding. But I know schools who have done the training, bought the materials, and deliver the phonics lessons, that move children down groups if they don't think their spelling is good enough to move on.
    I think that they think the children will learn to read anyway, separately from the phonics, so the main use of the phonics they teach they feel is to improve spelling. And they have a feeling of panic if they let a child go on into a group learning more GPCs if the child is not already using the current GPCs correctly in their spellings. Also some do not understand that a child cannot know which alternative spelling to choose - all the synthetic phonics can teach them up to and including phase 5 is that there are alternative spellings for quite a few sounds, and with practice and good teaching, over time, children will select the right ones for specific words. So even if a child is using some phase 4 and 5 GPCs to spell in a phonically plausible fashion, they panic that the child is not spelling correctly and send them back down a few groups. That's just my interpretation, but I have seen it happening in real schools, at the moment.
     
  15. There was no research, just lots of people presenting their opinions, as with most reviews.
    He concluded that most children, not all, learned best with systematic phonics,although he also said that most synthetic programmes tended to be systematic. 'Systematic' is the word he repeated over and over again in his report.
    He also stressed that phonic work is a necessary but not sufficient part of becoming a skilled readers and that it is a time-limited activity (roughly one year) that is eventually overtaken by work that develops comprehension.
    He also said that
    there should be direct teaching of words which are not phonically regular, such as 'the' and 'was', but which occur frequently in children's reading.
    The report was far more sensible than most promoters of synthetics phonics courses claim.
     
  16. masha, can I recommend that you read this book: 'Early Reading Instruction: What Science Really Tells Us about the Teaching of Reading.' Prof. Diane McGuinness 2004

    The Rose Review was not just based on 'opinions' - read it properly.
    I don't know why you are so anti SP. After all, you are deeply concerned about the difficulty of learning to read and write English. I would have thought that you would welcome anything which made the task easier.
    Msz, garlic, stake and silver bullet please...[​IMG]
     
  17. I think the Rose review, was pretty much the only comprehensive research done into reading. I don't accept it was based on 'opinion' at all.
    Having said that, I can see the point that some words (such as 'the' etc) which don't fit the normal phoneme-grapheme correspondence pattern, could be taught discretely - this is what I have done with my children at home. However, I am not sure this would work for all childrem. My kids are 'normal' learners - that is, they have no difficulty with visual/auditory memory and learn easily and quickly. They can cope with 'exceptions'. My five year old (for example) is coping well with the idea of a split digraph (or magic 'e') and with unusual pronunciations of graphemes such as 'what'. Tell him once, and he will probably remember it next time - there are lots of children for whom this is not the case, and who may well benefit from a synthetic phonics approach. It is these children, who find 'memory-based' approaches difficult, who most need phonics - the stubborn 20% if you like. They need a consistent tool for 'working out' words.
     
  18. Just to add, I find the idea of using phonics to teach spelling a bit odd. Surely the whole problem with poor spelling is that pupils persist in spelling phonetically when this is not an appropriate strategy? They fail to recognise the exceptions? I teach Year 5, and overwhelmingly, the poor spellers are those who are still adhering to phonetic methods - plausible, but wrong.
     
  19. Indeed.
    Maizie now regularly accuses me of being 'against phonics', which is daft. I can't see any way of teaching the rudiments of reading and writing except with phonics.
    What I object to are the exaggerated claims that promoters of phonics courses make about their wares, and especially blaming all literacy failure just on poor teaching or suggesting that the the reading and writing difficulities of pupils in the later primary years can be cured with phonics.
    All I try to do is make teachers more aware of exactly what learning to read and write English involves - beyond the rudiments of the first year.

     

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