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Phonics

Discussion in 'Primary' started by ROSIEGIRL, Feb 21, 2012.

  1. I have worked in a secondary school for 12 years now and I have seen all sorts of 'government initiatives' come and go in relation to 'teaching and learning'. Many of them seem to be unevidenced and poorly thought out. What has saddened me in all that time is the number of children who reach us unable to read and unable to access the 'learning' envisaged in these initiatives. And the fact that no-one seems, until the present government, to have much idea what to do about this large 'tail' of children who cannot achieve anything because they lack the very basic skill which underpins all learning.
    I don't see how you can characterise the current government's actions to improve the teaching of reading as being those of a 'wolf in sheep's clothing'. A wolf in sheep's clothing has the intention of harming the sheep. The 'phonics' initiative is intended to benefit children, not harm them.
    I'm afraid that I don't see 'teacher inspiration' as the prime objective of education. I have this strange notion that education should benefit the children being educated. I also have the strange notion that teachers might be inspired by being able to teach all their pupils to read and access all the benefits that reading brings. I'm surprised that you don't seem to appreciate that before you can enjoy the benefits of reading you have to know how to read...Giving a child the gift of literacy has always seemed to me to be one of the most satisfying things a teacher can achieve.
    Michael Rosen is a brilliant author, but when it comes to phonics he is woefully ill informed. He should stick to talking of things he knows about, not parroting the objections of the anti-phonics lobby.
    P.S. I detest most of what the current government is doing to education.
     
  2. Is Rosen anti-phonics? Is anyone anti-phonics? Phonics is a fact of life, and using phonics when reading is an unavoidable event. In my understanding Rosen is concerned that the prevailing method of teaching reading fails to address the fact that reading is about accessing meaning, and is distorted by the over-emphasis on phonics which is SP.
     
  3. Rock on Maizie, love your passion, love your fight. Inspiration might not be the prime objective but it is the prime motor. Maybe you are right and all that has been lacking is giving children the keys to literacy. Will that unlock the barriers for the 20 percent? When will we know? We had the literacy and numeracy strategy dictatorship for 10 years or more before concluding that had to be overthrown. What next will we attribute 'success' to.. Or will we be told it is the academies or the advanced skill teacher pay scale or the AFL or the LO's on the board, or the setting in primary school....... or whatever else that will be used to cloud the waters and obscure any crystal clear analysis.
    I say that with cynicism because I have seen how the EYFS review payed no attention to what anyone said about the governmen's core crusade of literacy and numeracy being inappropriately cumbersome in the early years. BUt they went on with it.
    OUr historical accident of having children in school from four years old may be the simple faultline which will always prevent us from constructing our eddifying ideals of all children getting 5 GCESE's or whatever we decide is the measure of success.
    I wonder, just wonder if the sickness at the heart of our society isn't poor phonics teaching but over-schooling from a very early age. WHere reading adds nothing of meaning to children, where socialisation is redued to groups set by ability, tasks determined by the teachers and stars, targets and tests to ensure that even at such a young age differences are compounded and disadvantage is set. That's what I mean by wolf in sheep's clothing. Overschooling and under-relating.
    Teachers on these forums - representative or not?- are not generally that inspired, they are afraid, depressed, pressured and unconvinced. Totally overworkd, excessively bent double under bureaucratic paper burdens They are largely powerless to redress the balance which has shifted in favour of centralist decisons which are then dictated and policed by OFSTED. That's why I say to you wolf in sheeps' clothing. That is why I think inpsiration might just be the source of new pride, new effort and new horizons for us all. There is no 'one way', only a search for solutions in which all parties are included.
    Our exessive planning, assessing and montoring of teachers and children in primary school will not, I remain convinced, raise our game. We will play the game but lose the match. The stakes are too high to rethink the game plan from a different perspective. To take a chance on inspiration, the game turner, the match winner. Why not just replace the teaching of reading with the learning to read together that seems to occur in the most enabling homes. A process that takes a number of years, way beyond six years old. Why focus on maths and science and literacy. Just simple old-fashioned discussion, discussion, discussion, leavened with relationship, shot through with the clarity of an adult guiding a young life into the mysteries of our great cultural inheritance of print. Yes I agree with you. I just wonder if our methods will always not have a 20 percent void.
    If learning to read means you can access written worksheets, word problems and endless phonics reader, perhaps, just perhpas, once again the young child will learn to switch off, to dis-engage, their real self from the schooled self, and therein maybethe root of the problem. Kids get bored with our incessant focus on reading and literacy (and maths) it is not life.
     
  4. I didn't see the writing thread, and I'm sure there were some very impressive examples of work on there. However, without knowing the children it isn't possible to make a judgement about anything. It is really at too far a distance, mystery. It is intrinsic to the SP approach, however, that children are discouraged from using meaning and context in their reading. I am sure that there are many experienced teachers out there who manage to compensate for that, but also others who never realise the necessity of doing that, having swallowed the SP route hook, line and sinker.
     
  5. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Sorry thumbie but that is completely untrue the purpose of reading is to elicit meaning
     
  6. I couldn't agree with you more! But hasn't much of this been a result of an initial failure to give all children the very foundational skill which they need for learning? Instead of acknowledging that children who can't read find it extremely difficult to learn (not to mention self teaching through a wide acquaintance with all the wonderful literature, fiction & non-fiction, available to a reader),initiative after initiative has tried to force 'learning' into these poor children who don't have the tools to access it?
    Ah well, isn't it the teachers who promulgate all this? Are you critiquing the whole educational experience here?
    Is reading a chore or a liberating experience? Can you learn any skill without practice to refine it?
     
  7. Oh dear [​IMG]
     
  8. Children are specifically required to read each word using SP, and if they try to use any other method, such as context, they are discouraged and told not to guess.Of course, SP adherents want children to access meaning, but by deliberately standing in the way of children's natural instinct to use meaning as an aid to reading, they are not, in actuality, supporting that end.
     
  9. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    OK, so let's say that using context was a good way of guessing the missing words that you could not read by any other means in a passage, what proportion of words could you read by this method? It could surely then only work for the very occasional word, and even then it's a bit of a dodgy method isn't it - ever worked out what the chances are of being right with each guess "in context"?
    It sounds like a fun game; it's a bit like hangman, but it's never really been my idea of reading even as a person who either just worked it out for themselves or who learned by some kind of look say approach - I don't know which was the case.
    I think you are stretching a point just a teeny bit when you give this as your reason as to why synthetic phonics teaching ignores comprehension.
     
  10. SP in itself ignores meaning completely, mystery, it is a method of decoding words - making the right sounds for the letters. This is why skill in applying SP has to be tested through the use of single words without context.Your idea that using context to support reading words is like some sort of game is a misunderstanding of what readers do when using context. A reader will not consider context alone, because they can see the word in question and the letters it comprises of. It is a dual strategy, not the single imperfect strategy offered by SP.
     
  11. Well, that's a funny thing to say, thumbie, in view of the fact that you have, in the past told me about children just reading words without 'making meaning' from them and having to be taught comprehension. If they 'naturally' try to make meaning from what they read surely a bit of SP wouldn't stand in their way?
    (and, no, I am not going to trawl through the long exchanges we have had in the past just to quote exactly what you said on the subject)
     
  12. Ramjam

    Ramjam New commenter

    In the days before SP was called SP we taught the children to read using what has become SP, but even with that, you encouraged and helped the children to reread what they had worked out so they could begin to understand. I can't get to grips with this 'you are not allowed to ...'
    I might be glad they no longer have to rely on knowing what an anorak is in order to read those xxx ORT books like Jan and the anorak, but I can't see why anyone wouldn't encourage the development of comprehension alongside reading using SP.
     
  13. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    No, and I don't think any sensible SP teacher doesn't provide a literacy rich environment and promote comprehension. I think Michael Rosen is being disingenuous in this respect. I don't know much about him but I watched some short video he had made of himself going on a bear hunt at a primary school. He started out with some blurb about how he was worried about phonics teaching because it meant that learner readers were focussing on sounding out and blending words to the exclusion of everything else. It was so annoying to hear him say that I had to switch it off.
    He has access to many, many schools, teachers, DfE officials, Nick Gibb, and he can read. He only has to do a tiny bit of listening or finding out to see that what he says is not true, rather than make videos saying black is white and placing them on the internet for gullible parents and teachers.
    Thumbie, I don't think I have misunderstood the "lower skill" of decoding, and the "higher skill" of comprehension. Yes there are always going to be people who adhere to different theories about learning to read and the reading process itself - top down, bottom up, exactly what decoding and comprehension are etc etc. It's healthy to argue.
    However, I don't think it's right to portray the kind of good synthetic phonics teaching that goes on in some schools as lacking in the "comprehension" department. Many research studies have shown that it is the poor decoder who relies more heavily on context to decode words than the good decoder. The good "automatic or fluent" decoder is then freer to understand the passage as a whole than the reader who is putting a lot of effort into decoding the words.
    You can no doubt point your finger at some schools that don't teach synthetic phonics well, even when they've purchased a pretty good package and maybe even had all the staff trained, but this shouldn't be mixed up with many of the myths about synthetic phonics which seem to abound at the moment.
     
  14. thumbie is very good at telling you what you are thinking or what you actually 'believe'. (As opposed to what you think you think[​IMG] )
    Just as a matter of interest, Michael Rosen has been personally invited several times over the past 3 or 4 years to go to an 'SP' school and see how children learn to read and are engaged with reading. To my knowledge he has never responded to these invitations; not even with a polite 'Sorry, I can't make it'.
    This looks strangely like a deliberate perpetuation of ignorance.
     
  15. okay, now to throw a small spanner in here. My six year old daughter is a reasonably bright, articulate, progressing along the oracy-literacy continuum, little girl. She would never write a response to the spiderwick chronicles along the lines to whichMSZ posted and which seems to have sent everyone all a quiver.
    She wouldn't do it and I wonder why she should. It isn't a natural interest for her and would be far beyond her abitlities, interests and motivations. So why do we laud this as an objective of desire for our children? Perhaps as a nine/ten year old it might have more relevance as a skill, bt why do we insist on this at six years old. What does it add to that child? Are we saying this is something that we should aspire to for all children and to feel inadequate if we do not reach there?
    Am I a low aspirational parent? or even teacher ? when I question the need for this at six years old?




     
  16. yohan, are an EY professional? I only ask because whenever I read your posts you sound like someone who has swallowed the progressive ideology handbook whole, rather than someone with practical working experience of EY.
     
  17. Your representation of using context as a game completely discounted the fact that readers using context look at the word they are trying to read and use their letter knowledge. They are not going to say 'zoo' for 'farm'. If they do, as learners, they need to be taught to also look at the letters to support their attempt. But as adults, when we use context, it is with the added information provided by the written word - a dual strategy as I explained. You seemed to think I was advocating not looking at the word when reading. Very strange. I didn't say anything about you misunderstanding 'decoding' at all.Good synthetic phonics teaching has nothing to do with comprehension, it is about decoding and blending GPCs. Any teaching of comprehension is in addition to that. Therefore, a government which over-emphasises this element of learning to read is in danger of causing a neglect of teaching reading as communication. You, yourself seem to be confused about what SP can do, if you think SP can teach comprehension you are saying it can do the whole job of teaching a child to read. Scary. And of course someone who relies on context when reading may be less good at decoding than a good decoder. A bit of a truism, I think you will see. It does not make that person less good at reading.
     
  18. I asked a group of schools to identify any Year 2 children which they categorise as non or near-non readers in spite of using conventional phonics programmes who they reagrd as being extremely unlikely to achieve the governments expercted standards at Key Stage 1. . These school have registered a total of 85 such children. The project started at the begnining of this term. Needless to say, the project stragegy is based on Preceptual Learning and excludes direct phonics teaching entirely
    The first early reports are in and they suggest that for the first time in their lives, these children are enjoying reading; they are also for the first time in their lives, having their minds nurtured via the printed word and they are beginning to perceive teading , not as a complicated decoding exercise, but as a means of retrieving the meaning locked in text.
    Cant wait until the KS1 test to see how many achieve Level 2 in spite of their teachers view that this is unlikely in the extreme, expressed naturally, before the children started the perceptual learning course. Anybody like to place a bet on the outcome?
     
  19. Ok Eddie what is the simple, in a nushell, boiled down essence of wha you say is at fault and how are you able to overcome it? If schools all over the land cant do it... what are you doing? cheers yohana. and PS sell me a bottle full of it
     


  20. 'Ok Eddie what is the simple, in a nushell, boiled down essence of wha you say '
    Its called Perceptual Learning. Perceptual Learning is the opposite of rote learning. It exploits the brains phenomenal ability to perceive patterns and relationships among the complex mass of information that constantly assails our senses. It is the foundation of all complex cognitive processes and language, which is the most complex of these processes is the fundamental literacy skill. WE learn our language perceptually - and when we use the same natural tactic to teach reading, a small miracle happens - the kids all learn to read. - not jsut most of them.
    I have an intersting situation in one primary which has 12 children whih their teachers categorise as non or near-non readers and unlikelyin the extreme to achieve Level 2. In this school,only six are using the P.L> strategy. The other 6 is a different class are being treated to more, even jollier phonics! .
    When we ignore Perceptual LEarning and rely instead on rote phonics teaching, we know what happens. 100,000 children leave school unable to read every year.
     

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