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Phonics

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

  1. I'm now puzzled as to why it is that children who come to me stumbling and guessing their way through the simplest of texts manage to leave me able to read confidently and with understanding.
    It can't be the phonics because thumbie and eddie say it's impossible. I don't do anything else. Perhaps it's just a miracle. [​IMG]
     
  2. It doesn't take much browsing on this forum to find that those who advocate SP get very hot under the collar about the following strategies as being anathema:When faced with an unknown word, reading to the end of the phrase in order to see if that helps. Looking at sections of words which match words they already know in order to help (eg using the known 'tin' to help with 'tint'). Using onset and rime. Using analogy to help.At different times I have suggested that these might be valid methods for children and teachers to use alongside SP strategies. Each time I have been attacked by SP enthusiasts, including individuals considered to be authorities on SP, for encouraging the idea that children should 'guess' words, for discouraging them from reading words left to right, for generally diluting the guiding principle of reading phoneme by phoneme. This is fact that can be substantiated by a little research among historical threads. So, Sunpainter, if you are using any of these strategies you need to be aware that you are not using orthodox SP.As for people insulting each other on these threads, I have become hardened to it since I first started posting. There are two SP supporters who routinely attack and ridicule individuals as a way of 'arguing'. I love debate and exploring the issues, but more than once have felt like throwing the towel in when faced with some of the puerile responses offered. I continue because I think it is important to represent another view to place against the creeping dogma of SP, which, although a useful strategy for helping children to decode, is not sufficient for teaching child's to read.
     
  3. I totally agree with you re the top down expectations for phonics in schools. After banging my head on the wall for years to get someone to listen to me, we are working in the first week of a new system - we have a year 1 unit... children learn through play. We are still covering what the government says we should, but in a different way - children playing with the cars are filling in forms to book them in for services, they make headings for their own displays, there is a purpose for everything, and that purpose is apparent to the children. At the end of this first week, even the most cynical have noted a new ambience in the class, children are purposeful, motivated, calm. we have got the work done. everyone wins. Lets put the phonics handbook in the shredder..... formal learning at 5 years of age wont work for schools like ours where most of the children cant string a sentence together!
     
  4. Well, thumbie.
    Either sunpainter will agree with you, which will make up for all the attack and ridicule you feel you have had to endure, or s/he won't, which will give you someone else to debate with. You may be more successful in convincing them that the NLS Searchlights were the greatest thing since sliced bread. I wish you luck.

    I do wish you addressed my question about children naturally trying to make meaning, but I shall clearly remain unenlightened. Oh well, c'est la vie...


     
  5. Maizie, I don't endure anything. Arguments which consist of insult and ridicule don't touch me in the slightest. But they do trivialise the debate which makes it seem at times not worth pursuing.
     
  6. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Can I ask what other strategies you teach children?
     
  7. If it is debate you want, thumbie, then how about clarifying this?

     
  8. ' I don't endure anything. Arguments which consist of insult and ridicule don't touch me in the slightest. But they do trivialise the debate which makes it seem at times not worth pursuing.'

    Thumbie. This level of ignorance is common among all intellectually challenged extremists in religion and regrettaby also in teaching. They can only grasp a very very simplistic view of anything. As far as reading is concerned, for them there is 'phonics' and 'whole word' In their limited view of the world, nothing else is conceivable.
    You have to forgive them for the damage they inflict on children because they do not do it intentionally. They do it out of the dogmatic conviction that they are right and that the possibility that they are wrong just doesn't arise in their limited way of thinking. They remind me of the hordes screaming and chanting for someones death outside mosques - debate is something they just don't get.
    They can blind themselves to the fact that 100,000 children leave school illiterate every year and blame teachers for that because they perceive their logic as flawless.

    Alluah Ackbar!




     
  9. Maizie, the children I was referring to were those who slavishly read phoneme by phoneme, achieving a sort of accuracy, but not reflecting on what they have read. They seem to perceive the task of reading to be to make the right sounds. If asked about the content of their reading they are pretty flummoxed. It used to be known as "Barking at print".
     
  10. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Thumbie asked me why I thought some of the children I work with have fallen behind others who have received the same phonics teaching. It's a very interesting question. Because I am a volunteer it is harder for me to answer as I don't know the full background, but even then I am not sure that a teacher can ever work out the reasons for these things. I prefer to ignore it, find out what the child can do, and work on from there. However, taking one such child (in KS2) as an example, these are some of my guesses:
    - school thought he did not know GPCs which he did in fact know, so he was being kept on fairly basic code all the time during phonics tuition. However, home reading books and work in class necessitated reading words containing "complex code". He did not have the tools to read this
    - the majority of the remaining children in the class had been taught the full code or had learned to read at home or both
    - he is slow at reading. I am guessing that in a group phonics situation some other child would have put up their hand when they had decoded the new word, and they would have moved on to the next word. So at school he would have received very little practice in decoding new words
    - in small group sessions I have heard other children filling in the gaps for him before he has had time to work out a word. So again this will have reduced the number of opportunities he had at school to think for himself
    - when he first came to me the home reader he had was miles too difficult for him. He could not possibly have been reading it at home without significant levels of help, so again his opportunities to think for himself were limited
    - he has to work out a word many many times for himself before it is committed to long term memory as a sight word. I don't know why this is, but so long as I provide sufficient practice hopefully this will not become a problem for ever
    - words that he has learned "from sight" via a flashcard method are ones he messes up with quite often as when he sees something very similar he guesses it is one of the flashcard words e.g. sees "sad", guesses "said", although he is perfectly capable of decoding sad when you ask him to do it again ......... I'm talking here about when reading isolated words
    - he has had no problems learning new GPCs very fast - clearly employing this knowledge when decoding words and writing is taking practice. However, as he could already sound out and blend when he came to me, and can learn new GPCs fast, can orally segment words, can use digraphs and trigraphs in his spellings, this is why I say he does not find phonics difficult. However, the phonic knowledge he had been taught was limited, as explained at the top of this list.

    Thumbie, you suggest the following strategies in italics. I will explain whether or not I find them useful with this example child.

    When faced with an unknown word, reading to the end of the phrase in order to see if that helps.
    I don't know how to define an "unknown" word in order to work out when to teach him to use this strategy and when not to use it. He is a slow reader, but he can work out some surprisingly complex words if you give him time, and allow him to. He can also understand whole sentences, paragraphs, and stories really well despite having read them very slowly and having carefully worked out many of the words along the way. He as a very good receptive vocabulary so we rarely come across a word for which he does not understand the meaning.
    It would take him approx 30 mins to read a 450 word story in a reader intended to be covering Letters and Sounds phase 5. He is not losing meaning despite reading at approx 15 wpm. He enjoys the stories, and is well engaged while reading them.
    So I am not sure when I would use this strategy. Also, I think he would feel it was annoying to skip a word and then have to go back again.
    Taking my own children at the opposite end of the spectrum, I have never used this technique. They sometimes go back of their own accord if they realise they have lost the sense of a passage, or forgotten something they need to know, but otherwise they plough on in the right direction all the time. I'm not sure I want to encourage skipping words and going back again. I don't think they would be in a position to judge when to skip a word. Maybe they do this for themselves anyhow. I think it's more likely that they will just read on and try to make sense of the whole thing without going backwards again, bit like I would if I was reading a book in French. Even then I don't think I'd be going back and guessing in context what it might say or mean, I'd just carry on. If I could maintain the general sense, fine. If there were too many words I didn't know I'd either give up and read something simpler, or get the dictionary out.
    Let me take an example that could happen with example boy. Let's say he was reading:
    "The budgie flew up onto the swinging perch."
    Let's say it is the opening sentence in a story with no pictures, and he doesn't know that it is a story about a budgie, and he can't read the word budgie. At the moment the word budgie would cause him some difficulty as he wouldn't be sure whether to use a hard or a soft g, and he wouldn't know whether the ie said /igh/ or /ee/.
    So rather than teach him more phonics I decide to let me read to the end of the sentence. He can guess that it is likely to be some kind of bird, because it flew up onto the perch. He then has to think about as many birds as he can beginning "bu" - is that the idea? Well, it's a fun game, and hopefully the first one that springs to mind is budgie so that we can carry on reading the book rather than playing a guessing game, but you know I'd rather tell him the word and teach him the missing phonics later, or teach him the phonics now and then get him to read the word for himself.
    Or try this one "The cat curled up happily on the garage roof in the sun". Let's say he got stuck on garage. I tell him to read on to the end of the sentence and then work out the missing word. He has to guess the word garage from something that has a roof and starts gar (which he will probably think rhymes with car). Oh I'm not so sure that is going to help. He might guess it correctly, he might not.
    And I have only given examples where there is one word in a sentence to stumbled on. A poor reader would have so many words he could not manage if in the classroom trying to access the curriculum that there would be no context from which to make "sensible guesses". It would be more like a page full of holes, rather than paragraphs with the odd gap in here and there.

    Looking
    at sections of words which match words they already know in order to
    help (eg using the known 'tin' to help with 'tint').

    I don't know, I can't really relate to a child not being able to read the word tint if they knew the sounds of the individual letters t i n t. If a child said they couldn't read the word tint, and I knew they could blend, and that they knew the individual letter sounds I'd just ask them to try again. I wouldn't necessarily know if they already knew the word "tin" or not. Invariably, they would be able to work it out for themselves. If they said tin and missed off the last sound, I'd ask them what the last sound was, and to add it on please.
    Maybe on a harder multisyllabic word if they got muddled while trying to decode it I would help them to split it up into smaller chunks using their fingers. If this continued to be a problem then I'd teach them some syllable splitting rules (eg. the ones in Toe by Toe).
    Using onset and rime.
    Probably not, because it does not fit with the learning sequence and might confuse them. The method I use encourages children to split words into sounds. So take the word "might". If I spoke this word out loud, a child who had been taught to orally segment words would be able to split it into three sounds m igh and t. It's a game some children can play from under two years old. Why the need to split it into m and ight?
    The child who could read would have learned to read the sounds m igh and t. So this is what they would split the word down into when trying to decode it if they couldn't read it straight off.
    Sure it would be fun to play games where you change the first and last sounds and see what other words you get. But what is magic about onset and rime? I'm really sorry but long before I knew anything about SP I didn't get the point of onset and rime. It seems illogical to me.
    Yes rhyming games are fun too of course. Both my children used to spend ages thinking up rhyming words ...... it's how quite a few expletives accidentally landed in their vocabulary ....... and they loved spotting rhymes in poems, but I never found it that helpful in the learning to read process as so many words that rhyme do not look anything like one another.
    Using analogy to help.
    Please give me an example and I'll have a think about it.
     
  11. Lots to think about and agree with in post 31. Thank you yohanahlicante.
     
  12. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Yes it was interesting. I would like Yohana to answer my question to her in post 32 when she has time. I like all these different opinions.
     
  13. Scary the number here that appear to have read his blog but seem confused by his meaning [​IMG]
     
  14. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Maybe you should explain the meaning that some of us have missed?
    Michael Rosen also thinks that some school have thrown out prose, poetry and song in reception and year 1 because they have been "following instructions".
    Do any of you know of such a school? I don't.
     
  15. But surely this natural instinct to make meaning which you claim that children have must come into play? Or are you saying that SP teaching is so powerful that it suppresses children's natural instincts?

    I have worked with many children who appear to 'bark at print'. It always transpires that they can't 'make meaning' because they don't know what the words mean. This is a consequence of poor oral vocabulary, not the ability to read words accurately.
    These can't have been children you have taught, though, can they? Where do you encounter these children?
     

  16. mystery, I had to go back and find post 31, and I assume your question to me was post 345 as post 32 was to thumbie?
    If they were DOING arithmetic skills all day - eg working on a market stall, or measuring and weighing fields full of grain - maybe the maths analogy would translate. It is the relation and interaction that I suppose I am trying to draw parallel to.
    Don't get me wrong I have no bee in my bonnet about phonics - I have lots already under there buzzing around about the savage management culture in schools the target driven, statistically manipulated version of reality which I read throughout the forums. That financial expediencey and the quick result take presidence over any considered, participatory reflection. I see this dictated reality as being an unecessary burden on teachers and complicating and distracting factor in the search for truth and excellence which is what we are about here in these forums.
    I know, I know that 30 isn't one, but if (and I hate IF as I know it it is a sigh of the defeated), but I often feel that discussion about anything, is worth far more than enforced curricula of 'fair tests' or the 'history of toys' or 'our home corner is the three bears house with a post office'. They manage to bring up very literate, articulate and sociable children in the scandinavian democracies without this need to school children early.
    The dynamics and interests of children of 3,4,5,6 are just not about reading. They can do it. they do do it, they can find it interesting and can be exteremely proud and motivated to find they can do it. All I say is that it is less relevant to them. Yet we begin it early, continue it relentlessly for years and somewhere along the line they disengage.
    Or maybe they don't. This debate is about those who don't get it. Mazie, MZs and you are there working in that crucible of disaffection, of loss of confidence, of low esteem and of lock out from access to the reading curriculum. I respect you for that. I am just mumbling in the wind about if's and maybe's. I guess I was treated fairly and respectfully at some time in my life (forgetting the slapping, the slippering, the strapping...[​IMG] ). It seems many of us are in teaching because we love kids, or love the part of relating to kids that we find deep inside ourselves. That as a bottom line is perhaps our way of gving back the love or positivity that we knew and were given. We are all open to finding better ways to do what we do. However that is not the teacher that is represented in the press or the politicians soundbite, and so we find ourselves alienated and distanced from our search for truth. We suffer a dislocation because we ever more obliged to be complaint and to dismiss our doubts which are the source of new potential in each interaction with kids.
    They are intensely interested in the world around them and in their friends and the social order -and where they fit in. They strive for independence but are often infantilised and trivialised by behaviour management schemes designed to get them to focus on skills which as yet have no real intirinsic meaning in their lives. Their scope for independent action is limited as their time is so cut up.
    These for me are the real challenges that Montessori throws us. Observation lead teaching in the fullest sense of the word without the obsession on pre-planned outcomes, on learning objectives and on differentiated groups with predtermined levels of access to the bigger picture. So there the bl##y bees have started buzzing again. Sorry.
    You mention Montessori. I found hers to be fascinating and thought-provoking experiences. Our work with young chiuldren is layered through by her discoveries and observations. Her work with reading was within the general context she had of practical and sensorial experiences - the tactile letters etc, along with writing preceeding the reading- Children read their own writing. ( I think I am recalling accurately but please correct me anyone). It was very diferent from our approach
    I agree with you mystery. We should have the freedom to look at Montessori and incorporate any relevant ideas. However she did work within a fierce framework of rights of the individual, she built her learning environments over time, she observed and challenged her own preconceptions (resources were originally locked in a cupboard until one day she forgot and was astounded to see the chidlren self-selecting which became one of the characteristic tenets of a Montessori learning environment). She looked also at the whole child (I know, leaving aside the debate about imagination) and tried to create envrionments in which children saw the meaning behind and engaged at in practical ways with the not only highly sophisticated cultural symbol systems such as letters and numbers but also in cooking, cleaning and gardening.
    Her view of the teacher is also far more optimistic, aspirational and inspirational than anything we can see in any government brochure, pay scale or managerial performace document. She burned with a fire of injustice and there is no luke-warm political half-smile that can answer the gaze of the child who needs warmth and light half as well as she.

     
  17. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    [​IMG] but you won't accept that in some schools such as mine all children leave us reading to a high level or that phonics isn't being taught is some schools and in others it is taught badly. Neither have you explained how a non reader is going to access your program.
     
  18. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Yes i think there are some schools who teach the mechanics in isolation but that is lack of understanding from those who decide on policy..
     
  19. ROSIEGIRL

    ROSIEGIRL Senior commenter

    Well.
    I started this post because I thought it was an interesting article. I feel like I pulled the pin on a hand grenade, lobbed it and ran away! What an explosion of opinions and arguments!
    As someone who teaches at the top end of Primary it's been an entertaining read - thank you!
     
  20. but you won't accept that in some schools such as mine all children leave us reading to a high level or that phonics isn't being taught is some schools and in others it is taught badly. Neither have you explained how a non reader is going to access your program.
    You reaklly do talk some absolute drivvel. There are very many schools that rout9ne achieve a 100% pass rate in English. I know nothing of what happens in your school except what you have said yourself. The debate was about teaching generally - not what happens in any one school because that proves nothing.
    You said in your class, most of the children go up to the next class able to read well and you expect that the others wiill 'catch up' i know in the year before last, in over 70 schools, not one child acheived Level 5 English. I know that there are those on this forum who actually believe that Level 5 is only achievable by those with higher intelligence.
    I know that in one school which used perceptual learning over the 2010/11 academic year, they expected a 48% pass rate, they acheived a 94% pass rate which include a massive increase in the proportion of Level 5s - i know that this is encouraging but proves nothing - thats why I have three separate projects running at the moment which will produce objective data.
    I merely pointed out that every year, 100,000 dont catch up! That is not an opinion. That is a fact of life which I regard as unacceptable because it is emminently avoidable. The barrier which has to be overcome to achieve this, is an end to the slavish adherence to a strategy which is still failing one fifth of all children. To achieve that will require that many people reject dogma and leave a small part of their minds open to ideas.
    As to how non or near-non readers access my programme, i dont think you have the capacity to respond objectively therefore I prefer to leave it to the objective results which I will post the day after the next KS1 test are published. The reality is that the teachers of these 85 children believe that there is no realistic likelihood of them reaching the Level 2 standard in spite of the dedicated computerised, very widely used and very jolly phonics programmes they have been subjected to.
    I will be receiving some of the early stage proformas by the end of next week which will provide objective proof of whether or not these children have succeeded in taking the first steps in the project which is that (1) they are able to use the programme independently and (2) that they are subsequently able to read their prepared texts to a teacher from the teacher's book and (3) and very importantly whether or not they are able to read the previous days text from the teachers book with confidence. This latter point is important because it will confirm, if it is successful, that the children are not 'reading' from residues in working memory.
    I have asked particpating schools if they object to being identified as taking part in this project but having seen some of the moronic vitriol on this forum, I will not reveal the names of the schools even if they give me permission to do so. They will of course be published when the final outcomes of the pilot study are released in July.
     

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