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Please respond - who knows if their local authority is promoting interventions of the Reading Recovery and Catch Up type which are not in line with th

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by debbiehep, Oct 3, 2007.

  1. Debbie,

    Of course I know what the advocates of synthetic phonics want the term 'synthetic' to mean, but in comparison to phonics in other languages, English phonics is not real. So it is synthetic in the sense of 'artificial' too.

    I?ve seen plenty of synthetic phonics teaching and have read everything about it that I could find or that was recommended to me. I?ve perused your website very thoroughly too. If I still don?t understand it well enough, then all of you who advocate synthetic phonics, and Rose and Letters and Sounds, have between you failed to explain it properly, and u can be certain that many other teachers are just as confused as I am.

    If Rose says that phonics should take about a year and you say it should take much longer, then the whole concept is a bit vague. I hope that attending your conference on Nov 9 will leave me better informed. (BTW, I?ve has nothing about it since paying at the end of August.)

    I don?t claim to be an expert on synthetic phonics teaching, but I do know what teaching letter-to-sound correspondences means, and to what extent this can be done in English, because of the research I?ve done.

    I also know exactly what learning to read and write English involves, not just in KS1, but from reception up to university level, and which aspects of it are easy and which ones are fiendishly hard.

    Rightly or wrongly, I believe that a better understanding of this would be beneficial for literacy teachers at any level. Rightly or wrongly, I also get the impression that the advocates of phonics believe that it's better to pretend that learning to read and write English is much easier than it really is.
  2. 'I also know exactly what learning to read and write English involves, not just in KS1, but from reception up to university level, and which aspects of it are easy and which ones are fiendishly hard.'

    Masha - I do not understand how you can claim to have tried to learn about and understand Synthetic Phonics and still say that learning to read and write is 'fiendishly hard'.

    Our language is certainly complex but a good SP programme and/or a good SP teacher, who understands the English Alphabet Code, will find ways to teach it systematically with the result that even children who have a lot of problems with literacy will not find it 'fiendishly hard'! I agree they will have to work at it, but if presented in a logical and multisensory way, all but a very few will actually find it great fun!

    You and others often mention the 'irregularity' of English spelling or refer to words as 'not decodable'. This is very misleading and discouraging, especially for teachers who are just discovering the Alphabet Code. I think your insistence in drawing attention to the negative makes your website very depressing. Yes, there are many ways of spelling most of the sounds we use, but this does not have to be the huge problem you make it out to be. The words do fall into patterns, or classes and they are taught that way in a logical, cumulative sequence.

    If you take the term 'irregular' to mean a word that does not behave like others, I believe there are actually very few of them, although some of them are commonly used words. I have begun to compile a list of reasonably common words which contain a unique letter-sound correspondence and it is a very short list, considering the thousands of words we use in our speaking and writing! And even then, it is usually just one part of the word that is 'unique'. If you include words that fall into a class with fewer than ten other words, the list increases, but is probably still only a few hundred.

    For words containing a really unique letter-sound correspondences, so far I have found -

    cupboard bury friend sapphire lieutenant
    egg sovereign busy women pretty sieve exaggerate ache biscuit llama Wednesday knowledge shepherd yacht two receipt lettuce spiv of choir poignant ocean fuchsia gaol straight fete vase mayor are broad quay people iron colonel bonsai eye yeoman brooch landau corps through

    Would anyone else like to add to this list - or alternatively, subtract from it by pointing out other words using the same correspondence? I'm sure there will be some I've missed, but even so, it is not a vast list!

  3. Leapyearbaby64

    Leapyearbaby64 New commenter

    Have read some of the posts about whether or not learning to read is "difficult". My view based on experience as a TA and teacher is that learning to read by decoding is not hard. I have worked with children with various types of learning delay who are all capable of decoding very effectively.
  4. bed

    bed New commenter

    not read all of this but am going to post anyway

    i always thought that rr was for children who were under attaining in late Y1 early Y2 and who had a decently sound (excuse the pun) grounding in phonics but who were still unable to gain meaning from a text

    i had understood that the searchlights model was a uk/literacy stragegy interpretation of the rr model of reading the stuck word

    i had also understood that the child is encouraged to use syntax/context clues when the phonics of the word go beyond their experience or ability to decode
    eg: yacht - can be decoded only as y--t - which will give the child a good clue as to the word but not the whole word
    and rr encourages the child to understand that word in the context of the rest of the phrase or sentence

    i hadnt understood that the rose report threw our rr at all

    ¬ ?
  5. My first thoughts!

    People are always going on about the 'difficulty' of the word 'yacht'. But how many reading scheme books have that word in it and how often is a child likely to encounter it? I am an adult, skilled, reader, who reads thousands of words a day and the only time I can recall coming across 'yacht' in the course of my recent reading is when someone on here uses it as an example of an 'undecodable' word.

    If I were working with a child, in the highly unlikely event that we would encounter the word 'yacht' (and this is at KS3) I would tell them that the 'ach' was a very unusual spelling of the /o/ sound and let them get on with decoding it, using that knowledge. As it is a word which is most unlikely to be within most children's spoken vocabulary I can't see that looking at a picture or context is going to help them in any way whatsoever.

  6. Heli
    The best way to find out which words children find hard to decode is to make a note of those they get stuck on. In addition to some already listed by u

    busy, women, pretty, sieve, ache, biscuit, Wednesday, two, vase, broad, people, eye, brooch, through,

    I made a note of the following from the children I worked with:

    very , father, oh, own, shall, jewels, would, wood, don?t, why, suddenly, me, taste, rough, which, water, when, who, tough, thoughtful, one, once, mountains, beautiful, these, were, where, believe, what, done, another, son, won, town, know, knew, bought, thought, wrong, write, do, does, whispered, answered, goodbye, picture, adventure, near, nobody, walls, ceiling, cellar, spooky, museum, money, school, some, he, told, bellow, does, your, worried, only, secret, said, watch, wanted, could, should, into, onto.

    If a few hundred teachers and reading assistants took the trouble to record for a few weeks the words which their pupils find hard to decode and sent them to me and I collated them all, we would soon know exactly which words cause reading problems.

    We could even identify the graphemes which do so. U can?t use underline or bold on this forum, but u can put tricky letters in capitals, e.g. dOEs.
  7. Bed
    U are right. Rose didn?t throw out rr at all. He stated that phonics is

    ?a time-limited activity that is eventually overtaken by work that develops comprehension?.

    When a child gets stuck on word after having done phonics for a year or so, looking at other words next to it, or trying to make sense of it by looking at the whole the sentence, is a perfectly sensible way of trying to get at that word. That is ?guessing? of sorts. I prefer to call ?logical deduction?. Not to help children develop this skill as well seems daft to me.
  8. Leapyearbaby64

    Leapyearbaby64 New commenter

    Phonics first - and then move onto other strategies. The problem that we are still dealing with is that when children have been taught a number of strategies together, and when they have not got the ability to memorise words, they rely on pictures and guessing from the first letter or group of letters.

    I am no expert, but I have seen children of all reading abilities guessing. Even competent readers will stop and look to the adult to tell them a word they don't know. My sister (who has an MA, so not lacking neurons) still misses out words that she doesn't know when she is reading. She simply does not have a strategy to work out what they say.

    My last job was in a class of very challenging Y3-4 children. 60% were on the SEN register. I did daily phonics with them, and their reading and spelling ages all improved beyond what would be expected. I was interested that the "best" readers improved the most. The top result was 16 months improvement in reading and spelling age in a 3 month period.
  9. Masha - apart from 'does' and 'would, should and could', I cannot see any reason why children should not be able to decode all the other words you list. If they 'get stuck' on them it is because they have not yet learnt the relevant correspondences, so should ideally not be asked to read them.

    You quoted; '?a time-limited activity that is eventually overtaken by work that develops comprehension?

    I don't think that 'work that develops comprehension' is at all the same thing as work that USES comprehension to decode, which is what you seem to be suggesting.

    First, teach children to decode, then, if necessary, make sure that they understand what they are decoding - though I haven't usually found that necessary unless the child's vocabulary is very limited.
  10. Heli,

    I won?t go through the whole list,
    but I suspect this is why children can get in a muddle with the following words:

    very ? yes, deny; father ? fat; oh ? hat; own ? town; shall ? call; jewels ? Jenny, went;

    Once children leave the cosy world of a strictly controlled phonic vocabulary, things get messy.

    If the English alphabet code was what a code normally is i.e. 1 = a and a = 1, phonics would continue to work beautifully. But in English 1 can often equal a or b, and sometimes c, d, e, f, g, h and more as well.

    O spells different sounds in ?on, only, once, other, woman, women, womb?; and you can spell the OE sound as in ?stole, coal, roll, bowl, shoulder, goes, mauve, brooch?. The idea that this is a code that you can teach children as mutually reversible for reading and spelling is clearly not true. For some reason the supporters of phonics insist that this causes no learning difficulties, but it does.

    Don?t take my word for what children find difficult. Make a note of what they do find hard and see for yourself.
  11. Masha - all I can say is that the children I teach do have some difficulties (usually with blending in the intitial stages) but they don't have any difficulties with the type of words you mention because I teach them the Alphabet Code and they can perfectly well accept that one grapheme can have more than one pronunciation.

    BTW, do any of who can read EVER leave what you call the 'cosy world of strictly controlled vocabulary'? Even if we aren't aware of it, decoding is a lifelong activitity! We can read (properly) any word that we know the 'code' for - and that includes all but a handful of words, such as I listed above, parts of which we have had to learn 'by sight'.
  12. Masha
    I HAVE kept a note of the words children have misread in the Salford sentence reading test. That would be about 300 children. By far the greatest errors occur because of poor decoding skills and a tendency to guess from initial letters and context. These words include, with depressing frequency, dog, sat. Apprently more skilled readers just gloss over, jumble or make up longer words they have never met before.

    I'm afraid currently I would be unable to supply you with words children find hard to 'decode' as searchlights strategies are so ingrained and reading matter is not easily decodable with limited phonic knowledge.

    We, like many, many schools need time for good phonics teaching to have an impact and sufficient funding to ensure a suitable stock of decodable books for beginner readers.
  13. Masha - the words that you list as being difficult or not decodable for the children give away both your lack of experience of teaching with the synthetic phonics teaching principles, and the fact that the children you have heard read have not been taught with the SP principles either.
  14. Debbie,
    The school I worked in has been using JP for years and does so still.

    What worries me about evangelical advocates of synthetic phonics like u is that u give the government a good excuse for not providing enough funding for assisting pupils who need extra help, or to think about improving English spelling and making the whole of literacy acquisition easier.

    They can now merrily blame all reading failure on teachers not using synthetic phonics as well as they should, as they have done for the past century.
  15. They can now merrily blame all reading failure on teachers not using synthetic phonics as well as they should, as they have done for the past century.

    The government does not blame teachers for not using synthetic phonics for the past century - the government and teacher-trainers have not promoted synthetic phonics at all for the past century - the opposite is true.

    The government, however, does like to blame teachers for reading failure rather than the methods the teachers use.

    The government is also making a mess of those children who need intervention by advocating Reading Recovery which is not synthetic phonics teaching and which contradicts the teaching recommended by Jim Rose.

    All I can say is that if you are teaching in a school which uses Jolly Phonics and the children are not generally blending the words from the word lists that you have reproduced, then something is going wrong with the teaching.

    You are either flagging up some children who are the exceptions and not the general rule, or your teachers may claim to use Jolly Phonics but are not using it in a synthetic phonics way.

    The bottom line is, Masha, that you are a pot half empty person when it comes to teaching our complex Alphabetic Code. I am a pot half full person. I produce material which explains it to people and organises their understanding and how they can teach it.

    You just repeat how hard it all is and give examples to show the difficulties.

    We start with beginner readers with the parts that work and build up code knowledge and blending and segmenting fluency. Then we explain the nature of the code and the difficulties every step of the way.

    As for funding for special needs - special needs in literacy should drastically reduce if all teachers became knowledgeable and proficient teachers of the alphabetic code. Then the funding could be directed at the children who really need special help.

    Also, the government and charities continue to throw money at flawed intervention strategies which squander money and which will undermine the advice of the Rose Report.

  16. Help! I have read all the comments and now i need some advice please. I am an NQT in reception but i also have my own children (now teenagers)who have always been avid readers. I do not have a huge wealth of experience regarding teaching chldren to read, although i was taught reading recovery as a parent helper a long time ago. At present i am working through the Letters and Sounds program with my class(phase 1) and have been enjoying and acting out texts, but, i have not taught any letters or sounds yet. This i hope to begin next week and i am thinking of buying some of the Jolly Phonics things so that i can teach myself and the children actions to phonemes. I started at my school in June covering sick leave and the children in reception have moved up to year 1 with a poor knowledge of phonics and reading even though they were a very capable class. The previous 'regime' was very work sheet based which has been (rightly so) highly criticised, so i am currently teaching through a play based curriculum. I have high expectations for my class and want to make sure that i work systematically. Last week i visited a reception class where the children had already learnt lots of letters, i hope that i have done the right thing to start at the basics with the letters and sounds. My children take home picture books to share and i intend to send home simple reading books after half-term and a list of some of the high frequency words to learn(and to be put into context)I have borrowed this idea from the school that i visited. Any advice please would be welcome.
  17. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Watching the Channel 4 programme Why Our Children Can't Read they are saying the government plan to use Reading Recovery to improve literacy.
  18. Reading Recovery intervention is a massive error on the part of the government. How are teachers expected to use two such contradictory approaches? If you have to pick up the children who can't read because they are too confused by the government's (previous) recommendations for mixed methods or, even mmore difficult, have to help those children who have been told (a la Reading Recovery) that guessing is o.k. i.e. as long as the child reads 'stairs' instead of 'to' and the context makes sense, how on earth are you meant to give them the intensive blending, segmenting and reading-through-the-word practice they so desperately need? A 7 year old non-reader who when he came to the word 'to' read stairs would have met with great approval by a Reading Recovery teacher. Context is all, and this child (and many others I've remediated) could guess brilliantly. But he couldn't even read 'Ted', 'up' etc. For some Reading Recovery is a good sticking plaster but for some it just makes it far, far harder to help them to eradicate the habit of guessing.
    They've stopped using Reading Recovery in Western Australia, are up in arms about the expense and vast swathes of illiteracy in the State of Victoria - in spite of the millions and millions spent on RR, stopped it in parts of the States. There's a mountain of literature showing why and how it is so damaging.
    The film on Channel 4 tonight and the following 2 nights will hopefully show a school in a deprived area which has set out to teach all children to read with synthetic phonics.
  19. Funny you should resurrect this thread today Rogueroxie, I was about to begin my own about almost identical concerns

    Our Reading Recovery teacher left last year leaving us RR-free zone. I thought, as the ECaR budget got "un-ringfenced", that would be the end of that. Unfortunately a new one has now been appointed. The damage done by these people is two-fold. First, of course, they take the most vulnerable readers (invariably the children lacking in code knowledge and blending/segmenting skills) and teach them guessing strategies. The second consequence is arguably even more disastrous. This is that the highly-paid RR teacher takes on the role of "reading expert" in many schools. Very soon MSV models appear in the staffroom, reading policies endorse multi-cueing strategies, TAs are trained in RR clones, BRP is taken up in the Juniors, etc. It is incomprehensible that this is allowed to go on in our schools.
  20. The MSV model RR teachers use in schools looks like this:

    The Title is: "The way we read using a combination of sources of information". Under this there is an (incorrectly) constructed Venn diagram of three interlocking hoops, one labelled "Meaning", one- Visual and one for Structure. In the overlaps is the word MESSAGE. Under MEANING is written: "What child already knows about the subject" and "Using the pictures to predict word". Under "VISUAL" is written: "Anything that is written on the page including punctuation and awareness of spaces [sic]". Under STRUCTURE is written: "The way words fit together" and "The grammar of language".

    That diagram is their philosophy in a nutshell. Clearly the systematic teaching of synthetic phonics and the recommendations of the Rose Report are not their concerns. Their presence in schools not only damages the children they work with, but by purveying these outmoded methods they water down even the best phonics teaching.

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