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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. I have had 14 children from my class go through RR. Of them, 2 left the program reading at a level around that of their average peers. Of the others, 4 were taken off the programme after 10 weeks, no reason given. 8 completed it, many having way beyond the 16 weeks they say it takes. These 8 were reported as having caught up their peers. They had not. They could "read" books carefully selected and worked on with the RR teacher. These books relied on "key words" taught as (to use an old-fashioned phrase) sight vocabulary; predictable text; picture clues, etc. Back in the real world of the classroom these children were still poor readers.
  2. What a remarkable debate! I LOVE the depth of conviction expressed by all. After 33 years teaching 3-7 year olds I am more confused than ever. Who is going to be brave enough to convince me of a successful method for the majority? SP looks good, but so did whole language and language experience in their heyday.
    Please tell me what to do for the best by my young students; I NOW HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA.
  3. Julia, most schools will state that they teach reading using synthetic phonics. Indeed it is probable that most schools now have discrete synthetic phonics lessons. This is a move in the right direction but nowhere near far enough. Most schools still teach a range of strategies, of which phonics is just one. This devalues SP, it becomes diluted.

    My own school is an example of this diluted SP teaching. We have discrete lessons daily, from Nursery to Y2. Phonics is assessed. Some classes are even streamed to help with differentiation. Much SP training has been given to weaker teachers....But when children are given reading books (either to take home or for guided reading), we still use the old Look and Say / Whole Language schemes, such as the old ORT books graded by "Book Bands". So a child in Reception may have learnt some of the simple alphabetic code (e.g. s,a,t,p,i,n,m,d,c,k), she can blend these letters together to read words such as: cat, sit, pink - she now has some knowledge and can apply a skill to this knowledge to read some simple words. Then we give her a reading book that begins: "Here is the red balloon. Here is the green balloon. Here is the orange balloon. Come here red balloon.....etc. " She cannot read this book because she hasn't been taught what she needs to know to read this book. It is too hard. So she has to compensate with coping strategies - these are often encouraged by parents, teachers, TAs. These include guessing using the predictable language these books use; guessing using the picture; guessing using first letters; memorising words, etc. Ultimately, to read you need to be able to decode written text into sound or thought - if you cannot decode you will not be able to read.

    You asked what to do for the best for your 3-7 year-olds. In my view it is simple. Teach them the simple and then complex alphabetic code in a systematic way beginning with the most common letter-sound correspondences. Teach them to blend these letters together left-to-right all through the word to read. Teach them that this is a reversible process - segment words into constituent phonemes then encode them using letters to write. Give them plenty of practice. Some children need more than others. When giving a child a book to read ensure it contains only words that they can decode given their current knowledge. This ensures they have quick wins and never need to compensate with other strategies. Use lots of dictation - give them sentences that they can write using their current knowledge.

    I firmly believe that schools should scrap the book bands (and similar) method of organising reading books, at least until children are confident readers with sound alphabetic code knowledge. This may involve binning a good many books. Schools build a new set of books organised on the basis of the alphabetic code knowledge needed to read them. Now is a brilliant time to think about doing this. There is a growing range of "cumulatively decodeable" texts on the market (e.g. Floppy's Phonics). The government is going to provide £3000 matched funding for schools to improve phonics teaching. So you have potentially £6000 to spend. This is what I am currently working on persuading my head to do.
  4. "After 33 years teaching 3-7 year olds I am more confused than ever."
    Has no-one in the last 33 years ever suggested that you look at the evidence, ie, base your teaching on what has been proven to be effective? A doctor would not base treatment on what, "looks good" but on what has been proven to be effective by scientific, evidence-based, randomised trials.
    Perhaps if both you and Alistair (and all the University Ed School 'Perfessors' who constantly astound me with the depth of their ignorance) were familiar with the evidence, you would be able to make informed decisions on how best to teach beginning reading, instead of grouping in the dark and hoping to get it right while swinging from fad to fad.
    The following are some examples of the evidence-based writings, in more or less chronological order. As important as what's included are what's excluded. You will find no evidence-based proof of effectiveness for Whole Language, Reading Recovery (the remedial arm of Whole Language), 3 Searchlights, 4-resources, multi-cueing, Balanced methods.
    EFFECTIVE School Practices Volume 15 Number 1, Winter 1995-6

    Chall, J.S. (1996). Learning to read: The great debate. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College PublishersBeginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print

    The National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy, Australia, 2005, http://www.dest.gov.au/nitl/report.htm

    Independent Review of the Teaching of Early Reading, UK, 2005
  5. Thank you teejay and yvonne for your comments. I teach in Australia and my school is adopting SP. I have thoroughly enjoyed the debate on this site. Yvonne, I was educated in UK through the former grammar school system, then to a college of education. Thank you for the links; I will enjoy some holiday reading.
    However, as teejay points out SP is becoming more discretely taught in some schools in UK now. Teejay also points out the issue with resources ie 'banded readers' and teaching phonics, yet teachers hand out readers that do not support this method. Is that fair to a child in the early stages of reading? I am not a 'trendy' who latches onto the latest fad in education, and I DO read and look at evidence-based research. I have always taught phonics even during the Whole language phase (not as systematically as debbie woud like). Prior to the Rose Report I wonder how many schools in the UK followed the SP method as stringently as they might? As always, resources lag way behind the need at the time so creative teachers make things work by producing their own.

    Incidentally, I would happily send anybody who says "Perfessor" to a speech therapist for lessons in articulation. Perhaps you might make that suggestion to him, yvonne.
  6. Thank you again Yvonne, The report and evidence from Scotland is just what I need to get the ball rolling re resourcing my school. Very convincing.
  7. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

  8. gcf


    Teejay -
    I understand that appropriate decodable readers will not be included on the 'phonics team' check list and therefore good, supportive stand-alone decodable readers will not be eligible. It's the mismatch of SP teaching and the lack of appropriate readers that is one of the main reasons for around 20% who fail to become confident readers, IMO.

    I contacted the phonics team to ask if they were considering widening their team to include
    practitioners of synthetic phonics who have studied, observed and
    reflected on its good practice over a number of years? No reply so far.
    Another disturbing piece of information I've received is that one of the most effective SP programmes - highly thought of by Sir Jim Rose and other leading authorities - has not been included.
    Let's hope that the approved list won't include the sort of spurious and misleading programmes that have caused so much damage to struggling readers in the past.
    Thanks for your excellent posts - particularly no.140. I wish all primary teachers could read it!
  9. This is EXACTLY the problem I have in my school. My children make great progress in Reception learning their phonics and using them to blend words when reading words with the sounds they know in them. Then all of a sudden we "run out" of books and start finding harder words that either don't make phonetic 'sense' or have sounds that we haven't taught yet. It has put some children at a bit of a block and it's really hard to keep them encouraged and confident.
  10. So long since you started this thread.
    It is now 2013.
    And sadly, in Victoria, Australia, Reading Recovery is still being embraced by a majority of schools.
    So frustrating...
  11. It's very sad, but it shows the power of something once it is part of the 'establishment'.
    Here in England, Reading Recovery is <strike>entrenched</strike> based in the Institute of Education - a very prestigious university for teacher training.
    Once a programme is 'established' - the scenario becomes self-fulfilling - finances seem to flow towards the established programme including through well-meaning (no doubt) 'charitites' backed by not just universities but by big business and politics.
    Then, the money is there to conduct studies and produce glossy, persuasive reports - and so the wheel keeps turning. You only have to have people with certain authority and kudos for people to be persuaded.
    Regarding Australia, the good news (although it takes so long for word of mouth to take effect) is that some good work is being accomplished in Western Australia around Perth with Phonics International. I find it frustrating that more and more schools internationally are stating that they are 'using Letters and Sounds' but this suggests that the reality is teachers in school by school will be trying to equip themselves with daily teaching and learning resources to 'do' Letters and Sounds as this is a guidance book and virtually resource-less.
    You can teach systematic synthetic phonics with little or nothing to hand, but if you want consistent quality throughout the land, teachers need teaching resources and learners need learning resources - and parents need information resources.

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