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Reading strategies: helpful or fatal for struggling beginning readers?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by gcf, May 10, 2012.

  1. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    On the sounding out business - it is interesting. And I do hope some others will join in with their thoughts.
    There could be many reasons why these children sound out more than you feel is desirable for their enjoyment of the reading process. My guesses are it could be because:
    - that's the way their brains work and with practice the overt "sounding out" process will go way of its own accord
    - they are reading books that are too difficult for them
    - they are not recalling individual letter-sound correspondences as fast as they might (or digraphs and trigraphs if they have got that far)
    - they have not been blending for very long so it has not yet become automatic for them on simple words
    - they are not reading many words each day either at school or at home
    - they are shy when they are doing it with someone they don't know well
    - they think that's what you should do (sound out every word), even when they are capable of not doing it that way
    - people around them have given them the idea that sounding the word out is not "proper" reading so they feel they are failing when they do it
    - you haven't listened to them for long enough for them to get into "their stride"
    - just as it takes some children very many repetitions to learn a word from a flashcard and recognise it correctly next time round it takes some children longer than others to get to the point of blending automatically, or committing a word which they have "sounded out" several times to memory
    I don't see it as problem so long as the child is understanding what they are reading and enjoying the learning to read process. If they are not some more learning needs to take place before reading that particular book.
    My experience is limited - my own children, and a range of children with learning difficulties. It's interesting that different adults can differ very much as to what is going on. For example my younger child used to tell me that she felt very sad when she was reading to her reception class teacher. She couldn't explain to me why. Also at home she loved reading to quite a wide range of people.
    When I finally saw the teacher's records (which were not put into the reading record that we as parents were required to write in every day) I could see that she was reading very limited CVC books at school when she had passed through that point a year earlier at home, and for some reason at school to this particular teacher she was sounding out every word. So the teacher must have thought that my reading record notes were a work of pure fiction, and my daughter must for some reason have felt that this was the way she was supposed to read the book she had to read to this particular teacher. Anyhow, this is a personal aside, but I never found the "sounding out" stage bothersome so long as the child was enjoying the reading, the story, the pictures etc. At home I found that perfectly possible. At school something clearly wasn't working for her.
    You sound very approachable. Your advice is always to approach teachers and explain the concern. I would agree with you there, and always give the same advice to others. It is my experience though that in these earlier years at school most teachers are too busy (which I can understand) to try and take on board and think through what might be causing a mis-match between what is happening at school and what is happening at home.
    As you tackle things from the completely opposite angle, I would like more of your thoughts about how you would get children through this "sounding out" phase faster if it is indeed causing problems. My own children passed through it very fast and on to silent reading shortly after that, so I only come across the repeated "sounder-outers" at school.
    I do find there are some children who sound out CVC words ad infinitum but who read harder ( and still new words, not words they already know the shape of) more easily. I do sometimes wonder if this is because sentences like:
    "Bob's bug bag had a fat flat fish on it" are very hard to say naturally, and personally I find them "harder" to read too - all very choppy for me both to say and read, almost a tongue twister and a brain twister at the same time.
    Please tell me more about how to split up long words; just telling me to use common-sense doesn't really help me. It needs to be a method which a young child can use independently when tackling a new polysyllabic word, and I can't tell her to use her common-sense.

  2. Of course there could be umpteen reasons why these children struggled with the book.I wasn't trying to draw any conclusions about SP, as they would all be very anecdotal. However, it does show that it is not always the easy route sometimes described. These reasons you mention are reasons that can apply to a child at any time. And yet SP is characterised as something that will work at all times, in all situations. Really, the only thing that does work is careful assessment of what each child needs at a specific time, and trying different strategies is all part of that. Unfortunately those who advocate SP shoot themselves in the foot by discouraging the use of anything else. What they seem to say is, in effect, that the teacher cannot judge how to teach the child but must follow the law of SP. SP is an excellent strategy but will not suit all situations and all children on its own.I can't really give you more guidance on the chunking method, as there isn't some magic formula about applying it. It really comes down to muddling through. That's not an attractive idea to SP folk, I know, but it is the way things work in the real world, and especially with the slippery old English language. I've always just used instinct in talking to children about how words work and how they can be broken up. So, with the 'brandish' example, if the child sees 'bra' first, and associates it with the known word 'bra' (!) that's fine. It might end up with her saying 'brandish' with a long 'a' , but she will have read a version of it and the correct pronunciation will 'come out in the wash', when she reads the text to someone or, if she knows the word 'brandish', when she realises from context what it is. All the other chunks of 'brandish' you mention would be fine to use in decoding the word. I don't see the problem. Working with the child who uses 'bra', I would probably allow her to carry on, and if she didn't arrive at the correct pronunciation by herself I would point out that it is a short 'a' and that if she looks at the following 'n' that might help her.
  3. What does SP stand for? DRC
  4. Synthetic Phonics. But be aware that it goes beyond a simple application of identification of letter/sound correspondences blended left to right through a word, in order to decipher the word. In its present incarnation it goes into the realms of extremity, banishing all other decoding strategies as distractions, and includes the claim that all English words can be read through SP, however irregular they are.
  5. Yes, I absolutely agree that reading must be enjoyable as one of the main aim is make the children love books and make them enable to become reader even in their adult life. Yes, I used the terminology reading and I was talking about decoding. Decoding is a mechanism, and it is not always enjoyable if the method how we teach is boring and and/or not appropriate for the children's level. If children have enough time (not too much) to practice, and the level is appropriate, they will enjoy the mechanism because the "can do" feeling will make it. Obviously we do not enjoy what we are not able to do, but we are the teacher giving them the expertise on what, in what order, in what quantity give them. So during the decoding- learning process I would not use pictures until the child is able to sound and recognize all the sounds/ letters and is able to read confidently.
    Using clues in this process is like giving the half answers when teaching time tables. Children's task is to add the other half instead of understanding multiplications and knowing it by heart. It's not real knowledge. Children who hot used to using the picture to figure out what the word might be instead of decoding it often looking at me instead of the book while "reading"... It's the most obvious sign that the child is guessing, have learned that the picture will help to get the feeling of being able to decode...
  6. During the act of reading - a stream of meaning flows from the text, through the readers eyes into their consciousness. The reaction to the text is a reflex reaction not involving cognition - where there is an awareness of the decoding process, reading cannot by definition be taking place and the so-called 'reading' is nothing more than a pointless self-esteem eroding, decoding exercise.

  7. gcf


    Unfortunately those who advocate SP shoot themselves in the foot by discouraging the use of anything else.

    But, Thumbie, many of us have tried 'anything else' : look and say, real reading, multi-cueing, orton-gillingham and other Dystexia approaches - we've done ELS, ALS,FLS - Hatcher's Sound Linkage, beat dyslexia, onset and rime, blends and so on - but when we've read the research, looked again at our practices, worried about the 20% not 'getting there' we've found SP to be far and away the most logical, pared down and effective instrction. Why wouldn't any teacher start with the alphabetic code structure and then understand - as with any skill - some 20%+ will take a lot of time, patience, encouragement ?
    Why anyone who believes in professionalim would not campaign for ITTs to devote at least a week to teaching students about the alphabetic code and how best to map sounds to words is beyond me. You wouldn't expect doctors to sneer at punctilliousness, attention to detail, logic, 90%+ evidence showing that X is far more effective than Y, advances is knowledge, examination of failed interventions. Yet the weakest of evidence is produced to buttress the multi-strategy approach that failed so many children.
    One-to-one tutoring, school experience, minute examination of 'why children can't read' , a small research project 'Focus on Children in London', wide reading of hundreds of academic papers (ie not just hand picking a couple of papers,), networking in the States, Canada, Australia as well as the UK, local observation of schools in Brixton, E.Sussex, Oxford counts for little when set against the erudition, acute observation and meticulous practice of others.
    Perhaps some 30% of schools - from head, Senior Management, Senco's, class teadcheers understand that SP goes hand in hand with literature - fiction and non-fiction - so why wouldn't we hope that professionals, charged with enabling children to read, suggest that all student teachers receive a through training in the alphabetic code? The one certain fact is that mixed strategies haven't worked.

  8. I'm afraid your claim that the SP approach is logical does not stand up. Is it logical to say, on the one hand, that SP is the only method needed to decode, and on the other, that graphemes can represent multiple phonemes and phonemes can be represented by multiple graphemes? Clearly not. SP cannot be the only method needed in this situation, it has to be supplemented by something else. Unfortunately English spelling renders a simple phoneme to grapheme correspondence approach insufficient to decode reliably many many English words. I'm afraid that mult-cueing is what is used by readers, whether we like it or not. If children have failed to learn to read it is because they have not been able to master every aspect of the reading process, which is complex. it seems that typically 20% of children will struggle, whatever method is used. The task is to find ways to get the message across to this 20%. I do not believe that plugging away at SP is going to do this, for the simple, logical reason that they need more than SP in order to read properly. SP may help them master decoding up to a level, but once the ambiguities, irregularities and complexities creep in it stands to reason that more is needed. I feel it is far more likely that individualised, intensive support will show success, with different strategies being used and adopted as fits the child, and with teacher knowledge of that child and their response coming into play. I don't think searchlights, whole word, SP or any other of the prescribed methods holds the answer by itself. Logically, SP is a good start to teach children basic GPCs which will work well with simple words, and other methods follow on to plug gaps. I fall out with SP when it becomes a dogma standing in the way of a proper child-led pragmatic approach. You bring out the old chestnut about SP going alongside a wider literacy approach. Of course that can happen, but there is no necessary connection. Teachers have to implement SP and a wider literacy approach. SP won't, in some magical way, do it for them. And are you trying to imply that a wider literacy approach will not happen without SP? Your post quotes me at the top and then you go on about teacher training in phonics as if I would object to that. I don't. Teachers should find out about the history of the teaching if the reading, the current methods and the issues.
  9. I didn't see any response from thumbie to this bit of Mystery's post but I would be interested to know what she has to say.
    How many repetitions of 'learning' a word by any other strategy would it take for a child to reliably be able to read it 'at sight'?
  10. If you read the post mystery was referring to you will see that I was worried by the amount of support the children needed to blend simple words, for which they knew the GPCs, coupled with the fact that they failed to notice they were repeatedly sounding out the same word, several times on a page.
  11. The SP group get very far ahead at SP, they are great at decoding lists of words, and this is very heartening for all concerned. But surely you would expect this from children trained to do it. They do not do so well in comprehension, especially in the long term, as the Clackmannanshire study showed. The advantage in decoding did not translate into a similar advantage in comprehension skills.
  12. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I think most teachers would agree that even good readers need basic phonics knowledge because it helps with spelling mystery.
    My son's teacher didn't teach him any phonics because he was a fluent reader from a very early age and "obviously didn't need to know" letter sound correspondences as a result he has struggled with spelling/writing throughout his time in primary.
  13. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Why did you feel sad about me wanting books to come home that my child could read Thumbie? I already had a shedload of real children's books, fact, fiction, poetry, a veritable library and my children had listened and looked at stories since conception (well maybe they couldn't see the books at that point).
    So I didn't particularly want the books that came home - we got some ancient ORT book picked at random by the child quite often with the mid-section missing, and something else considered to be a real book from some manky collection of books stored somewhere in school - again chosen by my children because it had a particularly lurid front cover e.g. some Disney-fied fairy tale in some book the size of a Ladybird book. My first daughter, to give her credit, never chose one of the "real" books ....... I think because we had plenty of books at home and she never saw one in the school muddle that she really wanted. Interestingly, the teacher took this as a sign that she wasn't interested in books and didn't bother doing anything with her remotely related to books for at least the first 6 months of reception. My DD happily used up approximately 100 rolls of school sellotape during that period sticking together old cereal boxes etc.
    If the idea was that they learned to read by osmosis by sharing real books with me, then why send them to school all day from the age of 4 and one little bit? By the time they arrived home they were tired, and even less likely to learn to read by sharing a book with me than if they had stayed home all day and continued as we did before they went to school.
    I was never told what the learning to read process was, whether or not it was taking place. It was a great mystery. So I bought Peter and Jane!!! She read the first five books. All seemed to go well but she then started to revolt.
  14. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

  15. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Findings from Primary 2 to Primary 7
    In order to make comparisons across the years, we are reporting the results for the
    children that were available for testing from Primary 2 to Primary 7, so the figures will
    differ slightly from previous reports. At the end of Primary 7, word reading was 3 years 6
    months ahead of chronological age, spelling was 1 year 9 months ahead, and <u>reading
    comprehension</u> was 3.5 months ahead.

  16. Yes, but word 'reading' was 3 years 6 months ahead. If SP accelerates reading why the comparatively small difference in comprehension, I wonder?
  17. What made me sad was your terminology. You said something about 'code the child had not yet learnt'. I don't happen to think books are about decoding, even reading books should be real books, and real books will not fit an arbitrary SP standard. Children will encounter new words throughout their lives, words which they may not be able to readily decode with their knowledge of phonics. If a child is sent home with a book they can readily decode, where is the learning going to happen? This has nothing to do with learning to read by osmosis, it's about making progress. Your description of the system at your children's school is amusing and also sad. But you seem to be basing your faith in SP on the fact that you hate your daughters' school, think it is rubbish, and as it does not do SP properly no school that does not stick strictly to SP can be any good. I'm sure you can see the fault in that logic. The school doesn't have old tatty books because it does not do SP properly.To be honest, I wonder why you send your children to the school at all. There must be something very good about it to balance out all the bad experiences you have had!
  18. gcf


    I wonder how many Education Authorities in areas of great deprivation in England have produced students with reading comprehension in advance of chronological age?

    It is a shame that such sloppy arguments were made by 'respectable' academics and critics of Synthetic Phonics. These havel inevitably been taken at face value by teachers.
    comprehension</u> was 3.5 months ahead.

    It surely is time for bit-phonics, analytical phonics, mixed method followers to produce results from deprived areas that are as good as the Clackmannanshire results?
    Before the Rose Report, the mix of phonics, and muddled strategies in no way represent instruction based on the Alphabetic Code - there was very, very little synthetic phonics/linguistic phonics practice before that time.There are still only around 30%+ of schools using unadulterated synthetic phonics;. The mixture of methods continues to produce muddled instruction - the last thing that struggling readers can cope with.
    Training is urgently needed and should include how to handle the needs of chldren arriving at school already reading fluently .
    There should be debate about the importance of SP for spelling and writing.
    Good teachers shouldn't overdose on phonics -insecure teachers who have been presented with one strategy after another might well do so.

  19. But Clackmannanshire Education Authority has not out-performed others:
    "Both the current Coalition and recent Labour governments have relied heavily on the research of Johnson and Watson in Clackmannanshire. Yet this research has been seriously challenged. This intervention, focused principally on the systematic teaching of ?synthetic phonics?, showed dramatic gains for reading individual words, but much smaller gains for comprehension.. The intervention has left the Local Authority with below average scores on Scotland?s national reading tests. Her Majesty?s Inspectorate has remarked on Clackmannanshire?s low performance, when compared with Local Authorities with a similar socio-economic profile." UKLA: Teaching Reading I fully agree there should be debate about the use of SP, and that insecure teachers might go overboard on SP. Good, experienced teachers are certainly more likely to use it judiciously.
  20. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    word reading was 3years 6 months and comprehension was 3 years 5 months ahead of chronological ... hardly a huge discrepancy and possibly due to different assessment methods.
    Oddly enough having just assessed my class for both and word reading is 3 years 4 months and comprehension age 4 years 9 months ahead

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