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Reading strategies: helpful or fatal for struggling beginning readers?

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

  1. What tests do you use to get reading ages? Which ones are best to use?
  2. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I've used the New Salford Sentence Reading tests this year [​IMG]

  3. No. Reading comprehension was 3.5 months ahead. Quite a discrepancy after all.
  4. Do we have any references to studies showing that the 'old NLS' taught children had Comprehension Ages in excess of chronological age?
    You are correct, thumbie. The Clack children were 3.5 months ahead of CA. But, the 12 years worth of data I have on children in our school show that Y7 cohorts have consistently started KS3 with mean Comprehension Ages between 6 & 10 months below chronological age. (sample of 130 - 150 children in all but 2 years). We'd be quite pleased with an average of 3.5 months ahead.
    Sorry, you can only read the abstract of this (unless you have access to the journal) but Johnston et al. have published a study comparing 10y old children taught with PIPs and some of the Clackmannanshire sample. Children matched on time in school and SES.
  5. Well, I am not comparing the 'old NLS' with SP so I don't need to prove the NLS is comparable, or has had similar results. However, as the NLS was used throughout the country, or at least in England, the sample would have been more representative than the Clackmannanshire sample. In addition, the children learning through NLS would be children in schools not singled out for special treatment, with teachers not given special training and special resources. All these things have a known influence on results. Your study of children taught with pips and the Clackmannanshire sample puzzles me. How were the variables taken into account? Were the children at the same schools, from the same area, with the same teachers? They were matched for time in school and SES, but what about all the other things that can make a difference? I would have to know a lot more before having an opinion.
  6. From everything you have posted about your teaching it seems very clear that you are comparing the old NLS with SP. You mix multi-cueing with phonics, you use onset and rime. What is the difference between your practice and the old Searchlights strategy?

  7. Well, do we?
    You are basing your objections to the Clack. study on the fact that the Clack. children were 'only' 3.5 months ahead of CA on comprehension. Can you post references to studies which show that your Searchlights methods have superior results? My records seem to show that they didn't. I am willing to be proved wrong by research evidence.
  8. I find this an ironic statement.
    I can only speak for the local authority that I was in at the time that the NLS was rolled out - but teachers had multiple training sessions focused on the NLS. The NLS was delivered with 'clout' and although not statutory, was rolled out as if it was - plus Ofsted inspected schools at that time with reference to the NLS (and whether schools 'followed the national strategies closely enough').
    Plus, there were various publications sent to every school in multiple copies and local authority advisors invariably indicated to teachers that they should use the government publications.
    I also worked in schools where, with no consultation with the class teachers, local authority advisors took various children from classes to conduct the lessons in NLS initiatives with the focus on raising standards.
    And so on.
    I can assure you that the NLS was rolled out as a major, major national project in England and so to say that 'teachers' were 'not given special training and special resources' is arguably, simply, not accurate.
  9. No. I have repeatedly written that I think SP is a good strategy when used with other strategies as necessary, supplementing what SP cannot do. I don't think a record of 20% of children failing to reach a basic standard of literacy at the end of KS2 reflects well on any of the methods and approaches which have been followed to date, and I do not expect SP to deliver anything remarkably better. SP cannot possibly, on its own, resolve the literacy problem, because it cannot address all that is needed for a person to become a good reader. But 'searchlights' does not have a good record either. What is needed is a radical change, not of method or reading strategy, but of educational policy. There needs to be an acceptance that a percentage of children will struggle and there needs to be proper provision to address this not as a special needs issue but as an expected needs issue. I saw how difficult it was to deliver a good quality multi-strategy approach within the confines of the literacy hour and guided reading, with lack of space in the timetable for one to one reading. SP has the advantage of being delivered under more strict and systematic guidelines but still fails because it outlaws the other strategies needed. Hearing readers properly remains a problem. What is needed to support struggling readers is the will not the way.
  10. Debbie, there's nothing 'special' about being given the same training and materials as everyone else in the country. That has the opposite psychological impact to that of being singled out as part of a unique and radical study.
  11. Both the will and the way is needed. There is a misconception that the timetable should be the master of phonics teaching and most teachers think that 15 to 20 minutes quickfire phonics a day is adequate or the time expected to be spent on phonics. This is misguided and not following the needs of the children.
    There needs to be an acceptance that many children are struggling who do not need to struggle given better teaching which includes more time and better teacher knowledge and understanding.
    I wonder, thumbie, whether you have ever actually taught with a good synthetic phonics approach given your many postings downplaying its effectiveness.
  12. You underestimate the enormity of the National Literacy Strategy at the time, it was a huge project, very special, very intensive and extensive, and expensive.
  13. Well, maybe I have taught with a bad synthetic phonics approach, debbie. It's new to me that an SP approach can be bad, in your estimation, but there you go.
  14. I was there too, Debbie.You misunderstand what I mean by 'special' and 'singled out' and the effect that can have on research results.
  15. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    I see what you are saying Thumbie; there was no "halo effect" of being picked out for the experimental group and being given training and resources "special" to the selected group. In fact you feel that because it was rolled out to everyone as though it was statutory at the time, that may have had a detrimental effect on its usefulness as people don't feel as enthusiastic about doing what they have been told to do as they do about doing what they have decided to do for themselves.
    You said to Debbie that it was news to you that she could think there was a bad SP approach. I think she has pointed out many times before what she thinks is a bad SP approach ....... it's one that puts in unnecessary "cueing" methods for beginner readers, one that doesn't allow time for children who need more practice, repetition, consolidation etc, it's one that doesn't allow time for children to be heard reading individually, it's one that doesn't allow sufficient time for writing, it's one that doesn't provide a rich literacy background along side the "pure SP" elements ......... so maybe you agree on more things than you think!!
    I found your comment interesting where you said it was sad that I wanted books that were sent home for children to learn to read from to contain just the code they had learned so far. You said this could be stultifying and left no scope for progress. Yes in one way I agree with you big-time. However, if schools are also sending home "real" books, or home has lots of them ( as we have by the tonne) then there is plenty of opportunity for self-discovery, and exposure to the wider code alongside an adult.
    We have experienced being stuck on the stultifying phonics books too - but that took place at school; the stultifying phonics books never came home so it was a year or so before I realised that the pace of learning new GPCs at school was incrediby slow if not retrograde (the pace or less than traditionally taught "after the event" with analytic phonics).
    If children progress through a good phonics course at an appropriate rate there's plenty of scope for "progress" isn't there? Also, I think quite a few "decodable" readers, particularly once they reach around the equivalent of Phase 5 letters and sounds do chuck in quite a bit of variation in spelling alternatives for specific sounds without it necessarily having been spelt out at school for days, weeks, years on end.
    Reading scheme books are not great - neither controlled vocabulary ones which generally form part of a whole-word method, nor decodables. They are written for a purpose so they are not the greatest books going by any stretch of the imagination. It's good to see the back of them as fast as possible, and also where possible get the child reading some real books along the way too, as well of course continuing to read lots of real books to them and with them while the "learn to read" process is taking place.
    I didn't say I was judging the school by the "learn to read process". As it can unfortunately be a fraught process at many schools and in many homes that isn't really a comparison point. And once one's child can read really well how they got there becomes of little importance and the wider education is of course paramount. But in the earlier years - Year R and KS1 it's a pretty huge chunk of the reason for attending school so it could skew one's view of the school as a whole .......... I didn't / don't let it do that!!
    You point out from time to time, quite rightly I think, that a lot of what SPer's advocate is not truly SP, it includes other elements that any good teacher of literacy would do. Yes that's right; no-one's claiming that SP alone will do it are they? You do sound rather like Michael Rosen at times [​IMG] - fantastic children's author and some great ideas on how to enthuse children to read, write etc ...... but rather misleading about what SPer's actually say and do.

  16. I think the majority of people know exactly what makes learning to read English difficult: graphemes with more than one pronunciation

    but especially unpredictable uses of:
    - (treat – great, threat, theatre, create)
    - (on – only, once, won, woman, women, who)
    and all graphemes with <o> <ou> (shout &ndash;should, touch, soul, soup)<o-e> (home - come, move) <oo> (food &ndash;good, flood) (road &ndash; broad)
    surplus[/i][/b] cf. gave, dedicate, divine)
    (camel) which make short vowels look long (same camel &ndash; cf. hammer),
    needlessly doubled consonants (arrest, arrive &ndash; cf. arise, around ) which suggest wrong vowel length or a wrong stress (arrow arrest). But because the most obvious solution to the difficulties which the above inconsistencies create is totally ruled out, they are not even mentioned when discussing how best teach reading.
    What teachers should be discussing is how best to deal with all the worst spanners in the English spelling system, because they are the main reason why some children take a very long time to learn to read and why some never really learn at all.
    I wish they would go further and start discussing whether some of the spanners could not be eliminated, but just acknowledging what the worst ones are would help.
  17. You have completely failed to address my question. How does your practice differ from the old NLS, or Searchlights strategy?
    Also, where are the research studies which show that children taught by mixed methods achieve better comprehension scores than did the Clackmannanshire children?
    You really cannot go around rubbishing a method of teaching reading and claiming that it has little merit without some evidence to corroborate what you are saying. So far all we have ever had is your opinion backed up by a few unevidenced assertions from UKLA publications.
  18. 85 posts in and finally someone mentions reading, as in for comprehension. As Michael Rosen has recently blogged SP teaches the children to decode only. If SP was to be used as the sole process then surely it matters not if the children can decode words such as brandish if they don't know the meaning.
  19. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    "Doh!" as Michael Rosen would blog. Has anyone said that teachers who would teach phonics as the principle means of early readers decoding words would NOT also develop children's vocabulary, grammar, syntax etc etc? Who has said that? Where? That's just non-sensical Sugarstealer, and not what anyone on here has said, or even implied.
  20. It's always interesting to think about the nature of averages when looking at research results. Any 'chronological' reading or comprehension age has to be derived from averages. The nature of 'average' is that some individuals perform below and some above the average point. Think about this in relation to samples. The sample group in the Clackmannanshire study was 300 children. This is a small fraction of all children in the age group in the UK, or even just in Scotland, at the time. The result of children performing at 3.5 months above chronological age for comprehension, indicates that the average in this sample was above the general average by a small amount. Of course there would most likely still be children performing below this result and children performing above (unless all children got the same result). Think about the significance of this in terms of child numbers. There need only be a small number of children out of the 300 performing above the general average to yield this result. Then think about cohorts in schools and how they vary. Cohorts regularly perform above and below average in the same school, with the same teachers and the same methods. It would be very interesting to look at the raw results for Clackmannanshire to see what the average 3.5 months above chronological age looks in terms of individual children. We do know that while on average the group were 3.5 months ahead on comprehension, 14% of the children were behind. Additionally, as the group of children were all taught using SP after the initial year of the study there was no control group of children taught with a different method for comparison of reading comprehension age in primary 7. If there had been I could answer maizie's question about studies into other methods. There would be some minor indications in this small Scottish study I could point her to. Unfortunately I don't know of any small studies into 'searchlights', performed by enthusiastic researchers, singling out a small group of schools and providing intensive input to the teachers. However, if you are really interested, Maizie, and not just trying to score points, you could enquire from UKLA, who are sure to know of studies supporting their stance, just as you know of studies supporting the stance of RRF. I am just an individual and have been busy being a teacher over the years since the advent of NLS with little time to look at research results. That does not stop me having views which, as you may have noticed, I back up through argument.As for your enquiry into my teaching, I think you are being a bit nosey! I'm not going to go into it except to say that like all teachers I don't have my own approach which I follow, I follow the policies of whichever school I am in at the time, which may or may not be to my liking. From your post it is evident you have little idea of what it is to be a teacher, and an inflated idea of our autonomy.

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