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Sensible approach to literacy teaching

Discussion in 'Primary' started by mashabell, Dec 23, 2011.

  1. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    The Alphabet Code & How It Works
    Adapted from Brunner, Spalding, & and Others

    Eddie are you saying those with visual processing difficulties can never become good spellers?
  2. And a Merry Xmas to you.

    No. IF 'seeing' is distorted or the proccessing mechancis are faulty, this is a very special kind of learning difficulty. I have never sought to categorise people in this way or to work with individuals who have had this specific physical disorder diagnosed and confirmed by a physician. I am talking generally rather than specifically and also through the eyes of a researcher.

    I confront groups of children with significant reading deficits - inevitably, they also have significant spelling deficits - you never find poor readers who are good at spelling - never. My wider focus is on literacy deficits and my initial way of tackling such deficits starts with their reading. When this is on the way to resolution and their confidence begins to climb, I move on to the other literacy skills. I find the most productive way of tacking spelling diifficulties is Dictation because this gives the children the opporturnty to routinely write words correctly with no guessing. It could be argued that you could achieve the same result by getting a child to write out a difficult word one hundred times - the problem with this approach is the same problem that affects all, rule learning 'training-type'' strategies - they are boring and repetitive and cause brains to switch off. When the words are written within the context of a dictated passage of text, they are much, much more likely to be assimilated becasue they aere part of the 'meaning' which reading is designed to retrieve from text. When an attempt is made to achieve the same result using 'word banks' it is, in my expereince, almost never effective.

    The dictation strategy I use includes a 'spelling helper' which is both visual and auditory so that there is no excuse for any child to turn in any work with even single spelling error.

    Children whose spelling is severely dyslexic in spite of being excellent readers have I believe, a very specific kind of problem which even a specialist physician cannot help. I have five children, now all successful adults, two of whom' are very dyslexic, confirmed long ago at Aston University. One of them works in a bank in Hong Kong and earns a salary like the gross domestic product of a smal country - the other works in military research! They are both atrocious spellers.

  3. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    I still find the spelling issue very interesting, and not at all resolved in my mind. I'm pretty convinced that DD1, even if she had received the best ever SP teaching at school covering all the complexities of the alphabetic code both for reading and writing, will never be a great speller. Of course, I remain hopeful.
    She could be the child who always remains "phonically plausible" for a lot of words; this would not be because she didn't "know" more complex code now - I've taught it her for reading at home, but because she would not make the right choices where there was more than one possible choice for a specific word. With time she will be OK with words she has come across many times in reading and writing and spelling tests. It takes many repetitions for a word she has learned, and can in fact spell if she thinks very hard about it, to pop out naturally and correctly spelled in her writing.
    Don't shout at me, but I still don't understand how synthetic phonics teaching, in the "end stages" so to speak, handles this in a conclusive way. Yes, over time working with words that follow the same phonic patterns, and working with words that have same sounds but different spellings will help, as it will plant some kind of systematic framework in her mind, but it won't be a "complete" answer. It will be far better than some methods of teaching spelling, and it will be far better than random lists of words to be learned. The sort of SP word lists you have all pointed me to will help. However, it won't be the complete answer to her learning to spell "accurately" rather than phonically plausibly.
    Sadly neither will the school non-SP approach be the answer. This Christmas we have all 300 HF frequency words (not in any helpful order) to learn for a mega spelling test after Christmas.
    My other child I think will pick it all up more "naturally"; but she reads a lot more.
    Your post about your son made me laugh Eddie. We have a distant relative who lives in HK who says that you don't feel like you can live there unless you draw in something equivalent to the GDP of a small country until the day you die. He hasn't mentioned spelling.

  4. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I can introduce you to such a child surprisingly able speller but desperate at reading ... due to language processing difficulties.
  5. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    A Little Poem Regarding Spell Checkers... (and their obvious limitations)

    Eye halve a spelling chequer
    It came with my pea sea
    It plainly marques four my revue
    Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
    Eye strike a key and type a word
    And weight four it two say
    Weather eye am wrong oar write
    It shows me strait a weigh.
    As soon as a mist ache is maid
    It nose bee fore two long
    And eye can put the error rite
    Its rare lea ever wrong.
    Eye have run this poem threw it
    I am shore your pleased two no
    Its letter perfect awl the weigh
    My chequer tolled me sew.

  6. There's a world of difference between a 'spelling helper' and a 'spell checker.'
    The spell checker identifies and if you wish, changes spellings - the spelling helper has a 'learning' function . Spell checkers have no such purpose or possibility! The proof of the pudding is of course, in the eating. Users of the Dictation course achieve a significant improvement in the English results at Key Stage 2 which is of course completed without either spell checkers or spelling helpers.
  7. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    although both rely on the user
  8. Nah. Spell checkers are a computer programme which will do the job independently of the user.My spelling helper offers the option of assistance with spelling.
    Children are inherently lazy and believe they know everything - if they think they know how to spell a word, they won't use the spelling helper. If they have a teacher with high expedtations, they will always use the spelling helper if they are even a little bit uncertain of how a word is correctly spelled.
    If they have a teacher with low expectations, they will chance it with their own version of a spelling. It is my experience that 'teacher expectation' is the main factor in successful literacy teaching After 'teacher expectation' comes having the right tools to do the job.
  9. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Yes I know spell helpers offer the option of assistance but that surely relies on the user recognising they need assistance and then the programme providing the correct option ... my own experience is with "Read and Write Gold" so your version may be better in which case I would be interested in buying it if it works.
  10. Re My son in Hong Kong is one of my five children and .although he lives 12,000 miles awy, I se him more ofter than I see the others. He comes home every two months.
    Spelling lists and word banks are great time fillers which will keep classes occupied for a full period and that's fine as long as the aium is to keep them busy with something that looks educational as long as you donj't expect them to become good spellers by this means - because they won't
  11. You dont have to buy it - you can have it for free if you teach Years 5 or 6. Just email me a contact address.
  12. It won't with the spellings that have no real pattern.
    Trying to give teachers the impression that English has an alphabetic 'code' in much the same way that other languages with alphabetic writing systems do is the biggest lie currently being perpetuated by some people.
    It is not the case that English spelling has a code which is exceptionally complex. Some parts of the code have become so broken that it no longer makes sense to call it a code at all.

    <font size="3" face="Times New Roman">

    most broken parts of the English spelling code are the 11 inconsistencies which
    affect large numbers of words and cause both reading and spelling difficulties.
    (The figures in brackets give the minimum number of common words affected by

    Irregular consonant

    Unpredictable spellings for /ee/ (454),

    long /oo/ (197), /au/
    sound (110), /air/ (57);</font>

    Exceptions to the patterns of


    (79), <u> (71) and <e>
    </font>The first five have no main pattern or rule at all.
    The last six have main spelling patterns which are used in several hundred words, but have substantial numbers of exceptions too.
  13. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Thank you but I don't teach Y5 or 6 and am really looking for an effective spell check/helper not a reading programme but I do appreciate the offer
  14. "same way that other languages with alphabetic writing systems do is the biggest lie currently being perpetuated by some people."
    No. You cannot describe this as a lie because you are suggesting that the SP enthusiasts are liars and they are not liars. They are misguided certainly and their claim that SP is founded on 'evidence' is wrong but their intentions are wholly sincere and therefore honourable.
    Consider again the Chinese langauge. Each 'word' has to be learned as a separate visual entity and the Chinese have very high literacy. There are very learned Chinese academics who are familiar with the appearance of more than a hundred thousand Chinese words. ~Why should our children not be capable of learning what a few thousand words look like.
    The Y2 children in my project starting in January have failed to learn to read, writte and spell by current strategies. If my alteranative intervention succeeds in their assimilating the 1000 word sight vocab, they will be rescued from the great dustbin of illiteracy which is otherwise, their inevitable fate.
  15. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    As a Y2 teacher I'm afraid I still don't understand how your programme will help non readers ...sorry
  16. As a Y2 teacher I'm afraid I still don't understand how your programme will help non readers ...sorry
    No need to apologise- this entirely new and the only people who have ever seen it are the twenty schools which have it installed ready to start next month.
    It is critical to remember that this is NOT a univeral initial teaching strategy - SP is as good as any other for that purpose. This is exclusively for those who, in spite of SP, are non or near-non readers and its purpose is merely to kickstart their acquisition of reading skill. It will seek to work by stopping the children from consciously trying to decode words and helping them to both recognise words and transfer these words to their own personal sight vocab.
    As a year 2 teacher, I would be happy to send you a copy of the project resource - no cost - no obligation but of course it will be useful to you only if you have one or two non or near-non readers.
  17. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    The year 2 children concerned are SIX years old! They have plenty of time to learn with good everyday teaching.

    Nonsense! Are you seriously arrogant enough to think that you, and you alone, have worked out some great secret to 100% literacy? That no teacher in no school can hope to make any difference to the eventual level of literacy of their six year olds unless they use your method? Complete nonsense! Especially as your programme hasn't even started yet and so there is every chance that the programme will fail these children utterly and they would have been better off having extra phonics and spelling support.
  18. "The year 2 children concerned are SIX years old! They have plenty of time to learn with good everyday teaching".
    I had hoped that those contributing to an important debate would have sufficienct intellect to rise above personal insults but I have been wrong before and I expect to be wrong again.
    My comments are not opinion or based on others opinions- they are based on easily and objectively verifiable fact and the fact is that 20% of children leave school EVERY YEAR unable to read and write confidently. .If you disagree with this check out the recently published KS2 outcomes.
    It is my opinion that to form the 20% of illiterates, good readers did not lose the ability to read - it is the same 20% who show up at Key Stage 1 who go on to leave school illiterate.
    As to whether or not I am arrogant enough to beleive that I have found the secret key to success where other geniuses such as yourself have failed, if you do me the courtesy of actually reading my posts,you will find the oppositie to be the case. The whole point of practical research is not to espouse truths but to establish facts in a way that is independently and objectively verifiable.
    These target children are headed for the dustbin of illiteracy unless someother intervention prevents this from happening. I will know for certain in July whether or not my intervention will or will not succeed - not a moment before.
    i am not arrogant enough to believe I have discovered the Holy Grail of literacy but i am arrongant enough to believe that to search for it is its own justification.
  19. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I don't think it is possible to say that a child who hasn't grasped reading by the age of six is headed for the dustbin of iliteracy. These are children only just starting out on their school career and there are often a number of physical reasons for their slow start with education
  20. "I don't think it is possible to say that a child who hasn't grasped reading by the age of six is headed for the dustbin of iliteracy."
    You are stating your opinion which is a perfectly valid thing to do but the verifiable facts do not support your opinion. We know for certain that in the past several decades 20% of children do leave school unable to read or write every year. We can regret this - we can ignore this but we cannot deny this! We know that this same percentage of children are objectively identified at Key Stage 1, Is it really your opinion that the 20% who we know will leave school iliterate are different from the 20% who are identified as non-readers at Key Stage 1? If the 20% who leave school illiterate are not the same children identified as such at Key Stage 1, the only place they could have come from is from those who were formerly literate and I find that difficult to swallow!
    It is my experience that the 20% can readily be identified in Year 2 and I take the view that this is an opportunity which should not be missed hence my decision to research this possibility. At age 6, there is certainly time for a non-readers difficulties in learning to read to be resolved. National statistics prove conclusively that they will not be resolved by current strategies.
    Again, we can choose to deny this reality if we wish but denying it will not make it go away. In 2012 another 10,000 will leave school illiterate unless osmebody does something! Those who bale teachers for this tragedy are the same people who sell SP training courses or resources for teachers. We cannot go on for ever expecting these children to pay the price for our failure to confront reality.

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