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This Letters and Sounds is just baffling me.

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by mrszzz, Dec 20, 2011.

  1. When it comes to teaching something so essential as reading and spelling (and writing) which is about 'life chances', then we cannot leave the quality of teaching and teacher understanding to chance.
    The reason that the government is promoting systematic synthetic phonics so heavily is that those people who are able to visit schools nationally and who see national results appreciate that there is a big difference between schools using phonics programmes which are truly rigorous and systematic, and those schools where it is much more down to 'chance' as to the quality of the teaching and learning opportunities.
    I am totally sympathetic with Y's passion - and her reaction to years of government initiatives and various pressures the teaching profession has had to endure.
    But this literacy basic skills stuff transcends, in my opinion, the frustrations and upsets of the teachers themselves.
    I have been one of few on the early years forum over the years who has encouraged early years practitioners over and again to object to the various pressures placed upon them.
    I feel extremely sensitive to the fact that both the EYFS as a legal and formal state of affairs was rolled out to the country at the very same time (indeed even in the very same events) that the Letters and Sounds document was rolled out.
    At that time, those in authority did not appreciate that (again, in my opinion) Letters and Sounds amounted to detailed guidance - and not a class programme per se.
    Thus, teachers and assistants across the country have had to work extraordinarily hard to equip Letters and Sounds with resources and a mnemonic system in an endeavour to provide daily phonics teaching for reading and spelling for classes of 30 or huge groups of children less than five in Foundation Stage settings.
    Now, in many cases, after years of very hard work, such teachers and assistants may hear that what they have provided is possibly not rigorous or systematic enough - hence the government's promotion of various phonics programmes which have had to be scrutinised to see if they pass muster.
    In terms of age-appropriateness, this is a difficult one. It strikes me as ironic, however, that many people who are not happy about systemtic phonics teaching have not been equally concerned when learning to read and write was as much about what was accomplished at home than what was taught in school.
    Many children, whatever the prevailing fad for teaching reading, basically learnt to read by reading book by book by book - picking up the 'words' as they went along.
    I, too, have been the mum at home who received the tobacco tin with the Roger Red Hat words to familiarise my children with before they got the Roger Red Hat book. So, this painstaking process went on and I look back in horror from my perspective as the struggling mum trying to get my children recognising the words (I did not know about phonics then), to my children's perspective - two in particular had great difficulty recalling word shapes apart from the name 'Roger Red Hat' with its distinctive capital letters and word length.
    And I look back in horror, too, at the poor teachers who knew no better (and I was a trained teacher and definitely knew no better at that time).
    All the rhyming, story-reading, alliteration, singing etc. made no real difference to the capacity to read the book after book books coming home.
    We now have a scenario where increasingly teachers and assistants are learning more about the alphabetic code and the three core skills of blending, segmenting and handwriting - and knowledge and skills for teaching are being honed increasingly as time goes on.
    However, not all the lecturers in the universities by any stretch of the imagination either agree with, or are knowledgeable about, synthetic phonics teaching.
    And so many early years teachers and advisors are railing against feeling that they must provide prescriptive synthetic phonics teaching for 4+ year olds.
    Some of us have been around for so many years that we have experienced many prevailing teaching methods and many different philosophies for teaching.
    What we have now, in general terms in England, is an anti-paper culture. The anti-worksheet attitude is extraordinary. You would think that a piece of paper and pencil activities are tantamount to child-abuse.
    We have mass groupings of tables rather than lessons where for some of the time, the children face forwards.
    We have mass children learning to write sitting on the floor using whiteboards.
    Have a look around your primary schools to see how many children hook their wrists around and write from above the letters and words - not below.
    We have throwing out of desks not just in Reception but in some key stage two settings.
    This is just the tip of the iceberg.
    Teachers love it when children come to school with loads of interests, ideas, skills - and yet we are not supposed to teach directly - nor value product - only process.
    We cannot allow filming of children's plays and concerts and yet we never have a camera out of our hands to record little children's every last move.
    And so it goes on.
    I despair.
  2. http://community.tes.co.uk/forums/p/32739/2631268.aspx
    Does anyone remember this episode - see link above? (I'm not expecting anyone to actually read the thread - just recall the era).
    The point is that I totally sympathise with overwhelmed and indignant early years personnel - but I also think they need supporting in terms of daily step-by-step teaching and learning of our extraordinarily complex alphabetic code - and how to make it learnable by young beginners and those for whom English is an additional language.
    Y. suggests that the government is not trusting its teachers, but I don't think it's about lack of trust.
    I think it is about lack of training, lack of knowledge about reading and spelling instruction, subversion of the research and leading-edge findings from people who are often ignorant of what is possible with systematic synthetic phonics teaching (and what it really consists of).
    I find many teachers have not even heard of the Simple View of Reading (the current reading model to base our understanding of the processes involved with reading). How scary is that when Rose made this recommendation in 2006?
  3. Debbie, I think it is telling that you say you did not know anything about phonics when your children were learning to read through 1,2, 3 and Away. This perhaps explains why you are so vociferous in advocating SP -to you it is a 'new way'. I find it hugely surprising that anyone who can read can say that they don't (or didn't) know about phonics. Are you saying that you did not know 'phonics' as a term, because that is more believable. Surely all readers know that letters and groups of letters correspond to sounds, and that knowing the sounds is a integral part of the reading process. It is not new but as old as written English.If you regard phonics as something new perhaps it becomes understandable that you would also regard is as a discrete and sufficient method - a new-found panacea to replace all the mistaken past methods. And this goes towards explaining the belief that seems to be implied that all the alliteration, rhyming and stories do not contribute to learning to read. I would agree they are not sufficient. However, to abandon these skills and concepts as anathema to phonics is mistaken, as children need both.Now that your brand of phonics (and this is so much more than just phonics -it is a specific phonic approach, delivered in a specific way, at a particular time) has gone mainstream it is time to develop a critique of it, in the interests of good old-fashioned scepticism and a touch of cynicism. And that cynicism is grounded in the realisation that phonics is not new and is not a panacea, and I have to say, inthe knowledge that those with vested interest are not going to bite the hand that feeds them.
  4. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

  5. thumbie,
    Do you always tell people that they are not thinking what they think they're thinking when it doesn't fit with what you believe?
    You've already told me tonight that I'm not doing what I think I'm doing when I teach multi-syllable word attack skills and now you are being breathtakingly patronising towards Debbie.
    Not to mention insulting... Debbie was posting here about SP long before she developed her own programme.

  6. thumbie - you keep going on about people such as me saying SP is the only way.
    Do you never follow-through on links I have provided which demonstrate equal attention and promotion of language and literature?
    Also, of course I know that phonics is not new - I have studied the field of reading instruction avidly for many years - supported in this by people such as maizie who has an enormous background knowledge and understanding of the research - current and historic.
    One of my points, however, is that I was not trained in phonics (or even the teaching of reading at all) when I was a student-teacher.
    My first training in this area was actually the National Literacy Strategy - already years after I had become a qualified teacher.
    And already years after I realised that something was fundamentally wrong with how reading was taught (or not taught) because I picked up the pieces of failed children as a, then, middle school/junior teacher in the main.
  7. And what I am also going on to point out - is that simple, fundamentally common sense type practice such as children learning to spell and write with paper and pencil activities sitting at desks is regarded as child abuse by many - so I think the teaching profession has some very strange notions in amongst all the ideas of creativity and child-initiated.
  8. Indeed.
    That's why people come up with daft notions, such as that u can use phonics
    to teach children to read words like
    should shoulder shout or one woman won
    or to teach spellings like
    here/hear, there/their/ see/sea.
    Glad to see that more and more people like Thumbie are having the courage to speak out against such daft notions.
    I don't think that anybody with a smidgeon of intelligence would seriously argue that literacy teaching should not begin with phonics (in the sense of teaching the main sounds of English graphemes for roughly the first year of instruction). Nor can I see how children can learn the rudiments of writing without phonics.
    It is clearly also far better to help children with learning to read - rather than just give them books and expect them to learn by themselves (although some manage to do so).
    It's the wild claims that the promoters of phonics courses now make about SP and their particular wares that are ridiculous.

    Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that English spelling is a mixture of
    sensible spellings and absolutely insane ones
    ( <font color="#0000ff">www.EnglishSpellingProblems.co.uk</font> ),
    and then have sensible discussions about how best to help children cope
    with the ones that cause all reading and spelling problems?

  9. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Merry Christmas Masha
  10. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

  11. I was responding to what you wrote on here Debbie, about not having known about phonics when your children were young, and about the way awareness of alliteration, rhyme etc had not been of use when it came to reading. If your links to other stuff contradict this then perhaps it is unwise to claim it in your posts.
  12. This is a public forum and I am putting forward a viewpoint, not telling people what they think - just telling what I think- if I think differently I will say so, and especially if I have logic on my side. I have no idea why you think I am patronising, but apologise for taking your breath away:)I don't know how many casual visitors to this site would be aware that Debbie makes an income from SP, but she doesn't make a secret of it, so why should I? There are certain ramifications to that which she must surely be aware of. It would be patronising to think otherwise.
  13. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Thank you everyone for the useful links you have provided. I will be checking them out after Christmas.
    While I make mince pies I frequently ponder why people don't get so excited about different methods of numeracy teaching - the same kind of 20% disaster scenario and ideas about systematic teaching of the basics would seem to apply there too. Is it because the maths specialists are illiterate? [​IMG]
  14. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    actually they do Mystery ... http://www.andrelleducation.co.uk/BMFreebies/CLICsample.zip
    Big Maths' is based upon the principle that there are 4 core skills that lie at the heart of numeracy. These core skills form the platform for virtually all other maths skills and are affectionately known as CLIC, Counting, Learn its, It's nothing new! and Calculations

  15. I think you are abusing the word 'logic' here in the same way that you abuse the word 'guess'.
    I think that you must have missed my point about Debbie posting help and advice on here long before she developed her own programme. Since 2003, you'll note. She does not promote her programme, merely gives the same advice and addresses the same problems as she has always done. But as you have not been on TES for very long I expect you don't know that.
  16. Maizie, I don't see the relevance of when Debbie started posting on here. She is free to post whatever she likes just like the rest of us, and I am aware that she gives advice and posts useful links etc. And one can get lots of useful stuff from her website, some of it free.
  17. Gawd! The relevance is that what she says is not affected by commercial considerations as you are trying to insinuate. It hasn't changed in the past 8 years.
  18. If u don't think like Msz, Maizie and Debbie, u will get pounced on pretty much every time, no matter how much logic u have on your side.
    But take comfort from the fact that many other people who have not swallowed the phonics gospel hook, line and sinker read these threads too.
  19. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Have you read the news about ITT Masha?
  20. What have I let myself in for by moving from KS2 to EYFS. Believe me when I say that Letters and Sounds in baffling but that is nothing compared to the confusion as to why I am going to spend so much time writing down observations of all the things the children do!!!!
    Thank you for your comments unfortunately many were way above my head.

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