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What to say when Parents say their child doesn't learn phonetically

Discussion in 'Primary' started by Dalian Daisy, Nov 15, 2010.

  1. invincible

    invincible New commenter

    Assuming children already have the vocabulary to be able to do this. EAL don't. I therefore use a mix of synthetic phonics and whole language approaches in my mixed grade 1/2, 97% German native-speaking class and it works wonders. We do a lot of matching words to picture anyway for extending vocabulary. Some words they can now decode. Others they memorise. I have children who started school 9 weeks ago now reading sentences in English complete with high frequency words and phonetically decodable words and with understanding. when they have more vocab and are able to communicate more, I will teach "tricky" word methods.
    Of course we need phonics to decode but there is no "one size fits all" model. You have to adapt to the needs of the children you have.
  2. 'One' and the one in 'alone' used to be pronounced the same but we now pronounce them differently.
    Examples like this show the greatest strength and greatest weakness of the English language, both spoken and written. The strength is that English is a dynamic language, unlike many other languages, as it readily accepts and incorporates new words, new pronounciations and foreign words.
    The weakness is that our Alphabetic Code is the most difficult and complex of all languages. The Code for written English was devised by French-speaking court scribes using the Latin Alphabet in the early 15th C.
    ... and then it got worse!
    For a brief but fairly comprehensive overview on how the English Alphabetic Code developed, see www.childrenofthecode.org. Click on videos.
    Regarding the child that taught herself to read at home by reading a storybook - a small percentage of children can do this. The point made earlier was that when large numbers of children arrive at school, there is no way that the teacher can immediately discern which children will learn with minimal phonics instruction and which require extensive instruction.
    A friend's child arrived at school able to read Charlotte's Web from cover to cover aloud. The teacher still put him through the same phonics instruction as everyone else. When the parents asked why, the teacher said because at some point he is going to need this.
    Even the children who pick up reading easily still need to know the Code for when reading and spelling gets expedentially harder as they get advance through their education.
    There was a comment about there not being any research which made me choke on my morning toast. The body of scientific, evidenced-based research into how best to teach and learn beginning reading is huge and overwhelmingly conclusive, starting with the work of Jeanne Chall at Harvard in the 50's, Project Follow thorough which ran from the 70's to the early 90's, the work of Adams, Reid, Moats and the on-going work of the (US) NICHD, the 'Clacks' study in Scotland, the work of Tunmer, Gough & Nicholson in New Zealand (the Massey Mafia) and the work of Byrne, Wheldall, Hempenstall, Castles, Coltheart in Australia (to mention just a few)
    The fact that our Education Establishment, which consumes billions of pounds of taxpayers money, is ignorant of the scientific research is a great shame reflected in the appallingly high percentage of students with 'school-acquired illiteracy & semi-literacy'.
    As for the defamatory slur against the teachers who have developed synthetic phonics programs which suggested that people like Debbie Hepplewhite are somehow profiteering to the disadvantage of children, this 'meme' is readily embraced by the aforementioned Education Establishment.
    Billions of pounds of taxpayers money goes to University Schools & Faculties of Education who fail to prepared teachers properly for the rigours of teaching beginning reading; billions and billions of taxpayers money goes to schools and teachers who are ineffective and fail to teach their students to read and write; billions goes to the Education Bureaucracy and Educrats who wouldn't know a phoneme from a graheme if it bit them on **** (see the Parliamentary science committee's interview with the Department's chief science office), ect, ect.
    Then there are the billions and billions of taxpayer's money that goes into trying to fix the problems caused by inital ineffective teacher training and ineffective teacher practice, ususally by doing more of what didn't work in the first place.
    To cast aspersions on those who are teaching beginning reading effectively, based on scientific, evidence-based research, and have spoken out against the Establishment on behalf of of all children is outrageous and this poster should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
    As Kevin Wheldall, developer of the MULTILIT remedial reading program in Australia has said repeatedly, if all teachers knew how to teach beginning reading effectively, there would be no need for MULTILIT.
  3. High Frequency Words are, for the most part, straightforward to decode. Why does everyone seem to think that thye are in some way 'different' from other words?
    There may not be a 'one size fits all' model, but the SP size fits far more children than any other method around at the moment.
    Dereck Underwood; it is perfectly possible that your child worked out phonics for herself. Many children do. Unfortunately we don't know before they start learning to read which ones can do this and which ones can't. Your experience with one child learning to read is not a large enough sample to have any significance. What is more significant is that some 20% of children, on the govt's own rather dodgy measure of reading ('Levels') fail to achieve a L4. And, believe me, any child reading below L4 at age 11 is not a competent reader, or even anywhere near being so.
    What happens when your daughter has to work out a very long, unfamiliar word? How does she go about it (you telling her what it 'says' is cheating [​IMG] )?
    As for those who claim that their children cannot 'do' phonics, it is a very rare child who can't and, while yours might be one of the rare ones, I wouldn't take anyone's word for it without assessing the child myself.

  4. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    Do you mean "exponentially"? I hope you do, otherwise your sentence makes little sense, even though "expedentially" is a real word.
    The abbreviation etc., stands for the latin words 'et cetera', meaning 'and so forth'. The abbreviation ect stands for, amongst other things, electro-convulsive therapy - an outdated means of treating the deluded.
    If you wish to be taken seriously, I suggest you address some of your deficiencies in basic literacy.
    Indeed they are.
    It will never happen. In any event, "poster" refers to the singular, whilst "themselves" refers to the plural. Another basic grammatical error which casts further doubt on your authority to preach on literacy matters. The correct term should be "himself or herself".
    Apostrophe missing. Try "taxpayers' money".
    Oh dear. Try "taxpayers' money", i.e., the money belonging to taxpayers (plural) rather than to an individual taxpayer.
    Do you? The evidence is not apparent from your post.
  5. Nomad's post. Such a useful contribution to the debate.[​IMG]
  6. Actually Nomad's post is quite typical of the Education Establishment (The Blob's) response when the failure of our system is pointed out, especially when it is pointed out how much money The Blob consumes as they sink their snouts in the trough of public funds. It is much easier to attack me personally than it is to contribute anything useful.
    Nomad, if you want to me take you seriously, post in your own name as I do, not anonymously.
  7. With regard to the weakness in my own spelling, grammar and syntax, I was a victim of ineffective whole word, Look/Say teaching and taught myself to read without little to none phonics instruction. I'm now middle-aged and still struggling.
    To any parent or teacher who questions the need for initial effective instruction in synthetic phonics, just tell them to talk to me and I'll let them them know how much harder it is to become fully literate in any other way.
  8. Interested readers might like to dip into the recent thread in the Special Educational Needs section where this has been debated at length.


    Just wanted to say to Yvonne that she cannot make a valid judgement about the efficacy of different methods of reading instruction based on the experience of herself and her son alone.
    I was taught to read using a mix of analytic phonics and Look/Say and taught myself to read and spell. I'm now middle-aged and have years of (successful) experience as a copy-editor for academic journals. My daughter didn't do systematic phonics at school but rapidly became a very proficient self-taught reader and speller. My son did Jolly Phonics at school but struggled and eventually taught himself to read using whole-word recognition. I need to emphasise that no one taught him to do this, his brain did it for him as a result of weekly trips to the library. He is now (at 12) reading at an adult level, but, unsurprisingly, he cannot spell to save his life. I'm aware of, and have taken on board, synthetic phonics teachers' advice to re-visit synthetic phonics to address this.

    I do not conclude from my family's experience that systematic phonics teaching is ineffective - far from it - I was shocked to find, after many years out of the education system, that some schools didn't use phonics at all.

    As far as I can see the evidence, as distinct from personal anecdote, suggests that systematic phonics tuition is the most effective way of teaching children to read. It does not show that SP will enable all children to decode effortlessly or to become fully literate. The Scottish studies suggest that a significant proportion of children still have problems with reading, spelling and comprehension at the end of P7 .

    See http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2005/02/20682/52383 for the Clackmannanshire results - scroll to the bottom of the page for P7 data - and the P7 W. Dumbartonshire results are on the TES thread mentioned earlier.
    I have not yet found data on the literacy levels of school leavers who learned to read using synthetic phonics, but I predict that the figure for those with literacy difficulties will remain at around 20%. This is because, although synthetic phonics is demonstrably extremely successful at helping children with the mechanics of reading, there are other issues in literacy that also need to be addressed in some children. Although synthetic phonics teachers acknowledge this, I'm not sure it's a distinction that is being picked up by government. Unless the issue of residual reading problems is addressed, we will find ourselves in 10 or 20 years time wrongly questioning the efficacy of SP, because we have assumed that SP can do more than it says on the tin.

  9. I predict that you are wrong about this because most of the children I work with (the current '20%') have very little problem with the 'higher order' skills associated with reading, they are just unable to read what the words actually 'say'.
    Of course, the goalposts could well be changed once more children achieve proficiency in the the very basic skills.
    With regard to Clackmannashire, it needs to be said again and again; their apparently 'poor' comprehension results in P7 were actaully extremely good, particularly given the population they were working with. We have a similar (or slightly 'beter' catchment area) and the mean comprehension 'age' of our Y7 intakes is always well below chronological age, 3 months ahead would be excellent.
  10. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    Neither a reason nor an excuse.
    Conversely, I learned to read using the whole-word, 'Look and Say' method in the early 1950s. I can clearly remember working my way through the first 'Janet and John' reading book. The method by which I learned to read has stood me in good stead throughout my primary, secondary and tertiary education as well as throughout my working life without having to resort to excuses relating to illiteracy since I need none. Many millions of people have also learned to read using this method without problem.
    Whole-word recognition has been used effectively for many hundrds of years as a method of learning to read.
    Synthetic phonics may well have its benefits, but it should not be imposed on teachers or children.
    .... tell them, "Yes, I'll get some proper reading books and use a look and say method with your child. It has worked effectively for centuries and I see no reason why your child should not learn effectively too."
    Thn go and tell the HT that you will not be needing the over-priced phonics materials marketed by the money-grabbing likes of Hepplewhite and Miskin, nor will attendance at their expensive training courses be needed.
  11. nomad said:
    "Synthetic phonics may well have its benefits, but it should not be imposed on teachers or children."
    Children and students are entitled to know about our complex English alphabetic code if they are being made to attend schools which purport to develop their full potential and if people purport to be concerned about their education and life chances.
    I totally agree that many people have learned to read through various methods and a combination of methods - but where you are missing the point entirely is that many other people have not.
    Further, many people who could have been taught, and learnt, a lot better had the early reading and spelling (and handwriting) instruction been more systematic and core.
    No-one needs training in synthetic phonics if they take the time to read up on it through information which is freely provided on the internet - including through my own work. It is not a secret - I believe it is a public entitlement to know about one's country's writing and reading system (the alphabetic code if the country has one).
    On the contrary, I have worked very hard for many years to provide the information and guidance that some people, at least, seek and are pleased to learn about.
    nomad - are you responsible for other people's children in your professional role?

  12. I'm not questioning your experience, maizie, but you are not
    teaching entire classes of 4 year-olds. What I haven't been able to find is a systematic
    trial of systematic phonics with beginner readers in a cross-section of schools demonstrating
    the outcomes at 16.
    What concerns me is that if, for whatever
    reason, ten years down the line we still end up with 15% of school
    leavers functionally illiterate (however that is defined) some
    politicians will throw out the phonics baby with the residual-problem-with-literacy bathwater.
    I think we need to be explicit
    about precisely what skills synthetic phonics enables, and precisely
    what skills were lacking in the 15% of children in P7 who were two
    years behind their cohort.
  13. And who do you think is going to fund a longitudinal study of this magnitude? Clackmannanshire was a bit of a breakthrough because it was a longitudinal study. For anything else approaching it I think you would need to look at the USA Project Follow Through in the 1970s, where Direct Instruction (similar to, but not quite the same as SP) was clearly ahead of any other method.
  14. Take your point. But if such a study had been funded in, say, the post-war period, we would have saved a huge amount of cash, argy-bargy and heartache in the long term.
  15. I would agree with this, but you are being a bit disingenuous. There is a use of analogy, rather than phonics, in this method. Rhyme and analogy can be very useful in teaching words that you have to tie yourself and the children in knots to tease out using phonics. If the phonetic structure is so irregular as to only occur in a tiny number of words, and the word in question is a common one, it makes much more sense to learn by sight and then use analogy. That is, in effect, what happens in phonics anyway - you learn that /c/ is a sound, associate the sound with the symbol (by sight) then apply it to words. What's wrong with learning 'one' as a word and then applying what you have learnt to another word - once. Nothing - as you have said. There's no point in going into how 'one' can sometimes be sounded as won - what other words do you need it for?
  16. invincible

    invincible New commenter

    HF words are straightforward to decode for the most part...but not for all. Yes SP fits far more children than any other method around at the moment...but not all.
    Yes, I have seen children who have been failed by whole word approaches alone and by phonic approaches alone. I also see my children develop quickly by using a balanced approach as when you teach a class of 97% non-English speakers to read, they also need to understand the words they are being presented with and not to be able to decode merely for the sake of it. I think a teacher is professional enough to know what their children need and to be able to decide on the best apporach to meet these needs.
  17. I seem to recall that when Ruth Miskin was an HT and was developing her SP programme to use in her school she had a very high percentage of EAL children (over 90%). She managed to achieve 90%+ L4s at end KS2 without teaching any HFWs as 'sight' words.
    I agree about the vocabulary difficulty, I have been working with an EAL child, who initially had minimal English, for the past 2 years. We have managed very well without 'sight words' but I did use lots of pictures.
  18. First of all you are not teaching the connection between the letters and the sounds and children can be very bad at looking all through a word if they think there is no need to. So they miss the fine distinctions between similar looking words.
    My experience of teaching a 'spelling programme' based on onset \and rime (quite a few years ago now) was that the children never generalised from what they did in the lesson to how they spelled words in the curriculum. You could spend hours on 'ake' endings to words, but the next time they wrote 'take' in a piece of writing in class they still wrote it as 'tack'...Besides which, there are hundreds of 'rimes'; lots of lovely memory overload for children who struggle[​IMG] Whereas there are only about 160 -180 common letter/sound correspondences to learn.

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