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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. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Are your alternative spellings based on your prounciation Masha because many don't fit the way they are pronounced in my area of the country
    I would say among not amung (isn't that a type of bean) and nothing not nuthing non not nun for example
  2. HI i wanted to know if there is a book i can purchase that will tell me different phases in phonics and wat they are ?thx affi
  3. Milgod

    Milgod Established commenter

    Really? Do you mean 'o' as in hot?
    What part of the country is that?
  4. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    yes short vowel sound /o/ not /u/
    I'm in the north
  5. Milgod

    Milgod Established commenter

    Ah, that explains it. You lot will learn to speak properly eventually.[​IMG]
  6. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    We holding out against all the foreign influences and sticking to good Old English [​IMG]
  7. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I think that says a great deal about the shallowness of people who jump to such judgements but it doesn't in any way support Masha's belief that changing the spelling system will result in everyone pronouncing words in the same way.
  8. I encountered masha in the flesh 2 or 3 years ago. She has, I recollect, a faintly foreign sounding 'standard English' accent.
  9. btw - inky - i love a brum accent - i know thar's supposed to be a minority view, but there you go
  10. Part of my holiday reading was, on Maizie's (?) recommendation, Diane McGuinness's ‘Why children can't read'. I found this book accessible and informative, and I would recommend it as a useful introduction to the reading instruction debate. I felt the evidence in favour of synthetic phonics being the most effective method of reading instruction was convincing and well-explained.
    However - you could tell there was a ‘but' coming - I have a number of reservations about Prof. McGuinness' claims. I can understand, in the face of the evidence, why she might think that alternative interpretations of the data make no difference to the overall message, but I felt she was quite pernickity about conclusions she doesn't agree with and rather less fussy about possible flaws in her own reasoning. Unfortunately, this strategy can seriously backfire, if one is making assumptions that turn out to be unfounded, for example. I had particular problems with her views of science and her conclusions about reading difficulties.
    First, science. In response to Kenneth Goodman's claims about scientific findings, Prof. McGuinness says: ‘Science can only work when things can be measured and recorded in numbers' (p.127). Not sure about that. Numbers are just one aspect of data. The qualitative properties of data are just as important. And I'm not talking about the rise and rise of ‘qualitative methods'. Qualitative data have been used since the year dot. You need only one observation to falsify an hypothesis, for example. This view of the importance of numbers appears to underpin her opinion that phonetics and linguistics are not sciences (p.128). She claims they are ‘descriptive disciplines and depend on other phoneticians and linguists [sic] agreeing with you.' I agree that languages and their written representations are matters of social convention, but language and writing can be classified in exactly the same way that physics, chemistry and biology use agreed taxonomies to analyse observations. I would also agree that ‘classifying things is not science' (p.128), but phoneticians and linguisticists can generate and test hypotheses, which is the essence of the scientific method. McGuinness also states that ‘a scientific ‘fact' is established when several research studies produce the same results' (p.131). Well... although she is clearly aware of the issues around objectivity, agreement doesn't in any way guarantee the validity of research findings. ‘Several research studies' can be, and have been, wrong. Goodman might also be wrong, but refuting his argument by making statements that are open to question seems rather counter-productive.
    In addition, I know this book is intended for a wide readership that might not want to wade through a fully referenced text, but I felt that Prof. McGuinness' tendency to omit references entirely wasn't helpful. Studies cited in detail are referenced, and there's a bibliography for each chapter identifying some sources, but many statements are made without any indication of their origin. For example, we are told that ‘the average number of words in daily conversations is 50,000' and that the upper limit of the number of visual symbols that can be memorized is 1,500-2,000. Is this from The Oxford Companion to the English Language, mentioned in the same paragraph? I have no idea. Nor how these figures are arrived at.
    Next, reading difficulties. On pp.165-166, Prof. McGuinness lists her conclusions from the research. I've quoted them.
    "Children with reading problems do not have brain damage."
    It would be more accurate to say that most children with reading problems show no evidence of brain damage. Since we know that brain damage can cause reading difficulties, and most children with reading difficulties are not screened for brain damage, we can't rule it out.
    "There is no diagnosis and no evidence for any special type of reading disorder like ‘dyslexia'."
    There is no evidence suggesting a single cause for reading difficulties; there is considerable evidence (some of it cited in the book) suggesting that there are a variety of biological causes for reading difficulties. The concept of dyslexia has arisen through the reification of what was originally a descriptive term.
    "There is no logic to the notion of a gene for ‘bad reading'. Genes do not code for complex skills that have to be taught. Genes code natural subskills which are combined to produce that behaviour."
    Technically genes code for protein synthesis. Variations in proteins, enzymes etc. can have widespread and complex effects on physiology and thus on a range of skills. There is evidence of genetic factors being related to reading difficulties, but since not everyone has the same reading difficulty, you would not expect to see a direct relationship.
    "Of all the subskills ... tests of phonemic analysis and phonemic awareness are consistently the most predictive of reading skill...Children with severe speech problems have trouble hearing rapid transitions between individual speech sounds (and other sounds)... This problem is remediable with proper training."
    First locate the ‘proper training'. I have no doubt that SP can train many children in phonemic awareness, but this conclusion assumes that underlying speech difficulties are remediable and that they are going to be remediated by a speech therapist. Unlikely in the current climate, I would say.
    "Visual problems are not a factor in the vast majority of children with poor reading skills...visual scanning and binocular control are trainable by optometrists specializing in this problem."
    Agreed. If one can find an optometrist who can identify and treat as recommended.
    According to studies cited by Prof. McGuinness, around 10% of the population have significant reading difficulties, most of them due to a problem with speech development, and 10% of the 10% have visual issues (but not auditory ones). Carmen McGuinness' study of the effect of the Phono-Graphix programme showed some remarkable improvements - but that was from 87 children who enrolled in the programme, not from a large representative sample. Although the evidence from SP programmes is convincing, one cannot conclude, as Prof. McGuinness does, that "taken together, these studies provide overwhelming evidence that there is no such thing as ‘dyslexia' or a ‘learning difficulty'" (p.220). Indeed, Prof. McGuinness' insistence that ‘learning difficulty' is synonymous with ‘can't read' is actually quite misleading. There are plenty of children with learning difficulties who can read well.
    There's a difference between the conclusions one can draw about large populations and the conclusions one can draw about individuals. If the roll-out of SP results in 99% of children becoming functionally literate, that will be brilliant for everyone involved. But it needs to be borne in mind that that 99% would represent a wide range of reading skill. It would also leave around 100,000 children who still struggled; one or two in most primary schools and 10 in most secondaries. A research focus on the origin of reading difficulties, rather than on whether there is something called ‘dyslexia' or not, or what reading instruction methods work ‘best', might have saved us a lot of heartache.

  11. I have often puzzled about this (although I do quote it as I trust Prof. McGuinness not to have taken this figure off the top of her head...)
    There is a little more about it here, from the web site http://www.dyslexics.org.uk/main_method.htm
    *GRB is Prof. McGuinness's 'Growing a Reader from Birth'

    I find your conclusion a little ambiguous. Is the phrase
    allied to
    ,and so a time wasting exercise, or is it something which should have been researched and thus saved a lot of heartache?
    I interpret it as being the former. In which case I would agree completely about the time wasted on trying to establish whether there is something called 'dyslexia' or not, but completely disagree with you that a focus on what teaching instruction methods work 'best' is an equal waste of time.
  12. for those who don't bother to follow the link, this site has nothing to do with the british dyslexia association
    but is a home-ed site whose opening line is 'SCHOOL-PROOF YOUR CHILD'
    now - it may still be a great and informative site, but i tread warily around it - nor have i, whilst warily treading, found anything to support the 2000 word claim (and i did have a good look, the last time this came up on this thread)

  13. I'd be interested to know how many people actually use 50,000 words in everyday conversation. I'm also intrigued by the fact that our upper limit for memorising spoken words is 50,000 plus, but is only 2,000 for visual symbols. I trust her not to have taken it from the top of her head either, but there are issues to be taken into account such as typos (an extra 0 in the first number - it happens), what is meant by daily conversation (whose daily conversation), what is meant by symbols (many Chinese characters, like English words, are derivatives of other characters/words). I note Victor Mair refers to 'unique forms'.
    Actually, I would say there is a little less about it there, since Susan Godsland cites Diane McGuinness extensively.
    The problem for teachers is that they are supposed to teach every child to read. The early assumption that children with reading difficulties had the same underlying cause for their reading difficulties was not unreasonable, given the findings of research into acquired dyslexia. When evidence emerged to suggest that children with reading difficulties had different causes for their difficulties in learning to read, searches for the holy grail of the cause of 'dyslexia' should have been abandoned. They weren't, and that has led to an enormous amount of wasted time, effort and heartache.
    Searching for a best method of reading instruction was reasonable too, but 'best' does not mean 'universally effective'. A method that is most effective for most children might be popular with politicians, but it still leaves teachers with the problem of how they tackle the speech and visual issues underlying some reading difficulties - in the absence of access to well-trained speech and language therapy or appropriate opthalmology services.
    If the research focussed on what was causing those speech and visual problems, we might be in a position to help every child read.
  14. This was informative regarding vocabulary size:


  15. As was this on Chinese characters:


  16. Most words are 'unique forms'.
    I don't know quite why we are still 'arguing' this one! Is it because you still don't really think that whole word memorisation is an inefficient method of teaching reading?

    I'm not sure that I entirely agree with you here. As someone who works with children who have struggled to learn to read I would be very pleased if the causes of a discrete child's 'dyslexic' symptoms could be pinpointed (once we have established that it isn't just poor initial teaching) as it would give me a clearer idea of how to approach teaching them. As it is, if a child cannot be helped with the standard 'multisensory phonics' package (the BDA 'approved' Orton-Gillingham method, which is not SP) the 'professionals' seem to be as stumped as anyone else.
    On the other hand, I agree that if the research is focussed on finding one 'cause' then indeed it is not at all useful

    Precisely. (And you can add in more problems to research than just speech and visual ones....)
  17. singular, plural, possessive, -ing - ed -er - ation -able -ible re- un-
    etc etc
    and none of us are any the wiser still about this word-learning limit
  18. I'm not quite sure what your point is here, flora.
    Adding a prefix or suffix to a word changes it from one unique form to another unique form.
  19. It would probably be instructive to look at some 'whole language'/whole word' teaching resources and see how many words children are expected to 'learn' over the course of a year. After all, the 'experts' in whole word teaching must surely know how many words per year children could learn.
    I have seen analyses of these which come up with an approximate word 'count' (I think that Jeanne Chall did some in her research, working on the number of words introduced in basal readers over the course of a reading scheme) but I don't have time to hunt them out at present. Back to work tomorrow!

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