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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. What he means is that many Chinese characters are derivatives of other characters (ie the derivatives are not unique). If a character has, say five closely related characters, a vocabulary of 2,000 'unique characters' would give you access to a vocabulary of 10,000 characters. The same thing happens with English words.

    What concerned me about Diane McGuinness' book ‘Why children can't read' is that her argument for SP rests not only on data demonstrating its effectiveness, but also on pointing out flaws in the arguments put forward by people advocating other strategies. If her counter-arguments are themselves flawed, it weakens her case. I gave the ‘whole word limit' argument as an example of a statement she makes without any supporting evidence. There were many others in the book. There are clearly problems with learning to read using whole word recognition, but making unsubstantiated statements about it that readers have to take on trust, seems a less than satisfactory way of drawing attention to them. I know Prof. McGuinness is using her argument to make a point, not to start a debate about the size of people's vocabularies, but I felt she could havemade that point, and a number of others, in a way that was less open to challenge.
    I don't know why you still suspect me of advocating whole word recognition as method of learning to read. I've explained my position often enough.

    I am completely convinced that SP is the most efficient way of teaching most children to read. BUT, I am not convinced, on the basis of research evidence, that all children will be able to read using SP. A residual number will have, as Prof. McGuinness herself indicates, auditory and visual problems that make even SP difficult. Currently in the UK one can obtain auditory processing assessments through the NHS at only a handful of hospitals, and according to my son's paediatrician there is no treatment available (in the UK, that is). There are at least three schools of thought regarding the impact of visual difficulties on reading, disagreeing with each other vehemently at times, and it is very difficult to get a thorough assessment of a child's eye movements. Speech therapy and educational psychology are severely underfunded, so it's no good expecting help from that quarter. It is sometimes very difficult for my son to understand other people and to make himself understood, but he is not considered, at 12, to have a 'severe' speech problem.

    I have no problems with SP. I do have problems with SP being promoted as a magic bullet.

  2. Like so much in that McGuinness book, it's an awful mixture of wrong and right. I found it incredible that any academic could write such *carp. My copy has dozens of NO!s and Xs in the margin.
    Before I started my analysis of English spelling I wanted to compile an average English vocabulary that most 16-year-olds could be expected to come across during their time at school, and most reasonably educated adults would be familiar with. I compared several children's lists and frequeny corpuses (and involved my husband and some friends as well). Our final list of base words without derivatives (work - but no 'works, working, workings' etc which hugely inflate word counts of English dictionaries) came to just under 6800.
    From learning several languages, I know that roughly 3000 base words are quite sufficient for everyday conversation. So the 50 000 figure is way over the top.
    it would explain why so many children have trouble coping with English.
    On my list of 6800, I identified 2039 that contain some reading traps, like 'busy, build, fruit, ruin'. So even just learning to read English is pushing many kids to the limit.
    For spelling, at least 3695 relatively common English words are tricky in some way (male/mail, do shoe, mellow melon..). No wonder that even educated British adults remain unsure about the spellings of many words.
  3. No-one in this debate has ever claimed that SP will teach every single child to read (not that I am aware of, anyway). In fact, the magic bullet' concept is more in the nature of a meme, or a 'framing' concept, which has been created by anti-SP adherents. However, in the context of the methods which have predominately been used for teaching reading in the past few decades SP is reliably shown to teach a far greater number of children to read. The use of SP reduces 'failure' from some 20% to 3 - 5% (Prof. Jonathon Solity's figures). This is a substantial drop. The fact that so few children are left with continuing problems allows us to focus on truly identifying the cause and working out exactly how they need to be taught.
    If my apparent belief that you still approve of 'whole word irritates you, I can assure you that your continued assertion that SP is promoted as a 'magic bullet' irritates me...
  4. but if you learn to read by recognizing words and you recognize 'rabbit' it can hardly add to the nuimber of word-forms you have to remember to recognise 'rabbits' - i can't see how they are unique forms - i recognize a 'human being' - i don't have to memorize how each person on the planet looks
  5. Goodness me, florapost, this is a blast from the past. Have you been away?

    You may not believe me, but I work with plenty of children who cannot 'recognise' a familiar word once it has had a prefix or a suffix added to it. It may seem obvious to a skilled reader, but it isn't obvious to them; to them it is a new word. It was this kind of phenomenom (i.e children not recognising words which they had just been 'told' or words which were only slightly changed from the familiar 'root' word) which set me off trying to discover what would help them to reliably recognise words.
  6. Googling around on my laptop (brain/ dyslexia /alternative) I came across an article by Abigail Marshall containing this paragraph ;-
    'Impact of Findings for Education
    Brain imaging shows teaching methods that may work well for the majority ..maybe counter-productive with dyslexic children.
    Intensive or systematic drilling phonemic awareness or phonetic decoding strategies may actually be harmful.'
    It has also been written (elsewhere) that it is easier to read a paragraph than a sentence, easier to read a sentence than a word. Are the Phonic Pholk so determined that everything has to be broken down into its minutest form only to be reassembled laboriously to make a word? Wind, read, use - how do you say them? Ah yes, you need context ... good old fashioned context.
    Maizie puts 'told' in quotes; is 'telling' a child a word not teaching?
  7. he final aim of reading instruction is simply to recognise all common English words instantly, like putting names to pictures. And in English, for reading at least, children can get there by different routes.

    In regularly spelt languages like Finnish, Spanish or Italian, children become fluent readers by dint of their own efforts, by learning to decode, fairly slowly to begin with, and then getting faster and faster, until they no longer need to decode.

    Because English spelling is very irregular, with identical letters or letter strings often spelling different sounds (shout – should, shoulder) - children need much more help from adults to reach the stage of fluent reading. They certainly don't get there just by improving their decoding speeds.

  8. I think that if you were to look at the work of Sally Shaywitz, who is in the forefront of brain imaging/dyslexia research, you might find precisely the opposite effect being reported.
    That most be the most inane and meaningless comment ever made about reading..
    Well, almost. We do also have Frank Smith's insistence that the letters in words are completely irrelevant.
    These are not rational statements. I cannot believe that any intelligent person would take them seriously.
  9. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Which of course explains why literacy levels in Spain and Italy are below those of the UK
  10. No, it is not teaching. It is 'telling'. Teaching is giving the child the tools to be able to work a word out for him/herself so as to become an independent reader.
    I work with all our local primary schools' 'hardest to teach' children (I assume that's what they are, else how have they reached Y7 without being able to read competently?) No, I tell a lie, I work with about half of them, we have two comps in the area.
    Anyway, it is my experience that 'telling' a child a word guarantees that they won't have a clue what it says next time they encounter it (which might be in the next line[​IMG] ). On the other hand, getting them to sound it out and blend it a few times guarantees that most of them are able to read it the next time they encounter it, and the next, and the next, and the next...
  11. Maizie, the article I quoted actually uses Sally Shaywitz's material, which I have since skimmed. As for 'telling' v teaching - do you not tell the letter sounds? I find children have trouble reading words that are not in their vocabulary and with some children, that is a horrifying amount (breeze, lawn, paddock, rival just today) so when I tell a word, I explain it and embed it in several sentences and sound it out. I also note words coming up that they may not know and ask them to find them which is half telling , half reading (good for weird names).

  12. I can see that it might be counterproductive, and in my son's case Toe-by-toe gave him a headache because the letters were so close together, but how could it actually be 'harmful'?
    Whoever wrote that?
  13. If it was the same article, it says this after mentioning Shaywitz's work:
    This research suggests that for dyslexic readers, the left brain areas
    associated with phonetic decoding are ineffective. While a non-dyslexic
    reader finds such pathways an efficient route to reading, the dyslexic
    reader essentially becomes entangled in a neural traffic jam. In
    contrast, dyslexics who bypass these mental pathways, relying more on
    areas of the brain involved in nonverbal thought and in analytic
    thought, are able to become capable readers.

    What the writer is assuming is that because the 'left brain areas associated with phonetic decoding' are not working, that they cannot work. In a reader who has always used whole word recognition to read, one would expect to see more activity in right brain areas and little in the left side. The pathways in the brain are to a large extent formed by the sensory information they process. Apart from in people with known brain damage, I haven't seen any evidence yet that there is something organically wrong with the left brains of poor readers - there might be, of course, but it isn't safe to assume it.
    What would be interesting is an MRI scan before and after one of maizie's courses.[​IMG]
  14. Well, wha'dya know!
    Funnily enough Dr Shaywitz has done something just like that. I don't have a link to the actual paper, but here she is talking in the Children of the Code series ogf interviews:




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    Note that Shaywitz is American and in the USA the very nearest they get to SP is 'evidenced based instruction', as defined by the National Reading Panel in the early days of Reading First.
    I'm sure you will be able to find the paper she is referring to, elsiep[​IMG]

    I do apologise for all the gobbledegook. It must be something to do with the website I cut and pasted from..

  15. P.S. Brain plasticity, anyone?
  16. invincible

    invincible New commenter

  17. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    They were interesting, and echoed my own personal thoughts on the subject.
  18. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    From the first link
    One could argue, however, that intensive decoding practice is only the
    first step, necessary but not sufficient, and it needs to be followed by
    a great deal of practice in applying the principles learned.

    Why would anyone think otherwise?
  19. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Yes - the senior management team at my children's school.[​IMG]
  20. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    So in your children's school there is no talk, no storytelling, no story books, no songs, no rhymes, no questions, no discussion, no debate....

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