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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. But the connection between the letter and the sounds is almost unique in the English language in this word. So why not learn the connection between the combination o n e and the sounds 'won'? Children trying to sound out 'one' will always revert to on-ne if they do not recognise the whole word.
    I find this is also true of children taught phonics. They have a tendency to pick out a couple of simple LSCs from a word, and readily forget digraphs they have been taught, unless theer is someone at hand to remind them. There will always be a gap between spelling correctly in a context that is focused on speling strategies and spelling correctly in a context that has multiple focuses (writing a story/account/poem).
    Yes, there are many rimes, but the beauty is that if you have been introduced to the idea/ strategy of using rime you can generalise from words you know because you originally learnt them through applying phonics, which you may have since forgotten. It's a short cut to using phonics to break down every single word you come across.
    I'm not saying it works for everyone, or that it should replace SP, but it can be a useful addition to a child's armoury of skills.
    Earlier in this thread, someone who was advocating an undiluted SP approach let slip that she thought 'who' started with the same sound as 'which', 'where' and 'why'. I think that is very telling. I'm sure she pronounces and reads 'who' correctly. But she is so used to reading it that she has forgotten all about sounding it out. If she sounded it out using the 'wh' sound from 'why' she would get it wrong. Of course we tell children in phonics lessons that the 'wh' digraph can symbolise 2 different sounds, but I'm convinced most children learn 'who' by sight, having sounded it out with support several times. Then they extrapolate to 'whom and 'whose'.
  2. So, to respond to the OP I would say to the parents:
    Phonics is the only way in to reading for the vast majority of children, but your child might also now be using other strategies to tackle words. These strategies are rooted in phonics, but represent a further step, and it is sometimes difficult to see the join. Your child needs to carry on with phonics because it supports the reasoning that he is using so successfully to get words right.
  3. i don't think derek did say his children *could* not do phonics - he said they *had* not done them
    i was the person who said that - i think my daughter is lovely and unique and all that - but is she really so rare? you can assess her if you want, but she's 17 now, and you'd have to take my word about how we found her in tears at 4 with all her confidence gone because she could not get c-a-t = cat - i also said i was not against learning phonics as a useful part of literacy, but i shudder at any one-method-suits-all-so-get-on-with-it evangelical approach to anything
    oh - and daughter say she still can't do phonics - but as for those long and unusual words, what's the issue - how many of them is she going to have to say out loud, once she passed the, for her, equally artificial and offputting reading-out-loud phase - what she needs is the meaning - that comes from a dictionary - the best phonics in the world won't tell you what an unusual word means
  4. Anonymous

    Anonymous New commenter

    To be honest I cannot remeber in detail how my daughter learned to read. It involved having books read to her from an early age every day and then reading to her and pointing at the words and then her reading some of those words.
    I am sure we pointed out the sounds that the letters made. Dr Seuss was very prominent, so she would know that once she could read mouse it also worked for house and all was in fall and ball etc.
    I think she learned a lot through context and intelligent guesses and also that car and bar and far had the same sound in them so when she came to try to look at the word enlarge she just knew what the ar sound was, we did not teach the 'ar' sound explicitly as an individual concept, if you like.
    I am pretty certain she just came to recognise a lot of 'tricky' words like 'who' and 'one' by memory with no use of phonics knowledge, but I cannnot be sure, I did not question her as to how she did it, she just read a lot and enjoyed it and we read a lot to her and it just happened.
  5. Invincible wrote, &ldquo;I think a teacher is professional...&rdquo;<font size="3">But teachers are not Professionals. Teachers make subjective decisions based on their personal beliefs and if they are wrong, it&rsquo;s too bad for the client/student. A real Professional carries Professional Indemnity Insurance so that clients can sue them personally, into bankruptcy if necessary, if the client is not satisfied with the outcome. </font><font size="3">Why Education Experts Resist Effective Practices (And What It Would Take to Make Education More Like Medicine)</font>By Douglas Carnine &ldquo;... an immature profession is characterized by expertise based on the subjective judgments of the individual professional, trust based on personal contact rather than quantification, and autonomy allowed by expertise and trust, which staves off standardized procedures based on research findings that use control groups.
    A mature profession, by contrast, is characterized by a shift from judgments of individual experts to judgments constrained by quantified data that can be inspected by a broad audience, less emphasis on personal trust and more on objectivity, and a greater role for standardized measures and procedures informed by scientific investigations that use control groups.
    For the most part, education has yet to attain a mature state. Education experts routinely make decisions in subjective fashion, eschewing quantitative measures and ignoring research findings. The influence of these experts affects all the players in the education world.&rdquo;

  6. Elsie,
    I have explained repeatedly on this and other threads that my comments are based on the findings of scientific, evidence-based research which, duh! includes longitudinal studies. That you are not aware of these studies does not mean they don&rsquo;t exist.
    &ldquo;... The $1 billion federally funded Project Follow Through study lasted from 1968 to 1994... Standardized test results were collected from almost 10,000 Follow Through children, as well as from kids not in the Follow Through program..&rdquo;"...The NICHD has supported research to understand normal reading development and reading difficulties continuously since 1965. During the past 33 years, NICHD-supported scientists have studied the reading development of 34,501 children and adults...12,641 individuals with reading difficulties have been studied, many for as long as 12 years. In addition, since 1985, the NICHD has initiated studies designed to develop early identification methods that can pinpoint children during kindergarten and the first grade who are at-risk for reading failure. These studies have provided the foundation for several prevention and early intervention projects now underway at 11 sites in the U.S. and Canada. Since 1985, 7,669 children (including 1,423 good readers) have participated in these reading instruction studies, and 3600 youngsters are currently enrolled in longitudinal early intervention studies in Texas, Washington, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, and Washington, D. C. These studies have involved the participation of 1,012 classroom teachers, working in 266 schools and 985 classrooms..."

    Dr. G. Reid LyonThat the Education Establishment ignores the findings of scientific evidence-based research and puts zillions of taxpayers&rsquo; money into fluffy, personal opinion and self-justifying belief masquerading as &lsquo;research&rsquo; shows their immaturity, not the lack of longitudinal studies.
  7. Since when was the definition of professionalism dependent on the client's opinion of the service? Professional indemnity insurance exists to protect professionals from suits over poor practice, not whether the client was satisfied or not. The bane of the lives of professionals is when they do provide a professional, expert service, and the client just doesn't like it. There are plenty of cowboys out there happy to please clients and take the money.
    This is a pastiche of the role of the professional, and is a view responsible for the charade that medical practice has become in some quarters.

    A true professional is someone who has sufficient expertise for
    them to be deemed capable of carrying out a highly complex set of tasks
    without supervision. Professionalism is about content rather than form. One can be a professional without formal training, a certificate of competence, membership of a professional body or professional indemnity insurance, though I can see why those things have come into being.
    Of course professional practice should be informed by research. But since each patient/child/client is unique, standardized measures and procedures can only partially inform good practice. And why the current obsession with control groups? Research design should be driven by the research question. In some research designs you can't have a control group.
    I completely agree about the quality of research in education, but the above suggestions for what should replace it would have a few unwanted outcomes too.

  8. Yvonne,
    I dutifully read, with interest, most of the links you post. I cannot see, in the reports on Project Follow Through, any findings that isolate the variables involved and how they impact on individual students' learning.
    Almost invariably educational research goes something like this: Anecdotal accounts report the Bloggs method as improving student's skills. The Bloggs method is rolled out in a couple of schools, the children are tested and the Bloggs method and is found to have better outcomes than other methods. Government decrees that the Bloggs method be used in all schools. 20% of students continue to &lsquo;fail'. The Bloggs method is abandoned by teachers, and then by government, and the Muggins method then takes its place.

    What we don't appear to be looking at is what specific aspects of the Bloggs-Muggins methods work/don't work and what outcomes those aspects are responsible for. Nor are we very good at looking at the students for whom the Bloggs-Muggins method doesn't work and why.
    There may be no shortage of longitudinal studies, but the ones I've been directed to are often not actually very informative. I'm still looking for a longitudinal study on the outcomes for school leavers of synthetic phonics teaching. Presumably the data from the Clackmannanshire children should be available soon.

  9. Have you read Diane McGuinness's analysis of research into the elements of reading instruction 'Early Reading Instruction: What science really tells us abut the teaching of reading'?
    Or do you not trust anything she writes because her resarch and practice led her to the conclusion that SP instruction is the most effective way of teaching children to read?
    Does anybody's research satisfy your exacting standards? Ken Goodman, Frank Smith?
    Or would you prefer that we just muddle through on what exists at the moment because Ms Piddock isn't happy about the research evidence for SP?

  10. Hi, Derek,
    going on with these words is that the common prounciation has altered
    since the spelling was agreed. There are also regional variations, and
    sometimes pronunication changes because people are ignorant or lazy.

    "sugar"is correctly pronounced "syugar" in some dialects - you
    can occasionally hear BBC radio presenters use it. It fits the spelling
    perfectly, as we agree that we know from phonics that u can be
    prounouced yu.

    In "what" and similar words with wh in them, the h is clearly
    audible in many dialects, though in Scotland it often heard spoken as if
    it is before the w.
    One - no idea. I think someone else explained it earlier.
    - derives from the old word twain, I am certain, so the spelling is a
    hang-over from that. In North East Scotland, the word is pronounced twa.

    I would explain these fascinating insights to any child who was
    interested enough to care (not that many in Key Stage one, I admit!)
    variations in pronunciation can explain apparent discrepancies in
    spellings. They can also cause difficulty reading apparently obvious
    phonetically-conventional words: I child I know had great difficulty
    because he lived in the North of Engand but had a Cockney father. He
    simply could NOT understand a story with the word "gull." He was
    incredulous when I explained that the creature illustrated was not a
    "gaw," but a gull. His dad, unfortunately, persisted in calling it a
    gaw, and obviously if Dad says teacher is wrong, Dad wins!
  11. Where have I suggested we 'muddle through'?
    I have read some of Diane McGuiness's work and some of the reviews of her books. Any reservations I have about her work stem, not from her conclusions, so much as from the fact that I found myself saying 'what about...?' and 'you haven't mentioned...?' quite a few times.
    I'm not saying that no research has been carried out, nor that it is all flawed. What I am concerned about is that none of the studies I've seen have shown that synthetic phonics has significantly reduced levels of 'functional illiteracy' at 16. Nor do they explain why there are still 'underachievers' in schools that have used SP. I'm more than happy to read the relevant research.
    I'm simply pointing out that IF SP is rolled out across UK schools and IF it doesn't significantly reduce the rates of 'functional illiteracy' at 16 (which the research suggests it might not) THEN it is likely to be abandoned (again) by the education system. This has happened before with educational initiatives and it will go on happening until the research is carried out at the right level of analysis to be sufficiently informative.
    Again, I have no doubts about the efficacy of SP. What I have doubts about is the way it is being hyped and the way studies appear not to follow up children who are still 'behind' with their reading, spelling or comprehension.

  12. Here:
    In other words, don't even try to change...
  13. I've just googled Ken Goodman and Frank Smith, because I had no idea who they are!
    I finished my teacher training in 1978, and taught for two years in the primary sector before going off to do other things. Older teachers in the schools I worked in almost invariably used phonics and almost invariably said that they didn't use it exclusively because some children couldn't learn to read using it. I have no idea whether they were right or not, but they had reservations for pragmatic rather than ideological reasons.
    The ideological debate about whole language etc. happened after I had left teaching, and I was completely unaware of it except as one of many theories about language acquisition until I posted something on this forum recently about my son's reading and spelling.
    Having completely missed the two decades of whole-language-and-whatever-else, I feel a bit nonplussed at finding myself tarred with this brush. I originally trained as a psychologist. I studied cognitive psychology under Max Coltheart, as it happens, so if anyone is to be blamed for my 'exacting standards', he must share some of it.

  14. I'm a bit confused by the simultaneous talk of underachievers and of rates of functional illiteracy. The two things
    are not necessarily linked.

    If someone doesn't achieve what they are capable of (they're an
    underachiever) then that's something the education system can try to
    address. If someone doesn't achieve as well as the next person because
    they're a bit dim, there's a limit to how much anyone can do about that.
    With this in mind, does it matter if synthetic phonics isn't a magic wand? All that matters is it's a generally useful and systematic approach that is a good way to start readers off. How far they get along the road will then be due to lots of other factors, not all of which are under a teacher's control.
  15. Unfortunately 'intelligence' is, to some extent, a man made construct rather than an absolute. It could well be argued that failure to read is a cause of 'dimness' rather than a result...
    No, I don't believe that everyone can achieve at the same level, but writing children off as 'dim' because they have failed to learn to read competently, when there is evidence (though not good enough evidence for our friend) that a far greater number can be taught, is not good enough.

  16. I have never written off anyone as dim as a result of their failure ot learn to read, you will be glad to know.
    You can infer from my earlier post that I agree with you that children can be helped to read better than some of them otherwise might by starting them off with synthetic phonics.
    I didn't say otherwise, but the key phrase here is "to some extent." And to some other extent, not. Can't get into a big debate on it I'm afraid - busy.
  17. Not my choice of terminology, I'm afraid. It's the term used by Johnson & Watson in the 'Clacks' study for children two or more years behind their cohort. They also call them 'low achievers'.
    There is no indication as to whether or not those children were functionally illiterate or not. I suspect some of them are. It remains to be seen whether that will still be the case when they get to 16.
    Doesn't that depend on what one means by 'a bit dim' and why the person in question might fall into this categror?
    I agree wholeheartedly. It doesn't matter if it isn't a magic wand. What bothers me is that it is being hyped as one and if/when it turns out not to be, some newspapers/politicians/factions with ideological interests will have a field day.
  18. I think you might be putting words into my mouth, maizie.
    Until the Rose Review was in the offing, it hadn't occurred to me that any schools might not use phonics for teaching reading. I am completely in favour of its use in school. What concerns me is the discrepancy between the hype and the research and the effect that discrepancy will have on the expectations of politicians and the press.
    What also concerns me is what happens to the residual number of children who are still likely to be 'behind' with their literacy skills. Do we have any data on the progress of those children? It appears that we do not. In which case, we should be cautious about the claims made for SP.

  19. I find this really, really ironic. I only got involved in all this reading thing because I was concerned about, and puzzled by, secondary children's failure to make any progress in learning to read. And here I am floored by people who seem to think that a high failure rate is inevitable whatever method is used and who won't believe any evidence which is put in front of them, on the grounds that it isn't really evidence at all.
    In the meantime, any time and money which could have been devoted to investigating the causes of persistent poor literacy in 5% of children, and finding the most effective ways to teach them, is being squandered on the large number of children who suffer from nothing more than inadequate teaching.

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