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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. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    Trouble is, too many posters on these forums quote 'research results' selectively to support their own (often evangelistic) beliefs about synthetic phonics.
    Take the Clackmannanshire research, for example. In that research, the comparison was not between phonics and no phonics, but different amounts, speeds and types of phonics programmes (including synthetic) within an early intervention programme [more of that below].
    Frequent reference was made in the media to the “spectacular” results from that research and in particular the results from the boys. What is not so widely reported is that the more spectacular results were in the children’s word recognition skills, rather than in their understanding.
    By Primary 7 the group taught initially by synthetic phonics were cited as reading 3 years 6 months ahead of chronological age, spelling was 1 year 8 months ahead. However, reading comprehension was only 3.5 months ahead.
    The issue of phonics was only part of the intervention to which the pupils in Clackmannanshire were subjected. In addition to the comparison of the two types of phonics there was a varied programme: nursery nurses were introduced into Primary 1, story bags; home-link teachers; homework clubs and nurture groups. There was also a comprehensive staff development programme for which stressed making learning purposeful, motivating children and the importance of noticing and building on success.

  2. *** nomad. We would be delighted at our secondary school if our pupils' average reading & comprehension age on entry (Y7) was 3 months ahead of chronological age. As it is, it is anything between 6 & 9 months lower than CA.
  3. Hate to labour the point, but those appear to be the mean scores you are citing, nomad. Many children were significantly more than 3 months ahead of their CA but between 6% and 14% (depending on which aspect of literacy was measured) were 2 years or more behind CA.
  4. Since all children are individuals, and learn in a variety of different ways, surely synthetic phonics should be treated as <u>A</u> strategy for teaching reading, not <u>THE</u> strategy. I agree with a phonics first approach, but in my experience some children progress faster in reading with a variety of strategies to draw upon, as they don't all pick up phonics at the same rate!

  5. Just tell them to read this!

  6. nomad

    nomad Star commenter


  7. 1. yes
    2. as long as a child who is genuinely confused by synthetic phonics does not have it continually forced on them
    3. maizie - as you are apparantly the only person in the country who can assess (2), i guess you could be busy
    look - 99 children out of a hundred (or many more) will understand fractions better if you draw 12 circles in 4 rows and circle a row to show a quarter and a column to show a third. the hundreth (or whatever) child will have a visual perception problem which is a form of dyspraxia - would you insist they continue with the rows of dots even if their understanding of numbers meant they were totally happy with 1/4 of 20 = 5 etc?
    nomad - thanks - i had it in my mind that clackmanshire wasn't as straightforward as presented here, but didn't have time to check the details
  8. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    It is perhaps worth reminding the SP evangelists that the House of Commons committee report following the Rose Report stressed that: &ldquo;WHATEVER METHOD [my caps] is used in the early stages of teaching children to read, we are convinced that inspiring an enduring enjoyment of reading should be a key objective. This can be endangered both by an overtly formal approach in the early years and by a failure to teach decoding.&rdquo; (p.36)
  9. Medicine is a science, teaching is an art. Even so, research in medicine is open to human error, false conclusions and the influence of bias and vested interests.
    In teaching, it is even more difficult to decide what influences are causing particular results. You can have control groups, but how can you isolate out the one factor which the control group is not receiving? As somebody noted, the Clackmannanshire study was not just about SP. There were other factors in the mix that could have influenced results. In teaching and learning there are multiple and complex factors - eg The faith and enthusiasm of teachers about a method, the timetable, the support of management, the high or low profile of the work undertaken, the rewards for success, the motivation of pupils etc. etc.... It is not an exact science. Children and teachers are all different and unique individuals, systems within schools tend to have differences, catchment areas and demographics are a factor. We all know every class is different too, and what works with one class will not necessarily work with another
    This is why there has to be an interplay between the pursuit of what appears, through research, to be a useful and successful strategy, and the experience of the individual teacher within his/her class. So, the theorists need to listen to the class teachers and the class teachers need to listen to the theorists. Then, maybe, a true picture will emerge of a path to follow with children and reading, defined by methodology and not by dogma. This is professionalism in teaching. If teachers are to blindly follow edicts from above which their own experience does not confirm - where's the professionalism in that?
  10. Thank you debbiehep that was informative.
    Just wanted to point out that I am not 'attacking' the Clackmannanshire study, I am drawing attention to what its data indicate.
    Mean scores are a useful indicator of the overall changes following an intervention. But children are discrete individuals. You cannot say that if, after an intervention, child A's reading age was 3 years above CA, but child B's was 2 years below CA, that both children's reading age was 6 months above CA.
    There appear to be two populations in the Clack study; those whose reading improved significantly using SP and those whose reading does not appear to have done. If you were to take out the scores for children who were 'low-achievers', SP would produce even higher gains in reading age. But then you are left with the question of why the low-achievers didn't appear to benefit. One can't pretend low-achievers don't exist, or that their low reading age can be compensated for by the high reading scores of other children.
  11. Milgod

    Milgod Established commenter

    <font size="2">I'm not going to lie (I was gonna say gonna but I thought I'd get told off) I really wanted to get involved in this thread. However, I don't know much about phonics teaching as I have never taught it.</font> <font size="2"></font>
    <font size="2">I did think Derek made a good point about the word 'who' that nobody seems to have answered. How are we meant to decode it? Can anyone shed any light? </font><font size="2"></font>
    <font size="2">I have also noticed that there are those that defend this synthetic phonics teaching like it is their own child. Is it a case of too early to tell?</font>
  12. nomad - I asked before what you do. Are you responsible for other people's children?
  13. I've not read all the posts so excuse me if I repeat anything that has gone before.

    I would happily argue all day long that I don't and never have read phonetically (under what seems to be today's standard). I do not sound out letters and never have to anything like the extent children do now. I've learnt and use a variety of other strategies - searchlights maybe (I can't even remember what they are either). 'th' is about the only thing I've sounded out. I learnt mouse and house - they were similar. Mrs Yellow hat lived in a yellow on a yellow WHATEVER. I learnt the word yellow. Mellow is easy to spell now.
    I can't teach phonics very well - I have to have lots of pictures and preparation time to figure it all out.
    Microsoft taught me to spell too.
  14. what is the point of this question - does being responsible for other people's children (and i have no idea what nomad does) make you more able to evaluate research findings?
  15. Very interesting thread. But a slight digression - someone mentioned the man with glasses in Oxford Reading Tree books - I don't remember ever noticing him when my children were reading the books fifteen years ago - but, earlier this week, I was listening to a child read, and he asked me about 'the man' - so some children do comment! Is it the artist?? Do we know? Do we care? (OK, not a very phonics-linked question, I know.)
  16. Anonymous

    Anonymous New commenter

    As I spend at least an hour a day each day of my working life listening to Biff, Chip, Floppy and the rest do their stuff anything of vague interest makes life a little more bearable.
    I like the fact that their are often funny little things hidden away in the pictures, like buttons for a tea making machine on the control panel of a spaceship and funny things written on shopping lists in kitchens.
  17. I defend SP teaching because of the children that 'other methods' have failed; who arrive at secondary school thinking they are thick, thoroughly bored with school because they can't follow what is going on half the time and whose potential is being seriously curtailed because of their inadequate literacy skills. I defend SP because if we didn't waste time and money on the children who are merely inadequately taught we could give far more attention to those who have real problems.
    I can read, my children can read, so how reading is taught is immaterial to me and mine. The only personal interest I have in it is that current, non-SP methods keep me in a job. So really, supporting SP could be seen as cutting off my nose to spite my face.

    Some schools have been using SP for years. It is not too early to tell.

  18. I would be interested to look into all the aspects of teaching reading to identify areas where it is inadequate. Guided reading, for instance, with young children, seems doomed to inadequacy because with the best will in the world children are given very scant personal guidance in guided reading sessions. 20 minutes for a group of 6 inevitably feels deeply unsatisfactory even when following 'best practice'. This sometimes seems to have almost totally replaced reading 1 to 1 with an adult, which can be like an intensive reading lesson in which each child's needs can be assessed and addressed. I know the1 to 1 still exists in most KS1 classrooms, but the main focus seems to have shifted to guided reading.
    Phonics sessions usually seem well-paced and most children join in, but I still worry about the ones that switch off and leave it to others to take part. The lessons provide good background teaching and practice, but fail some children whose lack of understanding and failure to 'catch on' goes unnoticed.

  19. Memory and phonics are not diametrically opposed. Memory is the capacity to recall something, it is not a tool that enables one to capture that information to begin with. The information must be encoded one way or another that allows it to stick in the memory. I think when this parent says memory they probably mean "by rote" or "by sight" or "by repetition" or something like that. In other words, phonics is a tool of the memory, just as rote, or repetition or sight is a tool of the memory. The fact is that phonics is a complex tool with very specific code which needs to be learned. The outcome of learning the code exponentially increases the number of words at each step that a person can decode as opposed to the simpler process of learning each word repetitiously, by sight or rote.

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