KS1 Teachers, please may I pick your brains about phonics teaching?

(16 Posts)
EleanorofProvence Sun 17-Apr-16 12:53:05

I'm interested in how teaching of reading in KS1 has changed since the introduction of Letters and Sounds. Were the programs and methods used prior to 2007 vastly different or has there been more of a gradual change? Has there been an improvement in reading standards over the past ten years as a result? Has there been any impact on children's comprehension skills? Children with SEN?

Lollylovesbones Sun 17-Apr-16 13:08:28

If well implemented, I would say that phonics teaching has greatly improved reading outcomes. At one point in my teaching career, only real books were used and it seemed that children were almost expected to learn to read by osmosis - some did, of course but others really struggled.

The problem with phonics teaching in some schools is that the focus is solely on learning letter-sound correspondence and decoding text and forgets that this is only one aspect of reading. There is some evidence to suggest that comprehension is becoming an issue for some children who have good decoding skills.

If well taught phonics is one aspect of a rich literary curriculum.

EleanorofProvence Sun 17-Apr-16 13:18:24

I started school in the mid 80s so was 'taught' using real books methods (lucky I could already read pretty well before I started!). Was the switch to phonics teaching gradual or was there a sudden turning point? Would a child who started school in 2004 have been taught very differently from one starting in 2008?

mrz Sun 17-Apr-16 13:30:03

I think you're under a misconception. Letters and Sounds is a government publication but it has never been statutory for schools to use it.

mrz Sun 17-Apr-16 13:32:08

Id love to see Lollys "evidence" about comprehension because it's not upheld by national data.

ClimbedEveryMountain Sun 17-Apr-16 13:37:51

It sounds like you have an essay to write...?

EleanorofProvence Sun 17-Apr-16 13:41:00

Mrz without going into too much detail (it's tedious!) I've been asked to consider how the Rose review 2006 and introduction of Letters and Sounds impacts on reading achievement. The assumption being that a child starting school in 2004 would be taught differently from one in 2008. I'm not convinced there would be much difference as phonics schemes have been widely used for a lot longer than this but I'm not a teacher so don't know how these things affect actual practice.

EleanorofProvence Sun 17-Apr-16 13:44:06

Nah I'm not writing an essay - I have to consider how the results of some research I carried out few years ago might not be valid any more given the significant changes in how children are taught to read in recent years. I wasn't convinced it was that big an issue.

Luckster Sun 17-Apr-16 14:04:52

We don't use letters and sounds. Neither did I in my previous school.

mrz Sun 17-Apr-16 14:34:02

I think that assumption is incorrect. Many schools continued to use the "Searchlight" mixed methods of the National Literacy Strategy after the Rose review and as I said Letters and Sounds has never been compulsory.
The NfER surveys linked to the Phonics Screening Check supports the fact that many teachers are still using mixed methods (although many claim they are teaching phonics) and even posts on MN demonstrate that many schools aren't teaching phonics or using decodable texts.
Letters and Sounds isn't a scheme/programme it's a guidance document with no resources or training so even teachers in schools that follow L & S tend to use resources from other commercial programmes.

mrz Sun 17-Apr-16 14:37:21

Some schools are teaching phonics well (and I suspect they did prior to Rose) and achieving great results others are doing what they've always done with a little bit of phonics thrown in and a great deal of panic when faced with the PSC.

EleanorofProvence Sun 17-Apr-16 14:51:22

Are the NFER surveys available online? Where I am schools seem to have been using Jolly Phonics and ORT books for many many years and any changes have been very gradually implemented. Some of the reading books they were using last time I was working in schools a couple of years ago were the same ones they had when I was a child (a long time ago!).

MrsKCastle Sun 17-Apr-16 15:07:28

Interesting question. I don't think that Letters and Sounds in itself caused that many changes, certainly not overnight. I think it has been more of a gradual process, with the PSC giving the push needed for some schools that were trailing in their phonics teaching. And as mrz says,
some schools are still not getting it right even now.

As far as comprehension goes, if anything I think phonics helps because the children can reach a level of fluent reading more quickly, so the focus can then shift more onto comprehension. And any half decent school will do a lot of comprehension work anyway, regardless of decoding method.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Sun 17-Apr-16 19:57:39

The same issue comes withJolly Phonics that comes with Letters and Sounds though. Even before the Rose review JP could look very different in different schools and some of it most definitely wasn't synthetic phonics.

The main issue is that the effectiveness of the scheme largely depends on the subject knowledge of the teacher teaching it and how closely they stick to it.

mrz Sun 17-Apr-16 20:10:25

One of the problems with Jolly Phonics is that many teachers are unsure what to do after reception because there isn't a clear structure for teaching the alternatives.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Sun 17-Apr-16 21:00:44

The other problem was that a lot of people thought it was the 'actions' that led to its success. I know a couple of schools who were teaching 1-2 sounds a week and very little blending alongside searchlights and ORT around 2001/2002. Oddly it wasn't very successful. I think they are now teaching 'Letters and Sounds using Jolly phonics'.

Even within Reception there wasn't a particularly clear structure for teaching the alternatives. Especially in terms of knowing the best way to teach them. They've missed a trick in not updating and rewriting it IMO.

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