Is phonics the best way to teach kids to read? Nick Gibb and Michael Rosen debate

(1000 Posts)
ElenMumsnetBloggers (MNHQ) Tue 10-Jul-12 12:38:12

Last month all year one children in England had to take a phonics screening check, and phonics is being rolled out across the country as the way to teach children to read. But is this too prescriptive? We asked children's author Michael Rosen and Education Minister Nick Gibb to debate phonics. Read their debate about phonics as a tool for children to learn to read here and have your say. Do you agree with Nick Gibb or Michael Rosen? Is phonics the most effective way to teach children to read? Should we use several ways of teaching reading, or concentrate on phonics? Join the debate.

BarryShitpeas Tue 10-Jul-12 12:39:30

oooh marking place.

Feenie Tue 10-Jul-12 12:39:56

I can't. I have read lots if Michael Rosen's views on the subject, and he just make me cross.

Have gone right off him.

littleducks Tue 10-Jul-12 12:50:33

Hmm, whilst I really like Michael Rosen as an author and his section is a far more interesting and lively read than Nick Gibb's bit, I really dont agree with his points.

DD learnt how to read using phonics, at the very early stages I would endeavor to provide books that were designed to read using phonic knowledge, so easily decoded. After age 5 (the end of reception) this was no longer required, she is now able to read any 'normal' books and asks if she struggles on a word. Throughout that time I also read to her, so I really think she didn't miss out. If she had learnt using another method she would also have been restricted at the earliest stage to books containing words she knew etc. That is the point of reading schemes, you need easy books for early readers, they can then progress on to children's literature.

I'm not sure if I agree with the phonics test, dd took it and enjoyed it. I havent had the results yet.

learnandsay Tue 10-Jul-12 12:50:53

Michael Rosen seems spot on to me. He's saying that he's not against phonics, just that decoding and reading, (what he calls reading for meaning,) (that's redundant because all reading is for meaning, but anyway,) aren't the same thing and that attention should be paid to both. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

rabbitstew Tue 10-Jul-12 13:17:50

The problem with Michael Rosen's argument is that he claims that some schools have forgotten to teach reading for meaning and trying to make reading something that is viewed as pleasurable - but he produces no evidence whatsoever that this is happening. Which schools have forgotten to ensure children are reading for meaning and enjoying a variety of texts? Are these the same ones which were producing a huge proportion of children who couldn't read by the end of year 6 and who didn't enjoy reading, for meaning or any other reason (ie very bad schools) or are new schools suddenly popping up which have forgotten how to teach anything other than decoding????? It seems like a crass and silly argument to argue against something if it hasn't actually had the effect he appears to fear on schools which weren't already failing their children.

ATOmum Tue 10-Jul-12 14:05:17

I am concerned about this change in approach - because I think any 'one size fits all' approach to something as fundamental as reading, is going to leave some kids behind, and I don't think any child should have to be.
From my point of view, my eldest read fluently at 3, because he really wanted to, and I found that at that age phonics didn't make a lot of sense to him, and actually 'look and say' which is how I learnt, worked much better. Developmentally, at that age, children are looking to make connections and rules, so with 'look and say' they develop their own internal system of how language works and the sounds that letters make in particular contexts. At 6, he now has a reading age of over 10, but because he has an intuitive understanding of language rather than one learnt through phonetics it's likely that he'll not do particularly well on the phonics screening tests (quite frankly, when the teacher showed them to me, I don't think I would either!).
The difficulty with this system is that English isn't an entirely phonetic language, so focussing exclusively on phonetics and not using a variety of methods seems innately problematic. I also fear that it may leave behind those that do well with the current system. The research Nick Gibb quotes said focussing on phonetics was particularly helpful for those that were struggling, but what about those that weren't? Does it really solve the problem if it's just different children struggling?
As an aside, the research he quotes is from the US, which is actually a more phonetic language than UK English is, both in some of the spelling differences and the pronounciation. I remember once having to learn an American accent and being amazed at how many more letters you had to pronounce!
I understand the desire in any education system to simplify and use a 'one size fits all' approach to teaching, but actually different children learn different ways and surely the system should support teachers in finding the best way for each individual child to learn, rather than dictating that they all have to learn one way? Surely reading's too important not to give every kid the best chance they can at it, not just the kids that happen to suit the method of learning currently in government favour.

nickelbarapasaurus Tue 10-Jul-12 14:12:27

i agree with Michael.

i didn't learn to read by phonics, i learnt to read by word recognition and context.

i learnt phonics later when i was reading much harder stuff (by coincidence, not by actually setting out to learn it).

still don't quite understand the whole alphabet as phonic sounds.

My special skill is reading. It always has been. I can't do anything else to any decent standard. Reading is my talent.

nickelbarapasaurus Tue 10-Jul-12 14:13:26

rabbitstew - two words "Biff" and "Chip" add "Kipper for 3, if you like.

you can't tell me that that series of books is encouraging reading for pleasure!

FallenCaryatid Tue 10-Jul-12 14:21:32

This Nick Gibb?

'Just days after being appointed as Minister for Schools in 2010, Gibb was criticised after leaked information suggested he had told officials at the Department of Education that he "would rather have a physics graduate from Oxbridge without a PGCE teaching in a school than a physics graduate from one of the rubbish universities with a PGCE'

So he doesn't think teachers know what they are doing anyway, and he has a background in law and accountancy. Just the sort of expert I love to listen to.
Synthetic phonics good, building in other strategies also good, treating each child as an individual and adapting methods where necessary in order to enable progress even better.
Learning to read for enjoyment is essential, otherwise the child will not practise or use the skills they have been taught independently and they will remain poor readers.

EdithWeston Tue 10-Jul-12 14:22:07

Marking place.

Are you going to steer them towards the current (and many previous) phonics threads, so they have seen what is already underway before they wade in?

Is there any particular reason why you have not included with these two a someone who actually teaches children to read and has current first hand experience of what happened in a classroom. For I hope this will do more than make (baseless) comments about fostering the love of reading as if this were incompatible with phonics (it's not) or isn't happening in classrooms across the land (it is).

kesstrel Tue 10-Jul-12 14:25:08

"actually different children learn different ways and surely the system should support teachers in finding the best way for each individual child to learn, rather than dictating that they all have to learn one way? Surely reading's too important not to give every kid the best chance they can at it, not just the kids that happen to suit the method of learning currently in government favour"

But the problem is that individual teachers rarely spend more than one year with any child, so how can they know what method is best for a particular child in the long term? We know from remedial reading teachers that the illiterate older children they try to help are still trying to "guess from the picture clue" and identify words as wholes. We also know that some children who seem to be fluent "look and say" readers early on when the texts are simple and predictable run into serious trouble later when they hit the limits of their memories for whole words.

On the other hand, we do know that when children are taught well with modern phonics programmes in the first years at school, without "other strategies", 95% plus of children learn to read. That's why not only "the government of the day" but the previous government have concluded that the sp method is the best for getting all children to read.

FallenCaryatid Tue 10-Jul-12 14:29:33

'But the problem is that individual teachers rarely spend more than one year with any child, so how can they know what method is best for a particular child in the long term?'

Believe it or not, we track all our children, record interventions and methods that have been tried and how successful they have been. We have an extended hand over to the next teacher with written formal and informal records and verbal observations as well.
Teachers just don't start cold at the beginning of each year thinking 'Ohhh what shall I do?'

rabbitstew Tue 10-Jul-12 14:36:05

Biff, Chip and Kipper are not phonics reading books... which kind of proves my point that bad schools teach badly by whatever method they use.

Rosen's argument hinges on phonics not being enjoyable as well on if something isn't enjoyable and meaningful to start with it won't be so later. Both are nonsense.

There are good, fun phonics systems (my DS1 quite enjoyed piper books - he could read a full book on the first day due to their system), it can be taught in an enjoyable way even with dry material like Phonics Pathways (which is just sounds and syllables practice). Even when teaching phonics, and before, one can give the joy of reading by reading aloud and modelling reading (children are more likely to read for pleasure if they see the people they admire doing it regardless of teaching method).

People get more pleasure out of things they are good at doing. Many find the beginnings of learning any new thing frustrating and dull. Once the tools and skilled are mastered, things can be enjoyed more freely. Good phonics training gives children the tools and skills to do that. Once past the frustration of turning the squiggles into sounds then we focus on turning sounds into meaning without working about the mechanics of it.

Greythorne Tue 10-Jul-12 14:54:58

Biff, Chip and Kipper books are whole word recognition! Not a phonics scheme. And yes, they are grim.

kesstrel Tue 10-Jul-12 14:55:40

Caryatid, I am sure good schools do that, (although not sure how many schools use proper tests of reading fluency and accuracy, plus spelling accuracy in Year 6 to measure outcomes accurately). But clearly a lot of schools do not, or we wouldn't have 20% of our children coming out of Year 6 functionally illiterate. Also, I think we have to be wary of how many children have been mis-labelled dyslexic when they would have been fine if they had been taught with phonics-only (plus of course lots of stories, thymes, books read-aloud etc) from the start.

Hulababy Tue 10-Jul-12 15:02:58

Some ORT books are phonics based.

And phonics isn't just about reading - it is also for spelling later.

My DD did learn to read initially through look and say - I know that now but didn't really pick up on it being a problem at the time. Sadly look and say only gets you so far esp once writing and spelling comes into things, and words become far more complex and stories much longer, and where more non fiction comes into play. If a child also subconsciously picks up on the rules as they go along that is great - but many don't.

A good grounding in phonics is, imo, essential for all children for both reading and writing. Once that grounding is gained it will make a huge difference for almost all children.

But then ime most schools do not prevent children from using many methods to help with reading - context, comprehension, etc all occur in schools ime too - just more focus goes on phonics daily.

nickelbarapasaurus Tue 10-Jul-12 15:03:12

I don't know what type of books biff and chip are - they're crap and boring and have no place in teaching children to read for fun.

That comment on them wasn't supposed to be a reflection on phonics, it was a reflection on teaching reading.

the WRI phonics books are no better, though.

I do like the usborne phonics books (thankfully now back in print!)

FallenCaryatid Tue 10-Jul-12 15:04:19

How much has been crammed into the primary curriculum by successive governments, way beyond the aims of literate, numerate and socialised?
Limited time and shallow exploration of what is possible.
For a period of time in my career, just after the Literacy hour was introduced it seemed as if studying books themselves were going to be replaced by a series of extracts, often in poster format. Anyone else remember Letts? Or 100 Literacy lessons for the terminally confused?

kesstrel Tue 10-Jul-12 15:04:49

Michael Rosen has been trying to discredit synthetic phonics for a long time, by trying to associate it with the idea that it denies children access to real books. He has always supported the "whole language" movement with its ideas of "reading as a psychological guessing game" as Ken Goodman, one of the founders of the movement put it, which claimed that learning to read was natural in the same way that learning to speak is (an idea that has not been comprehensively disproven). Whole language has never been against phonics as such, only against teaching it in a systematic way, because its advocates held that children need to "discover" phonics principles for themselves. Quite how he thinks teachers should decide which children need to actually be taught, and which can be relied on to "discover" for themselves, I don't know.

FallenCaryatid Tue 10-Jul-12 15:05:04

I like SP, not arguing against that.

HumphreyCobbler Tue 10-Jul-12 15:08:44

I have never come across a school that uses only phonics in the teaching of reading.

I have come across many schools that teach phonics really badly, thus missing out a vital part of learning to read.

The phonics check does JUST that. Checks phonic knowledge. If a school does not teach phonics properly, or children do not know their phonics properly the teachers need to be aware of it in order to fix it.

This does not mean that the other aspects of reading for meaning and enjoyment are not also taught.

kesstrel Tue 10-Jul-12 15:09:20

Oh, Caryatid, I agree with you about the primary curriculum! It's just ridiculous, especially for the younger children. I dislike this government immensely, but I think they are right about slimming down the mandatory curriculum, and I hope they succeed.

I think we need to remember though that the Literacy Hour was introduced out of government concern over poor literacy levels. I believe they wanted to introduce synthetic phonics then, but there was too much resistance from the education establishment in teacher-training colleges, the education department, and the LEAs.

mummy678 Tue 10-Jul-12 15:21:22

Teaching of reading has fashions. When I was a child it was all phonics. Then in the 70s and 80s Look and Say took off and some other wacky schemes.
Now it's come full circle.

Synthetic phonics is the best way for all children.

The argument that phoincs takes away the pleasure of reading is spurious. If you cannot access the books because you cannot decode- what pleasure is there anyway?

HumphreyCobbler Tue 10-Jul-12 15:25:24

I just don't get the argument that a phonics check = only teaching phonics to children.

HumphreyCobbler Tue 10-Jul-12 15:27:22

I also think that a lot of the general public conflate the terms 'phonics' and 'phonetically'. This leads to the perception of phonic teaching meaning spelling words wrongly.

Mashabell Tue 10-Jul-12 15:38:18

Debates like this are futile, because they take no account of the nature of English spelling, which is only partly phonic.

If English spelling was phonic, children would learn the pronunciations of the following graphemes and would then be able to apply this knowledge to the decoding of all other English words and nobody would dream of using anything but phonics for the teaching of reading:
A, a-e, ay (cat; plate, play) air; ar (car); au, -aw (sauce, saw);
b (bed);
C, ck, k (c/at/ot/ut, crab/ clap, kite/kept, comic, pick, pocket, seek, risk)
Ch, -tch (chat, catch); d (dog);
E (end); ee, --y (eel, funny), er (herb),
F, G, H (fish, garden, house);
I, i-e, -y (ink, bite, by);
J, -dge, -ge (jug, bridge, oblige); L, M, N, ng (lips, man, nose, ring)
O, wa, qua, (pot, want, quarrel), O-e, -o, ol (bone, so; old),
Oi, -oy (coin, toy), Oo (food, good),
Or, -ore, war, quar (order, more, wart, quarter),
Ou, -ow (out, now); P, Qu, R (pin, quick, run),
S, -ce, -cy (sun, face, emergency);
Sh, -tion, -tious, -cial, -cian (shop, station, cautious, facial, musician),
T, -te (tap, delicate), Th (this thing),
U, u-e, -ue (up, cube, cue)
V, -ve, -v- (van, have, river – no doubling),
W, -x, Y (window, fix, yes);
Z, -se (zip, wise),
-si-, -su- (vision, treasure)
+ 8 endings: doable, fatal, single, ordinary, flatten, presence, present, other
and 2 prefixes: decide, invite:
and the consonant doubling rule (bitter - biter)

Those basic graphemes above are frequently disobeyed for spelling (fun photo). Because 69 of them have different pronunciations too, phonics is an essential but not exclusive way of learning to read. Children need to practise word recognition as well:
a: and – apron, any, father
a-e: came – camel
ai: wait – said, plait
al: always – algebra
-all: tall - shall
are: care - are
au: autumn - laugh, mauve
-ate: to deliberate - a deliberate act
ay: stays - says

cc: success - soccer
ce: centre - celtic
ch: chop –chorus, choir, chute
cqu: acquire - lacquer 19

e: end – English
-e: he - the
ea: mean - meant, break
ear: ear – early, heart, bear
-ee: tree - matinee
e-e: even – seven, fete
ei: veil - ceiling, eider, their, leisure
eigh: weight - height
eo: people - leopard, leotard
ere: here – there, were
-et: tablet - chalet
eau: beauty – beau
- ew: few - sew
- ey: they - monkey

ge: gem - get
gi: ginger - girl
gy: gym – gynaecologist
ho: house - hour
i: wind – wind down ski hi-fi
- ine: define –engine, machine
ie: field - friend, sieve
imb: limb – climb
ign: signature - sign
mn: amnesia - mnemonic

ost: lost - post
-o: go - do
oa: road - broad
o-e: bone – done, gone
-oes: toes – does, shoes
-oll: roll - doll
omb: tombola - bomb, comb, tomb
oo: boot - foot, brooch
-ot: despot - depot
ou: sound - soup, couple
ough: bough - rough, through, trough, though
ought: bought - drought
oul: should - shoulder, mould
our: sour - four, journey
ow: how - low

qu: queen – bouquet
s: sun – sure
sc: scent - luscious, molusc
-se: rose - dose
ss: possible - possession
th: this - thing
-ture: picture - mature
u: cup – push
ui: build – fruit, ruin
wa: was – wag
wh: what - who
wo: won - woman, women, womb
wor: word – worn
x: box - xylophone, anxious
- y-: type - typical
- -y: daddy - apply
z: zip – azure

The above inconsistencies make learning to read and write English exceptionally difficult. With any difficult skill, there tends to be a higher failure rate than with an easier one. That is why all English-speaking countries have higher literacy failure rates than comparable ones with better spelling systems.

Until this is more widely understood, we will continue to have futile debates about how best to teach children to read and write.

The information I have posted above is head-spinning, but that is what children have to cope with, why learning to read and write English proficiently takes a very long and why many children never manage it.

Bonsoir Tue 10-Jul-12 15:47:38

I read each point of view (it is not a "debate"). Frankly, neither Nick Gibb nor Michael Rosen have grasped what phonics is, so their respective points of view are pretty hard to adhere to!

I am a great proponent of phonics, when properly understood and used, for all children as part of the initial teaching of literacy.

Mashabell, you do have a good point. I think it would be better if the debate were framed how to begin teaching reading to give a foundation rather than 'the best way to teach kids to read'. Right now, the discussion is framed in what is done in R-Y1, maybe into Y2, but really getting reading firmly and confidently for most children is going to take longer than that and is going to go beyond just learning phonics or whatever. It takes a lot of practise and the discussion should be how to build a framework throughout the years in education but the debate in public (I know it goes beyond with people actually teaching) is what do we do in Reception to teach kids to read and write. It's often ignored how much beyond that needs to be done to get to a good level, that there is more to reading and writing than phonics v whole word. Let alone discussing that there will be a failure rate in these skills and how to help those people.

misdee Tue 10-Jul-12 16:20:38

I have 6 children, 3 of whom are at reading ages and above my eldest struggles with phonics. She learns by sight, figuring out what's going on by the words before and after tc.

2 learnt well wih phonics.

I have 3 younger ones, will be interesting to see how they learn.

TheSmallPrint Tue 10-Jul-12 16:48:34

I agree with Michael Rosen, my DS1 is a fabulous reader and at age 7 had a reading age of 12.5 and loves reading for pleasure, but he was not a fan of phonics and was very much a sight reader or read by recognition. My DS2 is not the same and is learning by phonics and seems happy with it. I think if DS1 had not learnt to read pre school and had been forced the phonics only route he would not be the same confident reader he is today.

Vagaceratops Tue 10-Jul-12 17:05:43

I feel like I fall somewhere in the middle of the two camps.

DS1 learnt to read by sight recognition, as I did at school. He didnt like phonics.

DD loves Jolly phonics and is starting to decode. She breaks words down phonetically.

I suppose its what works best for the child. In Maths they teach several ways of doing addition/subtraction etc. Why is it not the same for reading?

rabbitstew Tue 10-Jul-12 17:06:49

Did your ds1 like flash cards and coming home with word lists to memorise, then, TheSmallPrint? Or do you mean he was never the sort of child who needed to be taught how to read? And what was his spelling like when he was younger?

MerryMarigold Tue 10-Jul-12 17:07:05

"The argument that phonics takes away the pleasure of reading is spurious. If you cannot access the books because you cannot decode- what pleasure is there anyway?"

You can certainly read a book without being able to decode at a 32/40 phonics past rate. You can use other methods - recognition, context, first letter etc. The debate is whether these methods have are any use or not. The problem with relying SOLELY on phonics is that some kids don't get to read books fluently for ages. My ds1 is one of them. He had a year without reading a book, not 1, in Reception because he hadn't got past quite complex sentences. Methods been amended this year - phonics plus other things - and he is reading! At last!

Sittinginthesun Tue 10-Jul-12 17:10:52

I can only go with my own experience. I was a 70's child who was reading before starting school, entirely through "look and say". At 5 years, I had a reading age of 9 years, in the back of my old school dictionary (a present on my 7th Birthday), I have my attempts at writing the word "snow" - I tried;

nows
nosw
snwo

etc etc. Not a clue! I now have a good law degree from a Russell Group Uni, and am pretty literate, but cannot spell, and struggle to read words which I do not see regularly. My reading age is probably still around 11 years!

My youngest (Reception) is learning through the current scheme. I just asked him how to spell "snow". He said ""S" "N" "O", and I think the "O" is an "O" and a "W".

I will soon be getting him to proof read my posts.

He also has a love of books, not just school reading schemes, and the whole business has been pretty pain free.

kesstrel Tue 10-Jul-12 17:14:51

Here's a quote from Michael Rosen that illustrates the ideology underlying his position on phonics:

"The teaching of phonics comes loaded with a set of notions about children's consciousness and agency. If you've watched Ruth Miskin at work, you'll see that her phonics teaching is wrapped up in ideas around conditioning and control. Underlying this is the old theory of behaviourism, that children operate on a stimulus-response basis. Now people might agree or disagree with the notion but it's hardly non-political."

In the same paragraph he refers to this as a "master-servant model of learning".

Personally, I think this is a pretty biazrre over-reaction to the idea of spending half an hour a day teaching little kids phonics and maybe another half hour practicing it. I can't help but feel he is letting his politics distort his ideas about the importance of teaching all children to read.

MerryMarigold Tue 10-Jul-12 17:18:05

kesstrel, that's interesting. Ds1 really didn't get on with Ruth Miskin, but he has often been described as a 'free spirit'. Not because he can't behave, but because he is very creative/ imaginative and thinks out of the box. Makes sense that he didn't connect with RWI!

EdithWeston Tue 10-Jul-12 17:21:21

mashabell: all spelling is phonic. No spelling is phonetic. The grapheme/phoneme correspondences in English do take a lot of learning as there are plural options.

Your long list is a good advert for sound phonics teach, which is how children learn to crack that code.

The point on what is meant by "to read" in the thread title is a good one. If you mean "ability to decode print" then it's a total no-brainer as the centuries old phonic approach produces better readers faster.

If you are looking at wider literacy which develops alongside phonics and can positivel leap ahead once the phonic foundations are secure, then the question changes.

There is actually no need to polarise this debate, or set up the straw man of boring phonics lessons. There is plenty of space in the timetable for phonics to teach children to process the written word independently, and wider literacy activities. Incompetent teachers should be dealt with - whether their incompetency is in decoding, maths, spelling, PSHE or any other part of the curriculum - and schools or individual teachers who cannot teach phonics effectively as the key foundation skill which underpins literacy do need to do better.

The 20% or so underperforming children of the 'look and say' and mixed methods era is a scandal, and the sooner firmly behind us the better.

maizieD Tue 10-Jul-12 17:34:12

There are countries all over the world where children are taught to read with phonics as a matter of course and no-one would dream of questioning this or having long debates about 'phonics' and 'other methods'. Nor would they use the phrase 'one size fits all' in a derogatory manner. As far as they are concerned one size does fit all, very nicely thank you. There are a few children who struggle, even with transparent orthographies, but it is notable that, for example, German 'dyslexics' are characterised by lack of fluency, not by their inability to read words.

A key feature of the Whole Word v Phonics debate is the impressive use of rhetoric on the part of the Whole Worders. Phonics is dismissed as boring, reactionary, right wing, anti-creative, replete with stultifying 'drill and kill', limiting the imagination and turning reading into a mere mechanical process. Phonics taught children 'bark at print and cannot read for meaning. In fact the images they create can be neatly summed up in the Sellars & Yeatman portrayal of Cavaliers (Whole Word), Wrong but Romantic, against the Roundheads (Phonics), Right but Repulsive.

Unfortunately rhetoric is all they have to support their case because they have absolutely no concrete evidence that their 'method' is in any way successful. They set themselves firmly against objective evaluation of children taught by their methods with more rhetoric, 'You don't fatten a pig by measuring it', 'It is more important that children 'love books' and think of themselves as 'readers' (never mind the fact that they can't read a bl**dy word). Testing is unfair because it doesn't take into account the feelings and emotions of the subjects. Never mind the quality, feel the width (no, sorry, I said thatwink ).

Whole Language rhetoric permeates the education world and the world at large because that is what has been fed to teachers and the general public for several decades now. It can be found in the rantings of Michael Rosen, in the conclusions of teachers whose 'good readers' have failed to reach the standard in the Phonics Check; 'I know they can read for meaning so why should I worry that they don't know how to read unfamiliar words or try to turn unfamiliar words into familiar ones?' It can be found in Masha's belief that children have to learn 'sight words' and that English orthography is too complex to learn.

Unfortunately the rhetoric is threadbare. Reading researchers (proper ones doing good, quantative research) have been showing for as many decades that skilled readers use letter/sound knowledge and decoding and blending as their prime method of identifying the words on the page; that more phonics taught children learn to read effectively than their Whole Word taught peers. In the world of cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists there is very little disagreement with the proposition that phonics is the most effective method we know of at present for the teaching of reading. They at have the same time demolished the concept of reading as a 'psycholinguistic guessing game' and they have done it by rigorously investigating the the way skilled readers process the wordas on the page.

Historians of writing have demonstrated very clearly that our alphabetic writing system has been developed by the representation of the phonemes in a word by a letter or group of letters. To think that reading can be taught with minimal reference to this key feature of our written language is sheer lunacy.

BlueberryPancake Tue 10-Jul-12 17:53:23

smile I have just asked my 5 year old, a big fan of phonics, to spell the word snow. S-N-O-W! He did it!!!

I think that our school uses more than one method but focuses mostly on phonics. The children learn to tell stories by looking at the images first, sequencing the stories, and the event, and they try to tell the story as they understand it. Then they learn the basic phonics, practice at school through play, and they also learn some words by sight (some of the high frequency words); and they progressively move on to 'guessing' words that they can't decode. It's not used in isolation, and in my experience with my two boys who are 5 and 6, has worked very, very well. They can 'decode' more complex words such as 'organising' and 'exceptional'. They try to sound it phonetically and fill in the blanks. What I don't understand about Michael Rosen is that he says phonics spoils the enjoyment of books - that doesn't make sense to me. Reading will always be challenging at the beginning, when a child is learning, whatever method is used. Unless you teach them to read single words, by sight, over a long period of time, which is also a controversial method.

Inneedofbrandy Tue 10-Jul-12 18:11:19

My daughter failed the phonics test by 1. She is top of everything and reads extremely well, just not the phonics way due to her pronunciation.

Why cant they just let teachers get on with their jobs teaching and find the right learning way for every child.

maizieD Tue 10-Jul-12 18:16:03

and they progressively move on to 'guessing' words that they can't decode.

Oh dear sad

Why on earth should guessing be taught as a valid strategy?

Abitwobblynow Tue 10-Jul-12 18:19:08

How about leaving teachers alone to do their jobs? Some children learn by phonics, some by word and picture recognition, most probably by a mixture of all techniques.

The best thing parents can do, is incorporate a bed time story every night as part of the routine, read with their kids, and if you have time, volunteer at your local primary school to read with the kids.

mrz Tue 10-Jul-12 18:25:02

Inneedofbrandy your daughter wouldn't fail the phonics test due to her pronunciation.

Abitwobblynow no one learns to read effectively by picture recognition (guessing) and word recognition is extremely limiting

learnandsay Tue 10-Jul-12 18:28:28

phonics has guessing how to pronounce unfamiliar words at its heart.

mrz Tue 10-Jul-12 18:31:54

learnandsay you can repeat it as many times as you want but it is still untrue.

LeeCoakley Tue 10-Jul-12 18:35:51

Those people who learnt to read using look and say methods, do you remember how you learnt to spell?

Systematic phonics enables children to write independently very early on because they understand how to segment words for spelling instead of having to ask because they can't visualise the word they want.

MarysBeard Tue 10-Jul-12 18:46:12

My parents didn't actively teach me to read, I just picked it up from them reading books to me. I remember reading out a newspaper headline to someone when I was three. DD1 didn't pick up reading quite so early, though we always read to her and she knew her alphabet, letter sounds and how to read and write her name before starting school (which I didn't actually), though she whizzed through phonics and was reading within a matter of weeks of starting school.

Spelling seemed to come later though with the phonics system, that was the only thing that concerned me about it. I could always spell really well as I think I just memorised the words as they were on the page - I could literally see the word as if written down in a book in my head.

HumphreyCobbler Tue 10-Jul-12 18:58:32

maizieD Thank you for your eloquent, articulate statement. I agreed with every word.

yellowraincoat Tue 10-Jul-12 19:01:34

It makes absolutely no sense to teach English reading phonetically. English isn't written phonetically. Spanish, Italian, German, sure, you can sound out the letters and you get the word.

But when you have brought, tough and thorough...it makes no sense.

MerryMarigold Tue 10-Jul-12 19:02:35

MaizieD has some good points (although certainly only from 1 side of 'the debate'), but 'quantitative' is spelt incorrectly wink.

Chandon Tue 10-Jul-12 19:07:35

Mashabell, that is true.

As a linguist (translator and teacher) and non native English speaker, I have had to explain to many people that English is a very difficult language to learn.

I have limited in-depth knowledge of languages, but of the foreign languages that I have learned, Spanish and Swedish stood out as "easy" ie, either phonetically consistent (Spanish) or "simple" (Swedish). German seems complex but has very clear rules, and once you learn them you can get almost everything right (really worth learning the grammar, not many exceptions). English, sadly is a very irregular language.

The phonics system works for 1 of my children, and completely not at all for the other! The latter has to do "whole word learning" to cope with English.

They'll get there though.

I don't remember how I learned English myself, but I do know I still make mistakes. But then so do English people. It is a beautiful language though, and interesting too.

Inneedofbrandy Tue 10-Jul-12 19:09:56

mrz Yes she did actually. I could get the letter and copy out word for word why she failed due to her pronunciation its there in the next steps section.

mrz Tue 10-Jul-12 19:10:41

If English isn't phonetic yellowraincoat what exactly do you imagine it is?

Inneedofbrandy Tue 10-Jul-12 19:12:29

But my point is more that her literacy levels are top of the class apart from phonics and I dont really understand the fact she gets a test and fails due to the way she learns.

CockyPants Tue 10-Jul-12 19:12:37

My DD is 6, just finished year 1. End of reception she was on band6, by January in year1 she was a free reader. School and I taught her to read using phonics, ORT etc. I found that as she became more proficient her word recognition increased rapidly, and she started to use context to guess word she didn't know, rather than use phonics. This worked for her as she had a large vocab. Reading for pleasure came easily, as she enjoyed reading the scheme books. Transferred v easily to Enid Blyton and currently Roald Dahl. I guess what I am saying is that meaning and pleasure come as a result of learning HOW to read, which is via phonics.

Agree with CockyPants. My dd is just finishing Reception and now that she's more fluent she can now enjoy and actually look forward to her daily reading practice. But she too has got to this stage via phonics. Personally, I find that the progression through phonics really is an amazing process to witness, even with the second child it just doesn't get old. grin

mrz Tue 10-Jul-12 19:28:54

Inneedofbrandy what does she do when she meets a word she has never seen before? Is she a good speller or a "safe" speller?

kesstrel Tue 10-Jul-12 19:36:58

"Spelling seemed to come later though with the phonics system, that was the only thing that concerned me about it. I could always spell really well as I think I just memorised the words as they were on the page - I could literally see the word as if written down in a book in my head."

I think that's pretty unusual for beginning readers - I could do that by the time I was 12 or so but that was because I did a huge amount of reading.

My younger daughter is 13 now, and is horrified by the poor spelling of nearly everyone else in her (top stream) English class. Some of them were taught entirely with look and say/guessing methods; some like her had Jolly phonics in reception but then switched to look-and-say/guessing. However, I made sure I reinforced and added to her phonic knowledge and her sounding-out skills whenever she read aloud, asked for spellings, and played word games with me, because I knew the school wasn't doing it. She is a very good speller now; and she learns her spelling lists by noting any bit of a word that doesn't use the most common phonic pattern, and just remembering that.

mrz Tue 10-Jul-12 19:42:04

Inneedofbrandy then the teacher hasn't administered the test correctly.

"Alternative pronunciations must be considered when deciding whether a response is correct.
A child’s accent should be taken into account when deciding whether a response is acceptable. There should be no bias in favour of children with a particular accent.
^Any pronunciation difficulties for a child should be taken into account when deciding whether a response is acceptable (for example, a child who is unable to
form the ‘th’ sound and instead usually says ‘fw’ should have this scored as correct)."^

CockyPants Tue 10-Jul-12 19:45:47

Re spellings. DD is in top group in spellings too. I think this is due to sound phonics knowledge which proficient reading has added to, in terms of vocab used and sight recognition of words. She also has a photographic memory so once she has looked at her spelling list she recalls it easily. Worked v quickly through tricky words and HFW word walls. It is really only through phonics that English language can be understood. Everything else follows on. I appreciate every child is different, but I would have thought that phonics method is successful in 90% of children?

bigbuttons Tue 10-Jul-12 19:46:00

Some of the new books in reception are absolutely ridiculous. I can live with Biff and chip but these new books are purely phonics, the 'stories' have no meaning. A load of cvc words strung together. I refuse to even open these books any more and have told the teacher so. She sadly is too young and inexperienced to make any sensible judgment.The phonics screening test is a load of bollocks too, Who dreams up this shit?

mrz Tue 10-Jul-12 19:47:10

People who know what they are talking about wink

CockyPants Tue 10-Jul-12 19:52:20

Big buttons, DD used Oxford Reading Tree, then Ginn which is slightly harder, longer sentences, more vocab, more complex story. Later Collins Big Cat and Banana books for final level of scheme. ORT in particular is easy to borrow in our local libraries. May I recommend that you use them rather than this new book scheme? At first eg lilac, pink and red it is literally one word repeated. Then sentences, vocab is repeated a lot. Higher you go the more complex the story and less repetition. Hope this helps.

Inneedofbrandy Tue 10-Jul-12 20:04:53

mrz Mostly she just says the word even if she has never come across it before. Its not always right though although it makes sense in the sentence so am assuming that she guess the words. With spelling she now spells out phonic way but because of her dictation she can find it tricky and has only been doing that since March this year when we moved.

The school she was at in reception said she was a natural reader whatever that means.

mrz Tue 10-Jul-12 20:09:31

Some children are natural readers and most natural readers manage to work out the phonic code for themselves to some degree without any direct instruction. A few, like my son, never work out the code and as a result struggle with spelling so writing levels lag behind reading as they stick to safe words they can spell rather than demonstrate their wide vocabulary.

Inneedofbrandy Tue 10-Jul-12 20:11:47

She needs to continue working on her phase 5 (I think that is the magic e) but I am not that bothered, we've just finished reading James and the giant peach And now on BBC wonders of the solar system. Dont think phonics are for everyone. My Ds on the other hand does really well with them, but then hes never had speech problems.

Inneedofbrandy Tue 10-Jul-12 20:12:59

Thankyou for that, never knew what they meant by that exacly

I haven't read the debate or the thread yet, but [[ http://m.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/jan/19/phonics-child-literacy?cat=education&type=article here]] is an article in the guardian from 2010 about synthetic phonics and its use in Clackmannanshire.

PrideOfChanur Tue 10-Jul-12 20:32:58

Must read the debate,but I always want to ask if there is evidence of children who cannot learn to read via properly taught phonics? (including coverage of the fact that English is complicated phoetically and there may be a choice as to how a particular sound is written,and how a group of letters is pronounced?)

It irritates me - DS's school said they taught using phonics - what they did was mix basic phonics in class,and the ORT - which is chock full of words which aren't phonetically regular.This left us with a totally confused DS.He is dyslexic too which didn't help.
With regard to reading for meaning,you cannot read for meaning if you are only able to look at the words blankly and make a random guess based on the first letter or general letter pattern. It sounds wonderful,but is no help if a child can't actually work out unfamiliar words.

learnandsay Tue 10-Jul-12 20:38:29

Pride, I think dyslexia is a slightly different topic.

hackmum Tue 10-Jul-12 20:38:30

I slightly edge to the Michael Rosen viewpoint.

Basically, Gibb is saying that phonics works with every child and is the proven best method for teaching any child to read. Rosen is saying that phonics works with some children, but other children learn by other methods. He says that the evidence for phonics is based on children who already had difficulty reading so is not generalisable to all children.

Now, I'm not a teacher, so I don't know for certain. But given the idiosyncrasies of English spelling, and given that we know children have different ways of approaching learning in general, then it seems unlikely to me that phonics would work for everybody. Surely there must be some kids out there who just recognise a word from the shape it makes, with a bit of help from the context?

I also think the idea of testing children on made-up words rather than real words is utterly insane. It completely defeats the point of learning to read.

lubeloo72 Tue 10-Jul-12 20:38:32

All children are different so the method of teaching should reflect this.
Good (natural) readers do not need to learn by decoding as they can easily recall new words by sight. Decoding slows them down which results in less fluency which results in less understanding so teaching reading through phonics is probably unnecessary for these children.
For those children that find reading a greater challenge (who do not commit words to memory easily) decoding phonetically can be a very useful and vital tool.
My greatest frustration though is that children who are taught phonetically habitually sound out even the high frequency words that they should be able to read on sight eg w-a-s (which isn't decodeable anyway!). So I think it is vital that there should be a greater emphasis on learning the high frequency words by sight recognition along with a systematic approach to teaching phonics for those that need it. Seeing that HF words make up a large proportion of the English language the fluency would improve and children would only need to sound out the words they really need to sound out (as well as of course using the many other cues that successful readers need to be able to use!).

lubeloo72 Tue 10-Jul-12 20:39:39

So what I am trying to say is I'm with Michael Rosen!

mrz Tue 10-Jul-12 20:44:55

Good (natural) readers do not need to learn by decoding as they can easily recall new words by sight.

Except we know from brain research using MRI that good natural readers don't read words by sight.

My greatest frustration though is that children who are taught phonetically habitually sound out even the high frequency words that they should be able to read on sight eg w-a-s (which isn't decodeable anyway!).

was is fully decodable if you know the code

Seeing that HF words make up a large proportion of the English language

There are 300 HFW and approx 1 million words in the English language not a large proportion at all ...

Feenie Tue 10-Jul-12 20:48:52

Good (natural) readers do not need to learn by decoding as they can easily recall new words by sight.

How can you learn every single word by sight? confused There has to be a limit, even for someone with an excellent memory.

Of course 'was' is decodable. The 'a' makes an 'o' after most words beginning with 'w' - want, wash, wad, wallaby, wasp, etc, etc.

I love the fact that people have an opinion about how phonics don't work, and then demonstrate how they know absolutely diddly squat about it. HF words are decodable - you just need to arm children with the code. It isn't difficult.

Fizzylemonade Tue 10-Jul-12 20:52:02

In our school, my son who is now in yr4, was the first to be taught phonics, I don't know what they did before that but apparently his year group were 6 months ahead reading wise than the year before.

It has been so successful that they are now teaching phonics songs "a a ants on my arm" in nursery to the 3-4 year olds.

The primary school in question is outstanding on Ofsted. They seem to use both phonics books and definitely non-phonic books.

Ds1 reads for pleasure, takes his owns books into school, Ds2 is 6 and enjoys his school books, we get 3 a week, and does read for pleasure but not as prolifically as his brother yet.

I think all children can be encouraged to read if there is a book on something they find interesting.

bigbuttons Tue 10-Jul-12 20:58:45

cocokypants thanks. The school still uses the ort but is now mixing it with these silly books.
Having 6dc's I have experienced a variety of learners with reading. 2 of my dd's only had to be told a word once if it was complicated and they'd simply remember it, it was astonishing to witness. My youngest dd at year one is still only on level 4 of the ort and is STILL phonetically sounding out some cvc words. She has poor pattern recognition I suspect she is dyslexic.
The jolly phonics scheme has worked well for getting them off to a good start but I find the school is so inflexible. They have to work they way through these books and reading become a chore. To get children to enjoy reading they must ne exited by the books. Schemes have their place, as does phonic work but it must be used with common sense.

I'm quite confused about the whole thing. I can't remember how I was taught to read but can only presume it was 'look and say'. Generally my spelling is excellent and I can spell unusual words or names that I have only seen once. I also have a fairly large vocabulary.

Maybe I learn differently to other people, but if I'm reading something and come to an unfamiliar word, it doesn't matter how it sounds. It matters how to spell it and what it means. I don't understand why I would need to be able to pronounce it.

I understand that this is different for younger readers who are reading out loud, but presumably children already have a vocabulary of words that they know and understand and when learning to read initially they will mainly be reading words that they have heard before. Are they, therefore, using phonics to come up with a probable pronunciation then linking this to a word that they have heard before in order to work out the meaning? And using 'whole word' methods for the 'difficult words'. Which is actually just learning large, very specific an uncommon, phonemes (or whatever they're called)?

And I can't see how teaching phonics would help with spelling. But again, this is possibly because of how I think. It seems strange to me to spell words phonetically unless they are 'difficult words'. I spell all words the way they are in the dictionary, not the way the sounds break down. In phonics learning is a child expected to write down a word by breaking it down into sounds or do they learn spelling on a whole word basis?

PrideOfChanur Tue 10-Jul-12 21:03:42

learnandsay,yes dyslexia is a different topic and I could have left it out of my post.My anecdotal personal experience is that DS actually got on quite well with phonics,but was unable to use the skills he was gaining because his reading books were full of words he didn't have the skills to decode.

Would the children in his class who found reading easier have been held back by working through a phonics programme with a decent reading scheme allowing for decoding at each level?I am prepared to hear from parents whose DCs this has happened to,but my instinctive feeling is that a child who finds learning whole words easy will be able to adopt that as a strategy as they read regardless.Children who find it hard need to be taught to decode words.

There is a limit to words you can learn by sight, isn't there?Can't remember what ,but I've read it somewhere.

Feenie Tue 10-Jul-12 21:07:20

Yes, there is.

PrideofChanur, the decodable texts one was a problem for schools who did not keep up with research developments, and lots of schools were stuck with look and say schemes. This year the government has made match funding available for phonics materials, so anything up to £3000 they will match. So, no excuses from now on!

PrideOfChanur Tue 10-Jul-12 21:20:56

Hooray,Feenie! Bit late for us,but we managed.

"I also think the idea of testing children on made-up words rather than real words is utterly insane" - why is this a problem? If you want to test the ability to decode rather than recognise whole words,nonsense words work perfectly well,and if you can decode any nonsense word you can read any real word,surely? Then at that point,lucky you,you can read any book you want for pleasure...

maizieD Tue 10-Jul-12 21:22:11

MerryMarigold. I am blush blush blush at my spelling mistake.

MerryMarigold Tue 10-Jul-12 21:31:47

wink we all make 'em.

Haberdashery Tue 10-Jul-12 21:32:51

>> if I'm reading something and come to an unfamiliar word, it doesn't matter how it sounds. It matters how to spell it and what it means. I don't understand why I would need to be able to pronounce it.

Surely you might want to use it again and out loud, maybe while talking to someone?

I learnt with look and say and DH learnt with that weirdy phonetically spelt thing with the upside down letters. He cannot spell at all and I can spell pretty much anything. Same thing for both of us with reading out loud. He is capable of mispronouncing words that DD aged five can read accurately. I can only assume that probably he'd have been like that however he'd learnt and I'd have been like I am. I do think he'd probably have been helped by learning the phonics that DD has been shown though. I suppose I must have worked it out myself or something.

rabbitstew Tue 10-Jul-12 21:53:15

JollyHockeyStick - do you never want to use new words that you have read when you talk (which would require you to have some idea of how to pronounce them)? And do you not have any form of internal voice when you are reading to yourself? Does the text just stay as letters on a page for you? I was never taught phonics, but the idea that someone reads like that seems bizarre to me. I wonder - is there any link between people who are considered musical and people who find the idea of phonics a perfectly natural way to learn to read? I couldn't imagine separating the words from their sounds.

learnandsay Tue 10-Jul-12 21:53:30

You don't often want to use unfamiliar words while communicating do you? Surely the whole point of communication is to both understand and be understood.

rabbitstew Tue 10-Jul-12 21:57:27

You must read very boring books indeed, learnandsay, and have very dull conversations if you always limit yourself to words you are certain absolutely anyone you are talking to will understand.

rabbitstew Tue 10-Jul-12 21:59:05

You must have been particularly dull when talking to your baby, who couldn't understand anything you said.

learnandsay Tue 10-Jul-12 22:00:31

There's a difference between reading books with vocabulary in them that I'm not familiar with and me trying to use words that I don't understand in communication. I can look new words up in a dictionary if I'm reading. I can't do that if I'm speaking.

rabbitstew Tue 10-Jul-12 22:01:57

You can look words up in a dictionary if you are reading and then, once you know them, you can use them in your speech. I would expect my children to do that.... I would also expect anyone listening to me to use their intelligence and gather from the context what the word I was using meant... just as you claim a good reader should be able to do, once they have decoded the word so that they can pronounce it...

Sittinginthesun Tue 10-Jul-12 22:07:02

I regularly use words I have read, understood, but have absolutely no idea how to pronounce. I tend to try them put on DH first - he laughs his head off. I was caught out with my pronunciation of "taupe" at the weekend. Very embarrassing blush <wishes I been taught phonics as a child...>

learnandsay Tue 10-Jul-12 22:14:06

taught
laugh

au has more than one sound, so knowing how a letter combination sounds is not the same as knowing how an unfamiliar word is pronounced.

Greythorne Tue 10-Jul-12 22:15:57

As a matter of interest, given that we hear a lot from whole word recognition proponants about "non decodeable words", are there any words which are not decodeable?

In the sense that a grapheme is pronounced in a unique way which means there's no rule to apply, it just has to be learnt by heart?

I was thinking of machete.....

rabbitstew Tue 10-Jul-12 22:19:19

I have a little map in my mind of groups of words that make those particular sounds and therefore a good idea of which sounds are the most common and with any new word, would test out each sound I knew that letter combination makes, starting with the most likely, until I came across the pronunciation which "felt" right, on the basis of general experience of spoken language or from realising that I had actually heard the word spoken before. I would not just look at the word in a stupid daze and not have a clue how to pronounce it - because I have made the connection between those letters and those possible sounds. There are a finite number of sounds each letter combination makes, after all.....

Rabbitstew, It is pretty rare for me to come across a word in text that I haven't seen before. If I do it usually isn't something I'd use in conversation. I am currently reading a book with quite a few archaic words in it, but they are mainly related to middle-ages weaponry so not terribly relevant to my life!

No, I do not appear to have an internal voice. I am also thoroughly unmusical. Pretty much tone deaf in fact. I think the words stay in my head as words - with their associated meanings. The sentences certainly don't have a sound.

This certainly explains why I'm struggling with the idea of phonics!

rabbitstew Tue 10-Jul-12 22:27:57

That's fascinating! Do you have a very visual imagination? Or is it possible to experience thought without internal sound or vision? I know some people can imagine smells, but I think that is pretty unusual...

rabbitstew Tue 10-Jul-12 22:29:56

I guess, if you are born blind and deaf, there must be some other way to think than through internal dialogue and pictures.

Actually, I don't have a particularly visual imagination either. But there's next to no sound in there. I find it very difficult to remember what sound something made. The gruffalo has a different voice every time I attempt it!

I wasn't really aware that people thought in sounds. I knew people thought more visually than I do though.

I think it's pretty much just thought. I get hacked off at books that have too much physical descriptions because that doesn't seem all that relevant to me - I just want to.know what happens next.

This is all very strange!

MerryMarigold Tue 10-Jul-12 22:35:56

Let's think of the 'ure' sound which kids have to learn. How many words use this?

- Manure hmmmm...not really very common usage amongst 6 year olds
- Sure...hmmmm...then we have to figure out the 's' is a 'sh' in this word. How many other words start with 's' which makes 'sh'?
- Pure...ok, give you that one
- Picture...hmmmm...who actually says 'Pick - t- your'
- Lure hmmmm...again, not many 6 year olds gonna be using that one

Is it really worth teaching this as a sound? Isn't it actually just easier to learn these 4 words? (Since you will have to learn 'sure' independently anyway).

Feenie Tue 10-Jul-12 22:40:06

I much prefer to teach this as u_e. Which is used in many, many, many words.

CecilyP Tue 10-Jul-12 22:40:24

I regularly use words I have read, understood, but have absolutely no idea how to pronounce. I tend to try them put on DH first - he laughs his head off. I was caught out with my pronunciation of "taupe" at the weekend. Very embarrassing <wishes I been taught phonics as a child...>

It wouldn't have made a blind bit of difference unless you had been taught the 'au' sound as pronounced in taupe and taupe had been one of the example words given, and you had remembered it.

MerryMarigold Tue 10-Jul-12 22:43:57

Feenie, u_e makes a 'you' sound, doesn't it? Like Jude or chute? It's not the same sound.

Feenie Tue 10-Jul-12 22:44:10

In picture, it's different - chuh. As in feature, future, nature, nurture, adventure, etc.

Feenie Tue 10-Jul-12 22:44:39

Yes, Merrymarigold - as in pure.

MerryMarigold Tue 10-Jul-12 22:46:00

Yeah, 'chuh' makes sense with those others.

Pure is like manure and lure not Jude or chute. It's not pewer (unless a v regional accent).

MerryMarigold Tue 10-Jul-12 22:47:14

Do you teach the whole of 'ture' as 'chuh' sound then? Not being facetious, genuine qu. as ds hasn't got hold of the 'ure' sound.

Feenie Tue 10-Jul-12 22:47:38

It is round here smile

MerryMarigold Tue 10-Jul-12 22:48:11

Is that Liverpewl?!!

NoLogo Tue 10-Jul-12 22:50:39

Phonics and the "one size fits all" thing is shite.

Phonics, you fucked up any pleasure my dyslexic son might have gotten from reading as a leisure activity, purely for the love of a story and the written word. This is something I and DS's Father adore. We read copiously for pleasure and would be the poorer without it. We want a love of reading for our sons.

One size fits all education, you ignored him, marginalised him and allowed him to struggle, so that we are now fighting to get him to see that giving up is not an easy long term option.

Thankfully, we cottoned on, and together with Dyslexia Action, are repairing the damage that phonics and one size fits all has done.

<bitter>

rabbitstew Tue 10-Jul-12 22:51:24

Freaky - I've just realised I do sometimes think about smells and touch and movement, too, as though it is possible to have an internal sense of what they would be like when they aren't present/being done at the time! Mostly, though, it's very noisy inside my head - I'm always talking out loud in there, with excellent pronunciation and expression, of course...

bigbuttons Tue 10-Jul-12 22:52:45

English is a nightmare as far as sounds are concerned anyway, think of the ough group, so many different ways to say it. With phonics reception are taught say OW is pronounced as in cow, they learn to say ow as in I've hurt myself, yet ow can be a simple o as in sow, low and mow. I say phonics is a decent started but shouldn't be the only weapon in their armoury.

allchildrenreading Tue 10-Jul-12 23:01:24

Getting back to what is reading and why it's important to be able to decode in the first place, this comment from a reading forum gets to the core of the subect .
Comment: What I found impressive in the docs you have on your website is the
> definition of reading. This is essentially the view expressed by
> Elkonin. published in Russian in 1959 and in English in 1963. I doubt
> that Walcott was aware of Elkonin, but it's mindboggling that the logic
> has been virtually ignored.
>Quote from Walcutt 1964:
"Nobody would deny that the purpose of reading is to get information of
> some sort from the printed page. But since we get information in the
> same way from spoken language, this purpose does not define reading in a
> way that distinguishes it from talking. As soon as we grasp this point,
> however, the problem resolves itself immediately. If we see that
> meaning resides in language, then we can ask how writing (which we read)
> is related to language (which we hear). If language, which is sound,
> carries the meanings, what is writing? It seems obvious that writing is
> a device, a code, for representing the sounds of language in visual
> form. The written words are in fact artificial symbols of the spoken
> words which are sounds. So reading must be the process of turning
> these printed symbols into sounds. The moment we say this, however,
> someone will say (and probably in the greatest anxiety), "But what
> about meaning? Do you mean to define reading as mere word-calling
> without regard for meaning?"
> Yes we do. Reading is first of all, and essentially the mechanical
> skill of decoding, of turning the printed symbols into the sounds,
> which are language. Of course the reason we turn the print into sound
> (that is, read) is to get at the meaning...."
>

mathanxiety Tue 10-Jul-12 23:52:10

'For example, the US National Reading Panel assessed the effectiveness of the different approaches used to teach children to read. For two years, until it reported in 2000, the panel held public meetings and analysed research into teaching reading. It concluded that systematic phonics instruction produced significant benefits, including for those pupils who had difficulty learning to read.'

The US research was done with children older than the age at which children are expected to learn to read in the UK; 5-6 is when children in the US are taught using phonics at the earliest, not 4 as in the UK. To take research done on a certain age group in one country and extrapolate from that that it can be done with a different age group in another is bad science and a poor foundation for the curriculum.

CockyPants Wed 11-Jul-12 00:02:06

Phonics worked for me and DD. My DB and I started school in early 70s when phonics was still used. It was abandoned in 80s for whole word recognition, and absolute joke of a way to teach reading. If you don't know what. The sounds are how are you supposed to work out what the word says?? Is everyone supposed to memorise what each word in their vocab looks like?? This is not reading, this is a memory test!!
As for Michael Rosens argument, I would have thought that an author as renowned as he is would realise that meaning and context ie comprehension skills can only come once a child has learnt how to read. As for pleasure, I guess it depends on how hard a child has found it to learn how to read. I would have thought that a child who has struggled may well be put off reading. DD learnt quickly and we have always gone to the library so she loves to choose her own books and hand over her ticket.
DD is July born leaving class1. There are 3 free readers in the class, she is 1. Of the other 19 girls, less than half are at band 6 level or above. I was surprised by huge difference in ability, school is private and assessed girls at reception entry.

Nanny0gg Wed 11-Jul-12 00:12:16

If you don't use phonics, but the word recognition method, how on earth do you attempt to decode an unfamiliar word with no contextual or picture clues?

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 00:20:57

"Good (natural) readers do not need to learn by decoding as they can easily recall new words by sight".
Mrz -- Except we know from brain research using MRI that good natural readers don't read words by sight.

--We know no such thing. The question of how exactly we get to the point where the letters disappear and we skim over words (fluency) is still being studied, with research on eye movement and various other factors involved uncovering more and more annually. The jury is still out. What we are slowly beginning to understand with all the research is how little we know about how children read, and indeed how adults read.

"My greatest frustration though is that children who are taught phonetically habitually sound out even the high frequency words that they should be able to read on sight eg w-a-s (which isn't decodeable anyway!)."
Mrz -- 'was' is fully decodable if you know the code.

--'Was' is an exception to the code, unless by 'code' you mean special categories with rules unto themselves consisting of one or two words. There is a point where teaching children to 'decode' words like 'was' is in fact teaching them to read the words by sight.

"Seeing that HF words make up a large proportion of the English language"
Mrz -- 'There are 300 HFW and approx 1 million words in the English language not a large proportion at all ...'

--The high frequency words make up 50%+ of all the words on any given page the average student will encounter. Learning them by sight speeds up reading astronomically and makes all sorts of texts accessible to readers at an early stage of reading, rendering the laborious progression through graded readers that is currently inflicted on children (and their parents) unnecessary. Of the million or so words in the English language, most university students will use about 17,000 as they go about their daily lives as students, which is obviously far less than the total estimated number of words in English.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 00:24:19

'DD is July born leaving class1. There are 3 free readers in the class, she is 1. Of the other 19 girls, less than half are at band 6 level or above. I was surprised by huge difference in ability, school is private and assessed girls at reception entry.'

So obviously phonics has not been the rip-roaring success for other children that it has been for yours, CP?

CockyPants Wed 11-Jul-12 00:25:58

Was is decodeable. DD learnt HF by decoding. Some words are called tricky words, and teacher said we just had to learn them. Eg the.

CockyPants Wed 11-Jul-12 00:31:32

Math anxiety some children pick it up faster than others.
Also not every child reads at home with parents.
Or if they do it is just the scheme books sent home.
Some children are not read to every night.
Some children have no books at home.
Some children do not see their parents read.
Some children do not go to the library at least once a week.
All these factors play a part in how child perceives reading as well as learning to read. I put in loads of time listening to DD read. She reads every day in school holidays. DD now reading novels, and mostly silent reading to herself.
We are big readers, have loads of books fiction and non fiction. Dd sees me read a variety of books newspapers magazines.
I take it by your defensiveness over this topic that either you or Dc has not found reading easy/pleasurable?

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 01:49:11

But according to the phonics believers, none of those factors should matter, CP. Phonics is magic. It even teaches children to read if they have reading difficulties -- in the words of the minister, the US National Reading Panel 'concluded that systematic phonics instruction produced significant benefits, including for those pupils who had difficulty learning to read.'

I also wonder how anyone can ascribe a good reading result to phonics instruction in school when it is clear from your description of what parents of successful readers do with their children that the good result has come about because parents untrained in phonics have exposed the child to books and reading at home and essentially taught the child to read themselves?

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 01:49:26

'Was is decodeable. DD learnt HF by decoding. Some words are called tricky words, and teacher said we just had to learn them. Eg the.'
What is the difference between learning a 'tricky word' by sight and decoding it? If there is a specific 'rule' used to decode 'was' then why not just call it learning by sight?

nooka Wed 11-Jul-12 05:31:39

I exposed my ds to reading every way I possibly could. I read to him copiously (from excellent books) from when he was tiny, I showed by example how enjoyable reading was by always having a book to hand for any passing moment of boredom, we had books on CDs in the car and when he needed quiet time, we had (and have) stacks and stacks of books in the house of every variety and when he struggled I went out and bought a whole load more. He had a huge spoken vocabulary and a thirst for knowledge, and we knew early on he was pretty bright.

But

He hated reading. Absolutely hated it, screamed and cried when the book came out of the book bag. Screamed and cried when I tried to persuade him to learn his spellings. Screamed and cried at school when it was reading time. It was awful, and had absolutely no idea how to help him as when I tried it made things much much worse.

So we took him to a synthetics phonics tutor who taught him the code he needed in order to be able to read. Over that summer (I think he only had four lessons, maybe six) he learned to read, and since then he has become as much of a bookworm as I, and we are frequently asked how we managed it. That he enjoyed stories and wanted to know things was irrelevant - before he managed the mechanics of reading he could hardly access a single book (nor did he want to).

If he'd been taught with phonics in the first place we would not have had those years of pain and anxiety and self hatred. Maybe if his vocabulary had been much smaller guessing woudl have worked, but if you have ever watched a child really guess at words you'd know that it is incredibly hard, emotionally draining and in the end just doesn't work.

merrymouse Wed 11-Jul-12 06:18:16

"Reading one-to-one with a teacher is an activity children are familiar with and enjoy, and the children should not realise they are being assessed."

Perhaps if more children had the opportunity to be more familiar with reading 1 to 1 with a teacher, (small class sizes?, less government directives?) difficulties in reading could be picked up a little earlier?

merrymouse Wed 11-Jul-12 06:18:47

(that was a Nick Gibb quote, not a quote from forum)

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 06:41:24

Well math we get good reading results with children who come from homes without books so what would be your explanation?

Mashabell Wed 11-Jul-12 06:50:13

Nooka
It's also possible that your son had those years of pain and anxiety and self hatred because u tried to get him to learn to read before he was ready. When he was ready, and away from the settings which had become associated with emotional stress, he was able to learn. (In Finland children don't start formal schooling until age 7.)

Nobody learns to read English words like on, only, once, other, won, woman, women by phonics alone. The much-quoted Rose review made the point that phonics is a time-limited activity which before long has to be replaced by learning to read for meaning.

Phonics is a good start. But some children need very little of it. Others don't become good readers even with loads of it. This is because the irregularities of English spelling affect children in different ways.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 07:01:54

Nologo - IME, Dyslexia Action recommend a daily programme of high quality phonics practice - what did they recommend for your dc?

SoupDragon Wed 11-Jul-12 07:11:15

Isn't phonics kind of like learning to drive - first you learn to pass your driving test, then you learn to drive.

With phonics, first you learn how to decode the words then you learn to read (for pleasure).

EdithWeston Wed 11-Jul-12 07:16:13

"phonics is a time-limited activity which before long has to be replaced by learning to read for meaning"

You do realise that refers to the expectation that phonics is taught quickly and competently, so reading by decoding is automatic in a very short space of time. That means that, once children are fluent readers, teaching can move on to other aspects of literacy.

It's not either/or phonics/meaning. The whole point of phonics is to relate squiggles on page to meaningful language, which is naturally a sound system in which meaning lies.

EdithWeston Wed 11-Jul-12 07:27:32

Yes, my Dyslexia Action advice was for a phonics programme too so also interested in Feenie's question to nologo.

Bigbuttons: "English is a nightmare as far as sounds are concerned anyway, think of the ough group, so many different ways to say it. With phonics reception are taught say OW is pronounced as in cow, they learn to say ow as in I've hurt myself, yet ow can be a simple o as in sow, low and mow. I say phonics is a decent started but shouldn't be the only weapon in their armoury"

They will, if competently taught, be taught that correspondences are not 1-1, and learning to select from the phonically possible options is one of the skills that will be included in a good classroom.

To take an example from earlier up the thread "a" can be pronounced /o/ isn't that rare a thing ("wash" "what" "wand" "wander" etc), and when encountering, say "wassail", the rule can be applied.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 07:37:11

add <a> following <qu> think squat and squash and squad and quality and quantity and quarry

exoticfruits Wed 11-Jul-12 07:38:35

Most children will learn whatever the method - it is the ones who don't who need the structured approach. With dyslexic DS we had to use phonics.
Since you don't know who will have difficulty it is best to start with phonics - those who pick it up easily will sail away and those who don't will have the building blocks.

bigbuttons Wed 11-Jul-12 07:46:22

As I read with my youngest dc's now I do think about the strange pronunciation we have. Wasn't there a great vowel shift in middle English? I am guessing words like put, was, once, he, she, would have been pronounced differently a few hundred years ago? Is there a link to the development of our received, rather than regional, pronounciation?
I always think that children in the middle/ north of the country might have an easier time learning to read as their pronunciations are often more like the written word, like castle, path, bath as opposed to castle, parth and barth.
Put, now there's an interesting one, how did it get that oo sound?

rabbitstew Wed 11-Jul-12 07:49:48

It's a rather tiresome argument, anyway, unless anyone is actually suggesting that phonics shouldn't be taught at all. It's not as if learning phonics somehow makes children incapable of learning words by sight if they see them often enough. It's not even as if anyone has told schools they are no longer allowed to send high frequency words home for children to learn to read by sight. And reading scheme books will always exist in schools so as to ensure a nauseatingly large selection of books of graded levels of difficulty, and NONE of them are as interesting as The Giant Jam Sandwich, or Room on the Broom. So what is everyone getting their knickers in a twist about, anyway?

daffodilly2 Wed 11-Jul-12 08:31:11

My DC learnt phonics and thru Biff And Chip. I found the children I helped with these books enjoyed them.

Reading starts very young with picture books. Problem is some deprived children come to school who have not been read books everyday or shared books from mother's/carer's knee.

My son was inspired to read more when his Yr 2 teacher read "Charlie and the chocolate factory" to them all. Joy of stories, lots and lots of pictures, some phonics and maybe word recognition all work.

Balance, measured approach.

Mr Gibb, children who do not read have SN or have not been nurtured with books - specialist teaching for dyslexia in schools and more nurture with books will support reading advancement.

blackcatsdancing Wed 11-Jul-12 08:34:47

urgh having worked in a primary school i can tell you categorically that IMHO the literacy hour has killed the enjoyment of reading. Books are dissected. pages read at a time, rather than the whole books read so little sense is gained of the how the book flows overall and certainly no much enjoyment there. And this was from a class teacher (not me i was a TA at the time) who managed to wring out great SATS results from her classes (at what cost??). It continues and gets worse when children go to secondary school, books don't have to be read in their entirety any more for the english curriculum neither did my daughter have to always read the whole of a shakespeare play. How dreadful to look back as an adult and instead of saying as i do "oh we did macbeth for o' level" a generation will be saying "oh we did bits of that for GCSE". Again in a school that got very good exam results from their pupils. I think the problem in secondary is lack of time and to be honest primaries often have so much to cram in too.

PrideOfChanur Wed 11-Jul-12 09:09:21

daffodilly,a balanced measured approach is fine - if it actually works for the children who need it.
My DCs come from a home full of books with two reading parents,and had been read to since they were babies.They both had difficulty learning to read - DD hasn't read at all for pleasure until very recently (she is 18) because what she might have been interested in reading very quickly left behind what she actually could read.

With DS the minute I saw he was having problems I tried to work out how to help him,which for us meant lots of reading at home(did that with DD as well...),a phonics programme via Dyslexia Action,and Toe by Toe - which worked very well.I also tried really hard to find books that were interesting that he could read,or mostly read,fast enough to keep him going - which wasn't always easy.He can read pretty well now,and he does read for pleasure - yay!.If he hadn't had support at home I'm not sure what his reading would be like.
So what about all the children who only have school to teach them? Don't they deserve to be taught effectively in a way that works?

No one yet has explained how phonics may not work for some children,or if they have I've missed it.The main argument here seems to be that for many children other methods work just as well,which isn't quite the same thing.

EdithWeston Wed 11-Jul-12 09:14:49

Literacy hour is not a synonym or shorthand for using a phonics based approach. If the literacy hour is poorly delivered, then one has to look to the individual school and teacher, establish if their poor approach to teaching is also present in other areas and then deal with the teacher (retraining? other support?)

daffodilly2 Wed 11-Jul-12 09:38:41

Dear Pride,
I have two nephews who hate reading. One is reluctant, one is bright but dyslexic. Their parents afford a reading tutor.

My argument if you look is that specialist teachers should be there to intervene when reading is a challenge. Phonics is not a cure all. Some children need a diff erent approach to untangle their difficulties.

merrymouse Wed 11-Jul-12 10:53:02

No one yet has explained how phonics may not work for some children

I think it's not so much that it doesn't work, it's more that children can be ready for phonics at very different times. There isn't much point starting a phonics programme until you can break down a word into phonemes and identify the order in which you are hearing those phonemes. Some children are ready to do this when they are 3, many children are closer to 7 or 8.

A teacher/parent can remediate this with the right knowledge and time. However, pushing a child through a phonics programme at a set pace and then giving them a test at the end of year 1 won't solve these problems. I think all teachers and parents know this. I'm not convinced that all government ministers do.

ariadne1 Wed 11-Jul-12 11:35:52

The human brain is designed to recognise patterns and develop rules subconsciously very very effectively.For example a 3 yo can discern acat from a dog better than any computer program that has ever been written.My fear is that introducing all these phonics rules into a child's consiousness can interfere with this process

lurkerspeaks Wed 11-Jul-12 12:22:28

Hmm. Well I have several university degrees and postgraduate diplomas and I still can't do phonics. I'm only stating my educational successes to indicate that I am academically able.

I absolutely hate reading with very small children (don't panic I'm not a teacher) as I find it almost impossible to help them as I can't really work phonics out. I have lots of nieces/ nephews that I'm involved with and I 've been along to a 'help your child to read' night and read the parent information stuff and it is still as clear as mud.

I think that phonics just doesn't work for some people. I think I learnt to read and continue to do so by whole word recognition.

Miggsie Wed 11-Jul-12 12:23:30

I find this interesting as DD loathed phonics at school, found it slow and boring and sight read very quickly. She also hated ORT where she guessed the sentences from the pictures, not very good at all. In the end her teacher let her sit out of phonics lessons and do her own thing and DD was a free reader by the end of reception.

However, she swapped schools and started to learn French - which has regular pronunciation for the letters and vowels. She picked it up very quickly, using phonics and sounding out and can now read many French words correctly with fabulous pronunciation although she has no actual idea what the words mean nor can she understand the story...

So for me the crux is, what is the point of decoding text and begin able to pronounce words if you cannot understand what they mean and have no relevance to you? This is what kills reading, as you might as well be reading out the telephone directory for all the engagement and excitement you will get out of it.

I think that is what Michael Rosen is saying - you can have the code but if it means nothing to you, then what is the point? This is an issue about communication using text and the use you put it to, if you cannot comprehend the words then there is no communication or understanding, although there could be reading.

PrideOfChanur Wed 11-Jul-12 12:34:40

But at the point that you can decode the word and pronounce it,at that point you have to also be taught/encouraged to look for the meaning. If DS reads a word and I don't think he understands it,I ask him - I don't just think "ok,he can read that word,fine."

But if you can't decode the meaning is not going to be available to you,no matter what.
Having actually read the debate now I would really like Michael Rosen to explain how children are supposed to read for meaning and enjoy books when they can't tell what the words actually are...fine in reception,and for looking at picture books at any age,but later on to extract meaning or pleasure from a book you do need to be able to look at text and work out what the words say.He seems to believe that if you expose children to books and enthuse them with a love of stories they will become readers as a natural progression from that.
If that was the case I'd have two confident,enthusiastic readers,and I don't.And I am really quite cross about that because I think that different teaching early on would have avoided this.

"When you read, this pleasure principle is teaching you about spelling, punctuation and grammar; it's teaching you vocabulary, sentence structure, paragraph and chapter structure; it's teaching you about plot, argument, debate. " Yes it is,and yes it does. And my DD never got to benefit from all of that because she couldn't decode what she was seeing . Gah.

Obviously I am biased smile. But I think an education system has to adopt a teaching method that will give the greatest number of children the best chance of achieving the best possible for them,and I think a properly structured phonics programme is that - with enough flexibility to let children who are learning satisfactorily by sight reading to get on with it!

ariadne1 Wed 11-Jul-12 12:40:22

Another thought is that the vast majority of people will successfully learn to read by whatever method they are taught.Therefore by the 'best' method do we mean the one which sweeps up the most stragglers and is this necessarily the best method for all the rest?
Personally i think people have been taught to read for centuries.If one method was clearly far superior we wouldn't still be having this debate!

MerryMarigold Wed 11-Jul-12 12:57:39

I don't think this debate is about whether phonics is a good, or even the best, way to learn how to read. I think the point is that a lot of the 'hardcore' phonics advocates say it is THE ONLY way to learn how to read. And that until you have really 'sussed' phonics you shouldn't be getting into stories with pictures (in case there's a clue in the picture).

MerryMarigold Wed 11-Jul-12 13:00:44

I don't think this debate is about whether phonics is a good, or even the best, way to learn how to read. I think the point is that a lot of the 'hardcore' phonics advocates say it is THE ONLY way to learn how to read. And that until you have really 'sussed' phonics you shouldn't be doing anything else. I disagree .

EdithWeston Wed 11-Jul-12 13:07:06

I have never seen anyone argue for picture free books, and agree that would be odd and unnecessarily restrictive. The 1940s Gay Way readers (in common use until 1960s) were illustrated: they are still around today and still illustrated (though now called New Way).

If you want schools to use the system which gives best results to most, then that is synthetic phonics (95% or more of children), rather than mixed methods (only 80% or so).

MerryMarigold Wed 11-Jul-12 13:10:54

The only synthetic reading scheme I have experience of is Ruth Miskin. Those books had very few (very odd) pictures! And you didn't even get to 'qualify' for a book until you could read quite complex stuff.

jongleuse Wed 11-Jul-12 13:26:57

Michael has very clearly said he is NOT against the teaching of phonics.
He is concerned that the massive emphasis on phonics in the first, fast and only sense diverts resources away from the teaching and enjoyment of real books. Because resources in primary schools, as we all know, are extremely limited and many children (not those of Mnetters, obv) are not exposed to books at home or taken to the library (which has probably been closed down anyway)

prh47bridge Wed 11-Jul-12 13:32:11

People were taught to read using phonics for centuries. There was no debate because it was the only method used. Then other methods came along (whole word recognition, etc.), became fashionable and were adopted by many schools in the UK from the 1970s onwards. The evidence available suggests that standards have fallen since the introduction of these new methods, although I believe this is disputed (and in any case, it is possible that any fall in standards may be for reasons other than the change in teaching approach).

23balloons Wed 11-Jul-12 14:13:30

How I wish my son was taught to read using phonics.

Ds is now 11, in year 6 and doesn't know the sounds letters make, can't blend effectively & stuggles to decode nonsense words. He has never managed to read a book for pleasure and has recently been diagnosed as dyslexic. I am now having to teach him to read myself as the school don't believe he has any reading problems because he is good at comprehension.

I think if he were younger and was taught using phonics and tested at the end of year 1 we wouldn't have had half the problems we have had with his reading. He threw all the books out of his room saying he hated reading, yet the SENco asked me 'well which non-fiction' books does he read? NONE, he doesn't read at all hmm

After only a few weeks with a systematic reading programme I can see he is starting to understand how to work out new words. Hopefully we can make vast improvements before secondary.

CecilyP Wed 11-Jul-12 14:28:57

Where do people get the idea that whole word recognition started in the 1970s? Janet and John books were first published in 1949 and had certainly caught on in a big way by the 1950s.

I don't understand how a child can attempt to read an unfamiliar word if they do not have any knowledge of letter/combination sounds?

Obviously, at some point you stop sounding out/decoding words and are able to read whole words fluently just by looking at them.
But surely that requires a fairly advanced level of reading? Someone upthread said that if all you do is look and say, aren't you basically memorising every word? I would have thought that is very limiting on its own.

I can't see how you can have only one or the other - you need phonics to start with surely, the concept of reading is squiggles on page are letters which relate to sounds, and then you have to learn to recognise familiar words without sounding them out, but when you come across new words you still have tools plus experience (for when they are irregular words) to read them.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 15:02:21

Miggsie, I agree. Russian is a very phonetic language and you can learn to read it accurately if you really focus for a few days on the alphabet/getting the sounds and emphasis right. Comprehension is another matter.

Mrz -- 'Well math we get good reading results with children who come from homes without books so what would be your explanation?'
Another anecdote -- my own DCs learned to read before they got to school and were tackling the likes of Nancy Drew (and understanding the plot) by 5-6. What would be your explanation?

I think I can guarantee that what you have taught those children to do is decode, and once reading material becomes complex, technical, nuanced and vocabulary rich, their comprehension levels will tail off significantly as will their interest in reading, for either profit or pleasure.

Yes, you have to know how to decode words, and yes, phonics is a very useful tool for many children, but any politician who promises results for all, with the implication that the problem of the huge tail of under achievement (that has existed since well before the heyday of whole word recognition) will disappear once decoding happens, is a charlatan. The premise behind offering a magic solution to non-achievement in the education system at the classroom level, a democratic one-size-fits-all path to fluent reading which is the key to educational opportunity, is that the educational playing field is level and all that is needed in order to get everyone playing the game is phonics. The fact is that educational attainment in the UK can be predicted according to postal code. The exceptions prove the rule.

The real problem with reading and all other elements of the education system where students fail (and the UK has a huge tail of under or non-achievement as well as a much smaller cohort achieving spectacularly good results at the top) is homes where there is little or no interest on the part of parents and a culture that is anti-intellectual that affects boys' engagement with school in particular. Barnardos discussion paper on underachievement in Northern Ireland, where even within the disadvantaged sections of the community, educational achievement of one group is worse than the other, and the factors that make a perfect storm of low educational aspiration and achievement.

Decoding instruction is a plaster over an injury that requires far more extensive treatment.

prh47bridge Wed 11-Jul-12 15:14:15

Sorry CecilyP - didn't express myself very well. Yes, other methods were in use alongside phonics by the mid-20th Century. The significance of the 1970s is that this is when phonics became unfashionable and was abandoned by many schools.

EdithWeston Wed 11-Jul-12 16:26:27

"Russian is a very phonetic language" grin

All languages (except sign language) are phonetic. Phonetics, which vary regionally, between speakers and between the utterances of on speaker, an also contain assimilations of which speaker are usually unaware, is not helpful in learning to read.

Phonemics - recognising the meaningful sounds in a language - is a key area.

The number and type of phoneme/grapheme correspondences varies between languages (eg in Chinese there are next to none, and the reader does indeed have to look and say). Although it's probably correct to say that the more "regular" the language in terms of phone/grapheme correspondences, the easier it is to pronounce; it's not correct to suggest that English is unduly difficult.

I have never seen it propounded as a panacea for all under-achievement; it is, however, held (rightly) as the approach which successful produces the lowest number of sub-standards readers. There are obviously concerns that if a child cano read they will be unable to access the curriculum effectively. If that OBE specific problem were reduced, it would free up time an effort to tackle other aspects.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 16:32:38

^"
I think I can guarantee that what you have taught those children to do is decode, and once reading material becomes complex, technical, nuanced and vocabulary rich, their comprehension levels will tail off significantly as will their interest in reading, for either profit or pleasure."^

So should I tell these 6 year olds that they shouldn't be able to read Rolad Dahl, Harry Potter, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Percy Jackson etc because they can only decode Math?

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 16:38:14

Which is what they are currently reading at breaks and at home for their own pleasure.

rabbitstew Wed 11-Jul-12 16:43:07

I don't think even phonics fanatics mean you shouldn't discuss the meaning of texts with children, do they????? Doesn't the "only" in "first, fast and only" just mean it should be the only way of actively teaching a child how to make the noise represented by written words on the page? Or does it really mean that you should on no account discuss the meaning of the sentences the child has just decoded????? It seems to me really odd to get paranoid about children being incapable of understanding the meaning of what they are reading just because they are using phonics to decode the words. Why does learning high frequency words off by heart make you better at understanding what a story is about?

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 16:52:47

No rabbitstew they don't although it is an often made claimed
What people who teach using phonics say is don't expect a child to independently read words they haven't got the skills to read yet ... but to read lots of quality books together for pleasure. If your child wants to read a book with words they don't know just tell them what it says rather than expect them to guess.

NightLark Wed 11-Jul-12 16:54:12

My experience so far with one of my three children at school is that I don't like phonics.

I never used it (self taught, reader before school age). School provided zero information or support, right down to never mentioning the word 'phonics', so heaven only knows how we parents were supposed to help our children at home.

DS (6) has just flunked his phonics test.

I read with him every night, and at first he was quite happy to try and read by sight, guessing from pictures, recognising some words and giving the stories lots of expression, but (once we realised that was the game) decoding word by word bored him stupid and was an endless struggle complete with lots of 'I'm stupid' and 'I can't do this'.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 16:57:10

Can I ask you what you do when you meet a word you have never seen before NightLark?

FGilbert Wed 11-Jul-12 17:10:41

The central question here is about trust. Who do we trust to educate our children more, their teacher, or a politician who has never taught before in his life? Teachers need to be given the freedom to choose the method they feel is appropriate; this may be phonics, or it may be another method. Teachers like me are with children day in, day out, we see and learn what is the most appropriate way to teach children; they are all different. You can't have one-size-fits-all solutions. The best education systems in the world like Finland's give teachers the freedom to do what they feel is appropriate.

blackcatsdancing Wed 11-Jul-12 17:14:26

edithweston let me start by saying that i think most teachers work very hard and want to do the best they possibly can for their pupils . My comment about the literacy hour was slightly off topic but relevant in that the way i have seen it taught would put many children off reading. I added in my comment that the teacher concerned got good sats result as it was important. She is never going to retrained, not in that particular school for precisely that reason! How good results are achieved is worth thinking about. In this case the teacher kept behind pupils who couldn't finish on time in during their break times- they weren't lazy, they were just struggling. The class were very much taught to the tests, to the extent that she saw the exam papers and then spent the next few days coaching them on foreign names and reading as many similar books to them as she could so they'd be familiar with what was coming up (i.e cheating ??) . Now maybe you can argue that she went beyond the call of duty in doing that or maybe you could say that she was more interested in Sats results and how they reflected on her as a teacher- in fact she told me as much, she wanted good results because she wanted to be promoted. I just felt sorry for the young children (year 2 ) kept inside all morning and how pressurised the whole class seemed to be.
I think as parents we have a right to question exactly what is going on in some schools in order for them to get their wonderful results . I know some parents who have taken their children out of a school because they weren't happy with the pressure their children were under. sorry rant over.

ariadne1 Wed 11-Jul-12 17:15:32

'don't understand how a child can attempt to read an unfamiliar word if they do not have any knowledge of letter/combination sounds?

the 'look and say' readers do develop phonics rules subconciously all bt themselves through their experience of reading.It's like I said earlier dogs come in all shapes and sizes, yet we all recognise one when we see one and know it sn't a cat or a goat because our brain has built up a pattern of what 'dogness' is.We don't need to be taught that and it would be impossible to do so.

LisaBookMums Wed 11-Jul-12 17:18:52

I'm with ATOMum. Phonics works really well for children who "get" phonics. If Education is a round hole and your child is a round peg = happy days. The problem is not with teachers, it is with tighter and tighter government guidelines: more testing, paperwork, rankings, league tables, Ofsted assessments. Teachers know full-well that all children learn differently but there are only so many hours in the day to get the prescribed Learning Objectives observed, ticked off and reported. This leaves very little time to work on a "Plan B" with these youngsters. Phonics screening is yet another set of tests/paperwork to drain teaching time from the very young with any kind of learning difference. sad

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 17:19:32

The best education systems in the world like Finland's give teachers the freedom to do what they feel is appropriate.

And Finland is one of the many countries in the world where children are taught to read with phonics, as a matter of course, without any highly charged debate.

EdithWeston Wed 11-Jul-12 17:19:38

Interesting example, Finland. Synthetic phonics is nigh on universal there for beginning to read, as it is recognised as the best method.

NightLark Wed 11-Jul-12 17:22:42

What do I do when I meet a new word, erm, I don't know!

If it's something I don't need to know (a character name in a book, for e.g.), I don't bother making a sound for it, I just recognise it. Like a pattern, I suppose.

I have got more common words (that I've read, but never spoken) wrong for years though - facsimile springs to mind! That was fax-i-mile the first time I tried to say it.

EdithWeston Wed 11-Jul-12 17:25:09

With phonics your "plan B' population is unlikely to exceed 5%. With mixed methods it's likely to be around 20%.

So if your concern is reducing the number of children not reading well enough in the first place, and then (unless you have unlimited resources) standing a better chance of being able to provide adequate support to the numbers that do, then it's pretty clear that phonics is the first choice method.

kesstrel Wed 11-Jul-12 17:25:47

"the 'look and say' readers do develop phonics rules subconciously all bt themselves"

Some of them do. A fair percentage don't. Which is why we have had around 20% illiteracy rate using this method. Even children who do develop rules subconsciously have trouble retrieving those rules when it comes to spelling (subconscious is the problem here) and also because being left to discern the rules themselves means their subconscious understanding is often patchy.

NightLark Wed 11-Jul-12 17:27:05

In fact, a bit like JollyHockySticks upthread, I don't make a lot of thought-sounds. Can't remember a tune from one day to the next, even nursery rhymes. I think in thoughts, not in noises.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 17:27:21

'Russian is a very phonetic language' grin'

I should clarify my remark there -- it has high phoneme/grapheme correspondence but it also has a non-latin alphabet, which can be mastered quickly if you put your mind to it, and reading can thus be accomplished by decoding and learning a few rules about emphasis and cadence. Comprehension will develop much more slowly. The rate will depend on how quickly the learner can acquire vocabulary and become familiar with grammar and syntax.

Mrz, it will be harder and harder for anyone to read for their own pleasure in homes where books are not provided once libraries are closed under this far-sighted government. The phonics policy is a sale of snake oil in the context of cuts that make it harder to get your hands on books.

But even if there were libraries on every corner, what do you do with the ingrained culture of low educational aspiration and non-achievement? Can children really hope to tackle the canon of English lit in secondary with any hope of success when there is little support from home and their immediate culture, just because they can decode? Why didn't that work for the children of the uneducated classes decades ago (1920s, 30s, etc), long before the introduction of whole word methods?
Why do protestant working class boys in Northern Ireland emerge with worse educational attainment than Catholic working class boys from the NI school system?

How can parent and child reading quality books together, books containing vocabulary that a child can neither read nor understand, do anything to improve a child's reading progress?

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 17:34:21

Finnish children are taught to read in Finnish, not English. Finnish (and Spanish) and some other languages have shallow correspondence of grapheme and phoneme whereas English has deep correspondence. It's a no-brainer to teach Finnish children to read (at 7 and up btw) using phonics. The method is ideal for the Finnish language.

merrymouse Wed 11-Jul-12 17:36:44

news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/3086421.stm

Finnish class sizes kindergarten and pre-school: average 12.5

Finnish class sizes primary: maximum 20

An autonomous teacher with a smaller class is much more able to accommodate the pace of the children he/she is teaching, rather than some imaginary class that that a government directive imagines he/she is teaching. In Finland they also have plenty of time to ensure that the nuts and bolts skills necessary to learn phonics are present before they start teaching reading.

Perhaps this is why they use phonics successfully? As far as I can tell, phonics has supposedly been the default reading system in the UK for a very long time. If all you need is a phonics system, why isn't it working yet?

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 17:39:10

As far as I can tell, phonics has supposedly been the default reading system in the UK for a very long time.

Oh no no no no no! Mixed methods have been the default method since about 1997.

Bonsoir Wed 11-Jul-12 17:44:28

"How can parent and child reading quality books together, books containing vocabulary that a child can neither read nor understand, do anything to improve a child's reading progress?"

I have a friend who has been obsessed by reading to her DCs since birth - they have a policy of each parent reading for 30 mins to each child every day, morning and evening. She thought it would teach them to read...

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 17:51:00

As far as I can tell, phonics has supposedly been the default reading system in the UK for a very long time.

Good heavens! Whatever gave you that idea?

Perhaps you should have a read of this:

www.spellingsociety.org/journals/j17/fonicsfobia.php

The situation improved marginally from the late 1990s with the introduction of the National Literacy Strategy but, by trying to please all sides (whole Word & Phonics), the Searchlights Strategy , which covered a 'range of strategies' for the teaching of reading, meant that the phonics component was very easily marginalised by teachers who didn't wish to teach phonics. Phonics programmes produced by the Dfe were also verypoor.

There have always been little pockets of phonics teaching, but it has definitely not been the 'default system for a very long time'. In fact, it is a very long time since it was the default system...

merrymouse Wed 11-Jul-12 17:51:45

Maybe I got the wrong end of the stick - perhaps I have just been reading newspaper articles about the wonders of phonics since the 1990's.

However, teachers aren't stupid. If they could teach all children to read perfectly just by using a phonics programme, why would they make their jobs harder by not doing it?

I do think children should have a firm grounding in phonics. However, more than a shiny new set of reading books and a set of standards, I think they need plenty of access to an adult who can identify their reading problems and enable them to learn at their own pace.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 17:52:17

If 'mixed methods' includes a phonics element, doesn't that mean that phonics has been the order of the day, with other bits thrown in? If you think it means whole word methods are the default, are you advocating phonics first and only?
If it's a case of phonics first and only, how can untrained parents possibly hope to contribute to their children's reading progress at home through reading books containing unfamiliar vocabulary together?

Phonics has been around since children have attended school en masse. So have 'mixed methods' and whole word methods. So has the vast cohort of under and non-achievers, mostly concentrated in the lowest socio-economic groups. That is actually the only educational phenomenon that has remained stubbornly constant over the centuries.

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 17:57:52

Finnish children are taught to read in Finnish, not English. Finnish (and Spanish) and some other languages have shallow correspondence of grapheme and phoneme whereas English has deep correspondence.

The opaqueness of English orthography means that it takes longer to learn to read it but it certainly doesn't mean that it cannot be learned with phonics. Unless, of course, you are determined that it won't be learned through phonics, in which case you produce a self fulfilling prophecy.

Thank you for your insight into the language Finnish children learn to read. I would never have managed to work that out on my own....

merrymouse Wed 11-Jul-12 17:59:31

Now, I can say that some of the reading books sent home with my son were not strictly phonics reading books - they definitely encouraged word recognition by looking at pictures.

However, I thought the point of this was that children got a sense of being able to read, started to enjoy looking at books and began to recognise words like 'the'. It certainly worked for him.

Does phonics mean "teaching the mechanics of reading via a phonics programme, but also allowing access to non-phonics reading books"

or does it mean, "only show children non-phonetic words once they have passed a phonics test?"

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 18:01:55

However, teachers aren't stupid. If they could teach all children to read perfectly just by using a phonics programme, why would they make their jobs harder by not doing it?

No idea confused. It took me 1 year out of teacher training college 20 years ago and 5 children leaving our school unable to read before I decided I never wanted to be even partly responsible for that happening again.

I think that factor is mostly repsonsible - the lack of any kind of coherent reading instruction at teacher training college. Teaching courses have been traditionally anti-phonics for no good reason for a very long time. I had no idea at all how to teach reading after a 4 year degree.

Peaksandtroughs Wed 11-Jul-12 18:02:04

There seems to be two arguments here. One is that there are issues with phonics in teaching early reading skills. The other is that phonics doesn't lead well (or perhaps actively hinders) the development of reading for pleasure and reading for meaning.

I would like some explanation of the mechanics of how phonics hinders either of those things, as without that explanation I find it an unconvincing argument.

I see some people are defending phonics on the basis that it is purely for learning early decoding before a child goes on to develop in other, unrelated ways in literacy skills. I would speculate that decoding skills are transferable, and help a child to perceive the world and various forms of knowledge as systems, which builds skills in Maths, Science and further knowledge of the English language. I can see that systems thinking may seem counter-intuitive to people who are naturally inclined to emotional content and social expressiveness. But it is still important and can be an important route into knowledge and creativity for people who will struggle to have some kind of emotional response to a story about how a bird feels at finding some buried treasure or some other fantastical and implausible tale. We don't all think in the same way.

We don't all engage with reading for pleasure in the way Michael Rosen seems to be advocating, although perhaps I am misunderstanding. I've watched the youtube video where he talks to Lambeth NUT, and while one of my children would love his approach to literacy, the other would have been cowering in fear at the idea of a group discussion about what a fox feels (very little probably - it is a fox not a person, would be what my child thought). Talking socially, emotional understanding and the mechanics of reading, they're connected but lack of ability in one should not be a reason to hold back progress in the others. Phonics (and perhaps other approaches that focus on the mechanics of reading) allows children to understand how words relate to each other regardless of whether or not they have the ability to invent the feelings of a fox and then convey them to an adult or a peer group.

PrideOfChanur Wed 11-Jul-12 18:03:16

An untrained parent can read with their child filling in words which the child can't read alone.
The child gets to move through the story,they get to hear unfamiliar words,and if they do in the process learn some words or letter patterns by sight....oh,no maybe I am in favour of mixed methods... but that gives the opportunity for a child who can pick up words like that to do so,while letting the other children aquire the skills they need systematically.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 18:03:55

*Does phonics mean "teaching the mechanics of reading via a phonics programme, but also allowing access to non-phonics reading books"

This one - apart from the 'allowing'. Children need to be provided with decodable readers to practise their skills, but should not have their access to any kind of other books restricted at all, ever.

merrymouse Wed 11-Jul-12 18:06:16

Also, if it is honestly being suggested that most primary teachers and heads wouldn't use the best system available to teach their children how to read, for no other reason than phobia, shouldn't we just save a huge amount of money and get rid of schools all together?

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 18:08:05

However, teachers aren't stupid. If they could teach all children to read perfectly just by using a phonics programme, why would they make their jobs harder by not doing it?

They may not be stupid though I think that some of them are, but they are not always very rational.

However, if you were to talk to teachers who have taught both methods (and many teachers have) I don't think you would find many (if any) who would want to reurn to Whole Word or mixed method teaching.

Most of the anti phonics rhetoric comes from teachers who have never taught it

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 18:21:20

There is nothing new in the debate except perhaps that there is now a lot of money to be made in the flogging of methods and textbooks.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 18:23:41

It's great that there are now so many quality, exciting decodable schemes around now - for a long time there were hardly any. It's a good thing to have a selection at last.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 18:26:19

"Mrz, it will be harder and harder for anyone to read for their own pleasure in homes where books are not provided once libraries are closed under this far-sighted government. The phonics policy is a sale of snake oil in the context of cuts that make it harder to get your hands on books."
Math that is why I've spent £100+ of my own money with the Book People so far this this month, on top of what I spend every month ... to buy books so these children will read for enjoyment ... I've just been to Tesco and come home with 4 children's books (OK Beast Quest so not the greatest literature in the world ) but if these 5, 6 & 7 year olds want to sit at break times and read then I'm going to encourage it.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 18:27:47

It is very obvious to me that very few people have much knowledge of the long history of reading instruction and that there would be less blind faith in any one method if people knew that they were treading ground that has already been trodden many times before, with practically no effect on the numbers of children emerging from school literate on the one hand and illiterate on the other.

Most of the rhetoric on both sides comes from people who do not know the long history of what they are at, MaizieD.

I fully agree with the conclusions of the article I linked to earlier:
'1. The majority of children will learn to read no matter what the method.

2. The environment, attitudes, and expectations both within and without the school are more important than any method.

3. Any method can be less effective if it is the dull repetition of meaningless letters and phonics, or the rote memory of hundreds of whole words in boring stories. Any method can be made stimulating by a resourceful teacher. Dogmatic adherence to one method may be harmful; adaptability to a child and situation is likely to be more productive.'

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 18:29:28

There is nothing new in the debate except perhaps that there is now a lot of money to be made in the flogging of methods and textbooks.

Nothing new there, either. Publishing companies have made millions from Whole Word books and resources. Nobody worried much about that. The 'commercial interests' smear is just part of the rhetoric.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 18:29:32

Hats off to you, Mrz.
The minister should be completely ashamed that a teacher would have to do this.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 18:32:00

'1. The majority of children will learn to read no matter what the method.

They don't - 20% just don't. It's not good enough to just have to hope that your child isn't one of those one in five, that's too much of a risk.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 18:37:44

20% is therefore the minority, Feenie.
80% being the majority that learns to read no matter what the method.

There has always been this stubborn minority that does not learn, by whatever method, to read.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 18:39:15

I think in all this rhetoric about phonics fanatics (and worse) people lose sight of the fact that we love books and want all children to have the skills to become readers and experience for themselves to joy of a good book

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 18:39:30

It is very obvious to me that very few people have much knowledge of the long history of reading instruction

It's very obvious to me, too.

and that there would be less blind faith in any one method if people knew that they were treading ground that has already been trodden many times before, with practically no effect on the numbers of children emerging from school literate on the one hand and illiterate on the other.

The ability to read has never before been as crucial as it has been in the last few decades. High levels of illiteracy were tolerated or taken for granted in the past because reading wasn't regarded as vital for all members of society (in fact, the concept of literate lower orders was positively feared by some sections of past elites). Nor has reading been so thoroughly researched, and literacy levels measured, as it has been for the past few decades. Blind faith is no longer necessary, or desirable, when there is concrete evidence that method A is superior to method B.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 18:42:48

It is estimated that only 2 or 3% of people are "incapable" of learning to read so if 20% are failing to do so we are failing to reach everyone.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 18:42:52

But it's unacceptable - saying the majority learn to read whatever is the equivalent of just shrugging your shoulders. It isn't good enough, and I am baffled at why teachers or armchair researchers on MN like yourself are adamant that it should be accepted, and sneer 'it's anecdotal/snake oil/etc, etc at all mention of anything that some teachers have actually found to change the situation. When I found out there was something better, I was excited, and couldn't wait to put it into practice.

People's attitudes astound me - and I don't know whether it's the teachers' or the armchair commentators that shock me more.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 18:43:54

'The ability to read has never before been as crucial as it has been in the last few decades'

People have said that since the dawn of popular democracy, if not earlier.
The Prussian schoolteacher was credited with winning the battle of Sadowa but it was not the first time the importance of popular education was underlined.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 18:44:49

confused

Peaksandtroughs Wed 11-Jul-12 18:49:01

Whether or not people have been saying it or not in the past is irrelevant. From a factual perspective, it is the case that for employment purposes and simply for getting through everyday life, being able to read is more important for more of the population than it ever has been. Even compared to ten years ago, reading ability matters more now. A decade ago a recruit only needed the reading age of a seven year old to join the army, now that is not the case because of the reliance on operating technology. The same will be true for many other jobs - people need to be able to read well. And that is before we even start looking back on times when lots of people were manuring fields or digging canals.

choccyp1g Wed 11-Jul-12 18:49:51

NightLarkWed 11-Jul-12 17:22:42
What do I do when I meet a new word, erm, I don't know!......
I have got more common words (that I've read, but never spoken) wrong for years though - facsimile springs to mind! That was fax-i-mile the first time I tried to say it.

But you must have used phonics to reach that pronunciation NightLark; If you had done it by context alone, you would be calling it something the "sending copies by telephone machine".

If you used whole word recognition you would have pronounced it as a totally group of random sounds, or just "silently" read it in your head with no sound at all.

You seem to have used the phonics rules as follows:
an "F" at the start of a word always sounds like the start of Fox,
"cs" usually sounds "x",
"m" always sounds like the start of "mother"
and you treated "ile" as a split digraph which lengthens the "i" and doesn't sound the "e".

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 18:51:33

Feenie -- children have been emerging from schools, where the pendulum has swung between whole word methods and phonics, for several centuries, equipped and not equipped in almost constant proportion, to face a world that demands they be literate.

What is unacceptable is to subject yet another generation of children to yet another grand experiment in the teaching of reading, this time using studies conducted on older children in another culture as the so-called scientific foundation for the instruction of 4 year olds in phonics, while at the same time cutting back on libraries, ignoring large class sizes, ignoring the social conditions, the lack of job prospects, the anti-intellectualism of the culture, the poverty, stress, neglect and chaotic family backgrounds that a lot of children return to after their day in the educational bubble.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 18:54:32

It isn't an experiment - it's a based on sound, solid research, for once.

while at the same time cutting back on libraries, ignoring large class sizes, ignoring the social conditions, the lack of job prospects, the anti-intellectualism of the culture, the poverty, stress, neglect and chaotic family backgrounds that a lot of children return to after their day in the educational bubble.

None of that is aceptable, everyone agrees - but it has nothing to do with making sure that every child learns to read at school. Stop diverting.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 18:54:53

acceptable

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 18:56:09

What is relevant about it is the fact that though people have been getting high blood pressure from it for centuries, the result of the flapping has always been discarding phonice in favour of whole word methods or vice versa, while the real problems that keep children from achieving in school, the interplay of poverty and stress and abuse and negativity in the home, have been ignored.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 18:56:16

Math some of us have been using phonics for two decades with good results we are doing this because it works not because the government have told us to.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 18:57:16

As I have said before Feenie, that research was carried out on older children. It was not carried out on the age group that is exposed to phonics in the UK.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 18:57:58

And for some of us that's with the interplay of poverty and stress and abuse and negativity in the home.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 18:58:20

Listen to what we are saying, math.

Mashabell Wed 11-Jul-12 18:58:55

The crux of the matter is as Maizie said,
The opaqueness of English orthography means that it takes longer to learn to read it

because learning to read with letters that can have different sounds (an, any, apron) is much more difficult than with ones which don't (keep sleep deep). It also means that learning to read English is impossible with just learning to sound out letters and to blend them (i.e. just with phonics).

Teachers who express passionate support for phonics, in practice also have to go over the tricky words (swan swam) over and over again, until children stop stumbling over them - until they can read them by sight.

It simply is not a matter of either / or, but a mixture of phonics and learning to recognise whole words.

This is (as I have said before) because 69 English graphemes have more than one possible pronunciation:
a: and – apron, any, father
a-e: came – camel
ai: wait – said, plait
al: always – algebra
-all: tall - shall
are: care - are
au: autumn - laugh, mauve
-ate: to deliberate - a deliberate act
ay: stays - says

cc: success - soccer
ce: centre - celtic
ch: chop –chorus, choir, chute
cqu: acquire - lacquer 19

e: end – English
-e: he - the
ea: mean - meant, break
ear: ear – early, heart, bear
-ee: tree - matinee
e-e: even – seven, fete
ei: veil - ceiling, eider, their, leisure
eigh: weight - height
eo: people - leopard, leotard
ere: here – there, were
-et: tablet - chalet
eau: beauty – beau
- ew: few - sew
- ey: they - monkey

ge: gem - get
gi: ginger - girl
gy: gym – gynaecologist
ho: house - hour
i: wind – wind down ski hi-fi
- ine: define –engine, machine
ie: field - friend, sieve
imb: limb – climb
ign: signature - sign
mn: amnesia - mnemonic

ost: lost - post
-o: go - do
oa: road - broad
o-e: bone – done, gone
-oes: toes – does, shoes
-oll: roll - doll
omb: tombola - bomb, comb, tomb
oo: boot - foot, brooch
-ot: despot - depot
ou: sound - soup, couple
ough: bough - rough, through, trough, though
ought: bought - drought
oul: should - shoulder, mould
our: sour - four, journey
ow: how - low

qu: queen – bouquet
s: sun – sure
sc: scent - luscious, molusc
-se: rose - dose
ss: possible - possession
th: this - thing
-ture: picture - mature
u: cup – push
ui: build – fruit, ruin
wa: was – wag
wh: what - who
wo: won - woman, women, womb
wor: word – worn
x: box - xylophone, anxious
- y-: type - typical
- -y: daddy - apply
z: zip – azure

I am sure that anyone who bothers to take a look at them can easily imagine how much easier learning to read English would be if they had just the one, first shown sound (as they would if English spelling was like other European writing systems).

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 19:00:15

Teachers who express passionate support for phonics, in practice also have to go over the tricky words (swan swam) over and over again, until children stop stumbling over them - until they can read them by sight.

Bollocks.

kesstrel Wed 11-Jul-12 19:00:52

mathanxiety, you are ignoring the fact that modern phonics programmes represent very big improvements on previous versions of "phonetics". They have taken account of the research over the last 40 years in psychology departments and into linguistics and now are much more coherent, thorough, and, particulary importantly, don't just present phoneme correspondences to children but emphasis blending and segmenting, with lots of practice, as well as integrating reading and spelling together, rather than teaching spelling separately at a later stage. In addition, the materials are much better and the methods mmuch more engagin. To say that phonics in its current version is the same as pre-1970s versions is a serious misrepresentation.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 19:04:10

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 19:00:15

"Teachers who express passionate support for phonics, in practice also have to go over the tricky words (swan swam) over and over again, until children stop stumbling over them - until they can read them by sight."

Bollocks.

I agree Feenie total and utter grin

kesstrel Wed 11-Jul-12 19:09:26

"As I have said before Feenie, that research was carried out on older children. It was not carried out on the age group that is exposed to phonics in the UK."

What people reading the various criticisms here of the evidence base supporting SP may not be aware of, is that these critics are employing a double standard. Because there is almost no evidence base at all for the "other methods" that people who are against SP presumably prefer. Those methods were dreamed up in the past by armchari theorists using a model of how reading works that modern psychological research has now disproved. That's why these critics aren't telling us about the non-existent studies that prove how effective their preferred methods are.

Peaksandtroughs Wed 11-Jul-12 19:10:07

I know this is rather off topic, but Feenie and others - do you enjoy teaching reading? Is it rewarding and interesting? It was one of the things that put me off primary teaching - teacher training institutions didn't teach how to do it and I had no idea how it was done.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 19:11:17

'mathanxiety, you are ignoring the fact that modern phonics programmes represent very big improvements on previous versions of "phonetics". They have taken account of the research over the last 40 years in psychology departments and into linguistics and now are much more coherent, thorough, and, particulary importantly, don't just present phoneme correspondences to children but emphasis blending and segmenting, with lots of practice, as well as integrating reading and spelling together, rather than teaching spelling separately at a later stage. In addition, the materials are much better and the methods mmuch more engagin. To say that phonics in its current version is the same as pre-1970s versions is a serious misrepresentation.'

Kesstrel, either you have swallowed the sales pitch of some purveyor of a modern phonics programme whole, or you are in the business of selling such a programme...

Feenie, et al, the plural of anecdote is not data.
Data indicates that about a quarter of students emerge with sub par reading skills from school every year and have done so no matter what method they have been exposed to, for as long as records have been gathered

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 19:13:57

I love teaching children to read! I get a huge buzz every time a child becomes a reader.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 19:16:14

Kesstrel, all the methods of reading instruction were dreamed up by armchair theorists, including phonics, as early as the 1500s. The research on phonics came hundreds of years after phonics was first introduced.

Like it or not, that research on sp was conducted on 5 and 6 year olds. It is now being used to support the teaching of sp to 4 year olds.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 19:17:54

Well our data courtesy of KS2 SATs says this year 92% of our children are going off to secondary school as readers and writers (the 2 pupils who narrowly missed level 4s have Specific Language Impairment according to SaLT)

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 19:20:09

I love teaching reading smile

It's the most rewarding thing I do.

Feenie, et al, the plural of anecdote is not data.

<yawn> So what? I have taught endless kids to read - all while you have sat there pontificating and boring the arse off people with that tired phrase. It doesn't mean anything, math - teaching children to read successfully does.

kesstrel Wed 11-Jul-12 19:30:54

Re Merrymouse's question earlier:

"However, teachers aren't stupid. If they could teach all children to read perfectly just by using a phonics programme, why would they make their jobs harder by not doing it?"

There's an excellent book by psychologist Carol Tavris called "Mistakes were made (but not by me)". She write about the tendency professional people like doctors and psychotherapists (and teachers) have to overestimate their own personal shrewdness in making diagnoses and evaluating treatments, when in fact more objective measures are much more accurate. Various cognitive biases are involved in this, whereby people only notice evidence that confirms their prior beliefs, and also attribute successful outcomes to their own efforts but unsuccessful ones to external factors (e.g. child is too young/dyslexic/will learn when he is ready).

There is also a comfort factor - people like what they are familiar with. And also, it can be very difficult to admit that all those children who didn't learn to read over the years you have been teaching them might in fact have learned, had you been using a different method. Nobody likes to think they've let down people who trusted them, even inadvertently. And finally, in the case of teachers, there is the fact that they have endured a welter of government bureaucracy and paperwork over the years, so it is hardly surprising if some of them are cynical and skeptical.

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 19:33:15

It is very obvious to me that very few people have much knowledge of the long history of reading instruction and that there would be less blind faith in any one method if people knew that they were treading ground that has already been trodden many times before, with practically no effect on the numbers of children emerging from school literate on the one hand and illiterate on the other.

I'd be interested to see a reference for this assertion.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 19:35:41

The frightening fact is many teachers don't have a clue how to teach phonics shock many parents are better informed.

kesstrel Wed 11-Jul-12 19:37:52

Kesstrel, either you have swallowed the sales pitch of some purveyor of a modern phonics programme whole, or you are in the business of selling such a programme...

Wrong. I am an interested parent who has read a great deal of the research. I am still waiting for you to explain to me why you think that a) modern sp is no different from earlier versions; b) how numerous chools with low socio-economic intake using modern sp are getting the kind of results talked about above, in the teeth of your assertions; c) why you think that sp was "dreamed up" in an armchair when in fact it was developed by teachers and researchers who were familiar with the the newly developed psychological research in this area, and who tested their programmes as they developed them.

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 19:37:55

Sorry, ignore my last post. I forgot to press 'copy' on the relevant quote.

Try again:

children have been emerging from schools, where the pendulum has swung between whole word methods and phonics, for several centuries, equipped and not equipped in almost constant proportion, to face a world that demands they be literate.

I would be interested to see a reference for this assertion.

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 19:39:36

I think, kesstrel, that mathanxiety is getting carried away by her own rhetoric.

kesstrel Wed 11-Jul-12 19:43:07

The frightening fact is many teachers don't have a clue how to teach phonics shock many parents are better informed.

Mrz, that's my impression too...I think a lot of parents now know someone who has given their child a phonic intervention at home, like Toe by Toe, when the school's methods didn't work. The exasperating thing of course is that the school then credits such children as successful products of their methods!

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 19:47:56

c) why you think that sp was "dreamed up" in an armchair when in fact it was developed by teachers and researchers who were familiar with the the newly developed psychological research in this area, and who tested their programmes as they developed them.

Jolly Phonics - Sue Lloyd and Sarah Wernham - practising teachers
Read Write Inc -Ruth Miskin - practising teacher
Phonics International - Debbie Hepplewhite - practising teacher
Sound - Discovery - Marlynne Grant, EP (so a former teacher as EPs used to have to have been teaching before training) + a practising teacher (I forget her name for the moment)
Sounds~Write - 3 EPs

Anecdotes may not equal data, math, but unevidenced assertions aren't fact.

merrymouse Wed 11-Jul-12 20:32:01

I'm still not convinced that a well-informed parent/teacher giving a child plenty of one to one reading help would stick with a look and say method that wasn't working, particularly given all the posts on this thread saying that dyslexia specialists use a phonics approach.

What happens to a child being taught phonics who is ill for a fortnight and misses the lessons where they do 'th'?. Unless somebody can help them catch up they are lost.

My conclusion is still that phonics does work, but it will never improve reading rates until teachers are able to teach individuals, not an amorphous class, moving at a government defined pace.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 20:35:39

There are people on this thread and those on TES who are happily reporting ... I know the child doesn't read accurately but they are using context and making good enough guesses hmm so I guess they are happy to stick with a method that isn't working

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 20:43:19

MaizieD, most of your posts reveal you are unaware of history or historical data related to the teaching of reading or literacy levels.

Kesstrel, I said phonics in one shape or another has been around for centuries, not that SP is no better than the phonics that has been around for centuries. One difference between SP and previous incarnations of phonics is that SP has been aggressively marketed for a few years now with profit the motive (and I think that accounts for a lot of the blind devotion to its cause).

I have taken issue with your assertion that solid research forms the basis of the current policy on the grounds that the research was done using children who are older than the children who are to be exposed to phonics in the UK system; SP in its current UK incarnation is based on research done on older children. I feel it is worth repeating this.

You are going to have to provide the data indicating that numerous schools using SP with low socio economic strata intake are achieving good results, and it would be nice to see if those results carried through to secondary and beyond. Some stats here on literacy -- 'The Skills for Life survey was commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills, and fieldwork was conducted between June 2002 and May 2003. Interviews were conducted with 8,730 randomly selected adults aged 16-65 in England.

Around one in six respondents (16 per cent, or 5.2 million 16-65 year olds) were classified as having lower level literacy skills - Entry level 3 or below in the literacy test. Lower level literacy skills were associated with socio-economic deprivation. Adults in more deprived areas, such as the North East, tended to perform less well in these tests than those in less deprived areas such as the South East.'

You want to know 'why you think that sp was "dreamed up" in an armchair when in fact it was developed by teachers and researchers who were familiar with the the newly developed psychological research in this area, and who tested their programmes as they developed them.'
I didn't say SP was dreamed up by armchair theorists. I said that all reading instruction methods, including phonics, were initially conjured up by people who were basically amateurs working on hunches, as early as the 1500s.

'The exasperating thing of course is that the school then credits such children as successful products of their methods!'
Almost everyone who credits SP with teaching children to read overlooks the vital role of parents providing a word and book rich environment.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 20:50:49

MaizieD, All of those programmes have made a fortune for their founders and for their heirs in some cases. They all now have a huge financial stake in the results of their programmes, and of course future research and stats will have to be read bearing this in mind.

(I actually didn't make any assertions about SP programmes beyond the fact that they are huge money spinners, so I don't know what your comment about my unevidenced assertions might be about.)

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 20:52:45

MaizieD, most of your posts reveal you are unaware of history or historical data related to the teaching of reading or literacy levels.

I'm certainly not aware of your sources. Which is why I have asked for references.

Do you know how literacy levels have been determined by historians?

coorong Wed 11-Jul-12 20:56:39

My reception aged daughter is being sent home "nonsense" phonics spelling words (like "wot") to secure the phonics AND expected to learn the 100, 200 etc most common words list.
The pretend words they have to stress the phonics stuff (like "wot") make children think that all English words are pronounced according to the same rules, when in fact, they're aren't. My older daughter didn't have the pretend words and was, at this stage, a more accomplished reader. It's a small sample size (only 2 girls), but I worry these pretend words are confusing the youngest. She confuses "what" and "wot".

I really like phonics, but with real words only please.

Oh and FYI - I'm in the north, where "u" is pronounced" "oo"

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 20:56:47

MaizieD, All of those programmes have made a fortune for their founders and for their heirs in some cases. They all now have a huge financial stake in the results of their programmes, and of course future research and stats will have to be read bearing this in mind.

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that you are completely round the twist.

I know most of them and I can tell you that a) None of them are dead and b) none of them has made a 'fortune' from their programmes.

Why on earth should I believe your 'history' when you tell such blatant and unsubstantiated porkies?

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 21:00:08

Since you won't accept action research carried out by schools and programme writers and the UK government hasn't funded research beyond the Clackmannanshire project and a review of the literature I'm afraid most research does come from countries where children begin reading later it seems you will reject everything that disagrees with your views.

breadandbutterfly Wed 11-Jul-12 21:02:17

I supect some of those criticising whole word methods are attacking a straw man - I learnt with Janet and John which I believe is whole word method BUT that wasn't the very first thing I did (don't see how it could be). I first learnt the alphabet and the main sounds the letters made (not all of them and not combining them but approx one sound per letter (2 for c, and 2 for all vowels when combined with a 'magic e'). That was the extent of my phonics teaching, but was quite enough rules for a 3 or 4 year old to be picking up and starting with. I'd v v surprised if everyone ever learning to read didn't learn some concept of letter-sound correspondence when learning the alphabet (and surely every reading method learns the alphabet prior to reading words).

In my case, when I encountered words using different or more complicated letters to make sounds eg ph making a f or ch making a ch or oo making oo etc, my mother (who taught me to read) showed me what sound that combination made in that word. Then next time I saw a ph or ch or oo, I'd remember and recognise them or she could remind me, oh it's like in such-and-such a word. I don't see what's to be gained by learning all the rules first separately - seems v dull - and not just learning the sounds and hence rules in practice as one encounters them in texts aimed at that age group.

I do know that despite or because of this being the extent of my phonics teaching, I can spell everything after seeing it once and am an incredibly quick reader. I'd put it down to recognising the shape of the whole word being quicker than scanning left-right on each word but could be wrong here.

I'm definitely with Rosen. In my experience, all those taught to read through phonics are awful at spelling - decoding doesn't work backwards - it can give you options to work out what the word should be when reading and you can use your knowledge of what real words sound like and context to work out what it is eg don't bow when you are holding your bow and arrow under that bough - but bugger knows how you can do that in reverse - context won't give you any clues. Phonics on its own will just tell you well, it must be said oh or ow but could be written oh or o-e or ough etc etc. (And that's without bringing in cough and through and thought etc etc.) I don't think you can possibly spell well without developing a good visual memory - which is not something you are just born with or not, it's something you develop through practice.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 21:09:39

With whole word/whole language you wouldn't "learn" the sounds (or more accurately you wouldn't be taught them)

rabbitstew Wed 11-Jul-12 21:09:44

Sorry, breadandbutterfly, but you lose all credibility by claiming that in your experience, ALL those taught to read through phonics are awful at spelling. Either you are lying or you have very limited experience.

rabbitstew Wed 11-Jul-12 21:15:26

I don't just read by recognising whole words. For example, I read the word antidisestablishmentarianism by breaking it up into bits - and not bits that make whole words, as disestablish is too long and unusual to recognise in the middle of all the other letters. I do break that word down into its constituent sounds and then rebuild it to make sense of it.

rabbitstew Wed 11-Jul-12 21:17:12

I think there is a limit to the number of letters going together that one can immediately recognise as a whole word. I'm sure experienced readers don't break words up into the individual SP sounds, but I'm sure that they do break words up to read them and spell them.

Solopower Wed 11-Jul-12 21:20:31

I haven't read the whole thread very carefully - though there are some very interesting and informative posts on here.

Imo children learn in lots of different ways and you can't use the same method for everyone. There are so many different approaches available, why stick to one?

Luckily, most teachers will still use the method that works best with each individual child, whatever the govt tells them to do.

The govt are right to focus on trying to raise levels of literacy but as always they are going about it in the wrong way by trying to persuade us that one size fits all.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 21:22:43

Luckily, most teachers will still use the method that works best with each individual child, whatever the govt tells them to do.

You would think, wouldn't you? But still 20% leave primary school unable to read. So that's that theory down the pan.

breadandbutterfly Wed 11-Jul-12 21:24:04

rabbitstew - you are right and 'all' was too inclusive. However, of those whose spelling I am very familar with (a rather more limited group than everyone, I agree!), it is really noticeable that those who learnt to read with phonics can't spell.

mrz - "With whole word/whole language you wouldn't "learn" the sounds (or more accurately you wouldn't be taught them) " - surely everyone learns the alphabet and a sound for the letters? Hae you ever met anyone who ever learnt by reading whole words who did this? That would just be impossible. If that was the case, then whole word reading schemes would blatantly be nonsense. But I don't think that ever was the case = my point.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 21:24:37

I haven't read the whole thread very carefully

Imo children learn in lots of different ways and you can't use the same method for everyone. There are so many different approaches available, why stick to one?

You wouldn't perhaps have asked the 2nd question if you had indeed read the thread carefully. Quite a funny opening gambit in a thread about reading though grin

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 21:25:30

I'm afraid not breadandbutterfly you are confusing mixed methods with whole word/language methods.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 21:25:50

Breadandbutterfly, there are 44 sounds, not just 26 initial letter ones.

breadandbutterfly Wed 11-Jul-12 21:27:26

Would love to hear from one of the phonics fans on here how they teach spelling re my bow/bow/bough sentence. I just don't get how phonics works in reverse to ensure correct spelling every time (rather than just making a reasonable guess and so getting it right some of the time)?

workshy Wed 11-Jul-12 21:27:53

both my DCs learnt to read before starting school (via osmosis I think because I didn't sit down with them and teach them) yet both could confidently pick up a mrs pepperpot story, or the BFG and enjoy them

when my oldest started school they were using jolly phonics and she played along but never actually learnt them

when DD2 started school they had a much more structured phonics system in place and it created doubt in her mind -there were words that she thought she new which didn't fit phonetically and it undermined her confidence as a reader
her spelling, and that of her class mates is way below the level of my older DD and her cohorts

phonics has been used sucessfully with the children that have struggled to learn by more traditional methods and the year 6 class has just had some of the best results ever produced by the school

for me the key is using a variety of methods, see ans say, picture cues and phonics, they shouldn't be mutually exclusive

some of the earliest books have next to no text, the story is in the picture, so why when a child starts to read should they be told not to use the pictures???

breadandbutterfly Wed 11-Jul-12 21:32:16

mrz - well, in that case, I still agree with Michael Rosen as I believe that is what he advocates.

Still don't get how anyone could be a pure 'whole words' reader by your very narrow definition though - does anyone learn to read without learning the alphabet first?? Surely not.

feenie - yes, of course my 'phonics' introduction was very simplified. But that was my point. That one doesn't need to know all the sounds or all the rules to begin to read. I think they are better picked up in context of real words and interesting stories than just learnt as dry rules on their own.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 21:37:17

breadandbutterfly how do you know which spelling to use?
With phonics the child is taught the spelling for each sound - they learn that in English one sound can have different spellings <ow> & <ough> in your examples and that one spelling can represent different sounds "oa" and "ou" in your examples.

I'm not sure why you think distinguishing between homophones and homographs is a different process in phonics.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 21:37:52

Not for 20% of children, breadandbutterfly. What you 'think' doesn't really wash with them.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 21:38:42

Michael Rosen isn't advocating whole word learning breadandbutterfly and yes lots of people learn to read without learning the alphabet first.

rabbitstew Wed 11-Jul-12 21:41:26

Picture cues are one thing, getting children to stop ignoring the words altogether in favour of making up the story from looking at the pictures is another. Likewise, memorising the story and pretending to read the words by pointing at them as you parrot is one thing, but memorising the story having persuaded your parent to read it to you and then staring into space as you "read" it for yourself, is another.

rabbitstew Wed 11-Jul-12 21:42:26

At least phonics ensures you are really LOOKING at what you are reading.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 21:43:23
breadandbutterfly Wed 11-Jul-12 21:45:00

feenie - agree that for that 20% phonics may be great.

But are the other 80% best served by it? Can you point me to research which shows the relative reading abilities of say the top 20% (or 30% or 50% or whatever) taught by different methods and which categorically proves that those taught by phonics alone read as at leat as well, or preferably better, than those taught using any other method?

breadandbutterfly Wed 11-Jul-12 21:47:34

mrz - "Michael Rosen isn't advocating whole word learning breadandbutterfly and yes lots of people learn to read without learning the alphabet first. "

Re part 1 of that sentence - that was exactly what I jut said. o we agree on that. And I agree with him.

Re part 2 - who? I've never ever met anyone taught like that and think it would be technically impossible. Please link to anyone advocating this as a teaching method or who claims to have been taught in this way. Maybe you are right and I am wrong. But without proof I find it very unlikely.

Solopower Wed 11-Jul-12 21:49:22

Learning to read is not just about learning to read, as others have said. I think the govt is underestimating the importance of other factors (a child's feelings eg anxiety or panic/lack of confidence/family background/peer pressure etc) while concentrating on the mechanics of the process. These emotional and psychological factors can be responsible for some children never learning to read - it's not just the methods used by the teachers.

The govt is looking for a quick fix, but this is not something that can be solved by something simplistic.

Sorry if this has been said before.

breadandbutterfly Wed 11-Jul-12 21:53:04

mrz - "breadandbutterfly how do you know which spelling to use?
With phonics the child is taught the spelling for each sound - they learn that in English one sound can have different spellings <ow> & <ough> in your examples and that one spelling can represent different sounds "oa" and "ou" in your examples.

I'm not sure why you think distinguishing between homophones and homographs is a different process in phonics. "

Re your first para - but how do they know which spelling to use in which context WITHOUT memorising it? That's what I don't get. I know they are taught all possible spellings - but all possible spellings aren't right. Only one is. So how to know which one?

Re para 2 - by learning to read and remember whole words you just replicate this when spelling - you don't need to compare it to other words written the same or sounding similar. But in phonics you are taught general rules rather than relying onvisual memory. My question is - how do you know which rule is the right one in every individual case without just memrising individual words?

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 21:58:52

No I don't agree with you or with Michael Rosen (he actually keeps repeating myths about how teachers actually teach which makes most teachers laugh )

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 21:59:49

But are the other 80% best served by it? Can you point me to research which shows the relative reading abilities of say the top 20% (or 30% or 50% or whatever) taught by different methods and which categorically proves that those taught by phonics alone read as at leat as well, or preferably better, than those taught using any other method?

The problem is that you don't know which children will fall into the 20% until they are failed by the mixed methods. At which point it is very difficult to unteach the mixed methods which confused them and teach phonics exclusively to them, whilst also picking their self esteem off the floor at the same time.

Whereas I have never met the child who was failed by phonics and had to unlearn it whilst having the same esteem sorted out. SO why not teach all children the right way to begin with?

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 22:02:52

"In the simplest terms, “whole language” is a method of teaching children to read by recognizing words as whole pieces of language. Proponents of the whole language philosophy believe that language *should not be broken down into letters and combinations of letters and “decoded.*” Instead, they believe that language is a complete system of making meaning, with words functioning in relation to each other in context."

www.readinghorizons.com/blog/post/2010/09/23/What-is-the-Whole-Languagee-Approach-to-Teaching-Reading.aspx

merrymouse Wed 11-Jul-12 22:04:48

With whole word/whole language you wouldn't "learn" the sounds (or more accurately you wouldn't be taught them)

? I was taught to read in the mid seventies with Peter and Jane, and I think a series about pirates, and flashcards, but we definitely also learnt letter sounds, magic e (Wasn't there a spelling programme with a 'magic e' character?) and ch, th etc.

We didn't learn the number of phonemes you learn in a modern phonics programme, but we certainly learnt letter sounds.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 22:04:59

They learn that bough means a tree bough and bow is what you do at the end of a performance in exactly the same way as you would.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 22:07:03

http://www.improve-education.org/id58.html

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Wed 11-Jul-12 22:07:50

Haven't read the whole thread but my tuppence worth - having worked with young children throughout my career, including as a teacher and TA in nursery and reception classes ....

I think young children learn so much through play and should be spending more time playing, including with support from adults, and less time on phonics.

I think most children will learn to read by the time they leave primary school, but whether they will also have developed a love of stories and of reading is less certain. Many children and adults can read - but rarely do

As my DD has mild dyslexia I have appreciated all the more that children are individuals and learn to read at their own rate when they are developmentally ready for the next steps. I feel government and school targets are too focused on everyone doing things at the same age etc.

I'm very glad that both DD and DS enjoy reading (they are both at pre-teen stage)
I think finding books,stories, and authors that they want to engage with has been crucial in this.
I think enjoying stories together on TV or DVD has, for us, been quite a valuable part in the process. So, I guess I'm with Rosen - and developing a love of story is the key thing smile

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 22:09:49

Then you were taught phonics merrymouse because that is how phonics was taught
Peter & Jane was the Ladybird Keyword sheme

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 22:10:51

'She confuses "what" and "wot".
I really like phonics, but with real words only please.
Oh and FYI - I'm in the north, where "u" is pronounced" "oo"'

In Ireland the 'wh' sound and the 'w' sound would be different...

MaizieD -- 'none of them has made a 'fortune' from their programmes.'
So they are free?
Has it occurred to you that you may be a bit biased as to the merits of the programmes due to knowing several of their founders?

I do actually have a pretty good idea of how historians have arrived at literacy levels over the course of history, strangely enough.

To give one example, armies have kept records of the literacy levels of recruits since at least WW1. In Britain, the US, France and Germany, functional literacy levels have been recorded periodically using various tests of males old enough for service (and latterly females). The figures produced have provided a good snapshot of literacy at different points of history and have revealed that there is usually a solid percentage that remains unmoved by all efforts to teach reading.

Army exams have also produced data on height and weight and health, including information on topics such as bedwetting, stds, etc.

Methods of measuring literacy have varied in their sophistication over the years. Governments have been interested in literacy primarily because literacy is associated with well developed economies and military strength and have used various surveys to build a picture. The 1944 Education Act arose partly from shock at the literacy levels of WW2 recruits into the British armed forces.

Historians can use all sorts of written records to estimate literacy levels, including signatures or Xs marked on legal documents including land and rent records and rolls, electoral rolls, baptismal registers, marriage registers, armed forces papers -- there is a plethora of sources even from the early modern period (1500s on). The figures are an estimate at best.

Now that phonics is the new state educational religion, it is highly likely that tests will test not reading but attainment of the phonics skills, which may be confusing to historians of the future.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 22:11:02

You can't love a story if you can't read it whether you are an adult or a child

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 22:11:02

I think young children learn so much through play and should be spending more time playing, including with support from adults, and less time on phonics.

Less time than 20 minutes a day? confused

I think most children will learn to read by the time they leave primary school

80% - most, but not good enough.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 22:12:29
beezmum Wed 11-Jul-12 22:13:23

I remember before I actually knew about phonics I thought it must lead to bad spelling and moaning with friends about it. However that is a total misapprehension. If you really have been taught through phonics- not mixed methods - you are likely to be much more aware how words can broken down into constituent parts. So when my daughter learns her spellings she scans the word automatically. She was learning the word 'rowing' for the Olympics today so what was key was that row was spelt with an ow, not oa or even owe. Compare this to the approach of a child taught with mixed methods and has not inferred these options without explicit teaching. Someone up thread illustrate the outcome with the word snow and each word is a jumble like 'nsow' - just a strong to be learnt.
Because it is standard in most reception and yr 1 classes to stress communication over spelling parents see all sorts of 'phonic' spelling that makes them want to shudder but that is unsurprising when the children are not being taught much spelling and not a problem created by phonics.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 22:14:07

I think the govt is underestimating the importance of other factors (a child's feelings eg anxiety or panic/lack of confidence/family background/peer pressure etc) while concentrating on the mechanics of the process. These emotional and psychological factors can be responsible for some children never learning to read - it's not just the methods used by the teachers.

I think they are just excuses for children not learning to read. The best tool you can give a child with a difficult home life and/or emotional problems is the ability to read and a chance to escape.

SmellOfBurntWiggle Wed 11-Jul-12 22:14:15

Just a side note on what was said miles up thread about so many children leaving Primary/Junior school at 11 'functionally illiterate'. I've worked with quite a few of these children and what strikes me is that their problem isn't so much the original learn-to-read method used in R / year 1 and 2, but the fact that their progress stagnated when they moved into the Juniors (year3).

IME 'reading' per se wasn't taught specifically and more and the children were just assumed to be competent readers moving on to rest of the (crowded) curriculum. Also unless the individual teacher took an initiative in encouraging the enjoyment of books (teacher reading the whole class whole stories etc) then this fell by the wayside.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 22:14:16
mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 22:15:27

'how do you know which rule is the right one in every individual case without just memorising individual words?'

Mrz 'They learn that bough means a tree bough and bow is what you do at the end of a performance in exactly the same way as you would.'

Which is in effect sight reading...
How do you deal with a bow made with a ribbon?

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Wed 11-Jul-12 22:16:51

mrz "You can't love a story if you can't read it whether you are an adult or a child"

Ah, but I think you can ...

You can be told a story, or have one read to you, or make one up and act it out with your friends, or memorise one like the three little pigs - and then go and make 3 little houses and run from one to the other as a big wolf chases you etc. etc ! Or watch one as a DVD ....

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 22:16:53

Now that phonics is the new state educational religion, it is highly likely that tests will test not reading but attainment of the phonics skills, which may be confusing to historians of the future.

No it isn't. Not at all likely, actually, as anyone working in education will tell you.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 22:18:19

You can be told a story, or have one read to you, or make one up and act it out with your friends, or memorise one like the three little pigs - and then go and make 3 little houses and run from one to the other as a big wolf chases you etc. etc ! Or watch one as a DVD ....

All lovely and important steps in reading understanding, etc - but none of which will teach you how to actually read.

maxmillie Wed 11-Jul-12 22:19:42

I am no expert at all so i read these debates with interest. I have a particular interest because my eldest attends a school that doesn't really bother with phonics very much at all as far as I can see and my ds, who has just finished Y2, seems to me to have learnt to read and spell like I did: initially by context / look and say and later by memory and list of spelling words. This has sometimes worried me as, as others have suggested, will he come a cropper later when he can't do all that graphemes stuff ( I don't understand ). All I can say is that at 7 he loves reading and, like me, will not go to sleep at night, no matter how tired, without reading, even if just for a few minutes.

What I conclude from this is that the best thing I have done for my dc is to make them think it is normal to read as they see me reading in bed every day and to make sure they've always had plenty of books around. You have to remember that many adults do not read for pleasure ( their father doesn't but reads them a bedtime story every night ) and presumably children from families that don't read have a very different experience. If you arrive at reception having never really been exposed to reading or books beforehand maybe you then need a more prescriptive rule based approach to start you off? So this makes me think one size fits all maybe is the problem with phonics?

My other observation is that my sons close friend (who he sees every week and who is of a very similar age and apparent ability level ) goes to a school that went all out on hardcore phonics in R and Y1. They read comics etc together now and do homework together and there seems, to us parents, to be no real difference in their reading/spelling abilities. This again makes me think that there are different ways to get to the same point?

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Wed 11-Jul-12 22:21:27

But will teach you to "love a story" which is the point I was making and responding to

SmellOfBurntWiggle Wed 11-Jul-12 22:21:36

mrsZ that's depressing! How old is 4th grade?

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 22:23:03

And the opposing point was that loving a story isn't helpful on its own if you can never actually read it yourself!

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 22:23:41

I'm not sure how your equate knowing which spelling relates to meaning is sight reading Math.

or why you think dealing with homophones and homographs should be somehow different because the words are decoded /encoded using phonics.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 22:26:01

Math could probably tell you SmellOfBurntWiggle but I think it is 9 or 10???

edam Wed 11-Jul-12 22:26:23

That phonics screening check was bizarre, according to the teachers at ds's school. It included some made up words that do not exist in English. So children who can read were puzzled and confused when confronted with 'words' that they knew made no sense, I gather.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Wed 11-Jul-12 22:27:44

"loving a story isn't helpful on it's own" - well, I think it probably is. I think that is actually the most important bit. Also loving stories is a massive incentive to wanting to learn to read, and once you can, for keeping on doing it, and exploring the world of literature for yourself !

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 22:28:57

'You can't love a story if you can't read it whether you are an adult or a child'

Most children love stories long before they can read them. That is how I came to know several of the stories of Beatrix Potter by heart. I read them on demand, several times a day for years, at the request of the DCs.

And contrary to Feenie's assertion that phonics is the only way to teach children to read, several of my Beatrix Potter fans skipped phonics altogether and read for themselves after spending three years being exposed to words they didn't understand ('soporific', etc.), presented to them in no particular order of difficulty...

I know it's an anecdote, but yes, there are definitely more ways of killing this particular cat...

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 22:29:02

Of course we can read and tell stories and contrary to Michael Rosen's belief phonics doesn't mean children don't share stories.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 22:30:30

How do you 'decode' the word bow when you happen upon it in a sentence, Mrz?

Do you do it using context?

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 22:30:42

But are the other 80% best served by it? Can you point me to research which shows the relative reading abilities of say the top 20% (or 30% or 50% or whatever) taught by different methods and which categorically proves that those taught by phonics alone read as at leat as well, or preferably better, than those taught using any other method?

You'll have to define what you mean by 'reading ability', how you propose to show that 80% of the population read to a good standard (given that no-one tests the reading of the whole population and there is no definition of a good standard of reading) and how you account for purportedly 'mixed methods taught' people who have actually been taught phonics at home.

The 80% figure is only based on the percentage of children achieving L4 or above in English at the end of KS2 and we know that this is not a particularly reliable measure. For example, would you expect a child with a L4 to be able to confidently work out what unfamiliar words 'say'? If you did, you would be very short of the mark at the school I work in as a significant number of L4 children can't do this, neither do they have 'reading ages' commensurate with their chronological age. And they can't spell very well.

I would suspect that this is common to most secondary schools.

We could spend hours bandying figures around but the long and short of it is that phonics is the most efficient method we know at present for teaching the greatest number of children to read.

Teaching phonics does no harm to children who would have learned whatever the method while Whole Word and mixed methods does harm at least 1 in 5 children. It is estimated that some 3 -5% of children still struggle to learn to read with phonics, but this is a far fewer than the 20% who fail with whole Word and mixed methods. And, until the learning process is well under way there is no way of telling who these children will be, by which time the harm is done. (As I teach struggling KS3 readers I am pretty well aware of the damage it does to children)

If parents don't like this they have to option to HS.

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 22:31:25

I thought you were dismissing anecdotal evidence math?

SmellOfBurntWiggle Wed 11-Jul-12 22:31:28

ah but Edam the non-words have a little picture of an alien next to them so they know not to worry (so that's alright eh?!)

My DS sat it the other day and the school administered it well so the kids didn't realise and it fitted in with the phonics games and other methods they use. Just a slightly annoying waste of everyone's time in a school that picks up how well each child is learning to read anyway...

mrz Wed 11-Jul-12 22:35:19

Did every child achieve 100% pass rate SmellOfBurntWiggle? If not the test will show where individual children need more practice so not a waste of time.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 22:38:42

From your link there, Mrz:

'Many of the USA ills are directly related to illiteracy. Just a few statistics:

Literacy is learned. Illiteracy is passed along by parents who cannot read or write.

One child in four grows up not knowing how to read.

43% of adults at Level 1 literacy skills live in poverty compared to only 4% of those at Level 5

3 out of 4 food stamp recipients perform in the lowest 2 literacy levels

90% of welfare recipients are high school dropouts

16 to 19 year old girls at the poverty level and below, with below average skills, are 6 times more likely to have out-of-wedlock children than their reading counterparts.

Low literary costs $73 million per year in terms of direct health care costs. A recent study by Pfizer put the cost much higher.'

Most of those ills are related to the unfortunate accident (in US terms) of being born black. All of those negative social consequences, including the negative consequence of illiteracy, stem from being born black in a society where white privilege is alive and kicking. The statistics related to literacy and a brush with the law are also correlated with being black. It's not even close to being a chicken and egg conundrum. Being born black in and of itself leads to a host of negative consequences.

4th grade is age 9-10ish.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 22:40:14

'I thought you were dismissing anecdotal evidence math?'

Yes, that's why I said 'I know it's an anecdote but ...'

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 22:40:47

"loving a story isn't helpful on it's own"

On its own was the vital point there, juggling.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 22:41:44

And Feenie, if tests of 'reading' involve nonsense words, they are in fact testing decoding, which is to say, they are testing the phonics skills and how effectively they have been taught, and not reading..

cazzybabs Wed 11-Jul-12 22:42:30

I love phonics ... it is the start of the reading journey but it doesn't complete the journey.

I have struggled to find the method Rosen suggests is better than phonics for teaching children to read.

I don't like Miskin - she is odd!

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 22:43:16

^MaizieD -- 'none of them has made a 'fortune' from their programmes.'
So they are free?
Has it occurred to you that you may be a bit biased as to the merits of the programmes due to knowing several of their founders?^

Well, ironically, they could have been free if various LAs and the Dfe hadn't set their faces firmly against any change to the Whole Word orthodoxy of the time.

As to bias, in my world it's what you know that matters, not who you know.

When you referred to 'hundreds of years' I thought you meant 'hundreds of years' . WW1 and WW2 don't qualify for the description. I was expecting a dissertation on mediaeval literacy rates and teaching methods, or at least Early Modern.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 22:44:17

And contrary to Feenie's assertion that phonics is the only way to teach children to read

Where did I say it was the only way to teach it? confused My point has repeatedly been that other methods are successful in 80% of cases, and that that is nowhere near good enough. Try being a parent of a child confused by mixed methods, when there is no good reason for him and 95% of his classmates being able to read successfully - if his school taught phonics properly. And see how far being immersed in books since being a baby helps then btw.

One in FIVE, people. That's a hell of a gamble to take with children.

Tgger Wed 11-Jul-12 22:44:39

The way I see it is that having a "phonics screening test" in Y1 elevates phonics learning to a higher level than "story loving" and "reading". If we had a "story loving screening" and a "reading" screening, then perhaps it would be more balanced.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 22:44:52

95% +

cazzybabs Wed 11-Jul-12 22:45:07

also he talks lots about reading but I haven't found anything about children's writing ... ahhh bis blog pisses me right off

Tgger Wed 11-Jul-12 22:46:09

Or perhaps no screening at all grin.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Wed 11-Jul-12 22:46:34

"If parents don't like this they have the option to HS"

- Or engage in a discussion about what they feel would be best for their child ?!
eg. on here !

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 22:47:33

From your link there, Mrz:

'Many of the USA ills are directly related to illiteracy. Just a few statistics:

Ah yes, America. Birthplace of Whole Word and Constructivism. Just look where it's got them.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 22:48:03

And Feenie, if tests of 'reading' involve nonsense words, they are in fact testing decoding, which is to say, they are testing the phonics skills and how effectively they have been taught, and not reading..

I am well aware of that, math. But your point about future testing involving only decoding was silly - everyone knows that no politician has any intention of removing KS1 assessments, for example, which tests all aspects of reading. Your extrapolation was ridiculous.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Wed 11-Jul-12 22:50:32

"On it's own" was the vital point there, juggling.

Well, no - still don't agree with you - But that's OK !

loving stories is always good - either accompanied with reading or on it's own !

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 22:51:18

It's not enough, juggling - it really isn't.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 22:52:54

I think insisting on phonics for all is a hell of a gamble to take with every child in Britain. Phonics has been tried before. It doesn't work for all. The idea that it can overcome the horrible home life of many unfortunate children and present them with an escape is a worthy one but tragically life is not that simple.

I will pm you with a dissertation on early modern reading and literacy if you like, with particular reference to female literacy in Ancien Regime France. I am sure I still have it somewhere. I included the example of armed forces literacy figures as an example of where figures come from, since that was what you asked for. They have been very useful for the last century.

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 22:53:14

"If parents don't like this they have the option to HS"

- Or engage in a discussion about what they feel would be best for their child ?!
eg. on here !

I'm sure that if parents would be prepared to pay the extra costs involved in simutaneously running two methods of teaching reading in all state schools we could accomodate all their opinions as to what is best for their child.

mathanxiety Wed 11-Jul-12 22:54:32

I am pretty sure that whole word methods got their start in Germany in the 1600s, actually, MaizieD, but heyho...

Tgger Wed 11-Jul-12 22:54:36

accommodate that is grin

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Wed 11-Jul-12 22:55:50

Well I work with young children and that makes a difference to my viewpoint - but I will always think that loving stories is not only an absolutely crucial foundation for reading, but also one of the main reasons why we'd want to give children that skill.

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 22:57:15

Phonics has been tried before. It doesn't work for all.

When?

Phonics works for more children than does mixed methods. That should be a pretty decisive factor.

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 22:59:38

I am pretty sure that whole word methods got their start in Germany in the 1600s, actually, MaizieD, but heyho...

So why is it that German children are now taught with phonics? (Or are the reading research scientists telling porkies?)

redwhiteandblueeyedsusan Wed 11-Jul-12 23:00:37

phonics. dd is a sight reader and although she has an incredible bank of sight words, she would not attempt to sound out an unknow word, guessed, used the picture and initial sound or makes up a nonsense word instead. angry

there has been many a strangulated screech of "Sound it out!" we are finally getting there over 2 years after she started reading. <sigh>

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Wed 11-Jul-12 23:03:29

As long as my children (or grandchildren one day as mine are now past reception stage) have the opportunity to hear stories from the wonderful collection of children's literature that now exists for them to enjoy I won't mind too much if there's some non-pressurised teaching of phonics at a developmentally appropriate level.

- Actually I'm quite a fan of "a, a, ants on my arm" etc
It's just it all gets a bit mad for me after that stage smile

merrymouse Wed 11-Jul-12 23:08:21

mrz

So for a period between about 1978 when I completed the reading scheme and 2008 when DS started school, some children were taught to read without learning letter sounds?

Well blow me down with a feather.

Feenie Wed 11-Jul-12 23:09:42

The idea that it can overcome the horrible home life of many unfortunate children and present them with an escape is a worthy one but tragically life is not that simple.

But it is, math. I've seen it. We don't accept excuses for not teaching children to read.

Tgger Wed 11-Jul-12 23:11:02

Juggling, I'm with you! Listening to stories is so important. I would prefer YR to spend that twenty minutes listening to something amazing and enriching.

Thromdimbulator Wed 11-Jul-12 23:13:25

Children are at school 6 hours a day - plenty of time for both.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Wed 11-Jul-12 23:16:41

Well in my experience the teaching of phonics is squeezing out the sharing of really good stories with children.

rabbitstew Wed 11-Jul-12 23:19:03

Is it the teaching of phonics that is doing that, or the teaching of other things which are actually unnecessary?

Tgger Wed 11-Jul-12 23:20:14

Yes, and then they have to go through it all again because the youngest 4 year olds didn't get it the first time...apart from those who could already read before they started school grin.

rabbitstew Wed 11-Jul-12 23:21:14

In my experience pretty much everything that is taught in primary school is taught again and again and again....

lurkerspeaks Wed 11-Jul-12 23:21:24

This is really interesting. I can tell you that as a non phonics user when I encounter words with which I am unfamiliar (non English names spring to mind) it is absolutely essential that I SEE the word written down to establish the physical shape of the word.

Telling me and sounding it out is useless. I need to see it in writing to learn it.

rabbitstew Wed 11-Jul-12 23:23:21

I don't see the physical shape of a word - it's a collection of letters in a particular order that I see, not a brand new shape, and the order of the letters dictates how I say it.

rabbitstew Wed 11-Jul-12 23:29:05

What on EARTH do other people mean by seeing the "shape" of a word? Wouldn't that make reading other peoples' handwriting absolutely impossible, because the "shape" of a word could change beyond recogntion, depending on the style of handwriting?

maizieD Wed 11-Jul-12 23:38:23

Not to mention the fact that hundreds of words have the same shape! How do you tell the difference between sock, sack, sick and suck? Come and Came? The same word with a capital letter and without, Photo and photo?

edam Wed 11-Jul-12 22:26:23

>>>>> That phonics screening check was bizarre, according to the teachers at ds's school. It included some made up words that do not exist in English. So children who can read were puzzled and confused when confronted with 'words' that they knew made no sense, I gather. <<<<<<

Last week I tried the sample test, which someone on here posted a link to a while ago, with my YR dd. As she's a September birthday and would have been current Y1 if she'd arrived a few days earlier, and she's now reading ORT stage 8 fairly fluently, it seemed a reasonable test. For info, her school do Letters and Sounds and Jolly Phonics.

She got at least 34 correct, and at least 4 wrong. I did it on the computer so couldn't tick them off as we went. The phony words didn't cause her any problems because they weren't real words, I just told her before she started that there are some real words and some made up words, just read what you can. Interestingly, she thought 'shin' was a made up word as she didn't recognise it. ::shrug:: I found it useful as it confirmed what I thought were problems with her phonics, so it was nice to know I hadn't overlooked anything. She does bring home tricky words to learn, but she learns them by using phonics to work them out and then with practice is able to recognise them. She certainly isn't expected to learn them by the look and say method.

FWIW I learned to read by osmosis before I started school and have no recollection of being taught phonics (started school Jan '73 age 4 1/2). Both of my children have learned to read using phonics. It's only since they've done that that I realised I've always used phonics to make sense of unfamiliar words, so it's possible that I'm one of those people who worked out the whole phonics code intuitively. My spelling is usually very good too. However, I don't think either of my children would have learned that way left to their own devices and having seen them both progress so well I can't understand why anyone would be against it. It's a system which is perfectly suited to children who are not raised in a reading environment as even a little phonics instruction will enable them to make attempts to read signs, posters, etc without actually needing parental input.

How many here mouthing off against the phonics approach have actually had children taught using it? Surely this is a perfect example of don't knock it 'til you've tried it. No?

ZephirineDrouhin Wed 11-Jul-12 23:50:56

But those words all have different shapes, maizie. Surely blending inevitably gives way to shape recognition as we become more experienced readers, otherwise it would take forever to read anything substantial. Most people must revert to phonic decoding when faced with unfamiliar words, but I'm sure I rely on shape more than anything in normal circumstances.

Someone somewhere must have done research on this - tracking readers' eye movement or something.

I see all of the letters in the words as I'm reading, although I don't really take the time to register them, and I'm a fast reader. I recognise words, but I know which words they are because of the letters in them. confused

CecilyP Thu 12-Jul-12 00:10:15

Not to mention the fact that hundreds of words have the same shape! How do you tell the difference between sock, sack, sick and suck? Come and Came? The same word with a capital letter and without, Photo and photo?

By shape, I don't think we mean silhouette, exactly, more of a pattern. And yes, using a capital, or all capitals, would change the shape. Your example isn't a great one because capital and lower case 'p' are almost the same. A better example might be Apple and apple.

ZephirineDrouhin Thu 12-Jul-12 00:17:39

Well, yes quite muddling grin, the shape of a word is only made up of a particular combination of letters after all.

Perhaps the question is: do you read each word left to right or rather bounce from one word, or group of words, to the next. I think I do the latter, only stopping to read unfamiliar words left to right (and then only in chunks really).

However, none of this has any bearing on whether synthetic phonics are a good idea for teaching children to read. I think they are, personally, although I'm a bit sceptical about the idea that children can learn to spell by using their phonic knowledge. In Italian maybe...

mathanxiety Thu 12-Jul-12 02:55:33

You generally only see a few letters in each word as you read if you are reading fluently. You don't read each word from left to right unless consciously trying to decode, for instance trying to read the ingredients of shampoo. There is a point of fixation at which the reader will glean all s/he needs in order to recognise and process the word.

Some background on eye movements and fixation.

Study showing that letters in words are read simultaneously and not from left to right.

'Some Current Controversies' in eye movement research, including whether readers can process information from more than one word at a time.

There has been a huge amount of research into eye movement and processing.

mathanxiety Thu 12-Jul-12 02:58:01

'The idea that it can overcome the horrible home life of many unfortunate children and present them with an escape is a worthy one but tragically life is not that simple.
But it is, math. I've seen it. We don't accept excuses for not teaching children to read.'

Teaching them to read is not the same thing as helping them to succeed in the education system, Feenie. Sadly.

Wendymaisy Thu 12-Jul-12 05:33:15

What ever happened to balance? Must the pendulum be swung only one or the other way? Children need a balanced approach and certainly do need explicit teaching of specific skills.
What we do need is preservice teaching courses to teach soundly the foundations of oral language development and its link to literacy - and by language I mean ALL aspects (syntax, semantics, uses of, phonological awareness etc...)
Language is the tool of instruction - without good oral language skills to begin with, literacy cannot be taught successfully. We need to focus on which skills students need, teach these systematically and make it interesting at the same time!

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 06:33:00

Assuming that there really are children who are taught with a very strict whole word technique, and know no letter sounds, how do they write? Do they only ever write words that have occurred in a spelling test?

I think the problem with phonics as it is proposed to be taught is that many children are not ready to sound words out at 4, 5 or even 6. Some of these children will pick up sight words along the way, and have a rough sight word method of reading despite being mystified by phonics. Many of these children will pick up phonic rules at a later point (as rabbitstew says, things taught in primary school are taught again and again, and if you learn a foreign language you learn phonetic rules for that language and how they differ to English, and presumably spelling rules are still taught through primary school).

However, to assume every child can be taught to read with phonics at the pace specified by Gove, and to label children who don't as 'poor readers' is I think misguided and I don't think will give us Finnish reading rates. (Although I reckon smaller class sizes, later formal learning and well paid, respected teachers would).

If it is really assumed that 20% of children can't read because of teachers wilfully using a failing whole word technique for no other reason than prejudice, then frankly, I think we should all home educate.

mrz Thu 12-Jul-12 06:45:00

No one is labelling any child who "fails" the phonics check as a poor reader. The check is to identify gaps in a child's knowledge•skills because these are the children at risk of being failed

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 07:09:52

No one is labelling any child who "fails" the phonics check as a poor reader

Tell that to the child who is sitting mystified in a classroom, while everybody else seems to magically pick up a skill that passes them by. Tell that to the mothers who obsessively decode the 'tables system' at school and attribute a pecking order to the various phonics groups based on their opinion of the members.

But none of this would matter if children were honestly allowed to learn at the own pace, because they were in a smaller classroom (12.5 at this point in Finland), and learnt at a pace set by their teacher (and it would be great if we all trusted her to teach and not wilfully derail 1 in 5 children's chances of learning to read).

mrz Thu 12-Jul-12 07:28:52

I would be happy to do that merrymouse.
If a child is sat there mystified surely it is better that the teacher knows than they continue to sit there unrecognised and unhappy. As a parent I wish this check had been carried out when my son was in Y1 rather than him get to Y8 before anyone thought to do it!
The fact is we don't live in Finland and our society is very different from that of Finland ... we are already trying to follow their models of education even though their experts are telling us they will fail.

nooka Thu 12-Jul-12 07:30:49

Mashabell I didn't try and get my son to read before he was ready, I only ever tried to support the learning from school. His synthetic phonics tutoring happened the summer after he turned 8, so even in the Finish system he would have had a year of schooling by then.

To the other skeptics, have you ever watched someone really good teach a struggling reader using phonics? One of the conditions of ds's tutoring was that a parent came too and so learned how to support him. Watching his eyes light up as he realised that there was a code and that he could quite easily crack it was a really good experience for me. I also learned that of course those were the same rules I followed, I'd just never thought about it like that (I totally failed to help ds 'sound it out' as did dh who is otherwise an extremely capable teacher).

I can't even remember not being able to read, and I would describe my reading as being more like absorption (very fast, high comprehension, but a lot of skimming) but I certainly don't know how to say every world I come across in print through memory. I never thought that I subconsciously sounded them out using the rules I knew from 30 odd years of reading thousands of books and millions of words but I'm sure I do.

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 07:35:02

And also, tell that to the child who can no longer participate equally in other lessons, because it is assumed that everybody can read and write at 7 and this is now the medium of teaching, because otherwise, with a class of 30, its difficult to keep track of who knows what.

Of course, if the government is going to fund plenty of additional teachers so that children who 'fail' the test receive the support they need to learn to read and can also participate equally in the rest of the syllabus, brilliant. However, since children who have been diagnosed as dyslexic only get very patchy additional help as it is, I'm not holding my breath.

And if the government were going to provide this funding, couldn't it be used to enable teachers to teach phonics at a pace that suited the children in front of them in the first place, and you could save money by not having the test at all.

And if we really don't trust teachers to do this, I ask again, what is the point of school?

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 07:41:03

When children are allowed to go at their own pace it's the parents who view that as failure, or who want other children to be held back from learning something they are capable of until their children are ready for it, so that their child doesn't feel "left behind." Most parents arguing for children "learning at their own pace" actually mean holding children back who are ready for school so that everyone can start together at a later age when their child is also ready for school.

exoticfruits Thu 12-Jul-12 07:42:11

They all learn at different rates. If every DC started school at exactly the same standard of knowledge (an impossibility) they would be at very different stages within a fortnight. Why do mothers 'obsessively decode the tables system at school'.confused Why do they bother so much about what band of the reading scheme other children are on? Reading is not a race. My DH taught himself at 3yrs, I don't remember learning but can remember picking up a book without pictures at 6yrs and the joy of finding that I could read it. My 3 DSs all learned at a different rate and the middle one was about 8yrs. No one can tell now that one could read at 3yrs and one at 8yrs - it doesn't matter. The phonics test is not an exam - it is a diagnostic test.
Phonics definitely worked with my DS who found reading difficult. I can't understand why phonics cuts out the joy of reading, you can still share books and love hearing stories.
Finland is just sensible in starting later.

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 07:49:54

To me "learning at your own pace" means exactly that - operating in that area where you are going just beyond what you are currently capable of. However a teacher can only teach like this to a certain number of children. I am not advocating holding children back, and I would imagine that a large number of children in Finland actually read before they are 7.

Mashabell Thu 12-Jul-12 07:51:23

Nooka
And as an adult, you don't subconsciously sound out all words u read. That's a myth. U simply register their meaning.

Perhaps your son would have had reading difficulties in other languages too, but it's unlikely.

When the spelling code is not constantly obscured, when identical graphemes always make the same sound, i.e. if 'ou' can be relied on to sound as in 'shout, out, loud', learning the code is easy.

It's the 2039 common words which don't obey the basic English spelling code which confuse many children (e.g. group, double) and ensure that all English-speaking children take far longer to learn to read and write than in languages with better spelling systems.

I apologise for pasting the graphemes with irregular spellings again, but imagine learning to read with them having just one pronunciation only (as in the first word). That's the difference between English spelling and more regular writing systems.

a: and – apron, any, father
a-e: came – camel
ai: wait – said, plait
al: always – algebra
-all: tall - shall
are: care - are
au: autumn - laugh, mauve
-ate: to deliberate - a deliberate act
ay: stays - says

cc: success - soccer
ce: centre - celtic
ch: chop –chorus, choir, chute
cqu: acquire - lacquer 19

e: end – English
-e: he - the
ea: mean - meant, break
ear: ear – early, heart, bear
-ee: tree - matinee
e-e: even – seven, fete
ei: veil - ceiling, eider, their, leisure
eigh: weight - height
eo: people - leopard, leotard
ere: here – there, were
-et: tablet - chalet
eau: beauty – beau
- ew: few - sew
- ey: they - monkey

ge: gem - get
gi: ginger - girl
gy: gym – gynaecologist
ho: house - hour
i: wind – wind down ski hi-fi
- ine: define –engine, machine
ie: field - friend, sieve
imb: limb – climb
ign: signature - sign
mn: amnesia - mnemonic

ost: lost - post
-o: go - do
oa: road - broad
o-e: bone – done, gone
-oes: toes – does, shoes
-oll: roll - doll
omb: tombola - bomb, comb, tomb
oo: boot - foot, brooch
-ot: despot - depot
ou: sound - soup, couple
ough: bough - rough, through, trough, though
ought: bought - drought
oul: should - shoulder, mould
our: sour - four, journey
ow: how - low

qu: queen – bouquet
s: sun – sure
sc: scent - luscious, molusc
-se: rose - dose
ss: possible - possession
th: this - thing
-ture: picture - mature
u: cup – push
ui: build – fruit, ruin
wa: was – wag
wh: what - who
wo: won - woman, women, womb
wor: word – worn
x: box - xylophone, anxious
- y-: type - typical
- -y: daddy - apply
z: zip – azure

maizieD Thu 12-Jul-12 08:01:12

And as an adult, you don't subconsciously sound out all words u read. That's a myth. U simply register their meaning.

If only you would read some of the research. Try searching on 'phonology and silent reading'

Meerymouse. You are painting a completely unrealistic picture. It's that rhetoric as a substitute for evidence again.

nooka Thu 12-Jul-12 08:02:14

Sorry Masha, but your objections to the English language are frankly irrelevant as it's not going to change except probably to evolve new and more interesting words. English is used by millions if not billions of people (given that it is a very widely taken up second language) and that would make any attempts to change extremely difficult if not impossible.

I think that ds would not have struggled to read a language that was not sound based, and it will be interesting to see how he does with learning Japanese (his second language of choice in a years time). But that is still irrelevant as the language he needed to be able to read was English. And now he understands how it works he can read, so that's fine, and when many other children like him are taught properly they won't have to go through his pain, which is even better.

On another note dh is a reading supporter at our local primary and I was appalled to see the guide he was given which was entirely mixed methods (we live in Canada now). Not just because I've 'seen the light' but because it clearly made very little sense. these are children who are behind, who don't enjoy reading at all, and the advice is all about essentially helping them to guess what the words say. I can't think of any other area of learning where this woudl be acceptable.

maizieD Thu 12-Jul-12 08:02:25

Sorry, trying to eat breakfast and type on laptop at the same time. Merrymouse

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 08:03:15

Mashabell, your lists are getting extremely repetitive and boring. When I read, I can see ALL the letters in every word I read, I don't just look at the first two letters of every word - that would be stupid. That's why I notice spelling mistakes.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 08:04:12

Perhaps there should be a test for anyone who wants to be a proofreader - people who can't see all the letters in the words they are reading as they read them should not apply.

beezmum Thu 12-Jul-12 08:04:42

Yes the 'one size doesn't fit all, mixed methods approach' doesn't get as many children reading as phonics. However, even that has a dark underbelly. I teach history A level to students who would certainly be in the 80per cent at he end of primary but they are frequently significantly limited in their progress because of weak reading skills. They find extended reading enormously daunting (even when it's interesting subject matter) as reading is an effort full process for them and their reliance on context (taught through mixed method) totally lets them down when faced with material with much that is unfamiliar in it. Not only this but because reading is effortful they have not read many books for pleasure and so struggle to use words with the precision needed to do well.
Phonics gets kids effortlessly decoding - that's what these students, despite good potential, can't do.

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 08:14:08

What is unrealistic about what I am saying? My argument is that phonics + adequate teaching resources works. Without adequate teaching resources, a new set of reading books and a test will make no difference to reading rates.

A child who doesn't get additional help until they have suffered a year or more of confusing phonics lessons is still a child who hasn't been taught anything. A child with a teacher who is able to pick up on and remediate their difficulties within the first few weeks of beginning phonics is a child who is learning something.

If we trust teachers do do this and give them resources so they can, why do we need a test? (Although I can see that tests are useful when used by a teacher as a teaching tool). If we don't trust teachers to do this, why on earth does anybody send their child to school?

ZephirineDrouhin Thu 12-Jul-12 00:17:39

>>>> Well, yes quite muddling grin, the shape of a word is only made up of a particular combination of letters after all. <<<<

Yes, it is. But there are people on here who seem to be saying that they don't notice the letters as letters, just the shape of the word. So which is it?

>>>>> Perhaps the question is: do you read each word left to right or rather bounce from one word, or group of words, to the next. I think I do the latter, only stopping to read unfamiliar words left to right (and then only in chunks really). <<<<

Definitely read from left to right, and hear the words in my head as I'm going. I think my brain sees all of the letters individually, it just processes them very quickly. But isn't that what phonics is all about? Starting off slowly, blending getting quicker and quicker until you're sight reading a word and fluency is established?

exoticfruits Thu 12-Jul-12 08:19:26

Teachers differentiate.
I don't see any words when I read - it is like going to the cinema for me. I can however decode new words if I have to using my phonic knowledge.

EdithWeston Thu 12-Jul-12 09:03:56

I can remember teachers on here posting that can phonics occupy less than one day in teacher training. And of course it was not on training courses at all for many.

The issue of teacher competency in phonics should not be overlooked. The success rate of competent teachers using phonics is high (indeed unmatched by any other method or mixed methods). It may not look the same if the teacher is attempting phonics when not adequately prepared so to do.

Or is perhaps teaching phonically ("I'm all in favour of sounding out") but curiously unwilling to admit it, even to themselves.

Thromdimbulator Thu 12-Jul-12 09:16:19

The issue of teacher competency in phonics should not be overlooked

Yes. This is what frustrates me no end. Somewhere down-thread, Feenie said she was excited when she learned there may be a better way to teach reading and couldn't wait to put it into practice. Good for her, I wish she was my child's teacher.

Sadly, all I've encountered is near hysterical resistance, defensiveness and absolutely no intellectual curiosity whatsoever. Even worse, this comes from the top down starting with the County Literacy Advisers.

If they had researched it and rejected it that would be one thing, but it is so obvious they don't even 'get it'.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 12-Jul-12 09:30:52

Throm - I think there should be more thorough training in phonics for all teachers and teaching assistants. I worked as a teaching assistant in a reception class recently and more or less had to pick up phonics along with the children. If a new approach is being brought in then it needs to be adequately resourced including regarding training.

I did also feel that there wasn't enough emphasis on sharing stories with the children from the wonderful collection of books now available for young children.

I think the balance is wrong in early years education in this country ATM - with not enough time given to supporting children's play or sharing a love of stories with the children.

As the Scandinavian countries show a good foundation for learning is created when focusing on these things in the early years, including in reception, which can be built on in more formal ways, such as the teaching of phonics, later when children are developmentally ready for this.

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 09:41:40

As far as I can work out phonics is more than sounding it out, it is teaching a child that

1) as soon as they know three letters and have the ability to hear where sounds are in a word they can start to read and write. They don't have to wait until they know every single letter sound or be bored by flashcards before they can have fun with rats and bins and cats and bums.

2) They can quickly learn enough knowledge to have a pretty good stab at enough words in the English language to be a good reader. (I know people argue about how many English words follow rules, but I think this is what a phonics proponent would argue).

I think where this falls a part a bit is that some children learn to recognise words before they have the sound skills to decode words, and some children have the sound skills to decode words a couple of years after others. The children who recognise words before they can decode, may miss out on decoding skills and other children don't learn to read before the deadline at which reading is required in order to participate in the curriculum.

That is why I think the test at the end of year 1 won't help the 20% of children who don't read unless adequate resources are provided to teach each child as an individual in the first place.

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 09:43:21

Agreed Juggling play is how children learn the rhythm and sound skills that enable them to tackle phonics.

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 09:49:49

And if adequate resources are required to teach children in the first place the test at the end of year 1 is redundant.

CecilyP Thu 12-Jul-12 09:56:31

beezmum, don't you think your pupils' issues may be more to do with poor vocabulary and lack of sustained reading practice, rather than how they may or may not have been taught to read in KS1.

MerryMarigold Thu 12-Jul-12 10:03:29

I think where this falls a part a bit is that some children learn to recognise words before they have the sound skills to decode words, and some children have the sound skills to decode words a couple of years after others. The children who recognise words before they can decode, may miss out on decoding skills and other children don't learn to read before the deadline at which reading is required in order to participate in the curriculum.

merrymouse, I 100% agree with you. Ds1 had very intensive phonics teaching in YR and continues to (despite mixed methods being introduced in Y1). He was reading v little at the end of YR because for whatever reason, his decoding skills are not there. It wasn't even about bad teaching (I believe), his brain just can't do it yet (though it is getting there). This put him very behind. With the mixed methods he has caught up somewhat, because he has a very good visual memory so he can do whole words, and he is intelligent so he can do context. I am pleased because the curriculum does require an ability to read by his age. He is still being taught phonics quite intensively and it is gradually sinking in, but if he'd been reliant on it, he would have no fluency or enjoyment or reading. And without support at home (he has had books read to him every evening since he was tiny, we do lots of stuff at home with him), he would probably be one of those 20% who fail.

Personally I think the higher percentage of kids being able to read is less to do with total focus on synthetic phonics and more a school's deep interest and commitment to reading (which since synthetic phonics is the 'latest thing' manifests itself in this way). Research is very easy to misread and in this case, I am pretty sure it is influenced by this factor. I am interested to see whether a school that has a deep commitment to teaching reading, trains its teachers well in this, and uses mixed methods, will achieve similar results.

CecilyP Thu 12-Jul-12 10:07:08

It is also possible that a child could pass the screening test with flying colours, and still not go on to be a good reader. (after all, the test words are pretty simple) The test seems to be measuring children when they aren't very far in to their reading journey and then splitting them into those who need support and those who don't. Unless children this age are at a very high level, much higher than the test measures, they will go on needing support.

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 10:07:54

sorry, adequate resources provided to teach children in the first place rather than remediating at the end of year 1.

(Is it imagined that teachers will shout "f* me, I thought you could read!" if a child fails this test, or does a child have to wait till they fail the test before they get help?).

Actually, the government haven't really clarified what help they will provide if children don't pass the phonics test - maybe the teacher gets a slap on the wrist and is told to do better?

Thromdimbulator Thu 12-Jul-12 10:07:54

But Ceclily, reading builds vocabulary - if you can decode unfamiliar words. Children who can read effortlessly, are more likely to read more - and learn more. There is a virtuous circle to be built, and it is short-sighted to rush through the foundations.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 12-Jul-12 10:13:56

"And it is short-sighted to rush through the foundations" Throm

Absolutely - and I think those foundations are grounded in children's play, including developing their imagination and communication skills - so, a long time before thinking about phonics.

CecilyP Thu 12-Jul-12 10:15:06

Fair enough Throm, but when you say your children can't decode, do you mean they literally can't, or that, because the words are not in their vocabulary, they are reluctant to read them for fear of getting it wrong? A bit like the poster upthread who mispronounced facsimile?

Thromdimbulator Thu 12-Jul-12 10:20:10

If you feel our children are required to start formal education too young, I'd be inclined to agree with you. I'd be quite happy to wait until children are older before requiring them to 'read for themselves'. But at whatever point we do teach them, I think they have a right to be taught the code.

Solopower Thu 12-Jul-12 10:35:06

There are so many factors to consider:
Maybe children's brains develop at different times, and just like some have teeth and hair earlier than others, some children are not physically equipped for reading until they are 6 or 7. This would be why reading is not taught until that age in Finland and other European countries. If this is the case, I don't think it would be harmful to delay actually teaching reading until then. That doesn't mean that the kids who can learn earlier will be held back (as they would obviously be encouraged to read whatever they could cope with). It just means that it wouldn't be formally taught until everyone's brain is sufficiently developed. And it would avoid little children feeling like failures and parents and teachers getting stressed.

The other thing is that if 20% children aren't learning to read at the moment, then they are the ones teachers should focus their efforts on - no need to change methods that have been successful for the lucky 80%. The government simply cannot get away from the fact that that means smaller classes and more teachers; as Merrymouse says: resources.

A little further back people were talking about ways of seeing words. I see them in colour (synaethesia) and this is tremendously helpful when I am reading. Other people see shapes, etc. A teacher needs to be able to tap into anything, absolutely anything that helps a child.

One more thing - surely it is actually very difficult indeed to use one method only, to the exclusion of all others, as a child progresses through the school? How can you be sure that other methods aren't used at home or by the children's previous or future teachers?

If phonics work for some, use them. Teachers who believe passionately in them should certainly use them. But more research still needs to be done, and imo we are chasing a dream if we think one method can ever suit everyone.

Thromdimbulator Thu 12-Jul-12 10:39:06

Fair enough Throm, but when you say your children can't decode, do you mean they literally can't, or that, because the words are not in their vocabulary, they are reluctant to read them for fear of getting it wrong? A bit like the poster upthread who mispronounced facsimile?

I'm not convinced that 'getting it wrong' for a child with a reasonable grasp of the alphabetic code - (whether explicitly taught, or deduced for him/herself) is such a big deal. It will normally just be a case of the pronunciation being 'off'. In my own reading experience, these words are normally close enough that I can 'self-correct' if I later hear an authoritative source saying the word 'correctly'. (e.g. 'BBC English'). I think many of these occurrences would happen in silent reading, but would hope that the children wouldn't be too embarrassed to try out loud. I'm sure other adults and teachers are sensitive and encouraging in these instances, and they can be easily corrected there and then.

Listening to 10/11 year olds reading I've witnessed two habits that worry me much more. Children who see an unfamiliar word and just freeze. They have NO CLUE AT ALL, as to how to break it down. If you ask them for the first sound they look at you as though no-one has ever asked this before. If they get the first sound, they reel of a barricade of words beginning with this while hoping one will stick. Other children will read me a sentence with perfect conviction in their voice, and I have to check whether they are looking at the same book as me. I simply do not know what to say to these children. They are not looking at all the words, they will happily tell me that a horse is a donkey!

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 10:41:41

What's all this "our children" in the comment about starting formal education too young? MY children were ready for formal education long before they started receiving any. Even people who claim that things should go at the pace of the child are just talking percentages and statistics and wanting things to go at the pace of the majority, still leaving behind those who would never be able to keep up and boring the pants off those who had to wait for others to catch up in their development.

EdithWeston Thu 12-Jul-12 10:45:35

"The other thing is that if 20% children aren't learning to read at the moment..."

Letting one in 5 children fail, and then having to provide support to such a large population strikes me as both plain wrong (for failing so many children in the first place) and a poor use of resources, when SP reliably produces fewer than 5% who struggle. There really is no reason to accept a 20% failure rate when there is a better alternative.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 10:47:44

But EdithWeston, what if the 5% versus 20% actually is to do with the quality of the teaching of the adherents of SP? Maybe the 20% does partly relate to poor teaching, including poor teaching of phonics, lack of reading out loud and making reading seem enjoyable, and playing about with language in other ways.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 10:48:23

ie Can you get 95% of children reading well if you teach phonics badly?

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 10:50:12

It's not as if all primary school teachers are the best role models when it comes to spelling, grammar, punctuation, expressive reading, use of a rich vocabulary, exciting lessons and sparking children's imaginations.

CecilyP Thu 12-Jul-12 10:50:49

I just asked, Throm, because I have had adult learners who won't try an unfamiliar word for fear of embarrassment, though, if encouraged, they can get it and get it right, so I thought that teenagers might be the same. It is not about you and me. As reasonably educated people, we have the confidence to give things a try, knowing that if we have never heard the word spoken, we may pronounce it wrong.

Thromdimbulator Thu 12-Jul-12 10:52:02

"our children" meant English children - but then I didn't want to alienate the Scottish or Welsh kids, where I believe it's different - or overseas kids - so I used a perhaps inaccurate short-hand grin.

"English children", because when a child starts school is determined at a national not individual level. And yes, there are ways to start children later, but they often don't work in reality and the curriculum and peer-group marches on regardless. FWIW I feel one of my children was ready, one I believe would have benefited from waiting, and actually it was the summer born boy that was ready youngest. I think this is all a bit off-topic though.

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 10:54:13

Does informal kindergarten style education stop an early reader from reading? I don't think anybody is suggesting that a child who is interested in sounding out letters at 4 or even 3 should be stopped, just that it doesn't need to be in a formal lesson environment. There is nothing to stop a teacher exploring books and letter sounds with a small group of children while another group of children climb a tree/skip/build a whale out of cardboard boxes - except adult/child ratio.

Would it be more interesting to be sitting a desk in a class of 30 5 year olds where a third of them are misbehaving because they have no clue what is going on?

Solopower Thu 12-Jul-12 10:57:23

Agree, Merrymouse. Reading is not a race!

Solopower Thu 12-Jul-12 11:00:10

Rabbitstew, I don't want children to be bored in class, waiting for others to catch up. All children need to be given things to do at their level.

Thromdimbulator Thu 12-Jul-12 11:05:15

Cecily, to be fair, unless very secure in a family or peer group, I probably wouldn't risk using a word I wasn't confident about having right either. However, I was thinking about the example given by beezmum with her A Level History students being let down by their poor reading skills and inability to take on the required level of background reading (which would be done privately and silently - so no need for embarrassment).

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 11:22:56

Curriculum and peer groups march on in every country - some countries keep you down a year or two until you've got what's being taught before you can move on (no longer with your peers and unlikely ever to jump back up to join them again), or move you up to work with older children, and others try to give you extra tuition so that you can stay with your peer group, particularly since most children are not behind or ahead in everything they need to learn in school, but if you don't catch up with the extra help, keep you with your peers anyway. Either way, you know you are not effectively working with your peers and at the level of your peers any more and either way can be damaging or boosting to your self esteem. And not all forms of ability and development are considered equal in formal education - in any country. In fact, not all forms of ability are considered equal at any point in your life. My ds1's self-esteem was severely harmed as a toddler and young child by being around other children of his age, because his physical development was delayed by a connective tissue disorder - try joining in with a toddler when you can't walk, yet, or joining in in a reception classroom when your hands are too weak to use scissors properly and you legs can't keep up with the other children running in the playground (but your co-ordination is fine, so you can write and gain self esteem that way, and you can read and do maths...). Obviously, I could have kept him away from other children his age to preserve his self-esteem... and reintroduced him to society when he was 7, when he had caught up. Differences in your development are thrust in your face every day - it's how the adults, particularly your parents, deal with it that affects how you view it. Parents view extra help as failure, they view not getting 32/40 in a phonics check as a failure. It's parents who fail to see it as not having got to that level of development and a sign that their child is being written off by the education system. I really don't actually think children do need a high level of literacy to keep up in the English education system until they are about 8 years old, anyway. It would have been easier for my ds1 to join in in KS1 if he had had a high level of physical ability - his superior mathematical, reading and writing skills were entirely unnecessary.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 11:25:56

(sorry, that should read, "parents fail to see it as not having got to that level of development and instead view it as a sign that their child is being written off by the education system").

Mashabell Thu 12-Jul-12 11:43:50

EdithW
SP reliably produces fewer than 5% who struggle
That is what SP evangelists claim, but nobody has been able to find any objective evidence for this.

I agree that
There really is no reason to accept a 20% failure rate when there is a better alternative.
The problem is that the only way of reducing it reliably is to improve English spelling. But as this option is unacceptable to the majority of vociferous speakers of English, it will not happen, at least not any time soon and the 20% failure rate will remain.

Roughly 1 in 5 children fail to learn to read proficiently because of the following phonic inconsistencies:
a: and – apron, any, father
a-e: came – camel
ai: wait – said, plait
al: always – algebra
-all: tall - shall
are: care - are
au: autumn - laugh, mauve
-ate: to deliberate - a deliberate act
ay: stays - says

cc: success - soccer
ce: centre - celtic
ch: chop –chorus, choir, chute
cqu: acquire - lacquer 19

e: end – English
-e: he - the
ea: mean - meant, break
ear: ear – early, heart, bear
-ee: tree - matinee
e-e: even – seven, fete
ei: veil - ceiling, eider, their, leisure
eigh: weight - height
eo: people - leopard, leotard
ere: here – there, were
-et: tablet - chalet
eau: beauty – beau
- ew: few - sew
- ey: they - monkey

ge: gem - get
gi: ginger - girl
gy: gym – gynaecologist
ho: house - hour
i: wind – wind down ski hi-fi
- ine: define –engine, machine
ie: field - friend, sieve
imb: limb – climb
ign: signature - sign
mn: amnesia - mnemonic

ost: lost - post
-o: go - do
oa: road - broad
o-e: bone – done, gone
-oes: toes – does, shoes
-oll: roll - doll
omb: tombola - bomb, comb, tomb
oo: boot - foot, brooch
-ot: despot - depot
ou: sound - soup, couple
ough: bough - rough, through, trough, though
ought: bought - drought
oul: should - shoulder, mould
our: sour - four, journey
ow: how - low

qu: queen – bouquet
s: sun – sure
sc: scent - luscious, molusc
-se: rose - dose
ss: possible - possession
th: this - thing
-ture: picture - mature
u: cup – push
ui: build – fruit, ruin
wa: was – wag
wh: what - who
wo: won - woman, women, womb
wor: word – worn
x: box - xylophone, anxious
- y-: type - typical
- -y: daddy - apply
z: zip – azure

Peaksandtroughs Thu 12-Jul-12 11:53:22

The BBC did a tv programme about Scandinavian education, and how children were not taught formal skills in reading and writing until 7. They showed footage of what the children were doing instead, and part of what they were doing was learning phonics with actions, but without reading books.

And yet that is one of the things that people seem to be complaining about here.

Solopower Thu 12-Jul-12 12:52:26

We really need to learn from things they do abroad!

Tgger Thu 12-Jul-12 13:03:17

I'm with Solopower, I think you have explained it well, re brain development. Also, children are starting school younger these days.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 13:31:31

Solopower - Michael Gove is learning from things they do abroad: he's picking on the education systems which are even more formulaic than ours and therefore wanting to bring back more formal instruction on grammar, punctuation, spelling, rote learning of times tables, etc. What you mean is that we need to learn from the things they do abroad which you like.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 13:33:41

Michael Gove also thinks the British have a very low opinion of what their children's brains are capable of at particular times in their development.

UptoapointLordCopper Thu 12-Jul-12 13:46:25

I have a very low opinion of what Michael Gove's brain is capable of at any particular time.

Sorry, not contributing to debate, but the sentiment was dying to get out. The government (whichever one that was) commissioned some report from learned people, the report says don't make children do formal learning too young, the government jumps up and down screaming "but they already don't learn to read in 6 years and we need to make them start earlier so they can learn" hmm. I despair. And disengage.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 14:00:04

Well, I agree with that! But that's just my opinion, which doesn't happen to chime with the Lord High Master of Education.

UptoapointLordCopper Thu 12-Jul-12 14:09:37

Hopefully the Lord High Master of Education will fuck off not be re-elected and will leave us mere mortal be soon.

UptoapointLordCopper Thu 12-Jul-12 14:10:03

Sorry for hijack. Please proceed with debate. Thank you.

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 14:26:01

rabbitstew, you are comparing a child not being able to take part fully in an optional activity (running in the playground) and having the option to do other activities, to a child being forced to take part in an activity at a level which they are not yet developmentally capable. (Although give them a couple of years and they may be fine).

It's great to be able to take part in activities that boost your self esteem, although I agree, arguably a luxury. However it is a complete waste of time to sit in a classroom being mystified for a couple of years, waiting for somebody to administer a test to show that the education you have received has been inappropriate.

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 14:30:05

LordCopper he wasn't really properly elected the first time round, which caused him some problems with his O-level proposals.

cassgate Thu 12-Jul-12 14:48:27

Interesting debate.

I have two children a dd now in year 3 and a ds in year 1 who has just taken the new phonics check. My dd learnt to read very easily and was free reading by the end of the first term in year 1. She did have daily phonics sessions at school but would then bring home lists of words to learn by sight and the old look and say books (ORT). Mixed method teaching. She is now at end of year 3 levelled at 4c for reading and writing. Seemingly mixed method teaching has done her no harm at all.

My ds on the other hand really struggled with reading when he was in reception. Mixed methods did not work for him at all. He struggled learning the sight word lists and again was bringing home look and say books. He ended reception on ort stage 1 books so way behind. It was only towards the end of reception that I realised how important phonics was and that he was getting mixed messages from school. I bought some phonic decodeble books for the summer holidays and did as much reading up about phonics and how it should be taught. The year 1 teacher seems to be much more on the ball about phonics and from the off we were given reading books that were decodeable. I have done additional 10 minute phonic sessions with him every day and he passed the phonics test with a score of 34/40. He is now reading ORT stage 6 with ease and has been levelled a 1a for reading.

Interestingly, the schools policy on spelling has also changed this year and there are no longer lists of words to learn for spelling tests the following week. Instead, my dd in year 3 has been using phonics for spelling approach. Each week the class are given a set of graphemes eg it may be the I sound so ie, igh, i-e and the children have to come up with their own list of words that fall into each category. There is then a spelling test as the end of the week of words that may or may not appear on the childs list. Her spelling has improved massively as she now thinks about the most appropriate spelling.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 15:29:39

merrymouse - using scissors in EYFS and KS1 is not entirely optional. Nor is PE. Frankly, it doesn't appear to be any more optional than sitting on the carpet listening to phonics, or listening to a story that is being read to you. The fact that an awful lot going in in reception washes over a child's head doesn't mean they shouldn't be exposed to it.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 15:31:24

In fact, I get rather fed up with people glossing over the things their children can already do, as though other children aren't expected to do them when they aren't ready, but only their child is picked on because they have trouble with phonics...

Solopower Thu 12-Jul-12 16:39:25

I've said I think we should learn from other countries, but when you look at the way children learn abroad you see small classes (Finland) and big classes (China). Both systems seem to be more 'successful' than ours according to international benchmarks. So which should we copy?

I'm not in favour of free schools (because imo they take resources away from the mainstream) but if they are good for anything, surely they could be used to test out some of the overseas methods and see how they work for us?

However, I think we would find that we can't simply adopt one system without dealing with what really affects children's learning more than any other single factor and that is their home life/deprivation, etc.

MerryMarigold Thu 12-Jul-12 16:47:51

rabbitstew, I think it's highly likely that if you have trouble with phonics you probably have mild developmental delays. In which case, you will be probably 'worse' at scissors and pencil control and PE. Ime, at YR and Y1 the kids tend to be generally not good, generally average across the board or generally quite brilliant.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 17:12:24

Sorry, MerryMarigold, but that's a bit of serious stereotyping on your part - my ds1 could read fluently and with expression (and clear understanding) at the age of 3, had no problem with phonics, could write, could do mental arithmetic at a better level than most adults - but had huge difficulty using scissors, colouring in, pulling up his own trousers, flushing toilets, using playdough or sand, putting his own coat on his peg and consequent issues with his self esteem, because he couldn't do what he was supposed to be able to do and could do what everyone else found difficult.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 17:20:49

I had to teach my son how to crawl, how to roll over, how to pull to stand, I spent hours in soft play areas pushing his backside up ramps... I didn't have to teach him how to read or how to count up in 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s, etc, etc. His development to the age of 7 was about as arse about face as it is possible to get.

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 17:22:02

If your child were standing in a corner unable to participate during PE, or sitting at a table doing nothing while other children were getting on with scissor activities, and the teacher were not providing him with some kind of suitable alternative activity I would equally be saying that your child was being done a disservice and the local authority weren't fulfilling their obligation to provide him with an education suitable to his needs and abilities.

I agree with Merrymarigold that many children have both reading difficulties and difficulty with fine and gross motor skills. Poor tracking skills, poor auditory skills and lack of co-ordination often make reading and writing very difficult. It is great that your son's reading skills are so strong, but for many children it isn't either/or. Merrymarigold is not stereotyping.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 17:22:55

Whilst other parents were doing Kumon and reading practice, I was trying to teach my ds1 how to wipe his bottom, brush his teeth and wash his hair...

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 17:26:19

Making an assumption that a child behind in one thing is behind in everything is a stereotype in my view. Plenty of children are behind in phonics but not behind in anything else.
And is it so unsuitable to be doing the sounds of the letters of the alphabet with some children and more complicated phonics with others? Should four year olds be sheltered from looking at letters and numbers?
And what about the children who aren't ready to sit and listen to a story? I think you'll find that other activities are done with them, even if only to stop them disrupting the children who are sitting on the carpet and listening.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 17:29:53

I don't get where some people are getting the idea from that a child must be able to read by the end of reception or year 1 - that's the parents comparing their child to the average child in their class, not letting their child develop at their own rate, but then complaining that the fact that their child hasn't kept up with the average is because they are not being allowed to develop at their own rate.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 17:33:00

Or should the response to a child not getting 32/40 in a phonics test be that they are kept down a year rather than having too much phonic pressure put on them, or that the teacher stops teaching them phonics or giving them books to have a go at reading? Or should it be that the teacher realises they shouldn't keep pressing on with that child at the speed at which they were going??????

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 12-Jul-12 17:37:48

So, we're now having some pretty major testing at 6 (End of Year 1) - I thought testing at 7 was bad enough - and had been recently scraped ?

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 17:53:24

Whether there should be a national phonics test is an entirely different question from whether phonics should be taught to young children.

Feenie Thu 12-Jul-12 17:54:39

No, not scrapped, just downgraded in favour of teacher assessment drawn from lots of evidence, not just the tests.

It's a check - a very necessary check to make sure all schools are picking up children who need extra help. One glance at the TES boards shows that not all teachers even believe that these children need extra help sad

kesstrel Thu 12-Jul-12 17:54:59

Hmm...I wouldn't call spending 15 minutes reading some words to the teacher (which apparently quite a few children really enjoyed) "pretty major testing." Just wait till they hit GCSEs!

mathanxiety Thu 12-Jul-12 17:56:56

That will make for some really interesting test results hmm

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 12-Jul-12 18:01:28

Well I hope it doesn't feel like major testing to the children - it depends partly on the pressure everyone is put under about them, and not just how long they are. Also what the consequences of the results are, and how they are interpreted by everyone.

Feenie Thu 12-Jul-12 18:03:21

What will, math?

Juggling, our children enjoyed it. It was 5 minutes of one to one special attention, just like one to one with a reading book is.

mrz Thu 12-Jul-12 18:18:53

Our children keep asking when they are going to do the "special job" again grin they enjoyed it because it was new and they could show off to me

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 18:24:51

I never argued that phonics shouldn't be taught to young children. My argument is that there is no point in teaching phonics until a child can distinguish and order letter sounds - that is half the point of phonics as it is taught today. Some children cannot do this at 4 or 5. They need to develop pre-reading skills. If that means the class are all doing different activities, then great. As I said, teaching should be fitted to the child, not the child to the teaching and children should learn at a pace that is correct for them. This applies to a gifted child as much as to any other child.

I think the test at the end of year 1 is probably harmless but should be largely pointless, because if they school/teacher don't have a good grasp of a child's phonic progress by this stage, to put it bluntly, they must be a bit rubbish. If the test is to gain funding for additional teaching resources for the school (which I doubt), wouldn't it be better just to put those resources in place in the beginning?

I therefore think that the test will make no difference to reading rates.

Maybe its supposed to be like a kind of speed test to find those rogue schools that are wilfully using whole word techniques? What is going to happen at theses schools - they send in the phonics squad? Not if the government don't want to spend any money they won't.

mathanxiety Thu 12-Jul-12 18:25:40

The fact that not all teachers believe that some children need extra help. No doubt there will be a few surprised faces...

Feenie Thu 12-Jul-12 18:27:17

Ofsted will be very interested - they have a very pro-phonics reading agenda. I hope they will be especially interested in nice middle class schools who don't teach phonics properly and rest in their leafy lane laurels like my ds's.

Feenie Thu 12-Jul-12 18:27:29

ON

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 18:28:09

Infact, I bet loads of schools will just carry on as normal:

"Well Mrs Smith, Geraldine didn't score very well in this mandatory phonics test, but we like to teach a variety of reading techniques here...".

Feenie Thu 12-Jul-12 18:28:18

Yep, there already are, math.

mathanxiety Thu 12-Jul-12 18:29:40

Merrymouse, I agree. What you end up with in a class where phonics is started too early is differentiation, grouping that is visible to all, that sends a message to all the children and not just to their parents that some children are better than others. Starting too early accomplishes the task of sorting into the haves and have nots, which is the main focus of the British education system.

And I agree with your points about the tests.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 18:57:25

The task of sorting the haves from have nots is the main focus of many British parents - that is not the fault of the education system. Four year old children don't tend to make a big song and dance about which phonic group they are in. And too early for one child is a completely different thing from too early for another. Giving extra attention to a child who is behind in their phonics doesn't strike me as holding that child back and turning it into a have not.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 18:59:12

In fact, the main interests of most young children appear to be who is the funniest child, the kindest child, the fastest runner, has the nicest hair, the best pair of glasses, the coolest toys... not who is doing the trickiest phonics.

mrz Thu 12-Jul-12 19:21:07

Most children aren't interested in what other people can do and it's very easy to teach phonics to mixed ability groups /whole class so no one is aware until parents get into comparing book bands.

beezmum Thu 12-Jul-12 19:31:29

Cecily P, throm answered for me up thread. I do agree with you that more reading would have helped but the children don't read because it is effortful - it's a vicious cycle.
To expand on my point about the 80 per cent stat hiding more weak reading. My school is alittle bit selective but not highly academic but virtually all our kids would have got level 4 or above at the end of KS2. Screening checks on entry show there are masses of weak readers and sometimes it seems like half the exam hall is made up of those getting extra time in their exams because of reading problems. Many children that are viewed as literate find decoding effortful and as those taught with phonics tend to not have this problem I tend to think mixed methods teaching hurts many more than the 20 per cent statistic. These children don't get into the habit of reading in KS2 as it is hard work. They then don't read enough by age 16 to improve their reading skills and expand the vocabulary. They get by but remain weak readers and are seriously hindered from 16 plus. They are not a small number of students and they eat drastically into the 80 per cent success statistic.

MerryMarigold Thu 12-Jul-12 19:32:25

You're kidding mrz. My YR was very clear about who was in what group. Partly because it was rubbed in by other kids. Maybe it was just his class who were that aware but they certainly were/ are. As for mixed ability teaching, it would be great, but haven't seen it. Phonics grouping were done across the year (3 classes) and even across years ("Wow, he goes to Y1 phonics").

Rabbitstew, I have never been competitive about my child, but I have been very concerned about his self esteem and frequent comments that he's rubbish at everything despite loads of encouragement at home.

beezmum Thu 12-Jul-12 19:38:53

I know one could argue that I can't prove why those children are still weak - but I can say with some certainty tht the 80 per cent figure hides plenty of weak reading.
Also ks2 teachers on this thread talk about reading with kids that will get level 4 but struggle with new words etc. I would say that I meet those children at A level still weak as readers, they don't get better because thy don't like reading. Thy don't like reading because it is effortful. It is effortful because they are heavily reliant on context and never learnt to effortlessly decode...

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 19:40:09

My dss were never remotely clear on who was in what group for anything at the age of 4, 5 or 6. Ds1 doesn't appear to have twigged that some groups were set by ability until KS2 and I never asked what ability groups my dss were in, either. If some parents in a child's class are interested and asking about it and commenting on it, I'm sure that gets passed on by the children, but I'm really not convinced it originates from the children or the teachers - hence my comment that that sort of thing is not the fault of the education system, it's the fault of the parents.

mrz Thu 12-Jul-12 19:41:13

Well I don't have groups and they all do the same work so I'm not sure how they will work it out MerryMarigold unless they happen to have access to my files.

nymac Thu 12-Jul-12 20:00:17

Is the system of 'Synthetic Phonics' as championed by the present Government Education dept. taught as a whole class lesson for 20 minutes per day or done some other way? Does anyone know? I have been out of teaching for a few years.

I was involved in a pilot for introducing a daily phonics lesson in 2004/5 but this included, along side the class session, many group and individual games activities, then called 'Playing with Sounds' The children's phonic knowledge increased that year but other things suffered as a result of the prescriptive focus for "all '' children at 4 plus. Some children find just sitting on the carpet or on a chair, for that length of time, difficult at barely 4 years old, children with English as a second language struggled for different reasons, others again loved the formal sessions and could cope with the pace of introduction.
I still feel that this debate has two strong and needlessly opposing camps and yet we are all interested in the learning outcomes of our children.

Phonics is an essential part of the teaching of reading but is not the only means to learn to be a reader. It has always been taught.

I was surprised to see that someone thought 'guessing' should not be encouraged as part of reading, informed intelligent guesses using context, sentence structure, speech patterns as well picture clues are very much part of being a reader.
I have been encouraged by the level of debate and the interest shown by mums on this subject.

mrz Thu 12-Jul-12 20:10:51

It depends on the school nymac.

I think most people now accept that teaching children to guess is a very poor strategy and the whole context argument is very weak when you consider that it isn't possible to guess the most frequently used function words.

nymac Thu 12-Jul-12 20:25:11

" Most people now accept" "a very poor strategy" what a crafty conflation of views mrz. I wouldn't begin to assume I knew what "most people" thought about anything.
It is, however, possible to 'have a go' at a word using all sorts of other cues, such as picture, context, experience and sentence construction.

Which frequently used function words?

mrz Thu 12-Jul-12 20:33:19

* * took * function words ** * speech, * * * hard * figure * ** going on.

Can you guess the missing words from context nymac ?

Would a picture help you read it?

nymac Thu 12-Jul-12 20:25:11

>>>> It is, however, possible to 'have a go' at a word using all sorts of other cues, such as picture, context, experience and sentence construction. <<<<

I seriously think that that using picture clues is a crock. What about when children do well enough with mixed methods to move beyond books with illustrations? Not much scope for picture clues there, is there? confused And what if there are a few words in a sentence which they don't know, how are they supposed to put any of them in context then?

But seriously, don't you think it's a complete waste of time, effort and energy to have to try and work it out by all those methods you suggest. Surely it would be so much easier to just decode it!

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 12-Jul-12 20:37:17

Yes I agree nymac - I think the other reading cues, crucially context, but also sentence structure and pictures, are really important to the developing reader. I feel they have been side-lined a bit by the emphasis on phonics. I think when I learnt to read myself circa 1970 grin that I relied heavily on all of these, and recognising whole words, and only to a much lesser extent on phonics. Your own experience is bound to be influential on your views I think.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 20:38:11

This is fun! If I took the function words out of my speech, it would be hard to figure out exactly what was going on?????

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 12-Jul-12 20:40:16

Also, the thing is, it's important to read words in context and guess ahead as you read, rather than just de-coding each word, in order to read for meaning and with fluency.

learnandsay Thu 12-Jul-12 20:40:58

nymac, my own personal view about the reason why the camps are in such opposition is that each feels that it has to annihilate the other in order to be vindicated. A thing we often hear is that mixed methods are anathema. That doesn't seem to be restricted to a system of Mixed Methods as a discipline but appears to apply to anyone who isn't a disciple of either view. In order to exist, it appears as though one has to subscribe to Viewpoint A or Viewpoint B. Ordinary people who just want their children to read don't exist. And that's a sad indictment on both camps. (And it's very bad for all non-indoctrinated parents.)

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 20:42:55

I think guessing from context is a load of old crock, too, unless the child is actually really looking at the word in question and all the letters in it and is therefore already not far off the mark. What normally actually happens is the child glances at the word, decides it's too long to cope with and makes up a word beginning with the same letter but otherwise bearing no relationship to reality - at least by the time they get into KS2 they do. In KS1 they can guess from the context because there are so few words they are expected to choose from (eg "Floppy" or "dog"), but with proper books, there are far too many choices.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 12-Jul-12 20:46:30

Oh no !
Guessing from context is a crucial skill for developing readers
IMHO

mrz Thu 12-Jul-12 20:51:15

"Contextual facilitation of word perception is not a usual part of skilled normal reading; in fact it would be a waste of cognitive capacity for good readers who read with ease and in an automatic fashion to even consider using this strategy. (Briggs P., Austin S., & Underwood G., 1984) Contextual facilitation or facilitation of word perception is useful only to poor readers to compensate for their difficulties in decoding."

GlassofRose Thu 12-Jul-12 20:53:53

The one thing I would agree with Michael Rosen on is Ruth Miskin's position. She has a vested interest in flogging her wares.

mrz Thu 12-Jul-12 20:54:48

"when it comes to word recognition, it is the good reader who has less need to use context in order to decide upon a word. The poor reader cannot recognise a word straightaway, and needs context to aid word recognition. This takes up valuable processing capacity, which reduces the capacity for comprehension."

"To many cognitive psychologists, good readers are clearly distinguished from poor readers by more rapid, automatic, context-free and accurate word recognition."

http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/000000488.htm

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 12-Jul-12 20:46:30

>>>> Oh no !
Guessing from context is a crucial skill for developing readers
IMHO <<<<

It's a bloody waste of time. IMVOO*!

(*In My Very Opinionated Opinion)

learnandsay Thu 12-Jul-12 20:56:58

Oh, God! decoding shmecoding! Decoding is only pronouncing some gibberish according to some rules the teacher gives you. I can decode

llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

but I haven't the faintest clue what it means!

mrz Thu 12-Jul-12 20:57:27
rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 21:00:26

Maybe it's also the fact that most of the poor readers are poor at both phonics and guessing from context, so it sticks out a mile that they can't use either technique and favour the easier random guessing over trying to work it out sensibly. However, I do find it glaringly obvious when apparently fluent readers get stuck on a word, can't guess it from the context and then are utterly unable to sound it out, either. As an outsider whose children never had trouble learning to read but who volunteers to read with other children, I find it fascinating to observe and listen to the bizarre guesses some children come up with - clearly, half the time, they have too limited a vocabulary and poor general knowledge, so do not have much on which to draw when trying to make a sensible guess from the context. So I agree that even if they have been taught phonics adequately, they still need an awful lot of time and attention in order to ensure they are understanding what they read - and probably will get more of that once they've stopped stumbling over so many words that just getting them to finish the sentence is painful enough, without then asking them about every word they have just struggled with.

GlassofRose Thu 12-Jul-12 21:00:42

Decoding is only pronouncing gibberish? Really?

Decoding is breaking down the word into sounds so that a child can put the sounds together to read a whole world... so is every word that can be split into sounds gibberish? No

mrz Thu 12-Jul-12 21:00:49

"The idea that good readers use contextual cues to guess words in running text comes from a method of assessment developed by Ken Goodman that he called "miscue analysis. .... In fact, repeated studies have shown that only poor readers depend upon context to try to "guess" words in text"

maizieD Thu 12-Jul-12 21:01:45

What is the purpose of 'guessing ahead as you read'?

You'll have to forgive me but I was taught to read long before anybody came up with the reading as a guessing game idea. I like to let the author of the book I am reading tell the story rather than try to second guess them all the time.

Though I think the 'predicting' idea originally propounded by Frank Smith was about predicting upcoming words, not what was going to happen next in the story.

mrz Thu 12-Jul-12 21:02:27

GlassofRose I agree re Ruth Miskin

maizieD Thu 12-Jul-12 21:13:21

To be fair to Ruth, OUP actually own her programme (though no doubt she gets royalties and she does training).

UOP are making vast amounts of money by selling good old 'Look & Say' ORT, their own Sounds & Letters phonics programme and RWI. That's a nice lucrative bit of fence sitting...

In 1998 the government could have had Ruth's programme (or at least, something based on the same principles) free....

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 12-Jul-12 21:18:08

It's just we all guess the words that might follow in a sentence to aid our fluency with both reading and writing, don't we maizie?

eg. in your sentence ...

"I like to let the author of the X I am Y tell the Z rather than try to second guess them all the time" ( hope you all follow me ! )

learnandsay Thu 12-Jul-12 21:21:52

Phonics is largely based on guessing sounds as they appear in unfamiliar words. So, what's so wrong with guessing all of a sudden?

CecilyP Thu 12-Jul-12 21:24:58

beezmum, I think I got you and Throm mixed up earlier. Of course, level 4 readers, being about 60% of children will encompass a fairly wide ability range, and not all of them would have the ability to go on to do A levels. Decoding is effortful if you are trying to read too many new words at once, especially if those words are not even in your spoken vocabulary. But you would need to have phonic knowledge to be able to do it at all, so having been taught phonics would not make it less of an effort. Knowing the phonics makes it possible, it does not necessarily make it quick and effortless. In extreme cases, there are people with poor visual memory who do use phonics to read almost every word as if they were reading it the first time.

Of course, you know your pupils better than I do but it does sound as if many of them are still encountering far too many new words for the first time for this level. So I'm not convinced it is not a vocabulary and practice issue.

kesstrel Thu 12-Jul-12 21:26:04

In 1998 the government could have had Ruth's programme (or at least, something based on the same principles) free....

Indeed. Can the same be said of any of Michael Rosen''s work? Apparently it's find for poets to make a living our of their work, but not for people who have worked hard to develop effective instructional programmes...

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 21:28:31

I never randomly guess a sound - it's a limited choice, as particular letter combinations do not have an infinite number of sounds. I do use my knowledge of French and Latin where words appear to be derived from those languages, though, as well as phonics, which helps make it more likely for my choice of sound to be accurate. The context does not help my pronunciation, though.

mrz Thu 12-Jul-12 21:30:23

Both RWI and Ruth Miskin Literacy LTD are included in the matched phonics catalogue Maizie. I can't imagine that she would be so naive not to realise her involvement would leave her open to questions about her motive and give ammunition to Michael Rosen

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 21:31:33

llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

Apparently Welsh spelling is entirely regular and phonetic.

Perhaps we should all just speak Welsh?

mrz Thu 12-Jul-12 21:32:03

I might use context to work out the meaning of an unfamiliar word but never to guess what the word is.

rabbitstew Thu 12-Jul-12 21:32:23

Not just sound, but understanding of the likely meaning of the word, I should say, when it comes to words that look like they have their roots in other languages.

CecilyP Thu 12-Jul-12 21:41:32

I don't think it is about us as very experienced readers. How often do we really come across a word that we have not already read before? Where context does come in to play is for the more intermediate reader who will still be encountering many new words for the first time, though words in their spoken vocabulary. Context, not as an alternative to phonics but, given the nature of English spelling, to narrow down what a word could say to what it actually does say.

learnandsay Thu 12-Jul-12 21:44:54

Merry, isn't that my point? We might all be merrily able to pronounce anything. But if we haven't the vaguest clue what it means then what's the point? What if I pronounce ydych chi eisiau byw yn fy mhentref. I don't know what it means, so what have I achieved?

mathanxiety Thu 12-Jul-12 21:50:08

Mrz, most children are hyper-aware of where others are placed to sit, even at the tender age of four. They know when they are sitting in the wrong group.

Eye movement research since 1984 suggests that not only do fluent readers not read left to right through words, they skip words and fixate only on a few letters in words on which their eye rests for the millisecond it takes to recognise and process them. Additionally our eye takes in the next word in a hazy way before we get to it; sometimes we can skip it because even this parafoveal glance allows us to accurately assume what it is. In order for this sort of physical approach to work there is a lot of word anticipation from context and from the interplay of other elements in the text, such as cadence, syntax, punctuation and grammar, which fluent readers have internalised. Our working memory allows the phonological representation of text to proceed fluently. We can therefore accurately read and accurately understand the words bow and bow, permit and permit, console and console, record and record, contest and contest -- heteronyms in general. We can also infer the correct sense from words that could be either nouns or verbs (for instance, 'processes' in the sentence: 'For the currently fixated word, lexical identification processes access memory stores that supply any missing phonological information to ‘fill in’ the elaborated phonological representation if needed.')

A very interesting paper on mechanisms involved in reading. (Highly readable).
Conclusion:
'Whereas the teaching of phonological awareness and letter–sound correspondences are widely recognised as important factors in reading development (Ashby & Rayner, 2005; Bradley & Bryant, 1983; Rayner, Foorman, Perfetti, Pesetsky & Seidenberg, 2001), our research suggests that skilled readers do more than activate a series of phonological segments. Readers also appear to activate a prosodic structure. Therefore, it is possible that teaching simple letter–sound correspondences is not always sufficient for skilled reading development. Developing prosodic sensitivity in young readers may prove to be an important piece of reading instruction, as our studies suggest that the ability to form elaborated, prosodic representations is a characteristic of skilled adult reading.'

The role of prosodic sensitivity suggests that people who are not exposed to a large and rich vocabulary and complex sentence structure in spoken English will find it difficult to read optimally as reading material becomes more complex.

Tgger Thu 12-Jul-12 21:54:40

I tend to agree with Mrz. I don't think Reception class children are generally aware or bothered about who is "good" at phonics/reading. My Mum asked my DS if all the children in his class could read, meaning at the level he can (but of course she didn't say that). He said "oh yes, they can all read" and went on to draw her a diagram (very DS grin). Which is true of course...they can all read c-a-t (at least I think they can). He doesn't differentiate and why should he?

Feenie Thu 12-Jul-12 21:57:34

Because that's the starting point. Without knowing what it says, then what's the point of guessing what it means?

merrymouse Thu 12-Jul-12 22:00:47

If you were Welsh you would understand Welsh.

The key thing would have been to not let all those people invade England, or to wait until we had a commonly agreed spelling system before everybody started writing words down.

Now the rot has set in I think Welsh can be the only answer. I am sure Gove would be up for it.

learnandsay Thu 12-Jul-12 22:04:22

Isn't that the whole point of communication? I then ask an elder what it means and he/she explains it to me. Now I know what it means (for as long as I can remember it. When I forget the elder will explain it to me again.) After a period of tuition I can remember on my own what it means, and in turn then I can explain to a youngster. This is the process which goes on when parents naturally teach their children to read, without theoretical baggage.