Calling Mrz and other year 1 teachers/ phonics enthusiasts!

(46 Posts)
ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 17:58:54

I teach in a primary school. We have some very needy children in Year 1 but have recently changed the way we teach phonics.

We just did the screening test with our class. We had 100% pass rate, even some with SEN who I think would've definitely failed, prior to our new phonics teaching regime.

We often teach non word reading as part of the daily phonics lesson, but have been doing extra non word reading this week, in preparation. This was because some of the children were tending to convert some non words in the closest real word that they know.

We wanted to really emphasise the point that you should read only the sounds that they you can see.

A colleague suggested that we had unfairly 'taught to the test'. What do you think?

Feenie Thu 20-Jun-13 18:06:07

It isn't possible to teach to the test. Either you teach children to use phonics to read words - any words - effectively, or you don't!

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 18:08:49

That's how I feel, feenie!

We have just slightly altered our phonics teaching in the last week to mirror the format of the screening.

The implication was that this was giving a true picture of their phonic knowledge.

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 18:09:15

'Wasnt giving at rue picture'

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 18:09:41

Gah! iPad !

ClayDavis Thu 20-Jun-13 18:11:53

You haven't 'taught to the test', you've 'taught'. If you've emphasised that they should only read the sounds they see and consolidate this in the rest of their reading, you are teaching them to read not to pass a test.

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 18:14:51

Thanks. Sorry, I should also say we did a couple of extra lessons of phonics this week too, to revise tricky graphemes. I think the suggestion was that we should have gone in totally 'cold' without giving phonic knowledge/ teaching any kind of 'boost'.

boredofwork Thu 20-Jun-13 18:25:17

And the other teachers in your school do no prep for SATs, optional SATs etc?

We all help to prepare our children in some way. They need to remember these children are 5 and 6 years old, they need an idea of the format otherwise they will be terrified. Or at least my children would be!

I have done lots of buried treasure and non-word reading over the last couple of weeks.

You have done nothing wrong as long as you administered the actual test according to the guidelines.

ClayDavis Thu 20-Jun-13 18:26:18

I'm still not sure that matters. Presumably, in order to revise the tricky graphemes, you have to identify which graphemes the children find tricky and then revise them. That should form part of good phonics teaching anyway with or without the test.

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 18:30:53

Bored, clay, I absolutely agree but wanted to see what others think. I guess I just wanted to know what others felt about raising the profile of phonics teaching in the run up to the assessment.

Periwinkle007 Thu 20-Jun-13 18:35:04

I am just a parent but quite frankly to me 'teaching to the test' would be to be doing lots of example practice tests or cheating and giving them the actual test words before the test itself. The extra work you have put in should (one hopes) remain in their heads in which case they have learned how to do it so it doesn't matter if it was this week or a month ago really. I would be interested to know though if you are now changing how you teach it in general as if such a concentrated couple of weeks on it has made a big difference then if that concentrated couple of weeks had been say in January would they be further on.

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 18:39:40

Good point peri. I guess what I would say to that is that in a typical week we also go work on sight and high frequency words, spelling dictation etc and this week we have focused on the non word reading and let the others areas get neglected. But I agree, there may be something to be said for upping the pace/ amount of the phonics for some children, the light of this success.

Periwinkle007 Thu 20-Jun-13 18:46:37

it would be interesting to perhaps look at that for next year wouldn't it.

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 18:48:19

Peri, we reflect on our practise all the time, I promise smile

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 18:49:21

We already do extra, but maybe we should do 'extra extra' smile

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 19:03:11

Tbh, I am rather upset as the person who criticised is SMT and no longer in the classroom. Very easy to forget the pressure that class teachers are under.

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 19:11:43

Does this person think you shouldn't teach the curriculum because children will be tested on it at some point.
It's a bit like saying that a secondary teacher shouldn't teach Romeo and Juliet because their pupils will have to answer questions on it in their GCSE exams

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 19:18:44

Hi Mrz, I quite agree but somehow she got me thinking that I might not have played fair. She is very senior. I am new to the school and whilst I absolutely stand by our treatment of this assessment process I did not feel able to defend myself fully. And she caught me off guard, so I struggled to put forward a defence at the time.

sittinginthesun Thu 20-Jun-13 19:22:30

I can't believe you feel you have to defend yourself - you have taught the class the the point where you have achieved 100%! What is her problem?

In my ds's class, they have been practising alien words all year. Great fun - they all have alien names, and have had "Alien Days".

If your SMT have a problem with the test itself, that is a different issue. Y

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 19:29:47

I've got to be honest I haven't done any practice checks or alien words with my class

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 19:30:17

There was a reason why this discussion point came up, but I don't want to out myself...

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 19:32:18

It would be nice to think everyone could pass without any kind of a 'boost' but in truth, I do think this made a difference to a small number of children.

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 19:34:34

Don't get me wrong we do lots of decoding words everyday

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 19:37:20

and since it's a decoding check it could be argued I'm teaching to the test.

ClayDavis Thu 20-Jun-13 19:38:45

I'd put money on the fact that if OfSTED come calling and ask to look at the results she won't be complaining then. She'll be shouting the result from the rooftops.

FWIW, if you could get 100% of children meeting the standard just by doing a few extra non words and revising tricky graphemes the week before the test, every school would get that result. They're not. That result comes from good groundwork over a period of time.

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 19:38:48

I suppose what I feel is this. If we are looking at passing the test as an indicator of child's phonic knowledge - a summative assessment- then it is valid.

If we are looking at the overall picture of the school's performance, as an indicator of the efficacy of the day to day phonics teaching, then I accept that the resulted were very, very slightly skewed.

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 19:40:25

Thanks clay. Maybe I'm being hard on myself with that last post.

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 19:47:08

I don't think using non words in your daily phonics teaching is skewing the results in any way.

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 19:48:37

but I would bet that if you hadn't done lots of non words practice your phonics teaching would have been good enough for the children to pass the check

ClayDavis Thu 20-Jun-13 19:51:49

It's not supposed to be either of those though. It's a screening check to identify children who may be having difficulties with decoding so they can get some extra help.

It's become an indicator of the efficacy of phonics teaching because results seem to be polaraised with some schools having nearly all their children pass and others where only half pass.

Periwinkle007 Thu 20-Jun-13 19:59:00

oh don't worry - my mum was a primary school teacher and I know you reflect on things and change as appropriate, I didn't mean to imply you didn't. I would have loved to be a teacher but seeing how hard my mum worked for very little thanks put me off.

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 20:04:25

Yes clay, that's true but there are a small handful of children who passed as they were at their peak due to 'over learning'. They will have to be watched very carefully to sustain this progress. I guess that our results may be a little skewed as those children didn't 'show up'.

Sorry peri, my reply sounded defensive smile

lougle Thu 20-Jun-13 20:09:26

DD2 (as I've said on another thread) told me that she was doing 'extra phonics' recently. As not all the children were doing it, I surmised that teaching staff had identified the children who had gaps in their knowledge and giving them a boost to increase their pass rate.

I don't have a problem with that at all. The test is not a test of the children, but to ensure that children get support if they have gaps. Whether that help comes before or after the screening is incidental, in my view. In fact, I'd prefer the help came before - the sooner the better!

My only hope is that teachers continue to monitor children to ensure that the knowledge 'sticks', but as that is integral to teaching, I trust that her teachers will do that as a matter of course.

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 20:13:58

Yes lounge, I agree.

ThermalGirl Thu 20-Jun-13 20:15:27

Lougle not lounge (sorry- bloody ipad thinks it knows better)

ClayDavis Thu 20-Jun-13 20:37:29

I think you're giving yourself a very hard time here and I don't think its deserved. It sounds to me like you have done a good job.

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 20:58:27

Unless by chance you managed to come up with the exact same words used in the screening check for your practice it would have no impact on the results ...all you were doing was to provide opportunities to use their skills and knowledge of phonics to decode (and IMHO it wouldn't have mattered if you used made up words or real words that the children were unfamiliar with)

lougle Thu 20-Jun-13 21:03:53

That's a good point, mrz. DD2 came to me last week and said 'Mummy, it's an alien word because it doesn't make sense'. It was a character's surname smile She had decided that unfamiliar=alien.

BlackeyedSusan Thu 20-Jun-13 22:43:17

i have been threatened that ds will not pass the phonics test in year one because i am not reading the books that school provide for him. oxford reading trree, first words books... based on sight words... confused

apparently, 1:1 teaching phonics every evening is a lot worse. i am still trying to undo the uh-oo problem. (ie look= l-uhoo-k) and catching up with the p/b confusion, teaching him th which seems to have past him by , oh and sh)

you did not teach to the test. childen need to have a familiarity with the concept of names that have to be sounded out. it is also impossible to know exactly which sight words each child knows...

Periwinkle007 Thu 20-Jun-13 22:52:20

blackeyedsusan do you mean they taught look as luhook as in pronouncing the l as luh? that is terrible

BlackeyedSusan Thu 20-Jun-13 23:30:47

no, he has learned, accidently I presume that oo says uh oo they have been teaching oo makes 2 sounds, but it has completely passed ds by. to him it says uhoo. th says thorv (ie th voiced or th, soft) (bangs head on desk)

mrz Fri 21-Jun-13 06:09:02

the spelling <oo> is taught as representing the two sounds as in book and moon so uh - oo so I can see how it might happen is left.

Dd is a good reader. Level white.

Last week school changed the homework sheet from spellings which we have had ALL year to a worksheet on soft g.

Dd tells me that she got 6 wrong in phonics test and there were lots of soft g.

Is this true teachers? Clearly our school 'taught' to the test if so.

I have long despaired their phonics (lack of).

Is there a link to this years words or is it too soon?

Ok scrap that, DD has her spelling test mixed up with her phonics test.
So not soft g!
As you were.

mrz Fri 21-Jun-13 18:56:03

Children who have been absent this week can be tested up to next Friday so the words won't be released yet.

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