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Phonics screening test

(225 Posts)
Mashabell Thu 29-Nov-12 10:06:42

There is a very good article on the madness of the phonics screening test in todays i (the 20 p version of The Independent) and some of its silliest effects.

mrz Thu 29-Nov-12 20:39:37

What would your definition of an able reader be learnandsay?

learnandsay Thu 29-Nov-12 20:43:54

That probably depends on the child and the words. My daughter and I were discussing infinity, (as you do.) And she ventured that infinity sounds a bit like finished. And I explained that that's because both words come from the same part of the Roman language. Then we started adding the prefix in to other words. I'd explain definite and ask her what she thought not definite was, and so on. In reality she has no clue what these words are, or mean. But she can play word games with the best of them. She now counts all the occurrences of double letters that she comes across. (I sort of know why.) But told me tonight over supper that grinning has three letter n s in it.

Children do pick things up. So quite how alien a word is to a child will depend on the child and how much they have read and how they process that information.

simpson Thu 29-Nov-12 20:50:00

DD is fascinated by words and if she is presented with a fairly long word she will amuse herself for ages trying to find shorter words within it,if that makes sense....

An able reader to me is a child who can read fluently (phonetically - so can sound out unfamiliar words), understand what they are reading and read with expression...

learnandsay Thu 29-Nov-12 20:52:55

My definition of an able reader would most likely be someone who had read lots. So they would probably have read lots of Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter, and all manner of other things. The child would have no difficulty in picking up occasional bits of writing like newspapers, junk mail and the like and reading the whole thing. I'd imagine that child to be anywhere between 6-8. A child could reach such a stage earlier no doubt. I could do that sort of thing effortlessly as a child and I didn't learn any phonics. But I did read an awful lot.

mrz Thu 29-Nov-12 20:55:48

Then your definition is the same as mine and such children didn't fail the test.

squeezedatbothends Thu 29-Nov-12 20:57:28

It is true mrz, our university was one of those doing the analysis. There is an intelligent breakdown of it in Mick Waters forthcoming book. There has been a lot written about the nonsense of nonsense as a means to test children. I'll try to find some links, but NATE for example have raised concerns as have the team at Cambridge. Why waste time on that? Why not simply get them to decode more complex vocabulary? My six year old can decode tyrannosaurus - that will be far more useful in interpreting the Latin terminology of medicine, allchildrenreading than frup.

simpson Thu 29-Nov-12 20:58:37

Our schools pass rate was very poor tbh (and the HT doesn't agree with the phonics test).

Tbh I am not 100% sure I agree with it either but only from the point of view that the children concerned are very young and that if the school is doing their job correctly they don't need a formal test to show that iyswim.

squeezedatbothends Thu 29-Nov-12 21:02:41

Freenie, trying to turn unfamiliar words into familiar ones is not a cause for's how the human brain works, we search for cognates and this is how we learn new languages. A child who learns for example that the Greek word 'Philip' means 'love' can start to break down words like philosophy, philanthropy, philharmonic. Of course we use familiar connections - it's considered a sign of intelligence.

mrz Thu 29-Nov-12 21:02:55

Sorry squeezedatbothends but can I ask where did you get the information regarding the child's ability as it certainly wasn't in the data entered by schools taking part.

squeezedatbothends Thu 29-Nov-12 21:03:52

Ha that should be phil not Philip! Predictive text!

learnandsay Thu 29-Nov-12 21:05:07

I think the answer is because the test hasn't been very well thought through. And although it answers one question: can this child decode? It doesn't answer the next question which is: is decoding dolp useful?

On the whole I don't like the test. But I'm not against it. Having a common set of rules is often good, even if one doesn't agree with all of them. It creates order. And if the teacher is imaginative I'm sure she can find a way to persuade even her most literal children (like my daughter) to enjoy reading twenty nonsense words. My daughter loves word games. So I'd just tell her that it was a word game. (I guess if the teacher isn't imaginative or doesn't know the children then it's harder.)

mrz Thu 29-Nov-12 21:05:46

actually squeezed most 4 year olds with any interest in dinosaurs (or Ice Age) can read tyrannosaurus ...which is why non words have formed an effective element in diagnostic checks for decades.

mrz Thu 29-Nov-12 21:08:28

learnandsay the test follows the format of diagnostic reading checks which have been used effectively for decades

yellowsubmarine53 Thu 29-Nov-12 21:08:46

My understandings that children will be exposed to lots of 'alien' words via internal assessments (in addition to the 'alien' words an unfamiliar word inevitably is). The Y1 phonics screening won't be anything out of the ordinary for them.

Tgger Thu 29-Nov-12 21:11:50

I have a broader view. I think they should scrap the test, but teaching using phonics seems to be the best way so I think they should carry on doing that.

Children's brains are all wired differently though and I can see how some children who are perhaps not taught phonics systematically could be good readers but fail that test. Even now I have to admit that if I come across a word I don't know, often a nonsense word or names, I am unsure of the pronounciation. I am a good reader smile. I was taught to read by the old method of some look and say and sounding out (phonics...).

squeezedatbothends Thu 29-Nov-12 21:12:56

The data was only part of the picture mrz. There were follow up interviews and focus groups. Your school must have not taken part in this part of the process. As you know, only 2/3rds of children taking part in the pilot actually passed the test. The results showed that the nonsense words were most frequently mistaken by the children who got the real words correct - I.e. those who could read cognitively. This was supported by interviews with teachers who claimed in a wide sample of schools that it was their most able who struggled. This is the information the press responded to.

learnandsay Thu 29-Nov-12 21:14:53

I can't stand the test. But I don't think they should scrap it. (Improve it, maybe.) But I don't think it has anything to do with reading. I think the test is a management tool. And how can you assess whether or not a system works if you don't test it?

EdithWeston Thu 29-Nov-12 21:15:23

The test accurately exposed those who did not have a sound grasp of phonic decoding the,. This is a good thing for a phonics test.

mrz Thu 29-Nov-12 21:16:27

If you teach children how to read unfamiliar words when they meet then they are equipped to tackle any word read or pseudo.

squeezedatbothends Thu 29-Nov-12 21:17:02

I don't disagree with you mrz that many children with an interest in dinosaurs can read tyrannosaurus (though there are no words in Ice Age - it's a film). And since so many can, what is the point of getting them to read dolp? If they can read tyrannosaurus, they can read thesaurus. They can probably read a thesaurus in fact, so personally I'd rather spend my time teaching children to expand a real vocabulary.

EdithWeston Thu 29-Nov-12 21:20:48

The point of reading "dolp" is to demonstrate the it ability to decode and that is the purpose of this short test.

Nonsense words should, in the hands of a competent teacher, be used solely in testing as a diagnostic. It should not be part of teaching phonics. If this is happening in your school it is an indicator of a poor grasp of what proper phonics based instruction should be like.

mrz Thu 29-Nov-12 21:21:30

So you took a small sample of the small sample that was the pilot study and from that concluded that able children were unable to decode pseudo words shock

mrz Thu 29-Nov-12 21:24:21

"But I don't think it has anything to do with reading." well learnandsay it was called a phonics screening check and not a reading test but if you can't decode words accurately it's unlikely you will be able to read accurately

learnandsay Thu 29-Nov-12 21:25:53

Sure, but if you want to conduct a reading test you give the child a book, not a list of made up words.

squeezedatbothends Thu 29-Nov-12 21:26:54

This about sums it up.

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