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What is a mixed method?

(79 Posts)
columngollum Thu 20-Feb-14 08:54:17

Can a brave teacher explain what she means?

Occasionally a teacher pops up explaining how necessary the storybook pictures are. But she gets such a ripping from the phonics fanatics that it's never possible to find out what she means.

Firstly we never know what the picture is of.
And secondly we never know what the word or sentence concerned is.

I think simple common nouns alone per page with their names below are excellent.

juniper44 Thu 20-Feb-14 10:54:14

First of all, I'm a ks2 teacher so I don't teach phonics. The children who do need sessions have interventions. I did do RWI training as well as doing it at uni, but my memory is rusty and it's probably all moved on a lot since then.

I don't know the full history, but I know that teachers used to use the searchlights method, which said there were four ways children learn to read (often using a mixture of them).
They were:
Sight recognition (like flash cards, or your example)
Context (based on the sentence and story)
Picture reading

The Rose report showed that synthetic phonics, ie teaching the sounds outside of words, helped children decode better than any other method.

columngollum Thu 20-Feb-14 11:41:11

Much has been made previously on the Internet about how awful the Searchlights method was. But today I get the impression that when people refer to a mixed method they're not talking about the education programme any more, they're talking about:

not depending on phonics, not teaching formal Look & Say

but doing some kind of mishmash and particularly reading pictures.

Depending on what reading pictures actually means. Anybody with any sense knows that you can't read pictures, unless they're hieroglyphs. So, presumably this isn't what people mean... or is it?

columngollum Thu 20-Feb-14 11:57:49

I get the feeling that modern language is trailing behind the facts. From a House of Commons report that I'm reading the Searchlights method used the analogy

the more searchlights that are turned on [when a child learns to read] the less critical it is if one of them fails

I think this really was deliberately mixing methods as stated.

I think when people talk about mixing methods today they're no longer talking about this, but are talking about anything which isn't so called pure phonics or pure L&S.

So, mixed methods in common speech aren't really mixed methods at all. They're just what's left over and left unclaimed.

RiversideMum Thu 20-Feb-14 12:55:03

Under the old literacy strategy children were taught some phonics, but not in a systematic way. They were given sight words to learn (flashcards). They were encouraged to guess a word from its first letter (what fits?). They were also encouraged to guess what words could be from looking at pictures.

The problem that surfaced was that many children didn't "turn on" all the searchlights. Many children just used the easy strategies - guessing from pictures or context.

When I first started as a TA many years ago working with low achieving readers, you just needed to watch their eyes. They were all over the place - tracking backwards and forwards, up and down, all over the page, looking for ideas in the pictures as to what a word could be. It was these children who were very disabled by how they had been taught. They had poor understanding of the alphabetic code becuase they had learnt to rely on other methods before they had been taught all the letter/sound correspondences.

prh47bridge Thu 20-Feb-14 13:05:14

In some systems of learning to read children are given illustrated books and encouraged to guess words they don't know by looking at the pictures for clues. This books used have pictures specially designed to help the child guess unknown words. If you are attempting to teach children to read using that approach the pictures in books are indeed necessary. Without them the child does not have any tools to decode unfamiliar words.

Mixed methods means using multiple methods to teach reading. Advocates claim that children learn in many different ways and that it is therefore appropriate to provide multiple strategies for learning.

Research suggests that 95%+ of children taught using purely synthetic phonics will learn to read successfully. For other approaches (including mixed methods, even where one of the methods used is synthetic phonics) the success rate is only around 80%. Research into the way the brain works also strongly suggests that we actually read by sounding out words at high speed subconsciously, the approach advocated by synthetic phonics.

mrz Thu 20-Feb-14 14:52:24

"Occasionally a teacher pops up explaining how necessary the storybook pictures are. But she gets such a ripping from the phonics fanatics that it's never possible to find out what she means."

I would love to see an example of this columngollum

mrz Thu 20-Feb-14 14:55:53

juniper has done a pretty good job of describing mixed method instruction with the excption of the final part. Synthetic phonics isn't about teaching the sounds outside of words, in fact it's important that they are taught in the context of words and that blending and segmenting of words are part of instruction from the start.

maizieD Thu 20-Feb-14 16:32:08

I think when people talk about mixing methods today they're no longer talking about this, but are talking about anything which isn't so called pure phonics or pure L&S.

When people are talking about mixed methods today they are talking about the old Searchlights methods; which haven't gone away. There are still teachers who think that guessing equals reading.

The only other 'method' which might not involve guessing is 'analytic' phonics, but it is not as effective as SP.
What are you referring to as 'L&S'?

PaperMover Thu 20-Feb-14 18:12:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MrsKCastle Thu 20-Feb-14 20:27:03

Mixed methods is simply when children are taught to use more than one method to read. So they may be given a set of words to learn by sight (often described as 'words that can't be sounded out'). At the same time, the child is usually taught some phonics, but also encouraged to guess by using the pictures.

Some 'early reader' books can only be read by using picture clues, like the 'I am an astronaut' example above.

The problem is that learning words by heart and guessing from pictures are not long-term strategies. Children who rely on them may seem to 'read' well at first, but then struggle a lot when they start to encounter more complex texts.

simpson Thu 20-Feb-14 21:02:41

DS (now yr4) was taught using mixed methods. I remember a book with the word "pancake" in it which he couldn't decode as he hadn't been taught yet (he was in reception at the time) and later on in the same school year another book with "trampoline" (which he couldn't read).

When I queried this with the teacher they said to use the pictures to help hmm

He was also given lists of words to learn off by heart.

DD is in yr1 at the same school and her year group has been taught totally phonetically (not her as she could read before school - but still has daily phonics in her year group).

The reading books are different, DS had loads of old style ORT and DD's year group have new ORT (phonetic), songbirds and jolly phonics books (I read with yr1).

However once a child gets to about stage 7 then the older ORT appear <<sigh>>

beanandspud Thu 20-Feb-14 22:22:41

I'm a bit scared to admit it here but I suspect that DC was taught to read using mixed methods.

In reception/Y1, phonics was a key part of the learning and even now I hear DC doing spellings with phonics - for example fl-igh-t. There wasn't a specific reading scheme used so we had a real mixture of books.

Even in reception we had flash cards of high frequency words to learn by sight which really helped with their reading and the reading books that came home that weren't all decodable at that stage.

So, whilst DC has a great knowledge of phonics and is a very good reader I believe the teaching used 'mixed methods'.

maizieD Thu 20-Feb-14 22:42:50

I'm a bit scared to admit it here but I suspect that DC was taught to read using mixed methods.

Why on earth would you be 'scared to admit it'? Learning to read with mixed methods isn't a mortal sin.

The mortal sin is teaching children to read with mixed methodsgrin

beanandspud Thu 20-Feb-14 23:11:58

grin MaisieD

I promise I'm not that sensitive - I just sometimes read things that make me wonder...!

columngollum Fri 21-Feb-14 09:59:48

I'd guess my next ambition would be to see one of these MM books. (I've never seen one.) I'm guessing it's 100% impossible to guess

He's picking grapes from my field.


I can imagine how you'd build up to it with a
me - picture of me
my field - picture of my field
grapes ... (you get the picture)

in an L&S methodology

mrz Fri 21-Feb-14 10:41:45

Anyone of your L&S books will fulfil that ambition

columngollum Fri 21-Feb-14 10:48:37

MrsKCastle said above that some books had been designed only to be read using picture clues. If she's right then my L&S books don't fit into that category because they can be read with or without the pictures.

In many L&S books the picture is merely an illustration. The page has somewhere in the region of fifty words on it (sometimes more). Nobody could even hope to get an understanding of the text from looking at the picture. (And indeed that's not what the pictures are for.) An L&S child already recognises the words.

columngollum Fri 21-Feb-14 10:52:10

If you mean the My First Words books, with just one item per page with its name written underneath, then OK.

But then we need to explain what we mean by reading.

In the case of a predominantly white page with a bucket on it and the word bucket printed underneath it's pretty obvious what the word means. And, in any case, if the child doesn't recognise the word then Mum will say it.

But if the child doesn't recognise a picture of a bucket then Mum's got bigger problems than reading.

mrz Fri 21-Feb-14 11:01:35

"If you mean the My First Words books, with just one item per page with its name written underneath, then OK."

No I don't mean your first word books in particular although the child looked at the picture to help them identify the written word but so do Ginn 360, the original ORT, Storyworlds, Rigby, PM, 1,2,3 & awat etc etc etc all relied on MM instruction.

columngollum Fri 21-Feb-14 11:08:16


Heinemann? (1997)

mrz Fri 21-Feb-14 11:28:04

yes Heinemann Storyworlds written for multicueing system (AKA MM)

pyrrah Fri 21-Feb-14 11:35:33

My DD's school does mixed methods. No particular book scheme is used and they don't follow levels as such. They also do phonics from different schemes not just one. Some books that come home are of the read by decoding only, some have repetitive phrases which have a difficult word at the end that can be guessed by looking at the picture. All different.

If any child has problems then they use Reading Recovery.

The school has over 80% EAL and gets incredible results given their demographic (over 70% FSM) - with around 90% of children getting L4 at KS2 and over 50% get L5 with a decent percentage getting L6.

I prefer a school that has this more flexible approach and will alter the teaching to suit the child rather than a one method fits all and it will be ONE particular method, full-stop, end-of.

columngollum Fri 21-Feb-14 11:52:15

The National Literacy Strategy (Searchlights) was launched in 1998

The Storyworlds book in my hand right now was published in 1997.

L&S books were being printed in the 1950s before New Labour had been invented. I think they'd have had a job to predict the advent of the NLS.

simpson Fri 21-Feb-14 12:10:04

I think if you have a child who starts school reading well (as the OP did) then it's harder to work out L&S books or mixed method teaching wrt reading.

I read with yr1 kids and was amazed at a ORT book (Fizz Buzz iirc) having the letter formation of a "t" differently done on the same page! This totally threw the kid reading it.

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