Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

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k-2read
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Re: Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

Post by k-2read » Sat Sep 25, 2010 12:50 am

Thanks for your response Jim. I agree with your your statements about the lack of sound scientifically-based research allowing poor literacy practices to persist through the last century and more. People have always had the best interests of young children at heart, but as literacy rates and remedial rates showed were terribly misguided nonetheless. However as you point out, there is a considerable body of research now, and yet it is not reaching the classrooms and informing practice.

I think the entrenched experience of Whole Language since the 1970's, morphed into Balanced Reading, is hard to combat becaiuse teachers feel it is the best approach for their young charges. Such belief trumps research, especially in the absence of professional training, given the strong hold of teacher organizations and the entrenched power of the educators of teachers. In the US there is a particular void in professional training of teachers in reading, both within and subsequent to the teacher-training years. Where there is such a void beliefs and assumptions and personal experience surge forward and dominate educator decisions.

Reading First was making a difference because it was exposing teachers to the evidence-based methods recommeded by the National Reading Panel. I heard a director of a low socio-economic district which had benefitted from RF, including the professional training, passionately speaking to professors of education. She stated that she now can go into first grade classes in her district and children will be reading and enjoying early chapter books such as Magic Tree House. "That would have been impossible before Reading First" she firmly stated. I don't think the professors were moved one jot!

Beth

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Re: Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Sep 25, 2010 9:16 am

We need phonics teaching as a continuum - along with morphology - way past year 2. I agree that, when children can read reasonably well, the phonics teaching moves to become a spelling programme (or should).

You only have to read the TES (Times Educational Supplement) online primary forum to know that we are not near the point of phonics being done and dusted by the end of Year 2!

But why would people consider that children as young as six and seven should be at the end of learning about a very complicated alphabetic code for reading and spelling?

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Re: Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

Post by chew8 » Mon Sep 27, 2010 11:27 am

Debbie wrote:But why would people consider that children as young as six and seven should be at the end of learning about a very complicated alphabetic code for reading and spelling?
One answer relates just to reading, not spelling: if teaching is good in the first 2 years or so of school, virtually all children can learn enough about the alphabetic code to need little or no further teaching of this code for reading purposes. Even if particular items have not been explicitly taught, most children will master them by self-teaching. This is already happening, even in schools where teaching is less than ideal. I know this from working voluntarily since 2000 with hundreds of Year 3 children who have been very good readers in spite of coming from infant schools where teaching has not been ideal and probably still isn't.

Things are a bit different with spelling, where it takes a lot longer for children to reach real proficiency, but my own view is that good code-based teaching in the first 3 years or so should mean that occasional light-touch phonics suffices thereafter, with the focus moving mainly to other spelling guidelines. I think it's risky to suggest that all children need intensive ongoing phonics teaching after Key Stage 1, as critics are likely to seize on this as a sign that all we want to do is to hammer away at basic mechanics for ever.

Re. the question at the head of this thread ('Why is malinstruction still so prevalent?'): I think there's much less malinstruction around than in the past, though I agree that there's still too much.

Jenny C.

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Re: Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Mon Sep 27, 2010 1:22 pm

In my experience it is important to teach a comprehensive range of letter/s-sound correspondences for both reading and spelling beyond Year One.

My favoured approach to teach the three core skills is through an all-in-one Activity Sheet which I am trying to promote widely. That is, there are activities to feature the focus correspondence and then it includes activities for blending, segmenting, and handwriting all on the one sheet.

Using this approach, I have taught children who are already very strong at reading at the beginning of Year Two, whose reading levels on the Burt word reading test shot up significantly higher than the already very high reading levels, after less than one term.

This opened my eyes to the fact that one can teach children to read even more proficiently with continued phonics teaching and an emphasis on blending when those children are already exceptional.

The same cumulative words provided for sounding out and blending can also be used, in effect, for word analysis. The code knowledge and skills are reversible - so it's not necessarily about separating out the two skills and reducing the code teaching for reading after Year One.

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Re: Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

Post by chew8 » Mon Sep 27, 2010 7:37 pm

Debbie wrote:In my experience it is important to teach a comprehensive range of letter/s-sound correspondences for both reading and spelling beyond Year One.
I would certainly allow for this, as is shown by my use of the phrase 'the first 2 years or so of school' (emphasis added) in connection with children learning enough about the alphabetic code to need no further teaching for reading purposes.

I haven't worked with Year 2 children so can't talk from experience about this year-group. I've worked voluntarily for 10 years, however, with the full ability-range of Y3 children, and it's on this basis that I've said what I've said about phonics-for-reading and phonics-for-spelling from this point on. I'm now working voluntarily for two hours a week with Year 1 children and will have a better idea at the end of this school year of where they have got to.

Jenny C.

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Re: Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Mon Sep 27, 2010 11:06 pm

There are children who really don't manage to teach themselves and who need very explicit instruction with a lot of spelling alternatives and pronunciation alternatives.

Yet with good, solid, routine teaching, they can make good progress.

I have seen children with this profile stall enormously when good phonics teaching in Reception classes is not built on rigorously or systematically enough in Year One and/or Year Two.

The trouble is that this may be the very group who end up receiving intervention programmes which are not focused well enough on phonics teaching - and which dabble a lot with comprehension and writing activities which are beyond the chilidren's code knowledge and technical skills. This can amount more to 'busy work' than anything else.

So teachers are assistants can spend a long time 'teaching' - and they can experience the feel-good factor and see 'work' which looks, to all intents and purposes, like progress - but which isn't really the kind of basic progress to make the children truly independent.

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Re: Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

Post by chew8 » Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:16 pm

Debbie wrote:There are children who really don't manage to teach themselves and who need very explicit instruction with a lot of spelling alternatives and pronunciation alternatives.
I have absolutely no problem accepting this. I just think we should be careful not to imply that we are talking about all children when what we are saying actually applies just to some children.

Jenny C.

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Re: Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

Post by g.carter » Tue Sep 28, 2010 11:59 pm

Looking at recent reports/TES posts about the diminishing interest in reading for pleasure, I'd be much more concerned about getting phonics done and dusted by the end of Year 2 . After that, a huge focus should be placed on ensuring that there's a well-stocked library, and that every encouragement is given to children to enthuse them about reading and language.
When/if the day comes that all teachers receive a solid foundation in the alphabetic code, then incidental phonics will become embedded . What schools need to do is to take care to focus on the promotion of exciting literature and broadening the curriculum.

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Re: Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

Post by chew8 » Wed Sep 29, 2010 7:48 am

Geraldine wrote:Looking at recent reports/TES posts about the diminishing interest in reading for pleasure, I'd be much more concerned about getting phonics done and dusted by the end of Year 2 . After that, a huge focus should be placed on ensuring that there's a well-stocked library, and that every encouragement is given to children to enthuse them about reading and language.
I agree. This is why I think we should avoid implying that we are advocating ongoing phonics after Y2 for all children. Those who still need it should certainly get it, but the expectation should be that very few will need it if phonics teaching in Years R 1 and 2 is good.

Jenny C.

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Re: Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:45 am

The reports and documentaries do not even begin to look at the whole primary picture transparently.

The issue of teaching phonics for reading AND SPELLING is not the same issue as engaging children in enjoying reading - other than people need to teach children to read in the first place which massively increases their chances of enjoying reading. They are not 'separate' issues. If a school has taught children to read and then failed to engage them with literature, then that is a different weakness.

I'll add something later about this but I feel as if this is an issue which now needs unpicking thoroughly as we are in danger of misleading people.

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Re: Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:28 pm

Jenny said:
This is why I think we should avoid implying that we are advocating ongoing phonics after Y2 for all children.
I am not implying that we advocate phonics for after Y2, I am saying that we definitely need phonics teaching for all children after Year 2.

By then, I do expect all the children to be reading - and many will be very proficient readers - some probably hindered only by more limited oral vocabularies - although being able to read a wide range of books will help to increase the children's vocabularies.

My version of a synthetic phonics teaching programme continues with core skills routines and, as I said previously, printed words with focus correspondences provide words to analyse into their constituent graphemes for spelling purposes.

The children (students) then need to learn spelling word banks which are very learnable through varied activities for many of the spelling variations of the alphabetic code.

I have the broad infant and primary teaching experience to call upon to know that phonics teaching needs to continue as part of a 'basic skills' curriculum throughout primary (which increasingly includes grammar).

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Re: Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

Post by chew8 » Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:01 am

Debbie:

My own children definitely didn't need explicit phonics instruction for spelling even when they entered Reception - the phonics I had taught them as preschoolers was enough. They needed to learn more word-specific spellings, but they didn't need constant reminding that all spellings involved representing sounds by letters as their awareness of this could be taken for granted. The same was true of my contemporaries and me in the 1940s.

It may just be that you and I are using different language to describe the same thing. Of course I agree that children should continue to use phonic knowledge in spelling - I just don't think the teaching should need to emphasise the phonic angle after Y2 (except perhaps very occasionally) provided that this angle has been properly emphasised up to Y2.

I would really like to see test results from schools doing it your way, however.

Jenny C.

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Re: Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Thu Sep 30, 2010 12:35 pm

I have had an eye-opening teaching profile over the years - it has been both broad (in many schools) and deep (in some schools for longer periods) and the experience has included schools with top results in the local authority, and indeed nationally, and in schools at the level of Special Measures and Serious Weaknesses.

During that journey, I have taught children as Year Five and Year Six pupils whom I taught SP when they were infants.

I can say categorically that unless the key stage two teachers continue with the same approach to spelling and reading, that children's 'understanding' and practices (for both reading and spelling) are likely to be changed, gains lost, standards stalled or reversed. This includes just about all the children. The only children who end up spelling exceptionally well are a small number of gifted children with a seemingly photographic memory.

I can also say that the level of 'synthetic phonics' teaching when I was their Year One and Year Two teacher would not have been with the same resources and programme that I would now advocate - but still SP and still quite rigorous.

Nevertheless, the way I taught even then achieved outstanding results at the end of key stage one and no children did badly although some were clearly weaker than others - or you could say they showed more propensity to muddlement (dyslexic tendencies?).

The following key stage two teacher was a really dedicated, thorough teacher, who used 'Word Attack' with her weaker students - but this is not synthetic phonics practice and not what I would advocate.

However, in key stage two, there were practices of spelling books (where children 'have a go' at their spelling), asking the teacher, looking in dictionaries, and writing spelling banks whilst practising handwriting on a very regular basis.

In other words, some rigour and some recognisable aspects of teaching spelling in key stage two practice.

My findings were very upsetting, however. I have other examples I could describe but what matters about this example is that the school DID, to all intents and purposes, get top-of-the-tree national results and so it is very hard to draw attention to such teachers that their teaching was producing pupils who did not have the best possible reading and spelling profiles. Many were dependent on the spelling book being completed by the teacher, unprepared to have a go, little or no notion about spelling alternatives as code for the sounds they identified in the words, they thought and spoke of spellings in letter names rather than in orally segmenting the sounds. This was very different from my teaching (and their learning) in key stage one where I taught the children for two years (mixed Y1/Y2 class).

Now, you could argue that this refers to 'some' children only - to support your suggestion that children should not need a continued, rigorous phonics approach beyond Year Two.

Year Three children are still very young - and we are also still at the stage when the vast majority of schools (as far as I can surmise) are unlikely to be teaching SP to the level of rigour that I suggest we need. Of course I am not privy to seeing inside 25,000 schools - but I do follow forums, provide teacher-training in a wide range of settings, hear from people from all over the world in my capacity of giving free advice, and I have my own personal teaching experience to call upon - as well as the experience of close professional friends and trainers.

Your experience of primary teaching seems to amount to voluntary work for hearing readers and working actively on a governing body - plus working hard to keep your finger on the pulse of infant and primary schools. This is not equivalent to full time primary teaching experience of teaching up to 30 children in infant classes (reception and key stage one) and maybe more than 30 children in the juniors (key stage two) in a broad range of schools. Your suggestions for phonics activities and games to support the teaching are not the same as mine, based on my experience and study of the smaller and bigger picture, and which are sustainable, manageable, effective, readily differentiated, time-efficient - with large infant and junior classes of a wide range of ability.

Providing teacher-training allows one to learn about the really low level (in some cases) of 'understanding' or even the low level of support for synthetic phonics teaching in some cases. I often get called upon to address this lack of interest, professional understanding, and failure to build upon, what is going on in the infants (and sometimes vice versa where the junior teachers have concerns about the infant teaching because of low levels of literacy). In other words, infant teachers themselves can see where their junior colleagues are not building on good foundations - and junior teachers can see where infant teachers are not building good foundations.

You appear to feel strongly that you would not want your children and grandchildren (or similarly able children) to have continued to receive phonics teaching when they were already amazingly literate both with reading and spelling.

But, Jenny, it may well be that your children are amongst a really exceptional small group of children. I, too, have experience of exceptional children - truly exceptional - (one of my own children and various pupils) and I have found, albeit on a personal scale experience, that with my kind of rigorous phonics they could make exceptional leaps - still! Maybe your own children, however, did not have any more capacity to learn anything beyond what you taught them already - but surely you cannot guage or advise on the national scenario based on that very personal mother's (and grandmother's) experience.

I agree that there may well be a very small percentage of children who have good SP teaching from reception to Year Two and who may well not need phonics teaching to any great extent in key stage two - but let's reach the point where all infant schools ARE recognisably rigorous and effective for all the children before we start trying to 'pull back' on what kind of teaching they get beyond Year Two.

I could suggest that the way to look at this is that children such as yours are the small exception - and that this small group may not need my kind of phonics teaching beyond Year Two - but then this is what needs to be unpicked.

You seem to be saying something a little bit different although I don't want to put words in your mouth. I feel as if you are suggesting that Year Two is the general end point for rigorous synthetic phonics teaching - and that it would be more exceptional to need to continue it beyond Year Two. Please correct me if I misunderstand you.

I seem to be saying something different. I believe, based on my experience and findings from the wider picture, that we should continue SP teaching beyond Year Two (when SP teaching becomes for the most part a spelling programme) until such time as we can witness generally amazing reading and spelling results at the end of Year Two in our schools.

I suggest that, currently, we neither have rigorous SP teaching from Reception to Year Two, nor do we have follow-up teaching practices in key stage two. Perhaps we currently have practices in key stage two which undermine infant SP teaching.

I feel as if before we have even got SP teaching of the calibre we need off the ground, you, and Geraldine, are trying to pull back on it!

I find this surprising.

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Re: Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Thu Sep 30, 2010 12:46 pm

Jenny said:
I would really like to see test results from schools doing it your way, however.
And so would I, Jenny - but I am only one woman - and it is only since I have been invited to work with Oxford University Press that my chances of working with schools in ways closer to my own vision have been increased.

But, I would also like to see results from schools doing it your way, Jenny. Ultimately, like Mona suggests, this may well reach the point of comparing programme with programme.

I suggest that Letters and Sounds is not really a programme - teachers and advisors are trying to work hard to make it into a programme - the government were being misguiding to state that schools could use it as their chosen 'programme'.

So, over time, if we can look at test results from schools following different SP programmes (with varying levels of rigour), and also look at schools where teachers sustain the methodology/programmes compared to those where it is thought unnecessary to sustain the teaching or programmes, only then will we get a clearer picture.

You can see from our many issues raised on the RRF forum that there is a general struggle to raise standards of education certainly in state schools (although I have seen weak standards in private schools too).

This is a sign of the times with its huge worry about standards of literacy.

What seems more 'time appropriate'?

Talking about holding back synthetic phonics teaching beyond Year Two before it is embedded - or promoting that it needs to be very focused and rigorous for as long as it takes to train all the primary teachers and assistants, at least, and to raise the standards for all the children?

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Re: Beginning reading: policy influences England v USA

Post by chew8 » Thu Sep 30, 2010 2:13 pm

Debbie wrote:You appear to feel strongly that you would not want your children and grandchildren (or similarly able children) to have continued to receive phonics teaching when they were already amazingly literate both with reading and spelling.

But, Jenny, it may well be that your children are amongst a really exceptional small group of children.
Don't forget that I also referred above to the experience of my contemporaries as children. I didn't refer on this occasion to the children I taught in South Africa in the 1960s, but I could have done. In all these cases, the systematic teaching of spelling continued beyond the equivalent of Y2, but not with the sort of explicit emphasis on phonics that you are advocating. The results were nevertheless very good.

I'll delay further comment for the time being.

Jenny C.

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