Reading confusion in my school

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Re: Reading confusion in my school

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Mar 17, 2012 7:38 pm

This is an important development. What will the outcome be....

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Re: Reading confusion in my school

Post by volunteer » Sat Mar 17, 2012 11:16 pm

Yes it is. You can give the Literacy Consultant a run for his or her money while you are at it, if they are peddling nonsense.

Your school sounds like the one my children go to. Phonics is 30 mins per day, 4 days per week - and that's maximum. Some weeks it doesn't run at all, and quite a few days it doesn't happen. I don't know what they do in the sessions - it's billed as RWI but it's their own version of it so I haven't a clue. I know from bitter experience that they crawl through the GPCs, and read story books a further mile behind the phonemes the children have learned. There isn't much time to do much in 30 mins per max though. You get out what you put in.

I think the head likes to do it this way; I think that's where it comes from. But it sure isn't working, and certainly not the way it could. I think moving to KS2 sounds like a good plan. You will be indispensable there. However, you will still be up against similar issues won't you? The old-style ORT books going home with children who have only been taught phase 2 GPCs and have not had much practice using them in their reading? Or is there a reason why you will be able to quietly subvert things in KS2 in a way you can't in KS1?

I just can't understand this half-hearted approach to phonics so many schools have. If you are going to do it at all, why not give it a proper bash in a logical fashion. If people like Ruth Miskin are recommending 1 hour per day including some reading and writing, and extra one to one for those that need it, and parents on board with a full understanding of how phonics works, and decodables going home, why does anyone think they can get away with 30 mins per day or less and not suffer the consequences? To me it defies commonsense. It's like they think that there is something extra- magical about synthetic phonics and that now matter how short the lessons, and how few GPCs are learned, the children will zoom ahead.

It's like expecting them to do well in maths with barely any teaching or practice of number recognition number formation, place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. Apart from the true geniuses (very few), or those taught at home, it just isn't going to happen.

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Re: Reading confusion in my school

Post by Maltesers » Sun Mar 18, 2012 6:34 pm

Have done a bit of research on the net on the Lit Consultant and it appears she is very interested in the Rose Review....now whether that means for or against we shall have to see :grin:

Volunteer the KS2 staff are so much more open and willing to try new things and I really don't think there would be an issue. They would be happy to allow me to get on with things.
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Re: Reading confusion in my school

Post by volunteer » Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:47 pm

Well that's good to here. Good luck with that plan. Would you have the same problem with inappropriate books going home, and guessing being taught during guided reading though?

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Re: Reading confusion in my school

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:33 am

But what about the knowledge and practice of the KS 2 teachers? Surely it's about more than just one person's practice in the key stage?

Re the time spent - I think Letters and Sounds did no favours regarding allocated 'time'. It suggests 20 minutes for the 'teacher-led' session and I don't think it states anything re pupil practice - and many teachers don't seem to think they need to provide more than the 20 minutes.

Pupil practice suggestions amount to a handful of games, some of which don't achieve much in any extra time spent - and there is terminology along the lines of teachers not "slavishly" using all the suggested words/captions/sentences.

I find that many teachers still think of their phonics provision along the lines of 15 to 20 minutes quick-fire teaching and then any practice amounts to 'fun games and activities' rather than core individual practice.

When we're contacted re teacher-training, very often the request is for 'more fun games and activities' - not suggestions for making the teaching and learning focused and more effective - just more fun! People are seriously missing the point.

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Re: Reading confusion in my school

Post by volunteer » Mon Mar 19, 2012 11:37 am

I'm sure you are right there. It explains all those questions on TES too - "how do I get children to incorporate the "phonics" they know into their writing?", "how do I get children to use the "phonics" they know in their reading etc etc". The phonics teaching in some schools must just be teaching the children to read a few new GPCs each week, and nothing much more than that. They are encountering the same old problems as with the weekly spelling lists sent home; child learns it OK for the test, but it doesn't really show up in the child's other work.

The problem is then compounded that at some schools all the children are going off into different phonics groups learning different GPCs each week (and the class teacher doesn't really know who is learning what because it's been taken out of her hands) and then coming back into reading and writing groups which are determined by the teacher but bear no relation to the phonics groups. Then put some children in completely wrong groups because they have got tired of shouting out b, ch, sh etc which they have done since pre-school so they've stopped saying anything and have now been kept in the bottom groups doing phase 2 forever. It's about as unsystematic as it gets!!

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Re: Reading confusion in my school

Post by geraldinecarter » Mon Mar 19, 2012 9:26 pm

I think when Tony Blair first came to office one of the buzz phrases was 'joined up thinking' ... what you describe, Volunteer, is the absolute anthesis of this.
Don't schools which use Read-Write always have a teacher who is over-seeing the programme? Without this safeguard, I can see how it can easily go awry. A pity because, as far as I know the programme, it has the 'joined-up' ingredients that Debbie writes about and observes how often these are missing.

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Re: Reading confusion in my school

Post by volunteer » Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:02 pm

Yes, the manual describes a Read Write Inc manager, frequently decoding checks to ensure children are in the right groups, teachers who run groups to inform the RWI manager right away if they think a child might be in the wrong group, one hour per day including learning new GPCs, reading and writing using the GPCs learned so far etc etc. The full ingredients are there. But I think many schools shy away from fully implementing it, for lots of different reasons.

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Re: Reading confusion in my school

Post by Derrie Clark » Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:38 pm

But I think many schools shy away from fully implementing it, for lots of different reasons.
Yes, this is the same for Sounds-Write too.

Some of the reasons:

Contradictory Advice. Schools have been advised to use (over the years of the Sounds-Write training): PIPs, Playing with Sounds, Reading Recovery with BRP Cascade and, more recently, Letters and Sounds instead.
Schools have to focus on teaching the National Curriculum and, of course, teaching to the SATs.
SMTs have so much on their plates they don't have an awareness of the literacy levels or how to assess pupils in a helpful way that informs effective intervention/teaching (relying on SATs and standardised tests).
The training of KS2 teachers in the teaching of reading/spelling is not a government priority (and therefore not a KS2 priority) despite the one in five (official figure) and one in four/three (unofficial figure) going through school with inadequate literacy skills.

Any other suggestions to add to the list??

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Re: Reading confusion in my school

Post by Maltesers » Tue Mar 20, 2012 1:06 am

I don't think they do nearly enough practising or applying and that is why many of the children in our class are blenders and segmenters...they are good at that!

I was delighted to see a boy out of my low phonics group tackle some writing the other day. He is seriously writing better than my 'booster' group children who I haven't taught phonics to. I spend longer on the apply bit in L&S.

I remember listening to the DH giving advice to a young student teacher on her observed phonics lesson, saying it had to be more interesting and exciting for the children. I just couldn't help butting in. Looking for letters in sand and doing an all singing and dancing lesson just isn't necessary. Get them to blend and read, segment and write, it's fast and pacey enough anyway without wasting time looking for letters in sand :roll:
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Re: Reading confusion in my school

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Tue Mar 20, 2012 1:27 am

One of the central themes of my teacher-training and programme design is the avoidance of 'extraneous' activies.

Rose warned of 'extraneous' activities in his Final Report (March 2006) but this is what I observe everywhere.

Also, not enough progression from Reception into Key Stage One moving away from manipulatives and group and class games into very focused, core skills for each child to practise his or her own skills and apply them across to cumulative texts without picture cues.

First of all, however, teachers and assistants need to be made aware of the notion of 'extraneous' and consider their current practice.

It's a wake-up call for many - but others are too challenged by the ideas I raise, and comfortable with what they have developed -whether or not their provision could be more effective and fit-for-purpose. :sad:

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Re: Reading confusion in my school

Post by volunteer » Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:08 am

Yes, and some other reasons too for not fully implementing a programme:

- a feeling that if they just stuck to fully implementing a programme like RWI it would not have sufficient "literacy- rich" activities and would be detrimental to children's reading and writing

- a feeling that if they did an hour a day of RWI say, that's it for literacy that day, no more allowed

- a concern that if children are in different groups for, say, RWI for one hour per day that the class teacher will have lost control of their literacy progress

- worries about doing "too much" phonics and the old myths about it leading to poor comprehension, barking at print etc

- not enough time devoted to making the change from the way they did it before to what is required by a scheme such as RWI

- "we know better and we've been teaching for 30+ years" ....... disdain for Ruth Miskin and similar!!

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