Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

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Toots

Re: Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

Post by Toots » Sat Nov 03, 2012 11:08 am

The research does not prove that using context impedes the acquisition of reading.

By only presenting pupils with decodable text we are hardly preparing them for dealing with real text, in the environment, in picture books or in multi media.

Decodable books have their place. Considering that one of the justifications for this narrow concentration on SP is that it will prepare pupils for encountering unknown words it really doesn't do what it says on the tin if decodable texts are overused.

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Re: Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

Post by maizie » Sat Nov 03, 2012 11:31 am

Toots wrote:By only presenting pupils with decodable text we are hardly preparing them for dealing with real text, in the environment, in picture books or in multi media.
All text is decodable, once the code has been learned,

Decodable books are an aid to practising skills to automaticity. They may not be deathless prose, but then, neither are the look & say reading scheme books.

Practising scales when learning to play the piano is not in the same league as playing a piano sonata, but, odd though it may seem, music teachers see practising basic skills as a preparation for dealing with 'real music'.

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Re: Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

Post by chew8 » Sat Nov 03, 2012 11:34 am

What counts as 'decodable' changes as children learn more of the code. Once they know a certain amount (not necessarily every possible GPC) virtually anything is decodable.

The screening check is supposed to cover only the amount of code that it's reasonable to expect Year 1 children to know.

Jenny C.

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Re: Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

Post by Anna » Sat Nov 03, 2012 12:07 pm

How do look say books prepare children for real texts? They provide artificial cues which do not exist in real text. In schools which use SP programmes faithfully, including decodable texts, the majority of children have become free readers, who can confidently read chapter books, by the end of Year Two. So the use of decodable books is only limited to the early stages of learning to read. I have tutored many children who get stuck on look say readers for years.

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Re: Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

Post by JIM CURRAN » Sat Nov 03, 2012 12:47 pm

Toots said:” It is perfectly logical to regard the use of context as an aid to pupils who have not built up a large repertoire of recognised words, or indeed, those who are less efficient decoders.”

Use of context encourages guessing and even when this strategy is used as a default strategy many children and especially children who are less than efficient decoders prefer to use it as a primary strategy simply because it is the easiest option and so it becomes their primary strategy. Unfortunately it also involves the most potent type of intermittent reinforcement.

Toots

Re: Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

Post by Toots » Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:37 pm

As teachers we need to teach children to use context judiciously and properly. I can't help thinking that a child who comes up with three possible words 'that fit' with three initial letters may not have paid due attention to context, as it seems unlikely that you could have three words that fit properly. Still, perhaps on that occasion...

Using context will only ever work when the reader can read the context! The Jack London example shows this. It really is not the 'easy option' that Jim suggests, unless maybe the child is making up whole chunks of text to fit a picture. That does happen, of course, as a pre-reading stage, and frequently signals a child becoming aware that print carries meaning. It can be used to help the child to progress to the realisation that print represents specific words according to the letters used.

Maizie, I agree, all text is decodable once the code has been learned. In the beginning stages most text is not decodable to the novice reader. The novice pianist would not get much idea about what music is from practising scales in isolation. I think you will find that most piano teachers introduce lots of little tunes and songs for pupils to play alongside, indeed before, scales. I think the music analogy for learning to read is overdone but even so surely it is relevant that music teachers encourage their pupils to use multiple strategies, writing finger numbers over notes, pointing out the patterns that help identify notes in notation as a short cut to identifying them by letter name etc.

Anna, most children's books and stories are delightfully predictable, and at the very least make sense as narratives. I'm not a huge fan of 'Look and Say' texts but most children's books have their place in reading instruction. It's sad that your pupils were stuck on look and say; I wonder if they was an element of their being a self-selected group for whom that method had been overused and didn't work well, if they came to you for extra work. Perhaps, in future it will be refugees from SP that present for extra help.

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Re: Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

Post by JAC » Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:49 pm

print carries meaning.
said Toots, but this is wrong as print does not carry meaning. Print - or rather letters - corresponds with sounds.
It is all about letter/sound correspondences, about blending, and then bringing meaning to what has been decoded.

Regarding your response to my earlier post, where you offer the following advice, for the occasional cases where it is not clear if children are genuinely decoding, or reading by sight memorisation:
Have you tried sharing a new book with them, choosing something a level above what they are used to, and observing carefully what they do? You can cover over pictures or parts of text and ask questions. You'll soon get an idea of what they are doing. Then perhaps you could share what you find out with your parent volunteers to encourage them to adopt approaches tailored to the child. Do you use reading record diaries?
That kind of approach would not be adequate. Something like the phonics screen is far more incisive.

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Re: Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

Post by JIM CURRAN » Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:12 pm

To give children a range of strategies for decoding only causes confusion. The pronunciation of unfamiliar words is in the blending of the letter sounds, any other strategies devalue this approach

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Re: Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

Post by kenm » Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:16 pm

Toots wrote:... The novice pianist would not get much idea about what music is from practising scales in isolation. I think you will find that most piano teachers introduce lots of little tunes and songs for pupils to play alongside, indeed before, scales.
Yes, they do, because in order to play a scale, a pianist must learn to put thumbs under fingers and fingers over thumbs, whereas simple tunes can be written that do not require this. A strict "old school" teacher would assign five-finger exercises alongside, or before the tunes.
I think the music analogy for learning to read is overdone but even so surely it is relevant that music teachers encourage their pupils to use multiple strategies, writing finger numbers over notes,

Indeed they do. Writing fingerings over notes helps the player to play accurately, but it does not help him/her to read notation, indeed, it can delay it. My wife used to conduct a junior school orchestra. She recalls asking a young violinist to name a particular note on the sheet music* and receiving the answer, "One", because a local teacher used Suzuki material with finger numbers under the notes (but not the authentic Suzuki method, unfortunately). This is an uncomfortable analogy to use of context before decoding is secure in order to achieve an apparent short-term success with no regard to long-term failure.

* hoping to hear a letter name, e.g. "F#".
pointing out the patterns that help identify notes in notation as a short cut to identifying them by letter name etc.
Please will you elaborate. Neither of us can think what patterns you mean.
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Re: Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

Post by chew8 » Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:39 pm

One of the classic cases of an adult encouraging an inappropriate use of context occurred on an early National Literacy Strategy video – possibly an Early Literacy Support video as I seem to remember writing about it in an RRF newsletter. A teaching assistant was working on the story of the Elves and the Shoemaker with a child. The child couldn’t immediately read the word ‘soft’ (the leather being worked with was ‘soft’) and we could see her sounding out the letters under her breath. The TA didn’t give her time to finish but intervened and said ‘What would make sense?’ In fact the child's sounding-out strategy was far more likely to produce the correct word than the 'What would make sense?' strategy, and yet this clip obviously came with the approval of the NLS people.

Jenny C.

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Re: Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

Post by volunteer » Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:35 pm

Glad I never watched that video. Before I ever knew anything about synthetic phonics the stupidity of that comment would have made me wish to switch it off and write a letter of complaint! I don't think Toots would make that kind of comment at that point though.

My children are learning the piano at the moment. They are failing to learn to read music as quickly and easily as I did. The method and book the teacher uses is very poor but the teacher will not deviate. There is no reason I can see why either of my children would not learn to sight read music as well as I did from an early age, but the method is poor. As a result practice is not enjoyable for them as they do not experience progress, and the mental effort required to play the piece is too high. I have purchased the book from which I was taught and I can see how much better it is.

I have always been able to sight read well, and have intelligent friends who cannot. It's taken me a long time to see that one of the reasons for this could be the initial teaching method I experienced and that it is not some "innate ability" I have to read music easily.

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Re: Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

Post by maizie » Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:58 pm

Toots wrote: The novice pianist would not get much idea about what music is from practising scales in isolation.


Neither do beginning readers practice letter/sound correspondences in isolation, apart from, maybe, for a few days right at the very start while they are learning sufficient correspondences (5) to be able to use them in the context of word reading. From word reading they progress to stories as their phonic skills increase.

The novice pianist, does not live in a music free world: neither does the beginning reader live in a book/story free world. I would expect children to be familiar with books being read to them (either from home, or, as we know that many children are not from literate households, from the start of school). So the concept of reading words and stories will be as familiar to them as music is to the beginner musician.

Your analogy is really absurd and your attempt to portray phonics taught children as solely 'learning sounds in isolation' and not having any experience of books and reading stories (read by them or too them) is a gross, and ill informed, travesty of reality.

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Re: Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Nov 03, 2012 5:02 pm

http://www.rrf.org.uk/archive.php?n_ID= ... eNumber=47

This is Jenny's article - not of the 'Elves and the Shoemaker' (as Jenny mentions above) but of a review of the Early Literacy Support video. Jenny gives such an excellent, detailed description of the different approaches to reading - and you can see from her article that what teachers say they do doesn't necessarily match what they actually do!

It is the level of detail which Jenny always includes in her writing that illustrates so clearly the differences in approach - and the frequent lack of common sense applied to a multi-cueing 'range of strategies' rather than the cut-to-the-chase synthesising all through the printed words approach.

When reading the article, bear in mind that as recently as last year, Sheffield Hallam University's review of the teachers taking part in the Year One Phonics Screening Check PILOT revealed that nearly three quarters of them still applied multi-cueing reading strategies to children reading books.

If one effect of the Year One Phonics Screening Check is to make such teachers more mindful of promoting blending all through the word and diminishing the kind of 'strategies' observed in the ELS video, that can only be a good thing!

Toots

Re: Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

Post by Toots » Sat Nov 03, 2012 7:09 pm

When I say that print carries meaning I am making a simple short cut in thinking :???:

The printed letters represent sounds; discrete printed letter strings represent words; each printed word has a meaning and can be defined; the author writes the words in an order which conveys or carries the meaning they wish to express; the words are printed; the child looks at the print and know it 'tells a story' or 'says something'. They may say, "What does that say?" or make up a phrase which they believe might correspond with the spoken printed words. Another child may have no awareness of the squiggles, or that they carry meaning.

I would have had to waffle on for By the way how does 'bringing meaning' work? That sounds pretty constructivist. I agree that we bring all sorts of meanings to our reading, but when we read we have to at least attempt to understand what the author means.

By the way, how does 'bringing meaning' work? That sounds pretty constructivist. I agree that we bring all sorts of meanings to our reading, but when we read we have to at least attempt to understand what the author means.

You say the phonics check is 'incisive', I say it's 'narrow', let's call the whole thing off. ;-)

Someone wanted the idea of pattern in musical notation to be explained: for instance if notes appear in a sequence on the lines of the stave the keyboard player knows that they represent alternate notes along the keyboard (modified as necessary according to key), and does not need to identify them by letter name.

The discussion seems to have drifted somewhat into the realms of contributors just making various unfounded or irrelevant assertions:
Debbie Hepplewhite wrote: If one effect of the Year One Phonics Screening Check is to make such teachers more mindful of promoting blending all through the word and diminishing the kind of 'strategies' observed in the ELS video, that can only be a good thing!
That is only a good thing if you have already decided that SP on its own is more useful than a differently balanced teaching method. The methods used in the video are unlikely to be the only alternative to narrow, exclusive SP that could be used.

Maizie says this:
"Your analogy is really absurd and your attempt to portray phonics taught children as solely 'learning sounds in isolation' and not having any experience of books and reading stories (read by them or too them) is a gross, and ill informed, travesty of reality."

Well, it was herself that seemed to think that music teachers taught scales in isolation. Novice musicians and novice readers, while possibly supported by a musical or literate environment, still need to get to grips with making music and reading texts themselves. Making music is not the same as playing scales, reading text is not the same as decoding. With reading, the child must aspire to understand meaning; with music the child must aspire to playing tunes. I agree the analogy breaks down, but Maizie was the one who called it up. SP is decoding pure and simple, experience of books and reading stories is extra; look up the thread to see Jim Rose's definition.

Volunteer, if you don't like your piano teacher why not change?

Jenny, the fact that the NLS people got it wrong doesn't mean you have got it right.
Last edited by Toots on Sat Nov 03, 2012 11:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.

chew8
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Re: Opinion about the Year One Phonics Screening Check

Post by chew8 » Sat Nov 03, 2012 8:41 pm

Thanks for the link to the ELS article, Debbie. It obviously wasn't in that one that I talked about the 'soft' example but the clip was definitely on a National Literacy Strategy video - perhaps that video was in the original 1998 pack that people nicknamed the 'lunchbox'. I'm sure I've written about it somewhere, but maybe not in one of the RRF newsletters.

Jenny C.

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