Why Finland Succeeds

Moderators: Debbie Hepplewhite, maizie, Lesley Drake, Susan Godsland

JIM CURRAN
Posts: 3536
Joined: Fri Oct 31, 2003 7:18 am

Why Finland Succeeds

Post by JIM CURRAN » Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:45 am

Why Finland Succeeds

Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, who is the author of “Finnish Lessons”, presided over the workshop with professors and teachers from Finland.

1. SUPPORT for STUDENTS: optional daycare, nursery school, and pre-school programs are available for free to children and are taught by minimim bachelor-degreed staff. Official school starting age is 7 in Finland, and mandatory schooling stops after 9th grade. For the first few years, about a third of the students are in special education programs where most minor problems can be corrected and support provided for immigrant children for extra lessons in their own language. Foreign students are expected to learn Finnish in one year, for example. Daily morning, lunch, and afternoon recesses (15 minutes) are mandatory, and play, movement, and music are incorporated in all students’ schedule in which students spend less time in school that their counterparts in America. Competitive sports are considered an after-school activity.
http://educationviews.org/why-finland-succeeds/

User avatar
Susan Godsland
Administrator
Posts: 4973
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2003 11:10 pm
Location: Exeter UK
Contact:

Re: Why Finland Succeeds

Post by Susan Godsland » Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:56 am

On the subject of Finland -so often used as the case against reading instruction for under-7s.

http://learnthingsweb.hubpages.com/hub/ ... by-Reading
Don't use Finland as a case against 'early' reading instruction.

N.B. synthetic phonics practitioners do not recommend trying to teach babies and toddlers to read. The rule of thumb for 'reading readiness' is when a child can speak in whole sentences and participate in everyday conversation.

geraldinecarter
Posts: 993
Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:40 pm

Re: Why Finland Succeeds

Post by geraldinecarter » Mon Nov 26, 2012 5:07 pm

Nevertheless, a very impressive agenda in Finland.

It's particularly impressive that immigrant children are expected to learn Finnish in a year and the provisions that are provided to make this possible.

I would love to see schooling delayed until children are 5, if these sort of safeguards, including this sort of focus, and high-quality training were in place.

Rod Everson
Posts: 313
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2007 3:52 pm

Re: Why Finland Succeeds

Post by Rod Everson » Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:13 am

I haven't checked in for almost a year, but winter is setting in so I've been browsing the boards again.

What strikes me about the Finnish situation is that the apparent straightforward nature of the Finnish language very likely leads educators to teach the phonics of the language without giving it a second thought. That is, if most words can be dependably decoded, they why on earth wouldn't you teach them the phonics code? Ergo, we get young precocious readers prior to school entry age.

But the educators haven't had a shot at them yet, so what's going on? It's quite simple really. Every parent was educated in the same way, either upon entering school, if a late reader, or by their own parents if they were taught at home. I would wager that nearly every student in Finland not only knows phonics, but was explicitly taught phonics, whether by a parent or a teacher. No mixed messages. Everyone on the same page.

Compare that to English-speaking countries, where those of us who are convinced that sensible phonics instruction from the beginning is the way to go are countered by Reading Recovery style teachers who disparage the very phonics we believe must necessarily be taught. Then toss in the fact the the average parent doesn't have a clue about the phonics structure of English anymore. Yes, they can read, but precious few have had organized phonics instruction and therefore only that precious few can easily transmit the essential phonics information to their young children.

Add to that the fact, and it is a fact, that the vision-challenged child will read sooner, and more fluently, with a sight-word method (though only for a short time), and the fact that as many as 15% to 20% of 5 year olds have underdeveloped vision systems that make it difficult for them to internalize phonics instruction, and the result is the incessant reading war that has characterized English instruction for going on a century now.

Were I to be given the title of reading instruction dictator for 20 years, I would not require reading instruction to begin until age 6, and would sort out those with vision issues for vision therapy treatment if they experienced reading difficulties at that age. All instruction would be based on the phonics structure of English, and the code would be explicitly, and quickly, taught. Ideally, a method like The Spalding Method would be taught in every classroom, so kids moving from school to school would slide right into the same spot in the curriculum in the new school. (I'd also mandate use of my multi-syllable method because it works so well, but that's a minor point unnecessary for the desired result.)

The result would be reading scores that skyrocketed compared to present scores (as they did when Spalding was more broadly used), but more important, the educator community would be convinced of the effectiveness of phonics instruction, and equally important, a cadre of parents who had learned English phonics from the start, and who believed in its effectiveness, would pass the information on to their young children and grandchildren over the years, even before the age of six, as in Finland now.

I've stated many times, on many different boards like this one, that it is the unacknowledged presence of the vision-challenged children that causes this continual cycling between whole language methods and phonics. Until we come to grips with that, the reading wars are destined to continue, for the simple reason that those particular kids "seem" to do better with sight reading instruction than with phonics instruction. In Finland, they get the phonics anyway, but just read a little (or a lot) slower than the average reader. They read slower due to the vision issues, but at least they read because the code is relatively simple to absorb, and can be learned in spite of having to deal with a vision problem every time they pick up a book. More important, someone unfailingly teaches them that code, knowing that it's needed if one is to easily decode unfamiliar Finnish words, vision problem or no vision problem.

elsiep
Posts: 548
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2010 10:23 pm

Re: Why Finland Succeeds

Post by elsiep » Fri Dec 21, 2012 8:04 am

Rod Everson wrote:
I've stated many times, on many different boards like this one, that it is the unacknowledged presence of the vision-challenged children that causes this continual cycling between whole language methods and phonics. Until we come to grips with that, the reading wars are destined to continue, for the simple reason that those particular kids "seem" to do better with sight reading instruction than with phonics instruction. In Finland, they get the phonics anyway, but just read a little (or a lot) slower than the average reader. They read slower due to the vision issues, but at least they read because the code is relatively simple to absorb, and can be learned in spite of having to deal with a vision problem every time they pick up a book. More important, someone unfailingly teaches them that code, knowing that it's needed if one is to easily decode unfamiliar Finnish words, vision problem or no vision problem.
And the visual challenges are often masked by auditory processing difficulties. Because auditory issues are currently seen as the primary cause of reading difficulties - hence the importance of phonics - visual issues are widely overlooked. The stats come up with visual issues affecting about 1-2% of the population, which is why many people aren't aware of them, but in England that's around 100,000 children affected.


elsie

JIM CURRAN
Posts: 3536
Joined: Fri Oct 31, 2003 7:18 am

Re: Why Finland Succeeds

Post by JIM CURRAN » Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:55 am

“ Analyzing data from the Programme for International Student Assessment ( PISA ), researchers recently concluded that the academic successes of nations like Finland and Canada appear to be related in part to their greater degrees of socioeconomic school integration . Finland – often held out as a remarkable education success story – had the lowest degree of socioeconomic segregation of 57 countries participating in PISA.”

( From all Walks Of Life – New Hope For School Integration – Richard Kahlenberg )

http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducato ... enberg.pdf

User avatar
Debbie Hepplewhite
Administrator
Posts: 3663
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 4:13 pm
Location: Berkshire
Contact:

Re: Why Finland Succeeds

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:55 am

From the conclusion:
A large percentage of Finland's students are already reading at some level before they ever enter school, which would make Finland an argument for, rather than against, early reading. Studies done on early readers of English, such as the Dolores Durkin studies, have found that they do remain ahead and do better on reading tests than their later reading peers. All of this indicates that learning to read earlier provides an academic advantage to children.
Rod - welcome back - great post!

I am hoping that we get something a bit closer to what you describe with the new generation of children. This new generation of children may not get a rigorous SP diet but they are getting a lot of phonics - more than for many decades I suggest.

When they become parents, they will have had the experience of phonics and possibly will be more likely to apply phonics teaching to their own children.

The converse of this positive scenario is that people who have only ever had phonics (or phonics in the 'mix') will really take it for granted. I think there is much of this 'taking for granted' issue going on now - hence the internet presence of so many 'begrudgers and fudgers'.

So, whenever children bring home books perceived to be 'not real' and whenever children show signs of persistent, or longer-lasting, sounding out - and less-than-fluent decoding - then phonics is more likely to get criticised as we are witnessing via the online press and blogs

We need to keep reminding people of the 'maths' of the situation:

When children are taught with synthetic phonics, within a short period of time they are empowered to decode, literally, hundreds of words - and these may, or may not, be in their oral vocabularies. This is really quite incredible - and it's as if people are 'missing' this state of affairs.

Of course, children may stumble a bit over these words in terms of pronouncing them correctly - and they won't have any triggers to help them with these words if they are not in the child's (reader's) existing spoken vocabulary.

Nevertheless, it is amazing that young readers are able to decode an untold numbers of NEW words (whether in their oral vocabularies or not) without picture prompts, context prompts, guesses and without adult support.

I think the maths of this, and the reality of this, is something we need to constantly remind people of - it is quite revolutionary compared to the whole language and mixed methods approach which, in reality, was about painful progress (for many children) through book after book after book - which many children can't progress through without lots of adult prompting - lots of guessing from pictures, context, first letters and perhaps (if they're lucky) an exiting knowledge of plot and predictable storylines.

Some children pick up and can recall the words in each book as they go along - and many others do not.

User avatar
Debbie Hepplewhite
Administrator
Posts: 3663
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 4:13 pm
Location: Berkshire
Contact:

Re: Why Finland Succeeds

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:03 am

In other words, some people may need to be reminded of what the contrast is between a child being taught with a SP approach compared to one who isn't.

What would the progress of a child be like without the SP?

We know that many children wouldn't be off the starting block - but sadly, their parents or their new-in-service teachers may not be fully aware of this comparison because they will not have experiences of the 'without SP' comparison if it is a new teacher or a new parent.

I suggest that we are witnessing parents in England being critical of the early phonics reading books without them necessarily considering what progress their children may NOT have made without the SP and early decoding experience.

chew8
Posts: 4187
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2003 6:26 pm

Re: Why Finland Succeeds

Post by chew8 » Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:20 pm

Susan G. wrote:N.B. synthetic phonics practitioners do not recommend trying to teach babies and toddlers to read. The rule of thumb for 'reading readiness' is when a child can speak in whole sentences and participate in everyday conversation.
This is just my own personal experience....

I have found it perfectly possible to teach letter-shapes and a sound for each to family members before they have been able to speak in whole sentences and participate in everyday conversation. I believe that this has contributed to their becoming early readers and excellent spellers - it may also have helped their speech development. I would not push for letter-sound teaching in nursery settings, but if there really are children who arrive in Reception unable to speak in sentences and participate in conversation, I think that delaying phonics until they can do these things may be less satisfactory than launching straight in and teaching them letter-shapes and sounds.

Jenny C.

User avatar
Debbie Hepplewhite
Administrator
Posts: 3663
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 4:13 pm
Location: Berkshire
Contact:

Re: Why Finland Succeeds

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:55 pm

N.B. synthetic phonics practitioners do not recommend trying to teach babies and toddlers to read. The rule of thumb for 'reading readiness' is when a child can speak in whole sentences and participate in everyday conversation.
I personally don't recommend for ever-younger children to be taught to read - but neither would I wait for apparent 'reading readiness' - as I do think phonics helps with speech.

I'm not really sure what 'reading readiness' means - and suspect that some children would never appear to be ready! ;-)

User avatar
Susan Godsland
Administrator
Posts: 4973
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2003 11:10 pm
Location: Exeter UK
Contact:

Re: Why Finland Succeeds

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:02 pm

This is the kind of thing I suggest may be harmful:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Teach-Your- ... 0757001858

I think that activities especially designed for pre-schoolers such as the Jolly Phonics songs and Debbie's Teeny Reading Seeds are excellent

Teeny Reading Seeds http://www.phonicsinternational.com/trs.html Free resources for approximately 3-4 yr.olds as they begin to make links between speech sounds and the 26 alphabet letters - both upper and lower case: can be used with the DfE programme Letters & Sounds Phase One

volunteer
Posts: 755
Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2011 12:46 pm

Re: Why Finland Succeeds

Post by volunteer » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:04 pm

Quite. My DD1 was quite sensibly always ready to be read to while she got on with something else at the same time. I still feel (knowing her personality and way of thinking) that without a little push from mother she would never be "ready to read" - just as she isn't "ready to tidy her bedroom", or load the dishwasher.

Also, who judges "ready to read"? Her reception teacher considered that she was not interested in books at all because she never chose one to bring home, even one for me to read to her. I was not asked why I thought this might be - but I always surmised it was because she had plenty of books to choose from at home and in the local library and the collection in the reception classroom did not match up to her wishes at the time.

Judging by the different ages at which reading is taught in different cultures and philosophies it seems more a case of "readiness to teach them to read". Surely unless you try and teach them you'll never know?

volunteer
Posts: 755
Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2011 12:46 pm

Re: Why Finland Succeeds

Post by volunteer » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:07 pm

That book is hilarious Susan. I once did buy it and couldn't make head or tail of how it could ever possibly have worked. There's also teach your baby math in the same series. It's the same book with a few words changed.

User avatar
Susan Godsland
Administrator
Posts: 4973
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2003 11:10 pm
Location: Exeter UK
Contact:

Re: Why Finland Succeeds

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:16 pm

I think that Jim Rose got it right on the subject of when to start the more formal teaching of reading in school.

''(T)here is ample evidence to support the recommendation of the interim report that, for most children, it is highly worthwhile and appropriate to begin a systematic programme of phonic work by the age of five, if not before for some children...'' (Rose Review 2006. para89) ''...an appropriate introduction to phonic work by the age of five enables our children to cover ground that many of their counterparts in other countries whose language is much less complex phonetically do not have to cover''(Rose Review.2006 para99)

User avatar
palisadesk
Posts: 549
Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2005 2:11 pm

Re: Why Finland Succeeds

Post by palisadesk » Fri Dec 21, 2012 8:15 pm

Susan Godsland wrote:. The rule of thumb for 'reading readiness' is when a child can speak in whole sentences and participate in everyday conversation.
Hmm, I think I recognize that "rule of thumb" ;-) -- but it isn't one that is specifically supported by empirical data or research. I suspect most experienced teachers and tutors would agree that some childten are not ready to learn to read, but the reasons for this would be highly variable and depend on particular, and individual, circumstances. Reading is generally built on an existing foundation of oral language, but children without this foundation -- non-verbal children with various disabilities, profoundly deaf and hard-of-hearing children, children with cognitive disabilities, children with language impairment -- can often be taught to read quite successfully although the methods and materials used might require adaptation, and preliminary (or concomitant) instruction in various language skills might also be required.


If we took seriously the injunction that children need to "speak in complete sentences and participate in everyday conversation," we would be ruling out a large number of low-SES students who enter school without these skills, as well as children with identifiable learning challenges as in my examples above. My district does surveys of Kindergarten intake cohorts at its elementary schools on a rotating basis (we have almost 500 elementary schools), and the factors assessed include language development (in the first language and/or English), social/emotional development, physical health, vision and hearing, and several other important factors. In the low-SES, high minority schools I've been in, from a third to a half of entering K students would fail to meet this criterion.

Our Kindergarten program quite properly focuses heavily on language development and social skills but teachers also introduce foundation skills for literacy -- letter formation and recognition, GPC's, concepts of word, sentence, story; sequencing skills like first, next, last, narrative structure and more, but varied according to the level of the student. Most schools mix Junior Kindergarten (3 and 4-year-olds) with Senior Kindergarten (4-5 year olds) so the range in any class is broad. I've been quite impressed with the skill of the teachers in these classes to both teach to the whole group and to provide individualized or small-group instruction in key skills, all without assistance from TA's. Most children show significant improvement in language skills over their two Kindergarten years, but a small number still enter Grade 1 without meeting the "speaking in sentences (etc.)" benchmark. Should we then not try to teach them to read?


i agree with Jenny (and also Debbie) in promoting teaching phonics skills directly and systematically even when the children do not appear to be "ready." We can change course or decide to postpone formal instruction if it becomes clear, from experience and careful observation, that the child really is NOT ready, but we should also be doing whatever we can to make that child "ready." We may have to enlist other agencies or support systems -- OT, speech therapy, intensive language instruction, whatever proves to be urgently needed by the particular child. In many cases we cannot possibly know whether a student is "ready" without giving good instruction a try.

Where vision issues are concerned, I've seen some students who definitely have visual processing issues that are not addressed by traditional ophthalmological examinations and practices. A few of my students in this category have been fortunate enough to be able to access the orthoptic clinic at the Hospital for Sick Children (which is covered by provincial health insurance). However, until "vision therapy" is available to low-income people through public health systems or insurance plans, it remains a pipe dream as a component of assistance for children with reading problems. Even speech therapy and OT are very limited and the wait time for service is often as long as 2 years.

We have to do what we can for these students, whatever their needs. We can't wait for ideal conditions of readiness.

Susan S.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 43 guests