'Perceptual reading'

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Susan Godsland
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'Perceptual reading'

Post by Susan Godsland » Sun Mar 24, 2013 1:27 pm

I usually slide quickly past posts written by ex. HT Eddie Carron, but in the latest SENCo forum digest he posted his theory about how young children can learn to read, 'without a single lesson in phonics correspondences'. I'll only quote a short bit below. To read the rest go to http://lists.education.gov.uk/pipermail ... uthor.html and find Eddie Carron's posts on 'Bad Science'
It was long thought that the 2% or so of children who arrive at school as competent readers were just a particularly gifted minority but in reality, almost all children, given a similar opportunity, could learn to read perceptually, by following texts visually as they are read to by their mothers. The small number of sight words effortlessly internalised in this way as a consequence of the brains' pattern-seeking imperative, enables them to read other unfamiliar but similarly constructed words, extending sight vocabulary exponentially and conferring the ability to read without a single lesson in phonics correspondences. Experimental work in an increasing number of schools is confirming this reality as a basis for restoring literacy skills deficits.
BTW, his post is in response to Ben Goldacre's paper on the need to use RCTs in education.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by maizie » Sun Mar 24, 2013 2:29 pm

The extraordinary thing about his 'perceptual learning' theory is that he keeps quoting as an exemplar of best practicea company called Rossetta Stone which promotes this theory for the learning of languages. But they teach spoken language, not written.

He has previously claimed that he is 100% behind the teaching of SP, but seems to have abandoned this claim here.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by chew8 » Sun Mar 24, 2013 6:42 pm

Years after first encountering Eddie Carron’s views, I’m still not sure that I’m getting my head around them properly.
In one of his 'Bad Science' posts he wrote:Teachers who regard graphemes as the basis units of the reading process perceive reading as the serial decoding of graphemes and regard the teaching of the grapheme-phoneme correspondences (ughhh) as a vital fundamental step in acquiring reading skills. Those of us who support the science ie the research and commonsense, regard words as the basic unit of the reading process - we believe that you read words and not graphemes.
But in another he wrote:Perceptual Learning is the opposite of ritual teaching but the two are not mutually exclusive. Phonics should be rigorously and well taught in the early years.
Phonics involves teaching grapheme-phoneme correspondences, so why does he say ‘ughhh’ about this if he believes that ‘Phonics should be rigorously and well taught in the early years’ and that this and perceptual learning are 'not mutually exclusive'?

Surely the point of teaching phonics rigorously and well in the early years is to enable children to move on to reading words and sentences effortlessly. Does he really believe that synthetic phonics advocates want children to remain stuck for ever at the level of laborious sounding out and blending? If he can think both that a phonics start is good and that children can move on to reading and understanding larger units, why can’t he accept that synthetic phonics advocates also believe this?

Jenny C.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by maizie » Sun Mar 24, 2013 8:11 pm

Having encountered Mr Carron many times over the past few years I have found that rationality is not his strong point and that if you persistently disagree with him you are cast into outer darkness...He utterly detests the RRF.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by chew8 » Sun Mar 24, 2013 9:00 pm

I had many exchanges with him years ago. At one point he allowed the junior school where I was helping to use his Electronic Library for free, and I would observe poor readers/spellers using it one by one while the special needs teacher taught the rest of the small group. I found that the children didn't always ask the computer for help with all the words where they needed it, because they assumed, wrongly, that they could read them. I also found that the spelling exercises didn't work well and that the automatically-generated reports on the children sometimes didn't match my perceptions of their performance. I didn't feel that the children improved any more than they would have done with just the normal input from the special needs teacher and me, but I can't be sure. If I remember correctly, permission for free use of the programme was withdrawn after what I think was less than one school year, and the school decided not to pay to go on using it. It's long enough ago however, that my memories are a bit hazy.

Jenny C.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by JAC » Mon Mar 25, 2013 12:55 am

There are several reports from schools using the Literacy Toolbox to great effect. The only way I can explain this to myself is that whilst children can learn to read without phonics instruction of any great merit from school (that is not to say they might be getting it elsewhere) the toolbox provides bulk regular reading practice, monitored by teacher check-ups, which is a vital element that is often missing with older poor readers. Is there reason to suppose that the age group that Eddie's schools are working have had no phonics instruction at all?
Jenny describes that the monitoring might not be assiduous enough with all children. My own experience working with older primary students is that assuring the reading is done at all is a problem - 15-20 minutes being heard by daily a competent adult can be difficult to provide if there are many students.
So the toolbox may well be providing something that would not otherwise be provided at all.
What Eddie's reports lack of course, is a comparison with 'something else'.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by volunteer » Mon Mar 25, 2013 1:28 pm

Yes, even by year 2 this lack of practice of reading for 15 to 20 mins every day at home or at school is showing. I see it with the "bottom group" I hear in Year 2 at my children's school. They suffer a double whammy - they are rarely heard at home, and they are low down the Letters and Sounds phase-based phonics groups at school so their phonic knowledge is poor - and they aren't going to magically pick up the code because they don't read many words per week in total.

I would actually like to put in their reading records that their reading is very impressive considering the tiny number of words they read per week both at home and at school. In this respect they are some of the fastest learners in the class. If it was a school with huge class numbers and many children in difficult circumstances, and homes with not a penny to rub together, or with literacy difficulties I might feel sympathetic. But none of this is the case. They are all literate, middle class affluent families and a school with few children with needs of any sort.

Three children (out of 23) are being put on Toe by Toe in Year 2. They are heard by the SENCO once a week doing Toe by Toe.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by chew8 » Mon Mar 25, 2013 1:56 pm

JAC wrote:...the toolbox provides bulk regular reading practice, monitored by teacher check-ups, which is a vital element that is often missing with older poor readers.
I agree. Once children have mastered the basics (and I don’t just mean ‘basic code’), bulk regular reading practice counts for a lot.
JAC also wrote:Is there reason to suppose that the age group that Eddie's schools are working have had no phonics instruction at all?
Good question.

I remain puzzled about his stance:
In the SENCO forum he wrote:Of course, it is not possible to read any alphabet-based language without phonics knowledge - perceptual learning just means that children who failed to learn the phonics correspondences by the ritual indoctrination route can nevertheless learn them and become literate by an informal as opposed to a ritual teaching route.
But he obviously knows, as we do, that phonics teaching doesn't have to involve 'ritual indoctrination, as he himself recommends it:
In another post he wrote:Phonics should be rigorously and well taught in the early years.

Does he think that even this good phonics teaching produces a significant failure-rate?

Jenny C.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by Susan Godsland » Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:08 pm

I think his belief is that because, ''almost a fifth of children continue to leave school unable to read and write confidently'' (Eddie C. latest SENCo digest) that is proof that something more than rigorously and well taught synthetic phonics in the early years is needed.

I don't think he recognises that even now only a minority of schools are providing rigorously and well taught synthetic phonics in the early years.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by JIM CURRAN » Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:27 pm

Does reading make you smarter? Literacy and the development of verbal intelligence.
Stanovich KE.
Source
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, Canada.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8447247

ANNE E. CUNNINGHAM and KEITH E. STANOVICH
What Reading
Does for the Mind

http://www.csun.edu/~krowlands/Content/ ... 20Mind.pdf

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by chew8 » Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:41 pm

Re. Susan's post above: might this mean that Eddie Carron's definition of rigorously-taught phonics is different from ours? For example, might he think that phonics is being rigorously taught even if children are encouraged to use cues from pictures and context in their text-reading?

Jenny C.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by chew8 » Mon Mar 25, 2013 3:07 pm

Jim: Sorry if I'm being thick, but I'm not sure why you've mentioned the Stanovich references in this thread.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by JIM CURRAN » Mon Mar 25, 2013 3:38 pm

Sorry Jenny, I should have elaborated. The Stanovich and Cunningham research is connected to the reference about “bulk reading”

“I agree. Once children have mastered the basics (and I don’t just mean ‘basic code’), bulk regular reading practice counts for a lot.”

Sometimes I think that this aspect of practice is not pushed enough and like you I think it counts for a lot.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by chew8 » Mon Mar 25, 2013 3:56 pm

Thanks for the clarification, Jim.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by Rod Everson » Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:26 pm

Susan Godsland wrote:I think his belief is that because, ''almost a fifth of children continue to leave school unable to read and write confidently'' (Eddie C. latest SENCo digest) that is proof that something more than rigorously and well taught synthetic phonics in the early years is needed.

I don't think he recognises that even now only a minority of schools are providing rigorously and well taught synthetic phonics in the early years.
I find it interesting that here we have evidence of the whole-word/phonics reading war taking place inside of one brain, Mr. Carron's. It appears from the posts here that he either vacillates between the positions 1) phonics in the early years is necessary, and 2) perceptual reading is the route to all children learning to read, or that he holds both positions simultaneously.

As many of you know from my past posts, I agree with Mr. Carron when he says that the 20% or so failing to read well is "proof that something more than...phonics...is needed." He just doesn't know what it is, but appears to think it's a return to the failed "perceptual learning," i.e., whole-word memorization, techniques. This is how, and exactly why, as I've claimed in the past here, the "Reading Wars" will continue to cycle.

What's both sides continue to miss is that 10 to 15 percent of the kids in most classes face undiagnosed, untreated, vision issues that impair their ability to read, vision issues that go beyond acuity to binocular vision disorders, etc.

Mr. Carron is correct about one thing. Many of the vision-challenged children will not only appear to do better with a whole-word approach in the early years; they actually will do better, in that they will be able to read grade-appropriate books better than they otherwise would have, or at least more fluently. Of course, that will soon end for most and they will eventually comprise most of that 20% he speaks of in the quoted passage.

Yes, those same vision-challenged kids do need phonics instruction. But it would be a lot easier for them to absorb the information if we first addressed the conduit through which a good portion of the information travels, their eyes. Do that and the Reading Wars will rapidly come to a close. Fail to do it and, as we can see here, the war can rage on even within the brain of a single person.

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