The Reading Ape blog

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The Reading Ape blog

Post by chew8 » Tue Oct 27, 2020 12:42 pm

This is interesting: ... able-texts

One thing to bear in mind is that there is not a simple two-way choice between (a) controlled-books-with-no-guessing and (b) non-controlled-books-with-guessing. There is also a (c) which is well documented: non-controlled-books-with-no-guessing.

Two well-researched examples of (c) are Jonathan Solity’s Optima programme and the Clackmannanshire programme. Optima uses ordinary storybooks (‘real books’) but there is no guessing because adults read all the words which go beyond what the children have been taught. In the Clackmannanshire study, reading scheme books rather than ‘real books’ were used but not in the way they are often used, which encourages guessing. Rather, the children were explicitly taught the words they couldn’t decode. Without that particular (c)-type study, synthetic phonics probably wouldn’t have the place in England that it now has.

The Reading Ape article raises a ‘killer question’: ‘at what point do we introduce texts that are not controlled for learned sound-to-letter correspondences?’ It's suggested that this will ‘probably not happen before the end of Year 1 and the beginning of Year 2’. This reminded me of something I wrote in this RRF forum on 11 February 2016:

‘Re. decodable books: as it happens, I've collected some facts and figures very recently on a Year 1 class with whom I work voluntarily. 15 of the 30 children no longer need books chosen for their decodability - they read quite fluently and accurately from books not so chosen. By fluency, I mean reading where the words come out at the child's normal speech speed or something close to it. Another 6 can cope with such books but are less fluent, having to stop and overtly work out some words, but not to frustration point. The remaining 9 still really need decodable books. They sometimes bring such books to read to me, but sometimes bring books which are beyond their decoding level. The difference in their approach is quite noticeable: with decodable books they tend to go into sounding-out-and-blending mode and evidently find it satisfying to be able to work out all the words on their own, even if the text is a bit contrived, whereas with non-decodables they often need help.’

Those children had started school after the Phonics Screening Check had been introduced, and although the school still used a mixed-methods approach to some extent and did not use decodable books at all systematically, teachers were putting much more emphasis on phonic decoding than they had done previously. It seemed that this was enough to enable 70% of that particular class to cope well with non-controlled books by February of Year 1. When I ran the New Salford Sentence Reading Test with them in June of Y1, those same 70% all had decoding ages a year or more above chronological age (in some cases 3 or 4 years above) and 13 of them had comprehension ages which were even higher than their decoding ages. All 9 whom I had regarded as still needing decodable books in February were decoding a year or more below chronological age in June.


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Re: The Reading Ape blog

Post by JIM CURRAN » Tue Oct 27, 2020 7:28 pm

This is very interesting Jenny and a 'must' read. Thank you.

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Re: The Reading Ape blog

Post by JIM CURRAN » Wed Oct 28, 2020 10:03 am

A reply to The Reading Ape: ‘Controlling the text – the dilemma of decodable texts’ ... ble-texts/

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Re: The Reading Ape blog

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Tue Dec 01, 2020 11:58 pm

Ofsted's Annual Report for 2019/20 mentions the need for beginners to be provided with books that match the alphabetic code children have been taught - this just shows we've come a long, long way in England since the multi-cueing word-guessing days of the 'Searchlights' reading strategies of the National Literacy Strategy (1998 to 2006).

I flagged up the sections mentioning 'phonics' in one way or another via this thread at the International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction: ... 2922#p2922

In outstanding schools, books match sounds. This means that children build confidence and fluency from the very beginning of learning to read. Teachers read books aloud to pupils who cannot yet read them and they do not expect struggling readers to read books that include words they cannot read.
Do follow the link above via which I've pulled out the relevant observations about phonics provision comparing the weaker schools with the 'outstanding' schools.

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