The transition to real books

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kenm
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The transition to real books

Post by kenm » Fri Dec 21, 2007 4:33 pm

I am trying to describe (for PLATOWA) the transition from SP for teaching correspondences to reading books to expand vocabulary. I would guess that a well-taught seven-year-old would be able to cope with the latter, and learning advanced code would, by then, be an incidental activity within sessions of guided reading with "real" books.

I thought we had discussed some aspects of this, but couldn't find the discussion. I would be grateful for a pointer to that, if we did, but also for any specifics of how you undertake this transition.

One specific point that I vaguely recall (but not the numbers) was the relationship between the number of G/P correspondences known and the proportion of decodable words in text; also how the latter relates to comprehension.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Dec 22, 2007 12:56 am

Ken - vocabulary expansion starts a long time before book reading.

For example, the cumulative word bank that can be provided for pupils so that they can put their letter/s-sound correspondence to use for both reading and spelling will no doubt include words of which they do not know the meaning - so the teacher discusses the meaning with the children.

Vocabulary expansion also occurs through any speaking and listening activity or stimulated by sharing books, or hearing books read aloud.

Then, when the pupil becomes more proficient to read independently, he or she may well start to deduce the meaning of some new words from the context of the sentence/s.

Of course it is perfectly possible to deduce the 'wrong' meaning from the context approach. I could give you some examples where I have deduced words incorrectly and only discovered this is the case as an adult!

There is a higher chance of the kind of vocabulary development which is, in effect, self-teaching, however, the better the pupil can decode and read text fluently.

kenm
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Post by kenm » Sat Dec 22, 2007 10:53 am

Thanks, Debbie, that already changes what I was going to write. I would still like to find some figures for the relationships I describe in my last paragraph. It may be that they were not discussed here, but that someone pointed to a document where I read them.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

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Post by chew8 » Sat Dec 22, 2007 12:19 pm

I don't know whether it's possible to put exact figures on this sort of thing - I don't think I have ever seen any.

For what it's worth, I think we may now be tending to go overboard a bit too much on explicitly teaching large numbers of correspondences. My experience is limited, though, to what I remember from my own schooling and to what has happened with family members, where a relatively small amount of explicit teaching went a very long way. I remember being taught a number of digraphs when I was at primary school, but nothing like the range that some people now think necessary. We nevertheless all became very competent readers. In the 1970s, my own children all got into 'real' books quite quickly - I remember being aware of the fact that they were able to cope with things that I knew I hadn't taught them. I think all this fits in with what David Share says about 'self-teaching' in his 1995 Cognition article 'Phonological recoding and self-teaching: sine qua non of reading acquisition'. He says there that quite a small set of correspondences may be enough to 'kick-start the self-teaching mechanism which is then able to refine itself in the light or expanding orthographic knowledge'.

Jenny C.

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Post by jenny » Sat Dec 22, 2007 2:57 pm

Very interested to read your post Jenny. I have found with a group of children this past year that once they had acquired the simple code in RML they were away and 'picked up ' other GPCs as they read simple 'real' books. It seems as though training them to decode as an initial strategy sets the brain up to use strategies to work out new words. I have taken these children off the scheme before they reached the end as they seemed to have acquired enough phonic knowledge to become independent readers. (spelling is another matter!)
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Post by chew8 » Sat Dec 22, 2007 3:16 pm

Your experience certainly seems to match mine, Jenny. There is also some research by Morag Stuart showing that many children take off in their reading after being taught just the correspondences between single letters and sounds - i.e. no digraphs. Spelling, though, is another matter, as you say.

I have two hunches:

1. For many children, solid 'basic'-code teaching for reading, plus some teaching of spelling which is partly of an 'advanced'-code type and partly just word-specific, is enough to secure real competence in reading;

2. Being over-zealous about avoiding 'tricky' words may delay children's readiness for 'real' books. It may not just be a case of their needing to know a fair number of specific 'tricky words in order to read 'real' books - it may also be the case that familiarity with 'tricky' words helps to develop the 'tweaking' mindset, so that children are willing to try alternatives when their first attempt doesn't quite work.

Jenny C.

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Post by mtyler » Sat Dec 22, 2007 5:15 pm

Ken,

I am not sure this is the information you want . . .

Ruth Beechick, a homeschooling advocate in the US, gives this simple test for readability--have the child read 100 words of a chosen text. If they stumble over more than 5 words then the text is probably not approriate for independent reading because the effort needed to read will impede comprehension.

In my own studies of texts, children's literature ranged from 75 (Dr. Seuss) to about 150 correspondences (Arnold Lobel books). Adult level texts, taken from Project Gutenberg, contained 250 to 320 correspondences. These figures are based on my 17,000 word database. The children's texts contained words within this database, but the adult level books contained many words, sometimes hundreds, not in the database. Therefore the figures stated for the adult level texts represent a minimum number of correspondences.

Jenny and Jenny,

While I agree that many, if not most, children can "take off" with minimal explicit instruction, it seems prudent to be prepared for those who do not. One of my problems with the phonics programs I tried with my daughter was that they were not detailed enough beyond about 60 correspondences. This may leave parents and teachers then resorting to imprecise and illogical rules or alternative strategies to feel like the children are making progress if they are not the "boot-strapping" sort.

Melissa
Minnesota, US

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Post by kenm » Sat Dec 22, 2007 6:15 pm

chew8 wrote:I don't know whether it's possible to put exact figures on this sort of thing - I don't think I have ever seen any.
No, it would have to be presented using fairly complicated statistics, since every subject would have different relevant experience.
chew8 wrote:For what it's worth, I think we may now be tending to go overboard a bit too much on explicitly teaching large numbers of correspondences.[...]I remember being taught a number of digraphs when I was at primary school, but nothing like the range that some people now think necessary. We nevertheless all became very competent readers.[...]
Yes; even look-and-say works for the lucky children who deduce the alphabetic principle by themselves.
Jenny W wrote:Very interested to read your post Jenny. I have found with a group of children this past year that once they had acquired the simple code in RML they were away and 'picked up ' other GPCs as they read simple 'real' books. It seems as though training them to decode as an initial strategy sets the brain up to use strategies to work out new words.
chew8 wrote:[...]it may also be the case that familiarity with 'tricky' words helps to develop the 'tweaking' mindset, so that children are willing to try alternatives when their first attempt doesn't quite work.
and
mtyler wrote:While I agree that many, if not most, children can "take off" with minimal explicit instruction, it seems prudent to be prepared for those who do not.
These posts are all consistent. The mop-up process is explicit in Ruth Miskin's method; and doesn't the Government recommend individual teaching plans? How do you deal with this in unsetted classes? There must come a point where persisting with explicit teaching of the code is wasting the time of most of the children in a class, and the stragglers ought to be helped in sub-sets or one-to-one.
mtyler wrote:In my own studies of texts, children's literature ranged from 75 (Dr. Seuss) to about 150 correspondences (Arnold Lobel books). Adult level texts, taken from Project Gutenberg, contained 250 to 320 correspondences. These figures are based on my 17,000 word database. The children's texts contained words within this database, but the adult level books contained many words, sometimes hundreds, not in the database. Therefore the figures stated for the adult level texts represent a minimum number of correspondences.
This is the first I have heard of such a large number of correspondences. How many past the 160 mark of Debbie's list are in more than one word?
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

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Post by Judy » Sat Dec 22, 2007 6:37 pm

The mop-up process is explicit in Ruth Miskin's method
Ken, please could you explain what you mean by this for those of us who are not familiar with RML?

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Post by mtyler » Sat Dec 22, 2007 8:39 pm

Ken,

Here are my results for Jane Eyre--I chose it because it is commonly read in high school here in the States.

Number of Words: 231, 695
Number of Unique Words: 12,842
Number of Words not in database: 3779
Number of Sound-Spelling Correspondences: 320
Number of GPC's with one usage in the text: 52 (this relates to the number of unique words using a GPC, not the number of times it is used in the text)

Here are my results for Mouse Tales by Arnold Lobel.

Number of Words: 1527
Number of Unique Words: 326
Number of Words not in database:
Number of Sound-Spelling Correspondences: 129
Number of GPC's with one usage in the text: 42

As you can see, the "one-offs" represent a much higher percentage of the text in an early reader. Does this make them more important to explicitly cover? If so, then this would cause the number of correspondences needed to rise.

In my dictionary analysis, I catalogued over 400 correspondences, with 100 of those being in only one word. Many of these "one-offs" are extremely rare (jodhpurs, however you decide to parse the 'h') and many are common (of).

I am not suggesting that more than 160 need to be taught regularly. This is far more than the programs I encountered here in the States. And many of the correspondences can be wrapped together, such as double consonants for the sound of the single consonant, etc. However, some children-my daughter among them-required more than this. I explicitly taught about 220 correspondences, then had her start reading "real" books. She was extremely nervous about this. We worked very slowly, till she realized she did have adequate knowledge to read most books. I had tried to introduce "real" books earlier, but she was put off by how much she didn't know how to sound out. She did not like to read "decodable" books at this point (She was 7-8 yrs old). This at a time when she happily listened to me read her Beowolf, with strong comprehension. My concerns stem from my experiences with a bright, articulate child who did not take off in reading. I am assuming that other children in the English-speaking world may have this same experience.

I undertook my project partly to understand what correspondences were the most important to teach. To cover correspondences with more than ten words (as found in a children's dictionary) requires 206 GPCs. This number would then rise if you add in GPCs that are in fewer, but common, words. (I haven't tabulated this number yet).

Also, GPCs represent one part of readability. Sentence structure, word length, and common word usage also play a role. These, of course, are the areas of reading that WL has embraced for early instruction. And while decoding is the fundamental skill, these other things also can contribute to reading struggles.

Frankly, I have had to explicitly teach each of these skills until my daughter felt comfortable in her skills.

Melissa
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Dec 22, 2007 11:58 pm

Melissa -

Did your daughter have a cumulative word bank to read as you taught her the letter/s-sound correspondences and did these words soon extend to sentences?

Or did you tend to focus your teaching on the letter/s-sound correspondences without building up the opportunity to read simple text from an early stage?

Jenny and Jenny -

I agree that many children will bootstrap as soon as they understand the principles of decoding and have sufficient code knowledge to manage many words sensibly.

But you both put your finger on the point that SPELLING is another matter!

I have no doubt that most pupils will be 'readers' well before the completion of an extensive phonics programme, but then they will profit from a continuation of the programme for spelling in particular.

What worries me is that spelling is poorly taught in many schools (if not most).

Surely, ideally, teaching The Alphabetic Code for reading and spelling is a seamless activity which develops appropriately to improve an understanding of the many spelling choices there are for common words over time.

Then this should continue until ALL pupils are secure spellers - and I suggest that such a programme should not look to exclude any pupils who find the programme very straightforward. I worry enormously about the notion that more able pupils who don't 'need' phonics for reading and spelling will therefore be exempted from such fundamental basic teaching.

As I have often stated, secondary schools report to me that 60% to 80% of their students have weak and poor spelling ability.

It is surely important, therefore, that teachers are trained to teach The Alphabetic Code systematically until such time as all pupils are secure with reading and spelling - many of whom could reach very advanced levels of spelling.

I suggest that those pupils who are able to bootstrap in reading readily - and those pupils who have a natural propensity to spell well - are in danger of detracting teachers from the need to continue with a systematic phonics programme long enough to benefit all pupils.

There are other advantages to a systematic phonics programme with an accompanying word bank - the highlighting of the need to learn new vocabulary - very pertinent to this thread.

It's not that a cumulative word bank, plus other word examples of various letter/s-sound correspondences, addresses all useful words - that is too much to expect - it is the emphasis on the need to discuss meanings of words (and multi-meanings of words) which is important.

This should be very regular practice and made to be very interesting - because it is.

One's breadth of vocabulary and level of articulation are the greatest assets needed to get by in this world - followed by the ability to express oneself with accurate spelling and decent handwriting.

We all need to be working hard to implement a rigorous phonics programme, plenty of conversations, lots of opportunities to read and discuss the content of books and the best possible teaching of writing.

I worry about the suggestion of 'not needing' a phonics programme beyond certain points. Who is to decide this? Who really knows the full benefits for the future of a completed, extensive phonics programme?

I work in a school which, to all intents and purposes, is a high-attaining school according to the end of key stage 2 national tests.

I am far more ambitious, however, as to what the pupils could really achieve with a rigorous, systematic and sustained phonics programme - beyond what most teachers might consider 'necessary'.

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Post by kenm » Sun Dec 23, 2007 5:57 pm

Judy wrote:
The mop-up process is explicit in Ruth Miskin's method
Ken, please could you explain what you mean by this for those of us who are not familiar with RML?
Loose sentence, perhaps. I recall

1) reading one of RM's descriptions of her work at Kobi Nasrul, in which she made the point strongly that progress of her pupils was monitored continually, and any that fell behind the majority were given additional help, usually one-to-one;

2) in one or more of the Channel 4 programmes, seeing this process in action at Monteagle;

3) with rather less certainty, that we saw one of RM's meetings with the head and her deputy, at which the process was discussed, with the deputy complaining about the large amount of work that the monitoring (possibly more related to re-setting than one-to-one, but needed for both) caused for him.

I would expect this to be a prescribed activity in any successful scheme, not unique to RML. In schools that fail 20% of their pupils, either it is not happening (reliance on the concept of "reading readiness" would give some teachers an excuse for inactivity), or the interventions persist with counter-productive methods.
Last edited by kenm on Mon Dec 24, 2007 10:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

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Post by chew8 » Mon Dec 24, 2007 10:07 am

I don't need convincing of the importance of teaching spelling systematically - I got into this whole business of early reading instruction through my concern about the spelling of students aged 16+, and have been having articles and pamphlets about spelling published since 1990. I have always stressed the importance of a good phonics start and then of teaching about word-meanings, etymology, morphology etc. as children get a bit older. But this thread has been about the 'transition to real books', which is a reading matter, not a spelling matter.

Now that we are on to spelling, however, it seems to me that the point at issue may be more a matter of whether we call the ongoing teaching of spelling 'phonics teaching' than of what we actually do. If we teach phonics well in the first two or three years of school, I don't think we should need to be teaching more 'phonics' after that - we should be able to assume that most children have enough 'phonics' knowledge (i.e. knowledge of grapheme-phoneme correspondences and of blending and segmenting procedures) and will continue to use this knowledge largely sub-consciously for reading and spelling, but that they need to be taught much more about word-meanings, etymology, morphology etc.

In my view, too, the need for word-specific learning for spelling purposes becomes increasingly inescapable. In teaching phonics for early reading, we will have gone out of our way to avoid giving the impression that word-learning is necessary, but we are misleading children if we continue to give them the impression that this is also true of spelling. Obviously children need to go on applying their phonic knowledge in spelling, but this should be second nature after the first year or two, and the word-learning factor alone would make me hesitate to call the ongoing teaching of spelling 'phonics teaching'. I see the proportion of new phonics that needs to be explicitly taught after the first 2-3 years of school as being too small a part of the whole to justify calling it 'phonics teaching'.

Jenny C.[/i]

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Post by kenm » Mon Dec 24, 2007 12:08 pm

chew8 wrote:[...]Now that we are on to spelling, however, it seems to me that the point at issue may be more a matter of whether we call the ongoing teaching of spelling 'phonics teaching' than of what we actually do. If we teach phonics well in the first two or three years of school, I don't think we should need to be teaching more 'phonics' after that - we should be able to assume that most children have enough 'phonics' knowledge (i.e. knowledge of grapheme-phoneme correspondences and of blending and segmenting procedures) and will continue to use this knowledge largely sub-consciously for reading and spelling, but that they need to be taught much more about word-meanings, etymology, morphology etc.

In my view, too, the need for word-specific learning for spelling purposes becomes increasingly inescapable. In teaching phonics for early reading, we will have gone out of our way to avoid giving the impression that word-learning is necessary, but we are misleading children if we continue to give them the impression that this is also true of spelling. Obviously children need to go on applying their phonic knowledge in spelling, but this should be second nature after the first year or two, and the word-learning factor alone would make me hesitate to call the ongoing teaching of spelling 'phonics teaching'. I see the proportion of new phonics that needs to be explicitly taught after the first 2-3 years of school as being too small a part of the whole to justify calling it 'phonics teaching'.
I had got the impression, from reading this site, that this was standard practice in teaching reading by SP, partly because of the unusual nature of English, in which so many words use rare or unique correspondences, so that teaching the correspondence explicitly is inefficient, but also because as soon as a child comes across his/her first homophone ("to", "too", "two"?), correct spelling depends upon meaning. Similarly, one could argue that SP must teach more than pure correspondences as soon as the class comes across its first homograph ("read" -> /reed/ or /red/?), whereupon pronunciation becomes context dependent.

I am amazed by Melissa's figures for the total of correspondences in "Jane Eyre" and that a book with 129, 42 of them with only one occurrence, could be considered an "early reader". I take her point about not stopping explicit teaching of correspondences too early, but I would suggest that one criterion for stopping would be the knowledge that all pupils in the class had "bootstrapped". Since some children generalise the existence of the alphabetic code for themselves, on the basis of "look-and-say" teaching, before the age of four, one might consider the failure to bootstrap at, say, seven or eight to be evidence of special needs.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

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Post by mtyler » Mon Dec 24, 2007 8:49 pm

Debbie,

I used a cumulative word bank. My lessons went like this:

30-50 review words. If she stumbled or couldn't work out the word, she had to write the word and say the sounds as she wrote.

Introduce new GPC. She read through the word list (usually 20 words).

She picked ten words to write and say the sounds.

She read 3 sentences which I had written. Each sentence contained at least 1 example of the new GPC and any possible complexities (other sounds for a spelling)

She had many early readers memorized, so I could not use these. If I put a book in front of her she would resist, so I had to be careful and make sure that I could say, "You can read everything in this book." As time went on her panic reaction waned and she was more willing to encounter words we hadn't explicitly covered. When I felt that she would not panic regularly(the 220 GPC mark), I introduced a non-fiction book that had some proper nouns with GPCs that we had not covered. She would add on a page every day, so she got lots of practice. The book took about a month to finish. This had built her confidence and her tweaking strategies enough that she took off at this point, though I have had to help her with breaking down longer sentences and being patient with grasping meaning.

Melissa
Minnesota, USA

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