D-Ed Reckoning: phonics vs WL debate

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

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

D-Ed Reckoning: phonics vs WL debate

Post by Susan Godsland » Sat Apr 07, 2007 1:48 pm

Advance notice:

Starting Monday, The phonics vs whole language debate:
I'll be partaking in the great phonics vs. whole language debate of aught seven starting Monday at Edspresso.
http://d-edreckoning.blogspot.com/index.html

dickschutz
Posts: 1638
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2005 7:56 pm

Post by dickschutz » Sat Apr 07, 2007 3:40 pm

Oh, My. The Reading War is being reduced to a water pistol duel between blindfolded clowns. Ken indicates by his quote from Zig Englelmann that he doesn't know the Alphabetic Code from his elbow. Nancy Creech, I learned, (Thanks, google) is a Whole Language teacher from Michigan. Here's her pitch:

Holy Whole Language!

If this matter weren't so very serious, it would be very funny. :cry:

JIM CURRAN
Posts: 3123
Joined: Fri Oct 31, 2003 7:18 am

Subject

Post by JIM CURRAN » Sat Apr 07, 2007 4:49 pm

Your child's teacher is the expert on teaching reading...not the federal legislation. ( The Whole Thing Or Piece )

Where do young teachers gain this expertise when either they get no training in the teacher training colleges or worse still mistraining?
The criticism that the National Reading Panel were inherently biased in favour of a phonics approach before they looked at any research is seriously flawed , given that the panel examined well over a hundred thousand pieces of reading research most of which failed to meet a reasonable criteria set by the panel as to what qualified as Scientific research.Unfortunately for the whole language brigade most of the pieces of research rejected were from the Whole Language camp of anything goes research.

dickschutz
Posts: 1638
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2005 7:56 pm

Post by dickschutz » Sat Apr 07, 2007 5:15 pm

Actually, the NRP was established to give academic/political weight to the set of constructs that Reid Lyon distilled from a decade of research studies conducted by a stable of "the best" researchers in US universities. The Panel confirmed/validated each of the constructs: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Vocabulary, Comprehension, and Fluency. (The only "Phonics" that had any historical standing in the US was "synthetic" Any "analytic" was subsumed under "Whole Language.)

In the aftermath, the professional compromise was "Balanced Literacy" (what is being termed "mixed methods in the UK--not a balance among the "Five Essentials" (which morphed into "pillars") but between Phonics and Whole Language. Publishers simply slapped on incomplete and inconsistent "phonics" on to their WL texts, and that's where it's currently at.

While trumpeting "programs based on scientifically based research" the Feds let the so called "Balanced Literacy" materials under the bar, but closed the door to "big players" like Marie Clay, who would not pledge allegiance to the Essentials, and Bob Slavin, who had been a "darling" during the Clinton administration.

Nasty business is edbiz.

kenm
Posts: 1495
Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2005 5:19 pm
Location: Berkshire

Post by kenm » Sat Apr 07, 2007 6:06 pm

dickschutz wrote:Oh, My. The Reading War is being reduced to a water pistol duel between blindfolded clowns. Ken indicates by his quote from Zig Englelmann that he doesn't know the Alphabetic Code from his elbow.
I was sufficiently intrigued by your comment to download Zig's paper and find the bit that was quoted. I can't recall a more egregious example of misrepresentation of an author's intentions by quoting out of context.
"... 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

dickschutz
Posts: 1638
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2005 7:56 pm

Post by dickschutz » Sat Apr 07, 2007 7:00 pm

I thought for a minute that you were talking about me here, rather than about deRosa. I had read Zig's paper some time ago. Zig does work without knowing much about the structure and substance of the Alphabetic Code, and he is wedded to the instructional architecture of "Direct Instruction." After reading Zig's paper, you're right. deRosa certainly did quote him out of context, and Zig's paper (other than the quoted giveaway example buried deep in the paper) is very sound and very much to the point.

Were deRosa arguing from the "whole science" (and technology) perspective as Zig does, he'd be a good advocate. As is, the water-pistol fight promises to be nothing more than "tis-taints."

dickschutz
Posts: 1638
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2005 7:56 pm

Post by dickschutz » Sat Apr 07, 2007 7:41 pm

Oh, My! Squared!

Check out the "update" on de Rosa's site.

Not only does d-Ed Reckoner not know how to spell the name Schutz, he doesn't know his phonemes from his morphemes. Nor does he recognize that there is more than one legitimate instructional architectural orientation than the one that Zig has elaborated.

Sorry I unintentionally dragged the RRF Board into the water-pistol duel. Internet Forum etiquette ordinarily precludes that sort of thing from happening. But, no harm; no foul. I'll climb into the grandstand here to watch the show, and if I have anything to say in the future re the debate, recken I'll do it on the Reckoner Board.

kenm
Posts: 1495
Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2005 5:19 pm
Location: Berkshire

Post by kenm » Sun Apr 08, 2007 6:19 pm

dickschutz wrote:I thought for a minute that you were talking about me here, rather than about deRosa.
Sorry!
I had read Zig's paper some time ago. Zig does work without knowing much about the structure and substance of the Alphabetic Code, and he is wedded to the instructional architecture of "Direct Instruction." After reading Zig's paper, you're right. deRosa certainly did quote him out of context, and Zig's paper (other than the quoted giveaway example buried deep in the paper) is very sound and very much to the point.[...]
I'm pleased to hear you say that. I found Zig's paper impressive and convincing in its identification of unwarranted deductions from good data, and also on the ethical problems raised by comparative studies.
"... 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

dickschutz
Posts: 1638
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2005 7:56 pm

Post by dickschutz » Tue Apr 10, 2007 5:09 pm

The Internet is a fascinating phenomenon. The comments to this point on the first debate exchange are far superior in substance than is the "debate."

I can't help feeling a bit sorry for Nancy Creech. When you are up against the weight of all logic and research, you're going to get clobbered by those who are familiar with it, irrespective of the limitations of your debate opponent.

If EdLand were ruled by logic and research, all children would read. And if wishes were horses, all beggars would fly.

User avatar
Peter Warner
Posts: 494
Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2005 4:34 pm
Location: Nagoya, Japan
Contact:

Post by Peter Warner » Wed Apr 11, 2007 5:21 pm

Now hold on, darn it. In fairness to Ken DeRosa, I've read his opening statement on that debate format three times, and it impresses me as informed, reasonable and articulate. Dick, your criticism seems to be related to some other article, not the debate linked to at the start of this thread:

http://www.edspresso.com/2007/04april_9 ... vs_ken.htm

In the comments section, Jim Curran has been adding some further excellent contributions.

Dick, I think you should retract calling DeRosa a 'blindfolded clown'; an apology would be appropriate. Furthermore,
I think your ridiculing him publicly on this forum diminishes yourself and the RRF community.

If this surprises anyone, read Ken DeRosa's words yourself, he contrasts systematic phonics teaching and Whole Language very capably:
De Rosa, 1:59 p.m.:

The reason why whole language is controversial is due to the Shoichi Yokoi problem.

But before I get into that, I want to make it clear that phonics is merely a tool, not an obligation. If a child comes into school reading well, having gotten there by whatever route, then that child probably does not need additional phonics instruction (at least not for reading, spelling may be another matter.) However, many children do need instruction in phonics to learn to read proficiently. Those children should get the phonics they need without prejudice. And, I believe that the way phonics is taught in whole language reading programs is, unfortunately, incompatible with proper phonics instruction.

To understand why that is so, I’ll take Nancy up on her request and define “whole language.” (I will get to Nancy’s other points and questions in future posts.)

Whole language falls within the class of meaning-emphasis reading programs and has incorporated Goodman and Smith’s psycholinguistic guessing game approach to reading. Goodman’s theory is that readers try to figure out the meaning of a text by using a variety of partly redundant cuing systems. There are three types of cues in this guessing game: semantic, syntactic, and graphophonic.

The graphophonic cues are the reader’s general knowledge of spelling-sound relationships. Syntactic cues are knowledge of syntactic patterns and the markers that cue these patterns, such as function words and suffixes. Semantic cues are knowledge about word meaning word meaning and the topic.

In fact, whole language instruction relies heavily on the student’s experience with language. Students are encouraged to guess words that are presented in the context of short stories and the main motivation is to make reading fun for the student.

To accomplish this, whole language uses “authentic literature” as the instructional text, as opposed to decodable text. The belief is that the knowledge necessary for skilled reading, including knowledge of phonics, will develop naturally, like spoken language develops, if children are exposed to good books. Therefore, explicit teaching of phonics should be eschewed since it is not a natural extension of learning and has the potential to do harm by boring or frustrating the student. Moreover, because phonics represents just one of the cueing systems, if a student fails to learn some piece of phonics knowledge, other cueing systems will compensate when the student actually reads.

In this reading-as-a-guessing-game or hypothesis-testing activity theory, it is thought that readers engage in a cycle of activity in which they generate an hypothesis about what the next word would be, move their eyes to that word, quickly confirm their hypothesis, and then generate a new hypothesis about the next word. Under such a view, the reader’s processing is mostly contextually driven. This approach also suggests that a bottleneck forms when a reader is acquiring visual information into the brain’s processing system.

This has proven not to be the case.

Since this theory was first proposed in the early 1970’s, there has been a large amount of research on skilled reading which has led to the replacement of this hypothesis-testing theory of reading by one in which the processing activities involved in reading occur very rapidly, so that the visual information needed for reading gets into the processing system very quickly without the formation of a bottleneck at the visual input stage. Research on eye movements during reading also indicates that skilled readers identify words quickly with little help from context, though context does play an important role in interpreting meaning of identified words. It is this misapplication of context for identifying words, rather than for ascertaining the meaning of words which has proven to have the most pernicious side-effects on naïve readers.

Reading is not a guessing game. Phonological information is critically important in word identification. In fact, the three cueing systems are not equivalent in determining what word is actually read; the graphophonic mechanism plays a highly prominent role, particularly in reading acquisition.

Furthermore, learning to read is not a natural process like learning to talk. Learning to speak is effortless and automatic for almost all children brought up surrounded by other humans speaking their language. Reading is not and often requires some explicit instruction in the alphabetic principle. Almost no child needs to be taught the phonemes of his language, but almost every child needs to be taught the symbols that make up his writing system. That’s why there is an alphabet song, but not a phoneme song.

(See How Psychological Science Informs the Teaching of Reading (2001), Rayner, Foorman, Perfetti, Pesetsky, and Seidenberg, for elaboration and omitted research cites.)

Which brings me to Shoichi Yokoi.

Shoichi Yokoi was a Japanese soldier in World War II who was stationed in Guam and went into hiding in 1944 when the American forces conquered the island. Yokoi hid in a jungle cave for 28 years, fearing to come out, even after he had found leaflets declaring World War II to be over.

Unlike Yokoi, whole language proponents still refuse to leave their pedagogical cave, even though the phonics wars have been over for quite some time. And, while the cognitive science reading research has shown that the meaning-emphasis approach to reading to be wrong, classroom practice has yet to adjust to this reality.

It is not a question of just doing phonics. It is a matter of doing phonics right for those children that need instruction in phonics. For many children this means that phonics must be taught systematically and explicitly so they learn that the primary mechanism for word identification is the grapho-phonemic information contained in the words themselves. Such instruction requires the use of decodable texts in the initial stages of reading instruction rather than authentic texts, which are neither decodable nor designed for instructional use.

I think that much of what is contained in the typical whole language reading program can be salvaged if they get the phonics part right in the beginning levels.

Nancy, what will it take for whole language proponents to see the light? Why aren’t they coming out of their caves?
Speaking for myself, I learned several things from reading that. The man writes well, and his effort to educate others deserves support, not scorn. I respect Ken DeRosa, and admire not only his positive contribution to the understanding of beginning reading instruction, but also his willingness to exchange competing views in a constructive manner.

Best regards, Peter Warner.
Peter Warner
Nagoya, Japan

English in Japan
[url]http://www.english-in-japan.com[/url]

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Proverbs 9:10

FEtutor
Posts: 348
Joined: Wed Nov 24, 2004 8:24 pm
Location: London

Post by FEtutor » Wed Apr 11, 2007 6:43 pm

Peter Warner wrote:Now hold on, darn it. In fairness to Ken DeRosa, I've read his opening statement on that debate format three times, and it impresses me as informed, reasonable and articulate. Dick, your criticism seems to be related to some other article, not the debate linked to at the start of this thread:
......
Speaking for myself, I learned several things from reading that. The man writes well, and his effort to educate others deserves support, not scorn. I respect Ken DeRosa, and admire not only his positive contribution to the understanding of beginning reading instruction, but also his willingness to exchange competing views in a constructive manner.

Best regards, Peter Warner.
I think you are speaking for many more people on the board than yourself, Peter- well said.

dickschutz
Posts: 1638
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2005 7:56 pm

Post by dickschutz » Wed Apr 11, 2007 8:22 pm

Peter says: "I learned several things from reading that."

Please list, Peter.

Whether the de Rosa writes well or not is a matter of taste. He doesn't know the Alphabetic Code from his elbow, or his phonemes from his morphemes. In my view that justifies the metaphor, "blind clown" when applied to one who is debating "phonics." But I'm glad to apologize to any who feel differently.



The ground rules of the Board make it clear that individuals speak for themselves, not for the RRF and for others.

If apologies are in order, it seems to me that they should relate to de Rosa's dragging what was posted here into his "debate." As a matter of fact, Ken Moore was more severe with the guy than I was.

I don't see that anything is gained by running a second-order tis-taint "debate" on de Rosa's performance on this board.

I've registered my opinion here that the "commentators" are better informed than the debaters, and they're also doing a pretty good job in commenting on the dual/duel performance.
Last edited by dickschutz on Thu Apr 12, 2007 4:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Peter Warner
Posts: 494
Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2005 4:34 pm
Location: Nagoya, Japan
Contact:

Post by Peter Warner » Thu Apr 12, 2007 3:49 pm

Dick requested:
Please list, Peter.
Okay, here's what I learned from reading Ken DeRosa's opening statement (the long quote pasted above).

1) De Rosa begins by stating that phonics instruction is a first step, not the end goal. This strikes me as a very useful starting point when advocating systematic phonics instruction.

2) He then goes directly to the theory behind Whole Language (WL), and how it is flawed. He doesn't distract the exchange with anecdotes or accusations. He focuses on the guessing-for-meaning approach of WL, and contrasts it with the decoding-for-word-identification approach of phonic training. This is a very effective way to frame the issues, and is identical to explaining The Reading Triangle (TRT, also mentioned in another current thread). This validates to me personally the approach I myself have used, which is to base my presentations on TRT diagram.

3) After mentioning the 'Three Cueing Systems', he later identifies the 'graphophonic mechanism' (his term) as having the most highly prominent role in 'reading acquisition' (his term again). This strikes me as a reasonable and successful approach: rather than ridicule or accuse WL, he simply shows that it is misdirected.

4) He declares that the 'phonics wars' have been over for quite some time, WL lost the argument years ago. This is another useful debating tactic- he's not fighting to gain ground or even survive, he's explaining how the issues have already played out. That's a stance that projects confidence and certainty, and is attractive. People like winners.

5) He concludes by stating that those who need beginning reading instruction should begin with decoding instruction, which should be explicit and systematic. This neatly completes the circle and ties in to his first point, thereby securing the perimeter of his position.

6) His final point: Systematic phonics instruction does not replace authentic literature (and other things important to WL), it simply provides a secure foundation for it. This point (which is true) reduces the animosity found in these kinds of arguments, and should be comforting to any open-minded WL practitioners who might be receptive. It's a nice way to emphasize that we can work together rather than against each other. It has the sense of an adept Aikido move- move with the opponent's energy and direct it to a useful end, instead of trying to directly oppose it. This is an attitude that I need to adapt in my own conversations.

Here are my own disagreements with DeRosa's opening statement:

A) He never mentions the Alphabetic Code. The term 'graphophonic mechanism' probably means the same to him, but it hits me as clumsy and overly technical.

B) He readily accepts that some children don't need systematic phonics instruction, which I think weakens his position. While it may be true, capable instruction in the correct perception of alphabetic text harms no one, and saying 'give phonics instruction only to those that need it' hands the WL army a loophole big enough to roll an armored division through. I've seen that happen.

C) While he mentions the 'Three Cueing Systems', he doesn't explain (to my satisfaction) how semantic and syntactic cues can only proceed AFTER the words in the text have been identified. Perhaps I misunderstand this point myself. My reading of The Reading Triangle (TRT) says that analysis of text proceeds on the foundation of first identifying the words (by decoding skills). Am I a fanatic about TRT or what? That simple diagram reveals all the issues in this conflict, it seems.

D) He never defines what reading is, perhaps hoping his debating opponent will step first into that minefield, or perhaps waiting for later in the exchange. He already has established the premise for stating something like this: Reading is a process that goes in stages from viewing print to perceiving meaning, and those stages are: seeing, decoding, identifying (the bottom left corner of TRT, these become almost automatic and effortless in a fluent reader), then analyzing semantic and syntactic clues to comprehend the message (these are where a capable reader applies conscious focus).

My four points above are minor. DeRosa's opening statement impresses me as understandable, reasonable, and constructive. Reading him is helpful and even encouraging. Good for him.

Best regards, Peter Warner.
Peter Warner
Nagoya, Japan

English in Japan
[url]http://www.english-in-japan.com[/url]

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Proverbs 9:10

dickschutz
Posts: 1638
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2005 7:56 pm

Post by dickschutz » Thu Apr 12, 2007 5:21 pm

I won't quibble with "what Peter learned" but it illustrates George Lakoff's important point: one's interpretation of a communication is largely a function of the belief system one brings to the page rather than the "meaning" the text inherently provides and that the reader has to "extract." (The same consideration holds for spoken communication.)

Peter's list of pluses tells us more about Peter than they do about the text.
And the minuses, which Peter views as "mino,r" constitute major technical flaws which become increasingly consequential to the point that de Rosa later contends that "phonics" applies only to the Basic Code and that the entire Advanced Code is "irregular." :roll:

One could see this flaw coming from the out-of-context-quote of Engelmann that de Rosa gave in announcing the debate--which was the basis for my pejorative anticipation of the debate.

User avatar
maizie
Administrator
Posts: 3117
Joined: Sun Mar 14, 2004 10:38 pm
Location: N.E England

Post by maizie » Thu Apr 12, 2007 8:18 pm

which was the basis for my pejorative anticipation of the debate.
:sad:

We do try not to 'do' pejorative on here. Well, not of people who are going in the same direction as us (before you start throwing various highly critical posts back at me ;-) )

I hope you two are more in agreement now.

I think the comments are, if anything, more interesting than the 'debate'.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Yahoo [Bot] and 9 guests