Since newsletter no. 47 reached 25,000 schools and the Education Directors and leading Literacy Advisers, we have had a huge increase of subscriptions and visits to the RRF website - including a very large number of downloads of the previous issues of our newsletters. We have learnt of various phonics research projects such as the Multi-sensoryTeaching System (MTS), the Oxford based ‘Code Breakers’ Hamilton Project and Dundee City Council’s READ project to name but a few. Trying to squeeze in yet ever more interesting and informative material in the hard copy of the newsletter is proving to be an impossible task and I encourage readers to keep checking our website where additional items are posted. We have recently added a messageboard facility which is as yet underused and I do encourage people to join us in conversation.
Significant research from Tasmania is featured in this issue. Byron Harrison’s paper provides us with further insight as to how apparent whole language reading ability ‘hits a brick wall’ within a few years.
Scotland races ahead of England in the promotion of evidence-based literacy teaching. In America, President Bush has instigated the Reading First initiative whereby schools must demonstrate that they use evidence-based reading programmes to qualify for federal funding. In contrast to our Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and Office For Standards in Education (Ofsted), America understands the need for early reading books which match the existing knowledge and skills of the children, and the need for scientific testing to inform our teaching practices.
As there is clearly some confusion about what is involved in synthetic phonics teaching, the RRF suggests the following two catch phrases to clarify understanding:
All-through-the-word phonics (from the outset for both synthesising and analysing)
Blending for reading (the main decoding strategy)
Far too much emphasis and time is devoted to the initial letter of words in the National Literacy Strategy. Children are actually both helped by, and capable of, sounding out and blending all-through-the-word for reading, and hearing the sounds all-through-the-word for spelling from the earliest stage. This ensures that the purpose of sound/symbol relationships is soon understood by the children as they put these to use without unnecessary delay.
I hope you enjoy and find some value in newsletter no. 48 and many thanks to those who have contributed to the contents.