Comments wanted on principles for new literacy course.

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briangilbert
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Location: West London

Comments wanted on principles for new literacy course.

Post by briangilbert » Thu Jul 26, 2007 11:33 am

I am creating a new Reading course on the internet and would like constructive comments. Please reply via the forum. I can only read emails in text without attachments. Anyone is welcome to copy these ideas bearing in mind that an idea cannot be copyrighted.

The current principles are:-

To teach a child to read we do not and anyway we could not teach him to read every word. It is sufficient to teach him:-
- To recognise the 26 letters of the alphabet.
- The rules needed to recognise by reading the letters, a vast number of words that he already knows the sound of.
- How to independently find the sound and meaning of any new word in a dictionary. The dictionary may be a talking dictionary. (He can ask somebody but this is less reliable.)
- How to independently find the written form of any new spoken word using PC program such as Dragon Naturally Speaking. . (He can ask somebody but this is less reliable.)

Teaching the child what all words mean is impossible and covered by a multitude of other subjects. It is not the direct concern of a reading course which however enables him to find out the meaning of any word for himself.

Principles that Mona McNee’s followed in Step by Step:-
- The course does not expect the pupil to learn to read one hundred thousand words one at a time by looking at them and listening to them one at a time. This seems an insurmountable task to many children.
- Never ask the pupil to guess, it is unnecessary and failure reduces the pupil’s self-confidence.
- Teach the pupil to read their first few thousand? words by learning the sound of each of the 26 letters a few letters at a time. Teach him to read the words for which he has learnt the letters by hearing the letters in his mind and joining the sounds together in his mind.
- Then teach him to read many more words through other rules.
- Keep the child doing the same thing, sounding out short words, but provide variety by presenting the activity under as many different guises as possible. Practice IS needed. Use the games, bingo, slides and ladders, and Pairs to provide an element of fun and extend the span of attention willingly but still allow strong control of vocabulary and use of large print.
- Keep the pupil's mind and vocabulary expanding by frequent introduction of new words.

Principles that Brian Gilbert is following in attempting to improve Mona McNee’s ‘Step by Step’:-
1. A word is the name of an idea.
2. A sentence expresses the relationship between two or more ideas.
3. The more ideas contained in a single sentence the greater the risk that it will not be understood, so I use short sentences.
4. I hope to find a way that the pupil can say a word into his PC microphone and see the word on his screen.
5. Teach them to convert the written form of words to the sound of words, and the sound of words to the written form.
6. A 'step' in Mona's terms I have treated as an 'idea'. This is fundamental as a word is the name of an idea and thinking of it that way clarifies the course.
7. A big step/idea can slow a child down or cause them to give up. Whenever an idea is thought to be too big in this sense I break it down into smaller ideas.
8. A course is there to teach one big idea, in this case 'Reading'. It has to be broken down into smaller ideas. Those small ideas must be taught in the right order so that if a small idea is used in the explanation of a big idea then the smaller ideas have already been taught. I have separated the reading and writing courses for this reason though they could overlap.
9, Pupils must learn each lesson 100%. To make this practical they are not taught things they do not need to know 100% for the purpose of the course. The writing of my own granddaughters is atrocious and yet at least one of them must have completed her writing lessons at school. When the many exercises or anything else shows that a pupil has forgotten or not learnt a previous idea 100% then they go back and do that lesson again.
10. To make it easier to be sure the rules are followed I fit everything in the lessons into the classifications:-
- Guidance to the teacher,
- What the Teacher has to do,
- What the Pupil has to do.
11. - The pupil never 'misses' a lesson. If there is more than one pupil they progress individually guided by the check sheet.
12. - Whether the pupil is slow or fast does not affect the result, just the time. The success rate should be 100%. Even slow pupils may be better than the current average.
13. - Each idea is taught in only one place. The student saves time when he meets it again as a single word. He is not made to feel stupid by being taught it again. If he has forgotten it he just goes back to the original lesson.
14. The many rules for converting written words to sounds are there to teach the child to read the words. The rules do not apply to all words which can confuse a child. I therefore teach that once the pupil knows a new word then as far as that word is concerned the rules no longer matter,
15. Exercises are used many times but rather than repeating the text each time they have been covered once on a separate web page and the same link given in all the lessons using them. This ensures consistency and makes any change easier to apply. The teacher should keep such pages at hand all the time.
16. I was amazed when I realized that a Dictionary is rarely used to learn the ‘diction’ or sound of a word. Yet this is the answer to the main problem. Talking dictionaries PC programs are now available from Oxford and Collins that give show the sound of each word and the pupil is able to use them he can learn the sound of the words on his own. Conversely a PC program such as Dragon Naturally Speaking converts the sound of a word to its written form for the student.

17. – By the time the student has learned Mona McNee’s rules he has a large vocabulary and is confident and capable of learning to read the remaining words one at a time independently.
18. To keep it simple for the pupil, I kept the first set of lessons strictly to one sound for one letter. The minor variations were placed in separate lessons that follow.
19. I avoided Capital letters for the first set of lessons. I place them afterwards and the lower case lessons are repeated with capital letters. So the pupil gets a thorough introduction to capital letters without a lot of new course material.

20Oct2007 Development now ceased. See posting at end.
Last edited by briangilbert on Sat Oct 20, 2007 11:31 am, edited 2 times in total.
Brian Gilbert
http://www.brian-gilbert.com/mmbgrd/index.htm
http://www.brian-gilbert.com/teach/index.htm

g.carter
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Post by g.carter » Sun Jul 29, 2007 11:15 am

Brian - I'm sorry that no-one has been able to reply . It's the end of a long school year and I suspect work-overload,holidays,floods and sheer fatigue have played their part - but it's frustrating for you.

Just a couple of quick comments - it's very important to stress the importance of decodables. Also to keep instructions as clear and succinct as possible.

Do have a read of debbie's www. syntheticphonics.com and susan's www. dyslexics.org.uk for a v. good overview of SP.

Best wishes. geraldine

briangilbert
Posts: 72
Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2007 3:45 pm
Location: West London

Post by briangilbert » Sun Jul 29, 2007 12:32 pm

Geraldine - Thanks for the reply.
It was a pleasant surprise when the system sent me an email to tell me of the reply.

The teacher overload problem may be reduced by using some of my ideas. Parents will take over more of the work if it is made easier to do so.
Children ahead of the class can be used to help teach the others. This has an additional advantage as some children ahead of the class get bored and become troublemakers but this will keep them interested. It will also advance their ability as the ability is increased by teaching something rather than just knowing it. I hope that the children will be able to do much of the learning individually reducing the load on the teacher. Of course when they become independent then for them 'reading' as a subject is complete. You will see how I cover this in the 'Introduction'.

I agree on 'decodables' but have yet to see it defined! I am assuming it means reading material that conforms to the rules up to the step being studied. However I gather the courses are not consistent so the a particular decodable might be limited to one specific reading course. I am following Mona McNee's Step by Step in that respect. I will look at the references you gave which may help. In this connection I need a vocabulary which qualifies a pupil as able to read if they know it 100%. I consider that to qualify they must also be able to learn to read any new word independent of a teacher.

I do not teach children directly except my two grand-daughters and don't get much chance there. My interest lies in improving peoples ability in general. So I am relying on others taking up individual 'reading' ideas, trying them in their courses and giving me feedback.

As to keeping instructions as clear and succinct as possible. I thoroughly agree. In clarifying the instructions you are saving what may be thousands of users all doing the clarification themselves. In making them succinct I aim to do this by using powerful words/ideas. Of course many readers will not be familar with those word/ideas and therefore I link the 'powerful' word/idea' to a page defining it. Where the defined idea comes up more than once the pupil has a bonus as the second time they come to it they only have to read one word.

Regards Brian
Brian Gilbert
http://www.brian-gilbert.com/mmbgrd/index.htm
http://www.brian-gilbert.com/teach/index.htm

Judy
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Post by Judy » Sun Jul 29, 2007 3:56 pm

Brian, please forgive me if I havemisunderstood your intention -
Principles that Brian Gilbert is following in attempting to improve Mona McNee’s ‘Step by Step’:-
- but I do not understand why Mona's 'Step' programme needs to be improved.

Also, I wonder how substituting the word 'idea' for 'step' is going to make the programme more accessible to parents.

As far as decodable texts/books are concerned, you are right in saying that text is decodable insofar as it uses letter/sound correspondences which have been taught. Therefore, initially, decoable reading books will be linked to the programme being used. Eventually, as onebecomes an efficient and capable reader, almost all text becomes 'decodable'.

briangilbert
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Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2007 3:45 pm
Location: West London

Post by briangilbert » Sun Jul 29, 2007 4:31 pm

Hi Judy,

Thanks for the interest.

Why does Mona McNee's program need to be improved? It may be the best, I certainly admired it enough to put it on the Internet for her. If it had been perfect the government could not have avoided it for 10 years. As to whether I am improving it we can only debate specific points and the use or lack of use will be the final judgement. Mona's course remains on the internet.

It is not the use of the word 'idea' instead of step that I think makes a big differrence. It is seeing a step as an idea with a single word for a name. From then on if we understand a step it reduces from say a hundred words to one.

Consider the differrence between rambling on about the route one took from London to Bristol as opposed to saying "M4". Once we have reduced it to one word or a few we can communicate bigger ideas to others, faster and more effectively using just the one word. Isaac Newton said something like "I see so far only by standing on the shoulders of giants". The 'giants' reduce a mass of knowledge to a few words/ideas.

Regards Brian
Brian Gilbert
http://www.brian-gilbert.com/mmbgrd/index.htm
http://www.brian-gilbert.com/teach/index.htm

Kelly
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Post by Kelly » Sun Jul 29, 2007 9:04 pm

Hi Brian,

I am also a fan of Monas.

I personally used her programme as a base for my own: www.astepatatime.co.nz

I have a lot of decodable material (worksheets/books) which I have personally written. Some of the books are here (I'm not personally a fan of the simple phonetic books like "Sit on mat Sam. Sam sat.") I am personally a little muddled and I find them difficult to read as an adult!

Anyway some of my books are on the decodable section: http://www.rrf.org.uk/messageforum/viewtopic.php?t=2656 Perhaps you can use some of my materials depending I suppose on whether you are a free service or plan to charge.

Good for you.

Kelly

briangilbert
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Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2007 3:45 pm
Location: West London

Reply to kelly's offer.

Post by briangilbert » Mon Jul 30, 2007 12:25 am

Hi Kelly,

Thankyou for the offer of material which I am happy to accept. My site is free so there is no problem there. Your material will be welcome as one aim of my course is that the pupil builds a minimum vocabulary in order to complete the course. I still don't know if anyone has assembled such a vocabulary or defined it.

I noticed a mention of your site a few days ago on RRF and added it to my favorites to follow up later.

I am hoping that you and others will try out my ideas and if they work for you you are welcome to include them in your course adding an acknowledgement to Mona and me.

Regards Brian
Brian Gilbert
http://www.brian-gilbert.com/mmbgrd/index.htm
http://www.brian-gilbert.com/teach/index.htm

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Mon Jul 30, 2007 8:23 am

'...one aim of my course is that the pupil builds a minimum vocabulary in order to complete the course. I still don't know if anyone has assembled such a vocabulary or defined it.'

I'm not sure what you mean by this, Brian. If you mean 'sight-words' in the conventional sense, then Mona herself will not approve, unless you mean decodable words which have been sounded out so often that children start being able to read them without overt sounding out.

'The new government publication, 'Letters and Sounds', includes a list of the 100 words which occur most frequently in children's reading material, and then a list of the next 200, all arranged in order of frequency (pages 193-5 in the 'Six-Phase Teaching Programme' book). Many of the words are completely decodable provided that they are introduced in the appropriate phase - see p. 194. Frequent practice in sounding them out should enable children soon to start reading them without sounding out and thus to start experiencing the beginnings of fluency, though this point is reached by the right route rather than by the wrong route of memorising the words as global wholes.

'L and S' also drip-feeds even non-fully-decodable words from Week 4, albeit very slowly at first - only 6 altogether in Phase Two, as against 26 fully decodable high-frequency words and many other fully decodable but non-high-frequency words. Moreover, the advice is to stress the parts that are fully decodable on the basis of the grapheme-phoneme correspondences which children already know, so even non-fully-decodable words provide some decoding practice.

Jenny C.

briangilbert
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Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2007 3:45 pm
Location: West London

Post by briangilbert » Mon Jul 30, 2007 8:45 am

chew8 wrote:'...one aim of my course is that the pupil builds a minimum vocabulary in order to complete the course. I still don't know if anyone has assembled such a vocabulary or defined it.'
....................................

I'm not sure what you mean by this, Brian.
Jenny C.
Hi Jenny,

What I mean is "What is a satisfactory vocabulary for a child who can then be left to study other subjects learning new words on their own." I also expect the child to be able to look up a new word and find out what it means from reference books but they can't be expected to do this if they can only read a few words. Winston Churchill was said to have a vocabulary of 100,000 words. I would think say 5 or 10 thousand basic words would be enough as a start but I don't know how many or which words. At the moment I am accumulating all the words mentioned in Mona's lessons. I asked Oxford and Collins by email if they could get their computers to identify all words meeting the decoding rules but got no reply as yet.

Once I have got this vocabulary it will be the final test of a 'Reading' pupil along with the ability to learn new words on their own.

Regards Brian
Brian Gilbert
http://www.brian-gilbert.com/mmbgrd/index.htm
http://www.brian-gilbert.com/teach/index.htm

chew8
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Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2003 6:26 pm

Post by chew8 » Mon Jul 30, 2007 9:03 am

Thanks, Brian. If you are talking about building vocabulary, then you may be going beyond what is normally regarded as the domain of synthetic phonics.

I myself am fully in favour of teaching vocab., and see this aspect of teaching as overlapping a bit with the initial teaching of reading and spelling, but only a bit. As far as I know, Mona has always regarded her programme as concerned just with the initial teaching of reading and spelling - presumably, though, you are checking with her all along the way?

Jenny C.

briangilbert
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Location: West London

Post by briangilbert » Mon Jul 30, 2007 9:53 am

chew8 wrote:Thanks, Brian. If you are talking about building vocabulary, then you may be going beyond what is normally regarded as the domain of synthetic phonics....................., Mona has always regarded her programme as concerned just with the initial teaching of reading and spelling - presumably, though, you are checking with her all along the way?

Jenny C.
Hi Jenny,
Yes I am going as far as the child having a big enough vocabulary to use a dictionary definition to learn the pronounciation and meaning of further words. The rules reduce the effort to build the vocabulary but when it comes to the crunch the rest are learned individually, the rules having done their job. If Oxford or Collins create a dictionary tailored for this purpose it will help a lot.

I am in touch with Mona but she has a new contract with a book publisher which limits her right to help in some respects. She has stopped teaching directly so may wish to stand back a bit. She has made it plain that I am free to use the earlier Step by Step material as allowed in its preface and I am crediting her as you have noticed. I mentioned the RRF forum a couple of days ago so she is probably watching it but I will mention this topic specifically.
Regards Brian
Brian Gilbert
http://www.brian-gilbert.com/mmbgrd/index.htm
http://www.brian-gilbert.com/teach/index.htm

kenm
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Re: Reply to kelly's offer.

Post by kenm » Mon Jul 30, 2007 9:59 am

briangilbert wrote:[...]My site is free so there is no problem there. Your material will be welcome as one aim of my course is that the pupil builds a minimum vocabulary in order to complete the course. I still don't know if anyone has assembled such a vocabulary or defined it.[..]
Two reduced vocabularies that you might consider as a basis are Basic English and Simpified English.

Am I right in deducing that you intend the student to interact largely with a PC, with minimal teacher involvement, and that this approach differs from Mona's?
"... 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

briangilbert
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Location: West London

Re: Reply to kelly's offer.

Post by briangilbert » Mon Jul 30, 2007 10:23 am

"
Am I right in deducing that you intend the student to interact largely with a PC, with minimal teacher involvement, and that this approach differs from Mona's?"

Hi Kenm,
Thanks for the links. I will check them out. I will add a page of links to the site.

I see it as essential that it starts off with a teacher or a parent. Advanced children then help the others under the teacher's supervision. Children in a class would soon progress individually using a check sheet.

A PC would come in if the database gets too large for the teacher or physical materials. I won't know till I make further progress.
A teacher remains a part of it until completion to ensure the pupil has completed it.
Regards Brian
Brian Gilbert
http://www.brian-gilbert.com/mmbgrd/index.htm
http://www.brian-gilbert.com/teach/index.htm

Judy
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Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2005 9:57 pm

Post by Judy » Mon Jul 30, 2007 10:34 am

Thanks for your reply, Brian.

I'm afraid I didn't make my first query clear.

What I meant was, 'In what way are you hoping to improve Mona's programme.' It seems to me that it is only when we are clear about your specific aims that we can give feedback as to whether you are succeeding or not.

MonaMMcNee
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Brian's venture

Post by MonaMMcNee » Mon Jul 30, 2007 11:33 am

Brian has supported me for a long time.
All my "Step" aims at is to open the door, teach enoug phonics for pupils to be able to go on from there into storybooks (Noddy on up to Shakespeare) and increase their spoken, written and understood vocabulary naturally.
After Step come grammar, verse, analogy and so on.
The original Step was hard-copy dirt-cheap. It is on the web and has been for a long time. In these IT days, any presentation of good phonics is welcome, and Brian bases his stuff on mine which is "the best ". Well,I would say that, wouldn't I ? (Smiley face vbut I don't know how!)
But always KISS - Keep it simple, stupid!
I am happy for anybody to spread the word based on my intro.

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