Sounds~Write:Data from the 1st 4 years of whole class usage

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

User avatar
David Philpot
Posts: 80
Joined: Sun Feb 26, 2006 8:22 am
Location: Wigan
Contact:

Post by David Philpot » Sun Jun 15, 2008 11:58 am

Susan has drawn attention above to the interesting point that there is an avoidance of the word synthetic in relation to phonics by the DCSF. I don’t see that this is at all surprising for several reasons. The various commercial synthetic phonic programmes have differences between them in terms of both content and how teaching time should be distributed between the various elements of them – and these are then further adjusted by individual schools and their Literacy Co-ordinators, and further again by individual teachers and classroom assistants. A recommendation to teach synthetic phonics would at best be a very broad suggestion unless all that was meant was teaching blending from the beginning to the end of each word. Furthermore there is a lack of compelling research evidence about what really works. From memory, past HMI/DfES reports have indicated that when the whole word approach was taught it was thought that about 40% of pupils left school illiterate, whereas with traditional phonics only 33.3% of pupils left school illiterate. This is hardly compelling evidence.

What really matters is to subject the whole area of literacy tuition to proper scientific investigation to try to evaluate what is the most efficient and accurate way to teach our children. In this context we need to consider some very basic questions such as: What do Reading Tests and Spelling Tests actually measure? Is it different, but closely-linked, aspects of literacy? On the basis of these traditional tests most children will score a different reading age to their spelling age. Is this meaningful? Is our goal to: just teach reading; just teach spelling; or teach literacy that involves both? If we wish to teach literacy then we have the interesting question of how we might meaningfully and usefully measure it. Historically, reading tests have been used despite the problem that nothing in them tells you whether the correct responses have been achieved by sight memorisation or by successful understanding of how the encoding-decoding processes work. Spelling tests, however, require accurate segmentation of words into their component sounds, followed by the correct choice of grapheme for each sound. To remind readers of the results obtained by Judy when testing her ten pupils on a group of words that they were required to both read and spell on separate occasions, only 1.7% were spelled correctly but not read correctly, whereas 55% of the words ‘read’ correctly were spelled incorrectly (or not attempted). This sort of result suggests that knowledge of a reading test result may be of little or no use at all in assessing a pupil’s overall progress in literacy and whether or not they can cope with the writing requirements of their curriculum. Judy kindly collected her data as a result of my earlier suggestion in this thread that some simple action research in this area might be quite illuminating. I would like to think that there might be other teachers following this thread who work in mainstream classroom settings who might also like to carry out a similar activity with pupils to provide us with more information. Possibly they could just use whatever standardised reading test is available in their school and use the same words as a spelling test (giving each word in a suitable simple sentence to ensure that pupils are in no doubt as to which word they are being required to write).
I think that much more clarity of thought needs to be brought into the way in which research is conducted in this area and the evidence used to support our beliefs.

Dave P.

User avatar
maizie
Administrator
Posts: 3120
Joined: Sun Mar 14, 2004 10:38 pm
Location: N.E England

Post by maizie » Sun Jun 15, 2008 2:34 pm

from memory, past HMI/DfES reports have indicated that when the whole word approach was taught it was thought that about 40% of pupils left school illiterate, whereas with traditional phonics only 33.3% of pupils left school illiterate. This is hardly compelling evidence.

Dave,you sound as though you are extrapolating from Diane McGuinness's statements about 'traditional phonics' from 'Why Children Can't Read..' We know that synthetic phonics is very unlike what she describes as 'traditional phonics'. Perhaps it would be helpful if you could give us your understanding of 'synthetic phonics' and 'traditional phonics' so we are quite clear what is being discussed here.

Lesley Drake
Posts: 704
Joined: Fri Oct 31, 2003 12:01 am
Location: London

Post by Lesley Drake » Sun Jun 15, 2008 6:16 pm

From memory, past HMI/DfES reports have indicated that when the whole word approach was taught it was thought that about 40% of pupils left school illiterate, whereas with traditional phonics only 33.3% of pupils left school illiterate. This is hardly compelling evidence.
I read this in Carmen McGuinness' Reading Reflex too, and I used to think, in my naivety that it was said because, being American, she didn't realise that there was a huge difference between "traditional phonics" of yesteryear, and the present-day synthetic phonics.

This was in the bit containing the now infamous "paradigm shift" claim with regard to PG NOT being a phonics programme, NOT being a synthetic phonics programme, but being something completely new. I have come to view it since as a deliberately mis-leading sales pitch.

People over here have no such excuse however, as they know perfectly well that there is clear blue water between old traditional phonics and what the newer synthetic and linguistic phonics programmes entail.

A recommendation to teach synthetic phonics would at best be a very broad suggestion unless all that was meant was teaching blending from the beginning to the end of each word.
Well, it would be a start, and be less open to deliberate mis-interpretation by WL die-hards than the term systematic. Its a political DCSF cop-out, to placate the die-hards, sit on the fence, and try to have it both ways.
reading tests have been used despite the problem that nothing in them tells you whether the correct responses have been achieved by sight memorisation or by successful understanding of how the encoding-decoding processes work.
This is true, but it works equally for spelling tests. I always remember the child who got 1 out of 20 on the SATS spelling test, and that only correct word was "enough."
I think that much more clarity of thought needs to be brought into the way in which research is conducted in this area and the evidence used to support our beliefs.
I agree. The DCSF should get on with it, pronto.

In the meantime, we're all getting on in our various settings teaching more and more children to be able to read and spell well. Synthetic phonics schools in my LA in the East End are getting results in the mid to high 80s for KS1 literacy.

The children who don't achieve level 2 are largely those who would be in special schools in other authorities, plus newly-arrived EAL children.

85% puts clear blue water between 60% and 67%. I don't need research to tell me this is a huge improvement on what we had before.

Judy
Posts: 1184
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2005 9:57 pm

Post by Judy » Mon Jun 16, 2008 7:19 pm

Some way back Debbie wrote:
If children are able to spell so many words totally accurately, I am surprised that they are unable to read more words than at least some of the scores indicate
.

As far as I can tell, the reason that the difference between their spelling scores and their reading scores is not as huge as you seem to expect, is precisely because they have had SP input from me.

I should point out that the last set of scores in the list (68 words read correctly, only 9 words spelt correctly) was from a boy with whom I was actually working on Maths at the time. In school he had had very little phonics of any kind, just knew the correspondences of the single alphabet letters so most of his reading was based on ‘sight words’. All of the others had come to me as virtually non-readers, though once they begin to make progress and become enthusiastic about reading, the ‘guess-and-hope’ strategy nearly always rears its head and there’s nothing I can do about it when they are allowed to get away with it during the week, between their lessons with me. I don’t think what little they do in school influences their spelling as much as their reading.

Debbie continues:
In other words, had these same children been taught to read through a synthetic phonics route, through blending, then their scores may have been as different again.
I’m sure they would! When tutoring children who have far more input from school than from their weekly (at most!) lessons with me, it is very difficult to know exactly how much their reading scores are influenced by ‘sight word’ reading, Just to add to the confusion, input from school cuts both ways; sometimes it enables them to read more words than they would have done purely through knowing the correspondences and sounding out. But at other times it can lead to mistakes such as the ‘bother/brother’ and the ‘moth/month’ examples.

That is why it would be very helpful if teachers in a variety of settings would undertake similar ‘action research’, as David has suggested. Then, I think, it would become clearer whether spelling test results, rather than reading test results, give us a more accurate picture of pupils’ literacy levels and their progress.

User avatar
Debbie Hepplewhite
Administrator
Posts: 3645
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 4:13 pm
Location: Berkshire
Contact:

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Tue Jun 17, 2008 1:55 am

I'm afraid I don't really understand why we need to look at the results of spelling tests to give us information about reading results.

We need to fine tune both spelling tests and reading tests.

We can get cold, hard results from standardised reading and spelling results - but we also need to consider exactly what it is we are measuring - especially as educators.

We have had many a discussion on the RRF message board regarding testing - types of testing, purpose of testing and so on.

We need diagnostic testing at the macro level (the type Jenny collated over many years) and micro level (a close look at the type of errors in reading and spelling).

I must persist in my view, if you like, that reading and spelling skills are different skills even if they are related to basic literacy technical skills.

I know exactly what Jenny means when she brings up the differences in processes between the decoding and encoding skills and I think we must value both skills as being discrete skills even though they are related and can support one another.

I think it will be a backwards step if we go so far as to measure basic literacy in general terms of spelling results rather than focus on both reading tests and spelling tests to give us results.

By all means let us study the figures and correlations - but I am very keen that this doesn't lead to subsuming the measurement of reading into the measurement of spelling.

Derrie Clark
Posts: 1174
Joined: Sun May 01, 2005 8:24 am
Location: Kent

Post by Derrie Clark » Tue Jun 17, 2008 5:47 pm

Spelling tests are likely to give us a better assessment of how effectively children will access the curriculum (across all subject areas that involve written recording) throughout the time that children are in school. There are too many children with age appropriate reading test and reading SATs scores which are not reflected in their writing skills.

I agree with Debbie that a diagnostic assessment is essential. What the Sounds-Write approach does is provide an excellent assessment tool to identify where exactly children are within the word level (see the horizontal axis of the Simple View of Reading). The programme then provides a systematic intervention which enables the gaps in skills and knowledge to be plugged. We can also be sure that pupils taught through the Sounds-Write method will be able to read whatever they can spell. We also know that these children begin to write confidently right from Reception.

Exam dispensation provides a fruther complication for testing though. I am sure some people who post on this forum will be aware that an amenuensis can be provided for the optional and statutory writing SATs in KS2. I was amazed at this - so now instead of teaching children how to write in primary school they can have a scribe in the test??

chew8
Posts: 4142
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2003 6:26 pm

Post by chew8 » Tue Jun 17, 2008 7:08 pm

I'm a bit late joining this discussion - I've been very tied up with family members visiting from abroad and with hosting a large family reunion.

I have been going on for 25 years about the need to teach spelling systematically throughout children's schooling, starting (but not finishing) with good phonics, and I started testing spelling on a large scale (300-400+ students per year) in 1984 as my main way of identifying students with literacy problems.

I agree with Debbie that 'reading skills and spelling skills are different skills from one another even though we teach them as different sides of the same coin'. I also agree that the job of teaching spelling should not be regarded as something that can be largely accomplished by the end of infant school - in that sense reading and spelling are not different sides of the same coin because the time-scales required to reach proficiency are very different. With good initial teaching, children can accurately read virtually any word long before they can accurately spell any word. The gap gradually narrows, but never completely closes for most people - even as adults very few of us can accurately spell all the words we can accurately read.

Once we have understood the alphabetic principle, I think we continue throughout life to make more conscious use of phonics in spelling than in reading (we consciously use segmentation of the spoken word in order to guide our choice of letters to write down and to check our spelling), but as adults we know that we also need a lot of word-specific knowledge, knowledge of morphology etc. in order to spell well. So although I think that the teaching of spelling should continue throughout children's schooling, I think that the part of the teaching which is specifically to do with phonics should be largely completed within the first three years - i.e. at roughly the same time as the phonics-teaching-for-reading. Children should of course continue to USE their phonic knowledge in spelling, but the teaching should focus more on morphology, etymology etc. after the first two or three years.

In addition, though, I think we need to recognise that systematic teaching can never reach all the parts that need to be reached for spelling - children also need to be absorbing spellings independently through their reading. So there's a sense in which I am quite in favour of what Dave calls 'the common and traditional dash for "reading skills"', though not 'at the expense of spelling and writing' (which I don't think it need be). Getting children reading quickly, in a code-based way, allows them to start absorbing spellings early through their reading.

I'll also stick my neck out and say that I think that drip-feeding some words containing rare or as-yet-untaught grapheme-phoneme correspondences can be beneficial: it can familiarise children with 'tweaking' in reading and with the notion that some word-learning is inevitable in spelling - not just with words such as 'the' and 'said', which are problematic for both reading and spelling, but also at the level of words such as 'cat', 'box' and 'yes', which are completely unproblematic for reading but which could be spelt as 'kat', 'bocs' or 'boks', and 'yess'.

Jenny C.

Judy
Posts: 1184
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2005 9:57 pm

Post by Judy » Wed Jun 18, 2008 12:20 am

Jenny wrote:
'The NLS has until now put far more emphasis on segmenting-for-spelling than on blending-for-reading, and this seems to be reflected in the performance of four weak Y3 children with whom I've been working this term. When I tested them at the outset, they were all better at applying code knowledge in spelling than in reading.
Jenny, I have noticed this too, at the very beginning of my lessons with several of my pupils while they had difficulties with blending independently. But as soon as they mastered the skill of blending, their ability to read words rapidly began to outstrip their ability to spell them because they were, by that time, beginning to be faced with choosing the correct graphemes for the phonemes, which they found difficult

Maybe this was the case with your pupils?.

chew8
Posts: 4142
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2003 6:26 pm

Post by chew8 » Wed Jun 18, 2008 9:32 am

Thanks Judy - so your experience chimes in with mine and with that of a few other people with whom I've discussed it. Yes, I, too, found that the four Year 3 children with whom I worked last autumn caught on to blending quite quickly once I taught them how to do it, and they, like your pupils, were then able to read words that they couldn't spell. In the meantime, though, they had lost 3 years' worth of opportunities to absorb or reinforce spellings through their reading, and at least one of them still clings to her guessing habits.

I believe that the safest way is to teach the application of grapheme-phoneme knowledge equally in both directions from the start:

to recognise that the raw material for reading is the letters already there on the page and to teach children to look at them from left to right, say sounds for them, and blend the sounds;

to recognise that the raw material for spelling is the spoken word and to teach children to segment that spoken word into phonemes and select letters to represent the phonemes.

If one starts with words where there is little or no chance of choosing the wrong alternative in either reading or spelling (e.g. up, on, it, dog, man, peg etc.) then there should be a phase early on when children can spell all the words they can read and can read all the words they can spell, and when they get a strong sense of the reversibility of the code. They will soon get into 'alternatives' territory, however, and then they are likely to be able to read words that they can't spell, which remains the case even for most adults as the 'alternatives' problem is always greater in spelling than in reading. As a matter of interest, only 7 of the 6,000+ 16-year-olds whom I tested from 1984-1999 ever got full marks on the Schonell spelling test which I used - I think, however, that many (or even most) of them would have been able to READ all the words accurately.

The ability to read at least gives children the opportunity to absorb and reinforce their spelling knowledge through their reading and thus to supplement any systematic teaching of spellng which they receive. This, in turn, should gradually narrow the gap between their ability to read words and their ability to spell those same words.

Jenny C.

Judy
Posts: 1184
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2005 9:57 pm

Post by Judy » Thu Jun 19, 2008 1:24 am

The two of my pupils who had the smallest difference between the number of words they could spell and the number of words they could read (49 read, 28 spelt correctly and 35 read and 30 spelt correctly) were the two who had only just overcome their difficulties with blending.

I don't know whether one can compare spelling ages and reading ages using two different tests but they were also the only pupils who had (Young's Parallel) spelling ages higher than their (Burt) reading ages.

But these tests results are from three months ago and, based on my experience with other pupils, I expect that their reading ages will have exceeded their spelling ages when I test them again in three months time.

Just as a matter of interest, I invariably find that pupils who come to me in Y5 and beyond, having had very little phonics instruction of any kind, have a huge discrepancy between their reading ages and spelling ages, eg I have a Y6 girl whose reading age in March was 11yrs 11 mths while her spelling age was 9.1. Would this be because of the way she has been previously taught, do you think, or because of the tests I'm using?

AngusM
Posts: 117
Joined: Wed Oct 25, 2006 7:49 pm
Location: New York CIty

Post by AngusM » Fri Jun 20, 2008 4:11 am

This excerpt from the latest interview at Children of the Code seems relevant to the discussion of spelling. Dr Marketa Caravolas seems to be suggesting stages in in the development of spelling: 1) assembly of spellings on the basis of GPC's that the child already knows 2) subsequent reciprocal feedback effect of better decoding and word recognition skills which 'impact .... ability to complete the orthographic representations, the spellings according to English conventions.'

Here's the excerpt:

Dr. Marketa Caravolas: We’ve confirmed that in subsequent studies, with Czech children and now Slovak children, that phoneme awareness and letter knowledge are as important for establishing the foundations of literacy for learners of transparent orthographies as they are for kids learning English.

With respect to spelling, in that study with my colleagues at York, we found that with a few very high frequency exceptions, what the English children were doing was really assembling spellings on the basis of the letter/sound associations that they knew.

David Boulton: Right. And then in parallel, as their literacy learning picked up and their orthographic knowledge came in it acted as an overlay to that skeleton to refine it further later on.

The Reciprocal Relationship between Spelling and Reading:

Dr. Marketa Caravolas: That’s right. It happened mainly through reading. Initially, all of their skills were  bottom up, driven by phonological awareness, letter knowledge, and some kind of mapping skill.  But as they became more proficient spellers they also became more proficient decoders, and then eventually it was the decoding and the word recognition skills that started to impact on their ability to complete the orthographic representations, the spellings according to English conventions.

David Boulton: It's really interesting -- I mean, it's the same code -- we're encoding, decoding, in and out -- but in the spelling process there's the opportunity to consciously, volitionally participate. And, in the reading process it has to happen automatically faster than they can consciously-volitionally participate in order for it to flow at the rate that is necessary.

Dr. Marketa Caravolas: Yes.

David Boulton: So it's as though there's something very interesting about how reciprocal that relationship is, even though they're obviously happening in very different ways.

Dr. Marketa Caravolas: That's true. And in a sense, these processes are slightly asynchronous, in that it seems that this very laborious, explicit volitional phase that's required for beginning to spell seems to be really the starting point for rapid recognition of words in print. If that's not the only driving factor, it certainly has to be one of the more important ones. Once children have that ability to gain an insight into the full phonemic structure of a word and have some sort of representation of the letters that might map onto that -- that skill in itself really boosts their word recognition skills.

........

Spelling Reveals Reading:

Dr. Marketa Caravolas: I think that it's an important point because reading researchers tend to focus almost exclusively on the development of reading skills. They don't often look at the interplay between reading and the other skill that definitely affects it, which is spelling. And yet, you know, spelling is a more difficult skill to learn, and may be more revealing about what kinds of underlying skills are influencing reading acquisition. It provides more of a window on processing, because it's a production process. So when children are having difficulties, you can gain insights into what's causing that difficulty through error patterns in their spelling.

David Boulton: Right. It's allowing you to peer into their process and how they're relating sounds and letters in a slow-speed way you can get a handle on it, whereas in reading it’s all kind of fused together and you can't peer into those distinctions in the same way.

Dr. Marketa Caravolas: Exactly, and not only at the phonological level, but of course, at the morphological level as you can begin to understand how deep their understanding is of the structure of the language they use.

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

Subject

Post by JIM CURRAN » Fri Jun 20, 2008 9:56 am

Thanks Angus, for drawing our attention to this very interesting article.

chew8
Posts: 4142
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2003 6:26 pm

Post by chew8 » Fri Jun 20, 2008 1:12 pm

I second that. I have now read the whole interview and it has prompted some thoughts which I'll try to share in due course.

Jenny C.

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

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Jun 20, 2008 1:26 pm


Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Majestic-12 [Bot] and 1 guest