10 reasons why beginning readers should only use decodables

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

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

10 reasons why beginning readers should only use decodables

Post by Susan Godsland » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:15 pm

Most schools are, I presume, using synthetic phonics now but, if the schools that my tutees come from are anything to go by, many are still hanging on to their whole-language /predictable/repetitive text books, especially Oxford Reading Tree.

Can anyone add to my list?

10 reasons why beginning readers should only use decodable books:

1.There is no way of knowing which particular children in a class have poor memories (visual/ paired-associate) or low phonological awareness ability. Children need good visual memories to succeed, initially, with whole-language books. Only those with good visual AND aural memories AND natural phoneme awareness ability will be able to self-teach the code through whole-language books.

2. Whole-language/Banded books give child a misleading idea of what reading entails; i.e. that it is a memorising and (psycholinguistic) guessing game.

3. In order to become expert readers, children need to know the complete Alphabet Code and the skills of blending and segmenting to automaticity. To ensure this, they need to be taught the code and the skills explicitly, intensively and systematically. Decodable books give them the necessary practice in recently taught code and skills.

4. Genuine decodable books are consistent with the synthetic phonics reading method. They go from simple to complex and use the phoneme as the unit of sound, illustrations are not over intrusive. Taught code is used throughout words, rather than first letter emphasis, to ensure that transitivity is well understood.

5. Decodable books avoid children developing the bad habit of sight word guessing. This can be difficult to change when they get older and the brain less 'plastic'. Those with good visual memories will develop this habit quickly and easily. Eventually their memory for sight words will reach its limit and if they haven't, in the meantime, been taught or worked out the alphabet code for themselves they will struggle to read advanced texts with novel words.

6.Repetitive texts are boring; predictive texts that a child can only struggle through by misreading and guessing, resulting in lost comprehension, are also boring. Both types of books can put a child off reading.

7.The use of decodable books is only necessary for a short period in the foundation stage. When well taught, most children learn the code quickly, begin to self-teach and can then move on to real books rather than being stuck for several years on reading schemes with the restricted word count necessary to ensure adequate memorisation of the high frequency words.

8. Good spelling is aided by the use of decodables.

9. Ease of decoding from the earliest days by simply sounding out and blending gives children quick success, ensuring enthusiasm for reading.

10. Parents easily understand the logic of decodable books and are more able and willing to help their children practise reading at home.

frances5
Posts: 239
Joined: Thu Mar 30, 2006 12:14 pm

Post by frances5 » Wed Jul 02, 2008 8:15 pm

Good quality decodable books make children confident as they experience sucess straight away. They can apply what they were taught in their phonics lessons.

Reading English is complex and its unreasonable to expect children to be able to read words like "dinosaur", "spaceman", "ice-cream" or fence in the first term of reception.

elsy
Posts: 348
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2004 1:51 pm

Post by elsy » Wed Jul 02, 2008 11:09 pm

11. In my experience, children are encouraged by their teachers to use their phonic skills and sound out and blend words but are given ORT or other non-decodable books. How can a child know which words are easily decodable?

12. Teachers complain that children sound out all words eg d a r k n e s s. This is often because they are trying to read words containing graphemes they don't know and because they haven't had the opportunity to develop blending short, easy words first.

Bob Boden
Posts: 228
Joined: Fri Oct 31, 2003 1:59 am

decodable text for new readers

Post by Bob Boden » Thu Jul 03, 2008 3:57 am

I would point out that with modern word processing capability it is possible to automatically produce text in which each letter or digraph has but one sound. Children would learn to write using the usual letters but the words they copy would be fully decodable. It would seem to me that this approach would accelerate reading for pleasure. IMHO

Bob Boden

rborseth
Posts: 178
Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2005 12:44 am
Location: China
Contact:

Post by rborseth » Thu Jul 03, 2008 10:01 am

10 reasons why beginning readers should only use decodable books:
Susan

Excellent post : I think that this is very important if we want the kids to learn the alphabetic code to automaticity and for a lifetime of enjoyable reading.

No that the BRI/ARI books are being produced in the UK I would encurage you all to take a good look at them as they meet all 10 pints in your message. They are truly decodable books introducing new sounds followed by practice in the new sounds as well as previously covered ones. NO "SIGHT WORDS" to confuse them

There are over 120 books covering all the code

I am in China and if I am to use them I must produce them myself. In the UK you are very lucky as they are available to you at little cost.

Peace and Unity

Roger

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

Post by David Philpot » Thu Jul 03, 2008 12:11 pm

I seem to remember that the BRI-ARI books begin with I see Sam which introduces the five phonemes 'a' 'm' 's' 'ee' and 'ie'. An interesting sequence in which a vowel digraph appears prior to the four other vowels represented by a single letter ('e' 'i' 'o' and 'u'). Capital I is used to represent the sound 'ie' prior to the letter / i / representing 'i' giving the possibility of / In / being read as 'ine' at some stage. None of this appears to be in synch with anyone else's thinking on the matter of how to sequence the introduction of the English alphabet code, including amazingly, even Letters & Sounds.

Dave P

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

Post by chew8 » Thu Jul 03, 2008 12:20 pm

What counts as 'decodable' depends on which elements of the alphabetic code have been introduced at any given point. Most UK programmes don't introduce the sounds represented by digraphs until a lot of single-letter sounds have been covered, and in that sense the BRI books don't mesh in well with them.

Without complete unanimity among programme authors on the order in which graphemes and phonemes should be introduced, it will not be possible to devise books which are decodable by all children in the early stages, regardless of which programme they are following.

Jenny C.

JAC
Posts: 517
Joined: Tue Nov 15, 2005 1:51 am

Post by JAC » Thu Jul 03, 2008 1:29 pm

'ee' introduced early in BRI alerts beginners that it is not always one letter makes one sound. Capital I is a word as well as a letter/sound correspondence, same with 'a'.
The order of teaching of letter/sound correspondences teaching can follow what is in the beginner readers of choice. Many teachers write their own decodable material and have no purchased decodables.
For those interested the corpus of words used in the deveopment of BRI-ARI is well-documented, and can be found in the files of the yahoo list serv.

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

Post by Peter Warner » Fri Jul 04, 2008 5:08 am

David Philpot wrote:I seem to remember that the BRI-ARI books begin with I see Sam which introduces the five phonemes 'a' 'm' 's' 'ee' and 'ie'. An interesting sequence in which a vowel digraph appears prior to the four other vowels represented by a single letter ('e' 'i' 'o' and 'u'). Capital I is used to represent the sound 'ie' prior to the letter / i / representing 'i' giving the possibility of / In / being read as 'ine' at some stage. None of this appears to be in synch with anyone else's thinking on the matter of how to sequence the introduction of the English alphabet code, including amazingly, even Letters & Sounds.

Dave P
Well put, Dave. Your summary is entirely correct.

JAC's explanation,
'ee' introduced early in BRI alerts beginners that it is not always one letter makes one sound. Capital I is a word as well as a letter/sound correspondence, same with 'a'.
while accurate, is not logical from an instruction point of view. Decoding instruction should begin with a basic level of code, not an intermediate level.

Roger, I purchased part of the BRI series, perhaps over half (I forget how many exactly) but they sit on my office floor still in the box, unused. The very first book begins with 'I see Sam', as Dave stated, and that is not decodable for a beginning reader, no matter how you look at it.

Oxford University Press produces the Songbirds Series, and recently launched a new series called 'Floppy's Phonics', also written to be decodable. They are large, colorful, amusing and decodable. Unfortunately, they are color coded to match the Oxford Reading Tree levels, implying that they should be used in conjunction with the Whole Language approach ORT readers, which instantly undermines their effectiveness. Used by themselves, they are very nice, but also very few.

For my money, the best is still Jelly and Bean. They are very high quality and attractive, and the entire series is systematic and extensive (over 100 books). My only quibble with the J&B series is that they do include some 'sight' words, which I understand was considered necessary at the time. Admittedly, you can't write a book that is purely decodable by basic code instruction that is also grammatically correct. To get several complete sentences, you're forced to jump ahead in the code levels a bit with words like 'a', 'the', 'said', 'go', etc. Every series I've seen makes some compromises, out of simple necessity.

This is why I'm forced to question the rush to give beginning students books. Historically, students were taught first to decode words in isolation, as in lists or tables. No one is thrilled by word lists, but certainly we can create puzzles and such to engage young students in learning the alphabetic code without having them work with full sentences or stories.

Susan Godsland's initiative is critical and worthwhilre, certainly students just learning to decode and encode should not be exposed to, or asked to deal with, text that is beyond their instruction level. My point is that there needs to be a foundation of understanding and confidence established even before the children are asked to deal with decodable books. That delay might be as short as two weeks, or as long as two years, depending on the student involved. What Susan labels the 'foundation' stage would probably be what I would consider the second stage.

Susan, I think your ten points are excellent. My only quibble would be to suggest that Number 1 should be reduced in priority, simply to reduce the implication that visual memory is a decoding skill that should be encouraged. I would move Number 1 to maybe sixth position on that list, and keep the remainder as is.

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

rborseth
Posts: 178
Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2005 12:44 am
Location: China
Contact:

Post by rborseth » Fri Jul 04, 2008 6:29 am

Roger, I purchased part of the BRI series, perhaps over half (I forget how many exactly) but they sit on my office floor still in the box, unused. The very first book begins with 'I see Sam', as Dave stated, and that is not decodable for a beginning reader, no matter how you look at it.

If you haven't used the books with actual children you are missing somthing. I used the books with Chinese children last summer and you have never seen such enthusiastic readers.

As for the problem you see with the introduction of code in I see Sam, it is not a problem as you introduce to the beginning reader those few sounds and then give them the books for practice

You introduce the WORD I and the sounds /s/ /a/ /m/ and /ee/ and other sounds as you progress through the books. At no point are they expected to read or pronounce words that they have not been tought the sound to.

The sequence is different than some of the programs that you are using but using the sequence in BRI they then ar totaly decodeable.

I agree diferent programs use different sequences and decodeables writen for one program are not decodeable using books from another program. But the few diferences in BRI from other programs are not a problem if you teach as an example. the word I (not the letter I but the word), and and the sounds /ee/ when you introduce the first book.

After a few books you will find more compatibility with all the different sequences of introducing sounds. I will of course be using with my kids the sequence in BRI/ARI as I feel it is more effective, not because it is the best sequence, but because of the availability of a large number of decodable reading material available with BRI.

Actually I don't believe that there is one best way all the different truly SP progams out there are equal, in my opinion.

Peace and Unity

Roger

g.carter
Posts: 1859
Joined: Wed Nov 05, 2003 7:41 pm

Post by g.carter » Fri Jul 04, 2008 7:58 am

Just a v. brief note for Peter. Have a look at the Research section of www.piperbooks.co.uk. Many/most (?) people using these decodables come from a synthetic/linguistic phonics background. They are used in America, Canada, Australia, Dubai and here in the UK now in place of the programme developed by the Florida folks, with Abecedarian, with Sound Reading System, or on their own.

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

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Jul 04, 2008 4:29 pm

Thanks for everyone's additional points.
My only quibble would be to suggest that Number 1 should be reduced in priority, simply to reduce the implication that visual memory is a decoding skill that should be encouraged. I would move Number 1 to maybe sixth position on that list, and keep the remainder as is.
Peter, I didn't put them in order of importance but I understand what you're saying. I've made some changes and moved it to point 4.

4. There is no way of knowing which particular children in a class have poor memories (visual or aural) or low phonological awareness ability. These children are likely to become struggling 'dyslexic' readers if whole-language books are used at first. Children with good visual memories plus a supportive home background may appear to do well, initially, with whole-language books but -see 5.
5. Decodable books avoid children developing the bad habit of sight word guessing. This can be difficult to change when they get older and the brain less 'plastic'. Those with good visual memories will develop this habit quickly and easily through the use of predictable, repetitive text. Eventually their memory for sight words will reach its limit and if they haven't, in the meantime, been taught or worked out the complete alphabet code for themselves they will struggle to read advanced texts with novel words.

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

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Jul 04, 2008 4:53 pm

Re. 6. Repetitive texts are boring; predictable texts that a child can only struggle through by misreading and guessing resulting in lost comprehension, are also boring. Both types of books can put a child off reading. 'Attitudes to reading in England are poor compared to those of children in many other countries' and 'Children in England read for pleasure less frequently than their peers in many other countries' (Pirls 2006) These findings were from the pre-Rose period when wholeword/language books were used almost universally throughout UK schools.

Do have a look at this page (scroll down) from a past RRF newsletter to see just how dire whole-language beginning reader texts really are:

www.rrf.org.uk/newsletter.php?n_ID=108

g.carter
Posts: 1859
Joined: Wed Nov 05, 2003 7:41 pm

Post by g.carter » Fri Jul 04, 2008 6:31 pm

Thanks for all your work on this, Susan.

If any further 'proof' were needed about the damage done by books that teach children to guess , America provides it. 'Balanced literacy' and the 100 book challenge are leaving many children floundering and panicking without foundational skills, it appears.

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

Subject

Post by JIM CURRAN » Fri Jul 04, 2008 7:27 pm

Anyone who reads the BRI message board will be aware of the effectiveness of these deceptively simple little books. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and these little books have proved themselves in their effectiveness to teach beginning reading to a wide range of children.
Last year my wife Anne used the BRI books with a particulary challenging little girl and these books worked when all else appeared to fail. Just last week this little girl's mother called over to show Anne an excellent summer report.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests