Core Knowledge Reading Program, Synthetic Phonics, and NYC

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Core Knowledge Reading Program, Synthetic Phonics, and NYC

Post by MDavis » Sun Sep 14, 2008 10:49 am

Here are two articles on what the Core Knowledge Foundation is trying to do in the U.S.:

New York Times Article on NYC pilot of Core Knowledge Reading: ... ref=slogin Interview with Project Director: ... Page1.html

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sun Sep 14, 2008 2:47 pm

Hi Matthew!

It's really great to read about this project and I am fully supportive of this approach whereby the 'one-two' plan is to teach the technical skills of reading and spelling along with an enriched background of knowledge, literature and vocabulary building.

These two elements of the infant teaching do not amount to the notion of 'balanced literacy' and yet it would be easy for people to become confused.

The difference is that teachers identify their exact teaching and learning intentions. When they are teaching the technical skills of reading that is exactly what they are focused upon.

When they are teaching topic-based knowledge or teaching about books or enjoying good literature with the children, then that is the focus.

In contrast, the teacher is NOT using good literature or topic-based material to muddle along with teaching the children how to read/decode the words on the page.

Over time, however, when the children CAN read, they will be able to join in with the reading and they will be able to produce a little bit of independent writing about their topics and they will be able to bring their increased vocabulary into their work.

Some time ago, I wished to promote this very notion and so devised a Two Stage Teaching Model. At first it was just available to see on my site and then I incorporated it into my Overview and Guidance booklet (see link below and then look at pages 17 and 18) for my online programme at . This guidance booklet and the start-up material including the Alphabetic Code Overview Charts are all available for free in unit 1 - no registration required.

Some history:

This came about because in England teachers were trained to use Big Books and group reading opportunities to try to look at how books worked, absorb the knowledge content and, using the pictures and context clues, to learn to 'guess' the words on the page as part of learning to read.

As part of the UK National Literacy Strategy, in 1998 teachers were trained to use post-it notes to cover over words in the text or shared Big Books. Then they led their children through looking at the book and then, LITERALLY, asked the children to guess what the word might be that was covered over by the post-it note.

No-one has 'negated' that training per se, and you can bet that up and down our country, there will still be teachers thinking that this is good practice.

Jim Rose in his Final Report described the importance of discrete systematic phonics teaching in a rich, literacy environment, but I am not aware of anyone going further than that to describe to teachers what this might mean in day-to-day terms.

Current scenario:

What worries me is that teachers continue to be so overwhelmed with the number of subjects and activities that they are supposed to provide weekly that they are in danger of focusing on higher-order content as children progress through the school thinking that all the basic skills and lower-order teaching has been completed in the infants. I suggest that the need for discrete teaching of spelling continues until all children can spell well. This will be well beyond the infant years.

I am trying to promote the need for all classes to identify a key display wall for basic literacy teaching and this includes a vocabulary wall. In England as part of 'workforce reforms', teachers are not supposed to be engaged in 'display'. I think this is nothing short of ludicrous. 'Display' should be used as part of good multi-sensory teaching.

I am very, very interested to see the progress made by the Core Knowledge Foundation project over the next couple of years and really welcome the links you provide - and also your acknowledgement of the work being carried out here in the UK.

Here's a snippet of information to show you my ongoing interest in the need for good 'knowledge' being imparted to children:

When the National Literacy Strategy was rolled out in 1998 and I received training in the multi-cueing guessing strategies (the searchlights model), I wrote to the lady in charge, Dr Laura Huxford, and complained about the searchlights model and drew her attention to the evidence-based synthetic phonics advice in Jolly Phonics.

I also offered my services and that of a friend and colleague, Sarah Groszek, to write cumulative, decodable topic material for key stage one children (infants - 5 to 7 year olds) based on the QCA planning being promoted to provide for the National Curriculum at that time.

Of course this offer was not responded to.

Now, however, I am arranging to have such material available online as part of my PI programme. It was always a great idea!

Interestingly, the notion of topic-based content is currently being diminished with the emphasis by early years advisors of the 'child-initiated' ethos in our Foundation Stage.

It would seem then that guarenteed 'content' where this amounts to basic knowledge about our lives is under threat in some quarters.

Meanwhile, my daughter is going to provide her topic-based medium term planning for Reception online for others to take advantage of.

We are fighting the fight in more ways than one! ;-)

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Post by JIM CURRAN » Thu Sep 18, 2008 8:27 pm

Hi Matthew, as someone who has taught disadvantaged children for over thirty four years I have a great interest in the work of the Core Knowledge Schools. The New York project is particularly exciting and I wish you well with it.

There are a group of children usually from disadvantaged backgrounds `who have received little from our education system over the years. In 2006 30,000 students achieved 3 grade A’s at “A” Level, only 176 of these children were on the free school meals register. In England just under 15% of school children receive free school meals. Almost half of these children fail to achieve one GCSE A to C grade. Only 11% of children in care achieve 5 good GCSE’s.

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Post by AngusM » Wed Sep 24, 2008 4:31 am


Thanks very much for sharing the EdNews article which I hadn't seen. I have passed on the various other articles that I've seen about your program to my daughter's (private) dyslexia school here in NYC and will pass on this one to them as well. It's all great third party endorsement stuff.

Earlier this summer I went on the offensive with my daughter's school here: I gave the headmaster a summer reading list! This included the Letter & Sounds brochure; Johnston and Watson's 'Teaching Synthetic Phonics' and Debbie Hepplewhilte's DVD about discovering synthetic phonics (with Diane McGuinness). No response yet - but, to be frank, I never expected any. All dyslexia schools here seem to be locked in to traditional Orton-Gillingham programs.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to meeting you in London in November at the RRF Conference. When you are next in NYC I'd love to get you to come and talk at Teachers College - if you have time.



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Post by MDavis » Sun Sep 28, 2008 3:24 pm

[quote="Debbie Hepplewhite"]Hi Matthew!
This guidance booklet and the start-up material including the Alphabetic Code Overview Charts are all available for free in unit 1 - no registration required.

I read the booklet some time back. It's an excellent piece of work. We're all much indebted to you for the "scroll" and the other resources you have made available online.

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