Multi-cueing and non-decodable first books in school (UK)

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confusedparent
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Multi-cueing and non-decodable first books in school (UK)

Post by confusedparent » Mon Sep 28, 2009 10:34 pm

I'm feeling rather uneasy about the way that parents and parent helpers are being encouraged to help with reading at my son's school. During his reception year, he was taught with Jolly Phonics and Letters and Sounds. He is now in year 1, and I believe that Letters and Sounds is still being used in class. However, he has started to bring home reading scheme books (he had none in Reception). The books he can choose from, despite being very basic ( very few words, picture heavy, very simple story) are not decodable. When I queried this with his teacher, I was told to talk about the story, look at the picture, look at the initial letter, read ahead and then try to fill in the gap, etc... I feel deeply worried that my child is being taught to guess rather than to read. I also fail to see the point of teaching discrete phonics sessions if those skills are not applied to other reading. Am I worrying unnecessarily? Should I expect differently from the school in light of the Rose Review? If so, what should I do about it?

I'll be really grateful to hear your thoughts or about your experiences of this.

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maizie
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Post by maizie » Mon Sep 28, 2009 11:28 pm

Am I worrying unnecessarily?
Speaking from the perspective of someone who works with struggling readers at KS3 I would say that you are quite right to be worrying. Most of these children have been taught some phonics at some point in KS1 and possibly at KS2, but they have had the 'mixed methods' strategies you describe as well and it seriously affects their reading skills.

Of course, it is possible that your child will learn to read, whatever the method; the phonics instruction he has had may be enough for him to work out the principles for himself; some children do, but on the other hand, he may learn that guessing is easier (though not very useful in the long run) and that there is no need to process words carefully, all through the word form left to right and pay attention to all the graphophonemic information in the word. I find that in our feeder schools there seems to be very little monitoring of children's reading once they are out of KS1 and they can learn all sorts of 'bad' strategies if they go uncorrected.

Only you know how well your child has coped so far with reading, but I would strongly suggest that you get some decodable books for him to read with you and ignore all of the suggestions that his teacher has made; they are most definitely damaging! There are links to various decodable book publishers on the Links forum of this message board.

You certainly should expect differently from the school in the light of the Rose Review, but, unfortunately, teachers aren't always getting good training in how to teach by SP principles and will stick to what they already know/feel comfortable with if they can.

Others on here will, I'm sure be able to advise you on how to approach the school. In the meantime, do your best to schoolproof him!

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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Tue Sep 29, 2009 12:47 am

confused parent:

YOU are not confused - but your son's teacher definitely is.

The multi-cueing strategies that the teacher is describing for you to follow are the type of strategies that Jim Rose rejects in his national review of teaching reading.

What do you do about it?

That is really up to you. I would definitely NOT follow the teacher's advice - but bear in mind that such strategies are self-fulfilling if the books the school provides are not decodable according to the alphabetic code the children have been taught.

If you feel strongly enough about this issue, you could very politely and simply approach your son's teacher in the first place and, better still, try to read up on the government's Letters and Sounds that the school purports to use - and I'm sure you will be able to quote from that very guidance warnings against such multi-cueing!

(At least have such knowledge up your sleeve).

If you have no joy with the teacher, then you may feel strongly enough to approach the headteacher.

It's not easy to approach people who are often defensive and often unappreciative of being asked to account for their teaching methods or content.

Mind you, the teachers are being made to scrutinise your children as if they are 'lab rats', so you are only endeavouring to do the same to the teachers' teaching! ;-)

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Post by chew8 » Tue Sep 29, 2009 7:55 am

confusedparent:

What you say implies that your son didn't bring home any reading books at all during his Reception year - is that right? If so, did he bring home any materials at all that allowed him to practise word-reading by sounding out and blending - e.g. Jolly Phonics word boxes?

If he has had JP and Letters and Sounds in Reception, he should now know enough grapheme-phoneme correspondences to do at least partial decoding on words that are not fully decodable - you can then explain the tricky bits in the rest of each word. I would encourage him to do this with the books the teacher sends home even if you also get decodable books for him, especially if those reading-scheme books are going to keep coming home and your son is still expected to work through them.

In Clackmannanshire, reading-scheme books were introduced after just six weeks, but the teachers did not encourage guessing - rather, they explicitly taught all words which were not fully decodable on the basis of the phonics taught to date. You would be doing something similar if you did as I have suggested.

Jenny C.

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Post by confusedparent » Tue Sep 29, 2009 2:43 pm

Thank you all for your helpful replies. I'm researching like crazy and considering the best way of trying to work alongside the school on this. Good to know I haven't dreamt the whole Rose episode, or that it hasn't been scrapped while my back was turned.

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Post by Katrina » Wed Sep 30, 2009 2:48 pm

I'd just like to ditto everything said above. My child is three quarters the way through Year 1 and I've been through all the same issues. The contributors to this forum have been very helpful, answering my questions and recommending resources, to the point where I'm starting to feel like I know what I'm doing. I'll try to send you a private message in the next few days with some of the finer details from my 'journey' and what I've learnt.

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Post by confusedparent » Fri Oct 02, 2009 7:44 pm

Well, I've had the school clarify their position, and they still believe that children need to be exposed to a variety of different strategies. All children learn differently, etc. etc. I now have the parent/helper advice in print, and if all the guessing strategies have failed, the second to last suggestion is that the child may like to look at the first few letters of the word. (I've listened to a few other children from the class read, and it's quite amazing. They crack the repetitive code of the narrative and picture sequence, seem fluent, but on questioning can't read the words in isolation.)

Does this mean that all the new guidance and recommendations are completely optional? Can anyone advise which bits are 'must do', and which are we "recommend you do"? Particularly interested in whether there is anything official to prevent the school just continuing with the searchlights model they've been using for years. I don't necessarily want to wade-in with regulations, but would like to know the position.

Many thanks.


Katrina - thank you so much, shall PM you later.

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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Oct 02, 2009 8:37 pm

Oh my goodness - how disappointing - but I don't think this is an untypical position.

The government's Letters and Sounds manual is advisory - not statutory - although, to be fair, it has been introduced with a great deal of emphasis.

I do think, however, that if you are inclined, you could contact your local authority and ascertain what the 'authority's' position is regarding the Rose recommendations - and say that you are a parent who would like your child to be taught according to the latest recommendations as described in the Rose Report.

You might also take this up with the headteacher to ascertain if it is the school's policy to go against current government advice regarding the teaching of reading whereby the searchlights reading strategies (which were more often than not interpreted as multi-cueing or multi-guessing strategies) are still promoted within the school as evidenced by your description of events and teacher-guidance.

Basically, this just boils down to how strongly you feel about holding the school, the teacher and the local authority to account regarding the type of teaching methods your child is receiving.

Personally, I think it is high time that schools and 'others' were held to account - but sadly the government itself has not done a proper job of providing clear and transparent advice to the teaching profession by its mixed messages regarding its favoured intervention programme which is not in line with Rose. There is no effective mechanism to hold anyone to account although we see over and again children who have been to all intents and purposes failed by the teaching methods.

In other words, the government, local authorities and schools can purport to be in line with the Rose recommendations - whilst close scrutiny shows there is no such clarity.

The bottom line is - how passionately do you feel about pursuing the issue about reading instruction methods in your child's school?

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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Oct 03, 2009 1:40 pm

Confusedparent - this is an old article written by Ruth Miskin. You and other parents need to heed the warning to be alert (as you clearly are). This article is dated 2006. How shocking, in all honesty, that three years later you have to flag up your concern about teaching in Year One.

I am really anti the oppressive regime that we have had in teaching for the past 20 years or more - but if any one thing should be law of the land, synthetic phonics teaching guaranteed should be it.

The reason is, as I have expressed many times over, the clock is ticking for our children. For some children, untold damage is caused by the prevailing teaching methods in the early years.

We have tried and tried to inform everyone about the research and leading edge practice. Still the government puts in 'half' measures whilst continuing to promote mixed methods through its favoured intervention programme, and still there is no way for us to truly hold to account all those individual schools, advisors, teachers etc. where mixed methods continues.

Personally, I don't care if people consider my views and my language extreme. Every day my attention is drawn to yet another, or other, casualties of wrong training, no training, wrong methods - or continued intransigence and denial.
Some sound reading advice
With one in five 11-year-olds unable to read properly, Ruth Miskin offers advice on teaching to concerned parents

Recommend?
Recently a television producer, a real high-flyer, called me up. The problem, she explained, was that her daughter Poppy was getting frustrated when she tried to read a book. Her mother got frustrated too because although Poppy, 8, had a stock of words she could recognise — when she came to a new word she could not work it out. Teachers at her private school were starting to mutter about dyslexia. What did I think?
I observed the little girl for five minutes and realised straightaway that she had been taught to read by the “look and say” method of memorising words by sight. I showed Poppy’s mum how to teach her to sound out the words instead. They spent the summer holidays working together and by the end Poppy had increased her reading age by two years and hadn’t hurled a book across the room for weeks.

Poppy is at the tip of an iceberg. Over the past 12 years I have witnessed a national tragedy. Nearly a decade after the government introduced a £1 billion strategy to teach children to read, we have hundreds of thousands of children in our schools — even official statistics throw up one in five of all 11-year-olds — who can’t read properly. Some of them, including teenagers, can’t read at all and this is a scandal.

In one school in Leicester I visited as a reading consultant I met Siobhan, 12, who was pulling her hair out and seeing a psychiatrist. Siobhan was anxious about going to school because she couldn’t read. Now, six months after starting my programme, she can read. She didn’t need a psychologist, she just needed to learn her letters.

Then there are the silent sufferers like Conrad, 13, and at a London day school. Daily he devises an elaborate game of make-believe, stuffing Anthony Horowitz novels into his school bag to con his mates.

Parents be warned. We’re not talking about poor kids here, from homes where televisions are always on. I’ve seen plenty of kids from affluent families, just like the producer’s daughter, pupils at private schools, the 4x4 parked in the drive. These children are often labelled dyslexic or SEN (with special educational needs). Not a bit of it: what they are is, to borrow an American acronym, ABT — ain’t being taught.

The signs are there for mums and dads who care to look out for them. If you have a child who brings books home but doesn’t want to read them; a child who is suddenly either too quiet or too aggressive at school; a child who has clearly memorised her early books or who is being described as “possibly dyslexic” or “plateauing” by her teachers — be alert to the possibility that, no matter how old, she may never have learnt to read properly.

How has this terrible state of affairs come about? It seems extraordinary but how we teach children to read has for the past decade been the subject of a furious war. The casualties are our children.

Eight years ago I sat in a room in Portsmouth with a bunch of people who had all pitched their camp in these “reading wars”: the experts who thought children learnt to read by memorising words, the ones who wanted them to guess from pictures on the page and so on.

What was at stake was the shape of the national literacy strategy, by which children were to be taught to read in state primary schools. I argued that children must be taught to work out words using one method alone — synthetic phonics. Basically it means teaching children the 44 sounds of the English language and how to blend them together to make words.

Why did I argue my corner so ferociously? Because I had seen the evidence with my own eyes. At the time I was head of a primary school in London’s East End where most children were from Bangladeshi families. Although many of the parents couldn’t speak English all my pupils learnt to read, most of them by the age of six or seven.

But I didn’t win in Portsmouth.

I wept with frustration but what was finally agreed was a hotch-potch of everyone’s methods. Teachers would use a bit of “look and say”, a bit of phonics, a bit of guesswork. That’s what has been in operation ever since and the result is a generation of many illiterate children.

I joined a group of like-minded people to push the case for common sense from the sidelines. I was ignored, treated as a weirdo. But I’m not a weirdo; I am a woman who has worked hard to make sure that every child can learn to read.

Last week, finally, we were vindicated. Eight years on, the mess that emerged from Portsmouth is about to be dismantled. From September, thanks to last week’s report by Jim Rose, the former school inspector to whom ministers turned for advice on what to do about the country’s reading crisis, all schools are going to have to use synthetic phonics as the main way of teaching reading. Hopefully, all children will now learn to read by the age of six or seven.

It’s thrilling news. But it could all still go horribly wrong. It’s up to Capita, the IT company, (which was in the news rather a lot last week), and which has the contract to run the new literacy strategy, to make sure that this time the people who really know how to teach children to read are involved.

For parents I have one message. To make sure your children don’t slip through the holes in any future reading nets, never again assume that the responsibility of teaching your children to read belongs solely to someone else. Try doing it yourself too, using a phonics strategy. Let’s have no more casualties in the reading wars.

Ruth Miskin was talking to Sian Griffiths

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Post by chew8 » Sat Oct 03, 2009 6:22 pm

confusedparent:

The new guidance and recommendations are not 'completely optional': schools are certainly free to follow any programme which meets the latest government criteria, but the 'searchlights' model which was in force from 1998-2007 has definitely been withdrawn. This means that official support for the use of several different strategies for word-identification has been withdrawn, so schools should not still be teaching multi-cueing. I think you would have good grounds for taking this up with your school and/or local authority if you felt up to it.

Does your school's guidance recommend 'guessing' in so many words? The word 'guess' was not used even in connection with the 'searchlights' model, though many teachers thought that this model implied guessing as they had been trained in the days when teacher-trainers were under the spell of Goodman's dictum that 'reading is a psycholinguistic game'. If your school is explicitly recommending guessing, it's doing something for which there was no official sanction even in 'searchlights' days and against which official advice was given 2+ years ago.

Jenny C.

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Post by maizie » Sat Oct 03, 2009 6:25 pm

If your school is explicitly recommending guessing, it's doing something for which there was no official sanction even in 'searchlights' days and against which official advice was given 2+ years ago.
Wasn't it called 'predicting'?

Debbie, you might find this thread on TES EY a bit depressing... 'Exciting ways to teach high frequency words' :roll:

http://community.tes.co.uk/forums/t/351690.aspx

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Post by confusedparent » Sat Oct 03, 2009 7:52 pm

No. For clarity, 'guessing' is my term, based on my observation of what children are actually doing with the reading books.

We (the parents/helpers), can use the following if a child cannot read a word:

Presented to us in this order - Use the first letter/use the pictures/think what 'fits'/stop if something doesn't make sense/try to 'fix it'/read on to the end of the sentence/read back to the beginning of the sentence/sound out the first letters/check that your reading 'looks right'.

I don't really know what is happening in class. I am told that they are using Letters and Sounds, and in fairness my child is able to decode and encode, at least at a basic level. However,the reading books and guidance, coupled with the 'we know best attitude', have rather destroyed my confidence in the schools literacy strategy.

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Post by chew8 » Sat Oct 03, 2009 9:26 pm

OK confusedparent, here's some ammo. for you - this is from p. 12 of the Letters and Sounds 'Notes of Guidance':

'In the early stages, however, children will encounter many words that are visually unfamiliar, and in reading these words their attention should be focused on decoding rather than on the use of unreliable strategies such as looking at the illustrations, rereading the sentence, saying the first sound and guessing what might fit. Although these strategies might result in intelligent guesses, none of them is sufficiently reliable and they can hinder the application of phonic knowledge and skills, prolonging the word recognition process and lessening children's overall understanding.'

In view of this, I don't see how the school can defend the advice it's giving to parents and helpers.

Jenny C.

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Post by confusedparent » Mon Oct 05, 2009 5:38 pm

Well, yes, I quite agree Jenny. I keep having to push my jaw shut! I have also seen the following statement from DfCSF (from here: http://www.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/phonics/rosereview/)
Curriculum Changes
Minor changes have been made to the National Curriculum at Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 to underpin the recommendations of the independent review of the teaching of early reading. Schools and settings have a legal obligation to follow the amended curriculum from the start of the school year 2007-08.
But if this means schools MUST adopt the simple view of reading, no more searchlights, systematic teaching of synthetic phonics as THE method for teaching beginner readers, why downplay this shift with the term "minor changes"? Does this explain why teachers are looking at me as if I've been freshly beamed down from Mars?

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Post by jenny » Mon Oct 05, 2009 7:14 pm

Thers is no MUST about it. This is guidance only. There is very little that is statutory in schools about HOW things should be taught. Indeed if schools can demonstrate that the MAJORITY of pupils are achieving it is highly unlikely that Ofsted will take a great deal of interest in methods. LA officials can give advice but again if schools have good data they can go their own sweet way. I have mixed feelings about this. I too wish all schools would adopt SP but I have been very glad in the past to be able to follow my own instincts in my own school. If teaching methods were made compulsory we might be at the whim any politician's crazy ideas. GOOD schools are always seeking to improve practice and are open to new ideas that work for their children. Why not change school?

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