First Official Australian guide to teaching phonics

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yvonne meyer
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First Official Australian guide to teaching phonics

Post by yvonne meyer » Tue Sep 29, 2009 5:28 am

Only NSW makes right sounds on learning to read

Justine Ferrari, Education writer | September 29, 2009
The Australian

FOUR years after the national inquiry into teaching reading, one Australian government has finally embraced the key recommendation that children be taught the sounds that make up words as an essential first step in learning to read.

The NSW government has released literacy teaching guides incorporating the latest research evidence on the best way to teach reading.

The guides mandate that children from the first years of school be explicitly taught the sounds of letters and how to blend and manipulate sounds to form words in daily 10 to 20-minute sessions.

The guides set out key principles for teachers to follow in reading instruction, stipulating that phonics need to be taught to a level where children can automatically recall the knowledge.

They also debunk "common myths" about phonics that "have almost become accepted as truths", including that "phonics knowledge is caught, not taught" or that having a sound of the week is an effective way of teaching.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/st ... 01,00.html


B-t-w, the NSW DET phonemic awareness and phonics guidies were available on-line but were then restricted so that only NSW teachers could access them. I don't know if they are going to be made available for everyone, or if they will always be restricted. I understand the reason for restricting access to these guides has something to do with NSW DET wearing the cost.

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Post by maizie » Tue Sep 29, 2009 8:53 am

Sir Jim said the reading debate was a false dichotomy and the two sides had more in common than the extremists were prepared to recognise.

"A picture has emerged from the research that is overwhelmingly clear; I can't see any conflict, they're closer than they admit," he said.

"I don't understand why they can't accept good evidence that would enrich both sides."
Statements like this make me see red, especially first thing in the morning!

I wish JR would be more explicit about what exactly the common ground is, because if he is talking about giving children a 'rich' experience of books and reading then I can't think of any 'phonics' person I know who would disagree. That is, after all, the whole point of teaching children to read. We on the RRF are viewed as 'extreme', yet we are all 'for' litereature!

I wish we were listened to a little more carefully.

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Post by chew8 » Tue Sep 29, 2009 10:09 am

Maizie wrote:I wish JR would be more explicit about what exactly the common ground is, because if he is talking about giving children a 'rich' experience of books and reading then I can't think of any 'phonics' person I know who would disagree. That is, after all, the whole point of teaching children to read. We on the RRF are viewed as 'extreme', yet we are all 'for' litereature!
Taking the newspaper article as a whole, I think that Jim Rose's message is pretty well what you think it ought to be, Maizie. This would also fit in with what I know from working with him.

Jenny C.

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Post by Derrie Clark » Tue Sep 29, 2009 1:11 pm

In my reading of your posts, I think Jenny there are two things going on with you knowledge of Reading Recovery and your relationship with Jim Rose. If I am right you do not agree with what Jim Rose says about Reading Recovery (or do you believe it can be supplemented by some phonics and that it is ok to pay all this money to run it alongside phonic work) but you are single minded and quick in your defence of him, I presume as you have worked with him and know him personally.

For those of us working in a system that continues to use mixed methods, and keeping personalities to one side, it does seem somewhat incongruous.

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Post by maizie » Tue Sep 29, 2009 5:36 pm

Taking the newspaper article as a whole, I think that Jim Rose's message is pretty well what you think it ought to be, Maizie. This would also fit in with what I know from working with him.
Yes, but the problem is, Jenny, just who are these 'extremists' to whom he is referring? I strongly suspect that the RRF is seen as being 'extreme' and is a group with whom his statements might be associated by many people.

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Post by chew8 » Tue Sep 29, 2009 9:19 pm

Derrie wrote:In my reading of your posts, I think Jenny there are two things going on with you knowledge of Reading Recovery and your relationship with Jim Rose. If I am right you do not agree with what Jim Rose says about Reading Recovery (or do you believe it can be supplemented by some phonics and that it is ok to pay all this money to run it alongside phonic work) but you are single minded and quick in your defence of him, I presume as you have worked with him and know him personally.
I think, Derrie, that you may be trying to see my position in a more black-and-white way than I would want. I have been anti-Reading Recovery since I first encountered in Surrey in the term in which it was first introduced into the UK (autumn term 1990). I do not think 'that it is ok to pay all this money to run it alongside phonic work' and if I could change that overnight I would. But when we can't change things completely overnight, is it better to leave them completely unchanged or to try and secure small changes? It would be great if we could replace RR instantly with good code-based interventions, but it's not going to happen. So is it better to leave RR exactly as it is or to try to get more phonics into it? Jim Rose was pretty critical of RR in Slide 12 of his presentation, and said clearly that he did not advocate it. When he then said that 'the phonics element of RR should be strengthened if it was used', I took it that he was saying, in effect, 'Unfortunately I know that not everyone will follow my advice - if people are determined to go on using RR, they should at least incorporate more phonics, as this will be some slight improvement'.

Then there was what he was quoted as saying in The Australian of 29 September: as he made it clear that he was in favour of good alphabetic-code teaching, I would not regard his comments about 'extremists' as implying criticism of sensible phonics advocates. Given all that he has said and done to get multi-cueing off the national agenda and phonics on to it, I think it's a pity to see sinister implications in some of his comments unless there are cast-iron reasons for doing so.

Maizie: I really don't know whether Jim Rose sees the RRF as a whole as 'extreme', but my impression from that newspaper article was that the people with extreme anti-phonics views were the ones he had mainly in mind.

Jenny C.

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Post by Derrie Clark » Tue Sep 29, 2009 10:06 pm

It would be great if we could replace RR instantly with good code-based interventions, but it's not going to happen.
Looks like this is exactly what could happen. I have a feeling, with the cuts, resulting from the greed of bankers and our taxes subsidising their greed, we will see an end to Reading Recovery as we did in the 90's when the funding was withdrawn and schools did not see it as a good investment.

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Post by maizie » Tue Sep 29, 2009 10:22 pm

So is it better to leave RR exactly as it is or to try to get more phonics into it?
I can't help feeling that the former is more desirable.

I cannot see any point in making any effort to support the perpetuation of half baked phonics instruction at such a cost to the education budget.


As to Rose's comments. I recall he said something similar in the Rose report and his comments seemed to imply that there were extremes in both the pro-phonics and anti-phonics 'camps'.
I would not regard his comments about 'extremists' as implying criticism of sensible phonics advocates.
Are the RRFers 'sensible phonics advocates' or are we an 'extreme'?

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Post by yvonne meyer » Wed Sep 30, 2009 1:52 am

I think that RRF'ers tend to focus on BEGINNING reading, while the wider community is thinking about the entire 'go to whoa' of a school English Literacy program.

I also think that RRF'ers don't always differentiate between technical discussion between practioners and lobbying statements for the wider community.

The success of the Whole Language lobbyists over the last 20-30 years is to firmly entrench the idea that phonics teaching is drill & kill, and that explicit instruction excludes an enriched reading program. It is not enough for RRF'ers to say that, of course, the whole point of a phonics program is to get to enriched reading. 'Drill & kill' and been hammered in to the point where the suggestion of explicit phonics instruction causes a Pavlovian adverse reaction. Therefore, it has to be addressed specifically and repeatedly.

The NRP, the NITL & the Rose Review have all made the point that explicit phonics instruction gets more children to enriched reading faster.

The lobbying error that some RRF'ers make is to get their hackles up over comments in these reports are address the issue of what happens after sound/letter correspondences are learnt.

I argued with Ken Rowe over the wording in the NITL. He insisted on using the word, 'integrated', which I didn't like as I felt it left too much unsaid. I believed then, as I believe now, that the best wording was used by the NRP - " direct, explicit, intensive and systematic instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension." It's long and cumbersome but it is still the most concise way of addressing everything that is required for a person to be considered fully literate.

As for extremists within the RRF. Hell yes! It is so frustrating for someone like me, lobbying as an individual concerned parent, to see RRF'ers turn on each other over issues that are due to miscommunication over terminology and/or misunderstandings over issues to do with beginning reading vs. English and/or technical details vs. generalist lobbying comments.

The RRF attracts a wide audience, from the wacky/hippy to snake-oil suppliers to the genuinely concerned, and from the totally ignorant to well recognised serious researchers and practioners. I don't see how an organisation that draws so widely can be categorised as either sainted or extremist.

A point about Reading Recovery.

Tom Nicholson (Massey Uni, NZ) spoke briefly about RR at the LDA/Rose Seminar. He said that when RR was first proposed during the 80's, it was objected to on the grounds that instituting a 2nd Wave remedial program admitted initial failure. I was gob-smacked that the Education Establishment could refuse to implement any remediation program on the grounds that they did not want to admit any failure. :shock:

RR has been hugely beneficial in breaking through this barrier and should be applauded for doing so. Nicholson also made the point that if RR were to include explicit phonics instruction, it would be a good program but that having now trademarked RR, it is very difficult to incorporate these changes.

Before anyone jumps the gun on Nicholson, Google Nicholson RR and Nicholson Tunmer to get a glimpse of how much he has done for our cause. Or take my word that he is part of the 'Massey Mafia' which has been battling WL & RR long & hard.

Getting back to extremists, I'm aware that I have cautiously added a proviso on Nicholson because any comment that is the least bit positive about RR (a program that wasted 6 months of my son's time at school) will tend to make some RRF'ers see red! Have a cup of tea and take a deep breathe because Nicholson really is a good guy, a top reading researcher and an excellent lobbyist.

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Post by chew8 » Wed Sep 30, 2009 7:30 am

I agree with Derrie that economic pressures are likely to put an end to government support for RR, but what I said was that this isn't going to happen 'instantly'.

Re. Maizie's preference for leaving RR as it is - fair enough, but I don't think that Jim Rose has been unreasonable in expressing a slightly different view in the comments that have been quoted.
Yvonne wrote:As for extremists within the RRF. Hell yes! It is so frustrating for someone like me, lobbying as an individual concerned parent, to see RRF'ers turn on each other over issues that are due to miscommunication over terminology and/or misunderstandings over issues to do with beginning reading vs. English and/or technical details vs. generalist lobbying comments.
I agree, and have frequently asked that there should be more of a 'live and let live' attitude. I doubt, though,w hether Jim Rose follows the RRF message-board, so he probably doesn't know about the views of RRFers from that source. He would know what they think only from other sources - e.g. if their views had been published or if they had communicated with him privately.

Jenny C.

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Post by kenm » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:11 am

yvonne meyer wrote:I argued with Ken Rowe over the wording in the NITL. He insisted on using the word, 'integrated', which I didn't like as I felt it left too much unsaid. I believed then, as I believe now, that the best wording was used by the NRP - " direct, explicit, intensive and systematic instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension." It's long and cumbersome but it is still the most concise way of addressing everything that is required for a person to be considered fully literate.
From reading and hearing careful argument from knowledgeable people, mostly here but also Dick Schutz, I agree with the list of components but not the necessity of explicit instruction for all of them.

1) Phonemic awareness teaching is ineffective unless it is taught in conjunction with letter shapes, and if the child has a modicum of spoken language (if not, speech therapy might be necessary) it is at least as efficient to go straight into phonics using one of the effective methods, like BRI, Miskin etc.

2) I can't comment on fluency.

3) Vocabulary is acquired by several different methods: by conversation, as a byproduct of subject teaching, by reading collectively or individually, by consultation of a dictionary or thesaurus etc.; one might describe this as indirect and implicit teaching, and the enlargement of vocabulary should certainly continue for a lifetime, extensively and whenever opportunity arises.

4) Both vocabulary and comprehension apply to spoken language also. In so far as written language tends to be more elaborate than speech, with longer sentences of complicated structure, some teaching of grammar will be useful. For accurate writing, it is essential (which is why so much "professional" writing nowadays is what I would call inaccurate).
"... 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

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Post by Elizabeth » Sat Oct 03, 2009 12:06 pm

I have found that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about how phonics and language comprehension fit together. Now, when I am training, I stress my understanding of the implications of the 'Simple View of Reading' much more than I used to.

This is what I advise class teachers:

When children begin to learn to read, between the ages of around 4 and 7, between 10 minutes and half an hour should be spent daily on a phonics lesson and another 5 to 20 minutes on follow-up activities (e.g. 'Sound Books', handwriting, reading 'decodable' texts, spelling - depending on the stage the children are at). This leaves several hours a day for developing language through listening and speaking (listening to stories, learning new vocabulary across the curriculum, telling their news, listening to and giving instructions, role play, reciting rhymes and poems, etc.). In other words, I think developing language is of the utmost importance.

As children learn to read and write easily and accurately, teaching can begin to involve lessons to encourage reading comprehension; appreciation of literature through independent reading; learning throughout the curriculum by reading; writing vividly, creatively and clearly; using communication technology effectively, etc.

This may sound obvious to some of you, but I assure you it is not to some of the teachers I train. Recently, a headteacher thanked me for explaining this, as she knew phonics was important, but had worried that it might narrow the literacy curriculum. She had never viewed it in this way before.
Elizabeth

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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Oct 03, 2009 1:04 pm

Elizabeth said:
When children begin to learn to read, between the ages of around 4 and 7, between 10 minutes and half an hour should be spent daily on a phonics lesson and another 5 to 20 minutes on follow-up activities (e.g. 'Sound Books', handwriting, reading 'decodable' texts, spelling - depending on the stage the children are at).


I would change this very, very slightly:

Where Elizabeth describes the allocation of 'between 10 minutes and half an hour should be spent on a daily phonics lesson...', I would replace the words 'phonics lesson' with 'teacher introduction'.

The teacher, for example, would lead some revision (revision or 'old learning'), then introduce the 'new learning', then provide printed words to blend, provide oral words to segment then model the tallying of sounds to graphemes - with inclusion of handwriting.

The students may well be engaged interactively at this point - but the essential feature is systematic introduction of 'new code learning' and the modelling of the three skills of blending, segmenting and handwriting.

Further, the students then MUST have some Sounds Book activities, and other activities as Elizabeth describes to rehearse and consolidate the code knowledge and three skills.

Further than that, for the spelling element, teachers need to lead children in building up their knowledge of word banks with the spelling variations. I believe this is a very much neglected aspect of teaching and learning at the moment - but I may be mistaken as I'm not privy to the goings-on in all schools.

I worry that phonics is still very much in the domain of the early years - and that the student rehearsal part is very much in the domain of tinkering around with 'play' activities such as sifting for word cards in the sand pit before reading occurs.

I think Yvonne is incorrect, however, in a previous comment that she made about RRFers being overly concerned about beginning reading instruction.

I can only speak directly for myself - but I am extremely concerned for a lack of official guidance beyond the early years and for the lack of progression regarding the teaching of spelling which remains woolly and not guaranteed in primary schools.

My impression of many other RRFers, however, is that they are very much steeped in the need for SP type instruction for intervention at all ages.

It may well be that one day we shall have consistently guaranteed good quality teaching in the infants and lower juniors so that this whole reading and spelling worry becomes groundless in future.

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Post by Judy » Sat Oct 03, 2009 7:27 pm

I think Yvonne is incorrect, however, in a previous comment that she made about RRFers being overly concerned about beginning reading instruction.
I would go so far as to suggest that it is precisely because so many of us RRFers have such a difficult and frustrating time picking up the pieces at a later stage (not to mention our pupils!) that we all fervently wish to see the teaching of literacy 'got right' at the beginning stages!

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Post by yvonne meyer » Sun Oct 04, 2009 3:06 am

Just to clarify, I don't think RRF'ers are overly concerned with beginning reading instruction. The RRF focus on beginning reading means that some lobbying comments reported in the media that are aimed at the general public and relate to the entire English Curriculum have been interpreted to be inconsistent with quality beginning reading instruction.

I don't believe it is possible to be overly concerned with beginning reading because unless we get this right, students make no progress at school.

I do think that it is necessary for lobbying purposes to reduce our arguments down to 'sound bytes'. The skill in lobbying is to try and simplify the message so that it is readily understood by all, without making it so simplistic that the message is lost.

This is the area that the WL/RR advocates excell at, mainly because their philosophy has more smoke & mirrors than substance. Where the lobbying skill of Reid Lyon and his gang from the NICHD was so effective was in coming up with phrases like, 'instructional casualty' to describe students who had experienced WL/RR.

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