Non-words for Test

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Elizabeth
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Re: Non-words for Test

Post by Elizabeth » Tue Nov 23, 2010 11:41 am

But that's the danger - that teachers use random non-words like you have, but with real children.
Elizabeth

Elizabeth
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Re: Non-words for Test

Post by Elizabeth » Tue Nov 23, 2010 11:42 am

There’s a philosophical side to the use of non-words in a national test that I am uncomfortable about. It almost seems like a trick – to make teachers teach phonics for the sake of phonics, instead of for the sake of learning to read real text. I know that is not the aim of those who want non-words in the national decoding test. I know they want children to learn to read real text as much as I do – and as much as those who argue against synthetic phonics do.

We know that we don’t teach children to say the sounds and blend them so that they can say the sounds and blend them. It’s so that they can decode written words to produce real words - whether they’ve seen them written before or not and whether they’ve heard them spoken before or not - and then make sense of what they read.

If there are real words in the test that children have never seen before, it is not the same as if there are non-words. This is conjecture, but I expect there would be advantages to using real words that are not in children’s vocabularies. For example, if the look of a real word is stored in children’s memories, then in the future, when they get to know and understand the word, are they not more likely to spell it correctly? And if they read the word in context in the future, and it is already a bit familiar to them because of the test, won’t they have more brain space to use context to think about what it means?

I am passionate about promoting synthetic phonics, because it is the most effective way to teach children to decode real words accurately and easily. Once they can do that, they can enjoy reading and learn from their reading.
Elizabeth

kenm
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Re: Non-words for Test

Post by kenm » Tue Nov 23, 2010 1:01 pm

Elizabeth wrote:But I would object.

"attend" has a double "t" because it is made of "at" and "tend". "at" on its own has only one "t".

There are no common words in English ending in "ec".
"sec" (short for "secant") is a word that I met in School Certificate maths

Both these formations occur in names: "Mike Batt" (Womble song) and "Tooting Bec".

I would like to know if the DoE has good evidence to support the use of pseudo words. If so, it would be good to give the Luddites something to attack that could be effectively defended.
"... 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

chew8
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Re: Non-words for Test

Post by chew8 » Tue Nov 23, 2010 1:41 pm

Re. Yvonne's message: there are probably UK people, too, who think that the ideal would be a test which consists entirely of non-words.
Elizabeth wrote:I believe even able children with good vocabularies and good visual memories could not read all the real words I listed without using phonics if there were no context clues. If someone proved to me that I was wrong and they could, then perhaps those children wouldn't need synthetic phonics.
These children may not read be able to read all those real words, but they would be likely to read some of them. They would thus do better than other children, but it would be impossible to tell whether it was because they were better at decoding or because they were drawing on their good vocabulary and visual memory. As this is to be a decoding test, it needs to ensure, as far as possible, that children are not reaching the expected level otherwise than by decoding. To that end, it will surely be helpful if some of the items are of a type which can't be read by any child except by decoding. I would hope that it would in due course be possible to show that children who are genuinely good decoders by the end of Year 1 are the most proficient and enthusiastic readers by any standards thereafter.

It seems that this test is going to be properly trialled. Perhaps RRFers should delay getting het up about it until/unless the trials produce evidence of problems.

Jenny C.

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Re: Non-words for Test

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Tue Nov 23, 2010 7:14 pm

What about the point that I have raised which is that the teachers should be tested and not just the children?

The current scenario is using the children to get to the teachers which is not a good ploy.

I think the same about penalising students taking GCSEs. I really think that the whole teaching profession need to take spelling and grammar seriously and make sure they know how to teach it, support it and mark for it.

I don't believe, however, that the answer to raise standards is to tell the GCSE students that they will be penalised for poor spelling and grammar at a point in our education history where many teachers do not know how to teach spelling or grammar - many because they have not been taught rigorously themselves!

I believe that the issue of children being tested is about bringing them and their word-reading capacity into the actual reading debate and this is wrong.

At first, at least, the message should be direct to teachers and teacher-trainers.

How could it be that children were ever NOT taught the alphabetic code and blending and segmenting - and how can it be now that this is not 'understood' as a basic entitlement. This should not be a matter of teacher choice.

It is something which should be guaranteed and all universities need to come up to speed and all teachers.

The way forward is not through the simple word test at all.

It's about looking at the educational scenario really transparently.

Do the teachers know about the alphabetic code well and how to teach and follow-through with the teaching beyond the infant years?

I can only speak from my own experience in teacher-training and suggest that the profession itself has a long way to go - but this should not be about persuasion to get schools teaching phonics well - but about an expectation - legal if necessary - that, OF COURSE, they would teach our English alphabetic code and the decoding/encoding skills.

How utterly INCREDIBLE to consider that this would, or should, not be the case.

chew8
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Re: Non-words for Test

Post by chew8 » Tue Nov 23, 2010 7:46 pm

Debbie wrote:What about the point that I have raised which is that the teachers should be tested and not just the children?
It would be quite possible for teachers to give all the right answers and yet to carry on teaching in the same old ways as before.

Jenny C.

Elizabeth
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Re: Non-words for Test

Post by Elizabeth » Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:23 pm

Debbie wrote:
this should not be about persuasion to get schools teaching phonics well - but about an expectation - legal if necessary
I think it should be about persuasion to get schools teaching phonics well and a phonics screening check may help to persuade schools. In a democracy you can’t change what people do using the law unless enough people support you and I don’t think enough people do support the idea of a legal duty to teach the alphabetic code and blending and segmenting - at least not yet.

They couldn’t have enforced a law to stop people smoking in public places forty years ago, because there wouldn’t have been enough support, but they could in 2007.

There may be enough support for the government to make a “phonics screening check” compulsory now. One of my concerns about including non-words is that it could make it less likely that there is enough support, because of all the people who think phonics is important, but are put off by non-words.
Last edited by Elizabeth on Tue Nov 23, 2010 10:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Non-words for Test

Post by Elizabeth » Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:24 pm

By the way, how do you put "Debbie wrote" inside the quotation box?
Elizabeth

yvonne meyer
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Re: Non-words for Test

Post by yvonne meyer » Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:50 pm

Kenm,

I believe there is good evidence to support testing non-words, although I haven't read the various papers myself. The following is from the US National Right to Read Foundation. (http://www.nrrf.org/essay_pseudowords.htm)

The Usefulness of Pseudowords
by Dr. Patrick Groff
Experimental Research on Pseudowords

Professor of human development and applied psychology Keith Stanovich (2000) offers an up-to-date reputable review of the cause and effect relationship of children's overall reading ability, and their ability to decode pseudowords. For example, he cites several experimental studies that conclude "the speed of naming pronounceable nonwords is one of the tasks that most clearly differentiates good from poor readers" (p. 40). Also, "the persistent differences between skilled and less skilled readers in reaction times to pseudowords seem to be due to processes...operating on subword processes" (p. 41). One of these "subword processes" is the application of phonics rules to recognize written words.

Moreover, Stanovich¹s review of the pertinent empirical evidence indicates that children who are "phonological dyslexics" (are unaware of speech sounds) are "markedly inferior not only on the experimental pseudowords" tests that were administered, "but also on the Woodcock Word attack subtest" (pp. 73-74). The latter test uses real words. It thus is not surprising that pseudoword naming is discovered to be a "potent predictor of reading ability at all levels" (p. 100).

In sum, one of the most well replicated findings in reading disability research is that, compared to chronological-age controls, reading-disabled children have difficulty in reading pseudowords" (Stanovich, 2000, p. 129). That is to say, there is an "incredible potency of pseudoword reading as a predictor of reading difficulty" (p. 207). A notable experimental finding in this regard is that pseudowords, "such as bint that have word neighbors that are inconsistent in pronunciation (pint, mint) took longer to pronounce than nonwords without inconsistent word neighbors (e.g., tade)" (p. 215).

Studies of the reading of pseudowords also have implications regarding the performance of poor readers with high and low IQs. It is found (Stanovich, 2000, p. 329) "that these two groups of children display equivalent pseudoword reading deficits." This kind of evidence leads some reading researchers to conclude that "unless it can be shown to have some predictive value for the nature of treatment or treatment outcome, considerations of IQ should be discarded in discussions of reading difficulties" (p. 96).

Reference: Stanovich, K. E. (2000). Progress in understanding reading. New York, NY: Guilford.
The DIBELS Test of Pseudowords

A more recent, standardized test of BRs ability to decode pseudowords is one produced by education professors Roland Good and Ruth Kaminski (2002). It is part of what they call Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, K-3 (DIBELS), and is available for downloading from the WWW.

The "nonsense word fluency" test section of DIBELS is arranged into 20 stages, each containing 14-15 pseudowords. Beginning readers' scores on decoding these pseudowords are found to correlate highly with their scores on standardized tests of reading that contain authentic words.

Reference: Good, R. H. & Kaminski, R. A. (2002) Dynamic indicators of basic early literacy skills: Nonsense word fluency. Eugene, OR: Institute for the Development of Educational Fluency.
Whether or not the DoE is aware of and understands the evidence is another matter. I get concerned with the DoE practice (in Australia as well as the UK) of 'wide consultation' where every twit with an opinion, not matter how ill-informed, can lobby and put pressure on the process.

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maizie
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Re: Non-words for Test

Post by maizie » Tue Nov 23, 2010 10:08 pm

I think it is unfortunate that in both Yvonne's examples psuedowords seem to be associated with diagnosing reading disability. This is not the intention of the Y6 test, is it?

Elizabeth,

To get the 'debbie said' bit, you open the reply window, scroll down to the post you want to quote from, highlight the bit you want to quote and then press the 'quote' button in the top RH corner of that message.
Elizabeth wrote:By the way, how do you put "Debbie wrote" inside the quotation box?
I feel that worrying about how 'they' will interpret the decoding test is a bit of a waste of time. As 'they' are wilfully and deliberately misunderstanding the teaching of SP and are equally deliberately intent on spreading unevidenced and untrue information about anything connected with SP teaching they are not going to be mollified or cease their campaign of misinformation just because there are 'real' words in a decoding test.

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Re: Non-words for Test

Post by Elizabeth » Tue Nov 23, 2010 10:28 pm

I agree it won't make much difference to the anti-phonics lobby, but it could make a difference to the amount of support they get. There are far more people involved in teaching reading who think phonics is important and, at the same time, are influenced by whole language thinking, than people who support either synthetic phonics or whole language.

I have already met people in schools who promote phonics teaching but are put off by the idea of a test using of non-words.
Elizabeth

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maizie
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Re: Non-words for Test

Post by maizie » Tue Nov 23, 2010 11:32 pm

Elizabeth wrote:I have already met people in schools who promote phonics teaching but are put off by the idea of a test using of non-words.
What is their problem with it? We are talking about a one-off test at age 6 of a few items which are proposed to be non-words so as to eliminate the possiblity of the child being tested already 'knowing' any of the words (and, however unlikely it seems, we do have the Mumsnet and TES Opinion genius children who have read the complete works of Shakespeare by the time they get to YR).

We are talking about a test to see how much of the alphabetic code the child knows and if they can decode and blend. It is not a test for diagnosing reading disability, nor is it for comprehnsion (heaven knows, there are enough of them around).

Are people seriously saying that a brief exposure to non-words and possible 'illegal' combinations of graphemes is seriously going to cause lifelong impairment of the child's spelling and reading skills? Or even terminal muddlement as experienced by 'mixed methods' taught children?

I wish that one exposure to a 'correct' spelling would have such a radical effect on my kids..

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Re: Non-words for Test

Post by Elizabeth » Tue Nov 23, 2010 11:47 pm

If they can read the complete works of Shakespeare, why should anyone care whether they can decode non-words or not?
Elizabeth

kenm
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Re: Non-words for Test

Post by kenm » Wed Nov 24, 2010 12:31 am

Debbie Hepplewhite wrote:What about the point that I have raised which is that the teachers should be tested and not just the children?
Two reasons to test the children:

1) As explained in the consultation document, the results of this test are intended to be useful to both teachers and parents. Teachers are expected to provide remedial instruction to children who perform below the acceptable level.

2) When psychologists want to determine the effectiveness of a teaching method, they measure how rapidly the students improve. If you want to measure the effectiveness of what a teacher is doing in the classroom, this is the way to do it.
yvonne meyer wrote:I believe there is good evidence to support testing non-words, although I haven't read the various papers myself. The following is from the US National Right to Read Foundation. (http://www.nrrf.org/essay_pseudowords.htm)

The Usefulness of Pseudowords
by Dr. Patrick Groff
Thanks. That looks good enough for me, and I think that a spokesperson with adequate grasp of the subject and good presentational skills could use it to demolish the sort of criticism we have read so far.
"... 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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Re: Non-words for Test

Post by yvonne meyer » Wed Nov 24, 2010 7:04 am

Maizie,

Just to clarify, I believe that in the USA and Canada, the term, Learning Disabilities is used for what Australians usually refer to as Learning Difficulties/Specific Learning Difficulties and what is usually known in the UK as Specific Learning Difficulties/Dyslexia.

The reading scientists that I have spoken to use the term, 'dyslexic' as a descriptive term for someone who has a problem with reading, but do not use this term to describe the underlying cause of the person's reading difficulty. So when Stanovich in the previous quote makes the comment about children who are "phonological dyslexics" (are unaware of speech sounds), I took it to mean that he is not making any presumtions about why these children are unaware of speech sounds, although NBT (never been taught) would, presumably, be the most common reason.

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