Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

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chew8
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Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

Post by chew8 » Tue May 10, 2011 4:11 pm

Background to the query with which I'll end this posting:

I've mentioned on other threads that I've helped voluntarily in an infant school since January 2010, my role being to hear children's reading.The school uses Letters and Sounds and starts the phonics teaching only after October half-term, so the children are not very far on by January. I think that the discrete phonics teaching is probably quite good, but that the effect is spoilt to some extent by the fact that non-decodable books are issued for home reading, though I myself have always used only decodable books except with the children who have already clearly taken off in their reading. The books I used from Jan. 2010 were mainly from the complimentary sets I'd been given before that - Jolly Phonics books and Read Write Inc. books, but also some 'Bob' books that I'd bought in the USA. By Sept. 2010 the OUP Project X Phonics books were out, and I'd been sent a set of those as I'd been consulted on them - when I've helped with something I always like to know how it works in practice, so I've used those in this school year.

When I started in Jan. 2010 I worked just with the 2009-10 Reception children but I've continued to work with them in Year 1 and since Jan. 2011 I've also worked with this year's Reception children. There are 30 in each class, and I can get through only half a class on each visit, thus seeing each child every second week for an average of about 7 minutes. With this regime, which is obviously less than ideal, I've found that however hard I work on sounding out and blending, there are some children who go right through Reception without catching on. There were three last year - I don't know how many there'll be this year as we still have more than two months to go. The three who were slow last year all caught on early in Y1, but they are still below where they should be in grapheme-phoneme knowledge and fluency. They are already better, however, than the weakest Y3 children entering a junior school where I've helped for 10+ years, and with another year of infant school to go, I don't think they'll be considered to be strugglers when they enter Y3, even if they are still below average.

My query:

Do people who can work for much longer with children each week than I can find that they can get all children to catch on to sounding out and blending by the end of Reception? If so, do the children who are late to catch on continue to lag behind the others, or do they catch up reasonably well?

Jenny C.
Last edited by chew8 on Tue May 10, 2011 9:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

Post by annwebster » Tue May 10, 2011 8:54 pm

I my experience there are usually 4 or 5 children (out of 45) in Reception each year who, despite good synthetic phonics teaching (JP and L and S) who do not have secure GPC and good blending by the end of the year. Obviously this varies. These children then receive intensive individual tuition using Ruth Miskin literacy. At the end of Y1 there are usually still a couple who have not caught up- these usually go on to have persistent difficulty. This difficulty manifests itself as memory difficulties rather than phonological difficulties (no problems with oral blending- often tremendous problems with rapid recall of GPCs- usually no comprehension difficulties. I don't know if this is typical but it has been our experience for a number of years.
Annie

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Re: Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

Post by chew8 » Tue May 10, 2011 9:53 pm

Thanks, Annie - that's helpful. I hope others will also tell us what their experience has been.

Jenny C.

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Re: Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

Post by chew8 » Wed May 18, 2011 8:56 am

I'm disappointed that there haven't been more responses, and am wondering whether this is because people have nothing to add to Annie's experience or because there are not many RRFers who are teaching whole Reception classes.

What I know is that 3 out of 30 children (10%) in the 2009-10 Reception class of the infant school where I help had not caught on to sounding out and blending at CVC level by the end of that year - that was on a régime of quite good discrete phonics teaching in class (as far as I can tell) and decodable books with me for a few minutes a week from January to June, but non-decodable books for home reading the rest of the time. All three caught on to sounding out and blending early in Y1, but I wondered whether they would have caught on earlier if the waters hadn't been muddied by the non-decodable books. On my most recent visit two days ago, one of the three was absent but the other two both read all 8 pages of Part 2 of the Follifoot Farm story 'The cats who fell out of the car', needing help wth a few words but managing most of the words on their own. They are still behind the others in terms of fluency, but as I said, I think they are already better, at this stage of Y1, than the weakest readers entering Y3 at the junior school where I help.

Annie's response suggests that things may not be too different even in a school where the régime is better from a synthetic phonics point of view, but is this typical? I really would like to hear from others.

One good thing is that at least one of 'my' three Y1 children wll probably go on in 2012 to 'my' junior school, so I may be able to follow her progress right up to Y6. She was if anything the weakest of all in Reception - she knew hardly any letter-sound correspondences, but I then suggested to her older sister (already at the junior school) that she should help with this, and that made a big difference.

Jenny C.

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Re: Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Wed May 18, 2011 10:00 am

I suspect that 'good enough' type teaching teaches most of the children well enough-ish, but that it takes very core, very careful teaching to teach some children to read well.

But, and here is the danger, who is to say whether the real slower-to-learn children in early years settings have specific difficulties or that the good-enough teaching really wasn't good enough, or core enough, or in good-enough teaching and learning conditions - or that maybe the teaching was premature for some children.

That is why I think conversations about core teaching and learning activities, types of resources and activities - and what 'programmes' provide to support teaching and learning and informing or engaging parents are important.

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Re: Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

Post by chew8 » Wed May 18, 2011 11:34 am

Debbie:

You have taught Reception. Did all your pupils catch on to sounding out and blending at CVC level by the end of the year or were there a few who didn't? If there were a few who didn't, what percentage of the class were they?

It's really this kind of practical experience that I want to know about, especially from people who regard themselves as providing something rather better than 'good enough' teaching.

Jenny C.

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Re: Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

Post by john walker » Wed May 18, 2011 11:53 am

As we wrote in our 'Report to schools: longitudinal study of literacy development from 2003-2009, following 1607 pupils through Key Stage 1' Autumn 2009): http://www.sounds-write.co.uk/docs/soun ... t_2009.pdf
There is nothing controversial about the fact that individuals vary in respect of the speed at which they learn new skills. Some need far more practice and exposure to the materials involved than do others. Given the twelve months difference in age between the oldest and youngest in every year group, together with the wide variation of individual knowledge and skills being brought to bear on new learning tasks, we know that some pupils will inevitably develop literacy skills at a much slower rate than others. Knowledge of the extent of these differences should inform our teaching practices in respect of both its pace and overall duration.
We are advocating here that accurate phonics tuition underpins pupils' literacy development and that it needs to be properly embedded and completed if ALL pupils are to be given a real chance of becoming sufficiently literate to cope with a high school curriculum at Key Stages Three and Four. We are in no doubt that the core idea within the National Literacy Strategy that phonics is something to deal with quickly in Reception and Year One before moving on to other strategies in Year Two and beyond is fundamentally flawed and is not validated by evidence-based practice. The one factor that unites all the hundreds of thousands of semi-literate and barely-literate pupils in our schools (and adults in the community) is a failure to grasp the true nature of phonics, which underpins the understanding of those of us who are literate. However, approaching literacy from a phonic direction requires expert teaching and clearly takes a long time to become established and understood by many of our children due to the complexity of the English alphabet code. To remove the educational focus from teaching phonics when pupils are only aged six is a guarantee that high levels of illiteracy in the UK will be maintained for many future generations...
As to the question of teaching and supporting children who, relative to their peers, demonstrate quite severe difficulty in mastering basic literacy skills (i.e. those falling a year or more behind by the end of Key Stage One – the shaded areas in Table 17, page 17 of the report) we suggest the starting point should be a wide ranging assessment covering at the very least, vision, hearing and cognition. An evaluation of their individual special educational needs would constitute the starting point for consideration of what further resourcing might be brought to bear on their particular learning difficulties.
Sounds-Write have always been particularly keen on training teachers in YR, Y1 and Y2 and my own experience shows me that in school after school there are always, in any class of reception children, a few (one or two, and this seems pretty much to accord with what Annie Webster is saying) who simply aren't ready to learn, or have other difficulties of one sort or another that prevent them from making a good start. However, the variables are many and varied and, in any population, one would expect to see some pupils lagging behind.
The key question is what can we do about it? I think that the one thing David Philpot and I were always concerned about when people had trained was that they needed to understand that pupils making slower or very slow (2.6% of our sample) progress need to be given more time and trained support. In practice, this means heads taking the problem seriously and providing these pupils with expert tuition (the best practitioners) and lots of practice - small group or one-to-one intervention. For the record, I still firmly believe that it is possible to teach all but for a very small percentage of the school population (say 2%) to learn to read.
Dave and I were as disappointed as you are Jennie that, after seven years of carefully collecting evidence on the effectiveness of Sounds-Write, many of the people who make important decisions about the way in which we teach children to read and spell can't be bothered to read the report or simply don't understand what its implications are and what needs to be done. By the bye, in saying so, I'm not claiming for a minute that we think we've provided all the answers. As Stanovich put it:
...we make progress by accumulating evidence from a host of interlocking studies, each of which may be of fairly low diagnosticity but which taken together present a coherent picture and warrant firm conclusions.
Stanovich,K.E. 'Early Applications of Information Processing Concepts to the Study of Reading', from (2000) Progress in Understanding Reading.
John Walker
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Re: Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Wed May 18, 2011 12:04 pm

All my pupils were able to sound out and blend rapidly. Some could do it instantly, some took a few weeks, all were capable within a term and all were competent within a Reception year. The quickest-to-learn children knew 60+ letter/s-sound correspondences to automaticity by the end of Reception, the very slowest-to-learn children knew 35+.

Home backgrounds, age and gender were not issues with capacity to learn alphabetic code knowledge and to blend and segment. This does not mean, however, that I have had the very hardest to teach children in the cohorts of children that I have had the experience of teaching.

Some children struggled more with pencil control from lack of experience at home - but not always. In other words, some children who had little or no pencil experience still learned rapidly and how to form letters quickly and well.

I think that it is an unfortunate omission that the skills promoted originally via the Rose Report and subsequently incorporated into the government's criteria do not include 'handwriting' as the third core skill.

I have noticed a number of children in other settings where lack of competent and fluent handwriting is holding them back - from infants right through key stage two.

Whilst there will always be a gap between the quickest-to-learn and and the slower-to-learn children, most children in the latter group should still be competent at blending and segmenting within a year from starting good systematic, synthetic phonics teaching (alongside incidental phonics teaching). I do agree that some children need more time to get into a learning stride and I have always worried about the age we promote systematic synthetic phonics. I am happy for Reception classes to play around with phonics teaching, for example, and then pick a 'best-fit' starting point for a more systematic, rigorous approach for the whole cohort later in the year or even in Year One. Also, settings vary enormously with the local 'issues' that they face and I do think that more consideration needs to be given to settings with this variety of circumstances - including class size. Providing additional help, quiet opportunities and trouble-shooting in large classes is extraordinarily difficult. I am even finding that the style of desks can be a problem - recently, for example, finding that the class tables were round and so huge that I could not sit face to face to support individual children. This, for me, was a big practical difficulty.

I have also encountered children with genuine learning difficulties, but when you encounter such children at a later age, one can surmise that they would have had a different reading and spelling/writing profile with different teaching. One CAN surmise this when good synthetic phonics teaching starts to have such an immediate impact.

Sometimes, for example, one can start to teach using the synthetic phonics approach and a pupil with difficulties in learning to read can actually blend readily and he or she has the 'ear' to discern words from sounding out. Such pupils are turned into instant readers. They then need to be taught more alphabetic code knowledge and they need plenty of practice but it is quite heartbreaking to encounter such children who could always have 'read' had they had this type of instruction sooner and, instead, they have been left trying to learn the Reception '45 sight words'. I have had this experience frequently and one wonders how many other pupils are in this scenario to this day.

I have not responded to this thread, however, because I avoid using my own results and those of people I know very personally because that might not be seen to be objective. I do, however, promote methods and resources that I'm involved with because I am trying to share the success I have seen first hand and which, increasingly, is supported by people using the methods and resources whom I do not know in different contexts. In terms of 'research', however, my programmes have not been scientifically researched but, like Letters and Sounds, they are based on findings from scientific research older and newer and from leading-edge classroom practice of others and myself. I suggest that we need to keep building on our practice and the practice of others as we hone the programmes and ideas to best effect.

Like other synthetic phonics and linguistic phonics programme writers, I welcome research and comparison but it is extraordinarily difficult to gain an interest from academics in universities to research the ideas and resources. Note the experience of the Sounds~Write team whose members appear not to have a positive experience of people in authority taking an interest in their long-standing results.

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Re: Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

Post by chew8 » Wed May 18, 2011 1:02 pm

John wrote:Sounds-Write have always been particularly keen on training teachers in YR, Y1 and Y2 and my own experience shows me that in school after school there are always, in any class of reception children, a few (one or two, and this seems pretty much to accord with what Annie Webster is saying) who simply aren't ready to learn, or have other difficulties of one sort or another that prevent them from making a good start.
Debbie wrote:All my pupils were able to sound out and blend rapidly. Some could do it instantly, some took a few weeks, all were capable within a term and all were competent within a Reception year. The quickest-to-learn children knew 60+ letter/s-sound correspondences to automaticity by the end of Reception, the very slowest-to-learn children knew 35+.
So Annie and John seem to be suggesting that even with very good teaching a few children may not catch on to simple sounding out and blending in Reception, whereas Debbie is saying that all her pupils did catch on - but then Debbie also says that the cohorts she has taught may not have included the very hardest to teach children, so perhaps if she had taught such children, she, too would have found some children not catching on in Reception.

In one of your reports, John, you mentioned a figure of 18% of children who were not ready to start on the Sounds~Write approach. How does this fit in with the 2.6% you mention above? Is it a matter of 18% not beng ready at the beginning of the year but then becoming ready during the year? Also: do you have any anecdotal evidence on the picture in Sounds~Wrte schools whose results don't feature in your reports because they don't submit their data to you? Do they test but not send you the results, or do they simply not test?

Jenny C.

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Re: Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

Post by john walker » Wed May 18, 2011 2:16 pm

First, Debbie, I agree with you that handwriting is still not being given the attention it so richly deserves. We didn't pay enough attention to it in the beginning - mainly because schools are so precious about their particular handwriting systems that it seemed futile to swim against the stream. Having said that, we now pay much more attention by making clear that there are general principles to be observed: evidence that 'copying letters is the best way to learn them' (McGuinness, D and Stanovich); that saying sounds as pupils write the spellings helps them to remember the connections between sounds and spellings/spellings and sounds.
Now, Jenny, as we make clear in the report, the test we use is the Young's Parallel Spelling Test, for which the bench mark is 5.11. As not a single YR child is anywhere near 5.11 when they do the test, as we state in the report, we don't know what it tells us about the performance of the 18% who don't score on the test at the end of YR. Spelling is also harder than reading to the extent that it depends on recall memory rather than simply recognition memory.
The other imponderable is that when we train practitioners: some will implement the programme with absolute fidelity; others will implement the programme but will incorporate elements which we believe may run counter to it and will thus dilute it; and, of course, there will be people who won't, for one reason or another, implement it at all or will do it so badly that they won't get the results we'd expect. We have no control over this important factor, though I hasten to add that the results we have given in the report include all of those three categories. In other words, we haven't cherry picked and the figures are there, warts and all, from all the schools who agreed to take part in the study.
As for asking all schools in which we train staff to test for us, I say what I've said before: we don't have the resources to conduct anything bigger or more far-reaching (searching) than we've done.
John Walker
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Re: Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Wed May 18, 2011 3:32 pm

John said:

The other imponderable is that when we train practitioners: some will implement the programme with absolute fidelity; others will implement the programme but will incorporate elements which we believe may run counter to it and will thus dilute it; and, of course, there will be people who won't, for one reason or another, implement it at all or will do it so badly that they won't get the results we'd expect. We have no control over this important factor
It never ceases to frustrate me that no matter how hard any of us try with regard to programme/resource design and teachers' guidance and training, individuals and 'whole schools' need to want to, or be able to, follow our provision closely. :???:

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Re: Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

Post by chew8 » Wed May 18, 2011 4:16 pm

John wrote:Now, Jenny, as we make clear in the report, the test we use is the Young's Parallel Spelling Test, for which the bench mark is 5.11. As not a single YR child is anywhere near 5.11 when they do the test, as we state in the report, we don't know what it tells us about the performance of the 18% who don't score on the test at the end of YR.
In the Autumn 2009 report, John, you wrote:It is, however, apparent from the data that about 18·6% of pupils were not, in our opinion, really ready to intellectually engage with formal tuition when starting their Reception Year. More of these pupils were boys than girls, as would be predicted from basic knowledge about gender differences in early development, particularly in the areas of speech and language. The data shows almost twice as many boys as girls were not ready to benefit fully from the formal tuition of literacy in Reception (the actual figures being 195 boys as against 104 girls).
So am I right in thinking that if children don't reach a spelling age of 5-11 on the Young's test at the end of Reception, you regard them as not having been 'really ready to intellectually engage with formal tuition when starting their Reception Year'? Isn't that a bit tough if not a single one of them is anywhere near 5-11 when they do the test?

Saying that 18.6% of children are not intellectually ready for formal tuition might make teachers think that they shouldn't even try to teach them, whereas if the teaching is suitably geared, the children may make a good start in spelling (and reading) even if they don't attain a spelling age of 5-11.

Jenny C.

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Re: Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

Post by john walker » Wed May 18, 2011 5:05 pm

We didn't say that 18.6% of children weren't ready intellectually to score on the test, Jenny. We said that we don't know why they didn't. As for knowing whether they're ready, you don't know until you test, and the reason why we test is to find out something rather than rely on anecdotal evidence. The problem with testing spelling is that there are very few people who believe that YR pupils can spell, which accounts for the dearth of available tests. Moreover, as the way in which the test is administered is very simple, we don't (and the teachers don't) feel it is 'tough' on them. The rest of what we think we know is in the discussion so rather than re-rehearse the arguments, I'll leave you to read or re-read it.
Debbie said:
It never ceases to frustrate me that no matter how hard any of us try with regard to programme/resource design and teachers' guidance and training, individuals and 'whole schools' need to want to, or be able to, follow our provision closely.
Too right, Debbie! We have a hell of a fight to persuade people that the teaching of reading and spelling is a highly skilled professional job and that teachers need to be properly trained and when they are trained they need to follow what they learn in the training. But then I don't need to tell you that. Anyway, we've come a long way. ¡Venceremos!
:grin:
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www.sounds-write.co.uk
http://literacyblog.blogspot.com

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Re: Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Wed May 18, 2011 6:13 pm

Isn't it extraordinary, however, that we have to battle practical things like fighting the case for paper and pencil activities and having children seated at desks - and having desks facing the front of the class rather than children sitting higgledy-piggledy around tables and at strange angles to the teacher's focus board.

And I despair about classrooms where there is an interactive whiteboard in place of a write-on whiteboard or flip chart.

And, I have heard, that Ofsted is at least partly behind the anti-worksheet culture but I'm trying to find evidence for that because this is anecdotal at the moment - an important issue however.

And so it goes on...

But, I agree, we have come a huge distance in the last few years. Let's hope common sense and some official support and some rigorous programmes with training will allow progress to continue. :grin:

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Re: Children who are slow to catch on in Reception

Post by chew8 » Wed May 18, 2011 6:46 pm

John wrote:We didn't say that 18.6% of children weren't ready intellectually to score on the test, Jenny.
No, I realise that, and I didn't say that you had said this - I quoted you as saying that 'it is apparent from the data that about 18.6% were not, in our opinion, really ready to intellectually engage with formal tuition', and that was the way I had always understood the 18.6% figure ever since I first read your 2009 report.

In your earlier posting today, however, you referred to the '18% who don't score on the test at the end of YR'. I then went back to the report and saw that 299 out of 1607 children had not attained a spelling age of 5-11 on the test, so I worked out the percentage and it came out at 18.6%. So you had said in words that 18.6% were not intellectually ready and your figures showed that 18.6% had not attained a spelling age of 5-11. Logic suggested that it might be one and the same 18.6%. Have I put two and two together and made five? If so (i.e. if the 18.6% who don't get a spelling age of 5-11 in Reception are different from the 18.6% who your data suggest are not 'ready to intellectually engage with formal tuition'), can you tell us what data you use to identify the 'not ready...' group?

Jenny C.

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