Feedback on Phonic Check

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maizie
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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by maizie » Sat Oct 12, 2013 3:49 pm

Toots wrote:I didn't say it was an ineffective strategy. That's your belief, which the preceding discussion opens to question. Well, believe that use of context is an ineffective strategy if you like, but don't attribute that belief to me please. As far as I can see the jury is still out. You haven't proved otherwise.
Amazingly enough, toots, we know that you don't think that teaching children to use context to identify unknown words is an inefficient strategy. Nobody would accuse you of saying that it is. We know that you think it is a perfectly acceptable strategy to teach beginning readers.

If you cannot understand that teaching children a strategy which they don't need and which they will have to unlearn in order to become skilled readers is an inefficient teaching practice, a waste of children's learning time and has the potential to permanently depress a child's reading skills (what if they can't 'unlearn it'?) I can't think of a polite way to say what I think...

Toots

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by Toots » Sat Oct 12, 2013 4:09 pm

My point was that I have not seen evidence that using context is an inefficient strategy. So you can hardly attack me on the grounds that I want children to follow an inefficient strategy, or that I am deliberately teaching an ineffective subskill. In fact, logical argument doesn't leave room for this sort of personal attack at all. You're operating in the realm of fallacious argument, and your comment does not advance the discussion.

Of course teaching a skill, within reading instruction, which does not contribute to long term success would be counter-productive. If using context was redundant is this way, it would hardly be a subskill to reading; that would be a contradiction in terms. But you haven't proved that it is not a subskill to reading.

Does that make things a little clearer for you?

Why can't you think of a polite way to express yourself?

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by chew8 » Sat Oct 12, 2013 4:30 pm

I have now read the Stanovich article for which Toots gave this link:

http://www.rfwest.net/Site_2/Welcome_fi ... JECP81.pdf
Toots wrote:I read the Stanovich article originally because it was recommended either on here or on the TES forum by a proponent of SP. It was clear that this person believed that the article proved that the use of context in reading unfamiliar words was 'a bad thing'. But when I read the article I found that it did not prove this.
I agree that the article does not prove exactly this. In his work as a whole, however, it's almost always (or always?) in connection with the theories of Ken Goodman and Frank Smith that Stanovich discusses the use of context for word-identification. Goodman and Smith believed that good readers rely more on context than on the visual display (the letters on the page) in reading words and therefore believed that children should be taught to read this way, a view which became very influential in teacher-training. With that in mind, I think it’s reasonable to say that Stanovich’s view is that use of context in reading unfamiliar words is ‘a bad thing’.

I’ve spent many hours reading and re-reading Stanovich and others over the past few days. It would take too long to give a full account of conclusions which I think can and can’t be reached, but I’ll try and summarise a couple of points in the next day or two.

Jenny C.

Toots

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by Toots » Sat Oct 12, 2013 5:18 pm

I would agree with you that there is an element of reaction to what was the current orthodoxy in Stanovich's article. Without actually looking it up I'm pretty sure I'm right in saying that he regarded his findings as contrary to what was accepted at the time. And his observation that good readers do not use context must have cast doubts on the complete 'whole language' package - rightly so, as under this model it was believed that good readers did use context.

So these research findings show cracks in the whole language approach. However, can they be validly used to positively support the way SSP is being adopted in this country now? One element of this : do they actually positively show that using context is 'a bad thing'?

I will be interested to find out if Stanovich actually concluded that using context should be discouraged as a strategy, if he concluded that the use of context had been given too much emphasis at the expense of phonic decoding, or if he concluded that phonics should have a much greater role to play than previously thought. These are all slightly different positions indicating different courses of action. Perhaps you will be able to shed some light on that, Jenny.

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by chew8 » Sat Oct 12, 2013 5:54 pm

Toots wrote:Without actually looking it up I'm pretty sure I'm right in saying that he [Stanovich] regarded his findings as contrary to what was accepted at the time.
Yes - contrary not only to what others accepted but also to what he himself accepted before his own research showed him otherwise. I've already mentioned this on this thread:
On 10 October I wrote:The thing that sticks in my mind about what he says about readers’ use of context is that he started off thinking, with Goodman and Smith, that ‘the good reader is less reliant on graphic cues and more reliant on contextual information than is the less skilled reader’, but that when he and his colleague investigated this themselves, ‘To our surprise, all of our research results pointed in the opposite direction: it was the poorer readers, not the more skilled readers, who were more reliant on context to facilitate word recognition’ (Progress in Understanding Reading, p. 6).
I think that one always has to take into account the context in which things are said and done. The phonics screening check itself is a case in point: it has been introduced in a context where many teachers have continued to think that teaching beginners to memorise 'sight' words as global wholes and to guess from pictures and context is as important as teaching them to decode.

I can't say more now as I'm going out shortly.

Jenny C.

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by maizie » Sat Oct 12, 2013 7:50 pm

Whole word teaching (i.e Look & Say) was based on the observation (not researched) that skilled readers did not appear to process words as they read them, but recognised them instantly, as 'wholes'. Note that a whole method of teaching reading was based on what skilled readers appear to do.

Research shows that skilled readers definitely do not rely on context to identify words. However, the actual, researched, behaviour of skilled readers is not an acceptable model for informing instruction.

Interesting.

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by geraldinecarter » Sat Oct 12, 2013 9:32 pm

In the relatively rare cases where context comes into play, no way does this diminish the importance of embedding the fundamentals of decoding to automaticity for the beginner reader?

We don't expect someone embarking on learning a musical instrument to skip the foundations and concentrate on the meaning of a piece of music - why does all this pretension exist around the teaching of reading - particularly for those 20-30% who need v.specific teaching?

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by kenm » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:49 pm

Toots wrote:My point was that I have not seen evidence that using context is an inefficient strategy.
A negative correlation in adults between reading competence and use of context is evidence. It may not be what would be regarded as proof (I don't know the probabilities from the data that have been gathered), but it is certainly an indication, and I shall believe it until I am shown convincing evidence to the contrary.
"... 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

Toots

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by Toots » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:59 pm

Context may be an inefficient (actually, unneeded) strategy for good readers, just as segmenting and blending is, but it is simplistic to regard that as solid evidence that neither is useful while learning. To go back to the Ehri article I seem to remember an observation she made that decoding was a strategy, but reading known words is not, it is automatic and even unavoidable for the reader - at that point no decoding strategies are needed. It's a bit like needing to learn 'every good boy deserves food' as a mnemonic. You don't unlearn it once recognition of notes on the stave becomes automatic, you simply no longer need it.

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by kenm » Sat Oct 12, 2013 11:33 pm

Toots wrote:To go back to the Ehri article I seem to remember an observation she made that decoding was a strategy, but reading known words is not, it is automatic and even unavoidable for the reader - at that point no decoding strategies are needed.
Does that mean that I have no known words, because I decode everything I read into its spoken sounds?
"... 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: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by chew8 » Sun Oct 13, 2013 7:48 am

This is the Ehri statement that Toots probably has in mind:
Ehri wrote:Another misconception is to consider sight word reading as a strategy for reading words. However, being strategic involves choosing procedures to optimize outcomes. Readers are strategic when they figure out unknown words by decoding, analogizing, or predicting. But they are not behaving strategically when they read words by sight, which happens automatically and is not a matter of choice. (pp. 169-170
Jenny C.

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by chew8 » Sun Oct 13, 2013 2:22 pm

I said I’d try and say a bit more – this is it...

As Toots has focused quite a bit on the 2005 Ehri article for which I gave a link and has pointed out that it doesn’t directly support the idea of a synthetic start for beginners, I’ll try and explain why I cited it.

I cited it (though only after mentioning articles by Johnston et al. which I regard as more directly relevant) because it clearly deals with the issue of automatic word-reading which Toots had raised, and because Ehri recognises the part played by good grapheme-phoneme knowledge in the development of this automatic word-reading, despite the fact that the kind of teaching she uses in her experiments is a bit different from synthetic phonics as we know it:
Ehri wrote:In our studies, learners did not decode the words taught with spellings. Rather they heard the words pronounced by someone else. In fact, spellings appeared but were never even mentioned. (p. 179)
The context of that comment needs to be taken into account, however: the paragraph starts by mentioning Share’s work, and if one knows the work in question, one realises that Ehri’s second sentence is a reference to the fact that in the three studies cited in her first sentence, Share was talking about a decoding approach - identifying words by saying sounds for graphemes and blending the sounds. In the 2004 study, for example, he mentions ‘the letter-by-letter sounding out and blending’ which his Grade 3 subjects did on their ‘initial encounter with a new target’ (p. 278). But Share, like Ehri, also sets a lot of store by automatic word-reading and the contribution made to this by grapheme-phoneme knowledge, so although he uses a decoding approach and she doesn’t, there is enough common ground for them to quote each other’s findings as fitting in well with their own*.

In the same paragraph as Ehri says that her subjects didn’t decode, she allows for the possibility that ‘Use of a decoding strategy may help students’ in applying the knowledge that helps them to ‘secure the spellings of specific words in memory’ and thus eventually read word automatically. Moreover, at the end of that paragraph, despite having said that her subjects ‘did not decode the words taught with spellings’, she says it’s possible that ’some of the children decoded the spellings subvocally when they saw them’ (p. 179). It’s that kind of thing, together with anecdotal information that I’ve heard about Ehri, that makes me think that although she doesn’t use a synthetic phonics approach in her own research, she accepts that it may, like her own approach, lead on to good ‘sight’-word reading in her sense, which is a sense which I regard as legitimate.

Here’s more from Share, this time from a 1995 article which Ehri also cites, and which I have long admired:
He wrote:The advantage of an early code emphasis is substantial and not merely statistically significant. In their meta-analysis of research on early reading instruction, Pflaum et al. (1980) found that synthetic phonics (letter-sound instruction with explicit blending) produced an average outcome 35 percentile points higher than the mean of control groups compared to an average 15-point advantage for experimental groups generally. This elegantly dovetails with the conclusions reached above regarding the twin causal roles of letter-sound knowledge and phoneme blending. (‘Phonological recoding and self-teaching; sine qua non of reading acquisition’, Cognition 55. 1995)
I also find Share excellent on the subject of phonemic awareness, but that’s another story.
Toots wrote:Any interpretation is different in quality from an evidence-based conclusion. Where there is documented evidence there is no need for trust. It is important to know the difference. Wouldn't you agree?
Yes, I would agree, but I’d also want to say that background knowledge can affect one’s interpretation. In this case, my knowledge of Share’s work makes me think that although the documented evidence provided by Ehri’s own experimental work doesn’t directly support a synthetic phonics approach, she would accept that s.p. may lead to good ‘sight’-word reading in her sense.

*Share's high opinion of Ehri’s work is evident in his description of it as ‘ground-breaking’ in his 1995 article. The relevant section of that article also appears in an article produced jointly by him and Stanovich in the same year, so Stanovich must also think highly of Ehri. (Issues in Education Vol. 1 No. 1, 1995)

Jenny C.

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sun Oct 13, 2013 3:47 pm

Three things I'd like to mention briefly at this point:

1) I attended the 2003 DfES 'phonics seminar' brought about, I suggest, through our intense criticism and lobbying of various aspects of the 1998 National Literacy Strategy guidance and materials (e.g. the dreadful Early Literacy Support material and guidance).

Here, I heard Ehri speak personally. She mentioned the terrible 'guessing habits' that children get from being told to guess words - the multi-cueing reading strategies.

I pressed her on this specifically as it linked it exactly with what the Reading Reform Foundation was pursing at that time - the message to teachers described within the Early Literacy Support materials that children should be given reading strategies which literally amounted to guessing, guessing and guessing. The phonics amounted to 'check the word that you guessed with the first letters'.

We argued that messages to teachers via various NLS strategy materials and programmes were contradictory as elsewhere teachers were warned about the dangers of children guessing words. The ELS programme, however, was largely based on Reading Recovery ideas and promoted the Bookbands catalogue directly.

So -whatever else Ehri has written, I heard her say this myself.

2) Perfetti speaks of 'context free word identification' which is very important for proficiency in being able to lift the words off the page without supporting context. In effect, this is the expectations of the Year One Phonics Screening Check and the associated emphasis on word level decoding ability.

3) Context is extremely important for reading - for comprehension, for setting the context for pronunciation and meaning of ambiguous words such as wind and wind, read and read and so on.

Context use for word-guessing and for a reading 'strategy' for lifting the words off the page in the first place is an entirely different matter.

So, SSP promoters are not anti context - they are anti the use of context as a dominant reading strategy for lifting the words off the page through a guessing route.

Children often guess the wrong word from context, which can lead them off into wrong meaning.

Also, they can take context guessing as a misguided short cut - taking them away from studying the composition of the words on the page.

Further, when we need to read words which are not in our oral vocabularies, then no amount of context guessing will get us the word - even as literate adult readers - we need knowledge of the code and an ability to work through new and challenging words from left to right - albeit in word chunks very often - to be able to come up with a possible pronunciation.

The context may then help us to deduce the meaning of the word.

Although this is not necessarily an accurate way forwards for word-meaning as it is possible to deduce the wrong meaning or a slightly skewed meaning.

Which I myself have often done I have to say!

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by chew8 » Sun Oct 13, 2013 5:19 pm

Re. Debbie's point 2. above: the nutshell-statement that is never far from my mind is this:
Perfetti wrote:The hallmark of skilled reading is fast, context-free word identification. And rich context-dependent understanding. (Journal of Research in Reading 18/2, 1995).
Here's something which is relevant to the issue of the screening check - it's from the 1995 Share and Stanovich article which I mentioned earlier:
Share and Stanovich wrote:The ability to read pseudowords - the benchmark of phonological recoding - is probably the strongest known correlate of word recognition skill (see reviews by Jorm and Share, 1983, Rack et al., 1992, Snowling, 1992, Stanovich, 1994a, Stanovich and Siegel, 1994, Wagner and Torgesen, 1987). (Issues in Education 1/1, 1995)
By 'phonological recoding', S. and S. mean sounding out and blending. By 'word recognition skill' they mean the fast, automatic word-reading which usually starts to occur after a word has been sounded out and blended a few times. In other words, they are talking about 'sight'-word reading in the good sense.

Jenny C.

Toots

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by Toots » Sun Oct 13, 2013 9:56 pm

To go back to Jenny's post of early this afternoon:

I agree with you about the importance of being aware of context when weighing up research and reactions to research. As I said earlier regarding the Stanovich findings, the ramifications and impact of these must have been of added significance as they broke upon a world which believed use of context to be the hallmark of reading skill. It is understandable that some theorists should feel the need to distance themselves from any form of the whole language approach from this point on and dismiss any use of context as a reading strategy as wrong-minded. I also wonder whether the almost visceral reaction of SSP proponents to the idea that there might be any guesswork involved in reading might derive from Goodman's much quoted characterisation of reading as 'a psycholinguistic guessing game'.

However, I am surprised that you on the one hand say that your knowledge of the context in which Ehri was working justifies your interpretation of this study and on the other show disregard for the within-article context in your analysis.

Let's look at the section you use to justify your beliefs that Ehri would support SSP as a learning method. You put great store on the section on page 179. But, as I mentioned in one of my previous posts, this section is not about decoding using grapheme-phoneme correspondences at all.

The heading of the section is 'Vocabulary Learning'. Within it, Ehri describes two studies the aim of which is to find out if seeing the spelling of a word as well as hearing the word spoken (and in some cases hearing its meaning explained) facilitates remembering it. This is not about remembering how to spell the word, and it is not about learning to read the word - the word is spoken while the spelling is available to the child. It is about the child remembering and saying the word, and as the aim of the studies was to see if being able to read vocabulary made it more memorable the conclusions Ehri draws are of relevance to this aim:

"From these findings we conclude that the alphabetic system provides a mnemonic that helps students secure new vocabulary words in memory, both their pronunciations and their meanings. This constitutes one more reason why beginners need a strong alphabetic foundation when they learn to read. It helps them acquire new vocabulary words."

Jenny, you seem to have taken this reference to 'strong alphabetic foundation' out of context to suggest that Ehri would agree that pupils should be taught through an SP approach. These studies have nothing whatsoever to do with SP and the 'strong alphabetic foundation' is simply referring to the pupils' knowledge of words, letters and sounds, without any reference to how they come by it. If the pupils could remember the alphabetic structure of the following words when they heard them spoken and saw them written (repeatedly - "children were given several trials to learn the nonwords") it would have a powerful mnemonic effect: mav, rel, kip, guz, gam, yag, sod, fet. And can I remind you here that Ehri does not distinguish between knowing the names of letters and the sounds they represent in alphabetic knowledge.

You have ignored the context of the extract you quoted, the section of the article it appears in, and the scientific content within it, in favour of saying that you know what Ehri really means and that you can interpret this from your special knowledge of Ehri (including anecdotes, Jenny!).

Here is the paragraph that you have quoted more than once in your analysis, using it to suggest that it shows that Ehri would support SSP. Well, maybe Ehri would support SSP, but there is nothing here to support it, quite the reverse:

"These findings bear on Share’s (1995, 1999, 2004) self-teaching mechanism. They raise questions about the claim that learners need to apply a decoding procedure to retain sight words in memory when the words are read. In our studies, learners did not decode the words taught with spellings. Rather they heard the words pronounced by someone else. In fact, spellings appeared but were never even mentioned. Nevertheless students retained specific information about the spellings in memory. This suggests that it is not the conscious application of a de- coding procedure (i.e., sounding out letters and blending them) that is critical but the implicit, spontaneous activation of alphabetic knowledge that connects graphemes to phonemes to secure the spellings of specific words in memory. Use of a decoding strategy may help students apply this knowledge, but it is the knowledge rather than the act of decoding that is critical. Alternatively, it may be that some of the children decoded the spellings subvocally when they saw them. This is an issue for future study."

You say stuff about knowing about Share's approach, and how that knowledge reflects on this paragraph. Oh, but look - in black and white on the page, "They [the findings] raise questions about the claim that readers need to apply a decoding procedure to retain sight words in memory". What is it about this quote that you interpret as meaning that readers need to apply a decoding procedure to retain sight words?

I note you left out the last sentence of the quote when you pasted. You almost seem to want to suggest that "it may be that some of the children decoded the spellings subvocally when they saw them" means "the children decoded the spellings". It actually means that there was no evidence that they decoded although it was possible.

Jenny, you may know lots about Ehri that I don't but you really cannot use this study to support these other things you claim to know. Whatever she may say elsewhere Ehri herself could not use this article to support SP. That is clear from the first paragraph:

"Reading words may take several forms. Readers may utilize decoding, analogizing, or predicting to read unfamiliar words. Readers read familiar words by accessing them in memory, called sight word reading. With practice, all words come to be read automatically by sight, which is the most efficient, unobtrusive way to read words in text. "

Your interpretation is simply not supported by the text or the science within it, and the larger contexts you know about cannot justify your disregard for the contexts found within the article itself.

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