Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

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maizie
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Re: Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

Post by maizie » Tue Jan 28, 2014 3:54 pm

And it appears that Tom Burkard is, or was, on 5Live on the same topic. Did anybody hear him or know when it was/is to be broadcast?

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Re: Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

Post by chew8 » Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:00 pm

Davis is reported as saying that 'fully fledged readers, or those who are well on their way' should not be subjected to 'a rigid diet of intensive phonics'. I have some sympathy with that. If children really are good readers before starting school, I would want teachers to allow for the possibility that they don't need more phonics, at least for reading - some may not need it for spelling, either. On the basis of my voluntary work over the past few years, however, and enquiries I've made, I think that only a tiny percentage of children fall into this category.

I've had some other thoughts about Davis's paper, particularly on the subject of phonemes, and may post about this in due course.

Jenny C.

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Re: Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

Post by maizie » Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:15 pm

chew8 wrote:Davis is reported as saying that 'fully fledged readers, or those who are well on their way' should not be subjected to 'a rigid diet of intensive phonics'. I have some sympathy with that.
chew8 wrote:I think that only a tiny percentage of children fall into this category.
I don't think that anyone wants to know that this applies to only a tiny number of children!

If these children are getting unnecessary phonics teaching it is surely because of poor teaching, as the teacher should be aware and differentiating as necessary; it cannot be blamed on 'phonics'.

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Re: Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

Post by chew8 » Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:28 pm

I agree, Maizie. The Independent report, however, suggests that government policy is to 'force strong readers' to learn phonics. As far as I know, this isn't the case, but if it is the case, it's not a policy I would agree with - if it isn't the case, I hope someone will put the record straight.

Jenny C.

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Re: Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

Post by john walker » Tue Jan 28, 2014 7:00 pm

Brilliant interview on Radio 4, Debbie! Well done! :grin:
My daughter, who was listening with me, said how well you spoke and how clearly you came across.
On Davis: she couldn't understand why he should think that phonics doesn't help with comprehension because, as she put it, 'surely you have to be able to read (decode) before you can understand what you are reading. His argument is entirely flawed.' Quite!
I hope lots of people were listening.
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Re: Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

Post by Susan Godsland » Tue Jan 28, 2014 7:13 pm

Yes, excellent Debbie!

His w/i/n/d w/ie/n/d point is covered by John Walker here:

http://literacyblog.blogspot.co.uk/sear ... 20spelling

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Re: Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

Post by maizie » Tue Jan 28, 2014 7:17 pm

I think that the term 'strong reader' is very open to interpretation. What about these 'able readers' Davis mentioned who failed their Phonics check twice?

Surely a really able reader, phonics taught or not, would have no problem with the nonsense words?

I can imagine a few might be children like our friend Msz from TES's son, who just 'read' to a very high level without any teaching at all and who just couldn't 'get' phonics (and Msz is a teacher who has taught phonics for a long, long time), but they would be even more rare, surely, than those children who can read on entering school?

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Re: Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

Post by chew8 » Tue Jan 28, 2014 9:24 pm

I agree that the term 'strong reader' is open to interpretation. I think, though, that there are a few (very few) children who arrive at school already understanding how the alphabetic code works for reading and spelling, and who don't need to be taught phonics along with the rest. We may weaken our case by not accepting this.

Jenny C.

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Re: Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

Post by chew8 » Tue Jan 28, 2014 10:22 pm

Sorry this is rather long.

In his To Read or not to Read paper, Andrew Davis is critical of the way synthetic phonics uses the term ‘phoneme’, which he says is ‘now apparently beginning to fall out of favour with academic researchers in linguistics’. This has led me to do more reading on the subject. Actually 'phoneme' is also used by people who favour other forms of reading instruction (e.g. analytic phonics and onset-rime) but that is not a key issue here. I’ve felt for over 20 years that it was important to distinguish between a linguistics view of phonemes and a phonics-for-early literacy view of phonemes, and I’m now finding papers by linguistics professor Robert Port very interesting – in particular a 2006 paper called ‘The graphical basis of phones and phonemes’. Those interested in all the details can scroll down to find it at http://www.cs.indiana.edu/~port/pubs.html

What Port says about phonemes from a purely linguistics point of view is in line with what Davis says, but I don’t think that Port would object to the way that the concept of the phoneme is used in the synthetic phonics approach to early reading instruction. He recognises the extent to which academic linguists’ understanding of phonemes has been influenced by the alphabetic literacy they have acquired as young children: it has helped them to start thinking about the sounds in words but has also made it harder for them to think about subtleties not represented by alphabetic letters:
Port wrote:As argued by Ong (1982) and others (Goody, 1977; Goody and Watt, 1968), it is literacy that made possible the careful study of linguistic utterances. (p. 354)

The phones and phonemes of 20th century linguistics are generally taken to be formal objects, much like letters – except that they are not graphic or visual. Actually, phones and phonemes are a conceptual blend (Fauconnier &Turner, 2002; Lakoff & Nunez, 2000) of a graphical concept (the letter) and articulatory concepts (the speech gestures). ... Amazingly, the paradox built into this blended notion of a segment as both a letter and a gesture has not been seen to be a theoretical problem. Why not? Because we all learned to just “get over” these paradoxes when we learned how to read in childhood.

The proposal here is that during historical times, and increasingly for the past 3 millennia, some human communities have exploited static, spatial and graphic models for speech. This spectacularly successful set of notational conventions transformed quasi-continuous overlapping, time-distributed and highly variable speech sounds into conventionalized, discrete, ordered graphic tokens where each word has a single spelling. This blended representation has the effect of freezing many of the degrees of freedom in speech acoustics and speech gestures. As long as one looks at a single language at a time, letters conveniently provide a specification that is detailed enough for practical indication of how a speaker should pronounce a word.... It is clear that non-overlap, context independence and strict serial order may be useful for writing because these properties provide orderly presentation and reduce the number of visual distinctions required. But they are not going to do what needs to be done either for speech motor control or for speech perception, (pp. 355-6)
So he seems to regard the finer points of phones and phonemes as a challenge for linguists but not as a problem for alphabetic literacy – for ordinary alphabetic literacy, he regards the way that written symbols represent sounds as ‘spectacularly successful’. Steven Pinker makes similar points in his 1994 book The Language Instinct:
He wrote:Obviously, alphabets do not and should not correspond to sounds; at best they correspond to the phonemes specified in the mental dictionary. The actual sounds are different in different contexts so true phonetic spelling would only obscure their underlying identity. The surface sounds are predictable by phonological rules, though, so there is no need to clutter up the page with symbols for the actual sounds; the reader needs only the abstract blueprint for a word and can flesh out the sound if needed. (p. 190)
That last sentence surely makes a very similar point to Port’s statement that ‘letters conveniently provide a specification that is detailed enough for practical indication of how a speaker should pronounce a word’. This is the basis on which synthetic phonics works, and it seems to me that both Port and Pinker would see no problem with this approach for beginners, despite being aware, as linguists, of the complexities to do with phones and phonemes.

Jenny C.

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Re: Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

Post by maizie » Tue Jan 28, 2014 10:47 pm

I read a couple of Port's interesting papers quite a while ago and noted his comments on phonemes for reading. I did point it out to Davis on TES, Jenny, though without quoting big chunks. He ignored it.

But, I actually came on here to link to John Bald's short blog :grin: :

http://johnbald.typepad.com/language/20 ... ics-1.html

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Re: Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Tue Jan 28, 2014 10:48 pm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03s71cx

Here is the BBC Radio 4 PM interview with Dr Andrew Davis and myself - go to 43 minutes.

It is only available for seven days.

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Re: Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

Post by chew8 » Tue Jan 28, 2014 11:14 pm

Re. 'wind': using phonics as a first resort narrows down the number of possibilities to two. How many possibilities would one have to consider if one used context as a first resort?

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Re: Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

Post by john walker » Wed Jan 29, 2014 12:10 am

[quote]Re. 'wind': using phonics as a first resort narrows down the number of possibilities to two. How many possibilities would one have to consider if one used context as a first resort?/quote]
Clearly too many for the professor! :lol: :lol:
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Re: Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

Post by geraldinecarter » Wed Jan 29, 2014 12:12 am

You got a huge amount into the interview, Debbie - well done. And I hardly ever miss the wonderful Eddie Mair - so thank goodness for playback.

I'd need to listen to it again but did Andrew Davis insinuate in a roundabout way that some teachers might not be up to it? Why, I wonder, are so many 'educationalists' reluctant to teach their students how best to teach our alphabetic code? And why do them rarely mention the 5-6 million people who have been failed by their instruction?

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Re: Outstanding overview addresses nonsense in Davis's paper

Post by Susan Godsland » Wed Jan 29, 2014 1:11 pm

John Walker has blogged re. Debbie v Davis interview:


http://literacyblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014 ... squib.html

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