'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

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Toots

Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Toots » Sun Jan 05, 2014 11:23 pm

Well, there you go, Debbie. I rest my case.

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sun Jan 05, 2014 11:30 pm

but assessment for learning-ie determining the pace of learning and the amount of repetition and reinforcement needed must be possible.
Pjay is not wrong in this respect - this is a different matter, however, from skewing the programme or ignoring the guidance and mis-using carefully designed resources.

No-one would argue with teachers ensuring that there is ample repetition and reinforcement - indeed, this is at the heart of good practice.

The trouble is that one teacher's version of 'revisit and review' may look very different from another teacher's practice.

The recommendation for special needs it to increase the repetition - little and often being key for so many younger and slower learners - but of the mainstream phonics programme - not 'something else'.

We need to be very careful that we are not on cross-purposes with the points being raised in this thread.

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sun Jan 05, 2014 11:36 pm

I get the impression that part of the problem is advisors/inspectors giving advice to schools which is not necessarily programme-specific - indeed the advisors/inspectors may be ignorant of the rationale, guidance and resources of the schools' specific programmes and therefore undermine the programmes' design.

For example, there has been an emphasis on multiple grouping for organising the phonics provision - but only one programme is designed on that basis - and yet it became the in-thing to do - not always by choice of the teachers but through the influence of advisors/inspectors.

I've even complained to Ofsted about this issue.

This is another scenario where Pjay may be right about teachers' own decisions regarding organisation and management.

The point is that whatever the 'management' of the programme and the children, is the programme being reasonably well-delivered?

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sun Jan 05, 2014 11:42 pm

toots - I'm not quite sure what you resting your case refers to.

We are discussing the difference between teachers using their discretion to deliver a phonics programme well and effectively to provide for their range of children and circumstances (which is what I understood Pjay to mean) compared to teachers teaching something else to their children, in place of the school's phonics programme and according to their own view of reading instruction.

Please can you clarify what you mean by you 'rest your case'?

Toots

Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Toots » Sun Jan 05, 2014 11:56 pm

Come on, Debbie. Compare my statement with yours:
Toots wrote:The emphasis on SP which is enforced by current governmental efforts may well lead to neglect of other elements that are essential to reading success. Add to that a test which tests phonics alone and the distortion is complete. The curriculum is no longer about reading, it is about phonics.
Debbie Hepplewhite wrote:
This is not what I find in terms of the phonics provision.

I am trying to re-educate re the myth of phonics being 20 minutes a day is sufficient.

How can a set amount of time address all the children's needs - indeed how can this small amount of time allow for a full teaching and learning cycle - including the 'apply and extend' and including a teacher managing and supervising up to 30 children in a class?

It can't - it's ridiculous.

I can see teachers use the 20 minutes very badly with no learning going on whatsoever.

If this is multiplied by 5 days a week, it still doesn't amount to effective phonics provision. Five times not much is not much.
It's quite clear that you regard phonics as more important than the other activities that happen in an early years classroom, and that the mostly accepted 20 minutes a day is not enough to support fast phonics. Of course you want phonics to 'work'. How much phonics is going to be enough to work, Debbie? If research was to show that 5 hours of phonics per week was better than 2 hours would that justify using 5 hours of teaching time on phonics? Where will this end?

But it is not phonics which is the aim of reading instruction, it's reading.

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by yvonne meyer » Mon Jan 06, 2014 9:09 am

Since 'reading' (by which I assume Toots means gaining meaning from text) depends on decoding (phonics) and if scientific research finds that 5 hours of decoding instruction was more effective then 2 hours of decoding instruction, then yes, 5 hours should be implemented.

Toots does not appear to be able to accept the 'Simple View' of reading:
decoding x comprehension = reading
Without mastery of decoding, there can be no mastery of reading, but decoding itself without comprehension of the meaning of words and sentences is also not 'reading'.

For example, a Year 6 child I worked with who was the most severely dyslexic (unable to hear and remember individual sounds in words) I have ever come across was prescribed explicit phonics instruction for 45 minutes, 3 times a day, every day by Kerry Hempenstall. After 10 months of this intensive instruction, he made 1 year's progress in reading - more progress then he had made in the previous 6 years!

Is Toots going to say that 45 minutes, 3 times a day was too much when this is what was required for this child to make progress in reading :shock:

Toots

Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Toots » Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:14 am

No, toots is not going to say that.

The point I am following on from is based on Davis's point about teaching. Just to reiterate, he says that delivering a prescribed programme is not the same as teaching, and therefore a difficulty with research into SP is that SP teaching cannot be accurately defined. If being taught, SP will, by necessity, not be a consistent entity, because teaching demands interaction, response to pupils and reflective practice.

So a teacher could decide that a particular pupil needs longer phonics sessions than another, or that they should try out a nonword decoding assessment on certain children, whatever the programme might prescribe.

Where a SP consultant might urge 5 hours of phonics per week, or a government might require that all children pass a phonics check, a teacher might take into consideration what this will lead to in the bigger picture of literacy or in the curriculum as a whole, and make judgements about that. Oh, except that in today's climate (in England, Yvonne) this is being actively discouraged and phonics is being given special emphasis.

And the fact that Debbie would like to see extra time given to phonics rather proves Davis's point. SP teaching is not always the same entity. If Debbie has her way the time allocation will change. Will the research still apply? How long did the research model allocate to teaching phonics? Will more emphasis on phonics have a positive or negative effect on reading? Debbie may well be right that more phonics will be better phonics. Does it necessarily follow that it would lead to better reading?

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by chew8 » Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:25 am

As Yvonne says, both decoding and comprehension are important. When children start learning to read, they normally have more than enough comprehension of spoken language to comprehend the simple texts that they are expected to read at first - their main need is to learn to turn written words into spoken words that they can understand. Teachers should be reading and discussing more advanced texts aloud to improve children’s language comprehension, but should not require the children to read such texts independently, so comprehension in independent reading should not be a big issue until children are fluent enough to tackle more advanced texts independently.

I don’t teach at infant level (I’ve simply help voluntarily at that level for 4 years) so I’m not in a position to talk about how time pressures work out. The ‘official’ 20 minutes a day is supposed to be for discrete phonics teaching. This is based, I think, on what happened in the Clackmannanshire study. In that study, 20 minutes can’t have been the sum total of the time children spent on reading – the teachers insisted on also using whatever reading-scheme books they normally used, and the researchers agreed that they could introduce these after the first 6 weeks. I’ve heard, however, that although the books contained non-decodable words, the question of using cues from pictures and context for these words didn’t arise – this was not a normal practice in the Scottish schools involved, and the teachers just taught the words explicitly.

At the infant school where I help for one morning a week, discrete phonics teaching occupies only the first 20-30 minutes of each day, so I am able to start hearing reading at 9.30 a.m. I’m working only with Year 1 children at present. Most of these children read many words without sounding out, so I get them to sound out only when they get stuck on words – i.e. there’s not much phonics in the 6-8 minutes I spend with each child, except in the case of children who are still struggling to lift the words off the page. In past years, such children have also had extra small-group phonics sessions with a TA, and I assume that this is still the case. Other adults also hear the children’s reading – one parent hears all the children on the same basis as I do, and the children’s reading record books show that most parents hear reading at home. The teacher and teaching assistants also hear reading. So I would say that at this school, most of the children are spending a lot less time on phonics than on what Toots would regard as ‘reading’. I don’t know how typical this is.

Jenny C.

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by yvonne meyer » Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:53 am

Oh, except that in today's climate (in England, Yvonne) this is being actively discouraged and phonics is being given special emphasis
And so it should be given special emphasis since it has been desperately lacking for so long. In the UK, as in the US and Australia, for many years teacher training has ignored explicit phonics instruction and have unleashed many teachers who are inadequately prepared to teach explicit synthetic phonics on innocent children. Teachers cannot teach what they don't know. Special emphasis is now necessary to correct this failure.

Toots

Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Toots » Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:55 am

Comprehension tends to be an issue in early reading where children do not have a grasp of what is expected from reading, or where they laboriously sound out, struggle to blend and cannot get to the word. In the school in which I volunteer some children have so little experience that they do not know all the vocabulary even in the decodable books. Bug, log and pad consistently cause them puzzlement.

Your experience, jenny, simply underlines the different situations that apply in different schools, and the difficulty of knowing whether evidence from research is relevant to all circumstances. As a class teacher I was never in the position of having volunteer parents to hear readers.

Toots

Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Toots » Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:02 am

yvonne meyer wrote:
Oh, except that in today's climate (in England, Yvonne) this is being actively discouraged and phonics is being given special emphasis
And so it should be given special emphasis since it has been desperately lacking for so long. In the UK, as in the US and Australia, for many years teacher training has ignored explicit phonics instruction and have unleashed many teachers who are inadequately prepared to teach explicit synthetic phonics on innocent children. Teachers cannot teach what they don't know. Special emphasis is now necessary to correct this failure.
No. Lack of emphasis in the past does not mean it is right to over-emphasise now. That's like a doctor saying, "You've had a bad headache for two days and not taken painkillers? You'd better take 10 paracetamol straight away."

Does the innocence of the children have a bearing? Would it be alright to teach them whole language were they the children of the damned? :shock:

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by chew8 » Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:33 am

Toots wrote:No. Lack of emphasis in the past does not mean it is right to over-emphasise now.
But isn't it precisely the question of whether it's over-emphasis which is being debated? There are probably empirical ways of deciding on the answer - e.g. results in what is presumably regarded as the 'real' reading involved in Key Stage 1 and 2 SATs (and possibly also standardised comprehension tests). If longer-term outcomes are what really count, I think we need to allow time for those longer-term outcomes to be investigated.

Jenny C.

Toots

Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Toots » Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:44 am

I thought what was being debated related to the reliability of evidence from research and the wisdom, or not, of attempting to impose standardised practice based on the evidence. Over-emphasis is certainly one of the possible outcomes from the enforcement and testing regime.

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Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by maizie » Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:56 am

Toots wrote:Comprehension tends to be an issue in early reading where children do not have a grasp of what is expected from reading, or where they laboriously sound out, struggle to blend and cannot get to the word. In the school in which I volunteer some children have so little experience that they do not know all the vocabulary even in the decodable books. Bug, log and pad consistently cause them puzzlement.
So, if you were teaching these pupils how would you go about improving their decoding and blending skills (though, for all I know you may not take that route) and what would you do about the poor vocabulary skills?

Toots

Re: 'Old Andrew' blogs: Phonics Denialism and Rational Debate

Post by Toots » Mon Jan 06, 2014 12:54 pm

Is that relevant?

It would depend on the child, and my knowledge and experience of him/her, the text, the specific problem and the time available.

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