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Susan Godsland
Posts: 4973
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2003 11:10 pm
Location: Exeter UK


Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Nov 28, 2014 11:01 am

I've just had an email from a colleague with the following description of how her local schools are teach early reading. She's given me permission to post it to the message board.
MIXED STRATEGIES rule. Guided reading is using the old ‘Searchlights’. Books issued to the children contain all the code –not graded for them to read what has been actually taught. Spelling lists are made up of High Frequency. The school I am most involved in at the moment teaches whole words in Reception before even teaching ‘the sounds of the letters’ of the alphabet. Alphabet names persist. So two completely opposing ‘strategies’ are being employed. This could be even more detrimental to the children than we can imagine. You have no sooner started to understand something than your understanding is taken away. The sound /a/ in cat is fine –then you meet: was, day, saw, and another string of HF or tricky words taught as wholes (in R) and you are lost...this is what is going on and we have to face it. On top of that the teachers themselves do not understand what we take for granted as ‘the code’. So add to the mix a teacher that doesn’t get it and maybe is teaching phonics against her will. ..and the picture begins to get very blurred.

My perception is that until teachers understand and value a real and thorough knowledge of the code we are going to go up hill and standards could well drop. Much phonic material also leaves much to be desired...both ‘st’ and ‘sh’ being described as blends ....pages of ‘exercises’ where the children have to put in the ‘missing’ spelling –the oa in coat on the same page as the ai in train...no order, no logic, all written by people that CAN read and spell.

I always ask teachers to imagine that everything was written in Wingdings and I hammer this home –how would they learn to read if it was another set of symbols? This starts to make them actually think. Something they don’t do. They become exasperated with the children. A father described how he came across a TA stabbing the page in front of a R child –’this says be’ pointing to the word ‘be’. She was actually shouting. If the child had understood that /b/ /e/ /d/ made bed –it might be tricky to have to get that ‘be’ made beeeeee. You might begin to get a bit dazed and give up.

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