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Re: Prof.Willingham's book on reading

Posted: Mon May 18, 2015 5:37 pm
by john walker
The review is right on the money. 'Silent letters', 'words that break pronunciation rules' [What?!] - all the contradictions of a print to sound approach are exposed. Which all goes to show: you can be a great cognitive psychologist and understand very well how children learn, but if you don't understand how the writing system works you shouldn't be offering advice to anybody on how to teach decoding.

Re: Prof.Willingham's book on reading

Posted: Thu May 21, 2015 8:43 am
by Susan Godsland
Sound to print: the appliance of science ... ience.html
In this post I want to point to a fundamental, logical inconsistency in the approaches used by many specialists in the teaching of literacy here in the United Kingdom, in Australia and in the USA. The inconsistency is this: many teach some version of ‘traditional phonics’, which is to say that their orientation is ultimately graphemic or visual.
A post on the same subject by Alison Clarke:
It's an almost impossible task to use letters and letter patterns to organise your thinking about spelling, as there are simply so many of them and their relationships with sounds are so complex.

After a while it starts to seem that there must be thousands of sounds in English, whereas there are only 44 . So let's try using sounds as our organising principle.
And a quote from Diane McGuinness

''The 40 English phonemes are the basis for the code and never change. These 40 sounds provide a pivot point around which the code can reverse...The 40 sounds will always play fair even if our spelling system does not.'' (D. McGuinness. Sound Steps to Reading. p5)

Re: Prof.Willingham's book on reading

Posted: Thu May 21, 2015 11:36 am
by Debbie Hepplewhite
The rationale of organising our complex alphabetic code around the sounds which are much smaller in number than their spelling alternatives is a fantastic one for - ORGANISING.

That is PRECISELY why I think Alphabetic Code Charts should be universally adopted - and they can be generic or programme specific - but even a programme specific chart is pretty 'generic' when organised around the principle of listing the phonemes (placed in columns) and the listing the spelling alternatives for those sounds (placed across the rows).

The reason why I then prefer the easy-to-use notation for the sounds is that they can all consist of letters and not additional signs that are part of the International Phonetic Alphabet - which, in effect, can complicate the understanding as one has to get to know those signs.

As I advocate using the notation for the sounds for learners as well - not just adults - then using all letters to notate the sounds (shown in the slash marks) is a very simple way of expressing the sounds.

In addition, the International Phonetic Alphabet is very scientific - very precise - because it is about identifying sounds in speech of all languages and therefore 'common' sounds across the languages come into the picture. It is arguably too precise - therefore inflexible.

But if you use the easy-to-use notation for the sounds (all letter shapes), then it isn't that hard to appreciate that regional accents can be superimposed, or interpreted, onto the notation for the sounds. The variation, in effect, between accents, doesn't matter - just explain to the learners, "In our area, (country, region, locality), we tend to pronounce with words with that spelling like this.....".

On creating Alphabetic Code Charts, however, I found the idea that we have around 42 to 44 sounds very misleading.

This is because some spelling alternatives actually represent units of sound with more than one phoneme such as /k+s/ and /y+oo/.

There is no way around this other than to acknowledge it fully via Alphabetic Code Charts.

There are also some units of sound which do not have to be taught as combined phonemes, but for practical reasons, it might be a good idea such as /k+w/ and /ng+k/, /ul/ and /chu/.

These are choices to be made by programme authors and teachers of course.

All in all, I introduce around 50 units of sound.

This does not mean that there are any more phonemes in the language, just that organising the sounds to spelling alternatives leads to this.

My life aim is to persuade people that Alphabetic Code Charts are as essential, and fundamentally important, as Alphabet Posters, Times Tables Posters, Periodic Tables - that type of information that is truly 'basic' stuff.

It's catching on and I get very positive feedback re use of the Alphabetic Code Charts that are free to download from here:

Alphabetic Code Charts organised around the sounds are the starting point in the phonics programmes I am associated with - and Raintree (the same company that has published Elizabeth's great non-fiction books) is now promoting the charts (A4 Table Tops) which are being very well-received by teachers, and I've now designed one specifically for the 'Phonics by Phone in Ghana' project which I can describe in greater detail some time in the future.

The work of several phonics programmes/authors underpin much of my work to date - for which I am very grateful.

Re: Prof.Willingham's book on reading

Posted: Thu May 21, 2015 11:47 am
by Debbie Hepplewhite
Charts, or interpretations of 'print to sound' therefore organised around spelling alternatives and common letter patterns is an absolute nightmare in contrast to organising alphabetic code information around the sounds.

So, when going from print to sound, you list the various spellings and realise how this is not as straightforward as you might think.

I compiled a chart (or list) going from print-to-sound in contrast to sound-to-print and the result proved to be very complicated and not really comprehensive.

I don't think it's a bad idea for adults to see the 'difference' when compiling information in these two different 'directions' or based on different rationale.

The link below is my result - but I don't make this the basis of organisation for the phonics programmes I am associated with - it does, however, demonstrate how challenging reading in the English language can be if a beginner is presented with a natural range of words will all sorts of spellings rather than being presented with systematic, cumulative, decodable reading material to build fluency and stamina.

Once beginners 'get going', the vast majority of them will be able to tackle all manner of spellings in words without explicit teaching.

Pronunciation alternatives (in contrast to 'spelling alternatives'): ... nglish.pdf

My apologies if I have wandered too far off the topic of the thread. :???:

Re: Prof.Willingham's book on reading

Posted: Thu May 21, 2015 4:40 pm
by maizie
Debbie Hepplewhite wrote:I compiled a chart (or list) going from print-to-sound in contrast to sound-to-print and the result proved to be very complicated and not really comprehensive.
I had a go at doing that, too. It is fiendishly difficult.

Re: Prof.Willingham's book on reading

Posted: Thu May 21, 2015 4:46 pm
by Susan Godsland
There are grapheme to phoneme charts (Table3. consonants Table4. vowels) in the Letters and Sounds Notes of Guidance p25/26/27 ... did=300765

Re: Prof.Willingham's book on reading

Posted: Thu May 21, 2015 7:09 pm
by Debbie Hepplewhite
The 'Letters and Sounds' graphemes to phonemes charts are restricted to specific spelling alternatives and the sounds they are code for.

What the 'Letters and Sounds' charts from graphemes to phonemes don't show is that when you take the same letter groups from different words, they can amount to code for all sorts of pronunciation alternatives and multiple sounds - not just one phoneme.

So, if a reader encounters a unknown printed word with 'al' in it, how many different ways could that be translated into sounds?






We need learners to be very flexible and to be aware of the complexities of the alphabetic code (I think from the outset of planned systematic teaching) - and they need to be aware that there is much to be taught and that the teacher (and subsequent teachers) will always 'help them' as necessary.