Decodable Books

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Elizabeth
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Decodable Books

Post by Elizabeth » Wed Nov 11, 2015 5:22 pm

I hear a lot about decodable books and, although I understand what people mean by them, and I may appear pedantic, I do think the way the term is used matters.

When publishers and teachers talk about decodables and non-decodables, they are inferring that there is such a thing as a book that can be read but cannot be decoded. They are perpetuating the myth that decoding is for simple words and beginning readers only, and that some words are not decodable. That mind-set encourages the teaching of guessing strategies and memorising words without phonics.

Here are two texts and they are both decodable:

1)
Se wisa wer timbrode his hus ofer stan. Þa com þær micel flod, and þær bleowon windas, and ahruron on þæt hus, and hit ne feoll: soþlice, hit wæs ofer stan getimbrod. Þa timbrode se dysiga wer his hus ofer sandceosol. Þa rinde hit, and þær com flod, and bleowon windas, and ahruron on þæt hus, and þæt hus feoll; and his hryre wæs micel.
2)
It is striking that merely as a result of inter-polymer interactions that are local in the two-dimensional plane the topological restriction presented by the pin causes the opening up of a finite gap in the polymer density and, in particular, that the reach of its impact extends over many times the intrinsic inter-polymer separation, at least at the level of the present mean-field type of approximation.
The first is a story in old English. I can have a go at decoding it, but I am sure I mispronounce some of the words. Translated into modern English, it means:

"The wise man built his house on stone. Then a great flood came there, and winds blew there, and fell down upon the house, and it did not fall: truly, it was built on stone. Then the foolish man built his house on sand-gravel. Then it rained, and a flood came there, and winds blew, and fell down upon the house, and the house fell; and its fall was great."

I can decode the second one slowly, although I don’t know what it means.

They are both decodable if you can decode them. So, when we talk about giving children decodable books we mean books they can decode.

If you are in the early stages of learning to read, there are not many words you can decode accurately and independently without any clues. It depends on which words you are familiar with and which letter-sound correspondences you have learned. For a series of books to be decodable at different stages, authors must take great care with the structure of the words used and follow a systematic phonics programme. Each book should be matched to a level in the programme. It should include only words with letter-sound correspondences that have been taught at that level, as well as a limited number of individual words that have been taught, but include unusual correspondences or correspondences that are an exception to those that have been taught.

That’s a bit long-winded. I mean a series of decodable books for children learning to read is a series structured according to how easy the books are to decode, according to a systematic phonics programme.
Elizabeth

kenm
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Re: Decodable Books

Post by kenm » Wed Nov 11, 2015 9:56 pm

Elizabeth wrote:If you are in the early stages of learning to read, there are not many words you can decode accurately and independently without any clues. It depends on which words you are familiar with and which letter-sound correspondences you have learned. For a series of books to be decodable at different stages, authors must take great care with the structure of the words used and follow a systematic phonics programme. Each book should be matched to a level in the programme.
Do "decodable" books normally have a list of the correspondences that they use? There must be such a set, and the book would be usable by other programmes at the stage that had covered it. If the sets were not identical, it would be inferior, in that programme, to a specially written book that exercised all the correspondences, but it would be useful to a teacher using a programme ("Letters and Sounds"?) lacking a tailored set of decodables.
"... 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

chew8
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Re: Decodable Books

Post by chew8 » Wed Nov 11, 2015 10:56 pm

The OUP 'Project X Phonics' books introduce grapheme-phoneme correspondences in the order in which 'Letters and Sounds' introduces them, and lists the new GPCs used in each book on the back cover of that book.

Jenny C.

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Re: Decodable Books

Post by pjay » Wed Nov 25, 2015 11:02 am

I don't use them myself but I understand that Dandelion books follow the phonic progression in Letters and Sounds.

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Re: Decodable Books

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Wed Nov 25, 2015 11:32 am

Google just alerted me to a school with a 33 page Parents' Information Booklet for phonics and literacy.

I looked at the booklet and it was clearly created for parents at a school that is doing Ruth Miskin's 'Read Write Inc' phonics programme (great!).

Worryingly, however, in the parents' booklet there was a page entitled 'How Parents Can Help' and then it went on to describe the multi-cueing reading strategies which involve guessing words from the picture and 'what would make sense' - telling the parents that 'this is not cheating'.

Ruth Miskin would be dismayed!

This is how the multi-cueing reading strategies persist even with systematic phonics provision - both 'officially' via the Department for Education guidance - and via the guidance and training for the full Systematic Synthetic Phonics programmes advising otherwise.

Decodable, cumulative words, sentences, texts and books are very important to avoid this prevalence of children having to 'guess' their way through reading material which dilutes, detracts and undermines phonics application.

I promote the active teaching of phonics 'incidentally', however, as this enriches incremental teaching, and caters for differentiation and over-learning.

This is a very simple way to teach new or unusual letter/s-sound correspondences - or to re-visit code which has been introduced but not yet embedded well enough - and it addresses and reading in the wider curriculum as it arises:

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/FR_PI_straight.pdf

I encourage use of this technique for any supporting adults.

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Re: Decodable Books

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Wed Nov 25, 2015 2:31 pm

I've written an article for 'Teach Reading and Writing' magazine (Nov 2015) which is about the topic of decodable reading books and wider literature.

It is written in response to an article by Michael Rosen who works very hard to undermine systematic synthetic phonics promotion and the Year One phonics screening check in England (which is statutory).

Rosen's article published in the previous edition of 'Teach Reading and Writing' is entitled, 'Teaching phonics 'first, fast and only' is an absurdity' (August 2015).

My article is entitled, 'We're not banning good books' which is the current claim of Rosen expressed prolifically in the national press and at every opportunity when he speaks publicly - or so it seems!

In my article, I explain the benefits of cumulative, decodable reading books:
'Increasingly since the Rose Report, the emphasis in England has been on the benefits of cumulative, decodable reading books, as these are designed to help children apply what they have been taught about blending and letter/s-sound correspondences. This, in turn, means that children can read independently - building up their reading fluency and confidence and increasing their enjoyment of reading as they experience success. When children can decode words within their spoken language, comprehension is automatic.'
I'll provide an electronic link to the magazine when it is available.

Meanwhile, Rosen's article is available to view online here:

http://www.teachprimary.com/reading-and ... -absurdity

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Re: Decodable Books

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Wed Nov 25, 2015 5:08 pm

If anyone is sufficiently interested, you can see my detailed review of Michael Rosen's article here (the fourth message):

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/for ... .php?t=865

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Re: Decodable Books

Post by john walker » Wed Dec 02, 2015 9:29 pm

Pjay, I think you'll find that Dandelion Readers follow the order of sounds presented in Sounds-Write.
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chew8
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Re: Decodable Books

Post by chew8 » Thu Dec 03, 2015 10:42 am

When I originally read Elizabeth’s first post in this thread, I was slightly surprised by the following, but didn’t get round to commenting:
Elizabeth wrote:When publishers and teachers talk about decodables and non-decodables, they are inferring that there is such a thing as a book that can be read but cannot be decoded. They are perpetuating the myth that decoding is for simple words and beginning readers only, and that some words are not decodable.
This isn’t quite how I’ve understood publishers’ views on decodable books. On the basis of the various sets of decodables I’ve seen, I’ve assumed that publishers think very much as we do.

If there seems to be an implication that ‘decoding is for simple words and beginning readers only’, perhaps it’s because it’s generally recognised that children reach a sort of tipping point where all age-appropriate books are as near as anything decodable: what has been taught is enough to enable children to cope with most of what goes beyond what has been taught. In my voluntary work, I find that about two-thirds of children reach this point within 4 terms or so of starting school, even when the earlier use of decodable books has been unsystematic. Presumably the picture is even better in schools where more systematic use is made of such books in Reception.

What I find is that children may mispronounce some words, but if they have grasped the phonics taught to date, their mispronunciations are usually plausible decodings. Where they need help with words, it’s often a matter of word-specific knowledge rather than general code knowledge. A recent example was a Year 3 child reading ‘tomb’ as rhyming with ‘comb’. This was incorrect, but reasonable given that there are only 6 root words ending in ‘-omb’, and they involve three different vowel sounds – bomb, comb, rhomb, tomb, womb, catacomb. Pronouncing each of these words correctly in reading requires knowledge of that particular word, and that is not what we usually mean by ‘decoding’. What we usually mean is the ability to work out a pronunciation for an unfamiliar printed word on the basis of general code knowledge, and this is where decodable books are ideal, as they enable children to practise working out many different words by applying general code knowledge. Where a particular bit of code occurs in too few words to count as 'general', however, as with ‘tomb’ etc., there seems little point in having decodable books.

Jenny C.

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