Greg Brooks letter to Guardian

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FEtutor
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Greg Brooks letter to Guardian

Post by FEtutor » Mon May 09, 2016 6:15 pm

Scroll down a bit in the main letters section of today's paper:

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/201 ... -the-tests

Joan

chew8
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Re: Greg Brooks letter to Guardian

Post by chew8 » Mon May 09, 2016 6:52 pm

Thanks, Joan - again very interesting. especially as Greg Brooks has been under discussion on another thread only today - see most recent posts on http://www.rrf.org.uk/messageforum/view ... f=1&t=6272

I have variously agreed and disagreed with him on things in the past. I disagree with him about the Year 1 phonics check - I'm pretty sure that what I see in my voluntary work shows that children have become better at reading and spelling since it was introduced - see http://www.rrf.org.uk/messageforum/view ... f=1&t=6267. I hope to run more checks soon.

Re. modal verbs, which Brooks mentions: A Level English Literature courses may not cover them, but the A Level English Language course I taught throughout the 1990s certainly did.

Jenny C.

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Re: Greg Brooks letter to Guardian

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Mon May 09, 2016 10:29 pm

Greg Brooks included in his letter:
Your correspondent Brian McDevitt should not be surprised that results on the phonics test (let’s call it that, since it is one) have improved each year – teachers’ and schools’ reputations depend on this and they therefore teach to it. I remain of the view, expressed as soon as this test was mooted, that imposing it on five- and six-year-olds is an abomination.
I find these shockingly strong words.

It is surely an abomination to leave children to try to 'pick up' or deduce for themselves the very complex English alphabetic code as we have done in the past - and if the check has made teachers more mindful of the consequences of their phonics teaching, then so be it.

Meanwhile, we do have literally thousands more children who can read to learn than we would have had without the emphasis on both systematic synthetic phonics teaching and the Year One Phonics Screening Check in England.

The check itself is funky and the words are printed in a child-friendly font - half of them alongside quirky colourful 'monsters' or 'aliens'.

The greatest gift we can give children is to be fantastic teachers of reading, spelling and handwriting alongside developing their spoken language and love of learning.

Children are far less likely to love learning if they cannot read, or read well, and they are far less likely to have been taught well without the developments in England over the past ten years including the advent of the phonics check.

We need the check to be used world-wide particularly in English-speaking countries.

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Re: Greg Brooks letter to Guardian

Post by JIM CURRAN » Tue May 10, 2016 8:44 am

'We need the check to be used world-wide particularly in English-speaking countries.'

I totally agree Debbie.

chew8
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Re: Greg Brooks letter to Guardian

Post by chew8 » Tue May 10, 2016 8:56 am

Something in the paper which Greg Brooks produced in connection with the March 2003 DfE seminar may be relevant to his 'abomination' comment:

http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/4938/5/nls_phonics0303gbrooks.pdf

See section 2.4.5 on pages 17-18. Brooks realised that there was a difference between the NLS ‘scaffolded’ version of blending, where the whole spoken word was known in advance, and what he called the ‘strict synthetic phonics’ version, where the whole spoken word is not known in advance but is worked out from the letters. He thought that the latter might represent a ‘North Face of the Eiger’ attitude – i.e. the s.p. version of blending might be very hard for young children.

The Year 1 phonics check tests precisely the s.p. type of blending (unscaffolded). The way that the ‘pass’ rate has risen shows that most children are quite capable of learning how to do it if given some appropriate teaching – nationally, 77% ‘passed’ in 2015, and in 600+ schools the figure was 95% or more. If the reason why Brooks regarded the check as an ‘abomination’ from the start was that he thought it tested something that children found too hard, he must surely have had to revise his views.

What I think we still need is a reputable study showing that children who 'pass' the Year 1 check go on to read age-appropriate text fluently and with good comprehension - I wouldn't want to be seen as regarding good decoding as an end in itself. My own view that the check has resulted in improvements in fluency and comprehension, but my evidence doesn't constitute a reputable study.

Jenny C.

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Re: Greg Brooks letter to Guardian

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Thu May 12, 2016 6:28 pm

Funnily enough, I referred to Greg Brooks' comment, 'the North Face of the Eiger' in my response to his report and the DfES 2003 phonics seminar:

http://www.rrf.org.uk/archive.php?n_ID= ... eNumber=51
If Brooks had visited good synthetic phonics schools he would surely not refer to children being required to do their own sounding out and blending as a “North Face of the Eiger attitude” (p.18). Does this illustrate Brooks’s lack of first hand observations of schools following this practice if he considers that it is the “hardest route”? How can it be that this “hardest route” appears to get the best results and raise test results and eliminate the gender gap in schools where they change to this method?

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Re: Greg Brooks letter to Guardian

Post by chew8 » Thu May 12, 2016 7:45 pm

Well, he had that message from at least two of us, then.

He and others should also realise that 'unscaffolded' blending isn't optional - it's necessary when children encounter visually unfamiliar words and have no one on hand to tell them what the words are. In the early stages of learning to read, children encounter a great number of visually unfamiliar words, and it's very rewarding for them to realise that they have a strategy for working those words out. The improving results in the Y1 phonics check show that the strategy is perfectly teachable.

Jenny C.

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