David Didau replies to Michael Rosen on phonics and spelling

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kestrel
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David Didau replies to Michael Rosen on phonics and spelling

Post by kestrel » Sun Jun 12, 2016 8:50 pm

http://www.learningspy.co.uk/literacy/c ... ll-better/

An excellent rebuttal of Rosen's ill-founded and snide critique.

Given that Rosen has been haunting David's blog, with increasingly ill-natured comments, I must admit I also thoroughly enjoyed David's conclusion:

"I’m going to be taking a leaf out of Michael’s book and am closing comments on this post to head off the trolls." :grin:

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Re: David Didau replies to Michael Rosen on phonics and spelling

Post by Elizabeth » Sun Jun 12, 2016 9:59 pm

It is difficult to believe Michael Rosen still doesn't understand what phonics teaching is all about. It wouldn't matter, except that he gets lots of publicity and many people seem to take him seriously.
Elizabeth

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Re: David Didau replies to Michael Rosen on phonics and spelling

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Mon Jun 13, 2016 1:04 am

I've developed a thread on this topic as I wrote the original article that Rosen refers to.

Anyone sufficiently interested can read about the development of these responses and also read the article which has been published in the NATE primary magazine for which I give a link within the thread:

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/for ... php?t=1024


Here is a link to the original article direct - comments about phonics for spelling are mainly on the second page:

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

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Re: David Didau replies to Michael Rosen on phonics and spelling

Post by chew8 » Mon Jun 13, 2016 8:42 pm

Michael Rosen obviously knows about spelling alternatives, as is shown by examples given in his blogpost. I find some of his examples more pertinent than others, one of the more pertinent ones being his suggestion that ‘yes’ could be spelt as ‘yess’ – the logic of that is strong, as most words ending in the sounds /es/ do indeed have the ‘-ess’ spelling. As the National Curriculum Spelling Appendix says, Y1 children should be taught that ‘The /f/, /l/, /s/, /z/ and /k/ sounds are usually spelt as ff, ll, ss, zz and ck if they come straight after a single vowel letter in short words. Exceptions: if, pal, us, bus, yes’. In other words, ‘less’, ‘mess’, ‘bless’, ‘dress’, ‘cress’, ’press’, ‘stress’, ‘chess’, ‘Bess’, ‘Jess’, ‘Tess’ etc. illustrate a common pattern and ‘yes’ is an exception.

As far as I’m concerned, teaching such patterns is an important part of teaching phonics, as it reduces the need for word-specific learning. Children can spell ‘yes’ on the basis of the simplest phonic knowledge, but they also need to know that they have to go beyond the simplest phonic knowledge in order to spell virtually all other words ending in the same two sounds (including, later, ‘confess’, ‘progress’, princess’, ‘impress’, ‘congress’ etc.). This is not the same as onset and rime, as the same guidelines apply to words where other single vowel letters precede the sounds /f/, /l/, /s/ and /z/.

Rosen also worries about suggestions that phonics teaching should be ‘long-term’. So do I, and I know that I am not the only synthetic phonics advocate to worry. Debbie sometimes makes the point that even adults use phonics for reading and spelling longer and more challenging words – I agree, but have said before that I see an important difference between the long-term application of phonics and the long-term teaching of phonics. It’s worth bearing in mind that few (if any) of the adults who now apply phonics in reading and spelling longer and more challenging words were given much phonics teaching as children, let alone long-term phonics teaching, and yet most can apply phonic knowledge when they need to: this is evidence that application can happen without long-term teaching, and, indeed, even when early teaching is fairly minimal. It’s something that I saw among the students aged 16+ whom I taught from 1978-2000, as I mentioned on 10 June in another thread (http://www.rrf.org.uk/messageforum/view ... f=1&t=6284):
I wrote:The weakest 6 students had scores of 6, 13, 19. 20, 24 and 25 out of 70, and on average they spelt 18% of phonemes implausibly. The better students spelt almost no phonemes implausibly – in spite of having gone through primary school at a time when little or no phonics was taught, they had somehow got to know a good range of spellings for phonemes. In fact, 5 of the 6 weakest spelt ‘island’ correctly; 2 spelt ‘brought’ correctly, and another two spelt it as ‘bought’, so 4 of them knew that unusual vowel spelling. One spelt ‘source’ correctly, one spelt it as ‘sours’, one wrote ‘sour’ then faded out (perhaps didn’t know whether to write ‘s’ or c’ next) and 3 spelt it as ‘sorce’, so there was some knowledge of ‘our’ as well as ‘or’ as a spelling for that sound, and of ‘ce’ for /s/. There were no ‘aw’, ‘au’ or ‘al’ words on the test, but one of the 6 spelt the first syllable of ‘orchestra’ as ‘al’, showing awareness of another possible spelling.

Interestingly, even the WEAKEST South African 16-year-olds to whom I gave exactly the same test in 1987 and 1992 spelt almost no phonemes implausibly, so it seems that the phonics teaching in primary schools there had more or less eliminated that problem, in spite of being less rigorous than I think you would favour, Debbie.
I’ve said in the past that phonics teaching in South Africa at the time I was there was pretty well done and dusted after the first three years of school. From then on, children did not need reminders in order to understand the relevance of phonics to new and more complex words they were required to learn. This was true of my contemporaries and me as children, and it was also true of the children I taught there.

We should also note that the impressive Sounds-Write evidence on spelling for which David Didau gives a link is based on just 3 years of teaching at infant level. Systematic phonics teaching may have continued after this, but if it did we are not told about it. My feeling is that children who could spell as well as most of those children could spell by the end of Key Stage 1 were well equipped to go on and learn more advanced spelling patterns without further explicit phonics teaching, just as used to happen in South Africa.

The idea of long-term phonics teaching is controversial, causing concern not only to Michael Rosen but also to some genuine synthetic phonics advocates. There is also no research evidence supporting it, as far as I know. In the circumstances, I don’t think the impression should be given that it’s a key part of synthetic phonics.

Jenny C.

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Re: David Didau replies to Michael Rosen on phonics and spelling

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Thu Jun 16, 2016 10:57 am

Hi Jenny - thank you for your informative comments and your opinion.

My version of 'long term phonics teaching' is based on 'two-pronged systematic and incidental phonics teaching' with reference to an over-arching Alphabetic Code Chart:

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/Deb ... andout.pdf

This includes resources and activities to build up 'knowledge of spelling word banks' where words with the same letter/s-sound correspondences are associated together (in effect, teaching which specifically raises awareness of the need to be attentive to building up knowledge of spelling word banks).

The approach also includes attention to specific words - such as high-frequency words with unusual or rare spelling alternatives.

I have good experience of training and consultancy in a wide range of schools and early years settings from nursery to secondary - mainstream and special needs - and the feedback is very positive regarding the efficacy of continued phonics teaching as I suggest.

Part of my consultancy work involves both observations and training:

Replacing futile, time-consuming activities like rolling dice to 'reach' a very few words to focus on their spelling in pairs or groups (or some mini whiteboard dictation activities) by individual work with my word-rich multi-skills activity sheets alternating with cumulative texts featuring numerous words with the focus letter/s-sound correspondences to become familiar with the words associated together (which also often increases vocabulary) - rationalised by the information and layout of Alphabetic Code Charts - is, I would argue, a far better and more memorable diet for spelling, vocabulary enrichment and language comprehension.

I've said on more than one occasion that it is simply not enough to talk about 'phonics teaching' or 'phonics programmes' as if they are the same. They need to be defined and understood to be evaluated.

I would be very surprised to find that John Walker of Sounds-Write suggests that the teaching of spelling by phonics, or to include phonics, should stop after key stage one.

I worry about 'plausible spellings' and many teachers complain about learners continuing to spell 'plausibly' through a phonics route suggesting that this has made spelling worse.

I don't promote a year of teaching only a simple code prior to the complex or extended alphabetic code as this is in danger of embedding invented spelling. I introduce spelling alternatives and pronunciation pretty much from the outset and earliest stages of my 'two-pronged' approach - again with reference as required to the overarching Alphabetic Code Chart.

In other words, when I promote long-term phonics teaching, I have my definition of phonics provision in mind which is perhaps not the same understanding or vision as you, Jenny, and other phonics proponents.

Further, we are in times when schools have increasing numbers of learners for whom English is a new or additional language - and English is taught as an additional language in many countries around the world.

Why not investigate the possibilities and potential of content-rich phonics programmes for spelling beyond the infants?

It is arguably lacking in ambition and possibilities to think that whole classes of learners are necessarily served well by infant-only phonics programmes and practices. Indeed, I observe many hard-working teachers in early years and primary schools who are not providing a diet of content-rich phonics so whilst the teachers are working hard, I suggest that the learners are not practising hard and their diet is not what it could be. Whilesoever this is the state of affairs in many schools, there is definitely a need for longer-term phonics provision not only for spelling but also for reading:

The Simple View of Schools' Phonics Provision:

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/Sim ... chools.pdf

chew8
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Re: David Didau replies to Michael Rosen on phonics and spelling

Post by chew8 » Sat Jun 18, 2016 5:10 pm

You have said enough about your approach over the years, Debbie, for me to understand it, at least in general terms. We agree that good synthetic phonics teaching from the start is very important. We also agree that word-banks are useful (I helped to compile the ones in Letters and Sounds) and that a two-pronged approach makes sense (it’s what I’ve used since the 1970s and what I think was used in South Africa when I lived there before that). What is at issue is how long systematic phonics teaching should continue, in particular with the aid of an alphabetic code chart.

I am always keen to see how things work in practice (hence my many years of voluntary work in schools since I retired) and would have been very willing to visit a school teaching your way. I asked over two years ago if you could put me in touch with one reasonably near me but you never did. As far as I know, you’ve also never made any results available from such schools, so quantifying the difference made by your approach is problematic.

Re. phonically plausible spelling: I am certainly not saying that this is OK. I mentioned it only to make the point that even teenagers who had received little or no phonics teaching had, in my experience, usually grasped the underlying rationale of the alphabetic code. With the greater emphasis on phonics that we now have, even slower learners tend to catch on to this rationale early on – I witnessed a session showing this last week. I don’t have a problem with plausible but incorrect selling at the stage when children are keen to communicate in writing but are too young to have mastered the correct spelling of all the words they want to use, but this should soon lead on to correct spelling, and correct spelling is what I’ve campaigned for since the 1980s.

It was my concern about poor spelling that got me into the early literacy debate in the first place, and the evidence I have suggests that what is really required, after a good phonics start, is good teaching about morphology, grammar and relationships between words – that doesn’t seem to be built into your charts in any obvious way, Debbie, and it probably never could be. Perhaps it’s built into other parts of your programme, but the line you take is that all schools would benefit from using an alphabetic code chart, not just schools using your programme. I worry that if teachers rely too much on a chart as a resource, they could end up giving too little attention to things which become increasingly important for good spelling after the earliest stages. This may be less likely now that the National Curriculum stresses those things, but that takes us back to what I’ve called the ‘over and above’ point. For example, if children are learning in Year 1 about the regular past tense ending and its different sounds, it seems to me that nothing is added by a chart which simply shows, without mentioning the past tense, that the /t/ and /d/ sounds can be spelt ‘ed’, as in ‘skipped’ and ‘rained’. In fact, something is omitted which would allow much wider application.

As I've said before I have no problem with your promotion of an alphabetic code chart as part of your programme, particularly if the programme as a whole covers the morphological etc. points necessary for good spelling. I have problems only when you assume that alphabetic code charts are so important that they should be used in all schools, primary and secondary, regardless of what other teaching is being done.

Jenny C.

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