Are sight words unjustly slighted?

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maizie
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Are sight words unjustly slighted?

Post by maizie » Wed Jul 13, 2016 12:02 pm

There has been a fascinating response to a guest blog by Professor Anne Castles on the Read Oxford web site. Do read it and contribute.

http://readoxford.org/guest-blog-are-si ... omment-187
What is meant by ‘sight word reading’? It’s a term that seems to mean different things to different people, leading to misunderstandings and confusion. We asked Professor Anne Castles to share with us what the evidence says about sight word reading.

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Re: Are sight words unjustly slighted?

Post by JIM CURRAN » Wed Jul 13, 2016 5:04 pm

Thanks maizie, very interesting and recommended reading.

' They compared the effectiveness of two phonics programs being implemented in the first (reception) year of schooling in the UK: Letters and Sounds, which teaches multiple letter-sound mappings and no sight words and Early Reading Research, which teaches only the most consistent letter-sound mappings plus high frequency sight words. Follow up of reading and phonological awareness outcomes at the end of the second and third year of schooling revealed that the two programs were equally effective, indicating that the presence of sight words did not interfere with phonics learning. In fact, there was a tendency for children with low initial phonological awareness scores to do better with the Early Reading Research program, suggesting that being exposed to multiple alternative sound mappings for the same graphemes, rather than sight words, may have been a source of confusion for these children.'

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Re: Are sight words unjustly slighted?

Post by maizie » Wed Jul 13, 2016 9:11 pm

Except that 'they' were wrong about L & S not teaching 'sight words' if you take 'sight words' as meaning a few HFWs to make practise texts more 'natural'.

chew8
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Re: Are sight words unjustly slighted?

Post by chew8 » Thu Jul 14, 2016 11:55 am

I’ve managed to get the Shapiro and Solity paper. They do recognise that Letters and Sounds teaches high-frequency words:
They wrote:This list includes both regular (e.g., up, in, went) and exception words (e.g., you, was, said), but both types of words are taught in the same way under ERR. Children are taught to recognize each word as a whole, and they practice reading sets of these words by sight in every whole-class session. Under L&S, many of the same words are taught as high-frequency words, but the approach to teaching them is very different. Children are taught to sound out the regular words in full and for the exception words (tricky words); they are taught to recognize parts of each word that are phonically decodable and then sound out as much of the word as possible. Children practice reading these words and are exposed to them in different contexts, with the aim that they will eventually learn to recognize them by sight. This difference in approach to high-frequency words means that under ERR, children get more practice recognising these words by sight, whereas under L&S, children get more practice in phonically decoding these words. (p. 184)
What I can’t tell from what Shapiro and Solity write is whether the L and S schools followed all the relevant advice about h-f ‘tricky’ words – e.g. that when one of these words is taught it should be referred to ‘regularly throughout the day so that by the end of the day the children can read the word straight away without sounding out’.

Another thing I’m not sure about is the precise nature of the reading-scheme books the L and S children used.
Shapiro and Solity wrote:The third key difference between the programmes is the reading materials that are used. Most schools using the L&S programme combine this with a reading scheme (e.g., the Oxford Reading Tree) which provides books that contain a high proportion of phonically decodable words, appropriate to a child’s phonics knowledge. This encourages children to use a phonic decoding strategy when reading independently. (also p. 184)
As we know, many ORT books don’t actually contain ‘a high proportion of phonically decodable words’ – the publication of decodable books by OUP is fairly recent, and my (admittedly limited) experience is that teachers issue the two types fairly randomly to children whom I regard as needing decodables.

I'll leave it at that for now, but will probably say more later about the matter of 'regularity' as raised in connection with the Castles blog.

Jenny C.

chew8
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Re: Are sight words unjustly slighted?

Post by chew8 » Thu Jul 14, 2016 7:41 pm

Among the comments on her blog, Anne Castles wrote:I wonder if a helpful way of dealing with the definitional problem is to move away from the term “sight words” and instead just make a distinction between “rule-focus” and “word-focus” in reading instruction. We know that children need to be explicitly taught the correspondences between letters and sounds in English as part of a structured program. Broadly speaking, when we are teaching those correspondences, we are taking a “rule-focus” (even though the teaching may involve words, and so children may simultaneously be learning to recognise the spellings of those words as they are learning the rules). We also know that some words do not follow those typical rules and that, if they are ones that children are likely to see regularly, they need some special attention. So when we teach these words, we take a “word-focus” (even though, again, a child may still be learning rules as part of this teaching, as not all of the grapheme-correspondences in the word will be irregular).
If I understand this correctly, it fits in with something I’ve long thought.

A key reason for teaching phonics-for-reading is to enable children to read as many words as possible without help. I see this as ‘rule-focus’ teaching. We start by teaching some very basic ‘rules’ – e.g. when you see the ‘s’ shape, say /s/; when you see the ‘a’ shape, say /a/ (modelling the sound as in ‘ant’); when you see the ‘t’ shape, say /t/. We teach blending as soon as the first few correspondences have been taught, so words are introduced early, but only a few are actually used in teaching – from there on we expect children to be able to read dozens (if not hundreds) more words independently by applying those letter-sound ‘rules’. Later, we move on to teaching them that when they see ‘ea’, they may need to try both the /e/ and /ee/ sounds; again, we use a few words in teaching both these, but we expect children to be able to read many other words unaided by applying that same rule.

At this point, however, we probably teach ‘great, ‘break’ and ‘steak’ – a group of 3 in which the ‘ea’ is translated into a sound which is neither /e/ nor /ee/ and which will not enable the children to read any other root words, for the simple reason that there are none. Here, therefore, we have a ‘word-focus’ – all the relevant root words are explicitly taught, and there are no others which children can read by applying that bit of letter-sound knowledge. If there’s a rule, it’s ‘When you see “ea”, try both /e/ and /ee/ if necessary, unless the word is one of the three you have been explicitly taught’ – and a word-focus approach will also be needed when children encounter words such as ‘idea’, ‘ocean’, 'oceanic' and ‘creation’.

It’s important to teach children what happens as a rule (rule-focus), but it’s also important to teach them when the ‘as a rule’ principle doesn’t apply (word-focus). In this sense, there are regular and irregular words, and I don’t think it’s helpful to say that there aren’t.

Jenny C.

chew8
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Re: Are sight words unjustly slighted?

Post by chew8 » Thu Jul 21, 2016 10:39 am

After a gap of several days, there have been some new posts from people following the Castles blog, including a long and interesting one from Jonathan Solity.

Jenny C.

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