Is Reading about Getting Meaning From Print?

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James Curran
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Joined: Sun Oct 09, 2016 10:24 am

Is Reading about Getting Meaning From Print?

Post by James Curran » Sat Feb 18, 2017 10:00 pm

Is Reading about Getting Meaning From Print?


Nowadays, if you want to be promoted to the upper echelons of the Education Establishment, there is one big claim you have to repeat with endless enthusiasm: “Reading is about getting meaning from print.” This phrase (and variations of it) are ubiquitous in K-12 education.
What does it mean? Consider the first-grader who is trying to follow this blueprint. The child is NOT to be concerned with letters, letter sounds, or sounding out words. He is concerned with figuring out the meaning, in a more general way, of what’s on the page. For example, imagine you are in Japan and see a poster advertising noodles. You guess the ad is saying -– “Our noodles are tasty.” Even though you can’t read a word of Japanese, a teacher can declare that you got the correct meaning from print, therefore you are a good reader! That’s the sophistry we are dealing with here.

http://www.educationviews.org/reading-meaning-print/

Elizabeth
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Joined: Sat Nov 20, 2004 8:47 pm

Re: Is Reading about Getting Meaning From Print?

Post by Elizabeth » Tue Feb 21, 2017 4:19 pm

This article states the obvious, but it is not obvious to those who have been brain-washed - as I was once - about how to teach reading. In fact, it is correct that reading is about getting meaning from print. However, it is not about getting whatever meaning you choose from the print, but about getting the meaning of the actual words that have been written down.

Written words are code for spoken words. What you see is a code for what you hear. To get the intended meaning, you need to be able to decode the words, i.e. change the symbols back to sounds.
Elizabeth

chew8
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Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2003 6:26 pm

Re: Is Reading about Getting Meaning From Print?

Post by chew8 » Thu Feb 23, 2017 12:59 pm

When critics talk about children not reading for meaning, their complaint is usually that these children decode well but don’t understand what they decode. I’m in my 17th year of hearing reading in one school and in my 8th year at another - I’m not convinced that there are many children in this category. When teachers have told me that children can decode but not comprehend, I’ve made my own checks and have not found big problems – these children may sometimes misunderstand something in their reading, but they usually understand more than they misunderstand.

What I want to highlight here is a different problem, however: the problem of children whose decoding is so poor for their age that they are limited to books whose content is too far below an age-appropriate level to be interesting for them – they can understand the books if they can decode them, but the content gives them little incentive to learn to read better.

I've recently heard the reading of one such child. He is in Year 3, but nevertheless struggled with a Reception-level book from the Oxford Reading Tree phonics series, as issued by his teacher. Many of the words were simple 3-letter words, and he managed to sound and blend most of these, though slowly. He struggled, however, with the few words of two syllables (rocket, puppet, model). I helped him to decode ‘rocket’ when it first cropped up, but he then got stuck on it again just two words later – a phenomenon which seems to affect some children much more than others. He also struggled with words containing a few simple digraphs (th, ar, oy, oo, ee). His reading speed was so slow that he probably didn’t register much on the content of the book, but this content was in any case so simple that I hung back from discussing it, rightly or wrongly, in case he felt he was being treated like a baby.

I can’t account for his weakness. He was one of 53 children entering the junior school from the same infant school. 6 others from that school are quite weak, though not nearly as weak as he is, but the reading and spelling ages of the rest range from not far below chronological age to 4 or more years above chronological age.

It seems to me that one very good reason for an early emphasis on decoding is that real beginners can find decoding, in itself, satisfying enough to compensate for any triteness in the text. They should then be able to start reading texts which are more age-appropriate in terms of content. Some children may not choose to read much for pleasure, but at least they should be able to cope with the reading demands of the curriculum.

Elizabeth
Posts: 988
Joined: Sat Nov 20, 2004 8:47 pm

Re: Is Reading about Getting Meaning From Print?

Post by Elizabeth » Thu Feb 23, 2017 1:15 pm

When they start learning to read, nearly all children have decoding skills that are too poor for developing comprehension or an interest in reading through what they themselves read. Those of us who promote synthetic phonics have repeated many times that the solution is for adults to read to them a lot, until they can read interesting texts easily enough by themselves.

The same is true of older children who have poor decoding skills. Like Jenny, I have come across children who have surprising difficulty in either decoding words in the first place or in remembering them after they have decoded them a few times. It is very important that they we do what we can to compensate for the fact that they are not reading as widely as their peers. At the same time as teaching them to decode and spell as fast and as rigorously as possible, teachers and parents must keep reading to them a lot.
Elizabeth

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