'Reading the Evidence: Synthetic Phonics and Literacy Learning' (ed. M. Clark)

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chew8
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Re: 'Reading the Evidence: Synthetic Phonics and Literacy Learning' (ed. M. Clark)

Post by chew8 » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:16 am

I, too, have always been in favour of incidental phonics teaching as well as planned systematic teaching. The drip-feeding of high-frequency ‘tricky’ words can lend itself to this, particularly if the teaching stresses the parts of these words which do and do not fit in with the phonics taught to date, but even if this teaching doesn’t happen, I think children may do some spontaneous self-teaching from these words provided that there’s enough systematic synthetic phonics teaching and practice in the mix.

As shown by Maizie’s quotation, Becoming a Nation of Readers states that a key feature of ‘implicit phonics’ is that phonemes are not pronounced in isolation. I think it would be hard to find UK schools where phonemes are not pronounced in isolation, so what we are talking about here is more a matter of analytic and synthetic phonics approaches (a.p. and s.p.) in both of which phonemes are pronounced in isolation. Analysis is a process in which a whole is broken down into its parts, whereas synthesis is a process in which parts are put together to form a whole.

The whole has to be known in order for analysis to be possible, and the parts have to be known in order for synthesis to be possible. With a.p., children start off with whole words that they know as ‘sight’ words, or which they have guessed from pictures or context, or which the teacher has pronounced for them. They learn to analyse the whole spoken word into its component sounds and match those sounds to the letters in the written word. With s.p., children start off by learning letter-shapes and the sounds associated with them. They learn to say sounds for the letters in written words and put those sounds together (blend or synthesise them) into the whole spoken word.

S.p. is very much about enabling children to work out pronunciations for printed words from the start, whereas a.p. is not. Greg Brooks states, in his chapter in the Reading the Evidence book, that he has long been convinced that ‘theory suggests that synthetic phonics is more coherent than analytic phonics as a strategy for young learners working out unfamiliar printed words’. Yes – s.p. prioritises the 'working out' aspect in a way that a.p. does not. Prioritising it does seem to make good sense, as the earliest stage of learning to read is the one when all or virtually all words are unfamiliar to children in their printed form. Beginners are able to read only very simple words by sounding and blending at first, but at least they know that they can work these words out independently rather than having to be told what the words are or guess them etc. A.p. must enable them to progress to this independent working out, but how this happens is not nearly as clear as it is with s.p. This, I think, is why Greg Brooks, having produced a diagram showing how s.p. works, then writes in that same chapter ‘I have tried, and failed, to produce a corresponding representation of how analytic phonics is thought or meant to work, and have not found one in the literature’.

Jenny C.

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Re: 'Reading the Evidence: Synthetic Phonics and Literacy Learning' (ed. M. Clark)

Post by James Curran » Sun Apr 22, 2018 7:40 am

Thanks Jenny, for a very clear and concise description of the difference between Analytic and Synthetic Phonics and how Synthetic Phonics enables children to self teach and become independent whereas with Analytic Phonics children will always be dependent on a third party.

chew8
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Re: 'Reading the Evidence: Synthetic Phonics and Literacy Learning' (ed. M. Clark)

Post by chew8 » Sun Apr 22, 2018 8:39 am

I don't think it's a matter of children ALWAYS being dependent on a third party if they are taught analytic phonics - they obviously do need to get to the point of being able to work words out independently in due course. It's just that it's not clear how they manage it if they are not taught that way. They have to rely to some extent on their own powers of inference and deduction, which was something mentioned by Prof. Greg Brooks in his 2003 'Sound Sense...' paper, though not in his chapter in Reading the Evidence.

In their Scottish research, Johnston and Watson found that teachers who started children off with an analytic phonics approach sometimes (but not always) introduced sounding and blending towards the end of the first year or in the second year, so the strategy may be taught at some point even if not from the start.

I know, from my 17 years of voluntary work with children aged 4+ to 8, that most children do learn to read however they are taught. Some don't, however, and I've found that showing them how to work words out by sounding and blending can produce a light-bulb moment. I also continue to think that children are, on average, better spellers if taught that way from the start than if they are not. That observation is based on teaching hundreds of teenagers taught both ways at primary school, and on test results.

Jenny C.

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Re: 'Reading the Evidence: Synthetic Phonics and Literacy Learning' (ed. M. Clark)

Post by chew8 » Tue Jul 17, 2018 3:50 pm

I’m adding to this thread because I've just revisited a 1999 article by Henrietta Dombey, a contributor to Reading the Evidence. The article was in Literacy Today:
Dombey wrote:Uta Frith has shown us that children go about the business of identifying new words in fundamentally different ways as they go through the process of learning to read. Initially, whatever we try to teach them, young children recognise words as unanalysed wholes, making no attempt to map the component letters into speech sounds. She terms this the logographic phase, stating that towards the end of this phase children may well notice some at least of the letters involved. But they only start to make systematic use of this knowledge when they enter the next phase, what she terms the alphabetic or analytic phase. Here they are learning to relate letters and groups of letters to phonemes and groups of phonemes. In other words they are learning phonics. Children who have acquired quite a wide reading vocabulary in the earlier logographic phase may well need cajoling, repeated prompting and considerable support to tackle words analytically.
I couldn’t help thinking of this in relation to an extract from her chapter in Reading the Evidence (2017) which I included in my first post in this thread:
She wrote:Our political masters care about the test scores of our ten-year-olds and fifteen-year-olds on PIRLS and PISA, those crucial international tests of semantic and pragmatic competence. However, they seem to believe that to improve these scores, all that is needed is that the five and six-year-olds learn fidelity to the letters on the page (at least to those in words with regular spellings). The development of England's children as text critics seems entirely outside governmental concern.

We are enduring a policy that is deeply counter-productive. However, when this becomes evident, when our scores on the international league tables continue to languish, it will probably be teachers rather than the policy that will be held responsible. We should not let this happen. The challenge for the future is to bring these issues into the open: to make our masters aware of the need for instruments to assess children and the teaching of reading to reflect a more informed view of what reading is and of the approaches to the teaching of reading that have been shown to work in real classrooms, in England, and elsewhere in the world.
So Dombey thought in 1999 that a synthetic phonics approach was impossible for beginners – whatever the teaching approach, they would read words as ‘unanalysed wholes’ (i.e. logographically). She would have known otherwise if she had taken the trouble to look at schools teaching s.p. By 2017 she had realised that s.p. was quite possible for beginners, but thought that ‘fidelity to the letters on the page’ would not help our children’s performance in international tests. Wrong again, judging by England’s performance in the 2016 PIRLS test, which is all we have to go on so far.

It’s hard to take opposition to s.p. and the Phonics Screening Check seriously when that opposition is so often based on unjustified assumptions.

Jenny C.

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Re: 'Reading the Evidence: Synthetic Phonics and Literacy Learning' (ed. M. Clark)

Post by maizie » Tue Jul 17, 2018 9:07 pm

I have always been puzzled by the 'stage theory' of the acquisition of reading skills. As very few children self teach themselves to read before they start learning to read in school ir has always seemed to me that the reading behaviours researchers observed before formulating the stage theory must be the product of the children's instructional method rather than any 'natural' stages of reading development. If children are taught whole word recognition before any phonics teaching then they will, of course, attempt to 'read' words as wholes

David Share (On the Anglocentricities of Current Reading Research and Practice: The Perils of Overreliance on an “Outlier” Orthography 2008) casts doubts on the validity of stage theory

This is a shortened version of the section on stage theory from his paper
Models of word reading acquisition developed by Englishlanguage researchers almost invariably include one or more phases, or stages, in which the novice reader is unable to exploit all the grapheme–phoneme (or higher order orthography–phonology) information available in a printed word, relying instead either on partial letter–sound cues (often in conjunction with contextual cues) or on purely global visual information, such as word length and envelope, or salient visual (nonphonological) features of selected letters. The best-known terms for these stages or strategies are partial alphabetic (Ehri, 1995) and logographic (Frith, 1985), respectively. One or both appear in almost every English-language model of early reading development….. Doubts, however, have been raised about the applicability of these stages to other languages and orthographies.

Landerl (2000) observed evidence for partial alphabetic strategies (twenty for twelve) among English first graders but not among matched German readers. In a French longitudinal study from early kindergarten to the end of Grade 1, Sprenger-Charolles and Bonnet (1996) found no trace, at any of the four time points examined, of logographic reading, operationalized as reliance on global word form (i.e., length), nonsequentiality of processing, and the use of salient visual cues.
*****
Logographic and partial alphabetic stages appear to be largely an English-language peculiarity, a product of an unusually protracted period of early reading development jointly attributable to encouragement of early literacy during the preschool years followed by a prolonged period of code learning. However, both logographic and partial-alphabetic phenomena have also been reported in regular orthographies (Cardoso-Martins, 2001; Share & Gur, 1999). Cardoso-Martins (2001) found evidence of partial alphabetic reading among beginning readers of Portuguese taught via a whole-word method but not among a comparable group receiving phonics instruction. Share and Gur (1999) found evidence of logographic and partial-alphabetic (“phonetic-cue”) reading among Israeli kindergarten children who had not yet been exposed to formal reading instruction, but no evidence of either partial alphabetic or logographic reading has been reported among first graders in Israel.13 The functional opacity argument developed earlier in regard to the phonemic awareness–reading relation can be applied to these findings as well. When children begin reading in Grade 1, or in a preformal context, they have an incomplete mastery of the spelling–sound system, owing either to an opaque orthography or to teaching methods that make the orthography functionally opaque. In these situations, transitional phenomena, such as logographic and partial-alphabetic reading, will be observed over an extended period of time and are much more likely to be accorded the status of a developmental stage. Such phenomena, however, appear to be far less prevalent in regular orthographies when a compensatory head start in reading is not necessary and when phonics is the teaching method. The nature of the preschool curriculum also seems to be a significant factor in the prevalence of logographic/partialalphabetic phenomena. The Israeli preschool curriculum actively encourages letter learning and a variety of early reading and writing activities throughout the preschool years (ages 3–6 years), whereas the Austrian preschool curriculum explicitly discourages exposure to printed words and letter learning (Wimmer & Hummer, 1990). This downward extension of the learning-to-read phase in English-speaking communities (and other highly Americanized cultures, such as Israel) creates opportunities for “immature” strategies of the logographic/partial-alphabetic variety. The logographic/partial-alphabetic issue, like the phonemic awareness–reading relation and the differential rates of learning to decode, can all be rallied under the same banner: When the time course of code learning is prolonged well beyond the normal span for regular orthographies (either by an unusually complex orthography or by instructional factors), each of these issues assumes proportions well in excess of the norms for conventional alphabetic orthographies.
I note that Uta Frith develped her theory from observing UK children in the early 1980s, when synthetic phonics teaching was virtually unknown and 'phonics' was not highly regarded, Look and Say being the prevalent method of reading instruction
Linnea Ehri was working with US children, who were even less likely to have phonics teaching from the start.

I would not want to in any way denigrate these two highly respected researchers but I cannot understand how observation of taught reading behaviours became a respected, and much cited, explanation of 'normal' reading development.

chew8
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Re: 'Reading the Evidence: Synthetic Phonics and Literacy Learning' (ed. M. Clark)

Post by chew8 » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:08 am

Thanks for the Share extracts, maizie - he's always very good value. There’s also this 1990 article by Wimmer and Hummer:

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals ... D49A85B923

It’s well worth pondering on the last sentence in the abstract:
Wimmer and Hummer wrote:These findings support the conclusion that a logographic strategy is of limited importance when the writing system is phonologically rather transparent and when the instructional approach does not withhold information about grapheme-phoneme correspondences.
I think that what we’ve had in English-speaking countries is people recognising that English has a complex alphabetic code compared with other languages (true) but then slipping into the unjustified belief that adults must ‘withhold information about grapheme-phoneme correspondences’, and further slipping into illogically attributing logographic reading to a natural tendency in English beginners rather than to the teaching. We've ended up with generations of children needing to be ‘cajoled’ etc. (Dombey's word) into paying attention to GPCs when no cajoling would have been necessary if they had been taught that way from the start.

In England, we do now have more early code-based teaching, and the signs are that it’s having a positive impact.

Jenny C.

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Re: 'Reading the Evidence: Synthetic Phonics and Literacy Learning' (ed. M. Clark)

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Thu Jul 19, 2018 1:05 am

I'd like to contribute from my experience and thoughts about this issue of the difference between developmental stages and taught information:

Many years ago when I was teaching a Reception class and using Jolly Phonics for the first time (discovered from its use in a neighbouring school), the staff and parents at the school commented that the Reception children were 'reading better' than the Year One children who had not experienced explicit phonics teaching.

Of course we all know that the huge advantage of systematic synthetic phonics skills is the aspect of 'all through the word' decoding (sounding out and blending) right from the start - teach a few letter/s-sound correspondences and then apply those to cumulative, decodable printed words for practice (words that are new to the children to decode, they are not told what the word 'is' first). This results in children learning to read new words very quickly indeed - not necessarily as fast as one another - but still much faster than other approaches or waiting for children 'to be ready'.

[Note: In England, the 'systematic synthetic phonics teaching principles' also include all-through-the-spoken-word oral segmenting, then allotting letters and letter groups for the sounds identified, for spelling.]

A parent of one of my Reception children worked in a local nursery. She brought to me the 'First Steps Continuum' - a programme developed in Australia and rising to prominence in England at that time. The document was A3 paper (big) in a grid format with a developmental description of the reading and writing steps children are supposed to go through - along the lines of Ehri's work but with practical examples and details for the next steps of provision (to bring the children along, per child).

It seemed enormously (and unnecessarily) complicated to me so I was not impressed.

What occurred to me, however, was that the stages the children were deemed to go through included invented spelling exemplified by capital letter writing that skipped letters (such as BK for 'bike') but I knew this was not the case for the children that had experienced explicit systematic synthetic phonics teaching (for reading and spelling) because they had been taught to identify all the sounds 'all-through-the-spoken-word, and letters to represent those sounds, as beginners from the outset. Even if their spellings were not correct, they were 'plausibly' spelt and they included representation for all the sounds in the correct order. They went from non-writers/spellers straight to efficient spellers.

chew8
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Re: 'Reading the Evidence: Synthetic Phonics and Literacy Learning' (ed. M. Clark)

Post by chew8 » Mon Sep 17, 2018 10:25 am

A new article which is relevant:

https://amp.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/foc ... ssion=true

Jenny C.

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