Posting by Jim Curran Thu Sep 29, 2005 'UKLA submission to the Rose Committee' page 4.
There seems to be a lot of confusion about what comprehension is. Geraldine Rodger’s posting has helped clarify the position. Synthetic phonics teaches fluent decoding, it doesn’t teach comprehension. The criticism that comprehension scores were considerably lower in the Clackmannanshire study shows an ignorance common among the critics of Synthetic Phonics.
Comprehension was always going to be a problem for many of the children in this study and was directly related to their social disadvantage and poorer language skills than to the fact that they were taught to read using A Synthetic Phonics System.As Jenny has pointed out a good decoder may read the Financial Times cover to cover without understanding any of it.The gap between the best and weakest decoders taught to read using a Synthetic Phonics System on a scale of 1- 10 maybe 3 points , 10 being the best 7 the weakest. Using the same scale to measure the gap in comprehension you might find the weakest being 2 and the best being 10. Comprehension is a higher order skill that requires word knowledge and world knowledge ( vocabulary and general knowledge) decoding is a lower level skill. On the Dispatches programme a problem with decoding was likened to coloured blindness but with much more serious consequences.
Research in the United States has shown that good decoding skills in Grade 1 are predictive of good comprehension skills in Grade 4. So up to a point accurate fluent decoding can help comprehension but only up to a point.
One thing that we are certain about is that if you can’t read the word you will not comprehend it. All comprehension stops with poor decoding. Good decoding puts you on the comprehension ladder. If you don’t get on the ladder you can’t begin to climb it.
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