Synthetic Phonic Myths

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anicka
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Post by anicka » Sat Mar 25, 2006 11:53 pm

Have enjoyed reading all these posts. It probably won't surprise you all to learn that the myths downunder are very similar to yours.
Spot the myths here in a piece by well-known children's author Mem Fox. It was written in December last year.

The national literacy report by Dr Ken Rowe on the teaching of reading in Australia was released today. It recommends that schools across the country embrace "systematic, direct phonics instruction." Since every teacher of literacy teaches phonics, we modernists define this back-to-the-40's nonsense as "extreme phonics."

What is phonics anyway? It's often confused with phonetics, a way of describing in symbols the various sounds of language, such as the broad Australian loyt for light. Phonics is the ability to break up a word like cat into its individual sounds: kuh-a-tuh. "Extreme phonics" perpetrators believe that sounding out is the be-all and end-all of reading. It's a belief that was beloved of Noah in the Ark.

Making the right sounds is indeed phonics, but phonics is not reading. Reading is making sense from the page, not sounds. That's how and why we all manage to read in silence.

Like diphtheria, smallpox and "extreme phonics," illiteracy was rife in the good old days, but through research and the excellent results arising from it, we've now reduced illiteracy to such an extent that Australia's literacy rate is annually among the top three or four nations in the world.

So why would anyone plump for "extreme phonics"?

Might it be that someone has a vested interest in denying the evidenced-based truths of submissions from hundreds of teachers and academics in this stunningly clever country? Is it at all possible that influential groups involved in this literacy review have expensive "extreme phonics" programs to sell? Might they be aiming to make a packet out of "extreme phonics" by taking this brilliant country back to the Ark in a flood of misinformation? Surely not.

I only raise this question since that's exactly what happened to the National Reading Report in the USA. For reasons of vested interest scientific results were twisted to "prove" that phonics was the best method of teaching reading. The opposite was the case, and look what happened to their literacy: 300 Aussie teachers are currently employed in 536 New York schools to lift the literacy of that city and I have just returned from my 91st visit to the USA for similar reasons.

Investigative reporting on the Australian Literacy Report might clarify some muddy waters.
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FEtutor
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Post by FEtutor » Sun Mar 26, 2006 2:11 am

Hi Anicka
Mem Fox is well known on this board- try doing a search along with the words 'barking' and 'the List'!
FEtutor

anicka
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Post by anicka » Sun Mar 26, 2006 3:28 am

Thank you for the tip FE tutor.

I did a search on Mem Fox and had a wonderful time reliving all her nutty comments. I especially liked the thread "Maniacs Abroad". I'm still chuckling.

I used to get so upset but now I realise that there are lots of people around who support the synthetic phonics approach to the teaching of reading it doesn't get to me so much.

Miranda Devine is the only journalist who has responded to Mem's lunacy. The week before last she wrote another piece

http://smh.com.au/news/opinion/phonics- ... 23897.html

I wrote to thank her but haven't heard from her.

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Susan Godsland
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Re: Synthetic Phonic Myths

Post by Susan Godsland » Tue Jun 17, 2014 7:59 pm

Gordon Askew's blog post covers 13 common myths (excuses) often given for not teaching phonics as well or thoroughly as is needed
1)The phonics screening check doesn't tell us anything we don't know.

2) It puts too much pressure on little children

3) It doesn't suit all children. (One size doesn't fit all.)

4) It is valuable up to a point but sometimes doesn't work and then you need other strategies

5) It kills the love of books and reading

6) It can be over-used and result in 'barking at print'.

7) Guessing unknown words is a better way to construct meaning than decoding them.

8) It is just another government imposition.

9) Some children are not ready to learn it.

10) Decodable books are laughably nonsensical; children will miss out on a treasure trove of great children's literature

11) We have tried it before and it doesn't work.

12) Many of our children are starting to read well anyway.

13) We are already doing it. (When, in fact, they are not.)
http://ssphonix.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/ ... -some.html

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Re: Synthetic Phonic Myths

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:52 pm

We look forward to your next blog posting, Gordon! :grin:

Remember that Sir Jim Rose jumped in some time ago (2012) to address some of the myths raised by phonics critics - authors of children's literature on that occasion:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/ed ... s-row.html
Authors including Michael Rosen, Michael Morpurgo and Philip Pullman have criticised the exclusive use of the phonics method of teaching, in which words are broken down into individual sounds, claiming it risks undermining children’s love of books.

However, they came under fire last night from Sir Jim Rose, author of a landmark review of literacy teaching which led to the renewed focus on phonics, first under Labour and then by the Coalition.

Sir Jim accused critics of trying to “destroy” phonics programmes, causing damage to children’s education.

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Re: Synthetic Phonic Myths

Post by john walker » Wed Jun 18, 2014 8:44 pm

Here's another myth I picked up today from someone who asked a question on the Sounds-Write Facebook page:
From the Dyslexia Training Institute https://www.facebook.com/dyslexiatraining?fref=photo:
Remind the student with dyslexia that our written language is meant to represent meaning, not sound...therefore we have to investigate what the words mean before we know how they are pronounced. For example, show them that the g in sign is there to mark it's relationship to signal and signature. You can do this with a word sum (made famous by Pete Bowers) like this: sign + al --> signal and sign + ate + ure --->signature. So, the way a word is pronounced depends on the affixes that are attached to it.
Me? I just point to the <gn> and say, "This is another way of spelling /n/. Say /n/ here." :roll:
John Walker
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maizie
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Re: Synthetic Phonic Myths

Post by maizie » Wed Jun 18, 2014 10:50 pm

For example, show them that the g in sign is there to mark it's relationship to signal and signature. You can do this with a word sum (made famous by Pete Bowers) like this: sign + al --> signal and sign + ate + ure --->signature. So, the way a word is pronounced depends on the affixes that are attached to it.
They really do like to complicate things for the children who find it most difficult to learn :mrgreen:

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Re: Synthetic Phonic Myths

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Thu Jun 19, 2014 12:39 am

The written language does of course express meaning - but the route to reach the meaning (to unlock the language) is through an alphabetic coding system which is based on sound.

That should be straightforward enough - incredible that it isn't for so many. :roll:

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Re: Synthetic Phonic Myths

Post by cartwheel » Thu Jun 19, 2014 6:06 am

John Walker wrote
Me? I just point to the <gn> and say, "This is another way of spelling /n/. Say /n/ here.
Yes! (I tend to put a light pencil mark under the letters, and say "Say /n/ here".)

At an appropriate time SP teachers show the student other words with that spelling for /n/, and the student reads (and perhaps spells) those.
gnome, gnaw, gnash, design....
So simple. And, yes, I sometimes show the relationship between words, like "sign" and "signature", but that is not necessary for reading the words.

I have often wondered: Do the teachers who believe in this "meaning before pronunciation" approach give definitions of words as students struggle reading them? After all, then the child will know the meaning! And voila! They will know how to pronounce the word!

Teacher (with definition always readily at hand): That word means a handwritten depiction of a person's name by that same person.
Student: Ah! Signature!

Teacher: That words means a cable railroad.
Student: Ah! Of course! Funicular! I just needed to know the meaning to be able to read the word.

Jennie (U.S.)

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Re: Synthetic Phonic Myths

Post by john walker » Thu Jun 19, 2014 7:41 am

Teacher (with definition always readily at hand): That word means a handwritten depiction of a person's name by that same person.
Student: Ah! Signature!

Teacher: That words means a cable railroad.
Student: Ah! Of course! Funicular! I just needed to know the meaning to be able to read the word.

:lol:
John Walker
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http://literacyblog.blogspot.com

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Re: Synthetic Phonic Myths

Post by Elizabeth » Thu Jun 19, 2014 11:23 am

I agree: phonics first for decoding unfamiliar words and forever as part of decoding unfamiliar words. But, in addition, there comes a stage where morphemes are important and then the history of words, e.g., the fact that sign, signature, etc., have the same root, especially for spelling.
Elizabeth

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Re: Synthetic Phonic Myths

Post by cartwheel » Thu Jun 19, 2014 12:54 pm

Quite right, Elizabeth. I certainly didn't mean to imply that teaching morphemes and about connections between words is not important! Such knowledge helps greatly with spelling, and it is interesting in itself. I find that many SP programs include that type of information, but not as a precursor to decoding the words.

Most SP programs that I have seen include study of morphemes in a systematic way. For example it would teach the pronunciation of "cian" (often with the "ci" pointed out as being for /sh/), and THEN, for older students, move to talking about the meaning of the morpheme and what it does to a word: electric to electrician. [When I teach young children I see just teaching the sounds as enough - then they can read the words "magician" and "musician" in their books. They do not need to know the meaning of "cian" to be able to understand sentences with those words.]

We wouldn't say "this [pointing to "cian"] turns that [pointing to electri(c)] into a noun, usually referring to a profession - now try to read the word." And frankly, I don't believe one of these "meaning before decoding" words teachers would either, because it is totally impractical, time-consuming, and likely not to produce the correct word. So, is the "meaning before decoding" teacher actually saying the word or word parts for the student, then giving the meaning?

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