The Independent: Bethan comments

Moderators: Debbie Hepplewhite, maizie, Lesley Drake, Susan Godsland

User avatar
Susan Godsland
Administrator
Posts: 4973
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2003 11:10 pm
Location: Exeter UK
Contact:

The Independent: Bethan comments

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Dec 02, 2005 10:53 am

Oh my goodness, Bethan is not a happy bunny! Strong coffee required before reading. The fight-back begins.

In the Independent today -

Bethan Marshall: Learning requires common sense, not just phonics
Heaven help the child who seeing a picture of an elephant hazards a guess at the word
Published: 02 December 2005

Some people like certainty and Jim Rose, who reported yesterday on the future of the teaching of reading, seems to be one of them. From now on children are to be taught using a method known as synthetic phonics and nothing else until they have mastered the 44 phonemes or units of sound that make up the English language.

Keen advocates of this atomistic strategy do not even allow children to look at books before they can chant all sounds without hesitation, deviation or repetition. Only then can they be given simple words to sound out before progressing on to more complex words and finally the odd sentence and maybe the hint of a picture book. Heaven help the child who seeing an illustration of an elephant hazards a guess that the lengthy word they don't recognise may refer to that animal. For those who lobby for synthetic phonics guessing, however informed it might be, is bad.

So, too, is using knowledge of the shape of words, sentence syntax and how a book works. So a child who confronts the word "Once" at the start of a story and trots off "upon a time" will be frowned upon. All these strategies, along with identifying patterns in the text or using "analytic" phonics, are to be relegated to the waste bin of the Government's literacy strategy.

What is worrying about this move, quite apart from the fact that using phonics alone can never work in a language as phonetically inconsistent as English, is that anyone thinks it can. In this way it betrays an attitude towards the educational process that is disturbing. To begin with, part of the appeal of synthetic phonics seems to be that it appears scientific. Far from being an art, with the teacher-pupil relationship at its heart, it suggests that the teaching of reading is something that can be engineered with precision.

The problem is that children are not buildings or bridges. Learning is a messy business. Educational research findings do not and should not lead to straightforward prescription because the classroom is too complex a phenomenon either to provide or be given quick-fix solutions. The success of the synthetic phonics lobby has demonstrated, however, that politicians like "right" answers and are uncomfortable with anything that hints of the vague. This is not only because it seems more scientific but because, as a system, it appears teacher-proof as well. Learn the rules of delivery by heart and anyone can teach a child to read.

Quite apart from the mistrust of the teaching profession, this exposes the major flaw, which this approach overlooks, that children are different. Any decent teacher will tailor their teaching to the child in front of them and that means they have to exercise professional judgement and skill. They have to work out what will motivate the four-year-old Sanjay or Emma if synthetic phonics has understandably baffled them. A good teacher also recognises that some children need less drilling than others, and that whole class teaching focusing solely on sounds might be very demotivating. Concentrating on one method and one method alone will dramatically reduce the repertoire of the new teacher, constrain the expertise of the experienced one and hamper the ability of either to be responsive to the pupils' needs.

But to acknowledge that teachers need to apply their own judgement and that learning is a messy business would be to loosen the reins of government control. Synthetic phonics seems to appeal, therefore, because it promises certainty to a government that likes to lay down rules. It is hardly surprising, then, that the debate about phonics is about so much more than a method of reading. It betrays how you believe a better society might be created.

For some, this comes about through adherence to and the enforcing of clearly defined laws, which is why back-to-basics campaigns will always sweep up issues ranging from phonics teaching to a clampdown on binge-drinking via personal morality. On the other hand, some believe that unless children understand why learning to read is desirable it will be always be a mindless chore. This is the educational equivalent of pursuing active citizenship on the basis that no amount of law enforcement will ever bring about change.

The latter seems, on the face of it, utopian and harder to achieve. This is why those who suggest that learning to read is complex and there are no right answers have, on the surface, lost out so spectacularly in the so-called reading wars. Fortunately most people who teach children to read have enough common sense to know that one method will never be sufficient to engage all children in the rich process of reading, whatever the very certain Jim Rose may say.

The writer is a lecturer in education at King's College London



http://comment.independent.co.uk/commen ... 330647.ece

User avatar
Debbie Hepplewhite
Administrator
Posts: 3632
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 4:13 pm
Location: Berkshire
Contact:

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Dec 02, 2005 11:26 am

http://www.syntheticphonics.com/teachingmodel.htm

Poor Bethan -

Doesn't she realise that she is making a fool of herself?

Clearly she has not taught with synthetic phonics nor visited a class or school with synthetic phonics teaching.

She has failed to appreciate that from week one of the teacher introducing the first six letter/s-sound correspondences and the skills of blending for reading and segmenting for spelling, that the children have the start of alphabetic code knowledge and the 'adult' skills of blending unknown words and interpreting our speech into the alphabetic code.

Wow!

She doesn't realise that a large number of children are no longer doomed to failure from the first week of being introduced to our reading and writing system because synthetic phonics embodies the 'simple to complex' practicalities whilst empowering children to learn 'proper' reading and spelling from the outset.

She doesn't realise that children with a propensity for muddlement will no longer be so disadvantaged and any dyslexic tendencies will be reduced or eradicated.

She doesn't realise that children aren't being duped into thinking that they can read because they guessed that long word under the elephant picture might be 'elephant'.

She doesn't realise that synthetic phonics leads to constant left to right tracking all-through-the-word and prevents children's eyes from darting everywhere except where they should be.

She doesn't realise that children are steeped in books and other wonderful activities in the synthetic phonics classroom.

She doesn't realise that the government has had to do a turn-around on their searchlights model because of the wonderful classroom findings, end of key stage 1 results, research on reading, children with English as an additional language doing as well as English-speaking children, boys doing as well as girls, children from less-privileged backgrounds getting the best start possible.

Is Bethan blind, deaf - or dumb?


She is certainly very begrudging.

I think if people such as Bethan persist in digging themselves into an ever-deepening pit of denial and detraction, that they will increasingly lose whatever credibility they may have once had.

User avatar
Debbie Hepplewhite
Administrator
Posts: 3632
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 4:13 pm
Location: Berkshire
Contact:

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Dec 02, 2005 11:31 am

As for her references to "common sense", I suggest that she does not know the meaning!

JIMCURRAN

Bethan

Post by JIMCURRAN » Fri Dec 02, 2005 3:28 pm

For 31 years in the secondary sector I have been dealing with the causalities of whole language, real books , look and say, mixed methods call it what you will, the end result was the same, disadvantaged children who couldn’t read and who were now more disadvantaged at 12 than they had been when they entered school. There has been a huge betrayal of these children since I have been in teaching and long before and I just hope that the real changes can begin as soon as possible. I find it breathtakingly arrogant of academics like Bethan Marshall to stand in the way, even at this late stage ,of our most disadvantaged and vulnerable children. The RRF has made a real differences but the Rose Report is only a first step. We must remain vigilant to make sure that theory gets translated into practice. We have a real chance now to make a lasting difference to children’s lives. We must make it work. We won’t get another chance.

User avatar
Susan Godsland
Administrator
Posts: 4973
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2003 11:10 pm
Location: Exeter UK
Contact:

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Dec 02, 2005 5:55 pm


Lesley

Post by Lesley » Fri Dec 02, 2005 6:40 pm

Susan,

What a very, very, very satisfying read.

I only wish I'd written it myself!

The Pedant General

A Little update

Post by The Pedant General » Fri Dec 02, 2005 7:25 pm

How kind of you to visit and comment favourably.

There is a little update in a more recent post if you want to have a look at that too.

Good work by the way. Staggering to think that there is any debate about this at all.

Toodle Pip!
PG

Guest

Post by Guest » Fri Dec 02, 2005 11:00 pm

Keen advocates of this atomistic strategy do not even allow children to look at books before they can chant all sounds without hesitation, deviation or repetition. Only then can they be given simple words to sound out before progressing on to more complex words and finally the odd sentence and maybe the hint of a picture book.
Are the writers of comments like this really so unaware of what synthetic phonics teaching is really like? Or are such comments intentionally misleading and malicious in order to dupe the unknowing but interested reader?

bwking
Posts: 1348
Joined: Fri Oct 31, 2003 1:18 am

Post by bwking » Fri Dec 02, 2005 11:40 pm

Ah, doomed Bethan! I almost felt a pang of pity for her and her prog ilk...still bemoaning 19th century 'drilling' of the little lily-white prolets, and dreaming of the 'better society' (while doing their ignorant best to prevent its arrival).

That home for aged philanthropic pedagogues - where should it be situated? There are several islands off the British mainland, I believe, any of which could be purchased with quite reasonable contributions from members of this GROWING foundation.

B.

Lesley

Post by Lesley » Fri Dec 02, 2005 11:50 pm

Bethan is nothing more than a whole language dinosaur whose time has come. One can sense the desperation in the plodding predictable prog-prose of a creature who knows the show-case in the museum beckons.

Cue David Attenborough in hushed tones..

"And here we see a group, found together in late 2005, reassembled in its natural habitat, the education department of a prestigious university.
There, by the glow of the searchlight, the mighty psightvocabodon is devouring whole words. Beside him the smaller, but equally ferocious guessisaurus and predictoraptor search for clues amid the bushes. And last, but not least, the superficially alluring picturedactyl, seducing its victims into its welcoming arms, lies in wait for small humans."

"We shall not see their like again."

bwking
Posts: 1348
Joined: Fri Oct 31, 2003 1:18 am

Post by bwking » Sat Dec 03, 2005 12:01 am

You see: I told you you were good! What a facile (good sense) imagination! What an easy development of a brilliant image (mine!).

Get writing, Lesley girl - at least on yer olidays.

B.

Lesley

Post by Lesley » Sat Dec 03, 2005 12:11 am

Thanks Brian. Good teamwork, eh?

Guest

Post by Guest » Sat Dec 03, 2005 12:20 am

Lesley, you should go into print. That was brilliant!

Elsy

User avatar
maizie
Administrator
Posts: 3117
Joined: Sun Mar 14, 2004 10:38 pm
Location: N.E England

Post by maizie » Sat Dec 03, 2005 12:23 am

But the thought of the radical change which should be effected by this 'about turn' is quite awe-inspiring. Not only huge swathes of the Ed. Est. are discredited in one 'foul' swoop, but, browsing through the LDA catalogue today; saying "that'll have to go, and that'll have to go' on about every page of the Literacy & Phonics sections, makes one realise the full implications for the commercial sector. Masses of stuff is suddenly obsolete :D :D :D

Guest

Post by Guest » Sat Dec 03, 2005 12:56 am

And schools are full of them. Some schools would have barely a single text suitable for beginner readers. I just cannot believe that it won't take decades and decades to achieve.

Either that or the laminator manufacturers will make a fortune and there'll be no trees left anywhere.

Elsy

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 10 guests