Floating idea for Reception/Early Years

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Floating idea for Reception/Early Years

Post by quipg. » Wed Mar 31, 2004 6:21 pm

Is there any merit in the idea that children should only go up to Year 2 when they are ready to - i.e. when they are secure in the ability to decode to automaticity?
I can see the disadvantages of this in that it means separating a child from his peer group but is it the lesser of two evils? Would it also focus the minds of teachers on logical reading instruction rather than accepting that 20%+ of their class will fail with the current W.L. + watered-down phonics dished up by the NLS?
This, I believe, was the system in operation in South Africa. The S.A. parent of a child who could not read at 9 years old told me this. She also remarked that the system of phonics they used in S.A. to teach her was similar to pg.

Dave Philpot
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Post by Dave Philpot » Wed Mar 31, 2004 10:42 pm

No merit that I can think of. But a lot of merit in the Hungarian system where children attend Early Years programmes from three to six with a curriculum focused on language development, motor skills development and social interaction skills. Literacy, apart from the oral skills of segmenting and blending, is left until pupils enter school for the first time at Y2.

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Post by bwking » Wed Mar 31, 2004 11:35 pm

It has the merit of realism, if the English system stays as it is with literacy teaching often done from reception on, and little training of teachers in it.

We can't alas expect more than the most gradual leaking of s. phonics by trainers at present, so there are going to be many more barely competent lit. teachers than practitioners like the ones writing on this board. This means that the poor readers won't be brought to min. decoding/comprehension scratch by the end of YR1 IN MOST CLASSES.

Ironically (again), it would theoretically a thoroughly WL move to give these kids all the time they needed to "catch on" to literacy - but, as they doubtless realise in the tiny core of realism that remains to them, this could entail their sky-sent little chargess being stuck in reception till primary kicking-out time under their regime!

I think withholding graduation to higher forms was a feature of education prior to mass state education (what was the "remove" of the Public Schools?), but I fear it would be impossible to get accommodated in today's conveyor belt schooling - even as an emergency measure until the Great Reform.


Jenny Chew

Floating idea for Reception/Early Years

Post by Jenny Chew » Thu Apr 01, 2004 11:02 am

Having been brought up in a country where children DID repeat a year if they were struggling, I think that there is considerable merit in the practice. It's a bit upsetting for children when they first learn that this is happening to them (it happened to my best friend), but not nearly as upsetting as going on struggling year after year.

I think, however, that it requires first-time teaching to be sound, as it was in South Africa when I started school there in the 1940s. Then one can be reasonably sure that if children are struggling it's because they really are slow to catch on - my memories are that another year of this good instruction DID enable them to catch on and often raised their self-esteem because they found themselves knowing a bit more than the children doing it for the first time. But it may be another ball-game if the teaching is poor, because then it's possible that children will catch on no better second time round than they did first time round.


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Post by elsy » Fri Apr 02, 2004 12:58 am

It certainly would not work in my infant school. The first year we would probably end up with 1 Y2 class and 5 Y1. The second year, I really can't guess what would happen. The Y2 class would go to the juniors, there would be about 1 class worth of first time Y1s to go to Y2, but I couldn't predict how many of the Y1 repeaters would then be ready for Y2. Whatever the situation we would have 2 classes we could not accomodate.

(Sorry, that was a bit convoluted.)

No, I don't think it would focus the minds of our teachers on logical reading instruction, they would just persist in the notion that the children will pick it up when they are ready. If that was at the end of a second year in Y1 it would be confirmation that they were not ready the first time round.

I absolutely agree that the first-time teaching must be sound.

However, I'm not sure about the self-esteem issue. A teaching colleague who spent an exchange year in the States said that some children had spent 2 years or more at the same grade and were thoroughly demoralised at having to repeat the same things and with being so much older and bigger.


Early Education

Post by JIMCURRAN » Fri Apr 02, 2004 10:17 am

While I agree with much of what Jenny says about her childhood experiences in South Africa and bearing in mind Elsy and Lesley’s comments about how poorly prepared mentally ,emotionally and behaviourally many young children arrive at school I feel that close examination of the structure of Pre- School education in Hungary could prove beneficial.
In the 1990 International Assessment of Educational Progress (IAEP) carried out by the United States Government which compared educational attainment in 20 countries and showed Hungary and Switzerland to be the highest performing European Nations, not far behind Korea and Taiwan. In the 1992 International Association For Evaluation Of Achievement( IEA) study of reading literacy, Hungary’s 14 year olds ( after correction for the age of the sample )were graded 2nd out of 32 countries.

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Post by Dave Philpot » Sat Apr 03, 2004 12:33 am

To add a little to my previous comment, it is worth noting that the Hungarian system has flexibility unheard of in the UK! Developmentally advanced five year-olds, following careful discussion are allowed to enter school a year early, whilst developmentally 'slow' youngsters are allowed to stay in their early years system for a year longer and enter school a year later than the rest.

One of the commonest problems that I, and most other Ed Psychs, are asked to comment upon is youngsters with summer birthdays who are failing to make academic progress because of their immaturity. If the whole of the normal ability range is considered then youngsters with August birthdays who fall at the lower end of the ability range are entering school in the UK with a developmental level of just below three years, ie desperately in need of a nursery environment that has oral language as one of its predominant curricular threads. Unfortunately, lack of adequate staffing to deal with this issue in YR classrooms means that all too often they embark on the national curriculum and are failed by it.
Typically, some of these youngsters fail to learn the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they represent during their Wave One National Literacy tuition in YR. Consequently they move on to the Wave 2 ELS in Y1 - and in my opinion the ELS is probably the worst constructed 'reading tuition' programme the world has ever seen. Having not got much further these poor kids get referred for 'expert advice' in Y2, whilst their literacy tuition is continuing to focus on single letter decoding as in 'd'...'o'...'g'...'dog'. I suspect that for many of them this struggle to successfully master single letter decoding that has gone on over more than two years means that they have invested so much in it that they will always be unwilling to admit to the concept that sounds can be represented by digraphs, trigraphs etc, - and so will folornly look at words like choose for the rest of their lives going 'k'...'h'...'o'...'o'...'s'...'e'...?!

Debbie Hepplewhite

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Apr 03, 2004 1:29 am

Dave - have you expressed your views about the NLS Early Literacy Support programme in your authority or to the DfES?

I do think that it is very important that people like yourself support the RRF by letting Charles Clark and David Bell know what your views are. This will increase the pressure and show that they ARE being unaccountable by not at least addressing their critics' professional judgements etc.

Please let us know how your synthetic phonics work is going in the Wigan area. I wonder whether it is possible to visit you in the near future?

I am considering some travel round the country to report on the progress made in pockets of synthetic phonics so that we can move beyond just the schools such as St Michael's at Stoke Gifford and Kobi Nazrul, Tower Hamlets.

Are you interested in this idea?

Dave Philpot
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Post by Dave Philpot » Sun Apr 04, 2004 5:30 pm

Hi Debbie! Wrote a long reply last night but it disappeared when I tried to preview it!! Am now going to try again, but this time will submit it without looking for spelling and grammatical errors on preview.

Over the last six years I have given over 125 talks locally on why the NLS doesn't teach children to read (those that learn do so despite their NLS tuition, not because of it) and how they can be taught by a linguistic phonic approach (synthetic phonics, in my opinion, is not as complete or rigorous as linguistic phonics). Initially I was just trying to persuade one or two primary schools to try the approach with a few Y6 pupils who had totally failed (ie reading below a 7.6 level) with traditional phonic methods. Once some success had been achieved at this level some schools started teaching it to other pupils in difficulties lower down in Key Stage Two - also with success. Then I was very lucky to meet up with Susan Case and John Walker who were running courses in **(PG) - which is a remedial programme based on linguistic phonics. Between June 2000 and November 2002 they visited Wigan 14 times to deliver a five-day PG training course to teachers/LSAs. The first two courses had some LEA financial support out of the Special Needs budget, but beyond this the schools have all paid the full amount themselves - over £1000 per teacher when supply cover is included! During this period roughly 350 people were trained including some high school staff, special school staff and the LEA Learning Support Team. As take-up increased I started pushing the message that if a programme teaches something effectively then that it is how it ought be taught, ie there are good and bad teaching approaches and a good (so-called) remedial approach should work for everyone - in other words, why wait for children to fail before using a method that works when you could use it in the first place?
In 2001/2 a few primary schools tried using PG in reception as the Word Level component of the NLS and got startlingly good results. Good news spreads, probably via cluster groups moderating the infamous SATs. There are now in excess of 50 local primary schools using the approach in Key Stage One. However, Susan, John and I had been increasingly questioning a number of aspects of PG and its suitability for use in Key Stage One (despite the excellent results that we were seeing). Between the summer of 2002 and February 2003 we wrote our own programme called Sounds~Write(SW) which is aimed at whole class tuition in Key Stage One, but will work with pupils of any age and contains plenty of materials for use with older remedial pupils and adults. At present we are only providing the SW manual and materials as part of our own week's training course and it is not on general sale and we haven't released any copies for review. Since our first course in March 2003 we have trained a further 150 or so teachers/LSAs locally plus another 350 in our courses in Kent, Salford, Milton Keynes and Northern Ireland. Initial feedback is good, but the first pupils to be taught by the SW method have only just completed their second term with it so no meaningful data is yet available. Eventually we would like to provide information about how children perform given proper tuition throughout the whole of Key Stage One - unfortunately it is quite easy to show what appear to be good results over a six month period, but the same is true of covert sight vocabulary programmes that focus on the right group of words to be memorised for testing purposes! Always be wary of studies that cannot show children making above average progress year on year over several years.

But I haven't answered your question. When I started as an ed psych nearly 30 years ago DfEE initiatives were looked at by LEA officers and ignored if they were silly or wrong. Now, any directive from the DfES must be implemented without thought because it must be right. Consequently the jobs of advisers and literacy consultants, etc, are inextricably linked with carrying out DfES policy. My message that the NLS and ELS, ALS, FLS and Y7 pupil units are the reason that many children are effectively illiterate is not a popular one. Consequently the change to linguistic phonics in many local schools is one that is bottom-up not top-down. Teachers are generally child centered and want to teach effectively - they are also at the sharp end of having to work with all those pupils who are being failed by the NLS. Once they see that something else works they want to use it - and also they're not over impressed by the political message that keeps being repeated that the NLS is working, but many teachers are teaching it badly.

As far as Chas. Clark and David Bell are concerned, they have no interest in my opinions, they only want to hear what their experts, like Prof Greg Brook, are telling them. Those nameless ones at the DfES who work with the NLS and write the amazing programmes that don't correspond with the theory are not going to open their minds to the possibility that they are wrong. Also there is the enormous inertia generated by all the publishing companies that produce materials for schools - proving that much of this stuff is not just a waste of time but is damaging would cause a minor economic shock. No, I intend to quietly keep converting (subverting) teachers to a method that works, knowing that in the end it will overthrow the status quo. But whilst the movement is growing many more children will be failed and enter adulthood illiterately. This is sad, but politically the system will only change when enough schools are being properly successful without using NLS that the press and TV will investigate with more open minds than exist in central government.

Finally, everyone likes showing off something they are doing well so I have no doubt that there are many local schools who would let you look at what they are doing with linguistic phonics - some will be using PG, some will have changed from PG to SW and others will only be using SW.

And now I'm pressing the submit button.

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Post by Susan Godsland » Sun Apr 04, 2004 7:12 pm

Please tell me more about the linguistic phonic approach and how it differs from synthetic phonics.
In what way is the linguistic phonic approach more complete and rigorous?

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Post by Dave Philpot » Mon Apr 05, 2004 8:59 pm

Hi Susan!

My understanding of synthetic phonics is that its basis is to teach the 43+ phonemes of English by their main spellings together with some alternative spellings. Linguistic phonics teaches the 43+ phonemes with their main spellings and a further 130~135 common spellings' ie the complete code apart from the infrequent spellings such as the pt digraph showing "t" in pterodactyl.

As far as rigour is concerned I suppose I am thinking about the Sounds~Write programme which is totally phonic compared to any other phonic programmes which always seem to contain many graphemic lessons - and traditional phonics as far as I can tell was designed to explain English spelling, which is why most of the activities that come under this umbrella are not actually very phonic. Let me give an example without quoting any particular programme.

A teacher introduces the class to the sound "oe" via the group of words boat, cloak, float, goal, goat, moat, roast, toast. There are, of course, six other common ways to show the sound "oe" in English as in the words old bowl pole toe soul and dough. The lesson therefore is one of introducing the grapheme oa, not the sound "oe. In some programmes, after reading these words and maybe puting them into sentences we get a variation of the following type of activity.

Complete this sentence. The _ _ _ _ ate his hat. This again draws attention to the grapheme by giving a space for each letter thereby implying that it is a four-sound word. If the pupils say the sounds as they write them (which they should as part of the practise necessary to make the whole procedure an automatic one by 'overlearning'), what do they say after "g" "oe" on the third line before they get to the "t"? If they say "a" or "ae" then they have destroyed the phonic connection. If they say nothing then they are back to the idea of silent letters, ie the sound is shown by the o and the a is silent so that oa is not a digraph any more, but a single letter grapheme followed by a silent letter. We're now down the pathway to that old chestnut that, "When two vowels go walking the first does the talking," that is only true 40% of the time - but when you don't have the correct strategy, 40% is better than guessing! If we were doing this activity in SW then there would be three lines of equal length because goat is a three-sound word and we would expect the pupils to say the sound "oe" and hold it for as long as it takes to write the complete oa digraph. We would not , of course, be working on a set of words containing only one spelling of "oe." With younger pupils aged 5 or so we would probably be working with four spellings at the same time - with older pupils we would be using all seven spellings in one activity.

Another big difference in Sounds~Write is that, as far as I know, we have far more detailed instruction on how to decode polysyllabic words and how to commit them accurately to memory for accurate spelling when writing.

Dave P


Post by Lesley » Tue Apr 06, 2004 8:42 am

Hi Dave,

I agree with you about goat and three lines for the three phonemes, and that children should be taught there is more than one way to spell a sound.

I've been trained as a ** tutor, and would recognise this as Code Variation. There are tables for all the vowel and all the consonant alternatives, including the pt in pteradactyl.

At Yellow level there is guidance on how to tackle multi-syllabic words, containing Mr. Schwa.

Can you give us some more detail about how you teach Code Variation and do Multi-Syllabic work? It would be really good to get some different insights on how to approach these things.

For instance, I'm not entirely convinced by the "Scratch-Sheet Spelling" activity advocated in PG for trying things out 2 or 3 ways, as I worry it might reinforce spelling something the wrong way.


Jenny Chew

Floating idea for Reception/Early years

Post by Jenny Chew » Tue Apr 06, 2004 12:25 pm

I am interested in what you say, Dave. I am increasingly feeling, though, that there is a sort of 'six of one and half a dozen of the other' element in some of the discussions that take place.

For example: you were quoted in an article in Parenteacher some time ago as implying that PG had the right approach to teaching reading because it 'always works from sound to written text, which is the way that writing developed', whereas the 'traditional phonics' approach 'is actually a spelling programme that is being used to teach reading backwards from written text'. This had me really puzzled: as far as I am concerned, reading indisputably involves going from symbol/written text to sound, and any symbol-to-sound approach is teaching them exactly what they need to do for READING - it is approaches which teach them to go from sound to symbol which are teaching them exactly what they need to do for SPELLING and, to my way of thinking, are teaching reading 'backwards'. I am not unhappy with the PRACTICE of teaching from sound to symbol - I just feel a bit uneasy when it is cracked up as the best way of teaching READING, when reading is actually a symbol-to-sound process.

The very fact that you call your new programme 'Sounds~Write' implies (at least to me) a SPELLING orientation - when we 'write sounds', surely we are spelling rather than reading? The 'six of one and half a dozen of the other' angle is relevant, however, because anyone who teaches either reading or spelling in a thoroughly code-based way is inevitably teaching the other in the process. S/he may do this wittingly or unwittingly, but I suspect that most of us 'code' people do it wittingly - i.e. actively teach the code in both directions even if our main orientation lies more towards one end of the spectrum than the other. You might consider comparing your 'Sounds~Write' results with the Johnston and Watson results from time to time - they report reading and spelling scores from the time of the completion of the programme in the very first year of school until 5 years later (with 6-year follow-up results due shortly, I think), so there are some good long-term benchmarks there.

Re. 'oa': as I see it, what children need for READING purposes is to know that when they see 'oa' they will almost always be safe in translating it into the 'oh' sound - there are a few words where it is followed by 'r', which turns it into a trigraph pronounced as in 'boar', 'board', 'soar' etc., and there is just one common word ('broad') where it is NOT followed by 'r' but is still pronounced with the /aw/ sound. The alternative ways of representing the 'oh' sound are what they need to know for SPELLING and in this instance the spelling angle is much more complex and not just the simple converse of the reading-'oa' angle: children need to know that the /oh/ sound is frequently represented by 'oa' (though not at the ends of words), 'o-consonant-vowel' (bone, motor, noting) and 'ow', and , in a significant number of common words just by 'o' (go, no, old, fold, bolt, most, roll, both). In a very few words it is spelt 'ough' (dough, though). With spelling, knowing what the alternatives are takes one some distance along the way, but not the whole way - in the final analysis, one simply has to learn a lot of word-specific spellings.

Reputable synthetic phonics programmes (e.g. 'Jolly Phonics', Ruth Miskin's programme and the Watson and Johnston programme) actually teach a good range of sounds for symbols and a good range of symbols for sounds. If they don't teach every single possibility, it is because children usually start to self-teach once they have caught on to the underlying principle of the code. David Share put it well in 'Cognition' 55, 1995: 'The simpler, more manageable set [or spelling-sound correspondences] is sufficient to kickstart the self-teaching mechanism which is then able to refine itself in the light of expanding orthographic knowledge'.


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Post by Susan Godsland » Tue Apr 06, 2004 3:23 pm

Thank you for your reply to my questions, Dave, and to Jenny and Lesley for their thoughtful comments. It will be really interesting to see the results of the Sounds -Write programme in a few years time :)

More on-topic for this Early-Years string is this link to an article in the Telegraph last week asking, 'Why do many children lack basic language skills?'

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/ma ... tetop.html


Post by quipg. » Wed Apr 07, 2004 7:37 pm

thanks to everyone for responding to question re repeating recept/yr one.
and Dave- many thanks for interesting contrib. re Sounds-Write.

Re the definition of Sounds-Write, have always considered pg to be a synthetic(plus) programme - Geoffrey McGuinness specifically said on training I did with Jim Curran and John Walker that pg was not a linguistic (or for that matter a phonics) programme but the whole discussion about definition leaves me Victorian-like with the vapours....or some sense of unease/frustration. I imagine that we're at least 90% in agreement - particular about the terrible and illogical direction the NLS is taking - and for most of us the bottom line is the same.

I thought,for instance, that it was a great pity that Jonathan Solity in his submission to DfES phonics conferencebroke ranks, so to speak (even though it is understandable that he is presumably trying to bridge the WL/synthetic phonics debate). Again, his response and excoriating criticism of NLS -totally ignored by Greg Brook in his efforts to bend over backwards to his employers - could probably not be faulted by synthetic phonics proponents. That is, with the exception of his ERR programme refusing to use invaluable phonically - based readers in the first place - but perhaps they are red rag to a WL bull and don't fit in with JS's possible attempt to keep the WL ed. est. alongside.
The splits only give succour to Laura Huxford and her team, I imagine.

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