34. ... all beginner readers have to come to terms with the same alphabetic principles
if they are to learn to read and write. Moreover, leading edge practice bears no
resemblance to a one size fits all model of teaching and learning, nor does it promote
boringly dull, rote learning of phonics.
46. ...it is generally accepted that it is harder to learn to read and write in
English because the relationship between sounds and letters is more complex than
in many other alphabetic languages. It is therefore crucial to teach phonic work
systematically, regularly and explicitly because children are highly unlikely to
work out this relationship for themselves. It cannot be left to chance ...
49. ... children may appear, some would say, to be ‘barking at print’ without fully
understanding what they are reading. Although this is often levelled as a criticism
of phonic work, such behaviour is usually transitional as children hone their phonic
51. ... the case for systematic phonic work is overwhelming and much strengthened
by a synthetic approach, the key features of which are to teach beginner readers:
grapheme/phoneme (letter/sound) correspondences (the alphabetic principle) in a clearly
defined, incremental sequence
to apply the highly important skill of blending (synthesizing) phonemes in order,
all through a word to read it
to apply the skills of segmenting words into their constituent phonemes to spell
that blending and segmenting are reversible processes.
57. A common feature of the best work was that boys progress and achievement did
not lag behind that of the girls ...
58. The multi-sensory work showed that children generally bring to bear on the learning
tasks as many of their senses as they can, rather than limit themselves to one sensory
89. ... there is ample evidence to support the recommendation of the interim report
that, for most children, it is highly worthwhile and appropriate to begin a systematic
programme of phonic work by the age of five, if not before for some children ...
99. An early start on systematic phonic work is especially important for those children
who do not have the advantages of strong support for literacy at home.
104. Important, too, is the boost to children’s confidence, self belief and attitudes
to reading that is apparent when early phonic work is taught successfully within
a language-rich curriculum.
113. ... phonic work is a body of knowledge, skills and understanding that quite
simply has to be taught and learned.
115. ... the searchlights model does not best reflect how a beginner reader progresses
to become a skilled reader.
116. ... skilled readers do not rely upon strategies to read words, as they have
already developed the skill of word recognition [through a phonic route]. They may
use knowledge of context and grammar, which are conceived within the searchlight
model, to assist their understanding of the text but, crucially, they would still
be able to decode the words if all contextual and grammatical prompts were removed.
117. ... if beginner readers, for example, are encouraged to infer from the pictures
the word they have to decode this may lead to their not realising that they need
to focus on the printed word. They may, therefore, not use their developing phonic
knowledge. It may also lead to diluting the focused phonics teaching that is necessary
for securing accurate word reading.
118. ... While the full range of strategies is used by fluent readers, beginning
readers need to learn how to decode effortlessly, using their knowledge of letter-sound
correspondences and the skills of blending the sounds together.
228. The lessons judged by HMI to be at least good (and, occasionally, outstanding)
were characterized by:
consolidation and revision of previously taught phonic knowledge and skills
multi-sensory approaches to support learning
clearly directed questioning, very good assessment, feedback and praise
a good, often, brisk, pace to the teaching and learning, unhindered by extraneous
activities which often slow the pace of the lesson and waste valuable lesson time
efficient organisation and management
opportunities for children to work in pairs
adults excellent knowledge of the phonic content to be taught and their skills in
teaching it, including clear and precise pronunciation of the phonemes
236. Children who had been taught, at an early stage, to blend the sounds in words
were able to apply their phonic knowledge to tackle words they had not seen before.
In this example, a child in Year 1 with English as an additional language read a
book from a commercial scheme. HMI wrote:
She reads at a steady if not entirely fluent pace. She blends sounds confidently
and is not put off by words which would be very challenging for many pupils in the
first half-term of Year 1. ... She is unafraid of tackling fairly complex words she
has not seen before. ...
237. In contrast, in the schools which did not emphasise sufficiently the skills
of blending sounds, children were not able to apply the phonic knowledge they had
learnt. ... In this example, an average-attaining boy in Year 1, with English as
his first language, attempted to read his reading book from a commercial scheme.
This pupil knows the letter-sound correspondences for most of the 26 letters of the
alphabet, but he reads by a whole word method. Occasionally he tries to use his phonic
knowledge too, but he rushes at words, using his knowledge of the first letter only.
For example, he reads ‘was’ instead of ‘went’. At times he leaves words out and continues
from memory without self-correcting, to the extent that at one point he read ‘it’
for ‘everyone’. He does not know vowel digraphs; when asked what sound ‘oo’ makes
in ‘pool’, he says ‘o’, even though he has just read pool correctly (presumably by
using the pictures or the context).
These extracts have been selected to highlight the necessity of teaching the simple
and complex alphabetic codes thoroughly and the skill of blending (synthesising)
as the main strategy to decode words.
With thanks to Debbie Hepplewhite for the basis of the selection (www.syntheticphonics.com).
For the full report, go to http://www.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/phonics/report.pdf
or click on link to download the report .
See also the Reading Reform Foundation web site www.rrf.org.uk and www.dyslexics.org.uk
for responses and the history of the reading debate.