© 2017 Teach to Read

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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 skills.

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:

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 pathway.

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:

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. HMI wrote:

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.