Phonics debate heats up

John Kenny Blog

I’ve noticed an increase in activity on Twitter from academics and teachers who do not support Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) and/or the proposed Phonics Screening Check (PSC). This isn’t a coincidence. The release of PIRLS 2016 data and the meeting of education ministers both took place in the last week, giving proponents of SSP and the PSC much to feel positive about, and giving SSP and PSC opponents much to worry about.

PIRLS 2016 shows Australia is letting down the neediest

Make no mistake, SSP and PSC advocates are most concerned about the ones at the bottom. They understand that, through a combination of factors, most students will learn to read to an acceptable level no matter the approach taken. It is the ones at the bottom, usually suffering from high levels of disadvantage or dyslexia, that need high quality, phonics-based instruction to stand a chance of learning to read.

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TESS Article: Do I have to spell it out? Synthetic phonics works | Anne Glennie

The following article appears in this week’s copy of TES Scotland (8th December)

 
Do I have to spell it out? Synthetic phonics works

Last month I gave evidence at the Scottish Parliament on my petition to improve literacy standards in schools through research-informed reading instruction. It calls for national guidance, support, and professional learning for teachers (and trainee teachers) specifically in systematic synthetic phonics.

I have been trying to raise awareness about this for the past three years, through blogs, opinion pieces and letters to various MSPs, including…

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Don’t let phonics denialists move the goal posts after PIRLS 2016

Scenes From The Battleground

A big difference between scepticism and denialism is that sceptics can identify what evidence would persuade them and then change their position when they have it. Denialists will move the goalposts, acting as if the evidence has no consequences for their arguments. When dealing with denialists you have to constantly remind them of their own arguments otherwise they will simply move on.

The recent PIRLS results, that assessed reading in “4th grade” in 61 countries, and allowed for comparisons between countries and with previous scores was a perfect example of this. This was the first PIRLS cohort to have been through the phonics check. They indicated who was right and who was wrong in their predictions about the effects of the phonics check. The results showed that since the previous round of PIRLS, reading scores in England had improved (to their highest ever) with spectacular gains for the weakest readers.

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What Teachers Do To Make Every Child Feel Like A Writer | literacyforpleasure

As part of our ongoing work on building a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy, we have been reflecting on the second principle of our Writing For Pleasure manifesto:

Positive Expectations: Seeing All Learners As Writers (2)

Effective writing teachers hold high achievement expectations for all writers. They see all children as  writers and, from the first, teach strategies that lead to greater independence. They make the purposes and audiences for writing clear to children for both their class and personal writing projects. They teach what writing can do. They also promote the social aspects of…

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Reading Buddies | Jon Biddle

Over the past few months, we’ve been thinking about ways to involve all our staff (meaning SLT, support staff and office staff, as well as teachers) in the development of our whole school reading culture. We’ve also talked about the significant number of children who don’t have parental support with their reading at home and have decided that we’ll attempt to help counter this by creating one-to-one pupil and staff reading buddies across the school.

We looked at our staffing structure and worked out that we had about 35 people available to become buddies, meaning that we could support three…

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Addendum: A 4th Way phonics denialists will try to fool you

Scenes From The Battleground

Last week I wrote about phonics denialism for the first time in ages. About 24 hours after listing the arguments I most often hear from those who deny the evidence about early reading I remembered I missed one out. So here it is.

4) When phonics doesn’t work

Some children struggle to learn to read. There are a number of possible reasons for this. It could be that the child has some particular difficulty. It could be that even where they were supposedly taught high quality SSP, they weren’t, but learning to read goes wrong sometimes.

Now, in some cases there may be a problem, for instance with hearing, that can be treated directly, but generally most difficulties are lumped together under labels such as dyslexia. This, combined with those children with the opposite aptitude, who learnt to read more quickly than expected, has led to a notion of different…

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A Cautionary Blog Post About Using Structure Strips | literacyforpleasure

When reading about writing you are often faced with one of two extremes. At one end of a continuum is the belief that ‘language,’ including writing, cannot be effectively taught unless it is solely acquired through experiences and by being presented with a situation which causes an authentic reason to write.

At the other end is the idea that language is best learned through tutelage, rote-learning and explicit instruction in its structures, forms and conventions.

As is often the case with extremes, academic research and sensible practitioners suggest a moderate middle ground is required….

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