The politics of phonics

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1 The politics of phonics Viv Edwards University of Reading

2 The holy grail of literacy Debates on the most effective way of teaching children to read date back to the sixteenth century. 2

3 3

4 The great debate parts-to-whole whole-to-parts approaches 4

5 Parts to whole: phonics Teaches correspondences between sounds and the graphemes that represent them Enables beginners to decode new words by sounding out or blending. 5

6 Whole to parts Meaning of texts emphasized over the sounds of the letters Phonics just one component of the whole language classroom. 6

7 A balanced approach Advocates of both approaches recognize: the importance of the relationships between letters and sounds understanding is the goal of reading instruction. 7

8 International research on the teaching of reading US National Reading Panel, 2000 New Zealand House of Representatives Inquiry into the Teaching of Reading, 2001 National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy in Australia,

9 UK reviews Torgerson et al. (2006) Systematic review of the research literature on the use of phonics in the teaching of reading and spelling Rose (2006) Independent Review of the Teaching of Early Reading. Edwards & Rassool (2007) Review of the literature on approaches to the use of phonics, including synthetic phonics, in the teaching of reading in primary schools and early years settings 9

10 Key terms Systematic phonics instruction Synthetic phonics Analytic phonics. 10

11 Systematic phonics Systematic phonics instruction is any method following a carefully selected sequence of lettersound relationships, organized in a logical order. 11

12 Synthetic phonics An approach to teaching phonics in which individual letters or letter sounds are blended to form groups of letters or sounds, and those groups are then blended to form complete words. c-a-t 12

13 Analytic Phonics Consonant blends taught as units Words broken down into "onset" and the "rime". Children taught to find similarities between words (e.g. man, can, tan, fan, and ran). c-at 13

14 Consensus from research systematic phonics instruction is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the teaching of reading no convincing evidence either for or against synthetic as opposed to analytic phonics weight of opinion favours a balanced approach over either whole-language or phonics approaches used in isolation. crisis over pedagogy appears more manufactured that real. 14

15 Clackmannanshire conclusion Synthetic phonics is not an exclusive approach - teachers may include synthetic phonics alongside their own programmes to boost the teaching of reading. Our purpose in carrying out these studies was to discover which aspects of phonics teaching are the most effective to ensure that as many children as possible become competent readers, but we recognise that this is only one aspect of effective teaching. Watson & Johnstone (1997) 15

16 Why all the fuss anyway? explicit links are being made between the products of schooling, the labour market and national economic performance politicians and legislators are appropriating debates on the philosophy and methodology of literacy teaching which, traditionally, were the territory of academics. 16

17 17

18 Phonics in the USA 101 US bills on phonics instruction introduced in state legislatures between 1990 and

19 Phonics, politics and religion tends to be associated with Republican legislators Christian Right has promoted a number of Christian phonics programmes as the only spiritually and educationally sound reading instruction method. 19

20 Phonics and politics in the UK February 2005 Clackmannanshire study reports the gains of synthetic phonics April 2005: Conservative Shadow Education Secretary announces in that all children in England would learn to read using a synthetic phonics approach. June 2005: Labour Education secretary announces Rose Inquiry January 2006: Torgerson study finds no conclusive evidence in favour of synthetic phonics March 2006: Education Secretary endorses the teaching of synthetic phonics. 20

21 A brief history of phonics in the UK increasing emphasis on phonics discussion has centred on which phonics approach is most effective the Conservative Shadow Education Secretary announces in April 2005 that all children in England would learn to read using a synthetic phonics approach. In March 2006, the Education Secretary endorsed the teaching of synthetic phonics 21

22 Phonics and bilingual readers Bilingual children have greater phonological awareness Although early phoneme awareness and phonics training can accelerate the word recognition and spelling skills of both first and second language learners, comprehension skills are unaffected Undue emphasis should not be placed on decoding skills with children operating in a second language 22

23 Seeing the big picture A child with good decoding skills may give the impression of having good reading skills and, as a consequence, poor comprehension skills may not be identified. As children with poor language skills progress onto texts that challenge decoding ability, the storyline with the text is likely to go beyond their level of understanding Failure to provide the necessary language support in the early years of education may lead to a poor-get-poorer pattern of reading comprehension achievement for many children learning EAL. Hutchinson et al. (2003: 30) 23

24 What to do? Attention to phonics should not take place in isolation from activities which promote vocabulary building, meaning-making and comprehension. It might be prudent to err on the side of caution when teaching ESL children: that is, devise ways of fostering their L2 oral language comprehension and explicitly focus on reading comprehension as well as phonics. Stuart (2004: 33) 24

25 25

26 90+ children s authors We are writers and artists who produce books for children. In our view, the proposed draft primary English curriculum, the phonics screening check at the end of year 1, and the new spelling, punctuation and grammar test at the end of year 6 pose a threat to reading for pleasure in primary schools. 26

27 90+ children s authors The recent Ofsted report Moving English Forward made a specific recommendation to the government that it call on all schools to develop policies on reading for enjoyment. To date, there has been no such move by government. On the other hand, millions are being spent on systematic synthetic phonics programmes and training, subsidised by the government, although there is no evidence that such programmes help children understand what they are reading. 27

28 90+ children s authors As a result, more school time will be devoted to reading as an academic, test-driven exercise; less time will be available for reading and writing for enjoyment. We deplore this state of affairs and consider that the quality of children's school lives is about to be altered for the worse. 28

29 90+ children s authors We call on the government to implement the Ofsted recommendation on reading for pleasure, to withdraw the phonics screening check and the spelling, punctuation and grammar test, and to reinstate mixed methods of initial reading methods (which include "basic phonics" and real books). Letter to the Guardian, 24 July

30 National Literacy Trust 2012 Report young people who read outside of class daily are thirteen times more likely to read above the expected level for their age. young people who do not enjoy reading at all are nearly ten times as likely to be reading below the expected level for their age than young people who enjoy reading very much. Only 3 young people in 10 now read daily in their own time, down from 4 in 10 in Over a fifth rarely or never read in their own time. 30

31 And there s more More than a quarter only read when they have to 17% would be embarrassed if their friends saw them reading. Reading across all formats has gone down since Boys remain significantly less keen on reading than girls. Only a third of KS4 students enjoy reading, compared with nearly three quarters of KS2 pupils. 31

32 Retrieving friends 32

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