'Sight words' - What does this mean? There is good news and bad news....

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Debbie_Hepplewhite
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Re: 'Sight words' - What does this mean? There is good news and bad news....

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Tue May 31, 2016 3:36 pm

Maggie Downie has written about her observations of older learners and the consequence of a diet of 'sight word' learning via the Reading Reform Foundation message forum here:

http://rrf.org.uk/messageforum/viewtopi ... 444#p50444

I am getting a bit worried about the tendency of some academics to support the teaching of some English words as ‘wholes’ while teaching systematic synthetic phonics and it being advocated in books about teaching phonics. I am worried about this on two levels.
Dick Schutz

Re: 'Sight words' - What does this mean? There is good news and bad news....

Postby Dick Schutz » Tue May 31, 2016 7:37 pm

Actually, all written English words are "sight words" unless one is blind, and the English Alphabetic Code applies to all English words; there are no "exception words," "tricky words," or "irregular" words. It is true that reading expertise arcs toward automaticity, which makes it appear that words are being read by sight, but this is true for the acquisition of all complex skills. It's not a phenomenon unique to reading.

It's also true that the grapheme/phoneme correspondences comprising the Alphabetic Code vary in terms of their frequency of occurrence. One doesn't come across "yacht" very often, (one never encounters "ytach"), but even were it read as [rhyming with "cat"] or [rhyming with "he hatched"] the communication confusion would be quickly resolved; [you mean "yot"?] Some dialects likely pronounce the word as "yut" or "yet" rather than "yot"--again absent communication confusion. The Code permits wide variability in pronunciation, but little variability in spelling.

The downside in believing in these categories of words is that of Occam's Razor; it establishes an extraneous orthodoxy. Teaching children that there are such categories distorts and complicates their learning. Telling a child that some words "try to trick you" is akin to telling them there is a "tooth fairy" and "bogey men." If there are tricky words, then for each word the child encounters, kiddo has to decide: "Is this word tricky? If it is, which letter or letters in the word is/are tricky?" That makes "phonics instruction" unnecessarily complicated for both instructor and student.

The thing about "high frequency words" is that they occur so frequently (whatever the Correspondences involved) that they should be "no problem" instructionally. The difficulty for the child is ordinarily not in the Correspondences but in the shortcuts the child is taking in what we blithely describe as "sounding out and blending." For example, if a child confuses a preposition, article, or preposition with some other function word, kiddo may need to be cued on the pronunciation one or a few times, but the word will be encountered again so frequently that it will be learned to automaticity if the child is reading per the Alphabetic Code.

Many children are able to ignore or resolve by themselves the faulty things adults tell them. Others, however, (ironically, the most conscientious) try to do exactly what they are taught. "Sight words" and "tricky words" aren't highest on the list of misguiding instruction, but the "irregularity" is in the instruction, not in the Alphabetic Code or the kids.
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Susan Godsland
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Re: 'Sight words' - What does this mean? There is good news and bad news....

Postby Susan Godsland » Wed Jun 01, 2016 5:09 pm

People interpret the meaning of the term 'sight word' in different ways. The most common understanding is that sight words are high frequency words (HFWs/very common words in print) which need to be learnt as whole shapes using visual memory only. This is advocated by infant teachers who use mixed-methods. The HFWs, they believe, are mostly ''non-phonetic'' or ''too irregular'' to be learned through phonics. Additionally, they think that if children can get off to an early start reading predictable-text scheme books by using memorised sight words along with multi-cueing (guessing) strategies, this will be 'confidence-boosting'. Yet, as researchers Ashby and Rayner point out, ''one could argue that these children are only pretending to read, as the inherent magic of reading rests on the reader's independence'' (Ashby/Rayner.p60)

A different understanding is found where 'sight words' are theorised to be the initial stage of a biologically-driven developmental process of learning to read. Uta Frith's stage model is perhaps the most well known. The 1st stage of her reading acquisition model is 'Logographic', where children see familiar words solely, ''through their crude visual features such as shape or size''.

https://esol.britishcouncil.org/sites/d ... sition.pdf
Uta Frith's developmental stages of reading acquisition model.

Jenny Chew comments, ''The belief in sight-words as a first step is found everywhere'', but Chew goes on to say, ''Teachers must not be brainwashed into believing that logographic reading is natural if in fact it is the result of teaching, as the evidence suggests to be the case.''

http://www.rrf.org.uk/archive.php?n_ID= ... eNumber=45
2001. Jenny Chew's article critiques Uta Frith's developmental stage theory of learning to read.

The supporters of the Dual Route reading theory have a different interpretation of the term 'sight word'. It is one which is stored, they believe, in an 'orthographic whole-word store' in the brain, all its letters in the correct order ready for instant processing, going straight to 'meaning' without any phonological decoding. In their opinion, expert readers read all words holistically, except for rare or unknown ones. N.B. the Dual Route theorists' interpretation of the term 'sight word' is embedded in the 2006 Rose Report (Rose Report 2006 Appendix 1.paras 52, 54).

Synthetic phonics practitioners say that a 'sight word' is a word that a reader has successfully decoded many times before. As a consequence, it is read so fast that it seems to the reader as though it is being read instantly, going straight to meaning without any phonological decoding. As 'Feenie' explained on Mumsnet, sight word learning, ''means learning them to automaticity - recognition on sight, not teaching them as sight words (wholes)''. Diane McGuinness points out, ''One should never think that just because "it seems like" we read instantly, this is, in fact, what we do. Our brain processes millions of bits of information all the time that we are not consciously aware of, because the processing speed far outstrips our ability to be conscious of it. An efficient reader has "automatized" or "speeded up" the decoding process to the point where it runs off outside conscious awareness''

http://psi.sagepub.com/content/17/1/4.f ... teid=sppsi
Literature review on eye movement & word identification: ''readers naturally access the sounds of words while reading silently'' p16

Modern eye-movement studies show that expert readers process all the information about a word at once using parallel processing; ''the word-superiority effect demonstrates that skilled readers process all of the letters when identifying a word' (italics added. Ashby/Rayner p58) and 'represent complex aspects of a word's phonological form, including syllable and stress information'' (italics added. Ashby/Rayner p57), but this is done at a subconscious level. Only when the skilled reader comes to a previously unencountered word do the skills of phonological decoding come back into consciousness. ''(R)ecent brain studies show that the primary motor cortex is active during reading, presumably because it is involved with mouth movements used in reading aloud. The process of mentally sounding out words is an integral part of silent reading, even for the highly skilled'' see p90 http://www.psychologicalscience.org/pdf ... eading.pdf

''We have known for about a century that inner speech is accompanied by tiny muscular movements in the larynx, detectable by a technique known as electromyography. In the 1990s, neuroscientists used functional neuroimaging to demonstrate that areas such as the left inferior frontal gyrus (Broca’s area), which are active when we speak out loud, are also active during inner speech. Furthermore, disrupting the activity of this region using brain stimulation techniques can interrupt both “outer” and inner speech'' (http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog ... ner-speech)
Dick Schutz

Re: 'Sight words' - What does this mean? There is good news and bad news....

Postby Dick Schutz » Thu Jun 02, 2016 11:19 pm

Whether children, parents, teachers, or anyone else realize it, a child who pronouncing a word from text is doing so per the Alphabetic Code. It may appear that they are responding to the size and shape of a "whole word." But since they can read the word with different fonts and different font sizes, they are not depending on size and shape of the word. Children have been performing comparable feats since birth, learning to discriminate faces, learning that all animals are not doggies, and so on. These are complex psycho-neurological processes, but they are pedagogically straightforward.

It's to be expected that some young children will learn to discriminate food labels, traffic signs, store signs, and such. Where such "reading" falls apart is when they encounter function words, words that "all look alike," and words involving Advanced Code correspondences. A few kids are able to cobble together a way to handle the full Code and to use various "workarounds" to be OK readers. However, many more kids who use "mixed methods" or who are taught to use them become problem readers or "dyslexic"=can't read.

The fact there are so many contradictory and unfounded definitions of "sight words" is evidence that the term warrants whacking with Occam's Razor.
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Debbie_Hepplewhite
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Re: 'Sight words' - What does this mean? There is good news and bad news....

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sat Jul 02, 2016 12:46 pm

Professor Anne Castles has raised the topic of 'sight words' in a guest-blog posting for Read Oxford.

I've responded to it, as has John Walker thus far, and I've now linked to it and to further information that I"ve written about 'sight words' here:

http://phonicsinternational.com/forum/v ... php?t=1035

Here is a direct link if you want to get straight to Anne's guest post:

http://readoxford.org/guest-blog-are-si ... y-slighted
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Debbie_Hepplewhite
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Re: 'Sight words' - What does this mean? There is good news and bad news....

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Wed Feb 08, 2017 3:20 pm

Conversations still abound regarding alternative ways of describing different types of 'sight words' and whether the terminology could move away from 'sight words' because learning words as 'whole global shapes', rather than with reference to the alphabetic code within the words, is not helpful nor science based.

OK – this may seem rather ‘layman’ but how about simply ‘tricky’ words – tricky at the point of appearing in books, the wider environment or in a programme? Such tricky words should be drip-fed into a cumulative, systematic synthetic phonics programme and parallel reading books.

A 'tricky word' suggests that a word is:

1) not so straightforward to decode – whether this is because the child has not yet been taught the alphabetic code within the word (that is, for part of the word) or,

2) 'tricky' in the sense that it has an unusual part within it (irregular, or rare, or totally idiosyncratic)

3) It will need some teacher input if the child is unable to decode/read it – which we seem to agree amounts to pointing out the ‘tricky’ part for whatever reason it is tricky at that time.

4) A 'tricky word' may well be easier to decode in text that is age and knowledge appropriate.

At the same time, we educate teachers away from teaching words as an ‘initial sight vocabulary’ as whole global shapes before systematic phonics teaching has begun. [Note: an initial sight vocabulary often amounts to a list of common, useful-for-early-reading words whether or not they are readily decodable.]

Once again, I’m trying to be practical and think of ordinary teachers teaching and the beauty of plain language.
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Debbie_Hepplewhite
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Re: 'Sight words' - What does this mean? There is good news and bad news....

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Fri May 26, 2017 8:27 pm

This blog post by 'Admin' is circulating via Twitter so I thought I'd add it on this thread.

http://howtoteachreading.org.uk/sight-words/

Sight Words

What is a sight word? – It is a word that can be read on sight, the implication being without the need to decode it.

The concept was developed in the 1930s and 40s by Dr. Edward William Dolch in America, who analysed popular children’s books of the time to come up with a list of words for children to be taught to ‘read’ on sight i.e. without having to decode. The well-intentioned idea was to short-cut the sometimes lengthy process of learning to read, and thus quickly achieve fluency. His ideas have been long-lasting. They laid the foundations for the ‘whole word” or “whole language” methods of teaching reading and a quick Google search will confirm that Dolch and other similar sight word lists are still in widespread use, particularly in the U.S.

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