Further, the EEF did respond to my criticism of their description of 'phonics' when I tweeted about my worries, but this was through private email exchanges and amounted to 'passing on my feedback' along with links to some phonics studies - but no further development that I'm aware of.
When I just checked out the EEF description I was concerned about, it is still there as per the original EEF description for 'phonics', see:https://educationendowmentfoundation.or ... it/phonics
This is my (informal) review of the EEF description of phonics which I provide on another thread (what the EEF writes is within the quote marks in blue, what I say is in red:
This is a very weak and inadequate description of the phonics in relation to what phonics provision should 'look like' in schools in England.
Phonics is an approach to teaching reading, and some aspects of writing, by developing learners’ phonemic awareness. This involves the skills of hearing, identifying and using phonemes or sound patterns in English. The aim is to systematically teach learners the relationship between these sounds and the written spelling patterns, or graphemes, which represent them. Phonics emphasises the skills of decoding new words by sounding them out and combining or ‘blending’ the sound-spelling patterns.
The statement above makes no sense. What does the figure 'four months' progress' actually mean - using what assessment/s and relative to what? Compare this 'four months' progress' statement with the progress made according to Dr Marlynne Grant's report of two studies with pupils of various profiles. Go to pages 6, 7 and 8 in the report below and look at the children's chronological ages compared to their reading ages (word level) and their spelling ages, using standardised tests, at the end of Reception, Year One and Year Two. I suggest that an analysis of results from phonics provision in the North East should take into account the findings from following a truly systematic synthetic phonics programme such as Dr Marlynne Grant's shows here:
How effective is it?
Phonics approaches have been consistently found to be effective in supporting younger readers to master the basics of reading, with an average impact of an additional four months’ progress. Research suggests that phonics is particularly beneficial for younger learners (4-7 year olds) as they begin to read.
http://www.rrf.org.uk/pdf/Grant%20Follo ... 202014.pdf
What is meant by the 'alphabetic' approach? I query this because synthetic phonics as it is known in England is about teaching the 'alphabetic code'. This statement is therefore not clear.
Teaching phonics is more effective on average than other approaches to early reading (such as whole language or alphabetic approaches), though it should be emphasised that effective phonics techniques are usually embedded in a rich literacy environment for early readers and are only one part of a successful literacy strategy.
This statement above is very misleading. It does not matter what is the age of the learner, if they have a weakness in alphabetic code knowledge and the blending (synthesising) skill, then that is the gap that must be addressed for the sake of their life-long literacy, learning, job prospects and self-esteem.
For older readers who are still struggling to develop reading skills, phonics approaches may be less successful than other approaches such as Reading comprehension strategies and Meta-cognition and self-regulation. The difference may indicate that children aged 10 or above who have not succeeded using phonics approaches previously require a different approach, or that these students have other difficulties related to vocabulary and comprehension which phonics does not target.
When people encounter an unknown word in reading material (unknown because they don't recognise the word and also it is not in their spoken language), then the only way to come up with a pronunciation for the new word is some form of phonics - that is, translating the letters, letter groups, and/or word chunks into sounds. The person can possibly deduce the meaning of the unknown word when it is presented in context, but without a pronunciation, that word cannot be added to the person's oral vocabulary. Thus, phonics knowledge is not an either/or scenario. If children have reached the age of 10 and they are struggling with their reading, then the teacher needs to assess whether their stumbling block is language comprehension (spoken language) or technical ability to lift new words off the page, or a combination of both (the Simple View of Reading diagram is very helpful for illustrating the relationship between the technical skills for reading - what ARE the words? and the language comprehension skills - what do the words MEAN?)
The Simple View of Reading and the Simple View of Writing:http://www.phonicsinternational.com/The ... _model.pdfFar too many teachers believe that 'phonics doesn't suit some children' or 'phonics hasn't worked so far, let's try something different' and this is a fundamentally flawed understanding about the processes involved in teaching reading and learning to read. It may well be that the 10+ year old pupil needs more intensive practice of reading, or that they need more opportunity for repetition to build up fluency and confidence - but it is not a case of 'who have not succeeded using phonics approaches'.
The EEF is misleading to state, 'these students have other difficulties related to vocabulary and comprehension which phonics does not target' because phonics provision should target vocabulary and comprehension -but a close look at schools in the North East would discover whether phonics provision fails to target vocabulary and comprehension or not. Bring on the report of findings in the schools.
For children over 10 'who have not succeeded using phonics approaches previously, it is misleading to suggest that they 'require a different approach' (meaning, 'not' phonics). Further, 'phonics approaches' is a very inadequate way to describe phonics provision and implies that it is adequate to consider all 'phonics approaches' under the same broad brush stroke. This is not true. We are in the era of identifying what it means to provide phonics in a rigorous, systematic, explicit and content-rich way. This is why the EEF is entirely misguided to consider that the job of research is over for investigating phonics programmes and their variations.
I observe phonics lessons as part of my work, and I can describe first hand that phonics programmes and phonics provision do not look at all the same from school to school or even from class to class in the same school.
So, again, what is the picture of phonics provision - for first-time and for intervention - in the schools in the North East of England? I agree that 'expertise is a key component of successful teaching of early reading' but, what is the situation in the schools themselves, where is the report of observations? What needs to be addressed in the schools? Does first-time teaching and phonics training need to be addressed for example before rolling out specific interventions as the answer to weak literacy?
Qualified teachers tend to get better results when delivering phonics interventions (up to twice the effectiveness of other staff), indicating that expertise is a key component of successful teaching of early reading.
The interventions should be focused on children's needs - and if the mindset of the EEF is that children older than 10 have not succeeded with 'phonics approaches', then this is very worrying if that is what the children, or some of the children, do indeed need - regardless of age.
How secure is the evidence?
Overall, the evidence base related to phonics is very secure. There have been a number of studies, reviews and
Several robust studies of phonics programmes in English have been published in recent years. The findings show that phonics programmes can be effective in English schools, but also underline the importance of high quality implementation. Recent evaluations of Switch-on Reading, a programme involving phonics components delivered by teaching assistants, and Fresh Start, showed that both had an average impact of three additional months’ progress. However two other programmes, both targeting struggling, older readers, did not improve reading outcomes.
People in my field are approached by Secondary school personnel all the time regarding learners of 11+ who are still in great need of high-quality phonics teaching and content. How can it be that such a huge, corporate research organisation such as the EEF is writing such weak statements about phonics, referring to 'four months' progress' without any explanation as to what this means, and suggesting that phonics is OK for early reading but that beyond 10, children need something else rather than the phonics approaches which they did not succeed with earlier?
The costs for children are very high if those who need the most rigorous phonics provision are not receiving it. If a region in England is looking particularly weak compared to others, then the first port of call would be to examine the phonics provision for reading and spelling instruction of the mainstream teaching and also of the existing intervention provision.
What are the costs?
Overall, the costs are estimated as very low. The costs associated with teaching phonics arise from the need for specific resources and professional training. Evidence suggests that the effectiveness of phonics is related to the pupil's stage of reading development, so it is also important that teachers have professional development in effective assessment as well as in the use of particular phonic techniques and materials.
It may well be that the region provides high-quality, content-rich phonics provision in every school, and maybe the children are up to speed with their knowledge of the most complex alphabetic code in the world and their blending skills for reading and oral segmenting skills for spelling - such that they now need 'something else'.
If this is the case, where is the report to illustrate this transparently?
THIS IS A TOTALLY FLAWED STATEMENT. It's not that phonics 'can' be an important component in the development of early reading skills, phonics IS an extremely important component in the development of early reading skills.
What should I consider?
Before you implement this strategy in your learning environment, consider the following:
Phonics can be an important component in the development of early reading skills, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, it is also important that children are successful in making progress in all aspects of reading including vocabulary development, comprehension and spelling, which should be taught separately and explicitly.
Furthermore, if the EEF personnel were knowledgeable, they would know that a high-quality systematic synthetic phonics programme includes vocabulary development, comprehension and spelling. This does not preclude teachers from teaching vocabulary explicitly, and spelling additionally, outside of the main phonics lessons - and language comprehension should be part of every lesson, every day across the curriculum anyway.
It is plain wrong for the EEF to state, however, that the components of 'vocabulary development, comprehension and spelling....should be taught separately and explicitly' as if they are not part of phonics provision because they should be!
The teaching of phonics should be explicit and systematic to support children in making connections between the sound patterns they hear in words and the way that these words are written.
The teaching of phonics should be matched to children’s current level of skill in terms of their phonemic awareness and their knowledge of letter sounds and patterns (graphemes).
[color=#FF0000]Yes - but the 'teaching and learning cycle' for phonics provision, certainly when provided through a reputable systematic synthetic phonics programme, should include much more than the EEF description above.
This statement above is flawed. Yes, phonics does improve the accuracy of the child's reading, and that in itself unlocks the child's language comprehension. Without being able to decode the sentence, 'the dog is black', the child cannot comprehend the sentence. If the child understands about 'dogs' and colours, then the relationship for reading is a combination of both technical decoding and existing language comprehension.
Phonics improves the accuracy of the child's reading but not the comprehension. How are you planning on developing wider literacy skills such as comprehension?
Of course teachers need to address children's language comprehension all the time, and how books 'work', but the whole tenor of this description of phonics and its relationship with language comprehension and spelling by the EEF is inadequate and misleading.
I have heard nothing further from the EEF and their, arguably, flawed description of phonics worryingly remains.
This very description of 'phonics' by the EEF gave some authoritative people in Australia the grounds to diminish the importance of schools in Australia implementing the 'systematic synthetic phonics' teaching principles. The EEF's weak and flawed description of phonics was quoted as an argument AGAINST the need for systematic synthetic phonics!
And here is what IFERI committee member, Gordon Askew, has to say about older learners who are not yet up to speed with reading. This directly challenges the EEF comments about 'older readers':http://ssphonix.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/ ... etely.html
Monday, 29 December 2014
And now for something completely different
I am often asked about the role of phonics in 'catch up'. Some learners are in KS2, KS3 or beyond and, sadly, have not yet got very far at all with mastering basic reading. Teachers and parents understandably want to know how best to help them, to start them on the reading journey, or at very least to enable them to become functional readers.
One of the pronouncements I hear most frequently in respect of these learners generally goes along the lines of: 'They have been doing phonics for years and it hasn't worked for them. Now they need to try a different approach,' or 'Phonics does't work for everyone. These kids obviously need something else.'
Unfortunately such thinking is a massive red herring, and can have disastrous results, depriving learners of the very teaching they most desperately need to achieve the desired 'catch up'.
There are two strong reasons for saying this.