Print-sound regularities are more important than print-meaning regularities...: Response to Bower & Bower

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Debbie_Hepplewhite
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Print-sound regularities are more important than print-meaning regularities...: Response to Bower & Bower

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:31 pm

In effect, the work of Bowers and Bowers seeks to elevate the importance of morphology and to undermine the importance of phonics for initial reading instruction.

Rastle and Taylor respond to the criticism of Bowers and Bowers in this article:

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10 ... 1818775053

Print-sound regularities are more important than print-meaning regularities in the initial stages of learning to read: Response to Bowers & Bowers (2018)

Kathleen Rastle, J S H Taylor

First Published May 9, 2018


Abstract

We previously reported an artificial language learning study designed to compare methods of reading instruction that emphasise learning the relationship between spelling and sound versus learning the relationship between spelling and meaning. Behavioural and neural data supported emphasis on spelling-sound knowledge, and we therefore advocated use of phonics in the initial stages of learning to read. Bowers and Bowers argue that these conclusions are not justified because we (a) mischaracterised the English writing system and (b) mischaracterised the meaning-based instruction used in schools. In this article, we respond to the first point by showing that the novel words used previously were a good approximation to the types of written words that children are exposed to in the first year of reading instruction. We respond to the second point by showing that while enhancements to meaning-based instruction can assist pupils to infer the meanings of unfamiliar words, these methods actually disadvantage long-term learning of those words. We conclude by suggesting that reading instruction should be based on an understanding of the writing system, properly characterised across the trajectory of learning. This means emphasis on spelling-sound regularities in the initial stage of learning to read and increasing emphasis on spelling-meaning regularities as children gain greater experience with text.


Conclusion

We have argued that the laboratory-learning study reported by Taylor et al. (2017) provides a useful simulation of children’s initial reading experiences. Based on that work and our analyses of children’s text experiences, we remain of the view that emphasis on spelling-sound regularities is of primary importance during this period. Emphasis on spelling-sound knowledge permits children to begin to learn the stems at the foundation of English morphological families, and text experiences during this period allow children to self-teach as they generalise their spelling-sound knowledge (Share, 1995). We share Bowers and Bowers’ (2018) view that an understanding of morphology simplifies the English lexicon, and that emphasis on these spelling-meaning regularities is likely to be an important part of reading instruction. However, we believe that such instruction is likely to be most fruitful later in reading acquisition, when children’s text experiences allow self-teaching through generalisation of this knowledge. In sum, we believe that reading instruction should be based on an understanding of the writing system, properly characterised across the trajectory of learning. Of course, these proposals require empirical evidence. Much more work is needed to discover how best to communicate morphological regularities in the writing system and to understand how text experience supports this instruction to yield the abstract stored knowledge vital for fluent reading.

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