I began teaching in NSW, Australia, in 1964 and always used phonics, though at that time systematic synthetic phonics had not been thought of. In those days, it seemed that children simply learnt to read and whole classes of older children with reading problems were something for the future. In the mid 70s, we were told by the Department of Education, to no longer use phonics. To my knowledge, we all continued, behind closed doors. That no doubt skewed results, as children were learning to read with phonics, while the powers-that-be thought they were learning without phonics.
I retired from teaching in 1999, studied linguistics and developed a reading scheme of my own. In the following years, hundreds of children came to me and other teachers I trained, for private lessons.
Recently, my grandson’s kinder teacher issued the following instructions: “Do not allow children to sound out the regular lists of sight words sent home.” This was all the more galling as, when his sister was in kinder four years ago with the same teacher, who was Reading Recovery trained, I had already spoken to her about the teaching of reading and offered her free use of synthetic phonics apps that a friend has developed. She showed no interest in the apps and there was no change in her method of teaching reading. (Fortunately, I had taught my granddaughter to read before she went to school, using my own systematic synthetic phonics method.) I am currently teaching my grandson at home and judge his reading to be outstanding for his age, yet the school half-yearly report shows him at a Basic level. (Basic at sight word reading, that is.)
I have had an interview with the principal to explain my involvement with the teaching of reading, but he showed no interest, either. I attended the ‘Five from Five’ launch and emailed the report, as well as sending a hard copy to him. No response.
Yesterday, I received this from my friend who has a son in kinder in a Sydney school, closely associated with Sydney University:
“Home reading has started back from today. Please encourage your son or daughter to look at the whole word, “chunk” the word, reread from the start of the sentence and use the picture to support meaning-making. Just a reminder that ‘sounding out’ will be difficult now that the students are beyond lower level readers.”
Ironically, this friend is the developer of the synthetic phonics apps, which he would gladly supply free of charge.
It is unbelievable that the battle for the correct way to teach reading has been going on for more than half a century!