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Is there a role for predictable texts in beginning reading instruction?

Posted: Mon Sep 21, 2015 12:51 pm
by Susan Godsland
''Is there a role for predictable texts in beginning reading instruction?''

Juel and Roper/Schneider. Reading Research Quarterly 18:

'The selection of text used very early in first grade may, at least in part, determine the strategies and cues children learn to use, and persist in using, in subsequent word identification.... In particular, emphasis on a phonics method seems to make little sense if children are given initial texts to read where the words do not follow regular letter-sound correspondence generalizations. Results of the current study suggest that the types of words which appear in beginning reading texts may well exert a more powerful influence in shaping children’s word identification strategies than the method of reading instruction'’

IFERI committee member Gordon Askew:
Predictable text is another way of saying 'easy to guess'. Such books obviously do provide early success and resultant confidence. Unfortunately for some children (and perhaps especially for their teachers) it is a false confidence. There will quickly come a stage when guessing is far less easy and far less reliable. If they haven't by that stage established a better strategy... ... ive-texts/
Video: Alison Clarke illustrates why predictable or repetitive texts are harmful for beginning readers.

Here’s Jenny Chew on the RRF message board. She helps with one-to-one reading at her local primary school.
''The trouble is that ‘sound it out’ often doesn’t work, given the mismatch between the books RR [Reading Recovery] children are given to read and the state of their phonic knowledge. I’ve helped voluntarily in an infant school which doesn’t have RR but uses Book Bands, and weak Y1 readers have often been issued with books full of words that they can’t possibly read. I’ve always taken along my own stock of decodable books, and I get the children to try these once I’ve dutifully helped them through their non-decodables. At first they tend to resort to their usual strategies, but when they realise that these are books where sounding out really works, they often get the bit between their teeth. It’s not all plain sailing, however – I can move them on to the next level of decodables when I see them the following week, but in the meantime they will have been issued with several more non-decodables which will have made them revert to their non-decoding mindset''.

Decodable Words Versus Predictable Text
by Dr. Patrick Groff
This method's foremost presumption is that the time it takes for novice readers to recognize written words via phonics instruction could be shortened significantly. It was held that if nonreaders were repetitively shown whole written words, until they were recognized as "sight" words, this would speed up their overall acquisition of reading ability. Sight words are ones children recognize rapidly, without sounding-out their letters.

It now is well-established experimentally that the look-say methodology has fatal flaws. Children taught in this manner somehow are able to remember the identities of a relatively small number of words. However, they soon suffer an overload on their memory systems, and begin guessing wildly at the names of words in sentences. Consequently, pupils' ability to accurately comprehend what they have read is badly affected.

Phonics and Book Bands: article from the RRF newsletter. 2002. ... eNumber=48

Prof. Daniel Willingham discusses readabilty formulas for leveling books. ... p8.twitter

Rose Report 2006. para 82.
(A)s they learn to master the alphabetic code, children should be given reading material that is well within their reach in the form of 'decodable books'... Using such books as part of the phonic programme does not preclude other reading. Indeed it can be shown that such books help children develop confidence and an appetite for reading more widely.

Ted Hirsch.
Controlled text for independent reading makes a tremendous difference. We should only ask children to decode what we have already taught them. Introducing complexity at an early stage can lead to faulty reading strategies that take a concerted effort to correct.

Re: Is there a role for predictable texts in beginning reading instruction?

Posted: Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:18 pm
by Susan Godsland
Green Eggs and Ham:
Or The Case for Phonics Instruction and Decodable Text
By Matthew Davis ... honics.pdf

Re: Is there a role for predictable texts in beginning reading instruction?

Posted: Mon May 30, 2016 11:18 am
by Susan Godsland
In the RRF newsletter no.50 Debbie Hepplewhite wrote:
[Below] are examples of full texts from the lowest level of Book Bands and these are frequently given to children who have only been introduced to some of the letter-sound correspondences. You can see that predictable repetitive texts are still the flavour of the day. The children are expected to learn the words by sight. In reality many, if not most, are unable to do this and cope by memorising the sentences and using the pictures for any new words. Cover up the pictures and the children cannot read. The RRF know this type of text is entirely unhelpful to children when in the early stages of learning to read. Children taught by synthetic phonics can read independently an extremely large number of words at an early stage and books should reflect this decoding ability whilst experience and fluency develops. In contrast the texts [below] have a very limited number of unjustifiably difficult words for a beginner:

1.'Two the same' (Oxford Literacy Web)
Poppy has two yellow socks.
Poppy has two green ribbons.
Poppy has two blue shoes.
Poppy has two red gloves.
Poppy has two big brothers, Mike and Spike.
They look the same, too.

2.'The giant's day out' (Spiral Starters)
He wanted a drink.
He wanted a watch.
He wanted a comb.
He wanted a book.
He wanted a hat..
He wanted friend.

3.'Spooky Pet'
Amy wanted a bat.
Amy wanted a spider.
Amy wanted a ghost.
Amy wanted a monster..
Amy wanted a dragon.
The dragon wanted Amy!

4.'The Pancakes' (Oxford Reading Tree)
The frying pan.
The flour.
The eggs.
The milk.
The butter.
The pancakes.
The pancake race.

5.'Bath time' (Oxford Literacy Web)
Bath time, elephant.
Bath time, penguin.
Bath time, bear.
Bath time, giraffe.
Bath time, hippo.
Bath time, Fred! [zoo keeper knocked into water]

Could the text in these books be described as interesting and 'natural'?

Re: Is there a role for predictable texts in beginning reading instruction?

Posted: Wed Jun 22, 2016 1:34 pm
by Susan Godsland
Australian professor Misty Adoniou rightly rails against formulaic leveled reading schemes but gets it wrong in the end.

How should reading be taught in schools? ... ools-61361

Misty is right!
These levels are based on algorithms that calculate the ratio of syllables to sentences, or measure word frequency and sentence length.

The rationale is that these formulae can be applied to rank books on a scale of readability and thus guide teachers to match books with children’s reading ability.

There are two key problems with this numbers approach to reading. First, the algorithms are faulty. Second, publishers misuse them.

As readability formulae are not always a good fit for books, the solution has been, instead, to write books which fit the formulae. And publishers have been very keen to supply those books.

These are the books that our children take home each evening. They are written according to the numbers - numbers of high frequency words, numbers of syllables, numbers of words in a sentence.

What is missing in those books is author intention and craft, reader engagement and interest, and teacher support and instruction.

Essentially, then, what is missing in these books is the very essence of reading.

We don’t need books arranged in coloured boxes labelled with level numbers to teach a child to read.

Beautifully written pieces of children’s literature will do the job.

However beautifully written, children's literature cannot ''teach a child to read''.

Re: Is there a role for predictable texts in beginning reading instruction?

Posted: Wed Oct 05, 2016 10:55 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
I'm linking this thread to another thread which basically shares the same theme of reading books for beginners:

Reading Recovery and Book Bands are obsolete


Re: Is there a role for predictable texts in beginning reading instruction?

Posted: Thu Oct 27, 2016 8:51 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Alison Clarke writes a detailed review of a 'predictable/repetitive' text reading book series which helpfully illustrates why these types of books are simply not suitable for beginners or strugglers: ... ervention/

Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention
29 Replies

A few people have asked me what I think of Fountas and Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy Intervention, as this program seems to now be widely used in my local schools.

I haven’t used it myself, but had a brief browse through some of its readers for absolute beginners the other day, and here’s what I found:

Reading by memorising and picture-guessing

Book 1 from Level A of Leveled Literacy Intervention is called “Waking up”.

This blog post originally included photos of some of the pages in this book, but the publisher wrote to me on 2 April 2015 asking me to take both text and pictures down for copyright reasons. Without them, it will be a little harder to make sense of this blog post, but I will paraphrase the text and you can imagine the pictures:

Re: Is there a role for predictable texts in beginning reading instruction?

Posted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 12:23 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Read pages 28 and 29 re the importance and effect of using cumulative, decodable texts - a fantastic piece by Berys Dixon which illustrates a lot of information, including research findings, in a short article:

[b]What happened to the ‘D’ word?

by Berys Dixon[/b] ... 202016.pdf

Students using decodable texts significantly outperformed students in the control group on all measures and were more prepared to transfer their phonics skills to new words in formal assessments.

As well, their confidence in their reading abilities and enjoyment for books grew. In contrast, the control group actually reported an increase in their dislike of reading.

Re: Is there a role for predictable texts in beginning reading instruction?

Posted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 8:23 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Taking a close and thoughtful look at the actual words in children's early books can be quite an eye-opener. Here is yet another description of what such a book includes, in reality, for the beginner reader:

I was supporting a pre-service teacher today and wanted to show her the early levelled-readers we had in stock. To allow her to understand what was expected in these style of books (all Level 3), I explained that they were ‘Read To Me’ books rather than ‘I Can Read Books’. These words occurred in the handful of Level 3 readers I grabbed:

asked, what’s, many, friend, aagh, journey, everyone, favourite

The following words may be assumed from diligent pointing and conjecture:

eagle, crocodile, wolf, bubbles, wheelbarrow, newspapers, cocoon, chrysalis, raccoon, barbecue, toucan, iguanas, orangutans, castle, concrete, machine

I hope a little insight may have been gained today by the pre-service teacher in showing that without ‘look at the picture and guess’ then the student would be lost in a sea of confusion and not much further along the road to reading.

So, children having to default to 'word-guessing' by necessity or taught to word-guess with the notion of 'multiple reading strategies'.

Re: Is there a role for predictable texts in beginning reading instruction?

Posted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 3:29 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Information about decodable books via Susan Godsland's website: