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July 12, 2020

The purpose of reading, according to Elder and Paul (2006:3) is to ‘figure out what an author has to say on a subject’.  This ‘figuring out’, or reading comprehension as we know it in schools, has become a proxy for reading ability and the manner in which reading ability is assessed and measured (see Tarjinder’s excellent post here).  As such, the teaching of reading comprehension as a skill became ubiquitous throughout the last...

May 10, 2020

‘The question for teachers is no longer “look and say” or phonics. Instead, the question is which phonics programmes are most effective’, stated Nick Gibb in 2019 (Hazell, 2019).   It would, therefore, seem an appropriate time for all DfE approved phonics programmes to be rigorously assessed through randomised controlled trials and the most efficacious one selected and standardised across all schools in England.

There m...

May 2, 2020

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a good reader will make predictions whilst reading a text.  As a result, predicting has cemented itself as an essential reading comprehension strategy and pupils are thus encouraged to predict or guess what might happen next in a text and teachers encouraged to promote prediction.

It is, thus, perhaps surprising that this fundament of reading pedagogy is founded on very little re...

April 27, 2020

The point of mastering the procedural knowledge of decoding text, recoding text, practicing decoding to facilitate the word superiority effect (Reicher, 1969) to ensure decoding automaticity and the further practice and knowledge and vocabulary harvesting that permits reading fluency is to be able to understand the meaning that an author wishes to communicate.  Reading fluency gifts the working memory the release of capacity to...

April 27, 2020

With a quarter of ten and eleven year-olds in England unable to read to the expected standard (DfE, 2018), and with the majority of those children now having had phonics instruction for two years of their initial schooling perhaps Glazzard (2017) is correct when he asserts that if a child has received phonics instruction from aged five to seven and is still struggling to read then more phonics instruction is irrational; somethin...

April 27, 2020

Systematic phonics instruction has been described as the nearest thing to a silver bullet for the development of literacy.  With all the economic and social ills associated with illiteracy (detailed here), it would be a brave person who would deny the weight of research in its favour.  There remains considerable resistance to this form of instruction from the teaching profession (detailed here) but also a number of high-profile...

April 27, 2020

‘The question for teachers is no longer “look and say” or phonics. Instead, the question is which phonics programmes are most effective…’ (Gibb, 2018). The English Schools’ Minister’s assertion that the reading wars have been won by the relentless barrage of research undermining ‘look and say’ approaches may not be strictly true – the rear-guard anti-phonics battles being fought in Australia by academics, the pervasiveness of ‘B...

April 27, 2020

Although educational research was in its infancy in the early decades of the twentieth century there was sufficient concern and curiosity from both teachers and universities as to the veracity of whole word methods versus phonics that a number of rudimentary studies were conducted.  The majority of these studies compared phonic and non-phonic approaches to the teaching of reading and had little concern with the actual programmes...

April 27, 2020

By 1955, the American academic elite had come to an almost universal conclusion: phonics was dangerous. In that year the most eminent publication on reading instruction, ‘The Reading Teacher’ in its editorial penned by the ‘distinguished’ (Terman and Walcutt, 1958 p110) Emmett Betts concluded that children taught by a phonics approach ‘can call words but cannot read…’ (1955, p2).  Phonics instruction was almost completely discar...

April 27, 2020

Huey’s (1908) ‘scientific’ proof that phonic instruction was a superfluous, torpid stage of reading development resulted in a revival of whole-word reading methods.  Phonics was not entirely expunged from reading education but was exiled to the peripheries of instruction as a post facto analytical intervention.  Along with Dewey’s influential environment-driven approach to child learning, the course away from early phonics instr...

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