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August 9, 2018

When I told an orthodontist friend of mine that my dentist was absolutely brilliant, she asked me how I knew.  ‘What you mean,’ she said, ‘is that they didn’t hurt you.  You have no idea as to the quality of their dentistry.’  

We often make assessments of expertise based on a personal value judgement that makes no real evaluation of that expertise.  Or as Khaneman (2011) maintains: when we are faced...

August 6, 2018

However, confused and ineffective the teaching of reading had become in the United States in the nineteenth century, at least there was national debate, rudimentary research and a desire to find the pedagogical El Dorado.  No such national debate occurred in Britain at this time. The enlightenment experiment of the United States that saw a well-educated and literate populace as a fundamental driver of democra...

July 8, 2018

‘It is not perhaps, very important that a child know the letters before he begins to read.  It may learn first to read words by seeing them, hearing them pronounced, and having their meanings illustrated, and afterwards it may learn to analyse them or name the letters of which they are composed.’  Thus, wrote Worcester in 1828.  These words, so prescient in terms of the direction that English reading instruction would take in Am...

June 10, 2018

If in England, the development of a system of teaching reading to the masses was a historic catalogue of failure then in America, the situation was no different.  Similarly driven by the Lutheran revolution which demanded access to sacred texts and was further intensified by feelings of persecution after the exodus from the intolerance of the old world, the conflation of reading instruction with religious ideology was even more...

June 1, 2018

The worrying levels of illiteracy in England has its roots in a system of teaching reading that was heavily biased against the masses; a flawed system that still has hold and resonates in schools today. 

Since Quintilian instruction, the alphabet had been the starting point for reading tuition and the learning of the letters, a crucial foundation of that instruction (Graham and Kelly, 2015).  This alphabetic m...

April 29, 2018

Learning to read is only worthwhile if, firstly, there is something to read, secondly, the reading of that text is worthwhile and thirdly, that expenditure of time and effort reading that text provides utility to the reader.  To modern day citizens, immersed in a world of digital and physical text of such overwhelming quantities and scope that to deny oneself access to the written word would be culturally, socially and economica...

April 9, 2018

The teaching of the skills to decipher ‘the small, black marks on white paper,’ (Dehaene, 2009, p1) that in objective combinations form written communication and assign meaningful and accurate language to them has troubled pedagogues since the inception of early writing.  Five thousand years later, modern day teachers are in the enviable position of having far greater understanding of the pedagogical and cognitive progression th...

March 30, 2018

The eventual decline of the Roman empire resulted in a waning of the dominance of Latin across Europe as it retreated to Rome along with its armies, its legislators and its administrators.  Local, tribal languages that had been submerged but not overwhelmed by the Roman tongue were free to re-emerge, expand and dilute the dominance of Latin (Crystal, 1995). 

Their time in the sun was, nonetheless, short-lived. The retreat of...

February 8, 2018

Research seems to conclude emphatically that ‘reading for pleasure’ has huge literacy-related, social and cultural benefits.  It apparently increases reading and writing attainment (OECD, 2000 and Krashen, 1993; Anderson et al, 1988; but also see Taylor et al., 1990); improves text comprehension and grammar (Cipielewski and Stanovich, 1992; Cox and Guthrie, 2001); improves vocabulary (Angelos and McGriff, 2002); improves general...

December 17, 2017

You want your students to go university.  Of course you do.  That's why you track them so carefully.  So what are you tracking?  Well, you track them against standardised scores and grade outcomes in the hope you can predict their SATs results and GCSE and A-level grades, but do you track their reading automaticity and fluency?

Thought not. 

In primary schools they track phonic competency until the end of year one (...

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