Balance, Mixture or Medley of Decoding Strategies / National Literacy Strategy's (NLS)
Searchlights / / Multi-Cue
Word-Guessing / Book-by-Book Method using a leveled or banded
patterned-text reading scheme, utilising rhyme, repetition and
'supportive' illustrations / 'Psycholinguistic', 'Informed' or 'Intelligent' Guessing
or Predicting (Henrietta Dombey /
Frank Smith / Colin Harrison / Andrew Davis / Marian Whitehead)
/ ''Multiple Sources of Information (MSV)''
(Lucy Calkins) / ''Professional Eclectic Approach'' /
(The Reading Teacher journal) /
Four Resources or Four Roles of a Reader (Australia)
: incorporating analytic phonics
used in England's NLS
phonics - rhyming analogy phonics
used in England's NLS
/ intrinsic phonics / contextualised phonics
/ embedded phonics / cumulative phonics -
used by ECaR: Reading Recovery to describe its phonics content
(Rose 2009 p66)
Incidental phonics, taught as one element of a high
quality systematic synthetic/linguistic phonics programme, is
not the same as embedded / contextualised / cumulative
/ intrinsic phonics.
Recommended links for student teachers
and NQTs = X
Reading instruction using a so-called balance or mixture of decoding strategies
children to memorise a bank of high frequency words (HFWs)
using sight alone. In fact some early years academics and
believe that young children are biologically
primed to see individual words solely ''through their crude
visual features such as shape or size''
(Uta Frith) even
if they receive some phonics instruction: ''Initially, whatever we try to teach them, young children recognise words as unanalysed wholes, making no attempt to map the component letters into speech sounds. [Frith] terms this the logographic phase'' (italics added. Prof.Dombey. Literacy Today 20).
Research in Germany (Wimmer/ Hummer) has
shown that children do not go through a 'logographic
when they are taught to decode words using synthetic phonics
the very start of reading instruction (RRF 45. p6/ D.McGuinness ERI p339-347) )
Balanced decoding strategies instruction follows what many early years academics and teachers believe is a biologically
dictated developmental progression; that as they move up
through the early primary years, children 'naturally' become
able to perceive smaller and smaller units of sound (whole words
-> syllables -> rhymes-> phonemes) so teaching of decoding needs to follow this order too. Despite
a lack of empirical evidence, many early years educationalists
strongly suggest that deviating from this supposed
developmental pathway, or anything but child-initiated,
intrinsic learning, will damage children's 'naturally' emerging
phonemic awareness and spoil their love of reading. Explicitly
teaching synthetic phonics (which goes directly to phonemes
and graphemes) to children under the age of seven is, they warn darkly, likely to be, ''Too much
too soon'' (Open EYE conference 16/02/08) and, ''(A) recipe for disaster'' (Whitehead 2009 p76).
belief in sight-words as a first step is found everywhere'' but
''Teachers must not be brainwashed into
believing that logographic reading is natural if in fact
it is the result of teaching, as the evidence suggests to
be the case.'' (Jenny Chew)
England's National Literacy Strategy and Analytic Phonics:
Decoding instruction in the National
Literacy Strategy (NLS.1998->2006) was based on multi-cueing
word-guessing strategies. The NLS directors suggested that, ''More
extreme recommendations from phonics evangelists to teach
children not to use other reading strategies alongside phonics, should be treated with great caution'' (Stannard/Huxford p189). In their Civitas paper 'Ready to Read', Anastasia de Waal and Nicholas Cowen wrote: ''(I)n order to accommodate the more established academic orthodoxy (i.e. child centred rather than anything resembling didactic or mechanistic teaching), a medley of reading strategies was included in
Searchlights. This attempt to keep everyone happy, while also attempting to address reading standards, led to a rather chaotic model which would frequently prove ineffective. Searchlights encouraged children to learn to read using four distinctive methods simultaneously''(p10)
''The NLS Searchlight was a political compromise to get whole
language supporters on board when the original framework was
drawn up. It seems so reasonable on the surface, a bit of
phonics, a bit of look and say, a bit of whole word guessing,
who could argue with that? Well, if you go on
doing what you’ve always done, you’ll go on getting what you’ve
always got, in this case 25 to 30 per cent of the children in
your school unable to read properly. The long tail of
underachievement in England is recognised in international
studies. It was there before the NLS. The NLS was supposed to
get rid of it. It’s still there, complete with gender gap and
underachieving boys spawning a whole new cottage industry for
advisors and publishers. In synthetic phonics schools there is
no long tail of underachievement. There is no gender gap. Boys
do not underachieve. Same kids — different teaching
''As analytic phonics as well as synthetic phonics can
involve sounding and blending, how can these two methods be
distinguished? According to the National Reading Panel (2000,
2-89), in analytic phonics children analyse letter sounds after
the word has been identified, whereas in synthetic phonics the
pronunciation of the word is discovered through sounding and
blending. Another critical difference is that synthetic phonics
teaches children to sound and blend right at the start of
reading tuition, after the first few letter sounds have been
taught. In analytic phonics children learn words at first
largely by sight, having their attention drawn only to the
initial letter sounds. Only after all of the letter sounds have
been taught in this way is sounding and blending introduced.
It can be seen therefore that the phonics approach advocated in
the National Literacy Strategy is of the analytic type''
(Johnston&Watson. Accelerating Reading
and Spelling with Synthetic Phonics)
''(I)t is not clear that alternatives to synthetic
phonics meet the criteria for systematic and explicit teaching.
These are the critical characteristics that are overwhelmingly
supported in scientific research and expert reviews''
(2019. J.Buckingham, R.Wheldall and K.Wheldall)
A report by Professor Tymms, Coe and Merrell, at the University of Durham's CEM Centre, looked at the attainments of pupils in England between 1995 and 2004. In 1995, in the Key Stage 2 SATs, only 48% of pupils achieved Level 4 or above in reading. According to official figures this shockingly low level of attainment rose to 75% by 2000, but the Massey Report called the reading score rise “illusory” with the real score being just 58%. In 2004, 6 years after the introduction of the NLS with its ''medley of decoding strategies'', only 60% of children achieved Level 4 or above in
Reading, in the Key Stage 2 SATs.
Tymms &Merrell (2007) Standards and Quality in English Primary Schools Over Time: the national evidence. ''£500m was spent on the National Literacy Strategy with almost no impact on reading levels''
Tymms. 2004. Are standards rising in English primary schools?. A
high profile synthesis of data showing how official statistics
had exaggerated the rise in literacy and numeracy in England
1995-2000. The Statistics Commission confirmed the main
1999 paper 'The End of
Illiteracy?' by Tom Burkard:
- A comparison of analytic and synthetic phonics
- Problems with the National Literacy Strategy
2004. Diane McGuinness: A Response to ‘Teaching Phonics in the National Literacy Strategy’
Long-term effects of synthetic v analytic phonics teaching on the reading and spelling ability of 10 yr old boys and girls
Phonics Teaching in England after 2006:
In 2006, all of the Rose Report's
recommendations, including that the NLS 'Searchlights'
multi-cue word-guessing strategies should be dropped and replaced
by phonics as the sole decoding method (synthetic phonics), were accepted by the government.
In his blog post 'The Enemy Within' (see link below) Gordon
Askew describes what is happening with phonics
teaching in the majority of primary schools more than a decade after the Rose
''Almost certainly the biggest issue of all in many schools around the country is that, although good practice and the new NC require that phonics is taught as 'the route to decoding print', this is not yet happening. Many (I would say most) schools that are teaching a discrete phonics session, even those teaching it very well, continue to encourage multi-cueing when children are practising their reading or applying it at other times in the school day. This means that the benefits of the phonics teaching are seriously diluted and even countered. Phonics does not become the habituated prime strategy and dependence on alternative, unreliable strategies is perpetuated. This will never raise standards in the way that true systematic synthetic phonics teaching indubitably can. To evaluate phonics on the basis of such bad practice is a nonsense. It is like evaluating vegetarianism on the basis of a sample who eat a vegetarian breakfast but then eat a diet including meat for the rest of the day''
X The Enemy Within:
Balkanism: decoding separate
from reading comprehension
''In the morning kids come in and work on the
grapheme-phoneme correspondence of the day, practise encoding
using the graphemes they have been working on and read decodable
texts. Then, later in the day, they head off to the “Reading
Program” where they use “authentic” texts and multi-cueing
strategies. In the “reading” session students aren’t expected to
use any of the decoding strategies they learnt in the morning
session to makes sense of the text they are reading.''
''Yes, teaching phonics discretely is important. But
you may as well not bother if you don’t make it explicit to the
child that they need to apply these skills in their ‘other’
reading and writing'' ('Shinpad') - and provide suitable
decodable books to enable them to do so.
Old NLS practices still being used in schools: guided reading
using multi-cueing, early Book Bands levels, Look-Say labels.
Clear evidence that the majority (90%) of teachers are
still using a mixture of guessing methods for decoding came in NFER's
2013 survey of 583 literacy coordinators
http://goo.gl/MpNsl1 p28 ''However, 90 per cent also ‘agreed’ or ‘agreed somewhat’ with the statement that a variety of different methods should be used to teach children to decode words. These percentages mirror almost exactly last year’s findings, and indicate that most teachers do not see a commitment to systematic synthetic phonics as incompatible with the teaching of other decoding strategies''
In 2018, in a paper on
numeracy and literacy catch-up strategies, the DfE itself
acknowledged that phonics was usually still taught alongside
multi-cue word-guessing strategies: ''Phonics
has been shown to be a very effective approach for young readers
(4-7 year olds), though it is usually embedded as part of a
(italics added. DfE 2018)
''It’s a code - a very complex code, but a code
nonetheless. Codes do not require predictions, guessing and
compensatory (and contradictory) rules- if they do then they’re
not codes'' ('Reading Elephant'
Beginning readers and those who are slower to learn to read using phonics should not be encouraged at any time, either in or outside of the discrete phonics lesson, to use different strategies for decoding
words, such as guessing from the picture or context in the
belief that some children need different reading strategies. This is because these strategies lead to inaccurate reading and fail when pupils are faced with unknown words in texts with few context clues. It is true that some pupils are able to absorb phonics by osmosis using these strategies, but pupils who find phonics difficult cannot do this and are unlikely to use phonics if other strategies are encouraged. On the other hand, pupils should be encouraged to use picture and context clues to understand what they have already read (Nonweiler)
Multi-cueing Word-Guessing and Embedded / Contextualised Phonics:
Balanced Literacy: An
instructional bricolage that is neither fish nor fowl
''There is actually a name for this type of phonics teaching,
“Embedded Phonics”. Sadly the scientific research shows it’s not
very effective. See, for example,
this 2006 large-scale controlled study, which compared
children explicitly taught about spelling using phonics and
children taught about phonics in the context of literature, and
found “At the end of 5th grade, spelling-context children had
significantly higher comprehension than did literature-context
X Dr. Kerry Hempenstall's paper on
multi-cueing for decoding.
'The three-cueing system: Trojan horse?'
The Three-Cueing Model: Down for the Count?'
X The Use
of Context Cues in Reading by Louise Spear-Swerling
Multi-cueing: teaching the habits of poor readers.
Leading whole language advocates, Henrietta Dombey and Frank Smith, are happy to recommend guessing
as a word decoding strategy; ''Every child also needs a third key, careful guessing from context'' (Dombey. Guardian Comment 30/04/08), and, ''Reading without guessing is not reading at all'' (F.Smith. Psychology and reading). It's notable that many whole language enthusiasts prefer to use a euphemism, 'predicting': ''(I)s it 'Mam' or 'Mummy', a 'horse' or a 'house'? This highly skilled predicting can be more highly tuned and corrected in retrospect if the reader is given the opportunity to go back and self-correct'' (italics added. Whitehead.2010. p160)
''It is ethically unacceptable to pursue teaching methods that may cause anxiety and stress'', says
whole language supporting academic, Marian Whitehead (Whitehead. 2010 p.141)
Here is an actual example
of the word guessing rigmarole that a child taught to use 'a range of decoding strategies' is expected
to go through on encountering any word they don't immediately recognise: ''If a child met the word ‘nightingale’
he would use a combination of initial sound (n), segmentation
(night-ing-(g)ale), letter clusters (ight, ing), sight vocabulary
(gale) and context (it’s a bird)’' (Fisher. Practical answers to teachers' questions about reading. UKLA
p8) A better method of inducing anxiety and stress in a beginning reader is difficult to imagine.
Whole language advocate Yvonne Siu-Runyan provides the
following example of how she thinks a child 'decodes' an unknown word: "A child encounters the word 'butterflies' in
a story," said Siu-Runyan. "The first time he reads it as
'b-flies.' Maybe the next time he reads it as 'butt-flies' and
the next time as 'betterflies.' For me to assume he's not going
to get it would be a mistake, because finally he'll say to
himself, 'Does this make sense?' He'll look at the pictures of
butterflies [in the book] and say to himself, 'Oh, this is a
story about butterflies!' And he'll get it right after that.
It's a lot more complicated a process than handing a child a
list of words." (Charlotte Allen)
Those who recommend teaching children to use a range of
word guessing strategies say that this is necessary because,
''All children are different'' (have different learning styles
or learning preferences), often phrased as ''One size doesn't fit all''.
Prof. Pamela Snow's response is, ''This is one of those
simplistic truisms that got into the education water and is
now difficult to remove. If there’s 7 billion people on this
planet, there are not 7 billion different learning needs.
Teaching would be impossible if that was the case'' (http://pamelasnow.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/whos-in-your-reading-instruction-family.html). In his 2006
Report, Sir Jim Rose also responded
to this very widely held view saying, ''(A)ll beginning readers
have to come to terms with the same alphabetic principles
if they are to learn to read and write... Moreover, leading
edge practice (in synthetic phonics) bears no resemblance
to a 'one size fits all' model of teaching and learning, nor
does it promote boringly dull, rote learning of phonics.''
(Rose Report 2006 para.34)
''Rescind the idea that all children are different.
The idea that each of us has a distinct learning style is a
myth. Brain imaging shows that we all rely on very similar brain
circuits and learning rules.”
(Prof. Dehaene. How We Learn)
''Excluding students identified as “visual/kinesthetic” learners from effective phonics instruction is a bad instructional practice—bad because it is not only not research based, it is actually contradicted by research''(Stanovich p30)
Guessing: why it is not an effective ‘reading strategy’
Should teachers encourage children to guess unknown words from context?
Onset and Rime / Rhyming Analogy Phonics:
Primary teachers who are happy to teach
multi-cue word-guessing for decoding, often
protest that they aren't anti-phonics, with most adding
that they ''have always used phonics to teach reading.'' They usually mean 'last resort phonics' as one of the Searchlight cues, but they may also be referring to onset and
rhyme/rime sound units.
Onset and rime
phonics is taught using whole words that the children have previously memorised by sight: first the
word's onset is separated out (beginning consonant letters are taught as one
unit even if they represent individual sounds) and then the rest of the word
is analysed to find its rhyming family (for example, the 'ing' family - s/ing, br/ing, str/ing,
th/ing...). After much practice in orally breaking previously memorised whole words into onset and rime units it is assumed that children will then be able to use this strategy with previously unseen words: ''Recognising word families and patterns helps children develop inferential self-teaching strategies. If they can read 'cake', they can work out and read 'lake' without blending all the individual phonemes'' (Lewis/S.Ellis p4)
''As it is widely assumed that children need to be aware of
phonemes before they can benefit from a [synthetic] phonics
approach, a ‘new’ phonics or ‘rhyming analogy’ approach has been
recommended as an easier route than [synthetic] phonics for
English beginning readers. This paper argues, however, that
English beginners are just as capable of a phonemic approach as
beginners in other languages, that phonemic awareness is not a
precondition, that beliefs to the contrary are based on
misunderstanding, and that systematically applying
grapheme-phoneme correspondences throughout each word is an
excellent basis for word-identification even in English''
2001. Jenny Chew questions the belief in a logographic start
and Goswami's onset-rime theory.
Goswami's onset-rime theory discussed.
X Diane McGuinness critiques Goswami's dyslexia and
''Goswami persists in holding to her theory that “rhyme” is
as important as phonemes in learning to master an alphabetic
writing system. She even claims that rhyme is relevant to our
spelling system: “spelling-sound consistencies occur at two
levels, rhyme and phoneme.” The notion that the rhyme (word
endings that sound alike) is relevant to learning an alphabetic
writing system (which is entirely based on phonemes) has been
largely discredited. When the National Reading Panel in the US
published their landmark survey of reading research in 2000,
results showed that rhyme-based teaching methods were singularly
ineffective either alone or combined with something else'' (Prof.
Dr Macmillan explains that, ''teaching children about onset
and rime as a route to discovering individual phonemes is
similar logic to thinking that a person can be taught to read
music by memorising chords on, say a guitar or piano. Although
it may be relatively easy for a person to learn the names of
some musical chords and how to play them, there is little
possibility that this knowledge will lead to the ability to
read musical notation, to the ability to play individual notes
on these instruments in response to the corresponding written
symbols'' (Macmillan p82).
Recent studies, ''have shown conclusively that children do
not use rhyming endings to decode words; hardly ever decode by
analogy to other words; and that ability to dissect words into
onsets and rimes has no impact whatsoever on learning to read
and spell'' (D.McGuinness WCCR
X Bonnie Macmillan: Rhyme and reading: A critical review of the research methodology
''There is debate over whether children’s early rhyme awareness has important implications for beginning reading instruction. The apparent finding that pre-readers are able to perform rhyme tasks much more readily than phoneme tasks has led some to propose that teaching children to read by drawing attention to rime units within words is ‘a route into phonemes’ (Goswami, 1999a, p. 233). Rhyme and analogy have been adopted as an integral part of the National Literacy Strategy (DfEE, 1998), a move which appears to have been influenced by three major research claims:1) rhyme awareness is related to reading ability, 2) rhyme awareness affects reading achievement, and 3) rhyme awareness leads to the development of phoneme awareness. A critical examination of the experimental research evidence from a methodological viewpoint, however, shows that not one of the three claims is sufficiently supported. Instructional implications are discussed''
High Frequency Words (HFWs) / Sight Words / Whole Words:
The opaqueness of the English spelling system is another
reason given for asking beginning readers to memorise a bank of high
frequency words by sight alone: ''In Scottish schools
there is a preference for a mixed method which combines the
teaching of a vocabulary of sight words with the teaching
of the letters and decoding procedures. These methods are well
adapted for deep orthographies in which commonly
occurring words contain letter structures which are inconsistent
with the principles of simple grapheme–phoneme correspondence'' (Seymour/Aro/Erskine) Wyse and Goswami express the same view: ''The phonological complexity of syllable structures in English, coupled with the inconsistent spelling system, mean that direct instruction at levels other than the phoneme
may be required in order to become an effective reader'' (Italics
added. Wyse/Goswami p.693) There is no empirical evidence
to support this view.
Asking children to memorise scores of high frequency words
(e.g. Dolch / Fry words or the HFWs listed in the government's
Letters and Sounds programme) visually, without phonics
decoding, is a harmful practice and why no high quality
synthetic phonics programme expects children to learn words as
logographs. Firstly, because words viewed as whole units form
abstract visual patterns which humans find difficult to
memorise in large numbers; examination of different writing systems reveals
that the memory limit for whole words is around 2,000-2,500,
since no true writing system, past or present, has expected
users to memorise more than this number of abstract symbols.
When children reach their visual memory limits they will
struggle to read texts containing more unusual words if they
haven't, in the meantime, been taught or deduced the alphabet
code for themselves. Secondly, for most children, memorising
words visually seems easy at first and, if the practice is encouraged, it will become their
main strategy, subverting their phonological abilities and
setting up a habit or reflex in the brain which can be hard
''If children receive contradictory or conflicting instruction,
most children prefer to adopt a 'sight word' (whole
word) strategy. This seems 'natural', it is easy to do initially,
and has some immediate success, that is until visual memory
starts to overload...**becoming a whole-word (sight-word) reader
is not due to low verbal skills, but is a high risk factor in the general population, and something that teachers
should curtail at all costs.'' (emphasis
in original. D. McGuinness. RRF51 p19)
**Decoding strategies as predictors of reading skill: A
''Children who stayed with the most
inefficient [decoding] strategies had significantly higher
vocabulary scores and equivalent phonemic processing ability
when compared to readers with more efficient decoding
Teach 100 first spellings, not 100 first words.
X What should parents do when the school sends home lists of HFWs for their child to learn?
How to respond to the ''But some words can't be sounded-out'' objection to phonics
Leveled / Banded / Patterned-Text Reading Schemes:
The decoding method taught first, whether whole word
memorising combined with multi-cue
word-guessing or decoding using phonics alone (synthetic
phonics), forms a habit or brain conditioning that impedes the
future use of the other method. This is the reason why it is
more difficult to remediate difficulties in readers who have
received faulty reading instruction for even a short period of
time. With this in mind, parents should insist that their
child's school provides phonics programme-linked decodable books
for all early, independent reading practice. Parents should also
ignore any advice that advocates
word-guessing methods, even if provided by the school.
Following are a couple of actual examples of misleading
advice for parents:
- ''If they get
stuck, encourage them to use all the available information and
everything they know to make a guess. They should look at the
pictures and remember what has happened in the story. Their
ability to predict and guess accurately will gradually
- ‘'Say, “Close your eyes. Now look again.” Have him
close his eyes, open them, and see if his brain can just “get”
the word as a sight word, without trying to sound it out''
‘'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'’ (Juel and Roper/Schneider.
Reading Research Quarterly 18)
''Students tend to perceive
words in the way they are taught to perceive them. This appears
to be the case whether or not they are taught in a transparent
orthography (Cardoso-Martins 2001)'' (Rice/Brooks
Cardoso-Martins, C. (2001). The reading
abilities of beginning readers of Brazilian Portugese:
Implications for a theory of reading acquisition
In a paper presented at the 2003 DfES 'phonics' seminar,
Ehri wrote “…when phonics instruction is introduced after
students have already acquired some reading skill, it may be
more difficult to step in and influence how they read, because
it requires changing students’ habits. For example, to improve
their accuracy, students may need to suppress the habit of
guessing words based on context and minimal letter clues, to
slow down, and to examine spellings of words more fully when
they read them. Findings suggest that using phonics instruction
to remediate reading problems may be harder than using phonics
at the earliest point to prevent reading difficulties'' (www.rrf.org.uk/51%20In%20Denial.htm)
Retired English teacher Jenny Chew helps with one-to-one reading at her local primary school. She says, ''The trouble is that ‘sound it out’ often doesn’t work, given the mismatch between the books 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''.
''People should judge a school on reading by how the
weakest readers read, not how the most able read''
Gibb. Minister for School Standards)
As only the most transparent (Simple/Basic Code) GPCs are
directly taught in mixed decoding strategies instruction and
leveled scheme books are used from the very start, sounding out GPC by GPC all-through-the-written-word, one of the central tenets of synthetic phonics
teaching with beginning readers, will fail as a strategy and is therefore discouraged; ''Sounding out a word is a cumbersome, time-consuming, and unnecessary activity. By using context, we
can identify words with only minimal attention to grapho/phonemic cues'' (Weaver. Reading process & practice: From socio-psycholinguistics to whole language) ''Many ways of teaching reading rely on children learning to ‘sound out’ words they don’t know, but in Reading Recovery we are sceptical of the usefulness of this approach'' (Running Record. Dec. '04 p8)
X Video: Alison Clarke illustrates why predictable or repetitive texts are harmful for beginning readers.
X What are decodable texts and
why are they important?
X Why Book Bands and Leveled
Reading Books Should Be Abandoned
Phonics and Book Bands.
Too bound by Book Bands
What's wrong with predictable or repetitive texts -with video.
2015 study on brain waves shows how different teaching methods
affect reading development - found that beginning readers who
focus on GPCs increase activity in the area of their brains best
wired for reading.
Marian Whitehead believes that, ''(I)t was in order to subvert instructional material like [''read simple words by sounding out and blending the phonemes all through the word''] that Dr. Seuss introduced 'The Cat in the Hat' to the English-speaking world'' (Whitehead. 2009. p125)
Whitehead is wrong. As a matter of fact, the children's author Dr. Seuss created his famous books
using what was described in those days as ''a controlled "scientific" vocabulary'' (high frequency sight words supplied
by the publisher), but he was well aware of how useless the sight word method
was to teach children how to read. In an interview he gave
in 1981, Seuss said, ''I did it for a textbook house and
they sent me a word list. That was due to the Dewey revolt
in the twenties, in which they threw out phonics reading and
went to word recognition as if youre reading a Chinese
pictograph instead of blending sounds or different letters.
I think killing phonics was one of the greatest causes of
illiteracy in the country. Anyway they had it all worked out
that a healthy child at the age of four can only learn so
many words in a week. So there were two hundred and twenty-three
words to use in this book. I read the list three times and
I almost went out of my head. I said, "Ill read
it once more and if I can find two words that rhyme, thatll
be the title of my book." I found "cat" and
"hat" and said, the title of my book will be The
Cat in the Hat'' (Gatto p72-3)
All phonics instruction is not the same
Balanced Literacy: an instructional bricolage that is neither
fish nor fowl.
Attention during learning: Reading Recovery (and its clones)
and high quality phonics teaching are mutually incompatible:
''(T)he two different ways of teaching direct children’s
attention differently, and evoke different strategies''
A litany for failure. Reading practices that set up children to struggle:
''It is a dangerous fallacy to think that guessing at words from context helps developing readers to make meaning from text.''
A matter of balance
Balanced literacy / mixed methods teaching seen through the eyes of a beginning reader.
Whole language high jinks: How to Tell When “Scientifically-Based Reading Instruction” Isn’t:
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