Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Reading: NOT heavy phonics, NOT memorizing spellings of thousands of words

Sent to the Sydney Morning Herald, April 11
Prof. Anne Castle is quoted as saying that without heavy phonics instruction, readers have to memorize the spellings of thousands of words: "If you don't have phonics,  learning to read is like learning the telephone book. You can only learn so many words."  ("Phonics tests: why some children struggle to read," April 11).
This suggests that there are only two options: memorizing words, known as the "whole word" method, or learning all the rules for converting spellings to sound.
Both are impossible. Nobody can deliberately memorize the spellings of all the words in English, and the rules of phonics are far too numerous and complex to be studied and consciously learned.
Here is a famous example from Frank Smith: hot, hoot, hook, hour, honest, house, hope, honey, and hoist all begin with "ho" but each is pronounced differently. I don't think one person in a million knows the phonics rules that explain this, but all fluent English readers can pronounce these words correctly.  We learned how to do this by reading experience. Learning some basic rules is helpful, but nearly all of our knowledge of phonics is gradually absorbed from reading.
I wonder if Prof. Castle is aware of the published research showing that intensive explicit phonics instruction will produce somewhat more accurate pronunciation of words presented in a list, but has no significant effect on tests of reading comprehension given after grade 1.  The best predictor of performance on reading comprehension tests is how much the children have read.
What really does work in raising reading achievement is access to lots of good books. This means support for libraries and librarians, not complex phonics programs and more tests.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

original article: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/phonics-tests-why-some-children-struggle-to-read-20170411-gvimkj.html



3 comments:

  1. You obviously don't keep up with phonics teaching methodology, Stephen. Smith's example is nonsensical. Take the words you've cited: 'hot': three sounds /h/ /o/ /t/; 'hoot': three sounds /h/ /oo/ /t/; 'hook': three sounds /h/ /oo/ (as in 'put') and /k/; 'house': /h/ /ow/ /s/; 'hope': /h/ /oe/ (taught as a split spelling) /p/; 'honey': /h/ /u/ /n/ /ee/; 'hoist': /h/ oy/ /s/ /t/. 'Honest' is one of a few words in which the sound /h/ was first lost (early centuries CE) and then restored (15th C) out of respect for the Classics. Other examples are 'heir' (one sound) and 'hour' (two sounds). All of that to a person who teaches phonics backwards would still make no sense. However, if phonics instruction begins by basing it on the 44 (45 in Scottish English) sounds of the language, which children learn to speak without having to be taught, after teaching the basic one-to-ones, the rest of the alphabet code can be grouped and taught according to sound. The common spellings (C. 175) of all the vowel and consonant sounds in English can easily be taught over the first three years of school and will also include the teaching for reading and spelling of five and six syllable words.
    This would proceed alongside lots of practice examples of reading and writing. Through a sound-to-print approach, by halfway through the child’s second year in England, a child can read easily more complex texts from a ‘First’ encyclopaedia.
    Instead of throwing outdated, theoretical hand grenades at the pro-phonics lobby, why don’t you take the trouble to find out what is really going on in phonics these days. I’m sure any one of a number of English schools would be only too happy to present themselves to a respected academic such as you.
    Best wishes, John Walker

    ReplyDelete
  2. Could you please direct me to the part where Professor Castles uses the word 'heavy'? Or did you make that up? If you made that up, then what we have here is a straw man argument.
    Also, can you give me an example of 'the rules of phonics'? I know of about 30 core rules of spelling, but 'rules of phonics' sounds made up.
    I'll just go ahead and tell my dyslexic students and their parents that what they lack is access to lots of good books.
    PS Quoting the demonstrably wrong Frank Smith is hilarious!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Teach Your Child to Read Today!

    Reading is one of the most important skills one must master to succeed in life. It helps your child succeed in school, helps them build self-confidence, and helps to motivate your child. Being able to read will help your child learn more about the world, understand directions on signs and warnings on labels, allow them to discover reading as an entertainment, and help them gather information.

    Learning to read is very different from learning to speak, and it does not happen all at once. There is a steady progression in the development of reading ability over time. The best time for children to start learning to read is at a young age - even before they enter pre-school. Once a child is able to speak, they can begin developing basic reading skills. Very young children have a natural curiosity to learn about everything. They are naturally intrigued by the printed texts they see, and are eager to learn about the sounds made by those letters. You will likely notice that your young child likes to look at books and thoroughly enjoys being read to. They will even pretend to behave like a reader by holding books and pretend to read them.

    At what age can you start teaching a child to read? When they're babies? At 2 years old, 3, 4, or 5 years old, or wait until they're in school?

    If you delay your child's reading skill development until he or she enters school, you are putting your child at risk...

    Did you know that 67% of all Grade 4 students cannot read at a proficient level! According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, of those 67%, 33% read at just the BASIC level, and 34% CANNOT even achieve reading abilities of the lowest basic level!

    There is a super simple and extremely effective system that will even teach 2 and 3 year old children to read.

    This is a unique reading program developed by two amazing parents and reading teachers, Jim and Elena, who successfully taught their four children to read before turning 3 years old. The reading system they developed is so effective that by the time their daughter was just 4 years 2 months old, she was already reading at a grade 3 level. They have videos to prove it.

    >> Click here to watch the videos and learn more.

    Their reading system is called Children Learning Reading, and it is nothing like the infomercials you see on TV, showing babies appearing to read, but who have only learned to memorize a few word shapes. This is a program that will teach your child to effectively decode and read phonetically. It will give your child a big head start, and allow you to teach your child to read and help your child develop reading skills years ahead of similar aged children.

    This is not a quick fix solution where you put your child in front of the TV or computer for hours and hope that your child learns to "read"... somehow...

    This is a reading program that requires you, the parent, to be involved. But the results are absolutely amazing. Thousands of parents have used the Children Learning Reading program to successfully teach their children to read.

    All it takes is 10 to 15 minutes a day.

    >> Click here to get started right now. How to Teach a 2 or 3 Year Old to Read.

    ReplyDelete