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Michael Rosen's stance on phonics is mystifying!

 
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debbie



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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2015 8:51 am    Post subject: Michael Rosen's stance on phonics is mystifying! Reply with quote

Here is the question:

Does Michael Rosen genuinely not understand what people explain to him about the teaching of reading and the role of explicit phonics teaching, or is he deliberately doing his best to undermine the teaching of phonics for reasons that can only be known to him?

The article below is being touted as an example of articles in a new, forthcoming magazine entitled 'Teach Reading and Writing' - and it is extraordinary, tragic, dismaying, that Michael Rosen's article is being used as part of the initial advertising campaign to publishers to encourage them to advertise in this new magazine.

It beggars belief - you couldn't write the story!!!!!

http://www.teachprimary.com/reading-and-writing/literacy-me/michael-rosen-teaching-phonics-first-fast-and-only-is-an-absurdity

If Michael Rosen is so determined to sound like the authority on children becoming readers and teachers teaching reading, then he really has a responsibility to get his facts right - indeed, he should be concerned to study the available information and report it honestly and transparently. In contrast, he appears to show great determination to be cavalier about 'truth' and, indeed, he either doesn't know about the conclusions to date from a body of research that has been growing over many decades - or he is seemingly happy to distort or disregard what there is to read up on or to 'hear' what people have endeavoured to explain!
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2015 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
“Reading has to include making meaning”
Teaching phonics 'first, fast and only' is an absurdity and always has been, argues Michael Rosen


I do remember learning to read; and being taught, too, which is not exactly the same thing. I was born in 1946, and at school the teachers used something called ’The Beacon Readers’. I’ve been looking back at them recently, and it’s clear that the books I still recall from those days were designed to do two things at the same time:

provide fun texts that had meaning (there were little plays in them for us to act out,and my dad used to do mickey-takes of the characters like Mrs Cuddy the cow and Old Lob the farmer);

and encourage phonics practice along with learning basic word lists. The original edition of the Teachers’ Manual from 1926, which I have also studied, emphasises the importance of doing both:

“The act of reading – getting meaning from the printed page - is dependent upon two factors:

(1) a mastery of the tools or the mechanics of reading; and

(2) the ability of the reader to interpret the thought of what is read.

The success and efficiency with which small children are taught to read depends upon the development of these two factors, and the maintenance of an adequate balance between them...”

And on the other side, there are phonics enthusiasts who say, ‘No, no; we expose them to a wide variety of texts! Prose, poems... even yours, Michael, ha, ha!’

I’ve sat on a panel at a conference with such a person. He proudly showed a timetable, which included about an hour a day, right at the start, during which staff and pupils would share a rich range of stories, songs and poetry; but when I pointed out that this, alongside the phonics, was part of his teaching to read, he got quite angry and insisted that it wasn’t.

I think he thought that this hour of ‘literature’ was helping pupils with something quite different, called ‘comprehension’. After all, he might argue, how can you ‘read for meaning’, when you can’t read?

But children from the age of one, two and three are sitting with their parents, grandparents, older siblings – hearing texts and seeing squiggles on the page. After they’ve shared ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ a few times, they can’t help but start to realise that the squiggles “and another”, alone on the page, make mum or dad say those sounds, every time they appear.

Just as they begin to notice that there are squiggles on road signs, which tell the driver which way to go, and on packets in the supermarket that say what’s inside.

To pretend this isn’t going on, and metaphorically slap the wrists of parents and teachers who encourage and talk about this is absurd and has no basis in theory at all.

The phonics screening test is sometimes called a ‘reading test’, because it can sound too technical to talk about ‘decoding’. The results come out, and the media report that children are ‘improving their reading’, when actually, the children are just getting better at decoding squiggles, which is not ‘reading’. Reading has to include making meaning.

I can phonically decode Italian – I was taught by my Latin teacher in the 50s, for fun.
I can’t understand it, though.

Reducing ‘reading’ to decoding lists of words changes what we know language is; you don’t create important, powerful meanings out of single words, you do it through sequences – poets, authors and speech-writers all know this, and children instinctively understand it, too.

There is no ‘wrong’ way to teach a child to read, as such; but, like nearly everything we learn as human beings, it is best approached in lots of ways at once if we want to create the ‘reading writer and the writing reader’ – which we want all our children to be.

Teachers shouldn’t be afraid to share the ‘wordiness’ of everything they talk about in the classroom with pre-readers– recipes, place names, famous
footballers, book titles, characters’ names... even if they aren’t phonically regular.

It’s all part of literacy.


A large font side-heading to the article:

Quote:
We’ve actually had quite contradictory messages about the teaching of literacy over the years. On the one hand, you have those who – like the ex-Schools Minister, Nick Gibb – insist that you need to teach phonics ‘first, fast and only’; clearing out your Reception and Year 1 classrooms of anything other than phonically regular texts, or the children will ‘be confused’.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2015 2:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130401151715/https:/www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/DFE-00155-2011B.pdf
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2015 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Below, in black ink, is Michael Rosen's piece for the new, forthcoming magazine - and, in red, I have written some comments for the purpose of this message forum:


Quote:
“Reading has to include making meaning”


Of course - this is explained via the official model of understanding reading - The Simple View of Reading - which was originated in 1986 by researchers Gough and Tunmer and adopted officially in England in 2006 following Sir Jim Rose's recommendations. This SVoR model illustrates that to be a reader in the full sense involves two main processes: firstly, being able to lift the words off the page/screen (technical alphabetic code knowledge and decoding skill required leading to automatic 'word recognition') and then, secondly, being able to understand what the decoded words mean which is about '(spoken) language comprehension'.

Quote:
Teaching phonics 'first, fast and only' is an absurdity and always has been, argues Michael Rosen


The phrase 'first, fast and only' may well be misleading to some - but if anyone wishes to criticise the phrase/notion, then they should make sure they understand the rationale behind it in the first place.

The phrase refers to the technical phonics provision of teaching children the mechanics of decoding and does not in any way make reference to, or imply, that children haven't already had a rich tapestry of language and literature experiences to underpin their understanding and acquisition of reading.

Most importantly, the 'only' refers to not teaching children to get through books by the whole language 'multi-cueing reading strategies' which consist of teaching children to guess words with a variety of clues, or cues, such as looking at the global word shape, picture or initial letter/s to guess the word, or 'reading on' to 'guess what the word might be'. These multi-cueing reading strategies have long since been discredited by the overarching findings of research and, to this day, we do not yet have a shared professional understanding about this. It is very worrying just how many teachers persist with these flawed multi-cueing reading strategies, even in England, which is one of the reasons why the phrase 'first, fast and only' was coined.


The 'fast' part of the phrase is simply referring to the quick pace of introducing the letter/s-sound correspondences so that they can be put to early use for actual reading, spelling and writing purposes.

Quote:
I do remember learning to read; and being taught, too, which is not exactly the same thing. I was born in 1946, and at school the teachers used something called ’The Beacon Readers’. I’ve been looking back at them recently, and it’s clear that the books I still recall from those days were designed to do two things at the same time:

provide fun texts that had meaning (there were little plays in them for us to act out,and my dad used to do mickey-takes of the characters like Mrs Cuddy the cow and Old Lob the farmer);

and encourage phonics practice along with learning basic word lists. The original edition of the Teachers’ Manual from 1926, which I have also studied, emphasises the importance of doing both:

“The act of reading – getting meaning from the printed page - is dependent upon two factors:

(1) a mastery of the tools or the mechanics of reading; and

(2) the ability of the reader to interpret the thought of what is read.

The success and efficiency with which small children are taught to read depends upon the development of these two factors, and the maintenance of an adequate balance between them...”


Er, doesn't Rosen realise this is pretty much what the Simple View of Reading is all about? I find it extraordinary that he has highlighted this explanation from a 1926 Teachers' Manual which is similar to what is officially 'current'. 'Basic word lists' however, are not taught by global shape (whole words) nowadays, instead tricky common words are drip-fed into a systematic synthetic phonics programme as young beginners trying to learn many words by 'whole shape' is not a successful strategy for many children.

Quote:
And on the other side, there are phonics enthusiasts who say, ‘No, no; we expose them to a wide variety of texts! Prose, poems... even yours, Michael, ha, ha!’


Precisely - oh my goodness - Rosen's whole piece is full of Double Talk. The 'phonics enthusiasts' are simply stating the case of any SP proponent, such as me, and the Department for Education itself!

Quote:
I’ve sat on a panel at a conference with such a person. He proudly showed a timetable, which included about an hour a day, right at the start, during which staff and pupils would share a rich range of stories, songs and poetry; but when I pointed out that this, alongside the phonics, was part of his teaching to read, he got quite angry and insisted that it wasn’t.

I think he thought that this hour of ‘literature’ was helping pupils with something quite different, called ‘comprehension’. After all, he might argue, how can you ‘read for meaning’, when you can’t read?


I really don't get what Rosen is getting at here - what is his point? It's gobbledy-gook to me. Let me clarify as much as I can, however, the position of becoming a reader and teaching children to read. Rich language and literature experience contributes HUGELY to becoming a reader - thus, all the sharing of books, poetry, language experiences, knowledge and understanding of the world is invaluable and contributory. Some children are successful at 'picking up reading' through a language and literature-rich experience. As teachers, however, we have to guarantee that all children can read and write, and the language and literature-rich experience has been shown over and again to fail many children - they need teaching of the alphabetic code and phonics skills systematically and explicitly.

But why wouldn't we teach explicitly the most complex alphabetic code in the world and the skills of blending for reading, oral segmenting for spelling (and allotting letters and letter groups for the identified sounds) - and handwriting? So - we teach the mechanics of phonics - the knowledge and skills required for both reading and spelling. Why wouldn't we? And in any event, the research is very clear that the most effective teaching of all is systematic synthetic phonics - in place of leaving children's reading acquisition 'to chance' according to what 'they pick up' through their wider experiences. And OF COURSE we continue to provide children with a language and literature-rich experience as well? I don't know a single person who would say otherwise.

I really can't see what his problem really is with explicit teaching of alphabetic code knowledge and phonics skills!!!

But the teacher of Systematic Synthetic Phonics teaching should appreciate that we do not ask children to read INDEPENDENTLY a reading book that the children cannot read without having to guess their way through the book, by default even, using guessing tactics. This is damaging to children's reading habits - and can be very demoralising for children. The children are free to browse any type of book at all at any time - but NOT REQUIRED to read that book aloud INDEPENDENTLY to a supervising adult.


Quote:
But children from the age of one, two and three are sitting with their parents, grandparents, older siblings – hearing texts and seeing squiggles on the page. After they’ve shared ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ a few times, they can’t help but start to realise that the squiggles “and another”, alone on the page, make mum or dad say those sounds, every time they appear.


Of course. We all totally agree with you, Rosen, not a problem with what you have just written.

Quote:
Just as they begin to notice that there are squiggles on road signs, which tell the driver which way to go, and on packets in the supermarket that say what’s inside.


Yes - that's fine. We refer to this as 'environmental print' and any and all of these experiences contribute to children gaining an awareness of print, and the reading process, and, yes, some children can even become readers through their wider experiences.

Quote:
To pretend this isn’t going on, and metaphorically slap the wrists of parents and teachers who encourage and talk about this is absurd and has no basis in theory at all.


What Rosen has written here is utter rubbish. Rosen is being absurd to even suggest that anyone is 'metaphorically slap(ping) the wrists of parents and teachers who encourage and talk about this...'. It makes no difference to Rosen's mindset no matter how often and how clearly various people have tried to clarify this for Rosen. This is where I suggest he chooses to deliberately obfuscate the realities of the Simple View of Reading, the findings of research and the Systematic Synthetic Phonics Teaching Principles.

Quote:
The phonics screening test is sometimes called a ‘reading test’, because it can sound too technical to talk about ‘decoding’. The results come out, and the media report that children are ‘improving their reading’, when actually, the children are just getting better at decoding squiggles, which is not ‘reading’. Reading has to include making meaning.


The Year One Phonics Screening Check is what it is. Here again, Rosen is completely mistaken and, I would suggest, being deliberately misleading. It is not true that the 'phonics screening test is sometimes called a 'reading test', because it can sound too technical to talk about 'decoding'. Phonics has been on the agenda and in the media for years in England and parents commonly understand about 'decoding'. The Department for Education, and Nick Gibb, have always been very careful to clarify that the phonics check is a 'decoding' check and NOT a 'reading test'. Schools are very careful to explain to parents that the Year One Phonics Screening Check is about word-level decoding and not 'reading' in the full sense. OF COURSE reading has to include 'making meaning' - BUT NO-ONE HAS EVER SAID OTHERWISE AT ANY TIME OR IN ANY SHAPE, SIZE OR FORM.

Quote:
I can phonically decode Italian – I was taught by my Latin teacher in the 50s, for fun. I can’t understand it, though.


Which takes us back to the helpfulness of England's official model, the Simple View of Reading, for understanding the two main processes for 'being' a reader - which is to be able to decode the words - and understand them. Rosen has the technical skills to decode Italian - but not the spoken language to understand what he has decoded. His point is pointless.

Quote:
Reducing ‘reading’ to decoding lists of words changes what we know language is; you don’t create important, powerful meanings out of single words, you do it through sequences – poets, authors and speech-writers all know this, and children instinctively understand it, too.


Actually, single words can be extremely powerful so I don't even agree with his overarching statement. Nevertheless...

...Phonics teaching and word level decoding practice is not 'reducing reading to decoding lists of words', it is simply teaching the complex English alphabetic code (the letter/s-sound correspondences) and applying that knowledge to decoding words as part of the full reading process. Children who can efficiently and automatically decode any new or unknown words are very well-served by the technical knowledge and skills - then they can focus on meaning-making and authorial intent and all the higher-order nuances of reading.

As the teaching profession diminished and even abandoned phonics instruction at various times, it is essential that we now have a teaching profession which is fully aware of the findings of research on reading and that teachers' practices are as good as they can be. We may well have some way to go - but Rosen does our teaching profession and the general public a disservice by his articles and relentless protestations. What damage could he be doing, therefore, to real children whose teachers and parents may turn away from truly rigorous Systematic Synthetic Phonics practice?


Quote:
There is no ‘wrong’ way to teach a child to read, as such; but, like nearly everything we learn as human beings, it is best approached in lots of ways at once if we want to create the ‘reading writer and the writing reader’ – which we want all our children to be.


Rosen's statement is not in line with research findings here. For some children there really is a 'wrong' and misleading way to teach reading - and it's where children's reading skills are left to chance - and/or underpinned by the multi-cueing reading strategies that give children and their teachers and parents misguided ideas of how best to teach reading, or bring about reading. Such strategies can lead to dangerously bad reading habits. When pictures disappear and books are full of new words beyond readers' spoken vocabulary, it is essential that readers can apply phonics knowledge and skills to lift the words off the page and come up with a pronunciation for the new words. The reader may well deduce the meaning of the new words in their context, but without a pronunciation for the new words, they cannot realistically add to the readers' spoken vocabulary. Only the ability to come up with a pronunciation will do this.

But no-one denies the importance of the rich tapestry of language, literature and experience that enables our learners to be readers and writers.


Quote:
Teachers shouldn’t be afraid to share the ‘wordiness’ of everything they talk about in the classroom with pre-readers– recipes, place names, famous
footballers, book titles, characters’ names... even if they aren’t phonically regular.

It’s all part of literacy.


OF COURSE. Dearie me - what is Rosen's problem? Isn't it enough for him that he gains media attention from his skills as a writer?

A large font side-heading to the article:

Quote:
We’ve actually had quite contradictory messages about the teaching of literacy over the years. On the one hand, you have those who – like the ex-Schools Minister, Nick Gibb – insist that you need to teach phonics ‘first, fast and only’; clearing out your Reception and Year 1 classrooms of anything other than phonically regular texts, or the children will ‘be confused’.


Nick Gibb has never, ever said this - not at all. He, rightly, promotes the use of cumulative, decodable reading books for children to read INDEPENDENTLY which match the alphabetic code knowledge that children have already been taught. Nick Gibb is also very careful to promote, constantly, all the rich-literature experiences as listed by Rosen above. Once again, does Rosen not know his facts, or is he merely on a personal campaign to undermine phonics teaching - or to draw attention to himself and his own work? He certainly gets additional publicity through his anti-phonics campaigning and no doubt increases his opportunities to speak publicly and to write magazine articles.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2015 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's a fifty year summary of key research-findings:

http://www.nrrf.org/national-research-on-reading-instruction-a-fifty-year-summary/
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2015 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I, and others, think it is quite shameful that Michael Rosen lead 90+ children's authors against the Year One Phonics Screening Check in England. It's as simple as this - children cannot enjoy reading and understand words and sentences if the children cannot decode the words in the first place - or they are constantly struggling to lift the words off the page:

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/jul/24/children-authors-phonics-reading-test

Quote:
Children's authors attack plans for phonics reading test

Authors led by former children's laureate Michael Rosen say plans pose threat to reading for pleasure in primary schools

Michael Rosen claims schools are coaching children through the phonics programme and at least half are still failing.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

More than 90 of Britain's best-known children's authors and illustrators have called on the government to abandon its plans to introduce early-year reading tests, warning that they pose a threat to reading for pleasure in primary schools.

The former children's laureate Michael Rosen is leading the writers' charge against a phonics-intensive approach to teaching young children how to read.

A letter to the Guardian signed by 91 names including Meg Rosoff, Philip Ardagh and Alan Gibbons says millions is being spent on "systematic synthetic phonics programmes" even though there is "no evidence that such programmes help children understand what they are reading".


Kevin Wheldall - someone who really does have an expertise in research on reading and reading instruction - discusses the use of non-words for assessment and the relationship between being able to decode words and comprehension of the words:

http://www.kevinwheldall.com/2012/05/as-easy-as-ikea.html

Quote:
By using IKEA type tests of meaningless nonwords, we can help to determine whether children are progressing well in the important precondition of being able to decode words. If they are, when they encounter unfamiliar words in future, they will be able to use their phonic skills to sound out the word, relate it to a word already in their spoken vocabulary and, hence, derive its meaning. Of course, we also need to assess other aspects of a child’s reading skill such as reading fluency and, especially, reading comprehension per se. But it would be a mistake to dismiss nonword tests as irrelevant in the quest for meaning. Something to think about the next time you go past the sniglar and the mammut in your quest to find that elusive IKEA exit.


Do read Kevin's piece in its entirety! Wink
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2015 2:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sir Jim Rose felt compelled to write a letter to the Guardian in response to Rosen's relentless protest about synthetic phonics - and an excellent letter it is too:

Quote:
Guardian Education Letters – Response to Rosen

Teaching Beginner Readers

While continuing to inveigh against so-called synthetic phonics, Michael Rosen now at least admits that ‘basic phonics’ should be part of the ‘mixed methods’ that he advocates for teaching reading (Education Guardian 07.08.12). He fails to recognise, however, that synthetic phonics is ‘basic phonics’.

Another deservedly acclaimed author of children’s books has likened learning to read ‘to backing a car into the garage’ i.e. requiring a mix of skills. This reveals a common misunderstanding about equipping beginner readers with the knowledge and skills they need to become expert readers. Most of us do not learn to drive by backing the car into the garage without first mastering the ABC of driving, that is to say, control of the accelerator, brake and clutch. If we began by reversing into the garage, the damage to learner, car and garage might be considerable.

Beginner readers of any age need to learn how the alphabet works for reading and writing. It is often forgotten that decoding words for reading is the reverse of encoding words for writing (spelling), both are ‘basic’ to becoming literate. Most children learn to decode more easily than they learn to encode. Decoding and encoding embrace sets of inter-dependent sub-skills such as blending and segmenting sounds and need to be taught systematically until beginners can apply them automatically. The great majority of children can be taught to do this quite well by the age of seven. Nor should it be assumed that all the ‘fun’ is to be had only by immersing children in ‘real books’. There is plenty of evidence to show that children find high quality phonic work rewarding and derive great satisfaction from taking part in the activities it presents to achieve the goal of reading - understanding what is read.

For young children success depends as much on well-timed, skilled and regular teaching of phonics as it does upon securing good attitudes to reading by making sure they receive a rich experience of high quality fiction and non-fiction books, including well told stories with opportunities to talk about and act them out from an early age. All of this is massively dependent on equipping children with a strong command of the spoken word; how that is best achieved deserves far greater attention than is often realised in practice.

The interminable debate about the teaching of early reading grinds on mired in arguing about fake opposites that set phonics at odds with ‘the enjoyment of reading’. At a time when we know more about the teaching of reading and writing than ever before, it would be no bad thing to move on from the sterile argy- bargy about phonics and focus on how best to train and support teachers to teach reading and writing to greatest effect.

Sir Jim Rose

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2015 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The new magazine on reading and writing is now available.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2015 8:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This topic is featured via the Reading Reform Foundation message forum:

http://www.rrf.org.uk/messageforum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6134

And the IFERI forum:

http://www.iferi.org/iferi_forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=414
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Update - I've been invited by the editor of 'Teach Reading and Writing' to respond to Michael Rosen's piece in a forthcoming edition of the magazine!

Excellent!
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 08, 2015 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In honour of National Poet's day, some one wrote this little ditty and circulated it via Twitter!

I couldn't resist posting it on this particular thread:


Quote:
Michael Rosen, is frozen, in time.
Thinks decoding, is boring, SSP is a crime.
Reading decline, is not fine,
shift the paradigm

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2015 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

All these children's authors must believe they are experts in teaching reading when surely they are experts at writing children's books!


http://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/jul/24/children-free-read-for-fun

Quote:
Children must be free to read for fun

We are writers and artists who produce books for children. In our view, the proposed draft primary English curriculum, the phonics screening check at the end of year 1, and the new spelling, punctuation and grammar test at the end of year 6 pose a threat to reading for pleasure in primary schools.


I don't understand why they don't understand that a child who cannot read, or read easily, is far less likely to 'read for fun' - or indeed, to choose to read books at all!

I think that these authors are in need of a reality check - perhaps they have been steeped in fantasy-land for far too long!
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