Saturday, February 19, 2011

Here's a thought, how about teaching them to read and write properly?

When I was at school, we learned to read and write and do the basic maths stuff (times tables etc) in the first few years of junior school, there was none of this citizenship bollocks or gender awareness, we were kids, and treated like kids. Whilst it was possible to leave school unable to read and write, it was damned difficult to do so, you were quickly caught out as strangely enough we had to do a lot of reading and writing, not just do multiple choice either. People who couldn't read and write were heading for the scrap heap, no chance of a decent job and we knew it, it suited some, but over all most of us wanted to do things with our lives and futures, we had dreams, we might not have achieved them, but we were at least given the tools to make the attempt.
Not quite the same these days though...

A number of made-up words such as "koob" or "zort" are to be included in the government's planned new reading test for six-year-olds in England.
The idea has drawn criticism from literary experts who say the approach will confuse those beginning to read.
The UK Literacy Association said the plan was "bonkers" as the purpose of reading was to understand meaning.
The government said non-words were being included to check pupils' ability to decode words using phonics.
Now phonics does work if it is applied properly, the problem being that far too many kids slip through the net now as their reading skills can no longer be judged to a correct standard, nor do kids learning by phonics connect too well with this sort of thing as do the generation who learned by what is usually called the "whole word" method.
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch by the Lngiusiitc Dptanmeret at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
I can read it as can most adults who learned in the old school way, kids learning by phonics however can't, that's because they break words up into segments. Phonics only really works if stuff is spelt properly and as about 84% of English words phonetically regular it can teach kids how to read English quite quickly. So why are so many kids leaving school unable to read and write? Well mostly it's because teachers themselves don't understand the way the human brain works when it's processing information and it's different for boys and girls. In essence they are trying to teach using a method they don't understand, yes the old method worked, but it was hard work too phonics should make it easier, but only when it's taught correctly, unfortunately as the stats show, 22% of school leavers are illiterate and innumerate. So something's clearly not right and I think it's got to be down to teachers, though a lot of kids in my day got to school already able to read somewhat, not too sure about today though, even then the way a parent teaches their kids to read may not sit too well with the school method. My solution for what it's worth would be to combine the best of both worlds, use the best method for teaching reading and writing and couple it with giving the kids more time to do it (along with identifying failing teachers) Drop the PC stuff, drop or reduce the other workloads and don't let the kids progress until they have the basics down pat. A well educated generation might just be what this country needs in the years to come, at the moment though our kids are being let down by poor teaching, political meddling and far to many none essential subjects.
Let's get back to basics and put this right.

7 annotations:

Anonymous said...

I Argee.

The Talking Clock said...

Waehtevr nxet? You wlil be acdonaivtg taht we tcaeh clhdeirn Bstriih hsoirty wtiuoht the lfet wnig bais in a mtiune!

You konw taht eevnoyre wlil cmemnot using juebmld up wrdos on tihs psot, huh?

Furor Teutonicus said...

XX A well educated generation might just be what this country needs in the years to come, XX

And where are they going to come from?

The "kids" in your post ARE the next generation of teachers.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Are there some words missing from this sentence...

"Phonics only really works if stuff is spelt properly and as about 84% of English words phonetically regular it can teach kids how to read English quite quickly."

Do you mean "English words ARE phonetically regular"? I'd be surprised if that's true, but I've never bothered to count.

Quiet_Man said...

True enough, I was surprised myself. there's a good description of how it works here

Source for 84% here

Woodsy42 said...

When I leared to read it was mainly by 'phonics', everyone learned that way then.
But once reading - and this is the point, practise is needed either way - word recognition soon takes over. Phonics is relegated into a useful tool to cope with new or unfamiliar words and foreign languages.
They may be pointless in tests but I don't see the problem with the nonsense words. For word recognitionists they will be non-words, for phonetics people they will be pronouncable but still not known words.

TheFatBigot said...

Sticking in non-words seems a bit pointless to me. None of us knows more than a fraction of the enormous number of recognised words in the English language and any number of genuine words could be included but be unknown by 100% of the children taking the test.

How many six year-olds could be expected to know "quintessential", "flagon", "plinth" or "googol". To them these are just as much invented words as "koob" or "zort". All they can say is that they do not know the word, but they are not and cannot be in a position to know whether the word is a real word or not.

Incidentally, when I was six the same exercise could have been undertaken using nonexistent words like "internet", "blog", "fanzine" or "flat-screen".