Sunday, 11 September 2016

Does Read,Write,Inc instruction include giving 'real books' to Year 1s to read for themselves?

If you use Read, Write, Inc., and have been on a recent training course with them, can you write and tell me what you were told about including 'real books' with Yr 1 or Reception children in your initial reading programme? (My email address is in the top right hand corner of my website.)

(A bit of history here: in the big argument about phonics, there were supposedly three positions: 1. Phonics, first, fast and ONLY. 2. Mixed methods. 3. Real books only.

re: 3 - 'real books only'; I've only ever met one person who really advocated a no-phonics-at-all approach but it became convenient in the big sell for phonics in recent years to suggest that this was what everyone was doing in the 1980s. They weren't.

re: 1 'first, fast and ONLY". The people who've advocated a daily session of Systematic synthetic phonics have at various times in my earshot or correspondence explained to me that the 'only' part of 'first, fast and only' was important in order to avoid 'confusing' children with 'real books' as, they said, this leads children to use non-phonic methods to read ie 'guessing' and 'using context' and 'whole word - look-and-say' methods, (even though all phonics schemes have 'red words' or 'tricky words' which you learn as 'look and say'!).

In fact, teachers who have been seen actively mixing the phonics books with 'real books' have on occasions been ticked off.

re 2 - 'mixed methods' - you can go online and read how those of us who believe this are hoaxers, liars, self-deceivers, back-sliders, at heart 'anti-phonics' etc etc.

OK - that's the context.

Now, I always understood that the phonics schemes approved by government, recommended by government (including Ruth Miskin, govt adviser recommending that schools buy her schemes, and the govt subsidising schools to buy those schemes) didn't advocate that children themselves look at 'real books' in the initial stages of learning to read. You could read TO them, but they couldn't look at the books themselves. Nick Gibb, told me that to do this was 'confusing' for children and diluted the phonics method.

If you go to the Ruth Miskin training site, (here it is: , you will see that the Ruth Miskin method now includes her advocating a specific list of 'real books' which fit with her Read Write Inc materials. It specifically says that the children can take these books home. They have to be the recommended ones, and they have to have been read to the children. The point is though that a) they are not phonically regular and b) the children can read them themselves.

This is 'mixed methods'. And it involves using 'real books' and the moment you do that, the reading process 'escapes' from phonics and phonics only. Children use 'mixed methods' no matter what we as adults say they should do.

Does anyone know how long this arrangement has been in place? [UPDATE: I NOW KNOW THAT IT WAS INTRODUCED A MONTH AGO] If you can say exactly what you were told about this, please do. I have been told by plenty of teachers that they were instructed by Ruth Miskin trainers in the past to ONLY use the Read Write Inc instruction books with Yr 1 starter children, and not 'real books'.

Why is this crucial? Because actually, this is what all the fuss has been about. (let's leave the phonics screening check, to one side, for the moment). Whether teachers can or should use 'mixed methods'.

Anyway - on another matter - beware all stats saying that children's reading is improving or not improving unless you know exactly how that 'reading' has been measured.

Is it 1) saying out loud a list of phonically regular words? 2) saying out loud a list of phonically regular and not phonically regular words? 3) saying out loud a passage from a 'real book'? 4) a test that also involves comprehension?

If ever you are confronted by someone telling you 'the tests show...' or 'the research shows...' please first run this little check over what it is they are actually saying.