Sunday 17 June 2012

To Oates re Year 1 'first, fast and only'.

 But it’s important that the totality of the specification yrs1-6 does not exclude other methods as well as those that develop phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is indeed very strongly emphasized, since this does appear, from the Anglo-American evidence, to be crucial to a key goal – ensuring all children are reading and writing with confidence and fluency, such that their level of facility is not an impediment to study in any subject when they progress to Secondary education. Sounds like a ‘dry’ objective, but it is not achieved sufficiently in our system at present. And it sounds ‘dry’ but do not forget that reading for enjoyment, and writing with flair and facility is indeed emphasized in the aims of English – and we want the aims to be taken very seriously. "

(Tim Oates' on phonics from previous blog.)

My comment:

This doesn't state what is going on in reception and Year 1 classes. Oates description of it here blurs the year 1 experience into the experience of books across the whole school - (Years 1-6)

However, headteachers in some schools are interpreting the Synthetic Phonics tag-line 'first, fast and only' and the requirement that children should not be given non-decodable texts thereby excluding picture books from Reception and Year 1 classrooms. If you look at the Draft, you'll see that there is no mention of a need for picture books to be in the classroom. Instead, it's suggested that teachers read TO the children a good deal (indeed) but the children are clearly not allowed to browse through non-decodable texts (er...'books'...)on their own.

The issue here, then, is how do you excite 4,5 and 6 year olds to want to read? How do you excite those children who don't succeed with phonics as a decode system, doing first, fast and only in Year 1 and are explicitly asked in the Draft to go back on the phonics schemes as if that can be the only reason for their difficulties?

As I've said before, the segregation of phonic awareness from book awareness, meaning awareness, excitement awareness (!) leads to a skewing in favour of schemes, schemes, schemes and for teachers and children to lose sight of what the whole reading thing is for in the first place: enjoyment, interest, excitement, information, interpretation,wisdom - emotional/imaginative/ethical.