Luca : 1 in 4
Making the data visible - we need to see these children
Pupils who arrive in secondary school as poor readers are likely to continue to struggle. in 2022, 41% of year 6 pupils in England left primary school without meeting the expected standards in literacy and maths – 275,000 11-year-olds, according to researchers at the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) thinktank - 50,000 more than in 2019. We cannot blame this on the pandemic - 27% failed to meet the minimum expected standard in reading in the 2018 and 2019 year.
Although a national parental strategy would be a great idea, the reality is that a solution is needed NOW, and a lot of parents can't help. They can't read either.
Illiteracy in the UK is a big problem.
Systematic synthetic phonics instruction is mandatory in the UK. Has been since 2012. 1 in 4 children did not meet the expected standard in reading again this year.
“Not only has overall attainment declined but some of the country’s most vulnerable children are falling further behind their peers. We know that the disadvantage gap for 11-year-olds is now around the same level as it was in 2012, taking us back a decade.” Jon Andrews, the head of analysis at the Education Policy Institute (EPI)
Luca is one of those 2023 year 6 pupils - 86 - KS2 SATS Reading - 87 - Spelling
He is an instructional casualty. His life, approaching secondary school, could have been very different - if he had been taught in Reception with the Speech Sound Pics Approach, if his school had an ICRWY specialist tutor who would have screened him in KS1, or if the AU Reading Teacher had been around - my current focus!
My friend Jane asked if I could help her nephew in any way. She explained that Luca was in year 6 and struggling to read. I needed to check his phonemic awareness first. Can he isolate (hear) the speech sounds in words, segment (know the order) and blend them?
I don't tend to check manipulation and deletion unless F2F. What is he reading?
Reading and spelling revolves around the ability to isolate the smallest sound units, segment and blend.
It's the first thing to check because if you don't have good phonemic awareness it's more difficult to develop orthographic knowledge, and you tend to rely on memorising as much as you can can, to compensate.
As synthetic phonics programmes in the UK tend to be 'print to speech' and the DfE has told program developers - who submitted their programmes for validation - that there is no need to start with a separate 'phonemic awareness' phase, it can be more difficult for teachers to recognise these phonemic awareness deficits early and overcome them.
Within my own approach I use visual and linguistic (speech to print) phonics and the first week is spent identifying my 'red alert' kids - because it's all about isolating speech sounds, blending and segmenting, and the introduction of phoneme characters (Speech Sound Monsters) so that the children can start the spelling routine with 'Duck Hands, Line and Numbers'. It means the phonemes are organised on paper, ready for when we start using the 'Sound Pics' (graphemes) the following week - with the Green Code Level group of GPCs. It's very mathematical.
In week 1 they all map their names. They couldn't do this with 'phonics' as almost all children would have at least one correspondence not explicitly taught - ever. We do that in week 1.
Luca would have been shown his 'Monster Mapped' name.
From week 1 three children are being screened, and receiving the intervention needed.
By week 4 the children are working at their pace - learning the high frequency GPCs, but ALSO exploring other choices, and working through 7 duck levels (400+ high frequency words, monster mapped)
When children are taking longer to learn new concepts and demonstrate mastery, teachers using my approach (across Australia) know WHY. Every single child is getting what THEY need.
It's a very different way to teach.
Teachers using phonics programmes in the UK may not even have an understanding of why some children are struggling, and the end of year 1 is much too late to realise they haven't mastered the basic GPS tested. Whoever designed the phonics screener check did not consider separating out skills - many children can fail it even if they can look at every grapheme and 'say the sound' they have been taught to associate with that grapheme. Without good PA they can't blend them to say the word.
So many children can fall through the cracks in KS1. Some of the phonics programmes make the development of phonemic awareness harder for a lot of children because they don't stick to phoneme to grapheme mapping. Other units are used eg onset and rime, syllables, and 'consonant blends'. For at least 25% of children this makes learning to read and spell even harder.
I asked Luca to read a 'home reader' (the books he is asked to read at school) and the clip after that shows his duck Hands and my analysis.
This is what SHOULD happen.
Some children should be in the 'implicit learning' phase really quickly - perhaps even term 1 of reception.
Luca has been stuck in 'explicit phonics' since KS1 and not moved into the implicit learning phase!
Because there has been no-one who understood what he needed he has had lots of 'phonics' teaching, without a focus on developing good phonemic awareness. Children can't learn phonics without good phonemic awareness - PA doesn't develop simply because a phonics programme is being used. Luca is 'blinded' by the letters, as these GPCs have been the focus for so long - without attention to the mapping of all words. He didn't even know the phonemes that ae used when he says his name - as he tries to make the GPCs 'fit'*
He has learned to memorise as much as possible. He may recognise some whole words (the human brain can memorise about 2000!) but without understanding the mapping he is stuck. Until the end of year 1 teachers probably didn't even realise he was facing difficulties. This is why the first year matters so much.
It is also why the ICRWY PREVENTION is such a powerful weapon in the war against illiteracy! Far too many children are having to fight learning battles in school, because of misguided but NON-inclusive policies and programmes.
Eyes and ears can be out of sync when not regularly mapping words - for example Luca wasn't aware of the mapping of his own name - and when I asked him to give the phonemes in his Dad's name he couldn't marry up the way pronounced, with the graphemes. I had asked which monsters and he didn't pick the Silly Schwa! He insisted it was mænəʊli:
The Speech Sound Monsters force learners to acknowledge the ACTUAL phoneme to grapheme correspondences! they use These are words used or heard daily; and still those correspondences are not aligning :-) I call this being 'blinded by the letters'
English has an opaque orthography so really important that Luca learn the 'monster sounds' and also the Spelling Routine so that we can quickly overcome this 'blindness' and get him aware of the actual mapping of words! By developing phonemic awareness AND orthographic knowledge he has a chance of storing words in orthographic lexicon, to then retrieve when writing. It's so 'out of whack' that he can easily recognise a word eg 'out' - and be looking at it a second before being asked to then write the word - and spell it 'owt'. So I need him to look at words as pictures of speech sounds - graphemes - and SEE where segmented: AND understand the sound value! There is also the additional issue of accents - which can further confuse his brain with regards to the mapping!
Even if he maps the speech sounds he uses, and maps to the Sound Pics - this may not be the correspondence we want (eg he says 'feather' as f e v ə )
So Luca got to work mapping words, thinking about the graphemes (Sound Pics) and the Monster Sounds.
He was about to sit KS2 SATS to I didn't want to add too much to his plate.
His brain really, really wants to say /er/ because of prior phonics instruction (it's the schwa)
I then worked on shifting his 'foundations' - they were not secure. He wasn't sure how to segment words - using phonemic awareness - had only been taught a basic set of grapheme to phoneme correspondences and had poor orthographic knowledge.
He was fixed on a print to speech mindset - with no track back of words to secure new learning (difficulty when you don't have the phonemic awareness or opportunities to do so in class) So even when reading text he wasn't retaining it in his brain word bank (orthographic lexicon)
I needed him to:
*work through the 7 Duck Level words - words used a lot in his writing and any text he reads.
*read through the 120 Village with Three Corners books as the early books are code mapped and monster mapped.
Monster Mapping is vital for Luca as he focuses so heavily on what he sees - as as his phonemic awareness and orthographic knowledge poor, he relied on whole word recognition (and the brain can't learn to read that way)
So he relies on memorising whole words and guessing at them (but not then tracking back to develop that missing orthographic learning) He will never learn to read this way.
Life happens - and why so important that children are reading before grade 2. Many parents don't realise the time commitment needed - to rewire the brain and undo all the ineffective work that went on previously (which creates and reinforces ineffective strategies).
We need more tutors trained in this.
Luca has now started secondary school.
What does Luca need now, to read and write, and cope with the secondary school curriculum?
Message to Luca's new teachers
Our primary objective has been to address his phonemic awareness deficits and guide him towards employing new strategies to expand his "orthographic lexicon," as his proficiency in recognising and processing words has been limited. This has made comprehension of written texts difficult, and as his 'brain word bank' is limited he can't retrieve the correct spelling of words - he is unable to identify if words 'look right' - or recognise and store new spelling patterns (essential if orthographic mapping / reading fluency is to be achieved).
Most of his academic challenges stem from a lack of targeted intervention tailored to address his specific learning gaps, particularly in the domain of orthographic learning. At least 1 in 4 children do not transition into the important 'implicit learning' phase, and synthetic phonics does not offer them the knowledge needed to read and spell independently. Thus, our initial efforts focused on altering his perception of words: the speech sound connection. Given that he did not progress to the implicit learning phase by Year 2, he became one of the "1 in 4" group, representing children who leave primary school without achieving the expected minimum levels of reading and spelling proficiency.
Regrettably, numerous challenges impeded our ability to maximize the learning process. However, I have documented some of the educational strategies and techniques I employed on the following webpage: Link to the webpage. Notably, the video below introduces the concept of "concept characters," or what I refer to as "speech sound monsters." These concept characters serve as alternatives to traditional phonetic symbols and play a crucial role in Luca's learning journey, as he initially received instruction in "phonics-first" methods, despite the inherent complexities of English as an opaque orthography. The spelling routines I implemented have assisted him in exploring the comprehensive set of orthographic patterns, thus fostering orthographic awareness, and encouraging 'track back' while reading. His default approach of considering only one correspondence when encountering a grapheme, such as /a/, has posed a significant challenge that we aim to overcome.
If Luca is to learn to read - become functionally literate - he needs to do these activities at least 4 times a week.
He needs at least 45 minutes x 4 times a week - and to find books to read that he is interested in.
If he finds them I can ask the author if I can Code Map the text which will make it easier for him to continue to develop orthographic knowledge.
Monster Routine - this teaches his brain to think speech to print, and the routine helps him retain.
The focus is on phonemic awareness and orthographic learning
Speedy Solo and Paired Decoding - basically working through all words saying the phonemes and then the word while looking at the words.
Snap and Crack - using text he just did the above with (solo or paired decoding)
- to then focus on comprehension
Rapid Writing - to also write words with the focus on orthographic learning.
The Speedy Six Spelling activities
I put them these core activities together in a routine I call LinguaLit - which brings it all together.
His new teachers could book training if the free clips aren't self-explanatory.
They can use text he is supposed to be using in various curriculum subjects.
The ideal would be that his teachers send home the texts in advance of lessons so he can work with it before he does so in class - he works with the text learning to read and spell. The subject teachers are focused on specific learning content. We can't expect them to also teach the 1:4 to read.
Take the Year 7 work - but map it and word with it to also teach him to read and spell the text himself.
The tendency in secondary schools is to 'bandaid' the issue - text to speech etc
as the teachers need to focus on the content
Someone needs to invest the time to teach him to read it himself.
Use Code Mapped texts together: you might find errors in the mapping to help me improve it! Can you find them here? Check your orthographic knowledge!
How many words are incorrectly mapped? Did you find them?
Download the correctly mapped science text here and talk about it!
This is my doctoral research focus: teacher PA and Orthographic Knowledge!