Saturday, February 12, 2005

Reading instruction breakthrough

A new form of highly successful reading instruction called synthetic phonics might please everyone. This method might spell the end of the reading wars since it synthesizes fun and drill.

Excerpt from The Scotsman article:

Sat 12 Feb 2005

New teaching technique goes to top of the class


A NEW method of teaching primary school children to read and write has been hailed as a major success after researchers discovered it enabled pupils to surge years ahead of their contemporaries.

The groundbreaking programme, known as synthetic phonics, was created at St Andrews University and has been piloted in Clackmannanshire for the past seven years.

It involves teaching primary one children to read by learning more than one letter sound at a time. Youngsters are taught the initial, middle and final letter sounds so that they quickly learn how to blend them together to form words.

Videos and songs are also used to help youngsters spell and read unfamiliar words.

The new method differs from traditional teaching, where children are taught one letter sound at a time right through the alphabet.

Dr Joyce Watson and Professor Rhona Johnston, who developed the synthetic phonics programme, have been carrying out a study into its effectiveness since it was first introduced.

The results, published yesterday, revealed that, by primary seven, pupils were more than three years ahead of their peers in reading and almost two years ahead in spelling. The study also found that boys outperformed girls in reading and spelling.

Surprisingly, boys did better than girls.

It went on: "At the end of the seventh year at school, when the children were around 11.5 years old, they were reading at a 15-year-old level. That is, word reading was 3.5 years ahead of chronological age. Spelling was 1.75 years ahead of chronological age.

"The boys were significantly ahead of the girls in word reading and spelling. Their word reading was 11 months ahead of the girls and their spelling was nearly nine months ahead of the girls."

Dr Watson and Prof Johnston plan to conduct a further study to find out why boys seem to benefit more than girls.

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