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Phonics & decoding

Synthetic Phonics or Systematic Phonics? What Does Research Really Say?

It happened again this week.

Awhile back I was a member of the National Reading Panel (NRP) that reviewed instructional research on the teaching of reading at the request of the U.S. Congress. One of my roles was to serve on the “alphabetics committee” that reviewed the research on phonemic awareness and phonics instruction.

Since then it has happened numerous times, like it did this week.

Some self-proclaimed phonics authority attributes findings to the NRP that we didn’t actually find (usually because they didn’t actually read it).

Which is best? Analytic or synthetic phonics?

Teacher question:

Is Morphology Training Better Than Phonics Instruction?

Man, sometimes when you publish a blog entry you’d wish you stayed in bed.

You hope to write something that someone will find useful. But the responses might make you feel more like you’ve been dropped onto the set of Fox News or MSNBC.

Recently, I’ve experienced some interesting responses.

For example:

Can I Still Rely on the National Reading Panel Report?

Teacher question:

I coordinate reading interventions for my district. I have been told to stop referring to the National Reading Panel, as it is old and no longer relevant. Our universal screener is based on the 5 components of reading, and our basal interventions are also aligned to the "big 5". I don't think there is any way for me to stop referencing the NRP. Would you please comment?

Shanahan's response: 

Phonics for English Learners?

Teacher question:

I am interested in understanding how phonemic awareness and phonics can support students who do not have a structure for learning the English language. For example, English Language Learners who have no structure for language in their home language or in English. If you can suggest resources that address this matter I would be so grateful.  

Language at the Speed of Sight—On Cueing Systems, Phonemes, Speed Reading, and Sequences of Learning

A few months ago, I read Mark Seidenberg’s Language at the Speed of Sight. Seidenberg is a psychologist who studies reading, and his book is remarkably intelligent, frank, and witty. I think there is an occasional mistake or ambiguity here and there, but overall I was mesmerized.

How Do You Make a Good Reader? Just the Basics

Teacher question:

What makes good readers? What are kids lacking making them not so good readers?

Shanahan's response:

Sight Vocabulary for Preschool

Teacher question:

I am preschool teacher and I would like to know how I can implement a sight word program with 4 year old students. I have tried my best to implement at least three but I feel my strategies are not working. I am trying to do a program to help preschoolers to be ready when they go to kindergarten.

 Shanahan's response:

Our Younger Readers are Doing Better, So What's He Upset about Now?

Great report about beginning reading achievement in the most recent issue of Educational Researcher (Literacy Achievement Trends at Entry to First Grade). D’Agostino and Rodgers show that, beginning literacy skills have improved annually from 2002 through 2013. Beginning first-graders have steadily improved in letter identification, phonemic awareness, concepts about print, writing vocabulary, word reading, and text reading.

The Role of Early Oral Language in Reading Comprehension

When I was 18 years old, I was a volunteer tutor in an inner-city school. I wasn’t an education major — that came later — but I was intent on saving the world. I was excited about the idea of going into the city and working with elementary school kids who were growing up in poverty.

But I was also nervous about it. I didn’t know a damn thing about working with kids, the inner city, or reading. A trifecta of ignorance.

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"Wear the old coat and buy the new book." — Austin Phelps