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Insight 17 A Seven Year Study of the Effects of Synthetic Phonics Teaching on Reading and Spelling Attainment The Insight Series A Seven Year Study of the Effects of Synthetic Phonics Teaching on Reading and Spelling Attainment

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We carried out a study on around 300 Primary 1 children of the effectiveness of synthetic versus analytic phonics teaching. The synthetic phonics programme was by far the most effective in developing literacy skills. The gains made in word reading over age expectations in Primary 1 had increased 6 fold by the end of Primary 7, going from 7 months to 3 years 6 months ahead of chronological age. The gain in spelling was 4.5 fold, going from 7 months to 1 year 9 months ahead of chronological age. Although reading comprehension score gains tended to diminish over time, at the end of the study they were still significantly above chronological age. The sample of children studied showed a skew towards coming from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds, so the gains in literacy skills over what would be expected for chronological age are particularly noteworthy. It was also shown that at the end of Primary 2, children from disadvantaged homes performed as well as those from better off homes if taught by the synthetic phonics programme, whereas with analytic phonics teaching, they did significantly less well. Furthermore, although children from disadvantaged backgrounds usually have poorer literacy skills from the start of schooling, the children from less well off homes in this study were only starting to fall significantly behind at the end of Primary 7, and even then were still performing at or above chronological age on word reading, spelling and reading comprehension. Johnston, R.S and Watson, J. (2004) Accelerating the development of reading, spelling and phonemic awareness. Reading and Writing,17 (4), 327-357. Johnston, R.S, McGeown, S, and Watson, J. (2012) Long-term effects of synthetic versus analytic phonics teaching on the reading and spelling ability of 10 year old boys and girls. Reading and Writing, 25, part 6, 1365-1384. DOI: 10.1007/s11145-011-9323-x
ISSN 1478-6788 (Print)
ISSN 1478-6796 (Online)
Insight 17
A Seven Year Study of the
Effects of Synthetic Phonics
Teaching on Reading and
Spelling Attainment
Welcome to
Insight
Insight is a publication of the research group within Information, Analysis and
Communication Division, which is responsible for providing analytical services within the
Scottish Executive Education Department (SEED). Their work is part of a multidisciplinary unit
(consisting of researchers, economists and statistics staff) and the staff undertakes and funds
economic analysis and social research in the fields of: school education; children, young
people and social work: architecture; and tourism, culture and sport.
The Scottish Executive is committed to the use of sound evidence in the development
of policy and practice as well as in the evaluation of policy and its implementation. We
therefore want to disseminate the results of research that SEED has undertaken and funded,
in a manner that is accessible, interesting and attractive.
Insight aims to present the essence of research projects in a format that will be useful and
informative for practitioners, policy makers, parents, academics, and anyone else who has an
interest in economic and social research in these areas.
The views expressed in this Insight are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect
those of the Scottish Executive or any other organisation(s) by whom the author(s) is or are
employed.
Copyright ©February 2005, Scottish Executive Education Department
ISSN 1478-6788 (Print)
ISSN 1478-6796 (Online)
Insight may be photocopied for use within your own institution.
A limited number of additional copies can be obtained from the Dissemination Officer,
Information, Analysis and Communication Division, Scottish Executive Education Department,
Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ (telephone 0131-244-0316). Copies of Insight and our
other publications can be downloaded from our website: www.scotland.gov.uk/insight/
The
Insight
Series
1.Classroom Assistants: Key Issues from the National Evaluation
2. The Impact of ICT Initiatives in Scottish Schools
3. Moving On to Primary 1: An Exploratory Study of the Experience of Transition from
Pre-School to Primary
4. Accelerating Reading and Spelling with Synthetic Phonics: A Five Year Follow Up
5. Assessment of Benefits and Costs of Out of School Care
6. Meeting the Needs of Children from Birth to Three: Research Evidence and Implications
for Out-of-Home Provision
7. Key Findings from the National Evaluation of the New Community Schools Pilot
Programme in Scotland
8. Scottish Qualification for Headship: Key Issues from the Evaluation
9. The Sitter Service in Scotland: A Study of the Costs and Benefits
10. Awards in Early Education, Childcare and Playwork: A Qualifications Framework for the
Future
11. An Evaluation of the Higher Still Reforms
12. The Management of Supply Cover in the Teaching Profession
13. Parents’ Demand for and Access to Childcare in Scotland
14. Evaluation of Personalised Laptop Provision in Schools
15. Teachers’ Perceptions of Discipline in Scottish Schools
If you have views on Insight or wish to find out more about SEED’s research and economics
programme, please contact Information, Analysis and Communication Division, Scottish
Executive Education Department, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ or by e-mail on
recs.admin@scotland.gsi.gov.uk
Astron 209924 02/05
This document is produced from 100% Elemental Chlorine-free material, environmentally preferred material
and is 100% recyclable.
ASeven Year Study of the Effects of Synthetic Phonics Teaching on Reading
and Spelling Attainment
Rhona S Johnston and Joyce E Watson
Introduction
We have carried out a study on around 300 children of the effectiveness of a synthetic
phonics programme that was taught in Primary 1. Performance on this programme was
compared with performance on a typical analytic phonics programme, and also with
performance on a similar programme that included a substantial element of
phonological awareness training. The synthetic phonics programme was by far the most
effective in developing literacy skills. In several publications (Watson and Johnston, 1998,
Johnston and Watson, 2003, and Johnston and Watson, 2004) we have charted the
development of the children’s literacy skills up to the end of Primary 5. In this Insight
report we describe the progress the children have made from Primary 1 through to the
end of Primary 7, focusing on comparing the attainment of boys with that of girls. We
have also examined the extent to which children underachieve when taught by the
synthetic phonics programme, and the impact that synthetic phonics teaching has on
the literacy skills of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Therearetwo major approaches to teaching children the alphabetic principle: analytic
and synthetic phonics. Although we describe below how these two types can be
distinguished, thereis in fact really a continuum from the analytic to the synthetic.
Analytic phonics
Analytic phonics is well known in Scotland, where it has formed part of the early years
reading programme for many years. Teaching starts at the whole word level, and then
involves showing children patterns in the English spelling system. It is generally taught in
parallel with, or some time after, graded reading books, which are introduced using a
look and say approach. Children aretypically taught one letter sound per week and are
shown a series of alliterative pictures and words which start with that sound, e.g. car,
cat, candle, cake, castle, caterpillar. When the 26 initial letter sounds have been taught
in this way, children are introduced to final sounds, e.g. nap,cup,pip, and to middle
sounds e.g. cat, bag, ragetc. This stage is usually reached at the end of Primary 1. At this
point some teachers may show children how to sound and blend the consecutive letters
in unfamiliar words to be able to pronounce them e.g. ‘cuh-ah-tuh’ for ‘cat’
.Starting in
Primary 2, initial consonant blends are taught, e.g. ‘bl’, ‘cr’, ‘sp’, followed by final
consonant blends, e.g. ‘nt’, ‘ng’, ‘st’; vowel and consonant digraphs, e.g. ‘ee’, ‘oo’, ‘ch’,
sh’; and silent ‘e’, e.g. ‘slate’, ‘blue
.This programme is often completed at the end of
Primary 3.
Synthetic phonics
Synthetic phonics is used in Germany and Austria and is generally taught before children
are introduced to books or reading. It involves teaching small groups of letters very
rapidly, and children are shown how letter sounds can be co-articulated to pronounce
unfamiliar words. In a UK version of synthetic phonics, i.e. Hickey’s Multi-Sensory
Language Course (Augur and Briggs,1992), the first block of letter sounds is ‘s’, ‘a’, ‘t’, ‘i’,
‘p’, ‘n’, which make up more three-letter words than any other six letters. Children are
shown many of the words that these lettersgenerate (e.g. ‘sat’, ‘tin’, ‘pin’).
In our version of synthetic phonics children use magnetic letters to build up words and
to help them understand how letter sounds can be blended together to pronounce the
1
1. Should children
learn letters in
words in a
sequence i.e. in
initial, final and
then medial
positions?
With synthetic
phonics, letters are
shown in all
positions of words
from the start.
words. In order to read a word, the appropriate magnetic letters are set out; the children
then blend the letter sounds together, smoothly co-articulating them, whilst pushing the
letters together. The approach is also used for learning to spell (and to reinforce blending
for reading). The children listen to a spoken word, select the letters for the sounds, and
then push the letters together, sounding and blending them to pronounce the word.
Consonant blends are not explicitly taught at all as they can be read by blending,
although digraphs (i.e. a phoneme represented by two letters e.g. ‘sh’, ‘th’, ‘ai’, ‘oa’) are
taught.
Atypical lesson using our scheme would be as follows. Soon after starting school, the
children are taught the sounds for the letters ‘t’, ‘a’, and ‘p’. Then a child at the front of
the class is asked to select these letters from the teacher’s large magnetic board, and to
place them in a row below the other letters of the alphabet. The class then give the
sounds of the letters, ‘t’, ‘a’, ‘p’ and then blend the sounds together to pronounce the
word ‘tap’, whilst the letters are pushed together. Spelling is taught in the same session,
the teacher either saying or showing a picture of a word using the letters that have been
taught. The children pick out the letters for the sounds that they hear in the word, and
place them together on their own magnetic boards. They will then sound and blend,
pushing the letters together.
Findings
Our study was carried out in Clackmannanshire schools in mostly disadvantaged areas,
with a few schools from moderately advantaged areas. Three training programmes were
conducted with around 300 children for 16 weeks, starting soon after entry to Primary 1.
For 20 minutes a day,children weretaught either 1) by a synthetic phonics programme,
or 2) by an analytic phonics programme modelled on the methods commonly used in
Scotland, or 3) by an analytic phonics plus phonological- awareness training programme.
At the end of these programmes, the synthetic-phonics-taught group were reading
words around 7 months ahead of the other two groups (and were around 7 months
ahead for their chronological age), and werespelling around 8 to 9 months ahead of the
other groups (and were again performing around 7 months ahead of chronological age)
(Watson and Johnston, 1998). The synthetic-phonics taught group also read irregular
words better than the other groups, and was the only group that could read unfamiliar
words by analogy.
At the end of the initial programme, all of the children who had been taught by the two
analytic phonics programmes then carried out the synthetic phonics programme, which
they completed by the end of Primary 1. The children’s progress in reading and spelling
has been studied every year since then.
Findings from Primary 2 to Primary 7
In order to make comparisons across the years, we are reporting the results for the
children that were available for testing from Primary 2 to Primary 7, so the figures will
differ slightly from previous reports. At the end of Primary 7, wordreading was 3 years 6
months ahead of chronological age, spelling was 1 year 9 months ahead, and reading
comprehension was 3.5 months ahead. The figures below show how the children
progressed from year to year in word reading, spelling and reading comprehension, and
whether the boys and girls differed in performance from each other.
2
2.Should reading
be taught before
spelling?
In our synthetic
phonics programme
children are taught
to both read and
spell right from the
start.
4. At what stage
can children read
unfamiliar words
by analogy with
known words?
The synthetic-
phonics-taught
children were able
to do this by March
of Primary 1 but
those taught by
analytic phonics
were not.
3. Should phonemic
awareness be
taught in addition
to phonics?
Phonemic
awareness training
is an integral part
of our synthetic
phonics
programme. This
approach was more
effective than
phonemic
awareness training
on its own.
Word reading
Figure 1 Comparison of word reading from Primary 2 to Primary 7, boys versus girls
There were 105 boys and 97 girls available for a word reading comparison across all
7 years of the study.1It can be seen in Figure 1 that in Primary 3 the boys pulled
significantly ahead of the girls in word reading, and stayed ahead right through to the
end of Primary 7. At the end of the study, the boys were reading around 9.5 months
ahead of the girls. Wordreading was significantly above chronological age throughout
the study, but was further ahead of age in Primary 7 than in all previous years. Thus the
effects of the initial training programme in Primary 1 werenot only maintained until
Primary 7, but increased year after year.
Acomparison was also made of the children’sprogress according to whether they had
learnt by the synthetic phonics programme at the beginning of Primary 1, or starting
around Easter of Primary 1. It was found that the girls read words better if taught by the
synthetic phonics programme from the start of the school year.
Spelling
Figure 2 Comparison of spelling from Primary 2 to Primary 7, boys versus girls
3
Figure 1
Comparison of word reading from Primary 2 to Primary 7,
boys versus girls
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
Years
Boys Word Reading
Girls Word Reading
Boys Chronological Age
Girls Chronological Age
Primary
2Primary
3Primary
4Primary
5Primary
6Primary
7
1From Primary 2 to Primary 5, we used the British Ability Scales (BAS) WordReading Test (Elliott et al,
1977). From Primary 6 to Primary 7 we used the Wide Range Achievement Test (Wilkinson, 1993), as many of
the children were at ceiling on the BAS test.
5. Do the girls in
your class read
words better than
the boys?
In our synthetic
pbonics
programme, boys
and girls read well
above expected
levels, but the boys
were ahead of the
girls.
Figure 2
Comparison of spelling from Primary 2 to Primary 7, boys
versus girls
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
Years
Boys Spelling
Girls Spelling
Boys Chronological Age
Girls Chronological Age
Primary
2Primary
3Primary
4Primary
5Primary
6Primary
7
There were 95 boys and 84 girls available for comparison over the 7 years of the study.2
Itcan be seen in Figure 2 that in Primary 4 the boys started to pull ahead of the girls.
They were significantly ahead in Primaries 4, 6 and 7, being around 8.6 months ahead by
the end of the study. Spelling was significantly above chronological age throughout, and
was significantly further ahead of age in Primary 7 than in all previous years. As with
word reading, spelling skills were still increasing at the end of Primary 7, 6 years after
the initial programme was completed.
Acomparison was again carried out of the progress the children made according to
whether they had learnt by the synthetic phonics programme at the beginning of
Primary 1, or starting around Easter of Primary 1. It was found that both the boys and
the girls spelt better if taught by the synthetic phonics approach at the start of the
school year
Reading comprehension
Figure 3 Comparison of reading comprehension from Primary 2 to Primary 7,
boys versus girls
There were 89 boys and 88 girls available for comparison across the 7 years of the study.3
Throughout this period, the boys and girls did not differ significantly in reading
comprehension, see Figure 3. Reading comprehension was significantly above
chronological age throughout, but this advantage was of greater magnitude at Primary 2
than at Primary 7. The children in Primary 7 comprehended what they read 3.5 months
above what would be expected for their chronological age, whereas at Primary 2 there
had been a 7 months advantage.
Socio-economic background
Wealso split the sample into those from advantaged and disadvantaged homes,
according to the region’s classification. Children from disadvantaged homes usually
perform less well than those from advantaged homes on literacy skills, even as early as
Primary 1 (Duncan and Seymour, 2000).
4
2From Primary 2 to 6, we used the Schonell Spelling Test (Schonell and Schonell, 1952), and from
Primary 7, we used the Wide Range Achievement (Wilkinson, 1993), as many of the children were at ceiling
on the Schonell test.
3From Primary 2 to Primary 3 we used the Primary Reading Test (France,1981), and due to ceiling effects
from Primary 4 to Primary 7 we used the Group Reading Test (Macmillan Unit, 2000).
Figure 3
Comparison of reading comprehension from Primary 2 to
Primary 7, boys versus girls
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
Years
Boys Reading Comprhension
Girls Reading Comprehension
Boys Chronological Age
Girls Chronological Age
Primary
2Primary
3Primary
4Primary
5Primary
6Primary
7
6.Do you think it
matters whether
the synthetic
phonics programme
is taught early or
late in Primary 1?
Towards the end of
Primary 2, the girls
read words better
and both boys and
girls spelt better, if
taught by the
synthetic phonics
programme at the
start of Primary 1
Reading
Figure 4 Comparison of word reading from Primary 2 to Primary 7 for the advantaged
and disadvantaged children
Our statistical analysis did not find any difference between the performance of the
advantaged and disadvantaged children, though one may be emerging in Primary 7,
wherethe children from the less well off homes read words 6.2 months below the level
of children from better off homes (see Figure 4).
Spelling
Figure 5 Comparison of spelling from Primary 2 to Primary 7 for the advantaged
and disadvantaged children
Here we found that the children from disadvantaged homes did perform significantly
less well than the advantaged children, but only in Primary 7, when they were 5.8
months behind, see Figure 5.
5
Figure 4
Comparison of word reading from Primary 2 to Primary 7 for the
advantaged and disadvantaged children
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
Disadvantaged
Advantaged
Years
Primary
2Primary
3Primary
4Primary
5Primary
6Primary
7
Figure 5
Comparison of spelling from Primary 2 to Primary 7 for the advantaged
and disadvantaged children
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
Disadvantaged
Advantaged
Years
Primary
2Primary
3Primary
4Primary
5Primary
6Primary
7
7. Are children
from less well off
homes at a
disadvantage in
learning to read?
Generally this is
true, but with
synthetic phonics
teaching the
children from
disadvantaged
homes kept pace
with those from
moreadvantaged
homes until near
the end of primary
schooling.
Reading Comprehension
Figure 6 Comparison of reading comprehension from Primary 2 to Primary 7 for the
advantaged and disadvantaged children
At Primary 2 the disadvantaged children actually performed better than the advantaged
children, see Figure 6. However, the advantaged children performed significantly better
than the disadvantaged children at Primary 5 and Primary 7, the advantage at the end
of the study being 5.5 months.
Writing skills for advantaged and disadvantaged children
Figure 7 Comparison of advantaged and disadvantaged children in Clackmannanshire on
writing skills at the end of the sixth year at school, n=141
In Primary 6 we examined 141 of the children’s writing skills using the WOLD (Wechsler
Objective Language Dimensions, Rust, 1996); average performance on this test is 100.
The advanced writing skills tested by the WOLD were not taught in the 16 weeks phonics
programme carried out in Primary 1. We also measured the children’s vocabulary
knowledge in Primary 6, using the English Picture Vocabulary Test (EPVT, Brimer and
Dunn, 1996). Mean performance on the EPVT was 92. Given that average performance
on this test is also 100, it can be seen that verbal ability was somewhat below average.
This is important as vocabulary knowledge is a good predictor of educational
achievement. The advantaged and disadvantaged children got scores of 98 and 97
respectively on the writing skills test, which is around 5 points ahead of what would be
expected from their vocabulary knowledge scores (see Figure 7).
6
Figure 6
Comparison of reading comprehension from Primary 2 to Primary
7 for the advantaged and disadvantaged children
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
Disadvantaged
Advantaged
Years
Primary
2Primary
3Primary
4Primary
5Primary
6Primary
7
Figure 7
Comparison of advantaged and disadvantaged children in
Clackmannanshire on writing skills at the end of the sixth year at school,
n=141
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
Disadvantaged
Advantaged
Standardised score
Vocabulary Knowledge Writing Skills
8. Are children
from less well off
homes at a
disadvantage in
learning to write
stories?
With synthetic
phonics teaching,
in Primary 6 the
children from
disadvantaged
homes wrote as
well as those from
moderately
advantaged homes.
7
Advantaged
6
6.2
6.4
6.6
6.8
7
7.2
7.4
7.6
7.8
8
Years
Disadvantaged Advantaged Disadvantaged
Analytic Phonics Synthetic Phonics
Chronological Age
Word Reading Age
Spelling Age
Comparison of performance of advantaged and disadvantaged children learning by
analytic and synthetic phonics programmes
Figure 8 Comparison of children from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds
learning to read by analytic or synthetic phonics, at the end of Primary 2
It can be seen in this comparison of 193 children that with analytic phonics tuition the
advantaged children read and spelt significantly better than the disadvantaged children.
However,with synthetic phonics teaching therewas no difference in word reading or
spelling ability according to social background. (There was a non-significant trend
towards the synthetic phonics taught disadvantaged children reading and spelling better
than the advantaged ones, but the former had had the synthetic phonics programme
right at the start of the school year, whereas the moderately advantaged children had
started the programme after Easter of the first year at school). Comparing performance
on the two types of phonics programmes, the disadvantaged children read and spelt
better with synthetic than analytic phonics teaching, and the advantaged children spelt
better with synthetic phonics.
Underachievers from Primary 2 to Primary 7
Figure 9 Comparison of children more than 2 years behind for their age in word reading,
spelling, and reading comprehension, from Primary 2 to Primary 7
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
50
234567
Years at school
Percent
Word Reading
Spelling Age
Reading Comprehension
Itcan be seen in this analysis of around 200 children that the percentage of low
achievers is small, especially considering that this is a fairly low ability sample that
comes predominantly from a poor socio-economic background. Even at the end of the
Primary 7, only 5.6% of the children were more than 2 years behind chronological age in
word reading, 10.1% were behind in spelling, and 14.0% were behind in reading
comprehension.
Conclusion
It can be seen that the gains made in word reading in Primary 1 had increased 6 fold by
the end of Primary 7, going from 7 months to 3 years 6 months ahead of chronological
age. The gain in spelling was 4.5 fold, going from 7 months to 1 year 9 months ahead of
chronological age. This is very unusual, as the effects of training programmes usually
wash out rather than increase out (Ehri et al, 2001). Although reading comprehension
scores were tending to diminish over time, at the end of the study they were still
significantly above chronological age and were good given the children’s somewhat
below average levels of vocabulary knowledge.
The sample of children studied showed a skew towards coming from less advantaged
socio-economic backgrounds, so the gains in literacy skills over what would be expected
for chronological age are particularly noteworthy. It was also shown that at the end of
Primary 2, children from disadvantaged homes performed as well as those from better
off homes if taught by the synthetic phonics programme, whereas with analytic phonics
teaching, they did significantly less well. Furthermore, although children from
disadvantaged backgrounds usually have poorer literacy skills from the start of schooling,
the children from less well off homes in this study were only starting to fall significantly
behind at the end of Primary 7, and then were still performing at or above chronological
age on word reading, spelling and reading comprehension.
It can be concluded that the synthetic phonics programme led to children from lower
socio-economic backgrounds performing at the same level as children from advantaged
backgrounds for most of their time in primary school. It also led to boys performing
better than or as well as girls.
References
Augur,J. and Briggs, S. (1992) Hickey Multi-Sensory Language Course.London: Whurr PublishersLtd.
Brimer, M.A. and Dunn, l.M. (1986) English Picture Vocabulary Test,Educational Evaluation Enterprises, Awre,
Glos.
Duncan, .LG. & Seymour, P.H.K. (2000) Socio-economic differences in foundation level literacy. British
Journal of Psychology,91, 145-166.
Dunn, L.M. and Dunn, L.M (1982). British Picture Vocabulary Scales,Windsor: NFER-Nelson.
Ehri LC, Nunes SR, Willows DM, Schuster BV, Yaghoub-Zadeh Z, Shanahan T. (2001). Phonemic awareness
instruction helps children learn to read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel’s meta-analysis. Reading
Research Quarterly,36, 250-287.
Elliott, C.D., Murray,D.J., & Pearson, L.S. (1977) The British Ability Scales.
Windsor: NFER Nelson.
France, N. (1981). Primary Reading Test. Windsor: NFER-Nelson.
Johnston, R.S and Watson, J (2003) Accelerating Reading and Spelling with Synthetic Phonics: A five year
follow up.Insight 4. Scottish Executive Education Department: Edinburgh.
Johnston, R.S and Watson, J. (2004) Accelerating the development of reading, spelling and phonemic
awareness. Reading and Writing,7(4), 327-357.
Macmillan Unit (2000) The Group Reading Test II. NFER Nelson: Windsor.
Rust, J. (1996). Wechsler Objective Language Dimensions, Psychological Corporation, London.
Schonell, F.J and Schonell, F.E. (1952). Diagnostic and attainment testing. Second edition. Edinburgh: Oliver
&Boyd.
Watson, J.E, and Johnston, R.S. (1998) Accelerating reading attainment: the effectiveness of synthetic
phonics. Interchange 57,SOEID, Edinburgh.
Wilkinson, G. 1993 Wide Range Achievement Test -3rd Edition (WRAT-3). Wide Range: Wilmington, Delaware.
8
9.What proportion
of children would
you expect to finish
primary school with
low levels of word
reading skill?
With synthetic
phonics teaching,
only 5.6% of the
children were
reading words more
than two years
behind what would
be expected for
their chronological
age.
Welcome to
Insight
Insight is a publication of the research group within Information, Analysis and
Communication Division, which is responsible for providing analytical services within the
Scottish Executive Education Department (SEED). Their work is part of a multidisciplinary unit
(consisting of researchers, economists and statistics staff) and the staff undertakes and funds
economic analysis and social research in the fields of: school education; children, young
people and social work: architecture; and tourism, culture and sport.
The Scottish Executive is committed to the use of sound evidence in the development
of policy and practice as well as in the evaluation of policy and its implementation. We
therefore want to disseminate the results of research that SEED has undertaken and funded,
in a manner that is accessible, interesting and attractive.
Insight aims to present the essence of research projects in a format that will be useful and
informative for practitioners, policy makers, parents, academics, and anyone else who has an
interest in economic and social research in these areas.
The views expressed in this Insight are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect
those of the Scottish Executive or any other organisation(s) by whom the author(s) is or are
employed.
Copyright ©February 2005, Scottish Executive Education Department
ISSN 1478-6788 (Print)
ISSN 1478-6796 (Online)
Insight may be photocopied for use within your own institution.
A limited number of additional copies can be obtained from the Dissemination Officer,
Information, Analysis and Communication Division, Scottish Executive Education Department,
Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ (telephone 0131-244-0316). Copies of Insight and our
other publications can be downloaded from our website: www.scotland.gov.uk/insight/
The
Insight
Series
1.Classroom Assistants: Key Issues from the National Evaluation
2. The Impact of ICT Initiatives in Scottish Schools
3. Moving On to Primary 1: An Exploratory Study of the Experience of Transition from
Pre-School to Primary
4. Accelerating Reading and Spelling with Synthetic Phonics: A Five Year Follow Up
5. Assessment of Benefits and Costs of Out of School Care
6. Meeting the Needs of Children from Birth to Three: Research Evidence and Implications
for Out-of-Home Provision
7. Key Findings from the National Evaluation of the New Community Schools Pilot
Programme in Scotland
8. Scottish Qualification for Headship: Key Issues from the Evaluation
9. The Sitter Service in Scotland: A Study of the Costs and Benefits
10. Awards in Early Education, Childcare and Playwork: A Qualifications Framework for the
Future
11. An Evaluation of the Higher Still Reforms
12. The Management of Supply Cover in the Teaching Profession
13. Parents’ Demand for and Access to Childcare in Scotland
14. Evaluation of Personalised Laptop Provision in Schools
15. Teachers’ Perceptions of Discipline in Scottish Schools
If you have views on Insight or wish to find out more about SEED’s research and economics
programme, please contact Information, Analysis and Communication Division, Scottish
Executive Education Department, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ or by e-mail on
recs.admin@scotland.gsi.gov.uk
Astron 209924 02/05
This document is produced from 100% Elemental Chlorine-free material, environmentally preferred material
and is 100% recyclable.
ISSN 1478-6788 (Print)
ISSN 1478-6796 (Online)
Insight 17
A Seven Year Study of the
Effects of Synthetic Phonics
Teaching on Reading and
Spelling Attainment
... One reason is that pupils can directly acquire this phonological awareness to decode and read (Cuetos, 2008). The results of a study by Johnston & Watson (2005) also reveal that pupils achieved a level on literacy that was seven months ahead of their actual age with a high level of rhyming and phonological awareness. Thus, it may be suggested that a synthetic method could be appropriate for the development of these abilities. ...
... Wainwright (n.d.) (Reading and Special Needs Teacher) also indicates that her pupils were reading six months ahead of their chronological age. Another example is found in the study carried out by Johnston & Watson (2005), who mention that the participating pupils managed to read seven months ahead of their actual age with high improvement in rhyming and phonological awareness. ...
... It means that a phonic method could not only be dynamic and motivational inside the classroom but it helps to improve children's levels of reading at a relatively rapid pace. It is possible, then, to corroborate that phonics is productive for the development of English literacy skills as mentioned by Johnston & Watson (2005). ...
Article
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Phonics is well established in the English-speaking world, but to date it has been implemented to only a limited extent in contexts where English is a foreign language. This study aimed at evaluating the appropriateness of phonics for developing literacy skills of Spanish learners of English. An experimental pre-test-post-test design was used to determine the method's added value. The sample consisted of two equivalent groups in a Span-ish bilingual state primary school, a control and a treatment group, where a phonic method was implemented by the researcher. Data were collected through tests measuring emergent Spanish and English literacy skills. Non-parametric tests and correlations were used for data analysis. The treatment group presented a significant improvement in phonological awareness , naming and letter and pseudo-word reading in the Spanish and English post-test. These 7-year-old children attained a level in English literacy skills equivalent to English children aged 5.8. The findings also suggested a positive transference of skills between English word reading and Spanish pseudo-word reading. The present study can serve as a possible proposal to help improve our Spanish bilingual programmes through the use of phonics in the early years in order to increase learners' English reading level.
... It is a system of teaching reading with alphabetic principle, which the central component is made up of the correspondences between letters or groups of letters and their pronunciations (Adams, 1994). Johnston and Watson (2005) claimed that the two major approaches to teach children reading with the alphabetic principle are the analytic and synthetic phonics. Systematic phonics instruction in teaching reading has been increasingly recognised by English-speaking countries such as England and the United States (Wyse & Goswami, 2008). ...
... In Johnston and Watson's (2005) seven-year study of the effects of synthetic phonics teaching on reading and spelling attainment, their results concluded that the synthetic phonic programme was so far the best approach in developing literacy skills. The study was carried out on about 300 children. ...
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This study investigates the viability of using a phonics programme for Primary One students who are studying at a National Type Chinese School in Sarawak, Malaysia. Jolly Phonics is a Synthetic Phonics Programme that is used to address common reading problems. In this study, Primary One students who learn Mandarin as their main language in school, while learning English and Malay Languages at the same time. The phonics consists of teaching reading with five skills, namely learning the letter sounds, letter formation, blending, segmenting and tricky words. 39 students participated in the study. Two groups were formed to compare performances between those who used the phonic programme and those who attended the regular English classes. Data was collected on pre and post-test achievements for both the experimental and control group. Findings revealed that the phonics programme did not significantly impact the students’ reading ability when compared with performances of those who attended regular lessons which used existing methods of teaching reading skills for English language learning at the Chinese medium school. Keywords: Night reading ability; non-native English language learners; phonics; Chinese school; foreign language learning
... rat, fat, hat, and mat) (Smith, 2011). In a study conducted by Johnston and Watson (2005) in Scotland, beneficial results from teaching synthetic phonics were reported. This study involved 300 first grade students of different genders and socio-economic backgrounds who were divided into two groups and taught to read using analytic and synthetic phonics over a period of 16 weeks for 20 minutes a day. ...
... So instead of discussing their own insecurities, fears, or opinions, the puppet is used as a surrogate as children project their own persona onto the puppet. Puppets have also been used to encourage children in mathematical lessons 7 , promote engagement in science 9 , and teach phonics 9 . Puppets have been shown to: ...
... Synthetic phonics programs are also designed around the pedagogy of explicit instruction as both the content and the method of delivering has been shown to have a significant impact on students' performance (Hollingsworth & Ybarra, 2009;McGeown & Medford, 2013). Research has identified that students who receive decoding instruction via a synthetic phonics approach, for example; Project Follow Through (Becker & Engelmann, 1978) and The Clackmannanshire studies (Johnston & Watson, 2005), have better outcomes in other areas of reading development and, generally, the research supports the use of explicit systematic synthetic phonics as the most effective approach to teaching decoding (Archer & Hughes, 2011;Buckingham et al., 2013;Castles et al., 2018;de Lemos, 2013;Engelmann & Carnine, 1991;Johnston et al., 2012;Moats, 2000). Wolf (2013), in supporting explicit and systematic instruction in phonics, argues that "an understanding of several basic principles about how the brain learns to read renders any such debate anachronistic, and more importantly, points the way in education to more comprehensive methods and practices" (p. ...
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Professional learning is widely acknowledged as an effective way to improve teacher practice and, consequently, student outcomes. However, this presupposes a direct link from professional learning to the enactment of the content of professional learning in teaching. This paper explores teachers' engagement with a continuing professional learning (CPL) program intended to improve teachers' knowledge and practice in reading instruction. Six case study subjects, self-selected from 10 schools participating in a year-long CPL program, provided the opportunity to explore what teachers enacted from the professional learning. This research highlighted the significance of contextual factors on how teachers engaged with and enacted information from the CPL. Contextual factors included individual beliefs about reading instruction and the expectations of the systems in which they are operating. This research emphasised the need to identify the personal and professional contexts of teachers involved in CPL programs in order to more effectively influence practice.
... The synthetic phonics programme piloted in some local educational authorities in Scotland has gained increasing attention not only in Scotland but also in England, Australia and the U.S.A. A seven-year research study conducted in a cluster of schools in Scotland claims children taught synthetic phonics first fast outperformed their peers who had been subjected to analytical phonics teaching (Johnston and Watson, 2005). ...
Book
This book draws on the first conference on early literacy development organised by Vuyokazi Nomlomo and her team at UWC in March 2017. It covers a range of topics such as literacy practices, challenges and interventions and draws on a range of contexts, both local and international.
... The synthetic phonics programme piloted in some local educational authorities in Scotland has gained increasing attention not only in Scotland but also in England, Australia and the U.S.A. A seven-year research study conducted in a cluster of schools in Scotland claims children taught synthetic phonics first fast outperformed their peers who had been subjected to analytical phonics teaching (Johnston and Watson, 2005). ...
Chapter
This chapter is not a conventional chapter but uses existing resources to make a case for storytelling as an age-old, but important tool, to develop both character and literacy amongst young children. It starts off by looking at why stories matter, then proceeds to resurrect a story that Desai’s mother told her in Konkani, their mother tongue. This story has now been written down by Desai – in English – for the first time and brings much joy to her great niece and nephew. The latter narrates the story, in his own words, in a link provided. The chapter then shares insights from the African Storybook Project, which is playing a vital role in making stories available digitally in local languages in Africa. It ends off with some salient concluding remarks.
... Sin embargo, no tienen el mismo grado de implicación en las distintas fases del aprendizaje lector (Rodríguez, van den Boer, Jiménez & de Jong, 2015). Además, parecen estar moduladas por la transparencia de la lengua en la que se aprende a leer y del método de enseñanza de la lectura utilizado (Diuk & Ferroni, 2013;Johnston & Watson, 2005), ya que mientras que los métodos sintéticos fomentan el uso de estrategias de decodificación fonológica, los métodos analíticos potencian el desarrollo de estrategias de decodificación ortográfica. Así mismo, en lenguas transparentes la conciencia fonológica (CF) ha demostrado una mayor capacidad de predicción en los estadios iniciales del aprendizaje de la lectoescritura, cuando la adquisición del código aún no es completa. ...
Article
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El estudio de los factores que influyen en la adquisición de la lectura facilita la detección temprana de las dificultades del aprendizaje lector. Destacan como habilidades predictoras: el conocimiento fonológico, el conocimiento alfabético y la velocidad de denominación. Todas ellas se adquieren a lo largo de la escolaridad pero no tienen el mismo grado de implicación en las distintas fases del aprendizaje lector. Esto parece depender, en parte, del método de enseñanza de la lectura utilizado. Los objetivos de este estudio han sido identificar y analizar las habilidades implicadas en el inicio de la lectoescritura en Educación Infantil que predicen el nivel de comprensión lectora en Educación Primaria, y conocer el peso diferencial que la conciencia fonológica, la velocidad de nombramiento y otras habilidades implicadas en el proceso lector tienen durante los primeros años de instrucción en función del método empleado. Para ello se realizó un estudio longitudinal en el que participaron 130 alumnos de colegios de Valencia y Castellón. El 52% fue iniciado con un método fonológico-sintético y el 48% con un método global. Se tomaron medidas en 2º de Educación Infantil, 3º de Educación Infantil y 1º de Educación Primaria. Se utilizó el test RAN para medir la velocidad de nombramiento, la Batería BIL de Inicio a la Lectura y el Test de Comprensión Lectora ACL. El modelo de ecuación estructural ha mostrado que en ambos métodos la velocidad de nombramiento a los 4 años tiene un efecto significativo en las variables relacionadas con el inicio de la lectura, evaluadas a los 5 años, las cuales a su vez influirían en la comprensión lectora de dichos niños a los 6 años. Esto indica que la velocidad de nombramiento constituye el cimiento del proceso de codificación fonológica sobre el que se asienta el proceso lector.
... On this perspective, the decoding process allows the reader to activate an existing spoken language representation and to derive meaning on the basis of that pre-existing vocabulary knowledge. Thousands of articles have been devoted to understanding the impact of phonological decoding ability on reading success (e.g., Lervåg, Hulme, & Melby-Lervåg, 2017), the impact of restricted access to spoken language representations on deaf children learning to read (e.g., Marschark & Harris, 1996), how irregularity in the spelling-to-sound mapping poses challenges for reading acquisition (e.g., Seymour, Aro, & Erskine, 2003), and how best to teach phonological decoding skills (e.g., Johnston & Watson, 2005). Similarly, debate in the skilled reading literature has focused on how phonological decoding affects reading comprehension (e.g., Van Orden, 1987), whether phonological decoding is obligatory (e.g., Frost, 1998) or "fast" (e.g., Rastle & Brysbaert, 2006), and the mechanisms that underpin the translation of letters into sounds (Coltheart, Rastle, Perry, Langdon, & Ziegler, 2001;Plaut, McClelland, Seidenberg, & Patterson, 1996). ...
Article
Skilled reading reflects an accumulation of experience with written language. Written language is typically viewed as an expression of spoken language, and this perspective has motivated approaches to understanding reading and reading acquisition. However, in this article, I develop the proposal that written language has diverged from spoken language in important ways that maximise the transmission of meaningful information, and that this divergence has been central to the development of rapid, skilled reading. I use English as an example to show that weaknesses in the relationship between spelling and sound can give rise to strong regularities between spelling and meaning that are critical for the rapid analysis of printed words. I conclude by arguing that the nature of the reading system is a reflection of the writing system and that a deep understanding of reading can be obtained only through a deep understanding of written language.
Chapter
The children's picture book maker combines text and image in symbiosis to create an artifact that is esthetically appealing, fulfills an educational need, is fun, commercially viable and is yet an artifact, an object of beauty and desire. To do this they become a polymath, having to understand not only the design elements of the picture book but also their audience, levels of literacy, key stages, and child development. This chapter discusses the elements involved in bringing these ideas and skills together to produce something that is more than a story, a work of art, to be treasured and passed on to future generations. From writers' and illustrators' favorite childhood reads, the symbiosis of text, image, and design, story and narrative, and real book reading to children's preferred books in a constantly changing technological age, I ask who is driving the high standards considered at the very uppermost level of practice in creating books for children, whether they be of paper or on a screen, tablet or mobile phone, and therefore what are the impending limitations and possibilities of this genre of illustration. How does this impact upon students studying illustration in higher education institutions now and in the future, knowing they are children of a technological age? I therefore continue to ask the question, what is the future for the children's picture book and thus the children's picture book maker in a polymathic world?
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Interchange 57 (Watson and Johnston, 1998) reported on a study of around 300 Primary 1 children in which the effectiveness of a synthetic phonics teaching program was examined. The synthetic phonics program was by far the most effective. A study described the progress the children have made from Primary 1 through to the end of Primary 5, focusing on comparing the attainment of boys with that of girls, and examining the extent to which children underachieve when taught by synthetic phonics compared with an analytic phonics program. Results indicated that at Primary 5 (when children were 9.7 years old) the girls had a mean word reading age of 11.6 years, and the boys of 12.2 years; spelling and comprehension scores were also significantly above chronological age but did not differ significantly between sexes. Findings suggest that by Primary 5 children who had received synthetic phonics training had a 26-month advantage over chronological age. (NKA)
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A quantitative meta-analysis evaluating the effects of phonemic awareness (PA) instruction on learning to read and spell was conducted by the National Reading Panel. There were 52 studies published in peer-reviewed journals, and these contributed 96 cases comparing the outcomes of treatment and control groups. Analysis of effect sizes revealed that the impact of PA instruction on helping children acquire PA was large and statistically significant (d = 0.86). PA instruction exerted a moderate, statistically significant impact oil reading (d = 0.53) and spelling (d = 0.59). Not only word reading but also reading comprehension benefited. PA instruction impacted reading under all the conditions examined although effect sizes were larger under some conditions. PA instruction helped various types of children: normally developing readers as well as at-risk and disabled readers: preschoolers, kindergartners, and first graders: low socioeconomic status children as well as mid-high SES. PA instruction improved reading, but it did not improve spelling in disabled readers. PA instruction was more effective when it was taught with letters than without letters. when one or two PA skills were taught than Multiple PA skills, when children were taught in small groups than individually or in classrooms. and when instruction lasted between 5 and 18 hours rather than longer, Classroom teachers were effective in Leaching PA to their Students. Effect sizes were larger for Studies using more rigorous experimental designs, with rigor assessments drawn from Troia ( 1999), In Sum, PA instruction was found to make a statistically significant contribution to reading acquisition.
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The foundation literacy skills of children from differing socio-economic backgrounds were investigated in a cross-sectional study. The children were aged between 4 and 8 years and attended Nursery or Primary 1, 2 or 3 classes. Low socio-economic status (SES) was associated with impairments for chronological age in letter knowledge as well as in both logographic and alphabetic foundation components. There was also an effect on metaphonological skill. However, once the SES groups were equated for reading age, high and low SES performance was indistinguishable. The results suggest that delayed acquisition of foundation literacy skills is traceable to a delay in acquiring letter-sound knowledge. Implications for intervention are discussed in the context of the foundation literacy framework.
Article
In Experiment 1, it was found that 5-year-oldnew school entrants taught by a syntheticphonics method had better reading, spelling andphonemic awareness than two groups taughtanalytic phonics. The synthetic phonicschildren were the only ones that could read byanalogy, and they also showed better reading ofirregular words and nonwords. For one analyticphonics group the programme was supplemented byphonological awareness training; this led togains in phonemic awareness but not reading orspelling compared with the other analyticphonics group. The synthetic phonics programmewas taught to the analytic phonics groups aftertheir initial programmes had been completed andpost-tested. The group that had hadphonological awareness training did not performbetter than the other two groups when tested 15months later; this was also the case when thesame comparison was made for the the subset ofchildren that had started school with weakphonological awareness skill. Speed of letterlearning was controlled for in Experiment 2; itwas found that the synthetic phonics groupstill read and spelt better than the analyticphonics group. It was concluded that syntheticphonics was more effective than analyticphonics, and that with the former approach itwas not necessary to carry out supplementarytraining in phonological awareness.
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