Learning to Teach Reading


Geoffrey R. Roberts

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Acknowledgements

    The author would like to thank Tegwen Roberts for advice on children's use of language and on textual matters. The author and publishers would like to thank David Griffiths for the photograph of Judith Piotrowski and her children, Jennifer and Richard, on page 2, (Figure 1.1) and for the photographs on pages 23 (Figure 2.1), 30 (Figure 2.3), 36 (Figure 2.6) and 79 (Figure 3.2); the headteachers, staff and children of Vernon Park Primary School, Stockport and of Medlock Primary School, Manchester for the photographs on pages 24 (Figure 2.2) and 55 (Figure 3.1), and Miss Roni Armstrong for the work sheets on pages 32 and 33.


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    Proficient reading depends on an automatic capacity to recognise frequent spelling patterns visually and to translate them phonologically … The issue is how best to couch phonic instruction, how to build to it, from it, and around it in ways that best ensure the ease and productivity of its acquisition. The issue is how to make instruction on word recognition skills a self-engendering, motivating, and meaningful experience for the students [pupils] and a manageable one for their teachers.

    M. J.Adams, 1992


    This book attempts to do four things. First it outlines the process of learning to read and the implications of this for teachers. The view is taken that teaching children to read involves teaching reading behaviours which enable children to use the facts that are learned and the skills that are acquired. These behaviours include spelling and writing as well as the adoption of searching and flexible strategies to facilitate the associating of print with language and thought. In the second place, responses to some basic considerations are offered. These cover issues which face all teachers of young children before they can determine a programme that suits both them and the children. Thirdly, a programme is outlined that covers teaching children to read and suggests ways in which spelling and writing may contribute to the task. This programme includes both the learning that is necessary and the teaching that enables it to be accomplished. It goes further than the statement from Adams on the previous page in proposing that phonics, although an essential and important ingredient in learning to read, is by no means the only issue confronting those who teach children to read. Finally, the allocation of one hour per day or its equivalent to the development of literacy is placed within a model of teaching that is practical to implement and theoretically sound.

    Geoffrey R.Roberts The Centre for Primary Education University of Manchester
  • Further Reading

    For More Detail on the Issues Raised in This Book:
    Roberts, G. R. (1989) Teaching Children to Read and Write. Oxford: Blackwell Education.
    Beard, R. (ed.) (1993) Teaching Literacy Balancing Aspects. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
    (These two books, together with Adam. (1992) and Perera (1984), both referred to below, should be regarded as essential reading for all who aspire to leadership roles in the teaching of reading.)
    Beard, R. (ed.) (1995) Rhyme, Reading and Writing. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
    For Comprehensive and Readable Analyses of Research in the United States of America:
    Adams, M. J. (1992) Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print. London: MIT Press.
    Gibson, E. J. and Levin, H. (1975) The Psychology of Reading. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
    For Analyses of Classroom Language and its Promotion:
    Perera, K. (1984) Children's Writing and Reading: Analysing Classroom Language. Oxford: Blackwell.
    Phillips, T. (1985) Beyond lip-service: discourse development after the age of nine. In G.Wells and J.NichollsLanguage and Learning: An International Perspective. London: Falmer Press.
    Tann, S. (1991) Developing Language in the Primary Classroom. London: Cassell. (This book deals with all aspects of English in the National Curriculum.)
    Wells, C. G. (1987) The Meaning Makers: Children Learning Language and Using Language to Learn. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
    For Guidance on Teaching Pupils about Language:
    Perera, K. (1987) Understanding Language. National Association of Advisers in English. (Copies from NATE, Birley School Annexe, Fox Lane Site, Frecheville, Sheffield, S12 4WY, price £1.50 inc. p. and p.)
    For Detailed Suggestions for Extending Literacy at Key Stage 2:
    Pumfrey, P. (1991) Improving Children's Reading in the Junior School. London: Cassell.
    Wray, D. and Lewis, M. (1997) Extending Literacy: Children Reading and Writing Non-fiction. London: Routledge.
    For Reading Schemes Closely Associated with the Literacy Hour:
    Literacy Links Plus, published by Kingscourt (P.O. Box 1427, London W6 9JS, Tel: 0181-741 2533).
    Rhyme and Analogy published as an additional section of the Reading Tree scheme by Oxford University Press (Tel: 01536-741519).
    (The former links writing, spelling and word study with an extensive range of books for shared and guided reading. The latter covers an approach to word study similar to that which is proposed in this book. Both schemes provide extensive suggestions for work that can be done during the literacy hour.)
    For Detailed Suggestions Concerning the Contents of the Literacy Hour:
    Iverson, S. and Reeder, T. (1998) Organizing for a Literacy Hour, London: Kingscourt.
    For Suggested Aids to Teaching and Categorised Word Lists that can be Used to Illustrate Aspects of Word Analysis:
    Hughes, J. M. (1972) Phonics and the Teaching of Reading. London: Evans.
    Huxford, L., McGonagle, R. and Warren, S. (1997) Which words? Words which 4 to 6 year old children use in their writing. Reading, 31(3), pp. 16–21. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9345.00059
    Morris, J. M. (1990) The Morris-Montessori Word List. London: Montessori Centre, 18 Balderton Street, W1Y 1TG.
    Reason, R. and Boote, R. (1986) Learning Difficulties in Reading and Writing: A Teacher's Manual. Windsor: NFER-Nelson.
    For Information for Teachers on English Grammar:
    Crystal, D. (1992) Rediscover Grammar. Harlow: Longman. (This book is highly recommended for teachers who have not studied English beyond GCSE level.)
    For Government Publications on Literacy:
    Key Stages 1 and 2 of the National Curriculum (1995). London: HMSO.
    English in the National Curriculum (1995). London: HMSO.
    The Implementation of the National Literacy Strategy (1997). London: Department for Education and Employmen. (Tel: 0845-602 2260 for Publications Department).
    Framework for Literacy (1998).
    The National Literacy Strategy: Framework for Teaching (1998).
    Department for Education and Employmen. (Tel: 0845-602 2260).
    For Further Details of a Rigorous Phonic Approach:
    Goswami, U. and Kirtley, C. (1996) Rhyme and Analogy: Teacher's Guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Morris, J. M. (1984) Focus on Phonics: Phonics 44 for initial literacy in English. Reading, 18(1), pp. 13–24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9345.1984.tb00784.x
    For Further Guidance in Listening to Children Read and in the Use of Miscue Analysis:
    Arnold, H. (1982) Listening to Children Reading. Sevenoaks: Hodder and Stoughton.
    Goodman, K. (1969) Analysis of Oral Reading Miscues: Applied Psycholinguistics. Reading Research Quarterly, 1(3).
    Goodman, Y. and Burke, C. (1972) Reading Miscue Inventory. New York: Macmillan.
    For those Interested in Literacy Difficulties:
    Bryant, P. and Bradley, L. (1985) Children's Reading Problems. Oxford: Blackwell.
    Clay, M. M. (1985) The Early Detection of Reading Difficulties (
    3rd ed.
    ). Auckland: Heinemann Education.
    Clay, M. M. (1993) Reading Recovery: A Guidebook for Teachers in Training. Auckland: Heinemann Education.
    (Information about Reading Recovery can be obtained from Reading Recovery National Network, Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL, Tel: 0171-612 6585.)
    Cripps, C. and Peters, M. L. (1990) Catchwords: Ideas for Teaching Spelling. National Curriculum Edition. London: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.
    Fernald, G. M. (1943) Remedial Techniques in Basic School Subjects. New York: McGraw-Hill.
    Hurry, J. (1996) What is so special about Reading Recovery?The Curriculum Journal, 7(1), pp. 93–108. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0958517960070107
    Merritt, J. (1972) Reading failure: a re-examination. In V.Southgate, Literacy at All Levels. London: Ward Lock.
    Pumfrey, P. and Elliott, C. (1990) Children's Difficulties in Reading, Spelling and Writing. London: Falmer.
    For a Significant Statement on Learning to Read and Learning to Spell:
    Clay, M. M. (1991) Becoming Literate. Auckland: Heinemann Education.
    Fernald, G. M. (1943) Remedial Techniques in Basic School Subjects. New York: McGraw-Hill. (Excellent on spelling and on teaching slow learners to read.)
    Goswami, U. and Bryant, P. (1990) Phonological Skills and Learning to Read. Hove: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
    Perera, K. (1989) The Development of Prosodic Features in Children's Oral Reading. PhD thesis, Manchester. (An important contribution to research on the development of comprehension of text.)
    Riley, J. (1996) The Teaching of Reading. London: Paul Chapman.
    For a Seminal Statement on Written Composition:
    Bereiter, C. and Scardamalia, M. (1987) the Psychology of Written Composition. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
    For Further Information on an Apprenticeship Approach:
    Waterland, L. (1985) Read With Me: An Apprenticeship Approach to Reading. Stroud: Thimble.
    For an Appraisal of Children's Literature and as a Guide in Building a Class or School Library:
    Harrison, C. and Coles, M. (eds) (1993) The Reading for Real Handbook. London: Routledge.
    Townsend, J. R. (1990) Written for Children. London: Bodley Head.
    For a Source Book of Rhymes and Folk Tales:
    Langley, J. (1996) Collins Nursery Treasury. London: Collins.
    For Detailed Guidance on the Skills and Conventions of Handwriting:
    Alston, J. and Taylor, J. (1990) Handwriting Helpline. Manchester: Dextral Books.
    For Ideas on the Teaching of Poetry:
    Brownjohn, S. (1980) Does It Have to Rhyme?London: Hodder and Stoughton.
    Brownjohn, S. (1982) What Rhymes with ‘Secret’?London: Hodder and Stoughton.
    Brownjohn, S. (1989) The Ability to Name Cats. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
    For a Discussion of the Assessment of Standards in Literacy:
    Davies, J. (1998) Standards: The Case of Literacy. In C.Richards and P. H.TaylorHow Shall We School Our Children? Primary Education and Its Future. London: Falmer.
    For those wishing to know more about the formation of family reading groups and about the activities of the United Kingdom Reading Association contact UKRA Office, c/o Warrington Road Primary School, Naylor Road, Widnes, Cheshire, WA8 0BP.


    • Blend two or more consecutive letter-sounds in a word where each retains its separate identity. The sounds may be consonants – such as bl, ld – or consonants plus a vowel – such as mi, gre. The former is called a consonant blend and the latter a consonant-vowel blend.
    • Blending pronouncing two or more consecutive letters or groups of letters so that each retains its separate identity, either as means of learning the different blends or of trying to arrive at a correct pronunciation of a whole word.
    • Digraph two letters which together lose their individual identity and represent a single sound – such as ch, sh, th, eo, ai.
    • Diphthong two vowels pronounced as one sound. Frequently subsumed under the term digraph.
    • Discourse is used in this book as being synonymous with text, i.e. a group of sentences which have a common topic and formal links between them, but which can take the form of spoken or written language.
    • Grapheme the various forms by which a letter can be printed – A, a, a; g, g.
    • Letter string three or more letters – str, rst, dge, tion, ous. In some instances the term letter cluster is used.
    • Onset consonant sounds which may precede the vowel in a syllable, such as t in table.
    • Phoneme phonemes are the basic sound elements of a language. Each phoneme is actually a family of variants of one speech sound. The phoneme itself is an abstract unit of analysis; what we actually hear in speech is one of the various possible sounds – the sound for c varies in cake and caught.
    • Phonics a term used to indicate an emphasis on sound-letter correspondences. Its application can take various forms in terms of methods of teaching children to read.
    • Rime the vowel plus consonant element of a syllable – able in table.
    • Semantic cues points to meaning within the text.
    • Syllable the smallest unit of pronunciation – able, table, pen-cil.
    • Syntactical cues pointers from the grammatical structure.
    • Syntax the way in which words are arranged to show relationships (Crystal).

    The International Phonetic Alphabet

    In their essays, many students find it necessary to refer to the sounds of morphemes, some of which do not make up complete words: for example, /sei/ in the word satiate. The sound of the first two letters can be depicted graphically as ‘sai as in saint’, ‘say as in say’, ‘sei as in seignor’. The variety in choice makes this an imprecise way of depicting sounds graphemically and, to avoid confusion, the International Phonetic Association had adopted the following system, which enables the writer to show precisely in written form the sounds to which he or she is referring.

    It will be noted that r is not sounded and, therefore, not depicted when it appears at the end of a word or when it is followed by another consonant; far = /fa:/ and farm = /fa:m/. However, the r is pronounced and depicted when it appears at the end of a word which is immediately followed by a vowel: far away = /far awei/.

    In some of the examples that are given above, variations in regional accents will mean that the readers will have to make slight adjustments if the letters are to portray their sounds accurately. In this sense the IPA code is not absolutely foolproof.

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