Reading: OFSTED's bare essentials

17th May 1996 at 01:00
In its report on the teaching of reading in three inner London boroughs, published last week, OFSTED stresses the importance of phonics teaching.

It says: "In essence, an understanding of phonics means that pupils are able to recognise the 26 letters of the alphabet in upper and lower-case form, and are able to combine and recombine them into the sounds which make up the words used in the English language. Phonics therefore provides pupils with the knowledge to decode and build words, upon which success in early reading and writing depends, and gives pupils the confidence they need to tackle new texts. Moreover, because phonics is a set of culturally determined conventions it cannot be left to be 'discovered'."

The report lists seven key skills. It states: "Teachers who are responsible for teaching reading from the earliest stages need to know how to teach pupils:

the alphabet and recognition of upper and lower-case letters;

to identify sound patterns in spoken language and develop phonological awareness systematically;

to understand the appropriate technical terms (for example, word, syllable, letter, sound) to refer to and discuss sounds - it is in this context that learning the alphabetic names as well as the sound patterns of letters is valuable, particularly for spelling;

to recognise and sound out letters and common letter combinations;

to use the learned letter-sound correspondences to decode and spell orally and in writing;

to increase their phonic knowledge with an emphasis on spelling at key stage 2, and to master the irregularities in the spelling system;

to apply phonological knowledge to the reading of texts alongside other strategies for predicting,checking and correcting what is read for sense, that is, picture, contextual, grammatical and semantic cues."

In essence, an understanding of phonics means that pupils are able to recognise the 26 letters of the alphabet in upper and lower-case form, and are able to combine and recombine them into the sounds which make up the words used in the English language. Phonics therefore provides pupils with the knowledge to decode and build words, upon which success in early reading and writing depends, and gives pupils the confidence they need to tackle new texts. Moreover, because phonics is a set of culturally determined conventions it cannot be left to be "discovered".

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