Why does 'three cueing' persist?
A child, who is being taught to read with a phonics approach and is really great at 'decoding' their 'decodable readers' comes across an unfamiliar word in a book they chose from the library. They don't recognise those graphemes (the teacher hasn't covered them yet) and so the student uses 'first sound', uses the context and picture clue to figure out it's most probably 'coffee' (thought perhaps 'coke' but the cup is steaming) Does the teacher view this as three cueing' (which they have been told is 'bad' by their phonics program developers, and not supported by the 'reading science) or feel pretty chuffed at the problem solving skills of said child, and ask (now they know the word) if they can figure out how the word is segmented into graphemes?
I always assume that those who follow my fb pages and web sites do understand my work. I'd hope they know that I have been writing about the perils of three cueing for well over a decade. I questioned PM benchmarking and levelled readers a decade ago on the Read Australia fb page. I've spent time in schools teaching them how to use decodable readers and to teach phonics using a differentiated approach. I'm really passionate about this. We video these journeys, because people are genuinely interested in effective phonics teaching.
It was when I started talking about the perils of 'print to speech' phonics programs and asked that we pick apart which phonics programs and phonics teachers are more effective (and why) that I started getting stalked by bunny boilers. When I pointed out the gaps with the **** Phonics program I tipped a lot over the edge. There was a lot of freaking out by the very people who claim they want phonics being used in schools. I'm sure there's some irony in there somewhere.
Those who genuinely want more kids reading need to start talking about this stuff though. Why is three cueing rife? Often it's because of pretty rubbish phonics programs, and lack of training (and support) regarding linguistics and phonetics, and especially the phoneme to grapheme mapping. I don't know of any teacher who wants to fail their kids. I don't know of any not teaching phonics.
Let's start comparing phonics with phonics. When teachers experience really great phonics training and strategies they stop using three cueing, and their kids stop needing to guess and memorise too. But if we don't CHILDREN will use three cueing strategies, whether we teach them to or not. I showed a video of a 5 year old 'reading' a PM level 2 book without me even letting her see the words, years ago. Why would she need to see the words, she can tell me what they are by looking at the pictures? But if we don't teach them to decode effectively some will do this whether we want them to or not. They won't be interested in the wonderful jigsaw puzzle of reading and spelling words.
Ask schools in South Australia who ditched the print to speech phonics program they were told would be great! They didn't realise it wasn't until forced to test their students using the UK phonics test in year 1. Now they're using Speech Sound Pics Approach - SSP SSP (as intended by developers) they are achieving an 85% pass rate. I know that isn't what the BBs want - they want to hear that schools not teaching phonics systematically got poor outcomes which then changed when they started. But most schools in SA who did the phonics test were already using synthetic phonics programs. And so, ironically, their kids will still use three cueing strategies; and especially if also using PM readers and benchmarking kids from day 1. NB I'm actually not telling folks to do away with benchmarking, and reading levels, just use effectively and at the right stage of their learning journey
Let's pick apart the real issues, and actually eradicate illiteracy. Which phonics programs and strategies are the most effective. WHY do certain strategies persist?
I ask teachers what their students would do if they came to a word they can't yet decode and there is no 'reader' there to tell them the word - whether because they haven't taught it or the phonics program they use doesn't ever teach it. No-one seems to want to answer that though. I've answered that above. Here's what our kids do...you may or may not be interested, and I understand that. You may not be ready to hear all this yet as it may make you question what you're doing and you may feel a touch of discomfort as it all falls into place. Great teachers want to know how to get even better- and sometimes the realisation that what we were doing was actually not helping all students can be heart breaking. KEEP GOING.
So the video shows what our kids do when (if) faced with this situation; they chose a book, and there is no-one there to help. We also teach the whole code really systematically and quickly, and we do ensure they explore the whole code. We want them out of the 'learning to read' phase before they start grade 2. I have started this page for teachers in grade 2+ who can't effectively teach the curriculum as so many children are still in the 'learning to read' phase.
The purpose of this image was to make folks THINK and not get driven down the rabbit hole of the usual talking points; the same points made after the National Reading Panel, Rose Report, Australian Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy etc by pretty much the same people. Yes, phonics is needed. We KNOW THAT. EVERYONE knows that. If we want real change then we need to start talking specifics; we need to start questioning and learning, rather than assuming we have all the answers.
SSP continues to evolve as we will NEVER be as effective as we want - there is always a child who could have learned more quickly, become more passionate about reading...there is no 'right way' to teach reading. There is only the 'most effective way' for the highest number of children (which will of course revolve around the mapping of phonemes to graphemes, segmenting and blending them) and we keep on working on that. Hope you'll join us !
Miss Emma X