The English Language is created through the different combinations of 44 sounds (phonemes), 20 vowels and 24 consonants. Vowel sounds allow the air to flow freely, causing the chin to drop noticeably, whilst consonant sounds are produced by restricting the air flow.
Vowel sounds are usually (in the UK Education System) split into two main categories based on sound quality:
- ‘Short’ vowel sounds, due to the short duration of the sound being made. The sound cannot be held onto without becoming distorted
- ‘Long’ vowel sounds, due to the length of their pronunciation. These can often be held without distorting their sound.
Consonant sounds are made (produced) when the air flow is being restricted in some way, for example, changes in tongue position resulting in the mouth not opening as wide. This means that the jaw doesn’t drop noticeably, which is different to vowel sounds.
Because the English language is so rich and diverse it is very difficult to create a ‘phonics’ system that caters for all. Every region that speaks the English language has its own accent with variations in the way that a word is pronounced.
Across England we all spell words the same but we certainly do not say them all the same even though we all use the same 44 sounds. In the English language the 44 sounds can be represented by over 280 letter combinations.
So accents have arisen from regions applying different phonemes (sounds) to graphemes (letters) when they pronounce words. The regions still use the same sounds and letters, they just associate them differently.
However, for general educational and learning purposes the English language’s phonics system has been standardized, this is known as the ‘Received Pronounced’ (RP) English, and is used in comprehensive English dictionaries and translation dictionaries. The RP is based on a southern accent, sound to letter relationships basis.
This can make teaching phonics a little tricky; the key is to teach the sound to letter relationships which best suit the children being taught in relation to their regional accent. It is important to remember that children’s knowledge of the sounds that make words is based on how you speak to them naturally and not a strict standardized set of sounds.
The term ‘Simple View of Reading’ used by schools may seem strange as there is nothing simple about learning to read.
The Simple View of Reading was adopted by the Government in 2007 and now underpins the English National Curriculum’s programmes of study for reading at Key Stage 1 and 2.
Even though reading, the ability to decode the word and extract the correct meaning of the words, is a complex set of skills; the Simple View of Reading conceptual framework (Stuart et al. 2008, cited Hoover and Gough, 1986) reduces it down to two key components:
- Word recognition – the ability to decode unknown words and recognise printed words.
- Language comprehension – the ability to understand the spoken words and use this process to understand the written text.
|Reading Comprehension = Decoding x Linguistic Comprehension
So in theory a child’s reading comprehension ability can be predicted by looking at their decoding and linguistic (spoken language) comprehension abilities (Johnston & Watson, 2007).
When using the Simple View of Reading as the basis for teaching reading it becomes clearer as to why:
- A high quality phonics scheme is required, which the Rose Report (2006) explains ‘…is not a ‘strategy’ so much as a body of knowledge, skills and understanding that has to be learned.’ (page 20) [This teaches children how to decode.]
- A language rich environment to develop and encourage linguistic comprehension is vital.
For a pdf copy of this diagram: https://www.teachphonics.co.uk/The%20simple%20view%20of%20Reading%20diagram.pdf
Johnston.R. and Watson.J. ‘Teaching Synthetic Phonics’, 2007, Pub: Learning Matters, Sage Publication Ltd.
Rose.J. ’Independent review of the teaching of early reading: final report March 2006’ Pub: DfES Publications
‘The simple view of reading and evidence based practice’ Rhona Stainthorp Institute of Education, Reading University, Morag Stuart, Institute of Education, University of London (2008) Pdf downloaded from internet
Reading is the ability to first decode the letter sequence of the word (phonics) and then to place meaning to it in relation to the context in which it is being used.
We ask children who are learning to read to ‘read out aloud’, but forget to tell them why. It is not just so we can hear they have decoded a word correctly. The important point is to encourage them to actively listen to what they are saying. The idea is that if they hear the words they will, if it is part of their vocabulary, understand their meaning and therefore fully comprehend the text they have read.
Unfortunately many children just decode, speak and do not actively listen to what they have said, so they do not gain meaning from the words they are reading (poor reading comprehension skills).
Poor reading comprehension skills may also occur because a child has a limited vocabulary usage and /or understanding. A language rich environment is vital to help support and develop a child’s vocabulary and linguistic comprehension which in turn will support their reading comprehension skills.