Why are children still guessing and not decoding?

Reports are coming back from schools that, despite Synthetic Phonics being taught in Reception classes, many children are failing to learn to decode. This has been reflected in the results of the Year 1 Phonics Check, with 58% of children reading 32 out of 40 words correctly. Why is this happening?

Here are some possible reasons.

Not enough experience and practice of blending

Teachers are teaching children to recognise the graphemes. Children are learning the Phonic Code. But do they know what to do with this knowledge? The underlying skill they need is blending. Are children being taught to blend? Do teachers know how to teach children to blend sounds into words?

Books that are not decodable

Children need to practise using the phonic knowledge and skills they have been taught. Initially, the best way to do this is by providing them with exercises in the form of texts that are decodable. If teachers offer children texts that are not decodable, they’re encouraging the child to guess. How else can the children access the texts? Are they being offered decodable texts to practise their reading skills?

A pace that’s too fast

Is the pace of teaching matched to the children? If the pace is too fast, some children will not retain what has been taught. The fundamental building blocks of reading are essential. Gaps that are created will need to be revisited and filled in. It is better to work at a slower, steadier pace, building children’s confidence at each stage.

Not enough practice at each stage

Is enough practice included in the programme, so the new knowledge can be internalised and absorbed?

Inadequate teacher training

Good teacher training would solve all the above. Have we invested enough in teacher training? Are our teachers confident and skilled in teaching the most important life skill a child needs to learn in school?

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