"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Reduce spelling, grammar, phonics, increase free voluntary reading: Research supports Rosen et al

Research: Rosen’s writers are right about reading and writing

Sent to the Guardian, July 24, 2012

Research supports Michael Rosen and 90 other writers and artists who urged a reduction in spelling, grammar and phonics teaching and testing, and an increased emphasis on reading for enjoyment (“Children must be free to read for fun,” July 24, 2012).
Studies done over the last 100 years show that spelling instruction has very little effect on spelling accuracy.
Studies done over the last 100 years show that the formal study of grammar does not improve students’ reading and writing.
Studies done over the last 25 years show that heavy phonics study (termed “systematic intensive phonics”) only helps children do better on tests in which they pronounce lists of words out-loud. It has no significant effect on tests in which children have to understand what they read.
Decades of research also confirm that those who read more are better readers, better writers, spell better, have larger vocabularies, and have better control of complex grammar rules.
The best way to make sure students develop a strong command of written and spoken English is to encourage wide, self-selected reading.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Some sources:
Spelling: Research reviewed in Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading: Heinemann, Libraries Unlimited. Earliest study: Rice, J. 1897. The futility of the spelling grind. Forum 23: 163-172, 409-419.
Grammar: Research reviewed in Krashen, S. (op. cit.)., Hillocks, G. (1986). Research on Written Composition. New Directions for Teaching. Urbana, IL: ERIC.
Phonics: Garen, E. 2002. Resisting Reading Mandates. Heinemann. Krashen, S. 2009. Does intensive decoding instruction contribute to reading comprehension? Knowledge Quest 37 (4): 72-74.

Those who read more …. Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Heinemann and Libraries Unlimited.

Children must be free to read for fun
July 24, 2012
Letter published in The Guardian
We are writers and artists who produce books for children. In our view, the proposed draft primary English curriculum, the phonics screening check at the end of year 1, and the new spelling, punctuation and grammar test at the end of year 6 pose a threat to reading for pleasure in primary schools.
The recent Ofsted report Moving English Forward made a specific recommendation to the government that it call on all schools to develop policies on reading for enjoyment. To date, there has been no such move by government. On the other hand, millions are being spent on systematic synthetic phonics programmes and training, subsidised by the government, although there is no evidence that such programmes help children understand what they are reading.
As a result, more school time will be devoted to reading as an academic, test-driven exercise; less time will be available for reading and writing for enjoyment. We deplore this state of affairs and consider that the quality of children's school lives is about to be altered for the worse.
We call on the government to implement the Ofsted recommendation on reading for pleasure, to withdraw the phonics screening check and the spelling, punctuation and grammar test, and to reinstate mixed methods of initial reading methods (which include "basic phonics" and real books).

Michael Rosen
Ed Wicke
Anne Rooney
Alan Gibbons
Jeremy Strong
Philip Reeve
Bernard Ashley
Sue Purkiss
Anne Cassidy
Eileen Browne
Denis Bond
Dennis Hamley
Tanya Landman
Bali Rai
Nick Arnold
Anna Perera
Bernard Ashley
Sue Purkiss
Eugenie Summerfield
Malachy Doyle
Philip Gross
Vivian French
Andrew Taylor
Angela Topping
Linda Newbery
Tommy Donbavand
Miriam Moss
Damian Harvey
Dawn Finch
John Dougherty
Harriet Castor
David Sinden
John Shelley
Tony Mitton
Meg Rosoff
Joe Friedman
Jamila Gavin
Lynne Benton
Jenny Vaughan
Bob and Brenda Swindells
Andy Seed
Ann Bryant
Philip Ardagh
Harriet Goodwin
Steve Weatherill
Antony Lishak
Pauline Fisk
Cathy Brett
Catherine Johnson
Dr Jenny Sullivan
Dr Lydia Syson
John Masson
Chris Connaughton
Jay Humphrey
AF Harrold
Seamus Gibbons
Ian McLaughlin
Oisin McGann
Liz Monahan
Si Smith
Daniel Blythe
Charlotte Guillain
Adam Guillain
Steve Bowkett
Tamsyn Murray
Gwen Grant
Heather Dyer
Mary Hoffman
Caroline Pitcher
Katherine Langrish
Ann Jungman
Chris Chivers
Matthew Morgan
Kelly McCain
Anthony McGowan
Moira Butterfield
Sara Sheridan
Chris De Cordova
Cathy Butler
Nick Ward
Steve Lowe
Theresa Tomlinson
Alison Leonard
Steve Skidmore
Katy Maryon
Steve Feasey
Maeve Friel
Helen Bromley
Brian Redsea
Simon Packham
Jo Cotterill
Brian Moses


  1. Thanks, Stephen. Good to see someone grounding this in evidence based practice. Ed Wicke

  2. Anonymous4:12 PM

    I was taught basic phonics in grade 1, where we also had group reading and some independent reading. In Grade 2 we were let lose in the Primary grades Library to read whatever we wanted. We had writing assignments, but I don't think they were related to what we read, and I don't think we had much or any phonics after grade 1.

    I was starting to suspect that this was an effective way to teach reading, and your post certainly indicates I may be correct.

    Unfortunately that is about the only thing my educators did effectively!