Tuesday, March 12, 2024


 You might think it is just Spelling

Do you know how words work?

I hope you are interested. My new book has so much

information about the advantages of learning Spelling,

from children beginning school - Letters, then moving

on, Words and Language (the grammatical features
involved). The title tells all. There is more to Spelling
than just Spelling words. Words work through
meaning and grammatical forms.

You breathed in air, air was in the sky, he was in the
classroom, come in before the you freeze. ‘In’ is
a small word that has lots of subtle meaning shifts. 
The  speller/reader knows about the world. The message 
is that when students know about the world, they know 
about meanings.
Consider this phrase. Tom was mad at Joe because he 
stole his lunch. Knowing about pronouns the ‘he’ refers
to Joe and the ‘his’ to Tom. Knowing grammatical forms 
helps develop  conventional spelling, writing and 
meaningful reading.   
Ludwig Wittgenstein, an Austrian philosopher initially
thought that language must refer to distinct things in the
real world and that philosophy should aim to make it
exact, like science. Later he came to the view that this 
was nonsense. Words cannot be defined precisely they have
fuzzy edges. (Economist September 2023).
Idiosyncracies 'fuzzy edges' determining spelling. Passages 
from my new book 
You might think it is just Spelling  
How words work…
Because many words and parts of words are
phonetically determined, phonetic awareness is
emphasized in English spelling, but listening only
for sounds in words can create its own problems
for writers and readers. For example, children often
leave out vowel sounds because consonants
mask vowels (business, pronounce bsnes) they
can leave out a consonant because vowels mask
consonants (rank, rak). There are diphthongs,
vowel sounds that glide into one another, ‘ea’ (ear),
‘ay’ (day).
There are vowels that have short and long sounds
and there are vowel/vowel (oo) and
vowel/consonant (ow) digraphs.
And look at the different sounds and pronunciations
associated with the letter pattern ough (see page 34). 
Homophones present problems as well; the words
have the same sound but they have different spellings
and meanings. Not to mention multiple-meaning 
words (homographs), which are spelled and sound 
the samefor example, cataract or forge. Noam 
Chomsky and Halle, M (1968) argue that English 
spelling is not an adequate system for representing 
sounds, [it is an]efficient system for representing 
meanings and morphemic relationships.


I am offering copies of my complete book,

not bound, but in page form, to be sent via

e-mail to you. To request copies of my book

Email me: 



You need to forward your email address so I can forward all the pages of the book. 

As well, but not obligatory, send X amount of money to a charity (can be of your choosing). Three I suggest are:


The smithfamily



Unicef Australia



Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), an independent international medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural or man-made disasters.





Thursday, February 22, 2024

REPLY To Grattan Institute. Australia needs a reading revolution, 2024

REPLY To Grattan Institute.

Heading: Australia needs a reading revolution, 2024 ·


GI - how letters relate to sounds, so they can sound out the unfamiliar words they see.

REPLY The question is asked, is it 1-1 letter/sounds, 2-1 letter/sounds? The latter can be complex, But of course there are the decodable books!

GI - They practise these skills using ‘decodable’ texts. 

REPLY - Boring books. Reading made easier for whom? Children with a learning disability? Teachers? Surely not children who have had a rich background in reading at home. In fact parental input is not even recognized.

GI - shouldn’t be taught to read by guessing words in a book based on pictures.

REPLY This is not a true statement. Think of you as a reader, do you guess? Isn’t it more the case that words are within the context of the sentence/idea allowing  prediction to happen.

GI - Strong readers don’t guess, they sound out unfamiliar words. 

REPLY More likely strong readers predict a word within the context or they pass over it. I found as a Reading Recovery teacher that if readers stop to work out a word, the reading and the meaning is lost. Teachers, tell the word and remind / show strategies at the end of the page or chapter.

GI -Teachers should read books aloud with the whole class, to make sure all students get to experience exciting stories and develop new vocabulary, even if they can’t yet read confidently on their own. 

REPLY Teachers have been reading aloud picture books or Big books for as long as I have been teaching and throughout my time as a literacy consultant (I have visited many classrooms). What you are saying is only teachers can read exciting stories, etc. ?? How will children develop new vocabulary from listening to a read aloud?

Oh! Of course decodable books (example below) and note the worksheets - there are more enjoyable ways of children reinforcing new ... or is it repetitious learning?

uses sounds from set 1    

new sounds

c, k, ck, e, h, r, m, d


SET 4: (currently 20 books + 20 worksheets)

uses sounds from set 1 - 3

new sounds

ai, j, oa, ie, ee, or

GI - Students should be taught new words explicitly, right through school … They sound out unfamiliar. From listening to a read aloud.

REPLY Yes! But the way it is done?  Sound-out is repeated? Learning is repeated in  decodable books? Is this explicit teaching? Children listening when books are read aloud by the teacher?

GI - Catch-up support, such as small-group tutoring or one-on-one help, should be available to all children if they are falling behind…words. 

REPLY Yes! I agree. Not only words!

GI - many states in America 

REPLY - people from USA where I worked for 5 years (I am in still in contact with some - coaches and one academic) - are critical of S of R.

GI - - Lisa had dyslexia. 

REPLY -Yes, this is the finding - she finds reading difficult as do other dyslexic students at differing degrees. They find it hard to isolate sounds in words, and blend sounds in words: they can confuse letters that sound alike, especially vowels: mix the order of letters: difficulty with sight or high frequency words: match sounds to letters: blend sounds into words. They can confuse letters that sound alike (e.g.  candy (K sound), cent (S sound). Words that sound alike but have different meanings (homophones). Vowels can be awfully tricky. So the upshot is that all they can read are decodable books and keep repeating the sounds!

GI - one in five students who performed at or below the NAPLAN national minimum standard in Year 3 -

REPLY - have you considered poverty, remoteness of some schools, home upheaval. If you think that training teachers in S of R is the cure well! The para educators should go into the schools and work with these children - they are the experts…?

GI - evidence shows how to fix this problem. 

REPLY - What evidence? Naplan results only? Or is it one small school as example … really?

GI - First, all children should be taught how to read through systematic instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics;

REPLY- Oh dear, is this the only way for students to become joyful, ‘strong readers’.  


GI - exposure to rich literature through read-alouds; and explicit teaching to build vocabulary, fluency and background knowledge. 

REPLY- Yes, but there is more than just Read Alouds (listening only) and by the way this is  a recent S of R addition.


GI - As students master the ability to decode new words in early primary school, they can switch from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”. 

REPLY- Easy to say this adage! What do you mean?


GI -From here, students still need explicit teaching that deepens their knowledge and vocabulary all through school, so they can comprehend what they read — the ultimate goal of reading. 

REPLY- Agree  to explicit teaching. I wonder what you mean by explicit teaching?  An aside…I have often heard teachers forward the opinion that children should be reading by year 3 - but the type of texts and tasks change just at the time testing begins - are teachers trained for this, perhaps not! It should be the case that students are tested on what they have been taught - consider teachers (following curriculum guidelines) setting assessments that would give a fairer picture.

GI - Governments should publicly commit to ensuring at least 90 per cent of Australian students learn to read proficiently at school. 

REPLY- Yes! Money for smaller classes, so teachers manage all children at different achievement stages.Variety of Prof Developm. As it is, workshops seem to be dominated by S of R people. How did this happen?


GI -They should give schools and teachers a variety of ways to best teach reading; practical tools such as validated reading programs and curriculum materials; and assessment schedules. 

REPLY- But S of R do not want a variety of ways to teach reading… their way or  Guidelines,  only if they align with S of R.  S of R is not a validated programme.


GI - Governments should put the right curriculum materials in the hands of teachers — by providing grants to enable schools to purchase materials that are quality-assured, and by phasing out materials that are not aligned with the evidence about the best ways to teach reading. 

REPLY- What a thought? Phase out decodable books! An opinion here - best ways of teaching! Whoops! I have forgotten SPELD use these books - those children with dyslexia may need these books.


GI -They should require all primary schools to screen students’ reading skills at least twice a year from Foundation to Year 2

REPLY- Well-trained teachers can devise their own assessments. It should be the case that students are tested on what they have been taught.


GI -and provide extra help to students struggling with reading. 

REPLY- How about these smarty pants - para- educators coming into schools and working with these children!


GI - Governments should ensure primary teachers have the training they need to build students’ reading skills. This should include setting essential training requirements for primary teachers, developing new quality-assured micro-credentials, creating literacy instructional specialists in every primary school, and establishing demonstration schools to spread best practice. 

REPLY Some of the wording in this stipulation is a worry. Essential training in what? S of R?   Literacy specialists, S of R?   New quality-assured micro-credentials what does this mean?   Creating literacy instructional specialists in every primary school S of R? and establishing demonstration schools to spread best practiceOh! This was in place, years ago. But of course the twist is here they will be demonstrating S of R.

GI -Students shouldn’t have to spend time in class “independently reading” when they can’t read yet.

REPLY - There is ignorance here. Young children often remember stories parents have read to them and will ‘pick up’ a  favourite book and ’read’, keeping the sense of the story - first reading step. Also parents ask meaningful questions which develops the love of the story. Children read captions at supermarkets, road signs and so on.


GI - Governments should mandate a nationally consistent Year 1 Phonics Screening Check to assess students’ decoding skills. This would provide a useful “health check” on early reading performance and help target support to poor-performing schools. +  Screened on arrival

REPLY- I became aware of Phonics Screening whilst working in London (late nineties). Expensive!

Poor performing schools - you would have loved to state poor-performing teachers ?

REPLY - screened on arrival - now we can blame the parents!

GI - not systematically taught to decode (?) and were instead given a lot of independent reading time, even when they could not yet read. 

REPLY- Independent reading, isn’t that the aim?

GI - students and teachers now read lots of books together

REPLY- What do you mean? 

 GI - a book every week in early years and a novel a term for older students.

REPLY- Do you mean Read Aloud? Teachers have always done this!

GI - These books are carefully selected so all students are exposed to increasingly complex vocabulary and build background knowledge across subject areas such as science and humanities.  

REPLY All books are carefully selected for pleasurable reading and study. Online not mentioned??

GI -Junior years, a literacy specialist supervises trained teaching assistants to support about 25 students in small groups four times a week.

REPLY - Children with delayed learning need the very best teachers not school assistants. The connotation is that these children do not really matter.

REPLY- Literacy specialist training teaching assistants?  One well-trained teacher would be far more effectiveBy the time  class teachers work with assistants they could be working with children.

GI - A speech therapist provides one-on-one twice-weekly support for a small number of students with language disorders.

REPLY- Yes! This used to happen but was jettisoned a number of years ago.

GI - Schools need more help

REPLY- Yes, teachers need smaller classes to deal with the variety of learning that needs to take place.

GI - Intensive training - 

REPLY-  Yes. But the P& D must must wider than S of R. Biggest fault with S & R it is the lack of differentiated teaching, which a well-skilled teacher does.

REPLY- This paper presented such a limited view of learning to read.  

Why can’t governments come to terms with smaller class size, a rewarding system for successful teachers, instead of expensive coaches and unqualified assistants.

 An Aside -Rachel Gabriel’s ideas presented May 2021, in the journal, From Research to Practice.

Today some teachers have the tools, training and on-going support  that is engaging, cohesive and differentiatedto provide explicit comprehensive instruction in a way that is purposeful and integrated with all aspects of written language, phonics, spelling and grammar and can I add, reading.