Where is your evidence?

5 Replies

Lately I’ve been having lots of discussions about reading/spelling interventions that lack robust scientific evidence e.g. modelling words in clay. Sigh.

As Hallowe’en loomed, I needed a laugh, so I commissioned this brief video from a talented young claymation artist called Matty Mrksa:

Hope you like it! Feel free to use it as a social media comment.


5 responses to “Where is your evidence?”

  1. Kathryn Sandercock says:

    The original purpose of language is missing in early literacy.

    • alison says:

      Typical children arrive at school with quite well-developed oral language skills, and schools that I know of do continue to develop their listening and speaking skills, the upper strands of Scarborough’s Reading Rope, building vocabulary, comprehension, etc. However, the lower strands – phonemic awareness, phonics, building a vocabulary of immediately-recognised words via orthographic mapping – are not always so well-targeted in many schools. When they are, children’s oral and written language skills will both benefit, since they are reciprocal in nature in school-aged children.

  2. Sarah says:

    Hi Alison, I agree that we need to be using reading/spelling interventions that are supported by robust evidence, but I’m not sure that the clay example necessarily falls into the ‘no evidence’ category. I would argue that it’s about what you do with the clay (or other materials) that’s important. For example, making clay letters then using this as phoneme deletion/substitution activity would certainly be consistent with evidence-based practise (as opposed to just randomly creating ‘high frequency’ words with clay).

    • alison says:

      Sure, you can do phoneme manipulation tasks with letters made out of whatever you like, but it’s not the material of the letters that is effective, it’s the phoneme substitution task. However, the Davis Dyslexia program person I spoke to a few years ago told me that the Davis program does not work on phonics, so they aren’t doing phoneme manipulation tasks when they model words in clay, and I’m not aware of any evidence that what they do is effective, despite this program having been around for a very long time.

      • Sarah says:

        I hadn’t heard of the Davis Dyslexia program and have just had a look….oh my goodness this is concerning! There are so many issues with the strategies that they are promoting (I understand your problem with the clay now…).
        The ‘evidence’ on their website talks a lot of about brain structure and function. Some of this is valid (e.g. “Greater right prefrontal activation during a reading task that demanded phonological awareness and right superior longitudinal fasciculus (including arcuate fasciculus) white-matter organization significantly predicted future reading gains in dyslexia.”), but they focus a lot on ‘compensatory’ mechanisms, rather than acknowledging the fact that we CAN actually improve connections to the arcuate fasciculus by doing phonological awareness training. I think this is a much better approach than ‘oh well, you’re no good at decoding, we won’t bother trying to teach you’.
        They have conveniently omitted the large body of evidence that shows how explicit synthetic phonics is much more effective for students with dyslexia than whole language (predicting or guessing approaches).

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