Sunday, February 08, 2015

The Reading Achievement Challenge revisited and Cognitive Load Theory (2 of 3)

To begin with I need to re-state what is at the heart of Cognitive Load Theory (CLT), according to its proponents John Sweller, Jeroen van Meriënboer, Paul Kirschner, Daniel Willingham and others.

What CLT emphasises is that working memory is severely constrained in terms of both capacity and duration. The argument is that we can only store in our working memories about seven items at any one time and that we are only able to operate on (manipulate) between two and four of those items.

Furthermore, the consensus seems to be that almost all information in working memory is lost after about twenty seconds unless it is constantly rehearsed. Think about what you do when someone gives you an unfamiliar phone number. You have to keep repeating it to yourself until you’re able to record it somewhere more permanent or else it is gone.

However bleak a prospect this may seem for us in managing to remember anything at all, in fact, once established in long-term memory, there is no known limit to the amount of information/knowledge that can be retrieved from long term memory into working memory.

The 64,000-dollar question is: how do we get information/knowledge into long-term memory? The answer to that question lies in our ability to create schemas. Schemas are mental models that organise and store knowledge. I’m not sure quite how valid this simile is but it’s a bit like opening a bank account which only allows you to deposit small amounts of money at a time. The process is cumulative and each small deposit adds to the whole, which, in turn, is changed as a result. It’s a dialectical process.

That’s about as far as I can push the analogy because schemas are much more dynamic in that they act, according to Sweller et al, as a central executive for processing and assimilating new information and adjusting accordingly the schema already created.

Here’s a concrete example: a child has been taught to blend, segment and manipulate one-to-one sound-spelling correspondences in CVC words. As the child is reading a class reader, the child comes to the word ‘ship’. The child, doing exactly up to this point what they have been taught, tries to decode the word by saying each individual sound /s/ /h/ /i/ /p/ and, after several tries without success, looks at the teacher wondering why what the teacher has been teaching doesn’t work. The more capable teacher steps in at this point, runs her pencil under the spelling and says to the child, “This is two letters but it’s one sound. Say /sh/ here.” Whereupon the child says /sh/ /i/ /p/, ‘ship’. The child has been sensitised to what is going, in due course, to be taught formally. The child has also been given a better way of conceptualising how the alphabet code works: we can spell a sound with two letters, in this case . This understanding can and will be generalised across the domain to include all the consonant and vowel digraphs.

So, the role of the teacher is to help learners to build schemas systematically and structurally. Of course this presupposes that teachers have a clear understanding of how their domain is structured from simple to complex and that they know how best to teach it. This is where cognitive load theory is particularly relevant.

The corollary of Sweller et al’s view of how we learn is that in order to get novel information into long-term memory most effectively requires lots of rehearsal or practice, Moreover, once incorporated into long-term memory, it also needs to be made automatic.

Here, it is worth quoting Feltovich et al. on the value of practice:

Research on the effects of practice has found that the character of cognitive operations changes after even a couple of hours of practice on a typical laboratory task. Operations that are slow, serial and demand conscious attention become fast, less deliberate, and can run in parallel with other processes. [In the case of reading, this means that the reader is able to decode efficiently and fluently while simultaneously attending to meaning.]
With enough practice one can learn how to do several tasks at the same time. Behavioural studies of skill acquisition have demonstrated that automaticity is central to the development of expertise, and practice is the means to automaticity.’ Feltovich, et al, ‘Studies of Expertise from Psychological Perspectives’, in K. Anders Ericsson et al, Eds, (2006), The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, CUP, p.53.

Developing cognitive schemas depends on the ability of the individual to process novel information and integrate it into an ever more sophisticated model and this is precisely where the teacher comes in: the ease with which novel information is processed in order to create schemas in long-term memory is highly dependent on how it is presented (by the teacher).

This raises another problem for us: it isn’t just that there is information which needs to be taught; the manner in which it is mediated is also an important factor. Sweller and his colleagues refer to the ‘what we have to learn’ as the 'intrinsic cognitive load'; the way in which it is conveyed they refer to as 'extraneous cognitive load'. Extraneous cognitive load is, in the word of van Meriënboer, ‘not necessary for learning (schemata construction and automation)’.

Now, the problem with many instructional procedures is that if the extraneous cognitive load is too great, intrinsic cognitive load cannot be absorbed into working memory and thence into long-term memory. At the risk of another analogy, do we go for the Model T Ford as our conveyance, or do we decide on the gaudiest of stretch limos, fully equipped with all the latest, distracting gizmos?

The fact is that the more the conveyance intrudes on the learning process, the greater the imposition on working memory and the less likely that what we want children (or anyone for that matter) to learn will be learnt.

This is why what you want is a Model T template, simple and direct, and not the stretch limo. For the purpose of instructional design and efficacy of method, lesson templates need to be consistent. The pupils quickly get used to the conveyance and can then attend to the addition of new content.

The next post will show the kinds of cognitive impositions we are making when we teach word building activities to young children who are just beginning to learn to read.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The reading achievement challenge

In her education blog for the Huffington Post, Karin Chenoweth cites recent figures from the (United States’) Nation’s Report Card on reading. Even though there has been a marginal improvement since the early nineties, the statistics are still shocking: 52% of ‘eighth-graders (year 9 in UK) whose parents graduated from college can't read at the proficient level as measured by the Nation’s Report Card’; and, another 14% can’t read ‘at a basic level’. As you may imagine, if the numbers are so poor for the children of parents who have graduated from college, what then might the figures be like for those whose parents didn’t graduate, or for those from disadvantaged backgrounds?

Chenoweth is right to point out that the persistence of the massive achievement gap in the USA (for which read too the UK, Australia, and other English-speaking countries) is a blight on the education system. [In fact, the great Harvard academic Jeanne Chall devoted a whole book – The Academic Achievement Challenge – to the subject fifteen years ago.] She is also correct in underscoring the importance of teaching knowledge and information, without which, even if children are taught to read fluently, understanding will inevitably be impaired. I, and of course many of my fellow phonics advocates, completely agree with what she is arguing. The purpose of teaching phonics is to enable children to access meaning from text. What children need is the cumulative growth and development of cultural capital: from a very young age they need lots of interactive talk, preferably quality talk, and caregivers who read a wide range of literary and non-literary texts, amongst many other things. In short, they need to know lots of ‘stuff’.

However, when Chenoweth, in her article, writes that she hasn’t heard ‘the term “whole language” in a school in a long time, and [that] most early elementary teachers know that they need to teach kids phonics in some kind of systematic way’, I suspect that just because she hasn’t heard the term doesn’t mean that it has ceased to exist; after all, as Hamlet says, ‘the devil hath power t’assume a pleasing shape’. In the case of reading, the ‘pleasing shape’ comes in the form of ‘mixed methods’, which, as Bonnie Macmillan demonstrated in her book Why Schoolchildren Can’t Read, reduces to whole language. She may also not be aware of how utterly dreadfully badly trained in teaching reading most trainee teachers in ed. schools are – at least if the UK and Australia are anything to go by.

Where Chenoweth is absolutely on the money is where she declares that ‘reading instruction is one of the most complex tasks our schools undertake’. I would contend that poor training of teachers and poor instructional design of reading programmes are the principal reasons why children aren’t ‘proficient’ readers by Grade 8. If reading and spelling (two sides of the same coin) are rigorously taught during the first three years of schooling and children acquire automaticity, they have direct access to meaning. The process of reading becomes ever easier and, if the subject matter is suitable and well pitched, reading is pleasurable. When reading is pleasurable, children are much more likely to want to read: the rich get richer!

At Sounds-Write we have long argued that teaching teachers how to teach phonics and thus how to teach young children how to read and spell to a very high level of proficiency is an immensely skilled job. It doesn’t involve only the simple mapping of one-to-one correspondences between sound and spelling – as we sometimes hear from the denigrators of phonics: ‘Oh phonics! That’s just kuh a tuh, isn’t it?’ Neither does phonics ‘merely’ involve the teaching of all the complexities of how the writing system maps to the forty-four or so sounds of the English language. It includes the teaching of the procedural skills of segmenting, blending and phoneme manipulation. It involves making clear conceptually how the alphabetic code works*. And, just as importantly, teachers need to have a good understanding of how complex learning takes place and what good instructional design looks like. This latter aspect of the teaching and learning process is something that never crosses the radar screen of the vast majority of trainee teachers and yet is an essential element of successful teaching. What I am alluding to here is cognitive load theory and in the next couple of days I shall explain the relevance of CLT to the teaching of phonics.

* See what Pamela Snow, associate professor of Psychology at Monash University, and Alison Clarke of Spelfabet have to say on this here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Lennie Gwyther's true grit

On Australia Day, here's a post for all those Aussies out there.

In her writings on the value of effortful practice, determination and having a ‘growth mindset’, Carol Dweck concludes that the secret of great accomplishments depends not so much on IQ but on passion, dedication and sustained effort.

While I was in Melbourne last week, I came across a newspaper article by Carolyn Webb in The Age about a boy who had in spades the kind of tenacity and grit Dweck is talking about. It is the story of nine-year-old Lennie Gwyther, whose dream was to be at the opening of the Sidney Harbour Bridge in 1932. [The Bridge, as many Australians call it today, was known at the time as 'The Iron Lung of Australia on acount of the amount of work it brought and the hardship it alleviated at the time of the depression.]

As a reward for looking after their farm in Leongatha, in south-eastern Victoria, after Lennie’s father had broken his leg and couldn’t get in the crops or do the ploughing, Lennie was allowed to plot his route to Sidney and to undertake the 1,000-kilometre expedition with no other companion than his horse Ginger. In the fierce February heat, this was no mere summer saunter!
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Boy_on_a_Horse.jpg

At a time when the mood in Australia was at a particularly low ebb, the story of what this boy was intending to achieve became one that fired the popular imagination. Boy and horse were cheered on through town after town until they arrived in Canberra, then still a small town, where Lennie proudly shook the hand of prime minister Joseph Lyons and was invited to take tea in the then members’ refreshment rooms.

By the time he reached Sydney, crowds were waiting to greet him and he was invited to take part in the opening parade across the bridge. Having been given a signed cricket bat by his cricketing hero Don Bradman, Lennie was given permission by his father to do the whole journey in reverse and, on June 10th, just over three months after setting out, Lennie arrived home at Leongatha to the cheers of an 800-strong crowd and a civic reception.

As I'm sure Carol Dweck would agree, the combination of self regulation and determination possessed by this young Australian boy are an inspiration to all young people everywhere.

As Stephanie Owen Reeder, author of Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney by Pony, to be published on February 1st by the National Library of Australia, remarks, “these days a nine-year-old child is probably not even allowed to walk to the shops by themselves”*.

Footnote: Lennie’s father Leo Tennyson Gwyther, a captain in  Australia’s 2nd Field Artilllery, won the Military Cross and Bar during the First World War.


*Quoted from the article ‘Epic trek of boy and his horse inspired a nation’ in The Age, Friday January 23rd 2015.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dr Helen Abadzi

Here is a short You Tube video, featuring Dr Helen Abadzi, on, amongst other things, the role played by memory in education.

In the extract Dr Abadzi begins with the neuromyth of brainstorming and (at 1:13) she goes on to talk about the part played by memory in the learning process. Here, she talks about the relationship between long-term memory, which she likens to the ‘biggest bottle in the world’, and working memory, the very narrow ‘neck of the bottle’.

The analogy is apt because the problem with working memory, part of which is comprised of short-term memory, is that it is very narrow in terms of its capacity and its time-frame: it holds only a few items – anywhere between three and seven – at any one time; and, it does so over a very short time period – anywhere between five and twenty-five seconds.

This has implications for teaching and learning because, for someone to make a decision/solve a problem/think effectively about anything, they need to combine whatever is stored in long-term memory with what is currently in working memory.

As knowledge already held in long-term memory can be chunked (so that many items are combined and processed as if they constitute a single item), there is theoretically at least no limit to what can be brought into working memory.

For this reason and as I have pointed out before here, it is essential to get lots of knowledge into long-term memory. This is why Dr Abadzi places so much emphasis on the teaching of basics such as literacy through phonics and arithmetical computation: unless decoding and arithmetical processes are automatised, working on them takes up too much space in working memory.
Fundamentally, what she is advocating is that when we are teaching young children to read and spell or do basic arithmetic, we need to introduce new knowledge a bit at a time and we need to practise the skills particular to the manipulation of that knowledge to automaticity.



Helen Abadzi is described in UT Arlington, the University of Texas Magazine, as a maverick because she has five college degrees and two doctorates. She is a Greek psychologist who worked as Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank and is now a researcher in education at the University of Texas. She is also an enthusiastic proponent of education for poor students in low-income countries. You can view some of her publications here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Why the Chair of the English Spelling Society doesn't understand the English orthographic code

As Charles Perfetti wrote in his article ‘The Universal Grammar of Reading’ (Scientific Studies of Reading, 7:1, 3-34) in 2009, ‘examples of the variability of English spelling-pronunciation mappings are stock-in-trade for some opponents of phonics teaching, as well as the traditional call to arms for spelling reformers. The parallel is quite superficial, however, because although letters can have variable mappings, the mappings they have are systematic and constrained’. Stephen Linstead's piece 'English spellings don't match the sounds they are supposed to represent. It's time to change' in today's Guardian is just such a call to arms and just as incorrect as Perfetti implies.

It is true that the many influences on English have left us with a much more complex alphabet code than, say Spanish, or Italian. This doesn’t mean it can’t be taught or that, taught correctly, it can’t be learned. Stephen Linstead’s examples are clearly intended to bamboozle us into believing that there is a need for spelling reform. He gives us the spelling ou, which can represent the sound /u/ in ‘southern’ and /oo/, as in ‘soup’. At first sight, this fact about the way English orthography works seems to prove his point. In fact, a closer look at these examples reveals them to be very straightforward indeed. The truth is that if you are a proficient reader, you probably wouldn’t even notice that ou can represent two sounds: you would simply have read ‘southern’ and ‘soup’ automatically.

Of course, presenting what appears at first sight to be the sheer randomness of the spelling system to someone about to embark on the journey of becoming fully literate is another matter. Let’s see what a beginning reader needs to learn to be able to read proficiently:
First, the learner needs to understand explicitly that spellings represent the sounds in our language, in all its varieties. There is no doubt at all about this. All experts on writing systems are of one mind: the spelling system in English was invented to represent the sounds of the language. Young children, therefore, need to be taught that the squiggles on the page stand for the sounds in their speech. Is it a difficult concept to understand? Not at all! Even young children of pre-school age understand the idea that something can stand for something else, otherwise we wouldn’t see them engaging in symbolic play. The idea that the squiggles on the page stand for the sounds in speech also makes perfect sense from a psychological point of view - Oh! That's what this is all about!
Second, the learner must be taught that sounds can be spelt with one letter (‘m a t’), two letters (‘ship’), three letters (‘night’) or four (‘eight’) letters. Is this too complicated to learn? Not a bit, because if you show children a square and then a triangle and then put the triangle on top of the square, they’ll tell you it’s a house! We combine arbitrary symbols to form other symbols all the time.
Then, there is the fact that all the sounds in English can be spelt in different ways, e.g. the sound /oe/ in ‘go’ can be spelt oe (‘toe’), o-e (‘home’), ow (‘grow’), o (‘go’) ou  (‘mould’) and ough (‘dough’).  Again, if children can understand that such and such is a daisy, such and such a dandelion and such and such is a rose and you ask a child what they are all have in common, they’ll tell you they are flowers.
Finally, many spellings represent more than one sound, so that ou can be /u/ in ‘southern’ as well as /oo/ in ‘soup. The last concept, which Stephen Linstead finds so very hard to get to grips with, is that a symbol (many spellings) can represent more than one thing. Present any child with a circle and ask them what it can be. They’ll quickly tell you that it can be a moon, a sun, an orange, a pizza. However, as Perfetti points outs in his article, spellings can't represent anything: 'the mappings they have are systematic and constrained'. Of course, to know which sound ou represents in a word will be determined from context and the learner will need to have been taught the possible sounds ou can represent. To take another example, ea can be /ee/ in ‘sea’, /e/ in ‘head’, or /ae/ in ‘steak’. If I read the sentence ‘Last night I had a tasty steak’ and I read the word ‘steak as ‘steek’ or ‘stek’ (which is possible in some varieties of English!), my brain is quickly going to tell me neither makes sense and that I need to try the other possibility. I wonder if Linstead gets confused about how his name should be pronounced?
These are the basic ideas one needs to understand if one is to teach reading and spelling to beginners. Clearly, they are not difficult concepts to grasp.  So, understanding how English orthography works isn’t difficult. What is difficult is learning it if the person doing the teaching doesn’t understand the alphabet code, which skills are needed to teach it, and that it needs to be taught from simple one-letter spellings to one-sound to more complex structures. Linstead demonstrated his lack of understanding of the code by mixing up one spelling/different sounds and one sound/different spellings. He also seems to believe that the spelling ou in ‘loud’ is the same as that in ‘should’.  And, he can’t code ‘weird’, which he should have separated as /w/ /ee/ /er/ /d/ and in which the /er/ is a schwa.

It is true that in learning to read and write in English there is much more to learn than, say, in Spanish in which young children only have to learn somewhere just over thirty spellings for the twenty-two to twenty-four sounds (depending on accent) in the language. In English we have forty-four or so sounds, again depending on accent, and there are about a hundred and seventy-five common spellings. However, if teaching is anchored in the sounds of the language and taught carefully over the three years of Key Stage 1, it is entirely possible to teach children to read and spell English to a very high level of proficiency.


What’s more, English spelling as defined by Samuel Johnson in his famous dictionary has hardly changed since he wrote it. In the words of Diane McGuinness, ‘[t]oday, over 240 years later, most people of America, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and India have little difficulty understanding each other’s English’*. Aside from the help spelling gives us in understanding the etymology of English, the orthography of English is very well suited to encompass all the rich varieties of our language.

Footnote: In the Guardian article there is an accompanying image of fish linked to the word 'ghoti', which George Bernard Shaw, an early advocate of spelling reform, thought provided a good example of the randomness of English spelling. This reference seems to be almost obligatory when people who don't know what they are talking about decry phonics or call for spelling reform. And, it is just as wrong now as when Shaw first wrote it. See this for a more complete explanation.

* Quoted from Why Children Can't Read.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Teaching literacy skills the write way

I’ve blogged on the subject and importance of writing by hand a number of times before: here, here, and here. I return to the subject because this week’s New Scientist (29th October 2014) devotes no less than the cover page, an editorial and four of its pages to how the latest technology may be affecting the ways in which we read and write and learn to read and write.

As the article points out, more and more we are opting to read and write digitally. Whereas twenty or thirty years ago you’d see people commuting into work by bus or by train deeply engrossed in a book, newspaper or magazine, nowadays they’ll be reading a digital book, or, more likely, a mobile phone or notebook of one kind or another. Whereas twenty or thirty years ago you'd see students in a seminar or lecture busily scribbling away in longhand, today many of them are typing into laptops.

Are technological changes affecting the way in which we learn and retain information? Yes, says Tiffany O’Callaghan in ‘Lost for Words: the writing is on the screen’. Certainly, since I last wrote about the work of Karin James at Indiana University and also that of Marieke Longcamp at Aix-Marseille University in France (see links above), both of whom figure in the New Scientist article, the research evidence seems to confirm what has long been argued: that writing by hand helps create neuronal pathways in the brain that assist the learner in remembering not only the way in which way letters are formed and how to recognise them when reading, but also the process of writing in longhand seems to aid retention of the information encoded in the writing itself. Moreover, the evidence strongly suggests that typing letters does not have the same effect.

On the issue of retention of information, Pam Mueller, of Princeton University, and David Oppenheimer, now at UCLA Anderson School of Management, ran a number of studies which indicate that taking notes in longhand on the subjects of lectures is superior to taking notes on a laptop. Mueller speculates that the reason for this may be that taking notes very rapidly on a laptop or digital device encourages students to write down transmitted information verbatim. In so doing, they may not be paying attention and processing the information in the way that taking notes in longhand forces the writer to do.

In the New Scientist piece, O’Callaghan also brings into her piece the issue of ‘multitasking’, or the ‘widely held fallacy’, as Hattie calls it, and talks about the numerous distractions we, as readers, face when reading online. Apart from the kinds of things that are likely to distract, such as advertisements and other items competing for our attention, it takes the determination of Ares to resist that quick peek into our Facebook page, Twitter feed, or email account. As John Hattie, in his book Visible Learning and Science of How We Learn, affirms, allowing oneself to be distracted in this way, reduces mental focus and depletes attentional resources, which leads to poorer comprehension.

Lost for Words: the writing is on the screen’ is a thoughtful and provocative piece, although I’d question O’Callaghan’s conclusion when she claims that ‘the nature of knowledge is changing’. It isn’t the nature of knowledge that is changing; it’s the way that knowledge is encoded and is disseminated that is changing. And we need to bear in mind that while the technology constantly mutates, human cognitive architecture and the way we learn remains pretty much as it did thousands of years ago. Keeping that distinction clear is vital. As Hattie writes: ‘Skills such as becoming highly familiar with  the digital world, being adept on mobile phones, being able to perform Internet searches, and being able to use clever graphics packages, ought not to be confused with actual advance of knowledge acquisition, genuine understanding of complex ideas, and becoming aware of deeper understandings’.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

How confused can Key Stage 1 teachers be about high frequency words?

Well, how confused can Key Stage 1 teachers be about HFWs? Answer? Very confused!
Here is a letter to parents sent home recently from a primary school somewhere in the south east of England.
Dear Parents/CarersThis week in phonics the children have been learning the following sounds:a, i, m, s, t, n, o p
They have been using the sounds to spell words. For example:at, it, an, as, sat, sit, mat, man, not, potThere are 100 common words (key words) that occur frequently in much of the written material young children read and which they need when they write.  In order to read simple captions and sentences, it is also necessary to learn to read the key words before reaching that stage in the phonics programme. The high frequency words are taught by sight from memory and we explain that we can not sound out these words. [My emphasis] Below is a list of the first 100 high frequency words.0 high-frequency words in order
1. the               21. that            41. not             61. look             81. put
2. and              22. with           42. then           62. don’t            82. could
3. a                  23. all              43. were          63. come            83. house
4. to                 24. we             44. go              64. will              84. old
5. said             25. can             45. little           65. into             85. too
6. in                 26. are             46. as              66. back             86. by
7. he                27. up              47. no              67. from             87. day
8. I                   28. had            48. mum          68. children       88. made
9. of                 29. my             49. one            69. him              89. time
10. it                30. her             50. them          70. Mr               90. I’m
11. was            31. what          51. do              71. get               91. if
12. you            32. there          52. me             72. just              92. help
13. they           33. out             53. down         73. now             93. Mrs
14. on              34. this            54. dad            74. came            94. called
15. she            35. have           55. big             75. oh                95. here
16. is               36. went          56. when         76. about            96. off
17. for             37. be              57. it’s             77. got               97. asked
18. at               38. like            58. see            78. their              98. saw
19. his             39. some         59. looked       79. people          99. make
20. but             40. so              60. very           80. your           100. an
Of course, what is being asserted here is, to use an old fashioned expression, poppycock! To begin with, all words are comprised of sounds and all sounds have at some point in time been assigned spellings. So, what the teachers who have written this rubbish haven’t seemed to have understood is that the structure of the writing system is conceptually very straightforward: there are sounds and there are spellings to represent those sounds. So, contrary to the piffle being peddled by the teachers concerned, ALL words can be sounded out.

Now, let’s examine the list they provide, which, incidentally comes from Letters and Sounds, a government document which has now been archived. If you look at it carefully, you will see that no less than thirty-two of the words in the list are very easily decodable. Given that pupils are being taught how to blend and segment properly and that they are learning to link sounds to spellings, what could possibly be difficult about reading or spelling words such as ‘in’, ‘it’, ‘not’, ‘mum’ and so on? In fact, you can see how confused the writers of the letter to parents are by the fact that they say in their preamble that they using ‘sounds to spell words’ and yet haven’t seemed to have noticed that one of the words listed – ‘it’ – is then presented in their list of undecodable words!! if it were not more serious, it would be laughable.

It is undoubtedly the case that the alphabet code gets more complex to teach because there are many ways of spellings individual sounds and that many spellings represent different sounds. This is complex because it means that there is a lot to learn. However, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be taught if it’s taught from simple to progressively more complex.
What the school is doing goes against not only what the research on the teaching of reading and spelling has found but also what Ofsted and the government are saying teachers should be doing.

It is shame that, in spite of the training, research and evidence available, teachers insist on reverting to the practices of a bygone age.

If you want to know what to do about high frequency words which contain sound-spelling correspondences that have not yet been taught formally in a phonics programme, you can find out here in one of my previous postings.