I have been trying to follow the rather arcane discussion around the new reading test for 6 year olds. This is from the BBC:
The government's new reading test for six-year-olds is a waste of money that will not identify youngsters' needs, experts have warned. They are "deeply concerned" about the test, and call on the Education Secretary Michael Gove to reconsider its introduction.
According to the Independent, the test consists of 40 words – 20 made up and 20 real – that children have to read out aloud. Some examples of what they have been assessed on include: blow, cat, cow, glimp, mip, koob and zort. The Indy goes on:
A pilot assessment carried out this summer revealed that bright youngsters were flummoxed by the unreal words because they suspected something was wrong. However, they were then identified as being in need of remedial help with their reading. The Government argues that the test will strengthen phonics teaching in schools, which research has shown is the best way of teaching young pupils to read.
I was reminded of all this at the weekend when reading a Dr Seuss book – The Lorax – to my granddaughter. This proved too much for both of us at the end of a long day, but it's an interesting read with this controversy in mind as it is full of the sort of pseudowords that are in this new test. Whilst there are no GLIMPs or ZORTs, there are plenty of:
Thneeds Once-lers Truffula trees Bar-ba-loots Swomee-swans
... and dozens more made-up words that come at you in waves of rhyme and rhythm that are Dr S's style.
Now I don't know very much about phonics and the teaching of reading, but it seems clear that the main difference between the Lorax (which, of course, is an environmental parable which so annoyed US loggers when first published that they published their own alternative narrative) and the DfE's latest wheeze is that, in the former, but not the latter, all the words are read in a context that makes them meaningful (allowing for age ...).
It makes me wonder what the DfE thinks reading is for.