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Monday, October 18, 2010

A Synthetic Eleven Plus Scenario

Every now and then we are offered more information about the forty sounds that go together to make up the English language. The sounds are called phonemes. A phoneme is the smallest phonetic unit that can carry meaning.

Whenever we see films about children in America learning to read on farms we see the earth mother tracing letters of the alphabet – and the child going on from there to read the bible. We are also aware of children in prairie schools with all ages being taught by committed and distinguished teachers. These early schools had remarkably few resources. The children were, however, taught phonics.

Phonic based reading means linking letters, or combinations of letters, to other letters and groups of sounds.

Children who are taught synthetic phonics are expected to sound out the phonemes in a word – and then blend them together. The educational theory behind synthetic phonics is that learning to sound out words and then blend them together gives children the confidence to be able to read unfamiliar words.

Will there ever come a day when `Synthetic Eleven Plus Teaching’ is introduced? This is where children are taught to analyse a question word by word and then draw all the words together to arrive at an understanding of the question?

Some parents are already doing this – they are encouraging their children to read each question carefully and then synthesise the concepts to arrive at a meaningful answer. Various dictionary definitions of the word synthetic do not lead easily to linking the word `synthetic’ to the words `Eleven Plus’.

A synthetic product is made by a chemical process.

A synthetic answer can be insincere.

None of us would welcome a chemically induced eleven plus lesson. Very few of us would welcome an insincere approach to eleven plus work. Many of us would, however, welcome an approach when a child reads a question carefully before trying to supply the answer.

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