To Perth for the Language, Literacy and Learning conference organised by the Dyslexia-SPELD Foundation. I am suspicious of many education conferences because there is a tendency for the sessions to be dominated by sociological theories rather than scientific evidence. But this is not a standard education conference. It is an event where speech pathologists, researchers, policy wonks and teachers all mingle and where the common touchstone is evidence.
The morning keynote was delivered by Professor Kate Nation from Oxford in the U.K. The topic was poor comprehenders. These are the students who show a strong ability to decode – turning written words on a page into the correct sounds – but who struggle to comprehend what they have read. Nation does not set decoding in opposition to comprehension as some whole-language advocates might. She stresses the need for explicit and systematic phonics instruction. Yet she also made the point that
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