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Taking the Guesswork Out of Teaching Reading

Tom Nicholson

Decoding has always been controversial. Rather than an ally, it has often been seen as the enemy of comprehension. The problem is that poor comprehenders are usually poor decoders as welt which implies that decoding is the culprit. This leads to the strange argument that we should give less attention to decoding, and more attention to comprehension. Which brings me to Gough's multiplicative hypothesis. The hypothesis is not new, but is it straightforward. It says that . problems in reading come about because of difficulties in either decoding, listening comprehension, or both. What is decoding? It means the ability to identify words never
seen before by applying internalised, abstract rules for mapping the printed word to its spoken form. Decoding does not have to
improve comprehension. A child who knows how to read nonsense words like 'buf' and 'kib' is decoding, even though the words have no apparent meaning. What is listening comprehension? It means being able to understand spoken language. When applied to reading, it means being able to understand a story when it is read aloud by someone else. In other words, listening comprehension does not have to involve decoding, and vice versa .

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