Chapter 6: Conclusion

The aim of this book has been to explain a new but very simple idea in such a way that anyone interested will have no difficulty in understanding and using it. Judging by the large number of teachers who have been able to experiment with MPC after reading only two or three pages of information and ideas, it has shown itself to be readily understood. It is to be hoped that the extra information and suggestions included here will make it easier for those who are less enterprising or experienced, and also benefit the pioneers by sharing the many ideas which have been found successful in one way or another.

One of the members of the Bullock Committee, whose Report has been published since most of the experimental work was done on MPC, encourage me to make this work available to teachers as worthwhile aid. The following relevant recommendations are made in the Bullock Report.

’56. There is no one method, medium, approach, device or philosophy that holds the key to the process of learning to read.’

I should like to emphasise that I agree wholeheartedly with this statement. MPC is an aid, not a panacea.

’60. The accurate perception of individual letters and groups of letters is an important factor in learning to read. Young children should be helped to learn the characteristics of letters through a variety of games and activities, not through formal exercises.’

From the Report’s 333 recommendations I have selected those which give most support to an aid like MPC. I agree with all the rest and would work on language, encourage pre-reading skills, use ‘cloze’ or practise the use of context cues, teach for a variety of comprehension skills and so on. It is in the area of learning the sound-symbol relationships that MPC is most likely to help. The release from drills and from detailed phonic work detached from the normal reading context should allow more meaningful reading and reduce frustration and discouragement. Moreover, it enables pupils to do more for themselves, which could make all the difference between wasting time waiting for attention and getting on with the job of learning. Class organisation is simplified not only because the children can work alone more easily but also because they can start.

It is often claimed that reading improvement resulting from intensive help out of the classroom is not maintained on return. MPC allows slower children to cope with work in the classroom and carry on more normally, once they know the sounds, thus preventing any such loss.

There is a fairly wide consensus of opinion today that teachers who have expected their pupils to ‘pick things up’ just because the opportunity is there have been over-optimistic. There could easily be a corresponding swing towards more formal methods of teaching which, in fact, the majority have never abandoned. MPC strikes a good balance here. Although there is a very clear sound-symbol structure for which some direct teaching is needed, MPC very quickly leads to more freedom, both in learning independently with the motivation of success and interest and in using almost any reading materials within the range of oral understanding. Freedom from the restrictions of constant repetition for ‘look-say’ word learning as well as from the grading of phonic readers, starting with regular three-letter words, allows for much more natural and easy writing.

Finally, perhaps the most vital consideration is the need for co-operation between home and school. The child with someone who can hear him read at home and who can understand and share in the aims of the school will have a great advantage over the child who is entirely dependent on what is learnt on the school premises. Although everyday written language is not marked with cues, it is not in a different script. The technique required to teach the MPC marks need not be sophisticated. Any parent with a copy of the cue-card could do some good by going through it to help the child learn the sounds. The majority of parents who have spent a short time studying MPC could easily use cues to regularise a word in a newspaper or book in order to help a child read it. Beyond the classroom, it is also ideal for amateur volunteers helping in adult literacy campaigns.

No other aid that I know of is so easy to learn and use. There is so little to add to what is normally known and understood, yet it can make a spectacular difference to the ease of reading and teaching to read. If MPC can help even a few unhappy strugglers, something will have been achieved.

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Appendix 1

Simple games to reinforce learning sounds and early sight vocabulary

Children vary widely in the amount of repetition they need for anything to be permanently memorised. Some need a great deal, however meaningful and interesting the presentation or context. Such children are particularly helped by games with a purpose, which provide motivation for learning and involve repetition without boredom. If they are also self-checking, they can be played while the teacher is occupied elsewhere, thus stimulating independent learning.
1. Flashcards: group (Figure 9)
Aids the memory-bond between picture-cue and sound.

Make cards about 10 x 6 cm. On one side write a sound from the cue-card in large print; on the other draw the corresponding picture. The children are shown the picture and try to say its sound. The first to do so takes the card and shows both sides to the group.

At the end the child with most cards goes on to another activity, while the rest repeat the game.

These cards can also be used for games 2, 3 and 4, and for matching to sounds in words and sentences on the wall or to a large cue-card.

Figure 9

2. Guess the sound: pairs
Aids the recognition of symbol without picture.

Both children must be able to say a sound with its picture. One child shows the picture (or sound) side of a card to the other, who has to say its sound (or picture), and takes the card if right. The children can take it in turns to select a card, change after a wrong guess, or after each set.

3. Sound pairs: group
Matching recognition and the use of more than one sound-picture combination are all involved.

Add a second set of cards with different pictures. (a) Both sets are spread out, picture-side upwards. The children take it in turns to pick a pair, checking by looking at the other side.
(b) One set is picture-side downwards. A pair consists of a sound matched to a picture. The winner is the child with most pairs.

4. Sound Bingo: group
This game encourages effort and quick response in recognising sounds.

Divide large cards into sections the same size as the flashcards. In each section draw a sound corresponding to one of the flashcards. The caller holds up a picture. The first child to recognise it as matching a sound on their large card takes it to cover that sound. The first to cover his or her large card wins. The large cards may be the same or slightly different for each child.

5. Test your friend: pairs (Figure 10)
This is a useful and interesting method of self-checking, and involves learning and correcting responses.

Cut notches in three sides of a piece of card about 12 cm square. The number of notches depends on the number of sounds which need testing. Draw a sound beside each notch and a corresponding picture on the reverse of the card. The card is held upright between the children. The one who can see the pictures say, for example, ‘Point to the owl’. The other then has to place his finger or pencil in the notch by the sound. If correct, he takes a counter. Five cards, each with nine sounds, will cover all the MPC symbols and could follow the same progression as the MPC Workbooks.

Figure 10

6. Spelling the sounds: pairs (Figure 11)
With the help of MPC cues, the varying spellings of vowel sounds are introduced and learnt. Children should have reached lesson 14 of the MPC Spelling Workbook.

Make six cards each about 12 x 9 cm. Write one vowel sound clearly on each card: ,,, , and . On the back of each card write a list of words containing the different ways in which the sound on the front can be spelt, e.g. may, cake, plaice, weigh; who, through, shoe, blue. Make a duplicate set. (a) One child lays his cards down with the sounds showing. The other picks a word from his cards and asks the first to find it by picking up the right card from his own set. If he is right first time he gets a counter. When he has five counters they change places.
(b) The first child asks the other to spell, for example, weigh. After choosing the right card by the sound the other then reads out the word and so gets a counter.

Figure 11

7. Word recognition board game: group
This aids learning the early sight vocabulary, using cued words from the MPC Word List. A teacher must be present to ensure words are correctly read.

On a piece of card about 40 x 50 cm draw a road on which are marked about 50 moves between Start and Home. Number six small containers (such as margarine tubs) 1 to 6. In turn, the children throw a die and take a word from the tub of that number. When they have read the word correctly they move that number of spaces. The first to reach Home is the winner. To add interest the board can be made into a football game, race track, treasure hunt, etc. Hazards can be added, e.g. Think squares: a tub labelled Think contains cars saying ‘Think of three words beginning with p’, ‘Think of four words ending with t’, etc. These are read by the teacher.

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Appendix 2

MPC Workbooks, Word List and Checklists

The MPC Teacher’s Book is accompanied by two workbooks and a simple dictionary, all for use by the pupil. Although mainly intended as part of a series making full use of MPC as an aid to reading, they could easily be used with more traditional methods. Only the normal alphabetical forms are used and all the letters are included.

The MPC Reading Workbook teaches the main phonic sounds and how to form the letters from which they are made. It does not go through them in alphabetical order, but starts with the consonants which are most useful both as an aid to recognising words and in teaching the correct movements. There is one representation of each of the main sounds, e.g. ow but not ou. The sounds ch, sh, ng, etc. are included since these are regular in use. Children should become familiar with them at an early stage, and think of them as sounds in their own right. All the letters are used.

Each page forms a complete unit, taking a its starting point and focus a simple, lively illustration. Some direction and help are needed from the teacher, firstly in reading the sentence and then in discussing it with the pupils to encourage language and ensure that print is always associated with meaning and interest. The sound of the letters is then pointed out and its association with the symbol emphasised. The letter-names should not be taught at this stage. The teacher should supervise the pupil’s writing movements before leaving him to work alone, since this will avoid much trouble later. At the bottom of each page are suggestions for further, more open-ended activities designed to reinforce learning.

The MPC Spelling Workbook teaches the main rules and exceptions of English spelling, clearly shown with the help of MPC. Each rule is presented with examples and practical reinforcement in the form of activities, so that the pupil learns to spell through experience. A vocabulary of about 150 words is necessary before beginning this workbook.

The MPC Word List is a simple dictionary containing over 600 of the words most commonly used in early reading with cues. Space is provided for the pupil to add new words. Once pupils know the sounds and cues, they will be able to read and learn the words and so recognise them in their books. It is hoped that this will help to deal with the two great problems encountered by those teaching reading to beginners: hearing pupils and giving them words for writing. By allowing the pupils greater independence, the MPC Word List will save the teacher time while laying the foundations for a thorough linguistic understanding of phonemegrapheme correspondence.

MPC Checklists, found on the last page of each book.

The MPC Reading workbook checklist lists the sounds covered in the book and provides space to record the pupil’s progress: knows sound with picture cue; know sound without picture cue. There is also space for fuller notes on each sound.

The MPC Spelling Workbook checklist list the rules or skills covered in the book, indexed by lesson number. It can thus also be used as a list of contents. Since the workbook deals with the understanding of English spelling in principle, rather than with learning actual examples of words, the checklist is designed to record that each page has been worked through and understood. The pupil may have to do a page more than once, so it is suggested that three marks be used to show his progress: mark doing this page, tick page completed with understanding, success in later revision test. Understanding of the MPC Spelling Workbook can also be tested using the quiz on page 55. This can be done as a game by the pupils or used as a method of testing by the teacher.

The MPC Word List checklist is intended as a record of progress in using sounds and cues. There are six columns: First Sounds, Second Sounds, Blends, Simple Words, Using Cues, Syllables and Endings. At the head of each column is a star which should be coloured in when the work in that column is complete. The teacher could have a master copy of the checklist column is complete. The teacher could have a master copy of the checklist with the same headings but with the pupil’ names some the side. The stars could then be entered against the names, so helping to group the pupils.

Spelling Workbook Quiz

Lesson Lesson
1 What do you know about e at the end of a word? 1 It’s not sounded. It may alter the vowel.
2 What would it change these to? a e i o u 2 a e i o u
3 Write or point to two ways to spell ow and oi. 3 ow ou; oi oy
4 Write or point to two ways to spell au. Spell for and door. 4 au aw
5 What other sound can c stand for? How do these sound? ca co cu ce ci 5 s as in circle ca co cu se si
6 What other sound can g stand for? 6 j
7 What do you know about gh? What does gh sound like in enough? 7 It’s not sounded. It may alter the vowel before. f
8 What other sound can ch stand for? 8 c as in school
9 Read or spell: word fur first heard her. What sound is in each word? 9 er
10 What do you know about these? kn gn wr
Read or spell knee gnome write.
10 First letter isn’t sounded
11 What other sound can s stand for? Which s sounds like z in sees? 11 z the last
12 What are vowels?
Name some of them.

Sounds made by altering the shape of your mouth. a e i o u    a e i o u
oo oo ow au er ah oi

13 Read: Wh-n-sy—r b-rthd-y?
What can you do about vowels that change their sounds?
13 When is your birthday? Guess from the rest of the word. Refer to cards
14 Read or write words from the cards. Read: day make lady tail weight. Read: feel near ceiling piece he. 14 (All have a sound)
(All have e sound)
15 Read: throw coat hope though goes. 15 (All have o sound)
16 Does everyone speak with the same accent?
Which change most, vowels or other sounds?
16 No. Vowels, like a, a and ah
17 Read: Monday month one once. What sound does o make here? What would you do if o didn’t make sense? 17 u
Try u.
18 What sound does ph make?
What sound does f make in of?
Read: laugh cough tough enough.
What makes the sound f here?
18 f
19 Read: walk walked walks walking.
Which are the ‘bits’?
Write from memory:
pick picks picked picking
19 ed s ing
20 Find a small word inside:
Demisting unfitted.
20 mist fit
21 What do you do to come before adding ing?
Add ing to have bake make live.
21 Take off the e.
having baking making living
22 What do you do to sit before adding ing?
Add ed to beg bat pin.
22 Add another t.
begged baking making living
23 Read these: pick hick, might dight, sing ming, house bouse.
Are they all words?
23 No, but they could be syllables in words.
24 n what way are these words alike?
shoe moon through who
24 All have the sound oo.
25 What do you notice about these?
Cannot jamjar clockface doorknob
Can you read them?
25 Each is made of two words put together
26 Read the first syllable of these:
disconnect petticoat maternal hipster.
26 dis pet mat hip
27 How do you sound tion?
Think of a word with it in.
27 shon
action station fiction position
28 Try to read these:
tension mission passion.
28 sion
29 Say the alphabet, using the letternames
Is a before or after o?
Is p before or after x?
Is j before or after b?

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

30 Which of these comes first in a dictionary? dog dad dig
Write the alphabet in small and capital letters.

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

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