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Dr Kerry Hempenstall: The three-cueing system in reading: Will it ever go away? Plus Marilyn Jager Adams' article.

Posted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 1:35 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Dr Kerry Hempenstall illustrates how the three-cueing system for reading took hold in the teaching profession. To this day, multi-cueing reading strategies remain a problem across the world in many English-teaching contexts:

First of all, Kerry's complete list of blogs: ... temid=2240

From which you'll find in the list:

The three-cueing system in reading: Will it ever go away? ... Itemid=975

The three-cueing system in reading: Will it ever go away?

Published: Wednesday, 06 November 2013

Kerry Hempenstall RMIT University

First published Nov 28 2012

The three-cueing system is well-known to most teachers. What is less well known is that it arose not as a result of advances in knowledge concerning reading development, but rather in response to an unfounded but passionately held belief. Despite its largely uncritical acceptance by many within the education field, it has never been shown to have utility, and in fact, it is predicated upon notions of reading development that have been demonstrated to be false. Thus, as a basis for decisions about reading instruction, it is likely to mislead teachers and hinder students’ progress. In the Primary National Strategy (2006a), the three cueing model (known in England as the Searchlight model) is finally and explicitly discredited. Instead, the Strategy has acknowledged the value of addressing decoding and comprehension separately in the initial stage of reading instruction.

“ … attention should be focused on decoding words rather than the use of unreliable strategies such as looking at the illustrations, rereading the sentence, saying the first sound or guessing what might ‘fit’. Although these strategies might result in intelligent guesses, none of them is sufficiently reliable and they can hinder the acquisition and application of phonic knowledge and skills, prolonging the word recognition process and lessening children’s overall understanding. Children who routinely adopt alternative cues for reading unknown words, instead of learning to decode them, later find themselves stranded when texts become more demanding and meanings less predictable. The best route for children to become fluent and independent readers lies in securing phonics as the prime approach to decoding unfamiliar words" (Primary National Strategy, 2006b, p.9).

"The searchlight model of reading has been superceded by the new conceptual framework - the simple view of reading. All references to the "searchlight model" therefore should be interpreted in the light of the simple view of reading” (Primary National Strategy, 2011).

Do click on the link and look at the whole piece.

IFERI has now produced a leaflet which is linked to multi-cueing and how children are taught, or caused by default, to apply multi-cueing to guess the words in reading scheme books designed on the basis of predictable or repetitive texts that include words beyond their alphabetic code knowledge:

Why Book Bands and Levelled Reading Books Should Be Abandoned ... oned-1.pdf

Re: Dr Kerry Hempenstall: The three-cueing system in reading: Will it ever go away?

Posted: Tue Sep 26, 2017 12:40 am
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Will the three-cueing system in reading ever go away?

Not whilst people continue to promote the three-cueing system and undermine phonics teaching and assessment:

The darker purpose

Maurie Mulheron ... ent-writes

Emmitt, Hornsby and Wilson explain the complex and simultaneous processes at work when children are learning to read. “Three important sources of information in text are meaning, grammar and letter-sound relationships — often referred to as semantics, syntax and graphophonic relationships, respectively.”

Note that Mulheron, like so many others, makes no mention of, nor demonstrates understanding that, multi-cueing invariably amounts to the promotion of word-guessing which is highly detrimental to becoming an accurate and competent reader.

Re: Dr Kerry Hempenstall: The three-cueing system in reading: Will it ever go away?

Posted: Mon Oct 29, 2018 6:50 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
I'm cross-referencing this thread with a topic linking the work of activists in the reading debate who raise awareness and challenge multi-cueing from Australia, America, England and Scotland where I have commentated to describe the bigger picture alongside some of the details of international events, see here:


Re: Dr Kerry Hempenstall: The three-cueing system in reading: Will it ever go away?

Posted: Mon Oct 29, 2018 6:51 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Marilyn Jäger Adams has written a very important article on the three-cueing system: ... d-summary/

Marilyn wrote:

If the intended message of the three-cueing system was originally that teachers should take care not to overemphasize phonics to the neglect of comprehension, its received message has broadly become that teachers should minimize attention to phonics lest it compete with comprehension. If the original premise of the three-cueing system was that the reason for reading the words is to understand the text, it has since been oddly converted such that, in effect, the reason for understanding the text is in order to figure out the words. How did this happen?

Further, she wrote:

Consistent with Reyes’s (1992) lament, the sobering revelation of this story is the profound breach in information and communication that separates the teaching and research communities. In the world of practice, the widespread subscription to the belief system that the three-cueing diagram has come to represent has wreaked disaster on students and hardship on teachers.

Her final words which are still relevant to this day:

We must work together to rebuild the bridge, socially and intellectually, between those involved in research and practice. Toward regaining respect for as well as the productivity, morale, and forward momentum of our educational system, there may be no more important effort we can undertake.