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That Reading Thing and EBLI Compared

posted in: Secondary literacy

Since the Sounds-Write speech to print symposium, I’m getting lots of questions about how That Reading Thing compares with EBLI. Both TRT and EBLI are rooted in exactly the same phonics soil and have both been around for the same number of years so there are many conceptual similarities. Here are some of the differences I’ve gleaned from tutors who are familiar with both programs:

  • That Reading Thing costs £170 (£160 until September 30th) which comes out to just over USD$200 (+ tax & shipping and subject to Fx rates)
  • The cost includes full online training, support as required and all the physical resources for working 1-1. You add authentic text (more on that in the training.)
  • The reason for this very low price is that everyone can afford to be properly trained and have the correct resources. Some schools buy 20 licences but a homeschooling parent can afford one licence. There is no annual subscription fee because schools tend to add tutors as and when they need them or take on new staff.
  • TRT is only for older students (teens and adults), ideally no younger than 7th grade and is intended to be delivered 1-1 for a limited period.
  • A tutor who uses both EBLI and TRT says, ‘TRT covers more of the code (explicitly teaches more phonics) than EBLI does.’

Here’s some feedback (annotated by me) from an EBLI mom who tried out That Reading Thing with her 16-year-old:
🟢 Mom: Both TRT and EBLI take the synthetic phonics approach and start with breaking words into syllables and into sounds.
🟣  TM: TRT is ‘synthetic’ in that we synthesize words so it falls under larger umbrella of ‘structured synthetic phonics’. Within that larger phonics body, it is considered ‘speech to print’ or ‘linguistic’ phonics.

🟢 Mom: EBLI approaches this by having the students draw a line for each syllable break that they hear and then they go back and make smaller lines to represent each sound that they hear in the syllable and then finally have them write letters on each of the sound lines. Then if the student misspells the word they just show the corrected spelling and have the student correct it. I like the more scaffolded approach of TRT by giving the student the letters (graphemes) that they would need to choose from to represent those sounds. In the beginning that increases the confidence and they can see how much they do know correctly.
🟣  TM: We call that building with puzzle pieces with one grapheme (1, 2 3 or 4 letters) on one puzzle piece. We build and spell multisyllable words with CVC syllables in the first session. These early long words with simple code make it appropriate for older students and adults.

🟢 Mom: Both programs have a portion of the teaching committed to ‘Sounds the Same-Looks Different’ and ‘Looks the Same-Sounds Different’.
🟣  TM: The mom didn’t comment on this but I’m sure it’s a difference between the programs. After the single syllable and mulitsyllable initial code type words (bag/upset, tent/invest, plant/suspect, etc then sh/ch/th/ & split digraphs), we add common endings to simple code to practice reading longer words even at the early levels. They’re building and spelling words like ‘recognition’ in a few lessons. This is before we get to the concepts of many spellings of one sound (fun, stuff, photo, cough etc) and pronunciations of one grapheme (add, table, swan, about etc).

🟢 Mom: One of the things I liked about the TRT approach to breaking into spoken syllables was the encouragement to break a word at a point of meaning if you could for example: “gift-ed” whereas EBLI said wherever the student heard it break, so it often would look like “gif-ted.”
🟣  TM: We work from naturally spoken syllables just like EBLI, but I then ask tutors to ‘nudge for meaning’ if it’s obvious. This is what I now talk about as ‘everyday morphology’. The ‘gifted’ example is perfect.

🟢 Mom: I did like “the deal” that you presented to your students and how helpful that could be for wary students who aren’t really sure about trying something new.
TM: The Deal is: ‘you never have to know anything we haven’t learned together’. It was noted as a key feature by Professor Brooks in his evaluation of the program and is part of an explicit overall ethos of giving an older learner power over their education. TRT is not something you teach; it’s something you guide carefully so the student grasps concepts and grows in knowledge. You want lots of ‘aha!’ moments from your student.

🟢 Mom: In the end, I didn’t find much that was really conceptually different between the two programs. My son had already learned almost all of what was taught in TRT.
🟣  TM: This was so helpful and I now tell parents who want to try TRT after EBLI that they may not get more progress. However, a tutor has been in touch to say that the extra wisdom combined with the low cost make TRT and TST (That Spelling Thing book) worth exploring even if you have already trained in EBLI. I’m always here to chat.

Watch the video and get in touch with your questions.

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