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advice for parents re reading and writing for pre-schoolers

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by Hettys, Mar 23, 2011.

  1. Hettys

    Hettys New commenter

    I am a deputy manager at a charity run playgroup for 21/2 to 5 yr olds. We have just had a "Good" Ofsted inspection and are confident that we prepare our pre schoolers well for Reception/Foundation 2. We include lots of Letters and Sounds ph 1 activities in our planning but do not have any structured phonics "teaching". A lot of our parents are beginning to ask us what their children should be able to "read and write" before they start school. I have explained what we do and tried to put their minds at rest that their children will be where they need to be by September but I wonder if there is a user/parent friendly document that I could give to them that explains it all clearly. If not I will produce something for them myself but would rather not "reinvent the wheel" unnecessarily. Thank you.
     
  2. inky

    inky Lead commenter

    since these children don't hae to be at school, I'd ask the parents what they're doing about it!
     
  3. inky

    inky Lead commenter

    Do they chat with their children? Do they share books and stories?

    etc
    etc
     
  4. Hettys

    Hettys New commenter

    Thanks for that SusanG, that's just the thing that some of my parents need to see. It does tend to be the more "pushy parent" asking these questions but I don't want to just dismiss their concerns, I would rather give them something to look at that confirms what we are saying regarding early phonics skills. Alot of our older children can write their names and some of their friends' names. They can hear sounds at the beginning of words and enjoy rhyming activities. We don't do formal writing or phonics sessions, just provide lots of mark making opportunities and LASP1 activities but some parents don't understand why we aren't using worksheets and teaching letter writing etc.!
     
  5. Hi, have you thought about photocopying the sections on reading and writing from the E.Y.F.S. document. If you were to highlight the age group their child is in it would probably set their minds at rest. If they see that you are working from the official curriculum it will perhaps help your more 'pushy' parents.
     
  6. Hettys

    Hettys New commenter

    Do you mean the Development Matters sheets (CLL1 & 2) ? Yes i hadn't thought of that, thank you!
     
  7. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Hetty sounds surprised that some parents don't understand why her nursery doesn't use worksheets or letter writing? Why should they "understand"?
    There's a nursery near here (voluntary sector pre-school) which recently received an outstanding OFSTED judgement which does both of these "forbidden" activities! So why should parents "understand"?
     
  8. Hettys

    Hettys New commenter

    Clumsy phrasing on my part Mystery10, didn't mean to sound as though they should understand just looking for a succinct way of putting their minds at rest that what we are doing is not going to leave their children trailing when they start school. As you say different settings do different things and Ofsted don't appear to be consistent on this which doesn't help!
     
  9. This is a really interesting thread. Common sense says that you teach/help children to learn new skills when they are developmentally ready. They do not always have to choose to do this ans many children tend to stick at what they like, never trying anything else until you present it in a way that is interesting to them. This is where we come in. Any adult working with children either in preschool or reception should know when they are developmentally ready and hopefully know them well enough to find a way to introduce new skills and concepts in a way that interests them. This black and white, do or don't do attitude is ridiculous. All children are different but all need to learn to read and write at some stage - it is up to us to get it right - the opportune moment. We can't do that if the advisors keep coming up with these unrealistic rules. Ignore them - do what you think is best for the children in your setting.
     
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  11. clear_air

    clear_air New commenter

    It is really fascinating reading about other people's experiences of teaching their children to read.
    I have a couple of comments I'd like to add to the mix - as food for thought. I'd be interested to know what other people's thoughts are.
    My experience (with child 1) is this: he has Down Syndrome (he's ten now), and, after what seemed an interminable wait in recpetion for even a book with no words so that we could look at pictures together, talk about what might be happening in the story, share a book time together etc etc,I decided to do a little bit of reading myself into teaching him to read and get the ball rolling, as it were. The evidence (such as it is) points towards children with Down's having considerable success with starting to read using a very old fashioned look and say approach (there are processing problems associated with Down's, meaning that although he knew his phonic sounds and letter correspondances, he couldn't blend them together quickly enough for him to retain any sense/meaning), so I made him a set of flash cards which could be built up into sentences (ie, mummy loves Sam) (arrr!). Initially school were very receptive to this approach, but as he went through Y1 and 2 he came home with books that were purely phonics based. He found it very difficult to see the difference between jam and jem, for instance. Reading was a grind and a battle.
    Two things got me thinking: a phonic approach is a good one, but there are SOME (I emphasise some) children in mainstream schools for whom it does not suit. Are teachers really willing to explore different ways of teaching reading when phonics has ground to a halt?
    Could it be said that relationships between teachers and parents sometimes get in the way? I am sure there was considerable gnashing of teeth in the staffroom whenever I wanted to talk about my son's reading. In my case it was because he wasn't succeeding and I was sure that he needed to take a different approach. Other parents may feel that their child is reading well and therefore needs to be getting on with it quicker than they appear to in class (I think this is what Mystery10 may be alluding to? Please correct me if I'm wrong.).
    Sorry if I've gone off the subject of the thread a bit! It's just so interesting!
     
  12. Ironically, a lady called Mona McNee founded the UK Reading Reform Foundation because she found the opposite to you with regard to her Downs Syndrome son.
    School had not taught him to read anything by the time he was seven, then Mona investigated methods for teaching reading and taught her son to read through synthetic phonics teaching.
    Mona went on to make incredible contacts throughout English-speaking countries and campaigned fearlessly for years (she still does) to achieve phonics teaching in our schools.
    I cannot comment about people's own children but I can say that there are thousands of words in reading material and it is far more sensible and easier to try to teach the alphabetic code and the blending skill than trying to teach reading word by word in a 'recognition' way.
    That does not mean that one cannot keep referring to the same words until they are recognised - but I still recommend teachers and parents do their best to teach the alphabetic code and blending skill even for children with difficulties - and don't make the assumption that a broad group - such as 'Downs Syndrome' cannot learn through phonics or are best taught by individual whole words.
    I agree that children are individuals but we have one alphabetic code and we need to work hard at making it simple and logical and systematic to teach - from simple to more complex - and persevere when we are tempted to swap to 'another method' and keep the long term view in mind.
     
  13. clear_air

    clear_air New commenter

    That's really interesting, debbiehep, thank you. It encourages me to keep plugging away with the phonics! (My approach has also been to see reading as a scaffold for my little boy's speaking - before starting to learn to read, he had very little spoken language - lots of signing but very few recognisable words or syntax.) He certainly tries to sound out words when he meets one he doesn't know - but it's more often than not something that isn't obvious!! hey ho!
    I was also interested in hearing what other people's experiences were regarding their relationships to teachers - esp in the early days, and esp when they are teachers. There have been times when I felt very shut out - difficult for me personally (I'm a bit of a control freak, I admit it!!), as a teacher (I thought I'd be able to be more involved) and as a parent-of-a-child-with-special-needs (instantly more on an emotional knife edge, been very proactive from birth ect).
    Obviously, a bit beyond the scope of this thread, but interesting, anyway.
     
  14. I have to be very careful about recommending my own 'resources' for helping people because of the old 'commercial interests' refrain.
    Where I can, I give the key resources away, the information, the alphabetic code charts - and frequenty my Early Years Starter Package - but I'd like to make a real exception for this special case.
    I genuinely think it is worth investigating the new Oxford Reading Tree Floppy's Phonics Sounds and Letters CD-ROMS for your Downs Syndrome child.
    You could at least review them to see if you think they would be helpful.
    The reason I am suggesting this in your circumstances is that the CD-ROm has lots of engaging illustrations (the Biff, Chip, Kipper type), introduces all the core elements required for systematic phonics teaching - but also has many audio buttons providing whole spoken words. Perhaps this will help with speech as well as basic phonics and oral comprehension?
    They have been designed to be used for both teacher-led introduction and for children to use easily.
    In the meantime, I'm more than happy of course to provide my EYSP resource if you think that might help too (you might already have approached me as I've received many requests this evening).
     
  15. In fact, I'll see what I can do about the CD-ROM because I would be really interested in finding out if you think it's effective in these special needs circumstances - so please do email me personally if you are interested/curious too.
     
  16. mystery10 - You're absolutely right that I tread on egg shells re the starting age for synthetic phonics teaching - but I must focus on 'settings' as opposed to individual parents.
    I discovered Jolly Phonics only by the time I had my fourth child. He learned all the letter/s-sound correspondences fluently of the basic code when he was three and a half - virtually self-taught from watching the videos.
    He could blend and segment multi-sound words easily. He would blend words like 'frog' and then hop around the room!
    But, he was not the least bit interested in applying his skills to be able to read independently. I was very laid back about him gaining an interest in reading and writing at his own pace.
    What worries me is that teachers will allow 'whole language' to kick in for the quicker-to-learn children if we don't inform parents and early years providers thoroughly about synthetic phonics teaching and the dangers of multi-cueing guessing becoming the dominant habit.
    Too often I have seen the children who most needed to blend habitually be the very children who are guessing habitually - even when they are perfectly able to blend.
    This is exacerbated by the use of books which require lots of guessing in the early days. Yes, the children 'get through' the books, but they also develop reading reflexes which can really damage some children forever.
    Other children end up being just fine - like me, and 'you', and other literate people who had mixed methods, perhaps learned at mother's knee and have gone on to deduce code for ourselves without even realising it. That's probably the profile of most of us.
    But, we are class teachers and providers and we must stay focused on what does not damage children and find a way to support parents with very quick to learn children and to support parents of very slow-to-learn children.
    My overarching message for providers/teachers of large numbers of children is to find the 'best moment' starting point for all the children - but with a two-pronged approach to phonics teaching they can provide the systematic, planned programme and incidental phonics teaching to differentiate for all the children.
     
  17. clear_air

    clear_air New commenter

    I've sent you an email.
     
  18. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    michelleharri66
    Perhaps your children went through the same school mine are at!!
    NGedge
    I might be talking complete rubbish here, but I wonder when you say that your son benefitted more from a sight word approach that in reality you were doing the extra phonics practice at home that he really needed, but in the context of whole words, if you see what I mean.
    So, if you worked on him with the word "jam" and helped him therefore distinguish it from the word jem, but by lots of repetition, you were giving him the frequent practice he needed to decode "jam" through sounding and blending (silently in his head possibly) until it became automatic to him to read the word jam.
    Also, I think sometimes people think that their child has done years of phonics and should know it by now. But do you know how much phonics teaching your child is actually receiving each day at school, and how good it is?
    I have now realised that I was deluded with DD1 into thinking that she had done far more, far more often, and covered far more sounds than I thought she had in both reception and Year 1.
    As she was getting bored with the easy sight word reading books that were sent home, I moved her on bit by bit onto harder ones and her reading really improved. But effectively I was kind of teaching her the phonic patterns she had not been taught thorougly at school through reading sight word reading scheme books at home. I realise now that this was not the smoothest way of doing it. At times I was convinced she must be dyslexic(!), now I realise she did rather well at surviving the confusing mish-mash provided by school and me.
    Having said that, I am sure there might be children who for some reason or other cannot learn to read efficiently via synthetic phonics and there will be other methods that will work faster for them. And maybe then a return to the phonics will help (or not). Reading is a complex brain process and I don't think it is fully understood by psychologists or neurologists. So I'm sure at the end of the day if the best attempts ever at teaching a child via phonics fails, it has to be fine to try something else! Unless maybe you have a feeling that it is just taking much longer, and more practice is required, and best to continue on a slow and interesting path through learning by phonics. Now that there are so many more decodable readers around it must be possible to provide a wide variety of reading matter and maintaining interest while taking a slower path to the fabulous end result of being able to read what you want to read.
    I also think how visual a thinker you are makes a big difference. DD1 definitely learns using "pictures" so as a beginner reader she was quick to commit a word to memory that she had initially worked out through sounding and blending. But she was more likely to make mistakes of the jam / jem variety. A few pages of Toe by Toe helped her quickly see that she could improve her accuracy by concentrating harder, and maybe she then used a bit less (false) memory and a bit more accurate phonic decoding.
    DD2 is less of a visual thinker, so will sound out and blend the same words again and again for she achieves automaticity with them (I hate that word), but is far less likely to make the jam / jem error. But in my experience with both DDs, the jam / jem type error still can occur from time to time even when they can decode far more complex words than that, and know a large variety of digraphs and trigraphs. I'm hoping and assuming that it is just a feature of children learning to read (and notice that as an adult from time to time I still will misread a word ........ and I'm definitely not dyslexic!!)

     

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