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Children who don't retain phonics teaching

Discussion in 'Primary' started by modgepodge, Oct 3, 2015.

  1. modgepodge

    modgepodge Established commenter

    I am really struggling with a small group of children in my year group who I teach phonics to. There are 8 of them who I'm teaching phase 3 to, and they are year 4. They are generally fine with single letters and consonant digraphs, and ee and oo. However, they just do not retain other vowel digraphs. We have so far done ai, ar, or, igh, oa - and they get it in the lesson. They can read and write words containing the digraph taught. However, when we come back to it later in the week or the following week they just don't remember and get them all confused.

    These children were (presumably) taught phase 3 in the infant school, and were definitely taught it daily for almost all of year 3, by a strong teacher. I previously taught ks1 so I know my phonics knowledge and teaching is fine. So why aren't they retaining it and how can I help them??

    I am following the progression in the planning from phonicsplay, though not following the plans exactly as I find the plans a bit 'young' (as they are written for reception children!) I do a mix of games, worksheets, reading and writing words on whiteboards, flash cards etc. We do 25mins 4x per week and I have me and a TA.

    ANy suggestions would be much appreciated!!
  2. lindenlea

    lindenlea Star commenter

    Bribe them with sweets,
  3. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I'd suggest starting by assessing what they actually know and plan my teaching to match their actual needs rather than following phonics play sequence which may or may not be relevant to the group.

    Children still working on phase 3 can't read or write beyond cvc level is this the case for these children?
  4. Kartoshka

    Kartoshka Established commenter

    If they are getting them all confused, I think it might be wise to stop trying to teach them all and just focus on one. If all they learn in phonics between now and Christmas is that o-r says 'or', you will be better off than keeping plugging away at all of them and them retaining nothing. You might find that once they get one, it will be easier for the others to be remembered. Or maybe not.
  5. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Do you know which sounds/ spellings each child knows/doesn't know?
    How long do you spend on each set of sounds?
    When do you move on?
    Do you teach phonics through the games on Phonics Play?
  6. modgepodge

    modgepodge Established commenter

    Ok, some good points.

    All children were assessed on phase 3 and 4 in early September, admittedly not a full assessment (90 in the year group!) but a simple spelling test from phonicsplay showed these 8 needed phase 3 (they got between 2 and 5 out of 10 on words like box, ship, goat, fight). They generally know all the consonants, and were ok at consonant digraphs like /sh/. They knew very few vowel digraphs. I can't completely individualise the teaching so went with best fit, and started at the opint in phase 3 where vowel digraphs get introduced.

    I adapt the teaching, so for example one lesson we were supposed to do /oo/. Within 30 seconds it became apparent they all knew that sound so we moved on to the next one.

    With regards to only being able to do CVC words - they have previously been taught phase 4 and most can blend some consonants together, however with such huge gaps in knowledge of phase 3 sounds it seemed best to start there?

    With regards to how long I spend on each set of sounds - the phonics play plans are generally around 2-3 sounds per week, then I do a revision lesson covering everything taught so far and some sentence writing every 10 days or so. I don't use the games much, as it's a small group I'm not in a classroom so don't have an IWB.
  7. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I really wouldn't rely on phonics play ...if you only have eight children I would accurately assess their current phonic knowledge http://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/schoolsnet/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=34387&p=0
    With regard to only reading cvc words if they are only scoring between 2-5/10 for the words you mention they aren't secure yet with cvc
    How long are you spending on each sound?

    Does the school not have a phonics programme in place?
  8. modgepodge

    modgepodge Established commenter

    The school is a junior school, so no phonics program in place previously as really it shouldn't be necessary! (Other than as an intervention.) However, it is, due to reasons I can only guess at at the local infant school. Due to large numbers of children in y3 and y4 having such poor reading and spelling skills, last year phonics was introduced across those year groups, and has continued this year. We were advised to use phonics play (and adapt as necessary) simply because many junior teachers aren't secure in their own subject knowledge to be planning their own lessons based on just letters and sounds - plus I've used phonicsplay in the past and it has some good activities and at least has some sort of progression/order to teach the sounds in. I don't believe on reinventing the wheel - it's a scheme which makes sure I'm covering everything, suggests words and activities, and as I say, I adapt if children can already do sounds, and spend extra time on revision. I spend a whole lesson on one sound, and teach 2-3 per week, spending extra lessons revising previously tush sounds (as well as doing this T the start of each lesson.)

    I honestly don't think more assessment is necessary at this stage - I know what they can and can't do. They CAN read and spell Cvc words, such as dog, cat, cup, chip, and also CVCC words like flag, milk, cats, and can have a good go at 2-syllable words like zigzag and market. They CANT read and spell words involving vowel digraphs like oa, ai, ur, ar, because they don't retain them. I teach one, they can read and write it, a few days later it's gone. Even with constant revision. This is what I need help with :(

    I'm definitely teaching stuff they need, cos they can't do it. I don't think it's way way way too hard. If they can spell got, surely goat isn't out of their reach once they are taught oa? And they can....temporarily!
  9. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I disagree.
  10. natbar

    natbar New commenter

    I like to teach mine a little cheat! I tell them that it is a sneaky secret and that it doesn't work for all of them so they need to check. First I teach them what a vowel is, next what a vowel digraph is. Then we learn a trick that seems to be big in America, when 2 vowels go walking the first one does the talking and says its name (oa, oe, ie, ue, ee, ea, ai). We find the vowel digraphs in words then check if our sneaky cheat works. It cuts down the number of phonemes they need to instantly recall as they have a rule to follow.
    It work well when you move onto split digraphs as they already know the rule and phoneme well and understand that it is still the two vowels walking. If you google it there are lots of songs etc to support. I know it's not letters and sounds way of doing it but it has worked well for the past 4 years when supporting can finding so many phonemes difficult to remember!
  11. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    The "two vowels go out walking" came from Jolly Phonics and is one of those "rules" that is particularly useless as so many vowel digraphs don't "say their name"!

    The ea in great?
    The ea in head
    The ou in soup?
    The ou in you?
    The ei in vein?
    The oi in boil?
    The ai in said?
    Etc etc etc ... I'm sure you get the picture.
  12. languageisheartosay

    languageisheartosay Occasional commenter

  13. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I would recommend focusing on one sound and not moving onto the next until children are secure whether that means one lesson, one week or longer.
    The programme we use throughout the school from nursery to Y6 (all pupils not just as an intervention) focuses on single sounds but teaches alternative spellings together. So when teaching /ae/ sound children are taught ai, ay, ea and a-e (ey & eigh) spellings in Y1 and the other alternatives in Y2. We find this very effective.

    You don't need an IWB or games to teach phonics.
  14. teach321

    teach321 New commenter

    Spend at least a week on one sound e.g. 'oa'. Get them to say the sound, write the sound, read words with the sound, write the words with the sound. Write sentences with the words, sort words that have 'oa' from those that have 'oe' 'oi' 'ea' (use made up words so they are really looking for the 'oa' grapheme. 'rainbow write' words (i.e write the word in one colour, go over it in a different colour and repeat). Get them to say each letter as they write it. Write it in sand or shaving foam. Write it using plasticine, Trace the plasticine with a finger whilst saying the letter names. Make the vowels out of different colours and ask them to close their eyes and picture the colours whilst tracing it in the air. Read it, say it, write it. REPEAT.... lots.

    Do look, say, cover, write, check with the words (though make sure they are actually saying it and covering it).

    Get them to draw a silly picture with the 'sound family' at the beginning of the week (e.g. a goat in a boat wearing a coat and eating some toast) with the 'oa' letters in the picture - ask them to visualise the picture (close their eyes and remember it - ask them to remember the colours/shapes/patterns then open their eyes and look at it to see if they are correct) and say a sentence to go with it. Then re-draw the picture, labelling the words.

    Ask the children to write the words in large writing on a chalk board with the vowels in a different colour. Or to 'speed write' the word as many times as possible in a given time (kinaesthetic memory). Say the sound with an action (jolly phonics style, but get them to decide on the action).

    Give them a blank wordsearch grid for them to write oa words (from left to right only to aid tracking) and then fill in with other letters, swap wordsearches so they can scan from left to right and find their partners oa words.

    Overlearning/repetition/multisensory/repetition is key.

    Then draw the silly picture on a small card for them to use as a revision aid and to visualise and rewrite the following the week when they then do the same for the next digraph. Test them on the 'oa' sound by asking them to write a couple of simple dictated sentences. If they don't remember how to write the 'oa' in these, don't introduce the next digraph yet. Repeat above until they've got it.
    sirenne likes this.
  15. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Yes, break free from your programme that isn't working and tailor-make something that does - it's interesting repetition that's the key.

    But I'm not clear about a few things that you are saying - and they bring back some misunderstandings I've seen arise several times ..... they might not be relevant but just think I had better say.

    Teacher teaches 'oa' makes long o sound as in goat and boat. Works on reading and spelling a limited number of examples. Then a few days later announces the child has not understood because they spell goat as gote or gowt or got etc. Is this what is happening? If it is, it is not misunderstanding or forgetting the phonics teaching, it is just that you are expecting them to know the correct vowel digraph for that particular word. I've noticed that some teachers seem to think that it's obvious in some way which of the choice of same sounding vowel digraph spelling should be used in which word and that if the child doesn't know in some random spelling test they send them furrther back in the scheme again.

    If it's not this kind of issue with the vowel digraphs where there are several spelling alternatives for the same sound, please can you tell us how you test both their reading and spelling of 'oa' a few days later which makes you feel that they have completely forgotten all aspects of your teaching. It seems unlikey that it has all completely gone, more that your assessment is not sufficiently fine tuned to work out what elements have gone, what elements have been retained and how to work out what to do next to move on towards "mastery".

    The thing that strikes me as really weird is you saying that they are ok with consonant digraphs and not with vowel digraphs. It makes me think there is some figment of either the teaching or the assessment which is producing such a strange end result. I can't think that there would be anything special about this group of children's brains which made consonant digraphs possible to learn and vowel digraphs impossible to learn.

    What do this group of children read? Have you got a reading scheme for them which fits progressively with the GPCs you are teaching them? If not, they're losing out. How much time do you get each day / week with this group? How do they access the curriculum if their reading is this poor? (reception / year 1)
  16. brambles25

    brambles25 New commenter

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