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Helping children who struggle to apply phonic knowledge?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by Msz, Dec 10, 2012.

  1. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    The national literacy strategy was never statutory and it didn't have "tricky words"
  2. 'Learning' a tricky word isn't incompatible with phonics. It can be done by sounding out and blending. 'Learning' it as a 'whole' with flash cards is incompatible with phonics.
    I get the impression that parents want spelling lists because it appears to them that their children aren't learning to spell.

  3. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    and because they've been told these words aren't decodable so they have to be learnt ...many, many schools are still using the old 45 hfws as spellings
  4. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Why couldn't a spelling list of some sort be worked into the "home part" of a good synthetic phonics programme and "done well" at home by the parents with the child with the right sort of instructions from school?
    Although I don't think much of the thought which has not gone into the spelling lists we receive, I still think it's better than no lists at all as it does appear to me that my children are not learning to spell - other than through osmosis from reading and the occasional bit of red ink from the teacher. I use the lists at home as best I can in an "SP" sort of way and add in a bit of grammar and suffixes and prefixes and a bit of seasoning.
    I am not sure that our school gives them out in response to parental pressure ...... it certainly does not seem that way from the kind of dialogue I have had with them about spellings lists. I'm sure some schools do though.
  5. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I would hope that's what is happening mystery. Words containing the spellings for the sound the child is learning in class. Identify the spelling that represents the chosen sound in words, sort them by the different spellings, use them in sentences and read them in text. Reading and writing them in as many contexts as possible.
  6. When any learner wants to write, or is asked to write, then the learner has to turn the spoken words (including when these are silently thought about) into a written word.
    The vast, vast majority of people - break up the words into some form of units of sound and then turn those sounds into letters and letter groups - of some description.
    This is a phonics skill.
    In terms of knowledge, the person who wants to write needs to know which letters, or letter groups to turn the sounds into. This takes experience.
    That experience can come from no help from teaching for some learners. Many adults have few memories, if any, of being taught phonics explicitly, or very fully. However, from reading experience and various other observations of print, or perhaps some form of word list lessons or practice, some of the learners are able to become competent spellers.
    Rose points out in his Rose Report (2006) that children should not be left 'to ferret out' the alphabetic code for themselves -and this is the case for reading or for spelling.
    Basically, many of us 'ferreted out' the alphabetic code for ourselves - be it through the kind of phonics thumbie often refers to such as onset and rime - or analogy - we were pretty independent in the doing of it. And we're the lucky ones because we can spell - often the great contribution to this may have been lots of literature experience at home and not just at school.
    Some adults, perhaps many, aren't even aware of the phonics skill they automatically apply to spelling.
    Nowadays, we are doing something really very exciting - and people may have 'blinked' and failed to notice well enough just how exciting it is - that we are teaching children VERY EXPLICITLY how to identify the sounds all-through-the-spoken-words and how to turn these sounds into letters and letter groups. This is phonics. It reflects the spelling skill that many, if not most, literate adults use without even noticing they are doing it.
    Now, the development of that is bringing in the notion of 'spelling alternatives' and everyone who follows the TES forums know that I promote the notion of a main visual aid - the Alphabetic Code Chart - to support understanding of this notion.
    So, the learner is trained to identify the sounds all-through-the-spoken-word and then know, or ask for help, or look in a dictionary, to find out 'which spelling alternative' is required for the words.
    This is a step in the right direction for raising awareness for spelling - and it is part of 'phonics' teaching without a doubt.
    Then, the supporting adults need to maintain the focus on this and give the learners plenty of support incidentally, and plenty of specific teaching - to pay attention to individual words and to group spelling word banks by their common sounds and spelling alternatives. This can be done through a number of routes - activities associated with memorable pictures, and story themes, and memory games of word associations and visual aids of spelling word banks, and spelling activities of sifting and sorting.
    In my view, this is still part of any good phonics teaching as it is still about the skill of identifying sounds through spoken words - and the learner being aware that they need to learn which spellings for the various words.
    Whilst some children do have near photographic memories and can pick spelling up remarkably well over the lifespan of school, for example, many others can't (as masha points out over and again) and thus, the teachers need to teach spelling as well as they can.
    Now, where does the phonics bit drop out of the equation for this?
    The additonal memory activities? The focusing on story themes and illustrations which group together certain words by association? The looking at word banks and focusing on the meaning of the words and any words within the word banks which do have unusual spellings?
    So, as all these things are within the resources I design and my guidance - which part of this should I pick out to teachers and say, 'Now pay attention, this is no longer phonics teaching so let's not pretend it is'?
    Even the phonics teaching for reading will support the teaching of spelling - as learners become so much more able to be attentive to the words - they see the ingredients of the words so much more clearly because of the phonics teaching. There is a relationship between teaching the alphabetic code for reading, and for spelling, and it all contributes to basic literacy skills.
    So, how would others teach spelling then?
  7. It can be, yes. It may not be a synthetics phonic skill, as it may depend not on identifying phoneme by phoneme but identifying syllable by syllable or blend by blend. Additionally, it may not be a phonics skill at all but a memory of a complete short word, such as 'I' for instance, or 'the'.
    Yes, experience and teaching give the child knowledge of possible alternative GPCs offered by the english language, experience of seeing, reading and writing whole words repeatedly tells him which alternative belongs in the word in question.
    It is not purely phonics skill which enables children to spell correctly, whether learnt through explicit instruction or through implicit familiarisation. It is familiarisation with words which enables correct spelings, which may be supported by exposure to words through phonics instruction but which is not taught explicitly by phonics instruction. In making phonics completely explicit by teaching GPCs and not teaching words, the explicit teaching of words has been lost (see maizie's comment about 'tricky words' above - teaching them as words is not phonics and therefore does not conform to SP teaching)
    No, they need to learn to spell the words. Sorting into groups by GPC may help, but in the final analysis they must know the words. Concentrating on the GPCs removes attention from the word to a fragment within it. This difference of emphasis is important. This is similar to fluency in reading, when the reader stops sounding out the phonemes because they have learnt the word
    Yes, by teaching the words.
    You do it at the point when you say, "Of course, it is not enough for children to know all the GPCs. For spelling, they have to know which words contain which GPCs, and they do that by knowing, recognising and remembering words."
    By making sure that children are exposed to a wide vocabulary through their reading and other activities; by teaching them how to check spellings and encouraging it; through word family investigations and giving practice in writing target words in context through dictation; through encouraging children to develop a sense of what looks right; through providing key sentences and phrases for young children to use in their writing with emphasis on correct spelling of common words, with mnemonic strategies etc etc.... phonics would have its place and be kept in its place.

  8. Or another way of looking at it is that good spellers have just learned how to spell various words or have remembered various spellings. People like me, who were taught via Look & Say often don't break words down at all, especially familiar words. I don't spell the words Tuesday and Wednesday the way that I spell them because I break them down into sounds. I spell them the way that I do because I know how to spell them.
  9. LOL! You certainly work very hard, thumbie to keep phonics 'in its place'.
    Even when children are taught basic literacy through 'look and say', it doesn't mean that they haven't 'ferreted out' on their own, some version of alphabetic code - often without realising it.
    I think you're not bearing in mind, either, that we are talking about thousands of words here. I totally agree that we need to read words, study words, learn specific words, pay attention to word banks, practise writing words in and out of context and so on.
    If I gave you a long, made-up word that you had never encountered before, I wonder how you would spell it?
    You also don't seem to take into account that many words are extremely straightforward to spell and not necessarily challenging. Phonics enables learners to read and spell many words they have not read, or written, before.
    This is where people may challenge phonics because learners write words with invented spelling in the sense that they may not apply the 'exact' alphabetic code of the real word. Nevertheless, they are enormously empowered to express themselves independently.
    Then, the point is, that the teachers' job is to keep on teaching the advanced code and keep providing activities and practice to continuously promote attention to the details in specific words and to spell accurately - and to encourage the learner to want to spell accurately.
    What teachers also need to consider is how most effectively to do this. Many teachers have simply not been trained in teaching spelling, nor marking for spelling. We have a generation - or more - of teachers who have not had explicit teaching of the alphabetic code when they were children, nor have they been trained in the alphabetic code knowledge and skills when they were trained to be teachers.
    Thus, such people may have a bias against phonics teaching because they state that they didn't need phonics - were not taught that way - didn't need phonics to become literate and so on.
    The bias is also possible because, as teachers, they've never previously taught with explicit phonics teaching for reading or spelling to the level that might be promoted currently - thus it might make them feel criticised for their past teaching or their view on their own current teaching.
    There ARE many ways for children to become literate - for reading and for spelling - but we are dealing with many children in our classes and a complex code. It is important, I suggest, to increase our knowledge of the alphabetic code and teaching reading and spelling to the best of our ability and to the greatest advantage of all the children.
    I wasn't taught to read through explicit phonics teaching, or taught to spell in the way that I advocate - and I became literate like so many other people - but I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the methods I used and developed further during my teaching career and teacher-training career are very much better than the ones I experienced as a child and the ways that I taught originally through instinct and childhood experiences.
    Somtimes it is very difficult to for people to transcend their childhood experiences and their early teaching experiences. Clearly.
  10. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    but that is exactly what we teach children to do with phonics thumbie ...reading and spelling single syllable words sound by sound and polysyllabic words syllable by syllable
  11. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    People who have been taught with phonics don't break down familiar words either but they have a tool when they have to write a less familar word.
  12. Yes, Debbie, thousands of words, and remarkably we do remember the correct spellings, because being exposed to them continually we find it rather difficult to spell them wrong. Of course, there are some notably dodgy ones such as accommodation, definitely, manoeuvre. Phonics will give you a little, but not enough, help with those. Will phonics tell you when to write 'practice' and when 'practise'? I somehow learnt those through grammar, not through phonics. I think you might be trying to imagine what I am like when you write about teachers who are reluctant to embrace change and feel undermined by being encouraged to adopt something different from their own experience. But I could say the same thing about you, Debbie! Your vested interests in promoting phonics are far greater than any vested interests I might have on coming on here and pointing out a few uncomfortable truths. As I have said many, many times before, I am a great believer in phonics; I don't see how anyone can say they 'don't believe' in phonics - they would have to be totally bananas. Before I became a teacher I supported my own children in learning to read using phonics. Also in learning when to use stationary and stationery as they didn't seem to teach it at school, when to write it's and its etc etc, none of which involved remembering a detail of phonics.Well time flies and Christmas approaches.
  13. Every competent reader has an internatlised database of a few thousand-word sight vocabulary. This sight vocabulary not only enables the reader to read these few thousand words instantly without decoding but also serves to read all similarly constructed words. Where the word 'round' has been visually internalised, less familiar words such as found, bound, hound, ground, sound etc can also be read instantly. It would be very rare for a competent adult reader, however they were taught to read, to have to decipher an unfamiliar word grapheme by grapheme but even in such rare cases, the internalised sight vocabulary is their most productive resource.
    The very fact of reading competence, however it was acquired, is a demonstration of the mastery of the grapheme-phoneme correspondences. It matters not one iota HOW mastery of grapheme-phoneme correspondences are acquired - it matters only that they are acquired.
    This is the case in all orthography whether alphabet based or not. In Chinese where there is only words and no grapheme/phoneme correspondences, the average Chinese person has an internalised sight vocabulary of some 5000 characters/words but is able to read a great many more. The character for the word 'garage' consists of the concatenated characters for 'car' and 'room' which will exist in their sight vocabulary. Similarly, the twice concatenated character for 'tree' carries the meaning 'forest'.
    The brains of those of us who have alphabet-based orthographies are indentical to the brains of those with an ideogrammatic orthography - they are pattern-seeking organs in both cases and in both cases store eidetic images which they access during reading.

  14. thumbie - I can't understand why you would think that I might suggest in the slightest way that teachers aren't ALSO teaching grammar, word pecularities - and so on.
    On the contrary, I encourage teachers to teach grammar from the outset of teaching phonics - not just as a notion of 'Phase Six' which many teachers think they have to do.
    I work hard to promote the notion of 'Phase Six' as coming after children learning the complex code of 'Phase Five' (of Letters and Sounds) as a really flawed notion.
    Are people really suggesting that six year olds will have learnt all the alphabetic code, or need to have learnt all the alphabetic code, before they encounter prefixes, suffixes - which involve singular/plural, verb endings and so on and various spelling patterns?
    I suggest that teachers should be drip-feeding those things in long, long before the time related to 'Phase Six' (which many people seem to associate with Year Two) - in fact I suggest from when they start formal, planned teaching of a phonics programme! This is when they start paying more attention to the words in books - making links with the spoken language and the letters.
    You see, when we do start to unpick the nature of what you might consider to be good teaching and what I might consider to be good teaching, maybe it illustrates that we cannot (neither of us) jump to conclusions.
    You appear to get so preoccupied by the idea of it's 'not just phonics' - and I keep saying, 'Yes, it's not just phonics' - and I also keep saying that within a phonics programme of work we are paying attention to at least some of those things you mention as being something you suggest that I don't promote.
    In other words, mistakenly at least to an extent, you make presumptions about what I promote within, and beyond, a phonics programme of work.
    Re your 'vested interests' comment: Here is my interest in the work that I do pretty much day and night: - I would like children to get taught the best they can be taught in basic literacy stuff because I know that it is 'life chance' stuff - particularly for children who don't get the same leg-up in the world as others.
    I am indignant on behalf of teachers and parents that there have been periods of time when such basic common sense stuff as teaching the English alphabetic code and requisite skills near disappeared largely because they were rejected by people with great influence which has caused untold damage to education (therefore life chances) for many (not only in England but in other English-speaking countries).
    So I work very hard to support teachers and parents in the job of teaching the children - and helping older people who didn't get the right kind of information and teaching in the first place.
    Most people nowadays seem to be of the ilk of what I've mentioned on this thread several times before, 'OK, we do need phonics, BUT...'
    So, good, we are in agreement, at least, that we do need phonics - so then perhaps what is relevant to the discussion is to the quality and content of the phonics teaching.
    The original question of this thread relates directly to an appeal for information about applying phonics for spelling. My aim on this thread was to encourage teachers to teach phonics during planned sessions and during incidental teaching - and to be mindful of the quality and content of their visual display - to include spelling word bank work and posters and to teach spelling really hard as a continuum.
    And that is my position regarding this thread.

  15. I dont think there is anyone on this thread or on any other thread who doubts your sincerity or your commitment to having SP properly taught in schools and that is an entirely praiseworthy endeavour whichyou do well. What is in doubt is your seeming dedication to the exclusivity of phonics viz that the phonics correspondences can be acquired by vitually all children by ritual teaching of these correspondences alone.
    Your commitment to the exclusivity of phonics is challenged intellectually and not simply emotionally, not only by those on this thread but by the pioneers of synthetic phonics who, although committed to SP, distance themselves completely from your philosophical stance.
    A teacher from N. Lincs has just posted a message on the Senco forum under the heading Perceptual Learning - I do not know this teacher but if you read her post you will see that she is sufficiently open-minded to commit to using this perceptual learning approach with the small number of children who have not responded well to a purely phonics approach in every year group from Year 2 to Year 6 throughout the school.
    What would you say to this teacher? Don't use perceptual learing with these children - just keep going with synthetic phonics exercises and they will get it eventually! Clearly this school ( and many others 'I could quote) don't share this incredible belief. The children they teach seem to be very happy that they can now read and write more confidently which is after all, the main purpose of education.

  16. In the past, Eddie, you very kindly sent me some of your earlier material. I am not disinterested in your findings and I do not have a closed mind contrary to your belief.
    I don't know anything about your up-to-date project - but my impression is that it is still based on children, via the computer, reading stories/text with options for voice-over and highlighting the words being read?
    Is this still the case?
    If it is, it seems to me that this will give children opportunities of exposure to text which they can enjoy, access independently, and which will give them extra time and attention to printed words, spoken words - and how these link - to story themes - to feeling satisfied with their activities and achievements.
    All of these things may contribute in a positive way, for a number of reasons, and there are some teachers who are describing positive benefits to these activities.
    I don't really understand what you mean by 'perceptual learning' and I don't recognise that these children would have been failed by phonics even if they are struggling with phonics teaching and learning compared to their peers.
    However, you have always maintained, which I'm pleased to see, that phonics is important teaching - perhaps not an either/or scenario. And if I understand you correctly, you suggest that your resources provide an extra boost effect as an intervention - and you are not suggesting it as a 'main diet'.
    Where I am not convinced is if the suggestion is that the children would need it as an 'instead of phonics' or that they have necessarily had the most effective phonics teaching possible from year to year - as they required.
    I note that the teachers taking part in your projects are often teachers of older children. Even in the schools that I know of who are now doing the kind of phonics I suggest, the teachers describe that their pupils in Key Stage 2 are not nearly so good with phonics as the younger pupils who have had a much more comprehensive phonics experience. Thus, I think it is still possibly a sign of the times that older pupils are weaker not necessarily because of the phonics teaching, or that the phonics teaching didn't suit them, but because we are developing our phonics teaching to become better over time. Some children, then, have missed out at least to an extent when they were younger - and not all schools and teachers are equipped well enough to continue with phonics teaching, as required, in Key Stage Two.
    Also, my findings are that Key Stage Two teachers are very keen to get training in the synthetic phonics teaching principles so that they can understand more about it for their own professional development, to know how to build on their colleagues' previous phonics teaching - and how to support children who are weaker, or slower-to-learn as those children move up the school.
    Thus, I would be worried if in the promotion of your perceptual learning concept you were suggesting that such children should not (also) get some good phonics intervention according to their needs - or that they should not get supported in their spelling with phonics code knowledge and the oral segmenting skill.
    In other words, my concern is whether you are advocating your exercises 'instead of' good phonics teaching, or 'as well as' good phonics teaching - and how you stand on whether the slower-to-become literate children need a different diet and not phonics. I would not be happy with such a suggestion I must admit.

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