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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

    Do you get her to correct the words every time she spells them incorrectly or just tell her and highlight them?
    There aren't any real rules for any English spellings as masha will no doubt point out she just needs to recall which spelling of the "or" sound to use and that comes with lots of exposure to the correct spelling.
    all the research suggests that learning spellings lists for a weekly test has little impact on spelling in writing.

  2. Perhaps you could do a little key ring arrangement with a set of those words which she always spells incorrectly attached. Give her some dictation exercises which include the words, tell her you want her to get those words right and she needs to find them on her key ring and copy them each time. When she is getting them right every time remove them from the key ring, tell her she can now spell them and you expect her to get them right every time. If you highlight the wrong spelling it might be almost reinforcing that spelling. Maybe highlight when she gets one of her personal key words right and make a big deal out of success. I think this problem is about unlearning a habit and the more you draw attention to a habit the more you reinforce it. So it might be helpful to think of it as a behaviour problem rather than a spelling or phonics problem (I don't mean it's a bad behaviour, just that it's habitual).
  3. moonpenny

    moonpenny Occasional commenter

    This rang alarm bells for me. Do you have a SENCo who could run a memory type assessment on her such as WRAML?
    "More specifically, performance on the Attention/Concentration Index is correlated with performance on everyday tasks (e.g., remembering a dictated telephone number until it can be written down, remembering visual details of a highway sign or a billboard that one has driven by in the car).
    Related academic tasks can include learning phonetically irregular spelling words and following the specific details and/or a sequence of oral directions. "
    If she has some SpLD difficulties, it could be a more multisensory/cumulative approach could help her to retain and apply the focus of the sessions - she may appear to be successfully processing the content of the session but at a vital point the newly information acquired is not being retained well enough for her to apply it in her writing - the information is being lost.
    Sounds as though she is going to need more consolidation on this teaching point before moving on to the next one - the tricky thing is doing this without stilting her writing/frustrating her - an age old dilemma.
  4. It's not quite that bad. Some spellings are fairly consistent. Most consonant spellings have few exceptions, although doubled consonants in longer words are completely unpredictable (very merry). The /b/ sound has no exceptions at all, short /a/ only three (plaid, plait, meringue)
    http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.com/2009/12/rules-and-exceptions-of-english.html and when they occur in little used words, they are not major impediments to literacy progress.

    Some others by contrast, like the /au/ sound, have so many exceptions
    au: sauce – caught, bought, always, tall, crawl (44 au – 76 assorted others)
    that all words with that sound have to be memorised one by one
    For speakers of standard UK English things are even worse, because stressed /or/ has the same sound too and as an ending its spelling is a complete mess too
    or: order – board, court; wart, quart – worn, quorn (188 – 16)
    -ore: more – soar, door, four, war, swore, abhor (23 – 17 + 12 –aw/awe in UK).
    For some children this can be absolutely maddening, and I am not sure whether correcting all their misspellings is helpful. My son who is now a uni scientist was one of them. I advised him not to worry about the stupid spellings when he was writing a story, as long as the words he wrote were legible, because eventually, if he wrote a lot, he would get most of them right (and he does). He wrote really good stories, much better than most of the pupils I taught who spelt very well, and I did not want his problems with stupid spellings to get in the way of that.
    The point I keep trying to make is that words which keep tripping pupils up (in reading and writing) are almost invariably ones which have silly spellings. For weak spellers, it can be helpful for teachers to acknowledge this. Phonics teaching would be far more successful if it wasn't for the spellings which are so irregular that they don't really have a pattern at all:
    [/b]: sauce – caught, bought, always, tall, crawl (44 – 76)
    <u>er</u>: her &ndash; turn, bird, learn, word, journey (70 &ndash; 124) [/b]: eat &ndash; eel, even, ceiling, field, police, people, me, key, ski, debris, quay (152ea &ndash; 304 others)

    Consonant doubling for showing short, stressed vowels
    merry (regular) &ndash; very(missing) &ndash; serrated(surplus) - (381 &ndash; 439 &ndash; 153)
    Irregular spellings in very common words (said, many, friend) impede progress significantly too even if there are not huge numbers of exceptions to the main spelling pattern for them
    <u>e</u>: end &ndash; head, any, said, Wednesday, friend, leisure, leopard, bury (301 &ndash; 67),
    especially if they cause reading difficulties as well (head - to read, any - and, friend - fiend).
    (Sorry about the erratic changes in font size.)
  5. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    but saw is phonetically regular [​IMG]
  6. moonpenny

    moonpenny Occasional commenter

    <a name="Irregular__High_Frequency_Words">[/URL]Irregular, High Frequency Words
    These are high frequency words which cannot be decoded easily, at this stage in a child&rsquo;s learning. They require two skills: phoneme knowledge and visual memory for the &ldquo;tricky&rdquo; part.. ... reminds children that they must use their visual memory by taking a &lsquo;picture&rsquo; in their mind of the part that cannot be easily decoded.
    I think this child is relying on her phonic skills to sound out the word " saw" as "sor" and is not remembering how it looks and which choice to make hence my concern that she may have some working memory difficulties.
    So in this way the word "saw" is much harder to remember tha the word "sat" which can be spelt with only one phonetic choice so less chance of making the wrong choice.
    Later on kids like this are faced with more and more choice when they spell words and the demand on the working memory is increased even more so better to pick it up now and be aware of it. My suggestion was to assess the potential difficulty not to assume it was there beforehand - that is the point of assessments.
    No need to be rude. I find it very off putting to post on these threads as you get jumped on like a ton of bricks.
  7. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    I'm sure a lot of that is true about some children finding it harder than others to commit the correct spelling to long term memory. I,m not clear that would be a working memory issue but that is just a technicality. My gut feeling is that the op's. example would be fairly commonplace and is the reason why so much repetition needs to be built in.

    Cat could be cat or kat or Catt or katt or c k a t t or c k a t for the child who thinks of all alternatives. Children have probably seen tis word many more times than saw before they get to the stage of thinking about spelling alternatives.

    The children who walked out of the lesson spelling saw correctly whenever they write probably for the most part did so already.
  8. moonpenny

    moonpenny Occasional commenter

    Take a look at this,Vanadesse
    "Consequently, each word appeared as a new item to her that she
    laboriously decoded phoneme by phoneme rather than decoding by
    ANALOGY for lists such as &lsquo;cat, fat, mat, sat, and hat' where just the
    fi rst phoneme needed to be changed.'p41

    Teachers will recognise children in their class who read in this laboured
    and pedantic way and must ensure that they move away from this
    overdependence on decoding at the phoneme level.

    they may experience memory and retrieval difficulties
    which manifest in dysfluent reading and phonetically plausible spelling
    If these spelling errors are repeated and written several times
    they may become embedded in memory or continued dependence
    on encoding by sound may result in long term spelling diffi culties.

    Teachers will also recognise children in their class who are good
    readers and poor spellers. This group of children do not know whether
    a spelling looks right.
    Their diffi culties in spelling confound teachers
    because they fail to understand why children misspell words that
    they can read.
    Unfortunately some children experience diffi culties
    in spelling long after reading diffi culties are remediated and these
    spelling diffi culties can become lifelong (Trieman 1997, Frith 1980).


    1. Ensure spellings are consistent in the sounds they make and visual
    spelling pattern. For example consider the three groups of spellings
    1. &lsquo;red, bed, fed, led'
    2. &lsquo;bread, head, lead'
    3. &lsquo;said'

    Lists 1, 2 and 3 above should be treated as three separate groups even
    though they have the same rhyming sound. They should not be taught
    Even though the word &lsquo;said' appears frequently in reading
    books children with literacy diffi culties often revert to a phoneme
    encoding strategy and draw on the individual phonemes that come
    to memory most easily for them.
    If children attempt to spell words
    by phonemes alone then the word &lsquo;said' could be spelled &lsquo;sed' and
    many teachers would recognise this as a common misspelling.
    Correct spelling retrieval is governed by meaning (consider &lsquo;their' and &lsquo;there')
    and visual recognition that a spelling looks right. The knowledge of
    Resource File for Special Educational Needs
    whether a spelling looks right can only be achieved if the child has
    representations in memory of the correct pattern to which the word

    Patterns and sequences which are consistent in sound and spelling are
    essential for the development of long term memory and short term
    processing within working memory. The mental lexicon (visual memory
    for whole words and letter patterns) is limited in capacity and children
    must recognise that if they can spell one word in a pattern they can
    spell many more words that belong to that pattern. If I can spell &lsquo;red' I
    can spell &lsquo;bed' by changing the initial sound (phoneme). Reasoning by
    analogy reduces the load on working memory.

    2. Discourage children from spelling by sound alone once they
    pass the simple CVC stage. Spelling by sound without regard for
    orthographic knowledge results in phonemic spelling errors such as &lsquo;becos'
    for &lsquo;because'. Examples of other phonemic spelling errors are &lsquo;helpt' for
    &lsquo;helped', dancd for danced, landid for landed. It is important to draw
    on spelling rules (morphological knowledge) to overcome this type of
    spelling error e.g. adding &lsquo;ed to regular verbs to make the past tense.

    3. Never group words visually without regard to sound e.g. &lsquo;prove, glove,
    stove' children with dyslexia fi nd these groupings confusing as they
    are not consistent in the sound they make.

    4. Trieman (1997) and Frith (1980) both point out that children with
    spelling diffi culties cannot reliably choose from a range of plausible
    alternatives and their spelling errors are consistently phonetic.
    Avoid grouping spellings that have same sound, different spelling e.g. vowel
    phonemes as in &lsquo;though, go, toe, show, note, boat'. These groupings are
    very confusing for children with poor orthographic processing.

    5. Irregular words should be learned using multisensory techniques e.g.
    Look, say, cover, write, check; tracing on sandpaper and in the air;
    Resource File for Special Educational Needs
    spelling words using wooden or magnetic letters; writing in joined

    6. Irregular high frequency words should be taught in semantic
    groupings in the early stages of spelling development.
    I worked as a primary teacher for many years although I have not done so since 2003 but have worked with dyslexic students since then - actually I did my training using key stage 2 children with literacy difficulties 2003-2005
    I am a bit out of touch with current jargon etc but I think it is good for an outsider to look in a more detached way at what is happening here as I think some people posting on this thread are actively working in one way and that can make it hard to see any alternative answers.
    I am really interested in the PL posts.
    Anyway it would be nice to feel I could post MY thoughts without feeling like I was going to be put up agianst a wall and shot for crimes against synthetic phonics. :)
  9. moonpenny

    moonpenny Occasional commenter

    I think sat would be difficult to spell incorrectly phonetically - I think c-a-t would be the default spelling but I take your point and actually, that is one of the reasons poor working memory can make spelling so confusing.
    I am sure it is a very common problem - however, I have just been doing some research about why so may dyslexic students are not diagnosed or correctly supported until they get to college or uni - this remains a problem.
    At 7, a child can still be developing their spelling skills so it could be something that resolves itself but on the other hand it might not .
    Alarmingly, there is a denial among some teachers that this problem even exists but is an excuse etc. The problem appears to be worse in secondary school teachers.
  10. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    I'm sure a lot of that is true about some children finding it harder than others to commit the correct spelling to long term memory. I,m not clear that would be a working memory issue but that is just a technicality. My gut feeling is that the op's. example would be fairly commonplace and is the reason why so much repetition needs to be built in.

    Cat could be cat or kat or Catt or katt or c k a t t or c k a t for the child who thinks of all alternatives. Children have probably seen tis word many more times than saw before they get to the stage of thinking about spelling alternatives.

    The children who walked out of the lesson spelling saw correctly whenever they write probably for the most part did so already.
  11. I think so too.
    Too much choice, mainly for spelling, but some for reading too, is what makes English literacy acquisition so difficult for learners with poor memories, whether visual, working or long-term. If we got round to reducing the choices, we would make many children's lives much easier.
    I am intensely hated by some people for having occasionally said so, because they hate the idea of spelling reform. I find it more puzzling why anyone should wish to be rude to u, because I cannot recall u having ever expressed support for the idea of modernising English spelling, but merely trying to improve understanding of the problems of dyslexics, as in your post with extracts from
    http://www.deni.gov.uk/06_understanding_memory.pdf which seem very spot on.

  12. moonpenny

    moonpenny Occasional commenter

    Thanks Masha.I think it is important to step back sometimes - that can be hard when you are directly involved and passionate about your methods
    It would be nice to just read opionions and be able to offer the odd suggestion without the need to feel defensive which I did with Msz's post.
    None of us know everything - who knows, I may actually be able to use my extensive experience in working with dyslexic students of all ages to help.
    There is no right way - you only have to read the 1000s of research papers out there to see that every minute detail of reading and spelling is continually under scruitany and rightly so.
    No one has solved the mystery of spelling difficulties and this difficulty remains for many people.
  13. How to spell any word is a piece of knowledge and knowledge exists in the brain only as neural circuitry. In dyslexics, this neural circuitry is minimally flawed so that what is retrieved is inaccurate. MRI scanning shows this very clearly. Charleston Academy uses perceptual learning strategy and has four years data which shows that while some children formally diagnosed as dyslexic became excellent spellers, some did not. This supports the well established view that dyslexia has more than one form.
    Good spelling among non-dyslexics is not a consequence of knowing all grapheme-phoneme correspondences - it is a consequence of knowing perceptually when a word looks right and this is a direct result of having spelled the word correctly many times. Exercises which afford children the opportunity to spell words creatively make it difficult for these children ever to become good spellers. Exercises which make it difficult for children to spell words incorrectly always improve spelling where dyslexia is not a factor.
  14. I think I have. It's just that the most obvious solution to the problem remains widely unwelcome.
    The most committed spelling errors by adults are with the most irregular spellings, such as
    doubled consonants,
    unstressed vowels (or shwa),
    spellings for stressed long ee
    and heterographs
    ( which homophones with different spellings - most homophones have just one spelling for their different meanings, e.g. mean, lean, sound, ground).
    Those four irregularities require word-by-word memorisation of not just dozens but hundreds of unpredictable spellings, and the more memorisation spellings need, the longer they take to learn and the more mistakes people make with them.
    There really is no mystery as to what makes learning to spell English difficult. It is because so many patterns have numerous exceptions and cause what psychologists call cognitive confusion.

  15. harsh-but-fair

    harsh-but-fair Star commenter

    ... but if you read the OP you will see the child spelled it as 'sur' not 'sor' ...
  16. moonpenny

    moonpenny Occasional commenter

  17. They may have been, but some will find it much easier than others to remember which are the correct correspondences for each word. Some children will need far more help than others to remember them. Some children will grow into adults who still find it difficult to remember which is which (even though they may have pretty much perfect knolwedge of all grapheme-phoneme correspondence possibilities).
  18. lardylegs

    lardylegs Occasional commenter

    I am very very drunk and your message is very hard to understand.

    And it doesn't matte.r

    Because I am now on my holidays. For a long time. with long sleeps and lots of TV and nice food and friends and family and warm nice things and no more coughing children for at least SEVENTEEN DAYS!!!
  19. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    I understood it. I'm clearly not having such a good time. Make the most of it Lardylegs. Good thing for school is that they cough all term, but they save a lot of the puking for the holidays.

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