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Is phonics causing damage to spellings?

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by bumblebee111, May 13, 2011.

  1. I love teaching phonics, and have seen my class soar in their reading and writing skills this year but have a big BUT...We are using sounds until they come out of our ears, blending, segmenting, learning to read HF words, write HF words, write CVC words etc, spell words for writing by writing the sounds that they can hear...and this goes on throughout key stage one, and into key stage two, introducing more formal spelling tests along the way BUT the children across the school are not succeeding in traditional (ie SAT style) spelling tests, and have many content words incorrect in their everyday writing. I am beginning to wonder if the 'sound it out and write what you hear' approach is causing a problem later in the primary years: where children would previously have sought out a correct spelling, they are now having a go and moving on regardless. I would be interested to know how other schools approach spellings after Phase 6, and even before for words that are not 'tricky words' or HF words, and would really appreciate it if other posters would not turn this thread into an argument!! Thanks
  2. Unfortunately it probably will turn into an argument because there is so little agreement about this. Some will say that the children have not been taught phonics rigorously enough because all words are decodable and encodable if you know the code well enouf (sorry - enough). Some will say that children need extensive experience of reading accessible texts, experimenting with what the words might say (using their phonic knowledge alongside their understanding of the context), and internalising the spellings through learning word families and general familiarity ("Does that word look right?"). Believe me, you have opened a can of worms.What do you think?
  3. As you know, Inky, I'm all in favour of thrashing things out with a good argument myself, but the OP asked specifically that people didn't turn the thread into an argument. I couldn't see much chance of that when discussing phonics! The only way to avoid an argument would be to agree with the regular phonics-only adherents on this forum. As predicted, they say the spelling deficit is due to not getting with the programme well enough, only now the programme extends into every bit of writing done by children alongside the usual 'structured systematic phonics sessions' solution which is usually rolled out.
    If one suggests that the jury is still out and that the solutions still wait to be found (solutions - not just the one solution), for some reason you are branded as a cynic. I prefer to think - open-minded, reflective and anti-dogmatic - would be a better description than cynical - but heigh- ho!

  4. Fantastic spelling from a Y2 child! But phonics training can't be the only thing at work here. There must be more to it because phonics gives alternative spellings for phonemes, so choosing the right one must be due to something other than phonics knowledge. For instance, this child must have noticed that plurals of y ending words usually have /ies/- nothing to do with the sound. And that correct sion/tion differentiation - nothing to do with sounds.

  5. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    actually she's been taught that during our phonics session
    and we have covered the alternative ways of writing /sh/ but I agree she had to work out which to use
  6. Good. But it's not really a phonics matter, is it?

  7. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

  8. This is speculation based on some experiences, I won't claim to be able to back it up with any fancy research findings.
    I think the factors in good spelling are: having a good grounding in phonics and therefore knowing the most common alternative spellings for phonemes; having an 'internal' bank of words such as might be built up by children who have good visual memories and read a lot; having experience of sorting words which are already known to notice patterns of spelling, and being able to extrapolate and recall these patterns; experience of analysing known words to find rules and conventions in spelling, linked to grammar.
    A lot of this depends on having a lot of reading experience, and this is what children don't always seem to be getting. This might be due to all the other forms of entertainment around. It might be due to the trend towards reading chunks of text, in an academic way for academic reasons, instead of introducing children to powerful, engrossing whole texts that can be read to find out stuff about themselves and the world - possibly, initially, by reading to them.
    In early years, a big stepping stone for children seems to be from understanding words have meaning to understanding that words are made up of sounds. If asked what sounds can they can hear in the word 'cat', they say 'miaow'. And I think this may be why teaching the individual sounds in isolation from words initially works well - children aren't faced with the logical dichotomy of meaning and visual code that adds complication. However, we are teaching reading so that children can access meaning and express meaning themselves, so as soon as they able to do this with some independence we let them them down if we continue to flog one element of reading skill without reference to the others. After all to learn that the plural of a syllable word ending in /y/ is going to be /ies/ demands grammatical understanding linked inextricably to the meaning of the word as well as phonic awareness.
  9. Our posts crossed.
    It isn't phonics. It may be taught alongside phonics, but the sound of the word, and knowledge of what that sound is coded as, is not enough to ensure correct spelling. You need to know that it is a plural noun - as detailed on the first of your links (sorry, I didn't bother looking at the others). That is about meaning and grammar. Indeed, the child in your example, may have put the word into a sentence in her head to suss out what part of speech she was dealing with.

  10. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Sorry but that isn't how phonics/reading is taught.
    Phonics is an important skill to help decode words but alongside that children are taught to make sense of what they read (comprehension - another essential skill) they are also taught grammar and to expect what they read to make sense. It is a package made up of key skills taught as a package not as isolated aspects.
  11. Ahhh ,,, the searchlights. Roundly condemned on this forum by SP adherents in the past, now returning under the guise of being phonics teaching.
  12. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Definitely <u>NOT</u> the searchlights
  13. Are you sure?
  14. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    no using picture clues
    no guessing at words from the initial letters
    no guessing at all

  15. The searchlights:
    • Phonic sounds and letters
    • Knowledge of context
    • Grammatical knowledge
    • Word recognition and graphic knowledge.
    + if you teach tricky words that's 'word recognition' (not phonics per se)

  16. thumbie - the searchlights was very much about using other aspects of reading but with a view to predicting or 'guessing' the actual words.
    For example, 'read on to the end of the sentence, go back and guess the word that would fit'.
    Not, 'decode the word (e.g. 'read') and then use the context to indicate whether the word is /r/ /e/ /d/ or /r/ /ee/ d/.
    The searchlights were delivered to us as using a variety of strategies to 'get' the words, rather than decoding the words in the first place to 'get the meaning'.
    There are very few words where the pronunciation can be one way or another (wind/wind, read/read).
    In terms of MEANING, then, yes, we certainly do need the context as there are many words which have multiple meanings starting right at the beginning of phonics teaching, for example 'tap' (a tap, to tap) and so on.
    But no phonics proponent has ever said, that I am aware of, that teaching grammar and vocabulary etc, is not part of the phonics teaching - or 'the teacher's teaching'.
    How bizarre that you would think that the teacher is not also expected to teach about other aspects of written and spoken language.

  17. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I teach "tricky words" by pointing out the "tricky" phoneme alongside identifying the parts that aren't"tricky" so it most definitely is phonics.
    Decoding words - phonics
    understanding / expecting what they read to make sense - comprehension
    no guessing from the searchlights
  18. thumbie said in post 12:
    "I think the factors in good spelling are: having a good grounding in phonics and therefore knowing the most common alternative spellings for phonemes; having an 'internal' bank of words such as might be built up by children who have good visual memories and read a lot; having experience of sorting words which are already known to notice patterns of spelling, and being able to extrapolate and recall these patterns; experience of analysing known words to find rules and conventions in spelling, linked to grammar."
    thumbie - I totally agree - but I wonder if the difference between us is that you seem to suggest that the children with good visual memories will be fine because they can do all of the things you list above.
    I am suggesting that teachers need to ensure that they provide activities specifically to create good spellers with no reliance on children's natural capacity to build up word banks in memory.
    This builds on alphabetic code knowledge, it includes, as Msz states, lesssons about spelling and grammar, and it builds up word banks specfically not leaving it up to chance that some children manage to build up word banks over a period of time from plenty of reading.
  19. Exactly my thoughts, Debbie, when faced with the odd proposition that SP phonics is all you need, x number of times on this forum. I think you have shifted your ground somewhat. Previously you have skipped over the part reading for meaning has to play in learning to read with cheerful abandon, apparently believing that it is a given which does not figure much.
    As for guessing - what do you think learning is? You start with the known which you then use as evidence in discovering the unknown. You need to do this when you are learning phonics - you know the word 'cat' starts with /c/ so when you see the word 'cot' you guess that the same thing applies. You can get it wrong when you guess ceiling on that basis of course. That's all part of the learning curve. When did guess become such a dirty word? We should start saying 'infer from evidence' to avoid that negative connotation.

  20. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Thumbie I'm not sure how you have reached the conclusion that anyone advocates that phonics alone will make a child into a reader. The purpose of being able to decode words is to make sense of text.
    As to guessing ... learning is about knowledge and skills not guesses. We can make all kinds of guesses but often they are pretty pointless.

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