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Need your help on the teaching of spelling

Discussion in 'Primary' started by totallyflipped, Apr 21, 2013.

  1. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I agree they are good resources but they aren't teaching strategies which is what the OP asked for.
  2. I don't agree. If you read the OP again it sounds as if she is open to all comments. Reading it again she says that 'phonics IS spelling'. But excellent phonics knowledge is of limited help when it comes to spelling; a different area of expertise is needed. It is important that the OP considers why and how phonics breaks down as a spelling tool.
  3. There is indeed a method of learning to spell that is 100% guaranteed - the evidence for this is the fact that there are lots and lots of people who are totally brilliant spellers - they weren't born with this skill - they learned it somehow therefore it is learnable! It may be that they were assisted by having a particulary efficient visual short term memory - but one way or the other, they learned this skill either perceptually or by ritual instruction - there are no other options. When children learn to read perceptually, the sight and the sound of individual words merge into a single percept as sight vocabulary rather than remaining a fragmented decoding experience.
    The view of those who argue that only ritual phonics instruction can secure literacy skills generally are not proposing a credible academic or intellectual principle; they are supporting a dangerous and damaging dogma that is rejected even by the originators of synthetic phonics.
    A knowledge of phonics is a desirable educational objective and as a head teacher I would certainly insist that a good phonics course formed part of the Early Year syllabus because I know that it impacts a good understanding of the structure and pattern of our written language. It is however completely inaccurate and entirely misleading to claim that children NEED a course of phonics instruction - it is entirely possible to learn every grapheme-phoneme correspondence perceptually without a single lesson in phonics. I have already made reference to the 2% or so of children who arrive at school already able to read without having had a single lesson in phonics.
    When a word is correct - we know it is correct, not because we were taught all the spelling rules but because we know it looks right and that is a perceptual and not a ritually taught skill.
  4. Yes.
    Phonics breaks down for spelling because out of the 7,000 most used English words, 3,700 contain some phonically unpredictable letters

    The most erratic spellings stem from the following areas of inconsistency.
    (The figures in brackets show how many of the 7,000 most used English words which I have analysed use that spelling - and how many spell it differently.)
    Random use of doubled consonants in words of more than one syllable(not lengthened with suffixes like ‘begged’ or ‘stopping’)
    merry (regular) – very(missing) – serrated(surplus) - (381 – 439 – 153)
    <u>a-e</u><u>:</u> plate &ndash; wait, weight, straight, great, table dahlia, fete (338 &ndash; 69)
    [/b]: care &ndash; hair, bear, aerial, their, there, questionnaire (31are &ndash; 27others)
    <u>au</u>: sauce &ndash; caught, bought, always, tall, crawl (44 au &ndash; 76 others)
    <u>e</u>: end &ndash; head, any, said, Wednesday, friend, leisure, leopard, bury (301 &ndash; 67)
    <u>er</u>: her &ndash; turn, bird, learn, word, journey (70 er &ndash; 124 other)
    <u>ee</u>: eat &ndash; eel, even, ceiling, field, police, people, me, key, ski, debris, quay
    (152ea &ndash; 304 others)<u> </u>
    <u>i</u>: ink &ndash; mystery, pretty, sieve, women, busy, build (421 &ndash; 53)
    <u>i-e</u>: bite &ndash; might, style, mild, kind, eider, height, climb island indict sign (278 &ndash; 76)
    <u>o-e</u>: mole &ndash; bowl, roll, soul; old, mould, boast, most, goes, mauve (171 &ndash;100)
    [/b]: no &ndash; toe, dough, sew, cocoa, pharaoh, oh, depot (106 &ndash; 59)
    <u>oo </u>(long): food &ndash; rude, shrewd, move, group, fruit, truth, tomb, blue, do, shoe, through, manoeuvre (94 &ndash; 108)
    <u>u</u>: up &ndash; front, some, couple, blood (308 &ndash; 68)

    <u>Schwa </u>(which kicks in more as children move up through the school years and beyond that)
    -ary: ordinary &ndash; machinery, inventory, century, carpentry (37 &ndash; 55)
    -en: fasten &ndash; abandon, truncheon, orphan, goblin, certain (73 &ndash; 132)
    -ence: absence &ndash; balance (33 &ndash; 26),
    -ent: absent &ndash; pleasant ((176 &ndash; 58)
    -er: father &ndash; author, armour, nectar, centre, injure, quota (UK 340/US 346 &ndash; 135/129)

  5. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I don't agree ... but you know that already. I think all methods have limitations but phonics has many advantages over others
  6. Does anyone else do personalised weekly spellings tests, where the children choose their own words and it is peer marked?
  7. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I have done personalised lists in the past but found those who scored 10/10 week after week rarely spell the same words correctly in independent writing
  8. Having a good phonics knowledge can be helpful, as long as it does not lead to pupils not seeing words as wholes. It is useful as an analytic tool, where a pupil learns a whole word and then analyses how the word is built up in GPCs. Ultimately the pupil has to know the whole word and which GPC alternative is used in the specific word. Just being armed with a good knowledge of all the possible spellings of an individual phoneme is not going to guarantee a correct spelling, as you have said yourself.Many pupils miss out this analytic stage and become good spellers because they remember what the whole word looks like from their reading. The problem with allowing incorrect spellings while writers experiment, using phonics and not seeking the exact spelling, is that some of these spellings can get stuck; the pupil sees the incorrect spelling too frequently and remembers the whole word incorrectly.There isn't an easy answer but phonics on its own isn't sufficient, it needs to be supplemented with other strategies to support good spelling. For many children, avid reading is the best route to good spelling. Unfortunately avid reading seems to be becoming rare.
  9. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Your view of phonics is much narrower than mine thumbie
  10. Yes, I feel it is best to stick with the government definition and advice as to what phonics is and how it should be taught when discussing the issues.
  11. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    My children, and, I suspect, me at a younger age, didn't want to spell things wrong. They constantly asked me to spell words they didn't know. Some teachers didn't want to tell them because they thought it cramped their creativity or spoilt the flow or something. They encouraged them to 'have a go' at how they thought the word was spelt but they didn't want to do that. They wanted to be told how to spell the word and after not many tellings they would remember. They've all turned out excellent spellers and good writers and high achievers and their creativity doesn't seem to have been hampered at all.
    An anecdote does not prove a point but if a child wants to learn something correctly there must be an argument for letting them do that, especially if it produces results.
  12. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Then perhaps you should do that instead of restricting phonics teaching to your narrow view.
  13. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    My approach would be to ask what sounds they can hear in the word and to tell them any spellings for those sounds they don't know at that point or are unsure of rather than giving the entire spelling. So in the OPs example of mix I would only tell the child that in mix the /cks/ is spelt <x> and that the /j/ sound in suggestion is spelt <gg>. The child is more actively involved in the process but the end result is the correct spelling, which I think is important regardless of whether the child doesn't wants to spell words incorrectly or doesn't mind.
  14. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    I have to disagree. A spelling is essentially a fact. If my child asks me why the world is round I'm assuming they have already thought about it and decided that they don't know and would like to know. I know it's old fashioned but I can't see a lot of point in asking someone who knows nothing the answer to a factual question and then when they come up with a ridiculously wrong answer having to tell them it's wrong and what the truth is. By then they have their own wrong answer in their head and are as likely to remember that as the right answer. The time for asking a child their opinion is when they have a lot of knowledge on which to base it. Now you might argue that phonics knowledge is such knowledge but actually it's fairly useless for anything but a very limited number of spellings. The child doesn't know which of the many phonic possibilities is the right one to choose. Tell them the answer and let them use their own opinion for something else!
  15. The government definition of phonic work for spelling is that children should segment words into sounds and spell using their knowledge of GPCs. Spelling is described as the reverse process to decoding to read. This definition hardly embraces the fact that simply applying phonic knowledge when spelling is unreliable.
  16. 'Tell them the answer' may work for children with a really retentive memory, but they're the ones who usually have the least problem with spelling. Children with poor memories need something a bit more helpful than a letter string to hang on to and associating the sounds in words with their spellings is, in my experience, more useful to them.
    Looking at Msz's post I don't think she was proposing 'asking a child their opinion'; she suggested asking the child to supply the sound spellings that they already knew and helping them with the one they didn't.
    Isn't it sound educational practice to get the child to rehearse what they know? Isn't reinforcing learning by 'doing' more effective than being 'told'?
  17. gafleecey

    gafleecey New commenter

    What on earth do mean? The schwa is an unstressed vowel sound which all English speakers use in speech. Why would you say that it kicks in as children get older? Young children also speak!

    Look here, to find out what schwa means and how it works:
  18. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    But that's not necessarily what they're doing. They have many possibilities and choosing one, which may be wrong, will certainly reinforce it. But if it's wrong that takes more undoing than simply being told the right answer. In music people often say you need to practise something right ten times if you've done it wrong once...
    Writing is 'doing'.
    Children with poor memories are going to struggle. They're going to struggle as much with their phonics as they are with whole words and then you're adding in another layer of difficulty by expecting them to choose the right bit of their phonic knowledge. I'd have thought that for children with poor memories the very best strategy would be to continually and frequently reinforce the correct spelling and NEVER give them a chance to spell a word wrong, which means they have to 'unlearn' that little bit of what they've done. For example, I know one teacher who picked just a few words a week (fewer than ten) and the whole class chanted the spellings at ever available moment. It was slow but steady. The childre retained those few words rather than learning lots of words not very thoroughly, as happens a lot in schools at the moment, and promptly forgetting them.
    I don't really understand how spelling is approached in primary schools. The ten year old I look after makes plausible but wrong attempts at words such as 'any' but for her weekly spellings recently she had long, complicated words some of which she didn't know before they appeared in her spelling test. It felt wrong. I may be missing something but if a child can't spell fairly easy words they know why would they be introduced to new words, in the context of a spelling list, and expected to learn how to spell them. I'm all for braodening vocabulary b ut it needs to be in the ehad before it appears on a spelling test, especially when the spelling ofvery basic vocabulary isn't yet fixed.
    I had a great aunt who was not at all academic. But we found some of her primary school text books when shedied. She had beautiful handwriting and could write and do maths competently. I doubt she could spell, or even knew, the word 'geophysics' but she could read, write, spell and do maths.
  19. The specific word which was being discussed was 'mix'. The first two sounds do not have 'many possibilities'. /m/ has four, 'm', 'mm',mn, and 'mb', of which a child is almost certain to pick the first, and /i/ has two, 'i' and 'y', of which, once again, the first is the most likely choice (as most poor spellers would be oblivious to the alternatives). It would be safe to ask the child to supply spelllings for the first two sound, leaving only the final two to be sorted out with the help of the teacher.
    In fact, most words have predominately straightforward spellings with one 'tricky' part, which reduces the amount of memorisation needed.
    Phonics has far less to memorise than does whole words. With whole words every single individual spelling has to be memorised; that's thousands of individual letter strings if the child is going to be literate (though of, course, if you want to effectively disable them by teaching the spelling of a few hundred HFWs that's a different matter)
    I mean't 'doing' in the sense of using one's own brain to work something out and thus reinforcing the neural networks. Writing out a letter string which someone has 'told' the child is of very little cognitive value.

  20. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Unfortunately the government seem to believe that those teaching phonics would have deeper knowledge of the process so provided basic statements. (Of course spelling is the reverse of decoding and works best when taught together thumbie. [​IMG] )

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