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nk - digraph or blend?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by travel n teach, Apr 28, 2012.

  1. I was always under the impression that when teaching phonics, nk consists of 2 phonemes and so is a blend but when checking this online the other day I found it in a list of digraphs so I'm not confused as to whether to teach it as a blend or digraph. Can anyone shed any light on this?
    Thanks in advance!
  2. I'd teach it as a blend because to me it is two different sounds 'n' and 'k' blended together.
  3. They are adjacent consonants.
    'nk' is not a digraph as the two phonemes can be separated, unlike ch or sh for instance which are digraphs.
    I don't think we're supposed to refer to 'blends' anymore though. We blend to read but in 'nk', n and k are 'adjacent consonants'. We no longer need to teach all the blends, we simply need to teach pupils how to read adjacent consonants, using their blending skills. Once they have this skill, they don't need to learn each pairing of consonants individually.
  4. It's definitely 2 consonants. In fact, if you listen very carefully you'll find that it is almost three, /ng/ /k/. I don't know why some programmes teach it as a phoneme. But then, all the programmes seem to teach 'qu' as one unit, which it isn't, it's two phonemes /k/ /w/. It causes me no end of bother when my KS3 strugglers insist that the letter 'q' is /kw/ and aren't aware that 'u' can spell a /w/ sound :-(

    (posting in Chrome, so the smilie doesn't work...)
  5. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Yes it is has always puzzled me why "nk" is taught as a digraph in some schemes. For example, in RWI there are some other things which are a bit of a mix-up which appear on the sound cards and puzzled me - however in the RWI complex sounds chart some of them get sorted out:
    - ire
    - ure
    - ear
    - cious
    - cion
    - tion
    As I'm a volunteer I've not been on the RWI training so I don't fully know how best to teach these particular wotsits.
  6. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    of course we do (sooner if the child is ready)
  7. Can't you at least make it very clear that the 'q' is the /k/ and the 'u' is the /w/? It might be 'practical' but it is quite confusing for some children.
  8. I know that, Susan, but half my kids can't even read quiet and quick, let alone boutique and antique :-( And they all think that 'q' spells /kw/
  9. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Lead commenter

    Well duh, I know that lots of children aren't read to at home. And I know that teachers have no choice but to start teaching these children to read. But in an ideal world they'd have lots of one to one being read to, before anyone tried to teach them to read.
  10. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    unfortunately we don't live in an ideal world which is why some children spell pink as pingk
  11. In an ideal world everyone would be well informed about the best way to teach reading (having read some decent research and indulged in some logical thinking and realised that what their child does is not the yardstick by which everything is measured) and then we wouldn't be having these interminable arguments.
  12. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    I'm not sure there is a 'THE best way' but many different ways which work for different children. Who cares how it is done or if /ng/ is a consonant blend or a digraph as long as the child learns to read and spell? Who cares if /qu/ is /k//w/ separately or /kw/ as one, so long as the child learns to read and spell?!

    What works for one child doesn't work for another...know your class, know their weaknesses and find a zillion ways to teach them.
  13. I'm afraid I do if it means the difference between 15 - 20 children who just can't get the hang of how reading 'works' and 15 - 20 children who understand the principles of letter/sound correspondence and are not confused about how to apply them.
    So people keep saying.
  14. I think this thread shows the ridiculousness that SP can become when taken to its utmost. I think it is plain daft to teach that 'qu' is 'q' as /k/ and 'u' as /w/, what is that about? q and u are always see together and the combination (don't care if it's a digraph or a blend to be honest) represents 'kw' or 'k'. Even the SP enthusiasts cannot agree which shows the sophistry of these weird distinctions. I also see we are getting close, with the idea of practical teaching, to actually acknowledging that letter strings that appear again and again in words might perhaps be taught as units, even though they are not single phonemes. Well, that's progress.
  15. maizie - I recommend the use of Say the Sounds Posters routinely (for print to sound activities and sound to print activities) and perhaps the use of an alphabetic code charts, per pupil, where they write-over or colour-in the graphemes they are learning/ have learnt.
    This would soon address the issue of pupils thinking of /kw/ as just letter 'q'.
  16. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Going back to the "pink" example. Let's say you were encouraging a child to orally segment this word, before having looked at it's "book spelling".
    Would you hope to hear:
    /p/ /i/ /n/ /k/ - which is not how we say it I don't think
    or /p/ /i/ /ng/ /k/ - which is closer to how I say it I think, but I don't have "received pronunciation"
    I would expect to hear the latter from a child who was listening very carefully and did not already know how to spell the word correctly.
    So I would expect a young child who was just starting out with reading and writing, and was very accurate in writing down what they heard to spell it as "pingk". It would only be the child who was good at seeing that things did not "look" right would would correct that to "pink" or write it as "pink" in the first place.
    I personally don't find there is a problem in reading "nk" ........ I think if you have been taught /n/ and /k/ and can sound out and blend you can then read the word pink and will naturally change the pronunciation to pingk as /n/ followed by /k/ is very hard to say without modifying it to an ngk sound.
    But teaching how to spell it can get fiendishly complex - maybe one just sticks to Debbie's idea of word lists - pink, stink, etc etc and if a ngk ever creeps in point out that this never happens in English - child could look through a book to convince themselves - offer them a pound to find one?!
    I have to agree with Thumbie that at this point we are starting to verge on something a little akin to aspects of analytic phonics teaching.

  17. Word lists, however, do not have to be of the onset and rime variation where the rime endings are 'the same' such as 'pink, stink, ink, rink' and so on.
    One of the beauties of synthetic phonics teaching is that it is not necessary to present the language is such neat 'rime' packages.
    So, an 'nk' word list would include words such as 'blanket', 'trinket', 'blink', 'blinked', 'sink', 'sinking' and so on.
    Teachers and parents can point out the patterns of onset and rime words or consonant clusters - but the main SP 'teaching' and 'content' simply does not comprise of a focus on consonant clusters and onset and rime.
    There are around 76 consonant clusters which would add 76 additional 'units of sound' to teach if there was a main focus on them - and there are huge numbers of 'rimes'.
    I suggest that there is a big difference between 'noting' them and 'teaching them' as the main thrust of the teaching.
    With onset and rime, there is more of a 'snapping together' skill than a 'blending-all-through-the-word' skill. It would entail a teacher teaching c - a - t and also c - at and that isn't necessary.
    And then the teacher would focus on hat, rat, cat, fat, mat and so on - which does not lend itself to links to natural language in texts and to the learner honing the all-through-the-word blending skill.
    When there is so much to teach for reading, spelling and writing, it is a good idea to focus on as much that is 'core' as possible - minimising aspects of teaching which might be in danger of side-tracking the main body of teaching and learning.
  18. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Oh I agree - there are word lists and word lists. I'd love to re-write the ones we get home each week. At least in years R, 1 and 2 they mostly try to be phonic but that's about it. Quite often now at least half the words i.e. at least 5 or 6 wouldn't be in the vocab of most 5 or 6 year olds, and they contain several difficulties including several different phonic patterns within one word including ones that have never been taught.
    Some of the words that my year 3 child has been taught in the past by mnemonics are coming unstuck now too e.g. Big Elephants Can Always Upset Small Elephants comes out as beacuse quite often.
    However if she had been taught it as be cause pronounced slightly differently, and had been been taught the au says /aw/ GPC, she would be able to spell it correctly every time. But because she was taught this one by mnemonics this is her first way of dealing with it - it would be hard to change the habit.
    Yes you could say she should be able to see that it is wrong - well she would if she is told 100 times to go back and read the word again and spot her mistake, but otherwise she won't. It would have been better if she had been taught it SP fashion first time round in my view.
    I didn't learn spellings by mnemonics, nor phonics, but I can spell pretty well. I go by "look" , visual memory, and "intuited" phonics I guess. I am glad I was not taught any mnemonics, or ever to adopt it as a trick. Interestingly it seemed to work well with DD1, and she even invented many of her own to get through weekly spelling tests, but it falls apart now that she is writing longer creative pieces.
  19. Well mystery, to be completely honest with you I am having great trouble in hearing a 'g' in 'nk' although I would agree with that the tongue does not do the same as it does for /n//k/ which is a very good reason for teaching it as a blend or digraph (don't care what you call it) but I would teach it as a unit, as you say in words such as rink, sink, rank, tank etc. of course you can then add anther syllable if the children are ready if or it, learning 'blank' and then 'blanket', 'sink' and then 'sinking' etc. but why make it difficult by having a large variety of words containing 'nk' when seeing it in a simple pattern is more likely to help. When Debbie is talking about what is 'core' she is talking about what's 'core' to SP teaching, which is working from left to right decoding GPCs as you go. In fact, in two syllable words children can get lost as they work through the long string of correspondences. This procedure does not have to be 'core', it is part of the method. What is core to me is that children read. If children can read 'blank' as a unit and then add 'et' they stand a better chance if breaking at the syllable change.

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