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Phonics in Nursery

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by funkydante, Jun 12, 2011.

  1. Definitely sounds first. You can't blend and segment unless you know the sounds to blend and segment.

    We only learn a few sounds in Nursery (s,a,t,i,p,n) as it is important to pick up the skills of listening first. Playing lots of sound games with animal sounds or environmental sounds is important.
  2. I play games with speech sounds with children who are able to distinguish the differences, but they need to be able to hear and say sounds in words before I introduce the letters. Once they are hearing some of the sounds in words I start on segmenting and blending simple words using games like 'robot talk'. Looking at letters can happen alongside this, once children differentiate and are able to hear and say individual sounds in words.
    Some people do introduce the letter sounds correspondences quite early. I have found that if you do this you get some children who can parrot letter sounds when they see a letter in isolation but do not understand how that relates to sounds in words and so fail to identify sounds they have learnt through that route when presented with them as initial sounds in words.
    I'm not saying mine is the right way, because it depends on what works best for you and your children, but I agree with the other person who said that the skill of listening is essential and I tend to put that before recognition of the letters.
  3. Once sounds are played with and explored generally ,eg songs instruments, clapping leaves rustling etc etc then start to intro letter sounds closely aligned to a picture clue. Take opportunities to say 'p-e-n' pen as much as possible as well as 'Mmmm Michael'.Keep it fun and pacy and visual as well as aural.Above all focus on language development enrichment and extension and read tell act out hundreds of stories.
  4. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    actually you can blend and segment at the morphemic level too
  5. Language play is great in nursery (or any age), but it is not a prerequisite for starting some phonics.
    Nursery aged children see letter shapes all around them - both capital and lower case - and nursery age can be a good point to link discrete speech sounds with letter shapes - both capital and lower case!
    For example, it is pancake day, children are playing at tossing pancakes in the air with pans. What a great moment to be saying /p/ pan and to looking at the 'p' and 'P' letter shapes. No expectations, simple links made in a multi-sensory way through the theme of the moment.
    Oral blending and oral segmenting does not harm children - but teachers are being misled if they think this is a pre-requisite.
    Letters and Sounds is rather vague in its advice for 'phase one' suggesting that if children bring an interest in letter shapes from home, then follow the interest.
    Why should this follow an overt interest? What if children don't express 'an interest'? And which children are the most likely to express an interest?
    Without expecting the children to learn anything in particular, exposure to sounds of speech and to letter shapes and their associated sounds is fine in the nursery stages. Modelling blending with real letter shapes and modelling simple spelling won't hurt either - with, once again, no expectation of the children learning.
  6. When did you last teach nursery?
  7. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    18 months ago
  8. Is that you, Msz, or are you speaking for Debbie?
  9. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I would never dream of speaking for anyone but myself
  10. In a nursery environment, children will of course come across letters and words. They are likely to show an interest in their own names. However, if you introduce links from letters to sounds too soon you risk confusing children who have not yet developed an ability to listen to words for sounds rather than simply for meaning. They can learn the sounds that correspond to letters, but when they hear words they only 'hear' meanings. This is confusing, and they are well aware that there is something they are not getting. So you have to do work on helping children listen to the sounds in words. Once they've clicked with that, start introducing the letter/sound links. Why be in such a hurry? As for talking about 'p' when tossing pancakes -why? Let them enjoy and talk about tossing pancakes, that's the richer experience.
  11. Oh. It was just that I was actually asking Debbie.
  12. Ability to identify, or listen to, individual sounds in words is the process linked to spelling - that is, sound to print.
    This ability, or lack thereof, does not interfere with, or prevent, children being taught simple links with letters and sounds. Such links are at the simplest level, simple automatic training (see 'p', say /p/ - or link 'p' with /p/ or link /p/ with 'p').
    Oral blending and oral segmenting are sub-skills of reading and spelling.
    Seeing letter shapes and saying sounds is a sub-skill of reading.
    Hearing sounds and linking it with letters is a sub-skill of spelling.
    It is not correct that children need to be able to identify sounds in words as a pre-requisite to introducing links between letter shapes and discrete sounds.
    All of these bits of learning, links, training children's ears and eyes, contribute to reading and spelling.
    I'm also very happy indeed if children just enjoy the rich experience of making pancakes and tossing them in pans without making any links with letters and sounds. Fine.
    I'm also very happy for nursery and reception teachers/carers playing around with language, playing around with phonics - or not - but I just wanted to establish that ability to segment at phoneme level is not a pre-requisite to introducing letter shapes and to introducing phonics teaching.
    I felt that you were providing misinformation.
    Linking discrete sounds with discrete letters (with no pressures and no expectations) can help children to acquire an ear for sounds within whole words.

  13. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Aren't you being a bit pickie Thumbie? Surely you can enjoy the p stuff on pancake day and the mixing and the tossing and the eating and all the other chat?
    Yes there will be some children who aren't "ready" for this but I really don't think you are going to confuse them badly ..... and how are you ever in a group teaching situation in nursery, reception, year 1 or year 2 going to prevent a child being exposed to some element of teaching that you think they are not yet "ready" for. Hopefully the human brain is cleverer than this so that it won't matter. Otherwise children would be constantly damaged in the family environment by having older siblings.
    What's the relevance of when someone last taught nursery / reception / year 1 / year 2 etc etc? They can still know something about it, surely, and sometimes a good deal more than the person who is teaching nursery / reception / year 1/ year 2 today?
  14. Debbie, I agree with your analysis up to this point:
    Unfortunately I have seen the teaching of letters (look at letter flashcard, say sound) done at too early a stage. Children make the sound but canot make the connection with words. They make the initial sound /m/ when looking at a picture and word and then decide the word is 'rug'. You can take away the picture and they make the sound but are not able to offer any suggestions as to what the word is. They can even say all three sounds and not know. Because they have not listened to their own voice, and because they have not got the concept that the sounds they have learnt are parts of words. They miss that connection.
    But if children play with sounds without the distraction of letters they get to the point much more quickly when that lnk is firmly established. Then they are off on that journey with the right connections in place.
    Of course, you can teach them letter sound correspondences. It's not harmful. It's just a waste of their time and yours.
    You will see this is not what I said. I do use letter shapes and phonics alongside the segmenting and blending of sounds and words, but I only do it when confident that the child is listening properly to their own voice and understanding why. I also said tht children will come across lots of words and letters at nursery, I'm not saying ban them.
    The information I am providing is true to me own experience, and it is linked to children's development of language. At nursery age they are just getting to grip with meaning, their articulation is often immature, and their understanding of concepts such as the idea that words are made up if sounds is limited, because they always listen for meaning and work on an extremely literal level. We should be concentrating on developing speaking and listening skills and, in preparation for phonics, on differentiating sounds, both environmantal and speech sounds.

  15. One person's picky is another person's precise. No I won't talk about the 'p' on pancake day, because I will be too busy concentrating on children's physical and spoken language skills, and their observations of the effects of heat etc. I might use emphasis in my voice to help them to hear that 'pancake' starts with a /p/ sound, and I might have a display in which they can see it starts with a 'p', but I'm not going to waste their time and mine by stopping to point out the correspondence when they are in the middle of the sensoryand active experience of pancake making.
    Why confuse them at all when it is not necessary?
    Well, some people say that. However, the fact is that even someone who has taught in early years for years soon loses their knowledge once they move on. I lose some of mine over every weekend and have to build it up again every Monday. And some never build up the knowledge in the first place because they do not observe and reflect enough, entering the job with pre-learnt dogma. You can know the theory, right enough, but applying that in a practical situation is another beast altogether.

  16. We'll have to agree to disagree on this one.
    I would be very happy for children to not even be focusing on sounds in speech at nursery age.
    They will assimilate the ideas about speech sounds soon enough once they start a phonics programme.
    If children are hearing sounds said aloud and then say an entirely different word, then they haven't got the idea of oral blending and they are not able to discern the real word.
    Once again, so what. This may even be a consequence of the individual teacher's teaching - or trying to teach things too early anyway.
    I don't see why letter shapes involved or not involved with the sounds' work should damage the children. The point might be that some teachers don't really understand the teaching and learning itself. I am finding that common.
    The processes which most help reading and spelling involve letter shapes which is fully multi-sensory and more likely to make sense to the children.
    Oral blending and oral segmenting can train children in the discernment of whole words from parts of words and from whole words to parts of words.
    This will not disadvantage children - but, I say again, this is not a pre-requisite. Children learn most fully when they are provided with the full range of knowledge and skills - even where these are simply constantly modelled.
  17. What is the letter shape without its sound? Not damaging certainly, and beneficial in that seeing lots of letters will familiarise children with them, and seeing lots of books will help them to understand what words are for. But I thought this was about teaching the GPCs? As I say you can do it, but I wait until the children have the discerment be able to use them.
    They haven't got yhe idea that they can use their knowledge and how to use it.


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