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Sensible approach to literacy teaching

Discussion in 'Primary' started by mashabell, Dec 23, 2011.

  1. I concluded my last comment on an Early years thread with the question,

    Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that English spelling is a mixture of
    sensible spellings and absolutely insane ones
    ( www.EnglishSpellingProblems.co.uk ),
    and then have sensible discussions about how best to help children cope
    with the ones that cause reading and spelling problems?

    Perhaps this is something that all primary teachers might like to mull over occasionally?

    In that EY post I also said:
    I don't think that anybody with a smidgeon of intelligence would seriously argue that literacy teaching should not begin with phonics (in the sense of teaching the main sounds of English graphemes for roughly the first year of instruction). Nor can I see how children can learn the rudiments of writing without phonics.
    It is clearly also far better to help children with learning to read - rather than just give them books and expect them to learn by themselves (although some manage to do so).
    It's the wild claims that the promoters of phonics courses now make about SP and their particular wares that are ridiculous.

     
  2. I concluded my last comment on an Early years thread with the question,

    Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that English spelling is a mixture of
    sensible spellings and absolutely insane ones
    ( www.EnglishSpellingProblems.co.uk ),
    and then have sensible discussions about how best to help children cope
    with the ones that cause reading and spelling problems?

    Perhaps this is something that all primary teachers might like to mull over occasionally?

    In that EY post I also said:
    I don't think that anybody with a smidgeon of intelligence would seriously argue that literacy teaching should not begin with phonics (in the sense of teaching the main sounds of English graphemes for roughly the first year of instruction). Nor can I see how children can learn the rudiments of writing without phonics.
    It is clearly also far better to help children with learning to read - rather than just give them books and expect them to learn by themselves (although some manage to do so).
    It's the wild claims that the promoters of phonics courses now make about SP and their particular wares that are ridiculous.

     
  3. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Merry Christmas Masha [​IMG]
     
  4. Msz, how is it that I get accused of being patronising on this forum, and you don't?
     
  5. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Perhaps you can explain how wishing Masha a Merry Christmas is patronising thumbie?

    [​IMG]
     
  6. OK.You denigrate and show disrespect for her arguments by refusing to engage with them, implying they are worthless, making this clear by posting an irrelevant and flippant message.You do this each time Masha comes onto the forum, thereby underlining the implied meaning, whether it's the festive season or not.-A perfect example of being patronising which those who accuse me would benefit from observing ;-)
     
  7. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    please thumbie can you explain how wishing someone Merry Christmas on the 23rd of December is flippant and irrelevant?
     
  8. No, if you can't see it, I can't be bothered.
     
  9. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I can't see something that isn't there thumbie
    [​IMG]
     
  10. Mostly, masha, because we know the first bit already and SP deals very nicely with your second question.

    Happy Christmas [​IMG]
     
  11. I am not sure I've ever met a teacher (or anyone else for that matter) who had difficulty accepting that English spellings are a mixture of sensible and 'absolutely insane' - if by the latter, you mean those where there appear to be no phonetic rules followed. I say 'no phonetic rules followed', but what I really mean of course, is that 'unusual phonetic rules are followed'!
    As a Primary teacher, I can assure you that, in my school at least, we do have conversations about how to help children recognise the 'exceptions' to the normal 'rules' of spelling. In fact, as a Y5 teacher, I spend a lot of time in spelling teaching doing precisely that and trying to gently coax those few children who persist in spelling only phonetically, towards other 'patterns' of spelling!
     
  12. Do you mean children who persist in spelling with only a 'basic' alphabetic code rather than the spelling alternatives of the more 'extended' alphabetic code?
    Sometimes, children who tend to spell with limited spelling choices may not have had sufficient teaching in the various spelling alternatives.
    Do you display a large Alphabetic Code Chart in your classroom with a good range of spelling alternatives for children to see and for you and them to refer to?
    Do you provide spelling lessons to highlight spelling word banks of the various spelling alternatives?
    I ask these things because of your comment about 'children who persist in spelling only phonetically' and I am trying to understand your point.
     
  13. The fact that maizie and millibear both believe certain English spellings to be 'insane' more or less answers the question of why children have difficulty with them. Yes, you can say that all the spellings are part of 'the code', that is a way of talking about it - and most weird spellings are replicated at least once within the language. So, as Debbie says, you teach children the code very thoroughly, so that all that weirdness is covered. But, meanwhile, teachers and others still regard the more unusual letter combinations as 'insane' because they don't make intuitive sense with the basic code, and the basic code is the part that is most logical and most embedded for everyone.Children are no different. They will revert to the most basic, intuitive levels of the code when busy with the business of writing, because like maizie, millibear and Masha the other spellings seem insane. So it is important to make sure children practise and memorise words in which these weird combinations figure, which is what, in effect, is happening when they are presented in word banks as Debbie suggests above. When these words become part of their repertoire they stand a chance of recalling and using the weird combinations in similar words. We all need connections to the known, and therefore sensible, to help us learn the unknown, this is why mnemonics can be a good route in, and likewise little ditties like 'i before e...' Learning the unusual GPCs in isolation, on flashcards for instance, without looking at them in real words, is part of the process but not sufficient.
     
  14. Sadly, it is by no means guaranteed that key stage two teachers (or even key stage one!) have been trained in the notion of 'the alphabetic code' nor in how to teach spelling systematically from one class to the next - nor how to support spelling in the wider curriculum - nor how to mark for spelling.
    It is the same situation in secondary schools. I suspect that many teachers bury their heads in the sand where teaching and supporting pupils with spelling is concerned.
    And how many teachers throughout all the stages of education make it explicit that internally (in their own heads), they think of spellings in 'sounds' - probably as word chunks (e.g. syllables) in the main - and not usually as 'letter names'?
    I shall continue to urge teachers to display large versions of Alphabetic Code Charts in their classrooms to support spelling - and to find ways to support pupils in becoming familiar with spelling word banks - even if it is alerting them to understand they need to note which words are spelled in which ways.
     
  15. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I think historically phonics stopped either in KS1 (if you were lucky) or more usually there was no more taught after reception (unless the child had SEN and were sent off with a TA and ended up better at spelling than the rest of the class) so most children were never taught all the alternatives and only the few who worked it out themselves progressed.
    We now teach phonics daily from nursery to Y6 and see the results in spelling as well as reading.
     
  16. I wish I hadn't mentioned that 'i before e' ditty, as in retrospect it's fairly useless, I've seen 2 words in my post that don't conform - weird and sufficient. Good grief, the English language! How do I know those spellings? I certainly didn't think about any rules, phonics, GPCs etc before writing them. I just knew what the words looked like. And think of the ways 'weird' could be spelt while still conforming to the code!
     
  17. Oh ***, thumbie. English spelling is not insane, it is just complex. Saying that I 'agreed' with masha was just SHORTHAND for 'Yes, I already know it's complex (as do lots of other people, masha has no monopoly on the complexity of written English...'
    Difference is, I think it's teachable. Masha prefers it not to be.
    BTW I am quite touched that you think me so so authoritative that myapparently agreeing with masha is the definitive answer to the question[​IMG]

    That is because they are ignorant of both how the alphabetic code 'works' (from sound to symbol) and the origins of their written language.
     
  18. Yes, what I mean is children who persist in using the more common phoneticspelling patterns, and do not recognise the words that don't fit that pattern. Almost invariably, they are children who do not read regularly, and so do not experience alternative spelling patterns regularly.
    We teach spelling patterns, by which I mean, we teach all the common spelling patterns and all the different ways of creating sounds within words. Inevitably though, some children grasp these much more quickly than others. The weak spellers in my classroom, are those still spelling words using the most common phonetic patterns. It is hard to persuade them 'away' from those that they are simply more familiar with.
    I would agree though, that all teachers (and probably especially KS2 teachers) would benefit from much more training in synthetic phonic teaching, and spelling teaching.
     
  19. Well maizie, if you don't believe them to be 'insane', don't go along with Masha's statement.I agree, the code is complex. It is as complex as it needs to be to embrace all the inconsistencies, exceptions and irregularities.If you devise the code before translating into it (one sound/one symbol) you can make it simple and consistent. This is what Masha argues for. If you devise the code after the fact, by noticing and recording similarities and patterns, which is the case with the phonic code for English which we record, from analysis, and use in schools (eg on Debbie's chart), it is not simple and consistent. This is because of the contingent facts of linguistic history - because language evolves over time, and is influenced by many factors, it is not set in stone by a guiding authority (Masha-wise). The code we use in English can have a variety of symbols per sound, and a variety of sounds per symbol, it is not simply one sound/ one symbol.I would agree it is useful to know the origins of English to help with spelling, because of the many other languages that have exerted an influence. But this is not something that can be expected of primary aged children. Teachers can use this to explain inconsistencies, but cannot expect children to be able to use a knowledge of other languages in their spelling decisions (on the whole).As for teachers being ignorant of how the code 'works', well the code doesn't do any work at all. We work, to analyse the language and record the intricacies.
     
  20. Good spellers are good spellers not because they have had a thorough trianing in all of the spelling rules- most excellent spellers do not consciously 'know' the spelling rulles(???) They spell wellv becaue they know what a correctly spelled word looks like!
    The poster who made the comment 'I just knew what the words looked like' has got it spot on.
    Poor readers are always poor spellers but good readers are not always good spellers because an immpaired abilty to visualise words impaiars the ability to spell well - best for poor spellers is a good spell-checker. Best bet for poor readers is lots of reading practice because reading is a skill and all skills acquisiton is a consequence of successful practices.

     

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