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Teeny Reading Seeds - free resources for approx three to four year olds

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by debbiehep, Feb 16, 2011.

  1. http://phonicsinternational.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=603#603
    This link leads to my rationale for providing some simple resources which link the letters of the alphabet to the sounds they can represent.

    Over a period of time I have been thinking about the Early Years professionals because wherever I train, this group of people seem unclear about the expectations of linking letters to sounds - and whether they should continue to do this (many were already using Jolly Phonics for example).
    Personally, I don't have a set response. We know that children vary so much and we know that we, as a professional group, vary in our opinions - as do the parents of children.
    I feel, on balance, however, that a good systematic synthetic phonics programme is better left until later but that there is nothing harmful about playing around with linking sounds and letters.
    I am very interested in people's views and experiences regarding the three to four year olds. I'm not particularly looking for feedback regarding the Teeny Reading Seeds resources per se.
     
  2. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    I am not an Early Years specialist, so of course my opinion may be completely wrong. However, I think that many children will benefit from the approach you have explained in your link. And so will their parents.
    You mention a missed window of opportunity for some children if this kind of material is not made available to 3 to 4 year olds. Now this is not just true for the children, but also for parents. Many parents are more available to do reading type activities with their children when they are age 3-4 say, than when the children have started school full-time and more mothers have returned full-time to work.
    Another benefit to using this window if possible is that adult to child ratios are more favourable in most pre-school settings too, so a child who is four say in April, may be able to get a long way in the summer term at pre-school with letter-sound correspondences, much further perhaps than during the first term in reception with the long settling in period and less favourable adult to child ratios.
    The other important factor is how people's lives have changed over say the last 5 decades - more dual-working families, children spending longer in pre-school type provision etc. If the pre-school provision doesn't provide the type of literacy activities that Mum might have provided (and I'm not talking about a phonics scheme as such!!) 50 years ago, children's education could actually suffer by having free pre-school places offered relative to being at home with Mum (depending on Mum's education, time and energy etc).
    I am a person of extremes. I can see that leaving off all formal letter-sound correpondence learning until 7 and then everyone learning to read together quite fast would also have its advantages. But I think that the child would have to be provided with some very rich literary experiences up to this point to kind of make up for the late start. My daughter will be reading some pretty advanced stuff by the time she is seven, and because of her reading ability has been able to progress in a more independent fashion with maths than she otherwise would. If all forms of reading instruction had remained untouched until 7 the "quality" and planning of her pre-school education and Year R and Year 1 would have had to be much higher than it was. It would also require in my view more highly educated pre-school workers than is currently typical i.e. ones with much stronger English language skills than is often the case.
    I think it requires a higher level of education to deliver an enriching literacy programme for children who will not learn to read until they are 7, than it does to train people to teach a basic phonics programme to young children so that they can read to learn sooner than they otherwise might. This is not financially viable.
    I hope this makes some kind of sense.


     
  3. In view of many people's strong belief that children in other countries don't learn to read until they are 7, I found this snippet from an article about something completely different (dyslexia in Finland) very interesting:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9450.2009.00791.x/full
    So, although the age of 7 for learning to read is frequently quoted with mystical fervency as being optimum, it seems that children in countries where teaching reading starts at 7 are perfectly capable of learning to read earlier, and are 'allowed' to do so. The Finns, at least, seem very relaxed about it.
     
  4. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I would agree
     
  5. Thank you for the comments thus far.
    I always try to write resources and guidance for resources in such a way that it provides a training and information tool for both professionals and for the parents of learners.
    Too often teachers complain that parents have taught their children letter names at the expense of 'sounds' or that they have taught their children to write only in capital letters.
    Mind you, I think the converse is true, too - that teachers do not teach the writing of capital letters well enough - or they don't quite explain the relationship between capital letters and 'sounds' well enough.
    I am speculating, however, because I'm not privy to practice in everyone's settings!
     
  6. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Equally some phonics programmes do not make sufficient use of capital letters. Jolly Phonics seems to introduce them clearly from the start Aa and the associated sound and action etc, whereas Read Write Inc seems not to make so much effort with capitals so far as I can tell. Not being able to start the first sound in each sentence is quite a Handicap!!
    I was interested in the quote somewhere above about Finland - approx one-third of children can already read on entering school at 7. This means there are presumably quite a sizeable minority of parents or kindergartens teaching pre-schoolers to read in Finland. It makes sense. But it also makes a bit of a mockery of our belief that they don't learn to read in Finland until 7. Spoils all the research doesn't it! It also means that at 7, the schools only have to teach the remaining two-thirds to read, so the lightning progress made is all the more explicable.
     
  7. You may not be aware of just how significant your observation above is regarding capital letters being the same code for the sounds as their lower case equivalents!

    We are aspiring to hone our programmes and our teaching in the early years and infants to be more supportive of teachers, and learners, to inform parents, and to be more effective perhaps than ever before.
    The issue of capital letters and lower case letters - their role in phonics teaching and for handwriting, reading and spelling is yet to be fully discussed.
    For example, I reviewed a 'systematic, synthetic phonics' programme recently where the guidance was adamant that capital letters were not to be taught, introduced, used for reading purposes or spelling purposes. Any cumulative sentences provided were all in lower case and any names were written completely in lower case. I simply did not agree with this approach.
    The programme also stated that it was a 16 week rigorous programme where 'only' synthetic phonics teaching should take place followed after that by other reading strategies.
    The '16 week' thing originated I believe from the Clackmannanshire research - and the way that Jolly Phonics introduced its 'basic code' (mainly one spelling for each sound) rapidly over a period of seven or so weeks - stretch that to one term-ish.
    The systematic synthetic programme I reviewed introduced more than just one spelling for some sounds, but it was little more than a basic code at best - and no guidance was provided for the teachers regarding aspects of the letter/s-sound correspondences.
    I expect many of have found children who cannot read/blend words such as 'It' and 'Is' at the beginning of sentences in that they have been taught capital I (/igh/) as a sight word. So, they see capital I and utter/think the sound /igh/ and not /i/.
    Many older children may decode the letter e as /ee/ because they are really 'saying its name' (I really wish that teachers would not teach in terms of the single vowel letters 'saying their name' - keep letter names right out of teaching reading please).
    Anyway, back to the very beginning of sowing seeds for reading, I think this may well be a good point to observe and focus on our bank of letter shapes and the first sounds children learn that they represent.
    I would never, however, avoid telling even the youngest children bits about the alphabetic code which may occur incidentally. So, for example, George cannot understand why his name doesn't start with J or isn't pronounced as /g/. I would tell George that for some words, the letter G or g is pronounced /j/ and he would be taught more about that later. I would even point out a word such as 'giraffe' and a word such as 'giant' as examples of this. It doesn't matter if George does not remember this now, you have sown the seed that there are different solutions and all of these will be taught in time.
    I think all of us have known a few children who could remember such things even from the age of three. It doesn't mean, however, that such children are the slightest interested in being able to become precocious early readers. Just because they 'can' doesn't mean they 'will' or 'must'.
     
  8. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    It's scary how people can somehow grab hold of an idea and then take it to such an extreme that it becomes counterproductive. The "no capitals" idea probably came from some misguided notion that because the majority of print is lower case it would be confusing for children to learn capitals.
    There are quite a few good phonics schemes around now, but I suppose that because school budgets are always limited, schools and LEAs are tempted to devise their own to save money or to prevent breach of copyright.
    Or a halfway house occurs - schools buy fragments of a commercial scheme, and adapt it in some way, and don't buy the full training that goes with the scheme, and don't train everyone in the school, head included. I don't think OFSTED looks that carefully at how the scheme has been implemented in school. It seems to be a superficial tick that you've got a scheme, that kids are in groups etc.
    So no matter how many brilliant brains and how much research expertise goes into devising the perfect commercial scheme, it can get mashed up in some way by the time it is delivered to the children. This can be as simple as volunteers, teachers, TAs or parents not pronouncing the sounds correctly and making blending much harder job for the child as a result, or by completely distorting the scheme as written due to lack of resources, thought, or training.
    The next is a digression; my apologies if this is out of place and a rare occurence nationwide:
    I hope no-one from my children's school recognises this scenario, but this is exactly what has happened in my children's school. I hope this is atypical, but it would form part of a useful set of case-studies, as I am sure they are not the only one!! A well-known commercial phonics scheme is being used. The staff have undergone limited training in it - I am guessing this was delivered by an LEA adviser rather than the bespoke training advertised by the publisher; if it was the latter they have certainly decided to ignore a major part of the training. So far as I can tell, not all staff have been trained.
    Rather than 5 x 1 hour sessions per day as recommended by the handbook, children receive 3 or 4 x 30 mins per week, and some weeks it is not done at all. So their "real reading" has to progress faster than the phonics scheme otherwise they will never get anywhere. I address this at home. I haven't a clue what other parents do, but I'm presuming that those with children that read well must have done the same themselves. Or else that the school does this for the majority through other methods, and the teachers really view the phonics as just a useless add-on.
    The children do not progress through the scheme at the rate of their decoding as recommended by the handbook, they are sent down a group if their spelling is not good enough - I am not clear how they assess this.
    As a consequence there are children in years 2, 3, 4 who are very competent readers dragging round in the earlier stages of a phonics scheme which assumes they have not yet covered all the phonic sounds.
    Also the reception teacher does not really endorse the use of the scheme; if you enquire to her about the scheme she tells you your child goes off to someone else for phonics and she knows nothing about it. My child has learned 4 sounds since she started full-time in September that she did not already know on entry. She is in the most advanced group of the reception class children. No doubt on paper her progress at school looks terrific as they probably recorded her as knowing nothing on entry.
    Parents are sent home a letter asking that we do not cover any sounds that are not being covered in phonics that week. But they do not tell us what sounds are being covered that week! And even if they did, are we supposed to go through reading books and cross out words with forbidden sounds in them?
    No decodable reading books connected with the scheme ever go home. The school say this is to do with lack of funding, but I am pretty sure that the PTA could oblige and purchase more. I bought a job lot myself for home use which I will ultimately donate to the school. The head was furious with me that I had bought them, one of my children let slip that we had them at home!!
    This is a school with a good proportion of highly intelligent middle class parents who want the best for their children. I feel sorry for the children who are relying entirely on the school provision. Parents are "trained" not to complain or voice their common sense opinions.
     
  9. You are probably describing a very, very common scenario which is not at all the responsibility of the programme writer.
    If you look at the results of a recent survey undertaken regarding teachers' views of how to teach reading, you will see that it is highly, highly unlikely that schools are really providing systematic, synthetic phonics teaching per se.
    http://rrf.org.uk/messageforum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4804&sid=b739dd078fc6eafe4604d72fc76b718e
    In terms of my own work, I promote a two-pronged approach to phonics teaching:
    1) The delivery of the planned, step by step rigorous synthetic phonics programme
    2) Incidental teaching as it arises, including training staff AND PARENTS in how to support children reading 'any' book whether cumulative or not - and how to approach phonics teaching across the curriculum supported by use in every classroom of a large-scale alphabetic code chart (and I would even like to see alphabetic code charts used in key stage two and secondary schools).
    Please note that this does not mean that all shared 'literature' events are ruined by phonicking the books to death - not at all.
    I also believe COMPLETELY in informing parents and working in partnership with parents - and think that schools are very wrong when they do not engage parents with reading and spelling instruction in particular. These core basic skills are 'life chance' stuff and parents are entitled to be informed and supported.
    Parents may choose to do nothing with the information - but that is their choice and at least the schools will have discharged their duty.
    Everything I design is not only for teachers and teaching assistants - but also for parents and the wider public domain.
    Most teachers do have experience of parents they label as 'pushy parents' or parents that cause some grief one way or another - but that's just par for the course. It should not be an excuse for teachers to batten down the hatches.
     
  10. Debbie I love the teeny reading seeds resources! Perfect for 4/30 reception children who need something extra to hook on to. Thank you. Will be trying them out and will let you know how we get on.
     
  11. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    I think the resources look great too. This is the kind of weblink that schools with nursery and reception classes could provide on their website and in their handbook for new-starters.
    Debbie, can you provide any sound with this so that parents and children can hear the types of sounds that make future blending so much easier rather than puh, buh, cuh etc?
    Back to your point about involving parents Debbie, I agree absolutely with you that learning to read and write is a "lifechance" not to be left to whim. OK, there will be some parents who with the best will in the world do not have the time due to work, other children, elderly to care for etc. But if you enable the parents who are willing and available to do something productive with their children at home, then in effect you free up school time for those children who do not have this back-up at home.
    And the "illiterate parent" argument does not really work with a good phonics scheme. If you are providing the parents with the info to reinforce at home in the same sequence that the children are receiving it at school, many parents may improve their own reading at the same time. So you are giving some parents a lifechance too. The same for children for whom English is an Additional Language. A well thought through phonics programme, well explained to the parents, maybe with a CD of the sounds, does not place parents who speak little English at the same disadvantage as a "look say" approach.
    There are many illiterate parents who are desperate to help their children learn to read and not fall into the same trap they did.
    With the current pressure on the economy and struggle to be employed, I feel that the general attitude towards children's education will perhaps change radically over the next decade. It hopefully will be viewed as a necessity to be taken seriously by a much higher percentage of the population, rather than as a take it or leave it fancy extra. There may be a change in culture in this respect bringing us closer to the study and work ethic of many ethnic minority communities from whom we have much to learn.

     
  12. http://www.phonicsinternational.com/Aa_pic_flash_audio.pdf

    This resource is on the Teeny Reading Seeds webpage and provides the sounds of the alphabet letters.
    Even children can scroll and click and hear the sounds. Then they can scroll, try to remember the sound, then click to check if they got the sound right.
    I COMPLETELY agree with you that schools sending home the systematic phonics material can support parents to improve their own understanding and reading and spelling - including those for whom English is an additional language.
    I have designed my resources with that very much in mind.
    If you go on the www.phonicsinternational.com homepage, there are video clips of all the sounds (not just the 25).
    I really do hope that schools provide parents with links to this or other sites where the sounds are provided.
    We are reaching the stage where parents are, in some cases, more knowledgeable than the teachers.
    And schools doing the kind of rigorous and comprehensive type of phonics programme I suggest are going to have infant children going up to key stage two knowing more than some of the key stage two teachers if whole schools don't start getting on board.
    I am frequently invited to train in schools where key stage two teachers are not building on the work of the key stage one teachers. For example, spelling becomes solely 'Look, Cover, Write, Check' with random word lists provided rather than a continued focus on sounds to spelling alternatives and learning about spelling word banks.
    Yep - there's still plenty to do to keep my busy.[​IMG]
     
  13. 'me' - oops![​IMG]
     
  14. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Ah thank you, I had missed the audio elements. After half-term I will see if my school can make this available to parents.
     
  15. http://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/
    Oxford University Press has recently launched this free website to help parents. This includes advice from Ruth Miskin, author of the Read Write inc programme at your child's school so this might be of interest for your school to tell parents about.
     
  16. I do worry about this, I am all for encouraging children who are ready and interested in phonics at3 and 4 but I hear so many horror stories from visitors to our centre who are nursery teachers in primary schools. They are often being told by their head (due to poor sats results in year 6) to start phonics sessions in the nursery. One lady was having to do a half hour session at the beginning of everyday with children who could hardly string a sentence together let alone know how to play. I hear of parents who are told their 3 year olds targets and they must work harder to achieve these! I feel we are now, despite the EYFS providing a far more formal education in many places than we ever did in the 1980s when I first started teaching. In my nursery school on the other hand, we only do a little bit of phonics when relevant and when children are ready. We then track out children into a variety of primary schools and they do exceptionally well especially with phonics as they progress through their schools. I feel we challenge our children through developing their problem solving skills in lots of different areas; we focus on their listening and communication skills and I feel this really makes a difference to them throughout their primary years
     
  17. I don't disagree with you at all.
    Some resources to link letter shapes and sounds are not intended to be 'phonics sessions' per se.
    That is why I have thought carefully about this and ask for people's feedback which I value.
    As I said earlier, I would rather that these links were made casually and in a fun way and a systematic programme started 'later' (not as late as 6 or 7 though).
    I think Jim Rose probably got it about right when he said that a systematic phonics programme could start 'by the age of 5'.
     
  18. I disagree debbie. Give them another year of being the linguistic scientists that they are, support their own idiosyncratic and highly personal explorations first, link it to the main body of accepted knowledge, the alphabet etc and let them continue making links whist all the time building their language base and their intuitive understanding that they are decoding another great language mystery after the first of learning to speak, written language. A year can mean all the difference. And then worry less about the systematic but use the language learning keys tha children lile that of mystery10 to share with the rest. Otherwise the managment of the systematic scheme begins to impede ever earlier on individual progress and does not allow this to be bult informally into the group using the skills and immediate knowledge of the teacher. Rose seems a politically expedient weapon but is he really that informed, rounded, impartial, well- advised?
     
  19. JEH

    JEH New commenter

    yes - just because we CAN teach them to read at 4 does not necessarily mean that we should do so. If we held back until Year 1 to start the formal teaching it would be so much quicker and easier for the children and the teachers and we would not have the ridiculous situation where children are already labelled as 'failing' readers at the start of their statutory school careers.
     
  20. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    I'm puzzled. Debbie quoted Jim Rose suggesting that the right age for a systematics phonic programme to start is around the age of 5.
    For children in England this varies from the start of reception to the end of reception.
    If one were to leave it another year from this - 6th birthday as Yohana suggests (start to end of year 1 depending on children's birthday) there is no way that children could currently do much with the current KS1 curriculum in any subject.
    Again, this might be no bad thing, but is anyone suggesting that KS1 should be radically altered to accommodate children not being able to read in England until they are at least 7 (end year 2 for some children).
    I don't see the coalition doing that - my reading of it is that if anything the likelihood is more that children will be expected to "achieve more" in reception so that by end year 2 more children have got the equivalent of higher NC levels in numeracy and literacy than currently?

     

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