1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

This Letters and Sounds is just baffling me.

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by mrszzz, Dec 20, 2011.

  1. OK I'm new to reception (starting after xmas) and have only done KS2 before so maybe I have some misconceptions/misunderstandings.
    After xmas I am due to start phase 3 however having observed the class many of the children don't seem to have a particular good grasp of what they did in Autumn. So do I plough on regardless?
    It seems to me that the children are meant to fit the programme and yet this seems to run counter to planning individually for the children's needs
    Grapheme, segment, blending when did teaching simple letter sounds become such a psuedo-science.
    Why satpin? why not a,b,c
    Is it just me or do others feel steamrollered by the whole process?
  2. OK I'm new to reception (starting after xmas) and have only done KS2 before so maybe I have some misconceptions/misunderstandings.
    After xmas I am due to start phase 3 however having observed the class many of the children don't seem to have a particular good grasp of what they did in Autumn. So do I plough on regardless?
    It seems to me that the children are meant to fit the programme and yet this seems to run counter to planning individually for the children's needs
    Grapheme, segment, blending when did teaching simple letter sounds become such a psuedo-science.
    Why satpin? why not a,b,c
    Is it just me or do others feel steamrollered by the whole process?
  3. Leapyearbaby64

    Leapyearbaby64 New commenter

    If you are for real, I suggest you have a search about on this forum.
  4. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Assess what they know now and then decide what you need to teach next. You should be revisiting everything you've taught already as part of your daily lesson to reinforce the sounds (and in any spare minute you find)
    when children know satpin they can begin to blend and segement a large number of words from the end of the first week (because you aren't just teaching letter sounds you are teaching a child to read words and to spell words and to form letters)
    an,at, as, in, is, it, ant, sit, sat, tap, tip, pin, pit, past, pants, tan, nap, pan, sap, spit, spin, snip, snap, tint ...
    with abcdef ... cab, bad, dad, bed, fed
    around the 16th Century
    Any chance you can access the matched funding for some training?

  5. I take from your reply that my worries and concerns are not commonplace
  6. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I think they show you have no experience of teaching the mechanics of reading and are commonplace for those trained as junior teachers who find themselves in reception with no support
  7. sounds about right[​IMG]
  8. Leapyearbaby64

    Leapyearbaby64 New commenter

    Sorry if I was rude. Can't believe you have been thrown into such an important year group with no support. Lots of holiday reading for you!
  9. sadika

    sadika New commenter

    I find it very worrying that teachers are "thrown in at the deep end" with no training/understanding of a VERY important stage ... everything that happens in the Foundation Stage is so important for the future so it needs to be right. The Letters and Sounds document is very readable and easy to understand/follow (well I find it so and hopefully others do to?) and there's LOADS of info on the internet and on this forum. Suggest you watch the dvd that goes with L and S as there are some good clips to illustrate good practice at all stages. I know your question re why satpin and not abc will have sent shivers down many a FS teacher's spine BUT it shows you so need some support! So PLEASE come back on here and ask questions. I would say you need to establish exactly where the children are and go from there - yes it probably will be back-tracking - we will be doing this in January and we are very experienced - but after the excitement of Christmas activities and the holidays we know there's no point in moving on straight away without consolidation!
  10. Well said and I second that :)
  11. I can tell many of you are very passionate about letters and sounds.
    One of my initial points was that the programme seemed to be a bit of a steam roller. Many children don't seem to have grasped certain sounds so the answer seems to be 'go back and keep repeating'. Why keep dragging these children on if they don't have the basics of the previous stage. It seems to run counter to everything we learnt as teachers that is to match the activity/level to the child's ability.
    Why the rush-who decided that a stage should take a particular amount of time?
  12. The problem seems to be about keeping a balance between ensuring that the phonics programme taught is systematic and that the children taught are keeping up with it. The systematic part means that phonics is taught in discrete sessions, following a planned route, ensuring coverage and progression. Sometimes children do not keep up. There is another thread on here discussing what happens then. I can't remember the title, but will edit this when I've finished to let you know. I think you are right to be wary of 'steamrollering' phonics, bashing on regardless. Children are not empty vessels that we can pour knowledge into and know it will stay there! We do have to be careful to address children where they are, not where we are! The Letter and Sounds sessions do allow for lots of revisiting and revision. I wouldn't worry too much before you start. You can't know yet where your children are, but once you are with them it will be fairly easy to suss out if you observe carefully, and then you will have a sense of what to do. Take it a step at a time and feel your way in. Good luck.'Reception children not getting phonics or key words'.
  13. louisea

    louisea New commenter

    Hi and welcome to the forum.
    For 'most' children L & S does work. My class are at Phase 3 week 6 and for many of them they are constantly writing cvc words, making words with magnetic letters and happily putting the sound buttons underneath each word. A few are even writing senetnces!
    On the other hand I have many children that know the sounds, can do the action but are struggling to blend. We have just finished an assessment with them all and have now split them into 2 groups which me and my TA are going to work with in the New Year. We can then push the ones that are working well and consolidate with the other children.
    If you can I would try and go and see some other teachers doing L & S, even if its Y1 or Y2. Use lots of diferent things, whiteboards, magnetic letters, words with sound buttons under them, IWB.
    It does work, believe me!
  14. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I'm not passionate about L&S (it's one of the DCSF better efforts but still an E for content)
  15. sadika

    sadika New commenter

    I think it's a good starting point for someone like the original poster ... I don't follow it slavishly but that's because of many years of experience of knowing what works for me and my particular children - so for someone new and very raw it gives a good structure which will promote confidence in their teaching.
    I have to disagree with the "many" children quoted by original poster who don't grasp certain sounds - yes there will be some children who don't get it but most do and by constant "drip feeding" and taking incidental opportunities to reinforce the ones lagging behind will cotton on. I am sure that come the end of the summer term the op will be impressed with the children's achievements and look back on the initial postings with a smile!
    Good luck! I'm sure it will be quite a culture shock and a steep learning curve - I couldn't ever envisage teaching KS2 at all!!
  16. sadika

    sadika New commenter

    I think the following is credited to Debbie Hepplewhite (and she really knows what she's talking about when it comes to synthetic phonics!)
    This her web site
    I'm not certain where I found the following
    [/b]It's a question of 'drip, drip' and time.

    One advantage of the current understanding of teaching phonics is that the suggestion that any children who struggle must have 'different learning styles' and therefore need 'something different from phonics' - this holds no water. The alternatives of whole word learning instead, or waiting for 'reading readiness' are not alternatives nowadays.

    Jim Rose points out that ALL children should be taught the alphabetic code and the skills of blending and segmenting whatever their 'learning style'.

    He also points out that the multi-sensory approach to teaching makes learning more fun and memorable.

    What you need to consider for the slower children is that they are precisely that - SLOWER.

    You also need to consider that one issue which might hold them back is your teaching style - how effective is it really?

    You hear Ruth Miskin and me talking about guarding against 'pink and fluffy' teaching. This is where you are diluting the learning and the routines of teaching letter/s-sound correspondences and the skills of blending and segmenting by too many frilly, fancy activities which may well seem multi-sensory and child-friendly but might actually take the child away from the core learning.

    If you have a set routine of:

    1) revising correspondences learnt to date with flash cards or pointing to magnetic cards on a whiteboard, or pointing to correspondences on a chart

    2) introducing a new letter (and the sound it represents)

    3) immediately show some words with the new correspondence and blend all-through-the-word with the children sounding out as purely as possible. Don't 'over' model. As time goes on allow the children to 'hear' the word themselves. Don't tell them the whole word before they have sounded it out.

    4) Say some simple words with the new correspondence. The children hear the word said slowly, they say the sounds they can hear all-through-the-spoken-word and count the sounds. You write that many dashes on the board. Together say and write the letters and letter combinations on the sound-dashes. Check the word by sounding it out and blending it. Perhaps do a few spellings on whiteboards and/or write out the new correspondence combined with ensuring they write the letter shapes correctly.

    5) Involve the slower-to-learn child in all these activities appreciating that the child is not so able to do these things independently. Nevertheless, this child is seeing and hearing how the code works and how the letters are put to use.

    6) Provide the child with two 'sounds books'. One is an up-to-date version which the rest of his/her group receives for going home and sharing with parents. The other sounds book has only letter/s-sound correspondences in which that child is learning at his/her level.

    7) Explain to the parents (if at all possible) that the child is not being singled out from his/her peers as being slow to learn, but is getting short bursts of additional practice learning the correspondences where possible. Parents are needed to support with this additional help if possible.

    8) Provide ideas and games as to how to recall these sounds. Turning letter cards over and saying the sound. Keeping the cards if the sound said is correct. Doing this with very limited cards and building up only as that child can cope with new sounds.

    9) Do not prevent the child from seeing the other sounds being taught. It could be that out of these other sounds, the child remembers various odd ones for one reason or another.

    10) Appreciate that 'over time' the childs learning WILL happen and he/she must not be held back from phonics activities that the others are involved with.

    Progress will just be slower but it will come.
  17. well mrzzzz many comments on here to awaken the dead weight of fear in you. Personally my take on it would be that as has been said the 'basic' of anything can be taught to anybody at any stage it is just a matter of presenting the structure in terms which make sense'..Bruner.
    So we have the Jolly phonics e-e-e-eggs in the pan and a-aa ants on the arm as multi-sensory approaches to presenting the structure of our alphabetic code makes sense within the above observbation by Bruner. . It's not rocket science, some parents have always done that instinctively but idiosyncratically, devoid of anything but the most fleeting of systems and their kids have learned to read. Early years teachers have always done that in everything but not always so consciously with phonics. Now we have various highly marketed version of those playday moments- and it is a very useful reference to teachers - but not more or less so than 'This little puffin' for example or other texts. 'Playing living and learning' by Vera Roberts, or Early Learning by Tina Bruce of the Nursery Teacher in action by Margaret Lally. However there is a lot of government money wrapping the phonics schemes all up in and therefore a lot of pressure, almost urgency created to show the need to buy it hook, line and sinker.
    Maybe phonics in a way has become an easy handle to grasp for many people as it solves a lot of awkward thinking about what really to do with young children and as our present systems asks no more in truth - allthough paying lipservice through the EYFS principles- then nursery and receptions are finding that any deeper debate is neither recognised or valued, and that it is the simple adoption of letters and sounds or another approach, or read, write inc etc that makes 'satisfactory' or 'good' teaching.
    I think the debate about how systematic, how rigid, how fast, how indeed minutely differentiated and organised it must be, are really over-egging the pudding. Give it attention and reflect on how to do it with relevance and interest to your children but don't beat yourself up about it having to meet some perfect ideal. That cripples the leaps, twists and turns that mark really good teaching that is your own teaching.
    High stakes, tests, inspections, level standards etc are now having the effect that everywhere is now so nervous, so fraught, so tied up with evaluating, assessing, teaching in a sequence, writing plans that show it is in a sequence, being systematic, writing clear LO's and assessment - that the pudding is now dead heavy. It can't rise if it wants to- and oh it wants to if you listen to the teachers on here. Problem is we now think the pudding is the main course, that that is what we are there for. It isn't.
    On the way we maybe throw out opportunities for dallying, delaying, digressing, doing other things just because they are interesting to children and do not figure in any plan or scheme in advance but arise from the interactions of children, with their own experience and the materials, expereinces, space, interactions possibilities that the school affords them.
    No child is really going to be damaged if you don't do letters and sounds in an exact way. We have been learning to read for a long time without this insistence. Building a great group with positive realtionships, using the children's lives and interests, their preoccupations and the themes of their lives to build PSE, L, M DOW etc in an atmoshpere which repects their own activity and above all their own REPRESENTATION through a whole variety of materials - graphic, malleable, imaginative, constructive etc.... All this tells them they are valued as learners and as people not just as 'in need of literacy and numeracy' - which remember they don't really need.l Yes they don't really need it. We want to give it to them and decide that as they are in school they might as well have it at a very early age but it is worth remembering that school in the UK is from five, in other cultures from a later age and this just shows that there are many equal and valid settings for young children.
    I don't in any way here wish to decry the impact that early years education can have on the most disadvantaged children, it is from their perspective that I speak, from being a teacher of those very children. Literacy keys are important to the doors of their future but their present is in need of the oxygen of play, the water of language and the rich soil of experience. Only you can be the steward of their access to that. Welcome to the field of early childhood education. Their are passionate hot winds, the cold chills of the frosty gaze of SMT's and OFSTED - however they might try to dress upas summer, but there is a genuine culture and history which has a lot to offer primary school. And a lot to engage teachers who wish to reflect on the nature of learning, family,culture, biology, in fact most aspects of life are there. Good luck.
    Be very aware that there are so many things that get thrown by the wayside in the rush to pick up the carrot of phonics teaching that at the risk of sounding contorversial I would say is the least of your worries. Of course the c-a-t-p-i-n is a very useful, essential tool that you don't have to invent yourself- although that is what others have esentially done and then marketed and sold what you could do for yourself. . However whether in the end this is going to make such a difference to our national literacy is really only something that politicians and those troops massed in the ranks of the perennial debate seem to be sure about.
    All I would say is look around, try to read and reach out to others and other approaches, use your expereince of seeing what children in your KS2 classes could and couldn't do, what they liked, didn't like, what was motivating or not, what were expereinces that might have helped some of them but likewise what might not have helped others.Even now national certainties are changing but the rippleswill take years to pass out to schools who are not at the centre of the debate and yet in many ways thay are only ripples on the surface, the deeper waters are unchanging, the currents and flows withing early childhood teaching are unchanging, they are there to dip into and draw on, they will water and nourish you all a teaching life which is what gives guidance to how, when and why or not to use particular tools in particular situations.


  18. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    That all sounds reassuring and lovely, but I still get puzzled. Debbie has given some practical suggestions as to what a parent, teacher, or volunteer could do to help a child who is not keeping up with the majority pace at school during the learn to read process. It might not appeal to you as a teaching approach, or it might not fit with early childhood development theory etc.
    But my question is this: forget the age of the child now - just think if any primary school age child who is still in the early stages of learning to read (say level 2b or less) and is well behind the majority of peers at that school by that measure. What would you do / not do?
    Now I know this will depend on circumstances, what the child can do, can't do, etc, but what would you do?
    Or have you never witnessed this in any of the schools you have worked in - in which case what do you think are the specific ingredients the schools you worked in had which prevented this happening?
    My main wish is that children do not leave primary at 11 unable to enjoy reading and unable to read to learn. These are both a big shame for their future leisure time and their future learning. Yes maybe we shouldn't be worrying in reception, year 1, etc etc. But when would you see the time to do more of something or other, and less of something else to be the time?
    I ask you this as a genuine question. I can see that at whatever stage some children start to fall behind the crowd, there will be a temptation to look at the education system a stage before that and say "well if they did such and such in year v and w that would prevent children arriving in year x and y unable to do such and such". Maybe Yohana you are more accepting that there always will be a range and as long as you provide the right environment etc for learning we have done the right thing. However I look on right to the end of schooling and beyond - at the high proportion of the prison population who can't read, and how many of them succeed and turn their lives round through learning to read in prison e.g. via Toe by Toe. When the chips are down the vast majority of these people (who were presumably viewed as "unteachable" at school) can learn to read with an incredibly cheap and no frills approach. The recipe for those who succceed is an enthused mentor who learned that way themselves, and inner motivation to improve their own life or that of their family.
    I turn up as a volunteer at primary school with "ants in my pants" wanting to make the maximum impact with the minimal amount of time available per child I can help. I find that synthetic phonics and fun decodable books, and some wider reading if there is the time and the child is far on enough, is very effective. Maybe there is something else that would work as well / instead, but I just have to make do with limited time and resources. I rely on the school to be providing the wider literacy-rich environment, and other important literacy-based activities as that is where the child is all day every day, not with me.
    I am doing a course at the same time; I have had to evaluate the approaches I use in my voluntary work to help children with reading difficulties. Having explained and critiqued the different approaches I could have used with a KS1 / young KS2 child I plumped for SP. I got a low mark as I was assuming that SP was "the answer".
  19. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    P.S. Did key words based reading schemes (from the Ladybird Janet and John onwards) get the same criticism about profit-making as the newer phonics based reading schemes?
    I would think that more time and effort has gone into developing a lot of the SP schemes than went in to the keywords schemes (Biff and Chip included).
    There is a lot more teaching material surrounding the decodable readers in the SP schemes, and the SP books must be harder to author. It would be much easier to author an interesting book from a limited list of words than from a limited list of GPCs.
    Also, just as there was nothing stopping a teacher devising their own teaching scheme, reading materials etc for a "keywords" way of learning to read, there is nothing stopping a teacher doing the same with SP. Enough of the ideas, knowhow, etc is available free in the public domain. In fact, more so. I have been able to gather enough info to work out how to teach children via SP and spent very little in the process. However, in order to teach a child via "keywords" I am still really unsure of the "pedagogy". I know a lot of children would just pick it up as they went along, but I would worry that I would not know what to do with the ones who didn't (and they are certainly not a tiny minority of very slow learners).
  20. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    You might be interested in this website created by a mum (who I respect immensely for her never give up attitude) whose child has a number of obstacles to learning to read http://www.dyslexiaadvice.co.uk/index.html

Share This Page