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What to say when Parents say their child doesn't learn phonetically

Discussion in 'Primary' started by Dalian Daisy, Nov 15, 2010.

  1. I'm running a phonics workshop & think this might crop up, esp as I have one parent who thinks their son can't read phonetically and thinks he does it more from memory. He does sound out but is working at phase 4 so isn't as secure as others. He certainly can use phonics in writing. What do I say if they say phonics doesn't work or what do we do for children who don't learn phonetically? My belief is they've got to learn phonetically & we support them to do so but we do teach HF words in a more sight way if they aren't decodable. Also we use mnemonics etc. Thanks!
  2. I'm running a phonics workshop & think this might crop up, esp as I have one parent who thinks their son can't read phonetically and thinks he does it more from memory. He does sound out but is working at phase 4 so isn't as secure as others. He certainly can use phonics in writing. What do I say if they say phonics doesn't work or what do we do for children who don't learn phonetically? My belief is they've got to learn phonetically & we support them to do so but we do teach HF words in a more sight way if they aren't decodable. Also we use mnemonics etc. Thanks!
  3. All written words are decodable. They are code for spoken words. If you can read them you have learnt the code and are decoding them.
  4. Ok, thanks. Not sure if that will quell the questions but thank you anyway!
  5. Well, you're playing into the parents' hands there somewhat, aren't you!
    As Teejay says, all words are decodeable. With the new govt. guidance (i.e Letters & Sounds) you shouldn't really be thinking HF words at all, you should be thinking about 'tricky words', i.e words which are decodeable, but with a tricky bit, and you should be teaching them as such, decodable. The minute you start implying that some words aren't decodable parents who have even less of an understanding of how the alphabetic code works than you do will be encouraged to claim that their child can't read 'phonetically'. Which is likely to be true of such a very tiny number of children that you are unlikely to encounter one in the course of your teaching career.
    What I would say, from my experience with struggling readers, that it is likely that a mixture of sounding out and blending for some words with learning HFWs as 'wholes' makes some children lazy. They prefer to look and guess rather than decode and blend all through the word because looking and guessing is much easier.
    I would just smile sweetly and say that you have never yet encountered a child who cannot decode and blend and as their child doesn't seem to have a problem with sounding out it is unlikely that he's the one exception.
  6. Guest

    How is 'one' decodable or 'who' or 'sugar' or 'what' or 'was'. Surely these words have to be learned in a different way to c-a-t or r-ai-n.
    Letters and sounds has a list of high frequency words in the back.
  7. You clearly do not understand that the letters in words are there as 'code' for the sounds. However bizarre the code appears to be it still is there to represent a sound. Because of the hybrid nature of our language we have far more 'code' for sounds than do languages which contain very few imported words. Just because you can't see a connection doesn't mean to say that it doesn't exist.
    There is nothing at all out of the ordinary about HFWs, they are just the words which occur most frequently in text. Most of them are completely, straightforwardly, decodeable.
    Is that your clincher for arguing that HFWs must be taught as sight words/wholes?
    You should also note that the L & S guidance very explicitly tells teachers that these words are not to be taught as 'wholes', but as 'tricky' words; that is, decodable with a 'tricky bit'.
  8. Just explain to parents at the information evening, that it is certainly true that people can and have learnt in different ways, and that many people in the room may not have had systematic phonics teaching when they were at school.
    However, we now know that it is really advantageous to teach the letter/s-sound correspondences of the alphabetic code (the 'code knowledge') and the three core skills of blending for reading, segmenting for spelling (and knowing the alternative graphemes as code for the identified sounds) and handwriting - very explicitly.
    Everyone is helped, then, by systematic phonics teaching for reading and writing.
    We do learners a disservice not to teach them well, because we also know that many children 'hit a ceiling' without good phonics teaching as books become more advanced with less pictures to support the reading - and less obvious themes.
    We also know that even where children seem to have a natural flair for reading, they often don't spell nearly so well.
    It is a learner's entitlement to know the code and structure of the English language and to be taught really thoroughly for both reading and spelling (and to be taught handwriting well).
    It is not for the school to single out children who appear to be doing well without phonics teaching not to provide the teaching for them. We, as teachers, cannot make judgements about who to leave out of the lessons!
    Infant and primary teachers must equip all children to make the most of their potential - and we cannot see into the crystal ball as to what children will do in the future without the very best foundations.

    I hope this explanation (said in your own way of course) will be helpful.
    It may well be that you want to offer children who are advanced readers more than one type of reading book. They might get their structured phonics reading book but also a free choice book and/or a story book. We do need to acknowledge when children are reading ahead of their peers, but I would never suggest precluding such children from the phonics lessons.
  9. Guest

    Well I know that the letters represent words and words have sounds, so it would be difficult for me not to understand this, but I think I get where you are coming from.
    I know how to say 'one' when I see it. I know that the 'o' in it sounds different from the 'o' in 'on'. The sound that o makes in on is a useful one that can be transfered to many other words, the sound it makes in one is very unusual, I would have thought that the easiest way to learn what the word one sounds like is just to learn it by memory, what other way is there that makes sense?
    Similarly with who or sugar or lots of other words.
    My point is that are these words best learned in a different way to learning what sound oi makes and then using that to read 'point'.


    What is the decodable bit of 'one' and which is the tricky bit and how would teaching it that way be any better or easier than just learning that the letters o-n-e put together sound like 'won'.

    I am asking as a genuine bit of enquiry from someone who knows better than I do.
    I know it is difficult sometimes in the written form to get the tone right, but I am not trying to pick a fight or argue for the sake of it (although I do do that sometimes)
    I am trying to learn something.

  10. I would go with children learn in different ways but letters and sounds has been a great benefit to even those who tend to read by sight. I can see where the parent is coming from, my son is in year 1 and I do work with him on segmenting and blending but very often he really is reading from sight (as he can struggle with easily decodable words but can sight read adventure, magic etc!!). I think this is the natural progression from having to segment and blend every word but they will still need to know how to do this for the words that they don't know. As a KS2 teacher I would say that letters and sounds are fantastic foundation stones for being able to spell effectively (this is very clear at the moment as our current year 4 did not have L&S but the yr3 did (mixed class) year 3 are better spellers!). We teach l&s and support for spelling throughtout KS2 in ability groups.
  11. cariad2

    cariad2 New commenter

    Some of those examples are easier to decode than others:
    "who": "wh" is a reasonable common way to represent the "w" sound (where, when, why etc). "o" usually makes the short "o" sound (eg in "hot") or the long "o" sound (eg in "go"). But it can occasionaly represent the "oo" sound, especially at the end of words (eg in "to" or "do")

    "sugar": "s"usually represents the "s" sound (as in "sock), but sometimes represents the "sh" sound (as in "sure"). "u" most commonly represents the short "u" sound (as in "cup"), the long "u" sound (as in "frugal") or the short "oo" sound (as in "put"). "ar" usually represents the "ar" sound (as in "car") - it just needs tweaking a bit when decoding the word "sugar".

    "what": "wh" is a common way to represent the "w" sound (see above). "a" often represents the short "o" sound when it follows "a" (want, was, swap, swan, wand etc)

    "was": "a" is making a short "o" sound, because it follows "w". "s" often makes more of a "z" sound at the end of words (is, has, friends, rings etc)

    I'm sure there is a reason why "one" is spelled the way that it is - but I haven't a clue what the rationale is!

    The trouble with the English language, isn't that words aren't decodable. The problem is that we our language has been influenced by 2 very different language systems - Germanic from the Saxons and French from the Normans. Plus, thanks to invasions from other nations, and the way in which we invaded other countries as the British Empire spread, many words come from still more languages.
    This makes the English language incredibly complicated. Most words are decodable once you know enough phonics - but many words which children meet in their reading, are beyond the level of their current phonic knowledge.
  12. It would be easier if you were to recognise that letters represent sounds and that the representations of the sounds build into what we call 'words'. This may seem a bit like being picky, but the idea that 'letters represent words' is what got us into the mistaken methods of teaching reading mess in the first place. A strange belief developed that words could be recognised by the pattern and shape they made as a 'whole' and that the role of letter/sound correspondences was completely redundant. I have read one of the gurus of the Whole Word movement, Frank Smith, and his ideas about reading are so barmy that I can't see how/why anyone ever gave them any credence[​IMG]
    I did do a post earlier about the example words you gave but I pressed a wrong couple of keys and lost the whole thing! However, I see that cariad has very kindly explained much of what I was going to.
    One thing to hang on to, though, is the fact that very few words in English are as bizarre as 'one' and 'two', . It's just really unfortunate that children have to learn these quite early on! I do kind of agree that they have to be learned slightly differently from straighforwardly 'coded' words, but the principle remains the same, they have to be decoded and blended, not learned as a 'whole'. The 'ough' words are another very tricky set, but they still can be taught by the decoding route.
    If you are interested, there is a post here about the 'regularity' of English spelling':
    Sorry to be a tetchy old maizie [​IMG]

  13. With the word 'who', the 'wh' grapheme is code for /h/ as in 'whole', 'whom', 'whose'.
    I would teach 'who' alongside the words 'to', 'do' and perhaps the common words 'move' and 'prove' where letter 'o' is also code for long /oo/.
    I would teach 'one' along with 'once'.
    I would already have taught that end 'ce' is code for /s/ as in 'dance' and 'palace'.
    The thing is, the more that teachers and teaching assistants become familiar with the alphabetic code and can hop from thinking of words from print to sound for reading and tally sound to print for spelling, the easier and more straightforward phonics teaching becomes.
    It isn't an exact science - and different teachers may well find different ways to introduce tricky words and different programmes introduce tricky words and their version of the alphabetic code in their own way.
    There are certain points, however, which are very helpful including not sounding out 'end e' as there are only a few words where the end e is pronounced such as cafe and acne.
    Other helpful hints are to quite quickly learn the single vowel letters a, e, i, o, u in both their short vowel versions and long vowels as in 'table', 'me', 'find', 'go' and 'uniform'. Then readers can try them first one way and if that doesn't make a real word, try the other way.
    Thus, children don't even have to know about split digraphs before being able to read words with split digraphs.
    However, we were talking about spelling. Spelling is a long, hard slog for most children and the more you can highlight words, mark well, value good teaching, share an enthusiasm for words, and use phonics displays to good effect - and provide enough structured writing opportunities and self-dictations (read a sentence, hold it in your head, re-write on lined paper) - the better.
  14. Something I hear a lot in the playground is this whole "but we didn't learn this way and we can all read' attitude. Definitely worth having a good answer to that OP.

  15. Surely most little children will know the word, "Who," anyway from Dr. Who !! and through seeing it all the time just as they know McDonalds and Tesco.
    Dereck underwood79 raises some perfectly understandable questions and comments about words such as who,sugar, what and was. I totally agree with what he is saying,and I hope we will look back in years to come and say, "what were we thinking of teaching them to read this way (systematic phonics)."
  16. bagforlife - dearie me - what a worrying sign that you haven't taught with synthetic phonics teaching and seen the difference it makes to the children - all the children.
    I hope your 'look back' suggestion never comes to pass.[​IMG]
  17. Guest

    I have no idea what is the best way to teach children to read. If previous posts are correct there has been very little reliable research on the topic - which is worrying.
    I have to disagree with the idea that synthetic phonics makes a difference to all the children. It may be the best way to get the best out of the majority of children in a school setting.
    My daughter has never been to school and she has never had a phonics lesson in her life. Her reading age has always been way above her chronological age, she read all the Harry Potter books back to back at the age of 7 for example. I do not see how synthetic phonics would have helped her at all.
    She watched me yesterday as I looked at a video on the DCFS (as it was) website about teaching tricky words. It was this thread that led me to take a look. She was genuinely astounded to see a bunch of little kids sitting on the floor waiting for the word 'some' to appear out of the 'tricky hat' or whatever it was called. 'Is that the way children learn to read in school?' she asked, 'why dont they just read a book to them?'
  18. Guest

    Debbie - I just looked up your website. I spend hours every day listening to the Oxford Reading tree books. I like the fact that there is this man with glasses that turns up a lot in the pictures but is never mentioned in the text. The children never mention this.
  19. _w_


    Love it!
  20. sorry - but miss post really couldn't
    before she started to be formally taught to read, shehad identified lots of whole words by sight, and enjoyed her version of 'reading' - then she was taught sounds - which she learnt easily - c-a-t, but she could not blend that to cat
    she became so upset, i hired a tutor, who took her back to key words and she was off and away - at 7 she had a reading age of 14 and a textual understanding age of 16
    she is also mildly dyslexc - often cited as a reason for using phonics
    i taught master post to read using whole words before the school got its hands on him - i also taught him his basic phonics - they do have their uses
    it does happen, and children should be treated as individuals

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