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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. Exactly what I mean. Reading is not about scoring points, getting an A grade, or a sticker for saying all the words right (maybe in a 'word test').
  2. inky

    inky Lead commenter

    I'm so torn. I totally accept that children need systematic phonics teaching. All children, in the early stages. I'm not an expert in reading theory so all this L-R orientation one-grapheme-at-a-time stuff is something I hardly have the confidence to contest, even though I know from experience that some children quickly progress beyond this point and a few master it in the blink of an eye, as I did.
  3. I wish I was. [​IMG]

    I don't think there is such a huge chasm between us maizie. You fail to acknowledge that I have always said you have to be able to read words to access texts, and that phonics is a great tool when it comes to reading words. It's just that as someone for whom reading and writing are essentially about enjoyment, discovery and most important - finding/expressing meaning, I cannot accept that children should switch off their brains in order to learn to read, and limit themselves to decoding words when there are so many other tools they can use which prepare them well to find the enjoyment, discovery and meaning available there. The SP-only route is very worthy and well-intentioned but does not do it all.

  4. inky

    inky Lead commenter

    And in that 'blink of an eye' there is whole word recognition.
    Moreover, with some children, the contextual clues are something they use because they're fortunate enough to have the experience of language that comes from being part of a chatty, articulate [not necessarily in a 'queen's English way] and story-loving family.
  5. And how do they progress beyond this point? They use phonics, and also pattern, rhyme, analogy, context and meaning, because they want to know the story, account, whatever it is. They want to find out what it says, what happens next, why, how, when.
  6. I'm afraid I cannot go along with using strategies with children which confuse them and stop them using the one sure and certain way of working out what the words on the page 'say'. You very obviously have absolutely no idea of what it is like for an 11, 12, 13 y old who cannot read the words on the page, yet is supposed to spend most of their time in school doing just that; reading, with no pictures for clues, either.
    You also have absolutely no idea of the relief, the pride and the confidence they exude when they realise that all they have to do is decode and blend the letters and they will 'get' the word. They cannot believe how easy it is. Far from it being a joyless 'decoding process' it is liberating, confidence boosting and makes them independent (no-one is needed to tell them what the word is). And, they can actually get the meaning of what they are reading because they are no longer guessing a load of gobbledegook, they are reading properly structured sentences which make sense. All that guessing and predicting and analogy was such hard work and not at all productive for them.
    As for switching off their brains....I am (almost) struck dumb. Children need every bit of their brain engaged when they are reading properly. The switched off brains are the ones where the child is just looking at the occasional initial letter and making it all up as they go along. Believe you me, plenty of them do that.
    You won't believe this either, but reading is one of my greatest pleasures in life. I want all children to be able to have the skills to be able to make it their greatest pleasure too, if they want to. SP was a revelation for me because it actually did help the children I work with.
  7. inky

    inky Lead commenter

    I don't think that matters much in the early stages.
    I hate those awful repetitive books that children used to take home and read in class.
    Any child with hald a brain could work out the pattern without making any attempt at sounding out etc.
    And th e ig joke is how much time was wasted in 'colour-banding' the wretched things!

  8. My daughter, who had been an avid reader, suddenly stopped extending her reading in y5. No new books, no new authors, no visits to the library, no. Couldn't tell me why. Just no. I assumed it was a passing phase, but after several weeks had passed I began to get a bit worried. At school she was reading books of her own that she'd read several times previously. I asked her what her teacher was reading to the class at school.

    'Oh, we don't have stories read to us any more.'

    'But you told me about -'

    'Yes, but that was in year 4.'

    I asked the literacy co-ordinator about the school's reading strategy. Or more specifically, their literature strategy, since I hadn't been able to find one on the DfES websites. It was left up to the class teacher whether they read to children or not. I asked how children could know what books were out there if no one read to them, and if they weren't expected to expand their repertoire at school. She looked puzzled and said 'But they have texts....that they study.' Having seen said texts, I suspect I would have been put off reading for pleasure at an early age if that was all I was exposed to. It appeared never to have crossed her mind that reading might be anything other than a utilitarian tool enabling one to get good qualifications and a decent job.

    Each member of our family learned to read very easily - apart from the youngest. Ironically, we all learned via a hotchpotch of methods - apart from him. He did Jolly Phonics. In the end, at six, he taught himself to read using whole word recognition. I'm aware that I can't draw any conclusions about learning-to-read methods from the experience of one child, as I've mentioned elsewhere. The point I want to make was that what had kept him going through the struggle with the mechanics of reading, was an intense interest in stories he had had since he was a toddler. He had long since despaired of skills such as maths and handwriting. He knew stories were in books, and he got through a lot of books, bootstrapping himself via a mix of SP, word recognition, adults reading to him, and his own experience of narrative.

    He (now 12) is still an avid adult-level reader and also an enthusiastic mathematician. We managed to kick-start our daughter's reading using the Ultimate Book Guide. I agree that in the end, people do it for themselves. I know young children get an enormous sense of achievement from a good understanding of how reading works and the ability to decode novel words. But doting parents and EY teachers can have a disproportionate influence on a young child, and a performance-centred focus on the mechanics of reading, without an awareness of the worlds books can open up, can mean that the child never reaches the ‘in the end' scenario.

  9. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    With respect if they are reading "wet" for "went" they aren't being taught to look at all the letters/sounds in the word the same applies to "sad" instead of "said" they are failing to look at the words so guess.
  10. We're right back at the beginning maisie, you think SP can solve all reading problems, but it can't - as admitted by those on here who have said (despite advocating SP) that you need to look at context, and at word families, in certain situations. You can't see how confusing some phonic solutions are ("look at all the piossible phonemes and choose the right one, but DO NOT look at the context, whatever you do!!!").
    Do you really believe that noone has ever attempted to teach these children to sound words out?
    Agreed. If you have read my posts you know that you don't need to convince me that children need to read words accurately. If only you would accept that there is more to it. You are misrepresenting my position. I'm not saying that you should do something else instead of SP, I am saying you should do SP and more.
    How did you learn to read? What strategies do you use now? Why is reading a pleasure for you? What was the motivation that made you read independently from choice?
  11. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Actually if you think about it children develop an understanding of sounds before they have an understanding of words which is why young babies babble and dada is often a child's first "word"
    It is developmental from birth (or from the womb) but it begins at the phonological level not at the whole word level.
  12. I think the situation was about reading 'went' for 'wet'. Noone is denying that if this is happening the child needs to look at the letters. But what is happening here? Knowing the word 'went' and coming across it repeatedly children start to do a short cut. They do not sound out 'went' every time. Then, seeing something similar (wet) they say, "went" erroneously. They will notice their mistake and go back and look if they are listening to their reading. I know I am inviting vitriol, but in my opinion, if a child says 'went'; for 'wet' it is a good sign that they may be developing beyond having to slavishly sound out every word. It is sometimes the mistakes that tell you about the progress.
  13. We're talking about phonics (you know, SP) not about making sounds. I'm sure you will agree that children (learning to read) have to learn to listen to the sounds they make, in order to recognise that there are particular units at work in their speech, before they can start SP. So they have to be able to talk- talking comes first. They babble as babies because they are developing language and practising the articulation of speech sounds, so that they can communicate (not so they can do SP). They say 'dada' and everyone cheers because it is a recognisable word with meaning, not a random sound (although it probably is random, that first time, and not meant).
    In what sense do sounds have a meaning to be understood? Do the sounds /a/, /b/, /c/ have a meaning? What is the understanding you are referring to?
  14. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I totally agree that phonics is the best start for all children (start not the whole package) even those fortunate few early readers who pick up reading easily. Whenever politics gets involved in education there is trouble ahead [​IMG]
    Reading is a complex process with the ultimate goal of communicating meaning in text whether that is a shopping list or an amazing story.
    It is very sad that some schools feel primary aged children don't need class stories in KS1 we do "5 A Day" and in UKS2 a daily class novel it's especially important for children who may not get stories at home.
  15. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Of course they might need help when they are first learning but I've taught reception children who quite happily do all that without a second thought but if they were being taught how to read it as a whole word they would need the same help. The difference is if you teach "giraffe" as a whole word at the end of the "day" the child can hopefully read "giraffe" if they are taught that "g" followed by "i" sometimes represents /j/ not /g/ they will also be able to apply the rule to ginger (bread man) and giant
  16. Who said anything about reading it as a whole word? I'm talking about bringing other knowledge into the reading process beyond the letter/sound knowledge (which is ambiguous). You quoted me out of context, by the way. I was responding to someone who said that SP was the only approach you should make to an unfamiliar word. I was pointing out that children will not always guess the right sound when confronted with an ambiguous letter/group of letters, but that the context can help.
    Thankfully, it's probably impossible to make a child ignore the other clues presented, we can't control their minds yet, although some try.
  17. When I mentioned pattern I was not referring to repetitive texts but to the patterns within word families. Of course patterns of words can help, and can enliven a story (most traditional tales use them), but I agree that the repetitive 'reading book' is dull and teachers have to make sure children are not parrotting (but they can be encouraging to beginner readers, none the less).
  18. Only because the English use of doubled consonants is so loose, as I have explained on my website and in several places on my blogs.
    If we used doubled consonants only to indicate short, stressed vowels as they are meant to, locating stress would be much easier. But because
    as many words of more than one syllable fail to use the doubling rule as do (shoddy - body, rabbit - habit, poppy - copy)
    often with other silly letters as well (funny - money, penny - many)
    and totally pointless doublings (arise - arrive - arrow, occupy - occur),
    it's hard to make sense of the doubling rule and to locate stress accurately,
    especially shifts in stress (accommodate - accommodation).
  19. Just to say thank you to all the posters on here - I know that for some it is repeating things that they have been saying for ages, which must get tedious and frustrating, but for me, this thread has had a slightly different angle to ones I've read before. I have particularly enjoyed reading thumbie's contributions as it has helped me to clarify my own thoughts, which I've found hard to put into words (I think I agree that children at quite an early stage do need to begin to use context to help them decode words - but I do understand why people working with older struggling readers are so upset by the concept of relying too heavily on context, because the searchlights guessing model has been the cause of so many non-readers in KS2). It has also been really interesting to read about unusual children's routes to reading, and about teaching older struggling readers.
    I've been thinking a bit more about the word 'said' (incidentally, those other words with 'ai' in them - certain, curtain and bargain - none of them have a short /e/ in my accent - certain and curtain are schwa, and bargain is /i/ - but it was acknowledged that accent makes a difference). I admit I haven't done any research on it, but because it's such a high frequency word and such a low frequency grapheme/phoneme correspondence, my gut feeling (very scientific!) is that the brain just might make an exception and learn/remember it as a whole. I know that doesn't really add much to the whole debate - other than, maybe accepting that there may be rare exceptions to the rules might make it easier to persuade people of the benefits of SP? ie - the exception proving the rule. I think that part of the reason people are resistant to SP is because it often comes across as so rule-bound and inflexible (probably because there was so much to fight against and it made things clearer) - but maybe now that most people (? perhaps I'm wrong) accept that there is a place for SP, a little softening around the edges would actually get further faster?
    I know that one of the unions is asking members about their thoughts about the proposed phonics test, in a vein that appears to be rather anti-SP (Would you be prepared to give up teaching by look-and-say methods? Would you be prepared to give up using non-phonic based readers? - paraphrased from memory) - and I wonder how much that is because the SP voice comes across so dogmatically?
  20. This makes life difficult for learning to read and to pronounce what is read, but I think it is the inevitable result of English being a living, changing language, the native tongue for a huge number of peole in different parts of the world. Stresses are placed differently in American English and British English, and there are regional variations in both countries, so trying to standardise spelling to correspond with stresses would be divisive and lead to more confusion.


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