Does anyone think phonics teaching has any harmful effects?

(728 Posts)
housework Wed 19-Jun-13 10:22:16

I am happy to be persuaded either way but would be and would be interested to hear all views. Am thinking about dd and whether phonics has worked for her.
DD is 7, reads very well and comprehends what she is reading on the whole. She passed the Y1 phonics test getting the magic 32 so many children got. However, she's a poor speller to the extent that an Ed Psych has suggested testing for dyslexia. I'd like to do some more spelling work with her over the summer holidays. Today I did a bit of the Alpha to Omega placement test with her. She spelt crash as 'Krash' and chip as 'thip.' I let her do the next words 'splash' and 'thrush'. She spelt these correctly. With chip, I think she knew there were 'th', 'sh' and 'ch' to choose from and just picked one of them.
The above and other incidences make me wonder. Does phonics stop a child trusting their instincts? In her case, I think she is not considering how a word looks to help her spell it. She will always fall back on a phonetic spelling unless she already knows the spelling. If school had focussed more on rote learning, regular and rigorous spelling tests, would she spell better. At the moment they're all still ploughing through phonics because the failures have to re-take this year. But there are no expectations re spelling, barely any spelling tests, no words given to learn. And dd is the type that will only do the work if school have set it.
I'm just wondering where to go from here. Thanks for reading.

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 18:50:49

Come on learnandsay is it either of those ...

morethanpotatoprints Wed 19-Jun-13 18:51:50

Yes, I think it can be harmful, especially to dyslexics anyway. My dd still doesn't get it at 9, so she is constantly trying new strategies to be able to spell please, [ples], chair [cher] etc.
I'm not sure which way would be better but we are trying grin

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 18:54:31

The flower? chrysanthemum.

The other one's an alien name isn't it. Have to add it to the phonics test.

pointythings Wed 19-Jun-13 19:00:54

My children went to a private nursery and at 3 they knew that 'C' could make different sounds depending on how it was used. I suspect bad phonics teaching.

I second a hearing check for the OP's DC, using 'th' for 'chip' makes no sense at all.

Lastly, learning to spell is a complex skill. Phonics do play a huge part in it, but it also helps if children are exposed to a lot of words so that they can see letter combinations doing different things depending on the word. That means lots of reading - them reading to you, them reading by themselves and you reading to them.

Spelling tests don't work.

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 19:14:31

Chrysanthemum do you say it to rhyme with Byzantium ...I don't so it is perfectly easy to spell from the sounds

I might try it with my Y1s tomorrow

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 19:15:33

Interestingly (for me anyway) it is the only word I can remember learning to spell at infant school.

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 19:26:01

Interesting phrase phonics do play a huge part in it. Unless you were taught to spell by rote.

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 19:31:14

You confused me with the flower saying it began with cu learnandsay
"cuzantium" but it wouldn't feature in the phonics screening as it has too many syllables ...it's a simple check

BabiesAreLikeBuses Wed 19-Jun-13 19:49:54

As for the teaching bit.. In ks2 we teach literacy daily, one lesson a week is dedicated to spelling and grammar (then picked up throughout the week's activities). We have a pattern a week, eg words ending in tion. We do activities in the lesson eg find as many words as you can with that ending and discuss rules and exceptions. They are given ten words a week with the pattern to learn at home and then i randomly pick 5 of them or other words with that pattern to test them on - this tends to show if they've learnt the pattern rather than rote learnt it. I am thinking of adding in a ten minute burst of phonics next year too as the kids i currently have were not taught that way in foundation. Many of the patterns you mention are in our y5 syllabus, eg ough words, soft c sounds, hard c sounds, words from other languages ending in o and so on.
I think as a parent it is hard to know how well they should be spelling at each stage, some parents don't correct any spellings and some correct all to the point where dc are reluctant to have a go on their own.
Our school give spelling patterns from y2 onwards.

I can see th- for ch- given that the first sound in ch- is "t" (t-sh). She had an idea that it would be ch-, th- or sh-, sounded it out, heard a t- first and went for th-.

I mean obviously it isn't right but it isn't like she used gh- or something.

I am following this thread with interest, as a very visual learner with excellent spelling, taught in the 1980s by look-and-say, but who has been absolutely flabberghasted by the brilliance and simplicity of phonics for DS(4) in Reception.

justsstartingtothink Wed 19-Jun-13 22:39:53

Mrz -- yes, I did explain about c also having a "ch" sound in words of Italian origin (we are a multi-lingual family and one of his best friends is Italian so it was very natural to discuss differences in letter sounds in other languages from a very early age.
the nursery was a private day nursery; there wasn't an option of a school-linked nursery.
I'm not opposed to phonics-based teaching. I just think letters should be called by the letter name not by one of the sounds it represents. I know many children who still at the age of 9 or 10 spell words aloud using phonetic names for letters, yielding some very odd results. Based on your post, I think we might be in agreement.

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 06:13:42

Which is why I disagree with day nurseries "teaching" children phonics. I'm afraid too often the school has to reteach and correct taught misconceptions

Because knowing letter names is really useful for spelling and reading or simply because they are a convention?

justsstartingtothink Thu 20-Jun-13 09:49:07

MRZ -- even in reception and Y1, my children's teachers used sounds rather than letter names (ie C was called "kh" rather than "see"). A child called Amy would spell her name aloud as "ah - mm -- yuh" ( I don't know the correct way to represent the sounds but assume you'll understand what I mean). I just thought it was madness the children weren't taught the names of 26 letters and the fact that most letters can be used to produce more than one sound (alone or in combination with other letters). Children are able to understand much greater complexity than some grownups assume!

rabbitstew Thu 20-Jun-13 10:25:21

If children are able to understand much greater complexity than some grownups assume, then maybe some grown ups should stop thinking that a child is being seriously harmed by their phonics teaching?... Children aren't that stupid. At least if phonics helps you learn to grasp the mechanics of reading more quickly, it can help you start to read more, more quickly, and if you are reading more, you are likely to start understanding more, more quickly, and you will be seeing more words more often, so will start recognising them as whole words more quickly. Most children don't have to be taught every tiny detail of reading and spelling to be learn how to read and spell. After all, how many of you remember being given spelling lists for every word you know how to spell?!!!!!... What a ridiculous notion.

rabbitstew Thu 20-Jun-13 10:43:42

I agree with juststartingtothink that it's weird not telling children the "names" of the letters aswell as their possible sounds. I thought most children learnt the alphabet song at pre-school? That goes through the alphabet using the letters names, rather than their sounds.

AbbyR1973 Thu 20-Jun-13 11:32:15

Not sure the alphabet song really helps you with anything other than learning alphabetical order. It doesn't help with reading or spelling. My own view is that phonics is a good method for teaching children to read, however there has to be an understanding that some children are natural sight readers- with DS1 once he had seen a word once he would know what it said and it took a huge amount of effort to get him to sound out unfamiliar words even though he also knew all the constituent phonics sounds. I think he just didn't "get" why I would make him go to the trouble of sounding a word out when if I just got on and told him he would know and that would be that. I think it was worth the effort of pushing on with the sounding out despite his dislike as now he can read mirror less independently, he can quickly decipher the very few unfamiliar words he comes across.
Spelling is a different issue and I think I partially agree with LandS here. Phonics is part of the answer but not the whole answer to spelling. Simply because how do you know which particular graphemes to choose to represent a phoneme. I didn't have a single spelling test ever at school but I am a pretty good speller. I think that is because I read avidly and had a good visual memory and knew when a word looked wrong written down. Part of the answer to me therefore includes encouraging children to read as much as possible. I'm not really sure what part spelling tests have to play, I imagine the repetition helps a proportion of children.
I don't think you could say phonics was harmful at all though. I don't think it by itself makes children worse spellers.

learnandsay Thu 20-Jun-13 11:43:33

I think there are degrees of spelling ability too. We seem to be approaching the notion of spelling as either you can or you can't.

singersgirl Thu 20-Jun-13 11:47:08

HorryisUpduffed, if the child in the original post had secure phonic knowledge she wouldn't start with a 't'. She would hear the sound at the start of 'chip' and know that it is represented in English by the letters 'ch'. Good phonics teaching will teach digraphs as digraphs.

AbbyR1973 Thu 20-Jun-13 12:23:03

I agree LandS, it isn't as straightforward as can or can't spell.
I do think another key to good spelling is pronouncing words properly in the first place eg children that persist with using a "v" or "f" sound for "th" in the absence of a speech delay. Clearly if a child says "wiv" they are likely to write it rather than the correct with. Hence I correct DS's when I spot such habits appearing- recently they have take to intermittently dropping their "t"s eg Mummy "can I have some wa-er?!"

learnandsay Thu 20-Jun-13 12:25:40

My daughter does that sometimes, but I'm pretty sure she only does it to wind me up.

AbbyR1973 Thu 20-Jun-13 12:27:04

It certainly works for me as a wind
up grin

learnandsay Thu 20-Jun-13 12:38:45

My daughter also used to say there's not nothing in there. She only learned some of these tortuous phrases at school. My dad used to say if there's not nothing in it then there must be something in it. I repeated that to my daughter expecting her not to understand it. But it did the trick. She's stopped saying it. Maybe she never understood the logic but just understood that sometimes parents can be equally as annoying! grin

housework Thu 20-Jun-13 13:03:22

If dd hadn't been so phonicated she might know chip was spelt chip. She'd have relied on her memory of the word. What she'll have done is thought ' I've got to pick one of those c/s/th sounds so she picked one at random and added ip.
I know phonics has had a part in helping her read and to spell, but knowing the way her mind works, her reliance on phonics can confuse her.

rabbitstew Thu 20-Jun-13 13:09:33

Sorry, but I agree with the others that if she thinks Chip can possibly be spelt with anything other than a Ch at the beginning, then she either has a hearing problem or doesn't understand phonics very well at all.

rabbitstew Thu 20-Jun-13 13:30:43

Surely phonics is just pointing out patterns and most peoples' brains are attracted to patterns? I suspect the best spellers are those with good all-round memories and good visual and auditory processing skills. People who have better visual processing skills and visual memories might favour memorising whole words than dealing with phonics when it comes to spelling??? Unless you have a deficit in your auditory processing skills, though, I really don't see that learning phonics and reading the same words over and over again through the normal process of reading books is going to be harmful to you or seriously hold you back from learning to spell.

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