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.

AbbyR1973 Thu 20-Jun-13 13:49:26

Just asked DS2 (4, not at school yet how to spell chip) answer: "ch-i-p" I asked him if he knew how we make a ch sound, he said "c and h"
Phonics should hopefully be teaching the children that ch, th and sh are different sounds.

learnandsay Thu 20-Jun-13 13:56:15

There is another way; cip, as in cello.

CecilyP Thu 20-Jun-13 14:01:21

I think you need both good phonic knowledge and good visual memory to be a good speller though weakness in one area can be compensated for to some extent by strength in the other. It would be hard to memorise whole words for spelling in the way you can memorise whole words for reading, but having a good visual memory means that you just know if your phonically plausible attempt is right or not.

So, no, I don't think phonics has had any harmful effects on OP's DD. Although we can't surmise a huge amount from what the two examples given, as it sounds like she misheard chip - perhaps she thought it was a 'nonsense' word. From the misspelling of krash, it sounds as if she is not picking up corrrect spelling from her reading - some people don't however much they read, so I think some spelling work is required that goes beyond basic phonics and onto the likelihood of specific spelling patterns and when 'c' or 'ck' or 'k' are most likely to be used.

Mashabell Thu 20-Jun-13 15:58:33

Nobody learns to spell all English words correctly by phonics alone, because 4 words out of every 7 (or 3,695 or the 7,000 most used ones which I analysed) contain one or more phonically unpredictable letters (e.g. speak, seek, shriek).

For reading, learning the different sounds which graphemes like o or ea can have (on, only, other...; eat, threat, break ...), can help with decoding unfamiliar words up to a point, because few have more than two or three different sounds. For learning to read English, phonics works quite well, most of the time.

For spelling, it's a matter of memorising words by word which alternative applies to a particular word. It's largely a matter of imprinting on your brain 'what looks right'.

Teachers can organise them into little groups (group, soup, coupon), but when children do their own writing, they simply have to remember which is right. Learning the main patterns (moon, noon, soon, spoon.. ) is not difficult. It's the exceptions which cause all the hard work and heartache.

scaevola Thu 20-Jun-13 16:18:45

The examples you list can all be spelt phonically. The phonic code is not a set of 1-1 correspondences. Yes, you have to learn which bit of the code to use for particular words, but that is based on a small selection of phonically possible graphemes.

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 17:21:05

justsstartingtothink even in Y6 we use sounds not letter names because letter names are pretty useless when it comes to reading and spelling

learnandsay Thu 20-Jun-13 17:24:13

Next time someone asks me to spell my name I'll use sounds and see what happens!

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 17:28:05

"There is another way; cip, as in cello." only if chip is originally an Italian word learnandsay

learnandsay Thu 20-Jun-13 17:29:40

I don't see why. If it's good for one word it should be good for another.

hippohugger Thu 20-Jun-13 17:38:13

I'm with everyone who suggested a hearing test if you're having 'th' is being substituted for 'ch'. That suggests either a hearing issue or a need to double down on the phonics, not abandon it. Spelling crash with a 'k' makes perfect sense for a 7-year-old and wouldn't worry me.

And as for the suggestion of dyslexia - have you pursued that?

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 17:46:09

"a child called Amy would spell her name aloud as "ah - mm -- yuh"" which shows the staff don't know their phonics because the letter <a> represents the sound /ay/ in Amy as in apron, apricot, April, Davis, lazy, acorn, angel and many other words ...I'm not sure how knowing the letter names would help

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 17:51:21

Amy is /ay/ /m/ /ee/ not "ay" "em" "why"

FairPhyllis Thu 20-Jun-13 17:54:27

Can I ask anyone who teaches phonics - how do you deal with accent differences within a class?

I say this because I always had a different accent to other children in my class, and if phonics had been used, would I have been forced to adopt another accent? Or would I have got horribly confused by everyone around me using a different sound-letter correspondence? How would you deal with that?

Does phonics privilege one accent over another?

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 17:54:36

"For spelling, it's a matter of memorising words by word" all 250000 of them masha?

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 17:59:27

FairPhyllis accent doesn't really matter

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 18:02:36

"I don't see why." I had noticed

ShipwreckedAndComatose Thu 20-Jun-13 18:07:34

Just wanted to agree with the person who said up thread... and that my spelling has also improved massively since going through phonics teaching with my two kids. It's helped undo the damage that whole word learning did in the seventies.

I think phonics does work really well.

FairPhyllis Thu 20-Jun-13 18:10:32

But why doesn't it matter? There's a reasonable range of variation in phonetic inventories between different English dialects - some people have vowels that others don't, some have glides in certain contexts etc etc.

How does it actually happen? Do you say 'this letter has xyz sounds attached to it' and then let the child figure out which sound works for their dialect?

As an RP speaker would I have been taught to recognise a different correspondence from the rest of the class by saying the /a/ in 'bath' as a long vowel? How would it actually have worked in the classroom?

daftdame Thu 20-Jun-13 18:22:26

Fair I'd guess you'd understand the word 'bath' (however said) So letter sound and then the context given of a particular word.

If the accent is so pronounced that you cannot understand it then you have more problems that just the reading.

With the spelling I can see you might make some mistakes initially before being taught all the combinations with context, but then this happens anyway, until you know which combination is right.

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 18:30:51

Whether you pronounce bath as bath or barth the spelling is the same ...if you live in the north the letter <a> in bath will represents the same sound as in cat, apple and ant while in some southern counties it represents /ar/ as in plaster, master and father - same spelling representing different sounds.

scaevola Thu 20-Jun-13 18:31:55

Phonics isn't another way of saying "phonetics" - it's a system of relating the phonemes of the language to the written version.

The (phonetic) differences in accents etc don't really come into it. It doesn't matter how long your "a" is in 'bath', but it does matter that it's a contrasting pair with say 'both' or 'path'

BabiesAreLikeBuses Thu 20-Jun-13 20:00:07

shipwreckedandcomatose i agree, my kids are having great phonics teaching in reception, they are explicitly stating things i implicitly know making me think about it again... Eg this morning ds was spelling matter and asked if it was one t or two. After that i asked if he knew which 'er' it was and he said yes- it had to be er not ur as ur doesn't go at the end of words.
For me a bigger concern would be the variation in phonics teaching, i'm lucky as school are doing it well but i know that's not so at all local schools.

justsstartingtothink Thu 20-Jun-13 20:33:26

Mrz -- If children are taught there are 26 letters and each letter has a name and one or more possible sounds, then the hypothetical Amy should spell her name aloud as A M Y (using the names of the letters) and read her name on paper (recognizing the sounds she's been taught to associate with letters) as /ay/ /m/ /ee/. I think it's absurd for a child to go around spelling her own name aloud as anything other than the letters that comprise her name. Likewise, I think it's absurd for a child to spell "cat" aloud as /kh/ /a/ /t/ (or however you represent the sounds) rather than using the letter names C-A-T. Children need to know -- and are capable of knowing -- the names of letters as well as the sounds letters can make (individually and in combination with other letters).

In response to your previous question about the nursery -- my son's teacher at nursery had previously been head of reception and head of literacy for many years at a highly rated primary school. (I'm not defending her or her methods -- obviously I don't agree with the methods, though otherwise the nursery was lovely -- but wanted to give a fuller picture. Clearly there is inconsistency in phonics teaching methods. Your students are very lucky to be able to benefit from your inspirational teaching.

scaevola Thu 20-Jun-13 20:35:45

If you start by teaching 26 letters, you're taking a poor and muddled approach to phonics. Where you start by teaching the 44 sounds.

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 20:41:31

It doesn't help someone who has never seen the name written down to know the letter names juststartingtothink.

Using the letter names A(ay) m (em) y(why) - meaningless

and see ay tea ?

She may have been head of all that but she is clearly clueless about phonics

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