Must we do phonics ?

(25 Posts)
Mashabell Tue 17-Dec-13 08:16:22

Not necessarily. And it does not have to be one or the other - phonics or whole words.

Children who know nursery rhymes by heart and then learn to read them, like my daughter did to begin with, don't simply learn the words as wholes and ignore the letters. They pick up phonics too, but without being explicitly taught, just as children mostly do when learning to speak.

But with English having have some really beastly spellings, like 'one, thought, through, who, you', learning to read some words as wholes is the most efficient way of doing so anyway. - It's a mixture of sounding out and working out, to get at the sound and meaning of the word on a page.

Exceptionally good readers, who are mostly the ones who become interested in learning to read around 3-3.5 and are able to learn quickly, use phonics and learn to recognise words as wholes. They get the idea that we use letters to represent sounds, but they also know that it's the words that really matter. They read for meaning.

Phonics, in the sense of sounding out and blending, is just a stage on the road to reading fluency. Fluent reading is the final stage - the ability to recognise all common words by sight (as u do), without needing to sound out.

Not all children do, or have to, get to that stage the same way. As a parent, u can hook into your dc's interests and abilities, one-to-one, far better than any teacher can. If your child can recognise hundreds of words by sight before they start school, s/he won't come to any harm. They'll use phonics for learning to write, although that is pretty tricky in English too (they - play, need - lead, ripe - write), if u see what i mean.

If u haven't got them already, buy some letters (for the bath, magnetic, wooden or plastic) and start making words together, beginning with s a t p, then adding i n m d and g o c k,
Followed by ck e u r h b f l s. U can check out the government guidance for teachers Letters and Sounds online too.
Masha Bell

3bunnies Tue 17-Dec-13 07:19:31

My ds is a few months older than your dts. I don't teach him formal phonics although he learns letter patters at nursery and his older sisters help him with it. When he reads with me he doesn't sound out words which he already knows - that would make reading too long and boring. He does sound out new words though and I inexpertly help him - so I might say 'I - g - h' that says I we then blend the word together. His teacher has actually commented that he needs the confidence to say a word when he knows it rather than sound it out, so he might say 'W - I - l - m - a Wilma' when we all know that anyone who has ever read ORT has that word imprinted on their brain. Sometimes though he will come across a word he has never seen or heard before so he wouldn't have a clue how to read it without phonics - e.g. toboggan - he needed to break it down in order to sound it out then he asked what it meant as we call it a sledge.

I try my best to help him break words down and understand some of the phonics rules - he also learns individual letters at nursery but there is more to phonics than reading and hopefully when he goes into reception they will be able to fill in the gaps to help him with his spelling too. I don't think that you need to do a perfect job teaching phonics (as a parent) and if a child knows the word then it is fine for them to say it but it does help them to learn if you break the word down and get them to sound it out.

You don't have to insist your children do anything but they will learn phonics at school. What's your issue exactly? You say phonics is pointless but then say they know all the sounds. Really? At three they know all the sounds that children learn in phonics, even though you hate phonics? Well that's odd.

What are you planning to say to their teacher? Don't teach them?

ApplesinmyPocket Tue 17-Dec-13 07:05:30

Some children extrapolate phonic rules for themselves. Eg if your DC, knowing 'pop' and 'fish', could read 'pish' if you showed it to them because of subconscious mental observation, then that's what they're doing. That's a simple example of course; if a child knows 'head', they might, using this mental process, try to read 'bead' to rhyme with head, in which case you step in and say 'no in this case the 'ea' makes an 'ee' sound and next time they see it they most likely remember, because 'beed' not 'bed' makes sense in context.

That's how my children learned to read (long ago, when Look and Say was prevalent) and how we as adults make a stab at a totally new word. But some children take a long while to work this out for themselves and some never do it seems, so explaining and teaching the code to them in an organised way via phonemes as reading is now taught in (most) schools seems to make sense.

meditrina Tue 17-Dec-13 06:43:14

Phonics is the centuries-old method of learning to read.

The brief vogue for 'look and say' and mixed methods (both of which produced worse outcomes in terms of proportion of DC struggling) is officially over, though (surprisingly, in these days when evidence usually counts) hasn't gone away.

When you say you don't want to do 'phonics' what do you actually mean?

For if, as you say, they know some of the correspondences between the 42 sounds of English and the various ways they are written, you are 'doing' phonics. And the aim is for rapid and secure use of that knowledge so the 'sounding out' is so automatic that people are unaware they do it (thought it shows during brain scans).

It is of course up to you what you do with your DC. But please do not make your decisions based on misconceptions, especially if you decide to opt for one of the less good methods, and inflict rote learning on them.

Most children withstand any method, but there's no way of predicting which ones will do significantly less well if you choose the poorer methods.

strruglingoldteach Tue 17-Dec-13 06:28:35

OP, you say they don't use phonics to sound out the words. If they are recognising words that they have read several times before, that is fine. But think about how they deal with new words. They do need to use phonics for these. They need to be taught that they can decode words independently when they don't recognize them.

columngollum Mon 16-Dec-13 23:23:08

I'm not sure that the OP doesn't want them to learn it. I rather got the impression that she doesn't want to teach it/(doesn't understand it.)

TheNightIsDark Mon 16-Dec-13 23:18:14

Are they reading them or memorising them? If you write hop on pop on a bit of paper can they tell you what it says?

Crouchendmumoftwo Mon 16-Dec-13 23:16:15

You cant do anyting about it they learn it at school, if you dont want them to do it home school them. Its no big deal.

allyfe Mon 16-Dec-13 22:56:20

I was so anti-phonics when my children were very little. I thought that it sounded a nightmare. But, having learnt the sounds myself, and having started listening to my reception child read, I am totally won over. It is such a logical system, and exactly as others have said, it gives children the ability to read a word they don't otherwise know. In reality, aside from the few (relative to the size of the English language) words that are memorized, all learner readers sound things out. To some degree, phonics just provides a more formal system to do so.

maillotjaune Mon 16-Dec-13 22:56:08

I would worry less. They will learn phonics at school which as has already been pointed out, by people with much more knowledge than me, is essential.

But reading is about more than just deciding words, and if (like my younger 2) you have a child with a really good visual memory then they may well learn by memorising words as well as by sounding them out. You have to just learn some words anyway.

rabbitstew Mon 16-Dec-13 22:53:51

In other words, you know your children better than anyone else does.

rabbitstew Mon 16-Dec-13 22:47:45

Your children will learn phonics at school, regardless, and I think this is a good thing. What you do at home before they start school is your business, however.

I was never taught phonics, but I know all my phonic sounds and know how to read unfamiliar words... Phonics is not at all unnatural, it's just that making explicit (in a very structured and staged way as formal phonics teaching tends to be) what to a good reader is implicit (ie actively teaching someone) feels unnatural unless you have been trained to do it. I took the attitude that I was not a teacher, but I knew I had intelligent children who were not easily confused, that there was no family history whatsoever of reading difficulties, and I was going to share with them whatever books I wanted in whatever way I wanted, and whether they learnt to read or just learnt to enjoy sharing books really didn't particularly matter - only a fool, in my view, would try to stop me... It worked just fine in this household - both my dss could read before starting in reception, they are both natural spellers and they both like reading. The chances of it turning out any other way when several generations of the family learnt to read before starting school were fairly remote, in my honest opinion.

gwenniebee Mon 16-Dec-13 22:46:39

Phonics is just "sounding out" by any other name - very useful skill. When they get to school they will have to do it in order to pass their "phonics test" at the end of Y1 (which includes nonsense words, so they won't have learnt them by sight from other books).

columngollum Mon 16-Dec-13 22:42:26

I don't think there's any real need to beat yourself up about it. If you don't know anything about phonics (which is probably what your friend means when she calls it unnatural) then fine. You can teach your children to read the Cat in the Hat without phonics (I did.)

There are lots of early reader books that you can teach your children to read without phonics. But, if you can bear to, I would check out what phonics has to offer. I've no fan of it, believe me, but even I can see that it does have its uses. I think teaching reading without it is a bit like building a house without a hammer. You can use a heavy screwdriver to bang in all the nails, but why would you?

In reality you need a clever combination of word recognition and letter combination patterns to be good at reading English. So, why not get ahead of the problem and practise both?

My dd1 is 9 and is still using phonics. She's a great reader, has read all the Harry potters etc but still sounds out words she doesn't recognize straight off ie "scru-tin-ize". English is a phonic language, how on earth do you learn to read it without phonics?

Your kids will reach an age where words are recognizable (dd2 is in reception and recognizes and, the, his, cat, pot, did etc) and this progresses but to be able to section up words and phonically decode and pronounce them is important.

nonicknameseemsavailable Mon 16-Dec-13 22:09:39

my DC both started reading before school and whilst I was happy for them to learn high frequency words as wholes if that was what came naturally to them I did make sure they learned phonics. Not just the individual letter sounds but also the others like ai, ea, igh etc. I think it is hugely important that they learn them and it will make their lives SO much easier.

barebranches Mon 16-Dec-13 21:59:56

reception teacher here.
phonics is very important... if they meet a new word thry have the tools to sound it out! wouldnt do it any other way.

lilyaldrin Mon 16-Dec-13 21:58:32

Presumably they use phonics to sound out new words - or do you just tell them every new word and get them to memorise it?

Moggy72 Mon 16-Dec-13 21:56:34

Maybe I should clarify, they know the phonics sounds of all the letters already. But when I am reading with them or when they read to me, they don't use phonics to sound out the words. They can already read some of the seuss books like "hop on pop""red fish blue fish".....so is it that bad if I don't insist on using phonics???

strruglingoldteach Mon 16-Dec-13 21:49:55

Yes, you do need to do phonics- at least if you want to give them the best chance of becoming fluent readers.

Dr Seuss without phonics would be incredibly tough- how else would you help them to read words like 'grinch' 'truffala' 'once-ler' 'glotz' 'lorax' and the hundreds of other examples?

lilyaldrin Mon 16-Dec-13 21:39:30

They'll be taught phonics at school regardless, so it's not possible to "skip".

What are you hoping to teach them instead? Just to memorise all words they come across?

DeckTheHallsWithBoughsOfHorry Mon 16-Dec-13 21:37:41

Dr Seuss is really very phonics-y.

When you "do phonics" you don't have to avoid all other books.

lougle Mon 16-Dec-13 21:30:19

When your children started to talk, they learned sounds before they learned words. The babble they learned was in preparation for stringing it together to form words. Which is why children who have hearing loss as a baby struggle so much with word articulation as they get older - they haven't got the building blocks to form words.

Learning to read is just like learning to talk. Sounds first, then words.

If you want to teach whole word recognition, go ahead. Evidence shows that it isn't the best way to learn to read though.

Moggy72 Mon 16-Dec-13 21:27:23

My twins DS's will be 4 in March. They are showing a real interest in reading. However a friend whose two children love reading lent us some starter books - the dr Seuss books. She mentioned that she never taught her kids the phonics method as she found it unnatural. I am inclined to skip it too. I know when they get to proper school the teachers will probably have an issue with that. Anyone got a view ?

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