Sight words/Red words/Pure phonics/Mixed methods

(41 Posts)
Kaida Tue 28-Jan-14 10:58:10

I'm a bit confused and hoping the experts can advise. I have read a few phonics threads on here before (enough to hope MashaBell doesn't take over the thread with lists...) but am just a layperson, so am getting confused.

I understood that phonics has been shown to have more success in teaching reading (and spelling) than mixed methods or whole word teaching. My DS is picking up basic phonics from Alphablocks and likes pointing out letters/sounds in books (he started that, btw, we're not pushy parents!). I wasn't expecting to ever do sight words with him (I remember a tin of flashcards with words on sent home when I was at school...) but my foster-brothers and foster-cousins have all been sent home with sight words to learn. I have been told that even good phonics systems like Read Write Inc have sight words to learn (Red Words?). These are good schools they're at, as being LAC they get into the best locally, so I assume know what they're doing.

But some of the Red Words seem to have a pattern to them, so I'm wondering why they're sight words and not taught as a new sound, IYSWIM. E.g. "be, he, we" - surely they are just another sound for "e" with the normal "b", "h" and "w" put on the front?

And at what point does "Phonics system with red words/sight words/tricky words" become "mixed methods"?

Thanks in advance.

columngollum Tue 28-Jan-14 11:14:10

You can't change the way your school approaches this. But, yes, you're right. If a common pattern, as you correctly call it, can be spotted, and if your child is perfectly happy to pick up the pattern then there is no need to teach every single occurrence of those words as singletons to be remembered. Why would you do that?

The problem gets harder when there are only one or two words which have the pattern, like sugar, cello, one, two, women, the

and so on.

Even in the cases where one or two other vaguely related examples can be dragged up...

in practical terms the words still have to be learned as singletons in order to differentiate between them, eg one and once. To what extent such realism is called mixing methods is your choice.

Sensible people don't throw such philosophical and ideological reading titles around in that way. They just realise that learning to read uses several techniques.

LittleMissGreen Tue 28-Jan-14 12:01:16

Some phonic reading schemes (I think read/write/inc is one of them) shouldn't have tricky words but have words with tricky parts. ie. you are learning to read a word which is fairly commonly used but you haven't learnt all the phonics in the word yet. Unfortunately this tends to be communicated as a 'tricky word' and needs to be learnt by sight - not so, only a small part of the word needs to be.
So a word like 'said' would have the tricky part 'ai' as you may have learnt that ai makes an /ay/ sound but in this word it makes an /e/ sound. Or in 'was' the a makes an /o/ sound - this is true in lots of words but not known when the child first sees the word was. So at some point the tricky part is no longer a tricky part as you have now learnt that sometimes a can make an /o/ sound.

Mashabell Tue 28-Jan-14 12:05:32

Kaida
I am never out to take over anyone's thread with my word lists, just to inject a touch of realism. It is impossible to have a serious discussion about what learning to read and write English involves without looking at the relevant words (and as i've spent over a decade establishing what, and exactly how much, learning to read and write English involves, it's difficult for me to keep quiet when i find people writing uninformed nonsense).

Columngollum is right. After the very basic stage of learning to read (and even more so for learning to write), all teachers use mixed methods, even the phonics evangelists, because they all have to deal with the inconsistencies of English spelling.

U can teach /ee/ as the pronunciation for [e] in the 5 common words ending with -e (be, me, he, she, we) but there are just 5 of them and they are seriously undermined by the most common English word of all: the. So it's just another little word list with an exception - a phonic rule or pattern.

And when it comes to spelling the /ee/ sound, each word simply has to be learned word by word: be/bee, see/sea, tea, tree, ski....

maizieD Tue 28-Jan-14 14:32:46

And at what point does "Phonics system with red words/sight words/tricky words" become "mixed methods"?

A properly taught phonics programme will always teach those words as decodable but with an uncommon (or even unique) grapheme (letter/sound correspondence). The terminology may vary from programme to programme but the principle remains the same, they are taught by decoding and blending and are taken into long term memory in just the same way as any other word that is decoded and blended a number of times.

You have to understand that the prime purpose of phonics teaching is to enable children to identify any word, familiar or unfamiliar, real or 'made up', quickly and independently. (The other element of 'reading', comprehension is very dependent on the child's expressive and receptive vocabulary and language skills).

Phonics instruction becomes 'mixed methods' when other strategies for word identification are introduced, such as teaching words as 'wholes', looking for 'words within words' and guessing words from pictures, context or initial letters.

columngollum Tue 28-Jan-14 17:22:51

The definition of mixed methods can't be as simple as put forward immediately above because heterophones can only be understood and pronounced in within a context. And compound words are indeed words within words. So, whether you believe in phonics or not, you still have to deal with the text that is given. If the definition of mixing methods above is correct then we must all mix sometimes.

maizieD Tue 28-Jan-14 17:26:22

The definition of mixed methods can't be as simple as put forward immediately above because heterophones can only be understood and pronounced in within a context.

Oh yes it can, cg.

And don't you mean 'heteronyms'?

columngollum Tue 28-Jan-14 17:40:40

I mean what I said.

You can refuse to alter your definition of mixing, but if you do that you must also admit that you too mix your methods, by your own definition.

mrz Tue 28-Jan-14 17:57:14

heterophone - A word whose spelling and sound both differ from another’s. hmm

columngollum Tue 28-Jan-14 18:07:27

Oxfordreference

heterophone

A word having a different sound from another which is spelt the same

columngollum Tue 28-Jan-14 18:09:35

The definition above mine made little sense since most words have different spellings and sounds from each other.

maizieD Tue 28-Jan-14 22:47:23

en.wiktionary.org/wiki/heterophone

Obviously no two sources agree.

You can refuse to alter your definition of mixing, but if you do that you must also admit that you too mix your methods, by your own definition.

Eh!

With SP the child decodes and blends 'wind' in the sentence 'I have to wind up the clock' and uses their knowledge of the sounds that the 'i' can spell to decide which is appropriate here.

Guessing from context means that the child looks at the word 'wind', says 'I don't know that word' and the teacher says 'Read the rest of the sentence, what word would make sense here?'.

The first is not MM because the child does the decoding and blending before using context to determine which is the correct pronunciation.

The second is MM because the child doesn't know the word and is encouraged to guess it from the rest of the sentence (heaven help the child if it can't read the rest of the sentence either)

Using context to determine correct pronunciation is not violating the 'rules' of SP, whatever non-practitioners might believe. It is the guessing of an unknown word from context which is wrong.

columngollum Tue 28-Jan-14 23:24:39

No, one of the definitions is stupid. As I pointed out, most words are spelled differently and sound different. So that definition is obviously wrong. If it was true then a heterophone would simply be called a word.

Most heterophones are known even to young children. So, I presume what you're referring to as an unknown word is a word that the child is unsure how to read. For some reason you think it's OK for one child to sound it out wrongly, check its context and then re-pronounce it, but not for a child to attempt to read it, check its context and then say it.

If the child checks the context and says I need to pump up the alarm clock. Then clearly that's not OK. But if the child reads wind correctly in the context of the sentence then what the two children did is exactly the same.

Mashabell Wed 29-Jan-14 07:14:09

Tricky or red words differ from phonically simple ones only because they have an uncommon (or even unique) grapheme (letter/sound correspondence), as Maizie says. They are taken into long term memory in just the same way as any other word that is decoded and blended a number of times.

a number of times is the crucial bit. All words end up in long term memory and become sight words by children reading them a number of times. Repetition turns unfamiliar words into sight words.

Some children need more repetitions, i.e. take longer to become fluent readers, than others.

And all children tend to need more repetitions for the tricky words, because their unusual graphemes keep making them stumble. They keep needing help with decoding them. This is what makes them tricky. What children need for those is not more phonics but more help.

To say that children learn to read words like 'one, two, who, once, was' by decoding and blending is simply perverting the normal meaning of decoding.

maizieD Wed 29-Jan-14 09:32:09

For some reason you think it's OK for one child to sound it out wrongly, check its context and then re-pronounce it, but not for a child to attempt to read it, check its context and then say it.

I suggest that you re-read the scenario. In the second instance the child does not attempt to read the word.
If they had attempted it and got it as 'wind' that blows, not knowing (or forgetting) that the 'i' could be pronounced differently, and the teacher had said "That was a good try but in this word this letter (pointing to it) is spelling /igh/, try it again with /igh/" and the child sounded it out again using the /igh/ sound to produce 'wind' as in wind a clock, then that would be teaching to SP principles. Note that the child still uses sounding out and blending to get to the word.

If the child checks the context and says I need to pump up the alarm clock. Then clearly that's not OK. But if the child reads wind correctly in the context of the sentence then what the two children did is exactly the same.

No, it is not exactly the same and that is where you are badly mistaken. The whole purpose of SP instruction is to enable the child to work out what a word is by themselves. It is all to do with the psychology of learning; you learn best by doing.

Guessing might well be 'doing' but it is not a productive strategy because the child still doesn't know why the word is 'wind' and 10 to 1 will not remember it when it encounters the word again- I have worked with sufficient children to know that this is very likely. Besides which, you are not promoting any independence. The child will still be dependent on another person to 'tell' them what the word is. And you have taught them that it is OK to guess words. Again, 10 to 1 they won't always bother to ask when stuck but will just have a guess on their own with no way of knowing if they have guessed correctly or not.

You may think that, when guessing, the child would 'know' that what they are reading doesn't necessarily make sense but again, I have worked with many children who gaily deviate from the text after the first few words and haven't a clue that they are not making any sense; in fact, many of them haven't even expected what they are reading to make sensesad.

No, one of the definitions is stupid. As I pointed out, most words are spelled differently and sound different. So that definition is obviously wrong.

Of course, cg. It is entirely stupid to have a word which means something that you think is stupid. [eye roll]

maizieD Wed 29-Jan-14 09:37:02

And all children tend to need more repetitions for the tricky words,

Can you cite a reference to validate this assertion, marsha or is it just a bit of wishful thinking on your part? Show me a nice research study which proves that children need more repetition of sounding out and blending a 'tricky' word in order to get it into long term memory.

To say that children learn to read words like 'one, two, who, once, was' by decoding and blending is simply perverting the normal meaning of decoding.

[sigh]

columngollum Wed 29-Jan-14 09:40:46

Neither child worked it out by themselves.

They were both instructed by their teacher to use the context in order to work it out. That's because heterophones cannot be worked out without their context.

Explanations which say our children are allowed to use context to work a word out but yours are not are just hypocritical guff.

maizieD Wed 29-Jan-14 10:28:24

I agree, neither child worked it out by themselves, but one child was given the tools to do it in a way that is more likely to get the word into long term memory and to have a good try at other ambiguous words. In other words, they were on the way to learning to read independently.

The other child was given a strategy which is not reliable, which may not get the word into long term memory and which will not reduce their dependence on an experienced 'other'.

I should restress that the phonics taught child will, if they have reached that stage in their learning, know that a letter, or letter group, could spell more than one sound. Even if they haven't learned that particular 'alternative' they will be familiar with the concept and open to learning the 'new' alternative.

But what has telling the child to 'guess' the word taught them?

columngollum Wed 29-Jan-14 10:40:16

You're using the word guess, not me.

"Our contextual guessing is alright but yours isn't."

If we do it then it's OK. But if you do it then it's mixing.

However you justify your hypocritical guff doesn't matter. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

maizieD Wed 29-Jan-14 11:00:07

You're using the word guess, not me.

You sound remarkably like someone else that I 'know' on line. Even use the same phrases and have the same weird view of the meanings of words.

In my book 'guess' means you haven't a clue what is the correct answer so you just say something and hope it's right. What if the child says '...start' up the clock? Sounds absolutely fine, doesn't really change the meaning...

However, I'm not about to join in a futile argument on the meaning of the word 'guess'. I'll leave it up to others who might be reading this thread to decide which of us has the most cogent points.

columngollum Wed 29-Jan-14 11:05:40

If the text has one word, "wind," and she uses two words, "start up," to read it, then clearly that is wrong. And it does change the meaning, yes. A clock does not have to have stopped in order for one to wind it.

But that's not what we're discussing. So, let's stick to the identifying of a single heterophone by its context.

maizieD Wed 29-Jan-14 12:10:07

^ let's stick to the identifying of a single heterophone by its context.^

Done that. Not spending all day talking to a brick wall.

columngollum Wed 29-Jan-14 12:13:43

Well, it clearly hasn't been does has it, otherwise we would have a clear explanation of why when one child guesses the word "wind" in context she's reading and when another child also does exactly the same thing she's mixing.

maizieD Wed 29-Jan-14 12:21:20

As I said, I'll leave others to judge.

columngollum Wed 29-Jan-14 12:25:32

That's fine. It means that mixing methods can't be defined.

It's simply a matter of opinion. I can accept that explanation.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now