Does anyone know the 'proper' way to explain 'magic e' in phonics?

(118 Posts)
owlelf Sat 06-Oct-12 10:46:44

DS is in Y1. His School have adopted Read write inc this year (previously Jolly Phonics).

He has guided reaching once a week, and daily WRI sessions, but he doesn't read one to one with a teacher.

Apparently as he is doing well he doesn't get any one to one reading. I feel that this puts added pressure on me to guide him properly at home. I'm very happy to read with him each night, and we both really enjoy bedtime stories. But I do feel pressure to make sure I explain things to him in a way that is consistent with what he is taught in school- otherwise I will confuse him.

Anyway, I know that the term magic e is now outdated. He does struggle over the concept of an 'e' changing a letter sound to a letter name- and I'm not sure if there is a clever way to explain it? I would live to know how this is covered in the read write inc program.

Can anyone help?

emsyj Sat 06-Oct-12 10:51:47

No I don't, but you can find the cartoon of 'magic magic e' from that old TV show if you look for 'magic e' on YouTube. Even if it doesn't help your DS (which it might do or might not), it's nostalgic fun to watch!

Doraemon Sat 06-Oct-12 10:55:00

Our school user the term 'split digraph'. Eg in cake the a and e together make the split digraph.

crazygracieuk Sat 06-Oct-12 10:55:56

The phonic sounds you need are a_e i_e o_e
There is an Alpha blocks episode that explains split digraphs. I can't link right now as I'm on a phone but check iplayer or YouTube and you should be able to find it.

I have no idea but ds regularly exclaims "ahh it's A split E!" when trying to work out spellings so I presume that is how school refer to it.

maillotjaune Sat 06-Oct-12 11:02:02

I didn't realise the magic e is outdated - was used in Y3 2 years ago for DS1.

He learned that the e is magic because it changes the short 'a' in man to the long 'a' (ay sound) in mane etc.

If you remind him of the idea the first few times is that enough of an explanation?

finefatmama Sat 06-Oct-12 13:06:02

a couple of alpha blocks videos

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAwShfLmqV0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XESfR-qtXIg

washngo Sat 06-Oct-12 13:10:57

They will most probably be using the term 'split digraph' in class. I know when I used to teach y2 they all came from y1 already knowing what a split digraph was.

jigglybottom Sat 06-Oct-12 13:32:20

First of all I had to re-teach my Ds the little alphabet (we made the mistake of teaching him the alphabet before he started school, caused all sorts of problems when he started reading blush )I told my son it was a magic e because that was the way I was taught but I believe it is called the silent e now (ort-jolly phonics being used in Ds's school), I just reminded Ds if a word doesn't sound right when he sounds it out take a look at what he can change and since then he automaticaly uses the silent e so the other letter turns into the big alphabet (a = aye). This probably sounds quite confusing but it worked for Ds.

CecilyP Sat 06-Oct-12 13:34:23

There is nothing particularly wrong with the term 'magic e', even though the purists will insist it doesn't perform any magic.

However it is more than a matter of a change in terminology; the 'magic e' approach is different to the split digraph approach. With 'magic e', the 'e' at the end of a word makes the previous vowel say its name, (eg changes hop to hope) so should be easy enough if he knows the names of the vowels.

With the split diagraph, the vowel sounds are already spelt ae ee ie oe and ue and they are split by putting a consenant between them (eg changing hoe to hope by splitting the 'o' and 'e' with a 'p').

I don't know how it is covered in RWI but it is understandable that your DS could be confused if you are using a different approach to school. It would make sense to ask them and ask them for their advice.

mrz Sat 06-Oct-12 13:40:48

Not only does it not perform magic it doesn't apply in lots of common words - some- come- love- have . We refer to it as a "split spelling"

Badvoc Sat 06-Oct-12 13:49:57

I like the song about magic e in Alphablocks smile

cantmakecarrotcake Sat 06-Oct-12 13:51:11

OMG! Split whats???

I had no idea all this existed! DD is nearly 2 and her schooling is a while away yet and mine is a loooong time ago (and was nothing like this). I will be on as steep a learning curve as she'll be.

Badvoc Sat 06-Oct-12 13:55:16

Well, a graph is a single letter.
A digraph is 2 letters.
A split digraph is eg: o-a as in boat.
At least I think that's what they mean!
Ds2 loves Alphablocks and its really helped him learn his letter sounds.

Badvoc Sat 06-Oct-12 13:55:51

....and then there are graphemes and phonemes!!

cantmakecarrotcake Sat 06-Oct-12 13:57:51

Good grief, it's a whole new language! grin

mrz Sat 06-Oct-12 14:02:49

Which you really don't need to know if the school is sensible (it's technical language that's all)
graphemes are how we spell the sound (phonemes)they can be one. two, three or four letters
just think spelling and sound

SaurenLaurensonsMum Sat 06-Oct-12 14:07:33

I never knew any of this.blush

I found diphthongs and monophtongs as well.

CecilyP Sat 06-Oct-12 14:08:19

A split digraph is eg: o-a as in boat.

No that's just a digraph, it isn't split.

Don't worry, carrotcake, millions of people, including you, have learned to read and write without learning all this technical terminology.

mrz Sat 06-Oct-12 14:13:17

dipthongs and monophtong aren't phonics and you definitely don't need to know about them.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 06-Oct-12 14:20:36

The way I explain it is that the Magic E makes the vowel say its name, not its sound. So, for example, the Magic E changes the Ah to Ay, like in mad and made.

mrz Sat 06-Oct-12 14:26:28

So how do you explain come, some, give, have, love ...Dione?

Euphemia Sat 06-Oct-12 14:47:56

I never liked the idea of so-called magic e making the letter say its name, as it doesn't work for "i" in my accent. "Like", for example, does not sound like l ai k.I always found myself putting on an English accent when saying words like that! grin

(Similarly, when I'm reading The Smartest Giant in Town aloud I have to do strange things with the vowels in "dog" and "bog" to make them rhyme, as for me the former is longer!)

Euphemia Sat 06-Oct-12 15:04:49

That was a phonemic transcription of /ai/, by the way i.e. the diphthong not the Jolly Phonics ai!

nickeldaisical Sat 06-Oct-12 15:09:10

how can anyone say the magic e doesn't perform magic?

it makes an a sound like an ay - bloody genius and magical if you ask me!
it makes an i' sound like an eye - magic
it makes an o' sound like an ohhh - genius!

<grumblegrumble>

nickeldaisical Sat 06-Oct-12 15:11:22

mrz - that's part of the magic! grin

mrz Sat 06-Oct-12 15:11:35

how can anyone say the magic e doesn't perform magic?

it makes an a sound like an ay - bloody genius and magical if you ask me!
in have?

it makes an i' sound like an eye - magic
in give?

it makes an o' sound like an ohhh - genius!
in some?

nickeldaisical Sat 06-Oct-12 15:12:13

Euphemia - that makes no sense at all!
the name of I is pronounced Eye, so Like is pronounced L-eye-k

nickeldaisical Sat 06-Oct-12 15:12:31

x-posts mrz wink

CecilyP Sat 06-Oct-12 15:23:08

how can anyone say the magic e doesn't perform magic?

I know, they will be telling us there's no tooth fairy next! Come to think of it, I had never heard the term till I was an adult, but was taught the concept. Of course it doesn't work for all words, it's English we are talking about.

mrz Sat 06-Oct-12 15:26:38

Many of my class say laik for like and try to spell it that way

Elibean Sat 06-Oct-12 15:49:14

dd1 had magic 'e's, dd2 hasn't.

Admittedly, they live in SW London and no accent affecting the outcome, but have to say they have both learned to read at pretty much the same pace and with the same ease/occasional difficulties.

They both seemed to accept that rules have exceptions, and in their case I honestly don't think it matters much whether they are taught with or without magic.

That said, dd2 has a friend who finds 'rule breaking' words far harder to tolerate - they annoy him intensely - and apparently many of his 5 year old friends feel the same.

Euphemia Sat 06-Oct-12 15:52:39

The "i" in "like" in my accent does not sound the same as "I" as in the first person pronoun or the name of the letter i.

So for the words like some, where the magic e does not apply, presumably that isn't a split digraph either? What would it be?

Euphemia Sat 06-Oct-12 16:09:27

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Euphemia Sat 06-Oct-12 16:10:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

nickeldaisical Sat 06-Oct-12 16:42:43

Euph - i se. it does depend on accents a lot - they have to teach based on accent, so.
(same as the a in grass wher i come from isn't the same as the a where i live now)

EnjoyGOLDResponsibly Sat 06-Oct-12 16:50:10

The parents in Dss class were edumacated on this last week, but our school uses smiley e now I.e.

The word is LAKE, if you sounded it out you'd get LE AH CK

But if you can draw a smile under the word linking the A and the E, the A stops sounding like soft AH and becomes hard A, so LE A CK

The same applies for all vowels where there's a silent E in the end.

Does that help?

mrz Sat 06-Oct-12 16:53:08

arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh! all letters are silent

CecilyP Sat 06-Oct-12 18:36:45

Sorry, EnjoyGold, but that sounds like the most convoluted explanation ever.

Euphemia Sat 06-Oct-12 18:40:33

There are hard vowels now? confused

Elibean Sat 06-Oct-12 19:37:04

Soft, silent, magic letters. Love it grin

flussymummy Sat 06-Oct-12 19:47:05

For what it's worth... I really don't understand why on earth little children are ever taught phrases such as "split digraph" at the point where they are learning to read. Surely it's better to make it accessible with phrases such as "magic e" even if it isn't always the case. I found a workbook this week which was attempting to explain "cardinal numbers" and "ordinal numbers" to five year olds. Surely these are phrases for educators and parents to use but not to pass on? There are plenty more useful and interesting things for little people to know about.

zebedeee Sat 06-Oct-12 20:00:22

Red words, green words, tricky words, words with tricky parts, words that will be taught later...

mrz Sat 06-Oct-12 20:09:08

flusstmummy they don't need to be taught any of those phrases ... a simple "this is how we write the sound * in this word" ...
split digraph is technically correct but unnecessary and magic e is cute but inaccurate.
I find the red/green/tricky words equally unnecessary ... "this word has a way of writing the sound * we haven't learnt yet ..."

mrz Sat 06-Oct-12 20:11:04

flussy blush sorry for my fat fingers

Rosebud05 Sat 06-Oct-12 20:20:34

My dd calls it a 'split e' - her school have been using Letters and Sounds.

Viviennemary Sat 06-Oct-12 20:25:47

I wish they would go back to simple stuff. Even I remember from school. Mat add e and you get mate. Fat add e and you get fate, Of course it doesn't always.

Euphemia Sat 06-Oct-12 20:26:56

Of course it doesn't always.

So it wasn't simple then? grin

mrz Sat 06-Oct-12 20:38:26

Letters and Sounds refers to it as a "split vowel digraph" hmm

Rosebud05 Sat 06-Oct-12 21:03:17

OP, I've never explained this to my dd but she just seems to get that sometimes it makes the vowel sound become its letter sound and sometimes it doesn't, so I don't know what to suggest.

Maybe try Googling 'Read, write inc' and see if there's any info there? Otherwise, ask his teacher.

Haberdashery Sat 06-Oct-12 21:08:46

I really struggled with this last year when DD was a little ahead in reading ability and desire to read stuff herself compared to where her class had got to with phonics. In the end, I just had to fall back on 'this is how we make the sound * in the word *'. Because honestly, I couldn't work out a rule (as a reasonably competent adult) and there didn't seem to be one that applied to every case and I tied myself up in knots failing to explain why because there isn't really a why that applies enough of the time to be properly useful. I found a brilliant chart of all the sounds and how you can write each one somewhere online and we stuck it up on the wall and I used to see her poring over it with a puzzled look on her face sometimes. Some months later, she has just got the hang of 'if it doesn't make sense sounding like that, think what else it could sound like' and can work out most things, and is whizzing away reading real books to herself in her head and clamouring for more. I actually think in some ways the puzzling nature of the words and the lack of a rule I could tell her helped her. She had to make the connections for herself and sometimes you remember those connections better than rules you've had to learn.

mrz Sat 06-Oct-12 21:11:22

Haberdashery you couldn't work out the rule because there really aren't any and when people try to make them they cause confusion like "magic makes the vowel long" ermm no it doesn't

Haberdashery Sat 06-Oct-12 21:19:57

Yes, that was the conclusion I came to in the end. I wanted to sort of make it easier for her but in the end I just couldn't. But fortunately it hasn't seemed to matter in terms of her enjoying her reading which is what I was keen to help make happen. And I suppose most adult readers are in the same position. Whether or not you were told about magic e, you know that cone and love sound different (and at some point you probably just had to work it out for yourself to some extent).

Euphemia Sat 06-Oct-12 21:23:06

No, Mrz, it makes it a hard vowel!

grin

mrz Sat 06-Oct-12 21:27:03

a long hard vowel! the mind boggles! shock

simpson Sat 06-Oct-12 21:55:29

DD in reception seems to have taught herself the magic e way (after watching alphablocks).

Hopefully it won't cause her any problems to re-learn it another way....

CecilyP Sun 07-Oct-12 08:39:21

Simpson, unless she is incredibly rigid, and can't allow for alternatives, she shouldn't have a problem. The 'magic e' way works for the overwhelming majority of single syllable words. From the OP, it sounds like her DS is having difficulty reading the words, hence her need to help.

CecilyP Sun 07-Oct-12 08:42:51

I find the red/green/tricky words equally unnecessary ... "this word has a way of writing the sound * we haven't learnt yet ..."

Words write?

mrz Sun 07-Oct-12 09:21:38

no Cecily words don't write and apparently neither should I on Saturday evenings

mrz Sun 07-Oct-12 09:32:10

In case you are interested it should say " In this word the sound * is written this way, but we haven't learnt that way yet ... we also write the sound * that way in these words "

comelywench Sun 07-Oct-12 09:48:44

Who knew magic "e" was so controversial! I heard the alphablocks singing about him the other day and was transported right back to the magic "e" of my youth. Tell me "Super badger" isn't out too!

You just can't make rules for English that have no exceptions (generally). It's a very interesting language historically. A lot of our spellings are relics of the past pre the great vowel shift, so don't bare as much relation to modern speech. Not something to go into with Yr2's perhaps, but one of the reasons why we just have to learn all the irregularities in pronunciation, strange spellings of our wonderfully quirky language.

Elibean Sun 07-Oct-12 11:31:04

I just tell the dds that English is a wonderful language with lots and lots of describing words, and that it likes breaking rules a lot grin

CecilyP Sun 07-Oct-12 11:31:48

Have they become nudists, comelywench? English spelling, heh.

Elibean Sun 07-Oct-12 11:31:50

Though I don't usually say 'lot' a...I mean, so often.

Mashabell Sun 07-Oct-12 11:55:52

Mrz: arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh! all letters are silent
So what is phonics all about?

Anyway, the 'magic e', 'long, open vowel' or 'split digraph' principle
('mat - mate - matter, set -scene -setting, not - note - rotten, bit - bite - bitter, cut - cute - cutting', also 'solo, radio, rabbit’)
is obscured by hundreds of words with redundant '-e> endings
(have, give, gone, imagine, delicate, promise), undoubled consonants (body, radish, copy), as well as irregular vowel spellings (some, done, ready).

In the 16th C, printers had tacked on extra letters whenever they felt like it, for various reasons. The pamphleteers of the English Civil War (1642-9) wanted to squeeze the maximum of information onto a single page and dropped them again from most of them (e.g. olde, worlde, fissche, shoppe, kindnesse). Unfortunately they did not make a clean sweep of it.

Getting rid of the surplus –e endings would help to make the ‘short, closed’ and ‘long, open’ vowel spelling method more transparent. Adopting proper, rule-governed consonant doubling would do so even more. It would save oodles of rote-learning and loads of marking.

Euphemia Sun 07-Oct-12 12:00:55

Phonics is about the sounds of a language and how they combine to make words. It's a mixture of phonemics/phonetics, phonology and morphology which has proven effective in teaching children to read.

Getting rid of the surplus –e endings would help to make the ‘short, closed’ and ‘long, open’ vowel spelling method more transparent.

Could you expand on this, please?

mrz Sun 07-Oct-12 12:16:48

Phonics is a system by which letters represent spoken sounds (they don't make a noise masha they just sit there quietly on the paper)

comelywench Sun 07-Oct-12 13:55:04

They were always nudists Cecily ;) Yet another reason they're not suitable for Yr2's

Mashabell Sun 07-Oct-12 17:08:42

Getting rid of the surplus –e endings would help to make the ‘short, closed’ and ‘long, open’ vowel spelling method more transparent.

Redundant <-e> endings make words with short vowels look as if they should have a long sound:
gave - hav*e*, drive - giv*e*, combine - imagin*e*, revise - promis*e*,
to deliberate - a deliberate act -
cf. chaf, spiv, coffin, tennis, acrobat.

The surplus <-e> endings undermine the 'magic' or 'vowel-lengthening' role of <-e>, as in 'late, eve, kite, pole, rule'. Without them, the system would be more transparent and much easier to learn and teach.

One of the biggest groups comprises
64 words ending in <-ate>.
Candidate, celibate, certificate, chocolate, climate, compassionate, confederate, conglomerate, considerate, consulate, corporate, curate, delicate, desperate, determinate, directorate, disconsolate, disparate, doctorate, effeminate, electorate, emirate, extortionate, foliate, fortunate, frigate, glutamate, immaculate, immediate, importunate, intermediate, intricate, inveterate, Latinate, laureate, legitimate, literate, magnate, numerate, obdurate, obstinate, opiate, palate, palatinate, passionate, pinnate, pirate, pomegranate, prelate, primate, private, proportionate, protectorate, proximate, quadrate, quadruplicate, quintuplicate, senate, silicate, temperate, triplicate, triumvirate, ultimate, vertebrate.

Compare:
Abate, accelerate, accommodate, accumulate, aggravate, agitate, amputate, appreciate, asphyxiate, assassinate, ate, calculate, celebrate, circulate, commemorate, complicate, concentrate, confiscate, congratulate, crate, create, cremate, cultivate, date, debate, decorate, dedicate, demonstrate, dominate, donate, eliminate, emigrate, estate, evacuate, exaggerate, exasperate, excavate, extricate, fate, gate, germinate, grate, gyrate, hate, hesitate, hibernate, humiliate, illuminate, illustrate, impersonate, indicate, inflate, infuriate, inoculate, interrogate, intimate, investigate, late, legislate, locate, lubricate, magistrate, mate, migrate, navigate, obliterate, operate, participate, penetrate, plate, pollinate, rate, relate, rotate, saturate, skate, slate, state, suffocate, terminate, tolerate, translate, vaccinate, vibrate.

Sometimes <-ate> spells /-at/ when used as an adjective or a noun [a separate advocate] and /-ait/ when used as a verb [to separate, to advocate]:
Advocate, aggregate, alternate, appropriate, approximate, articulate, associate, consummate, coordinate, degenerate, delegate, deliberate, desolate, duplicate, elaborate, estimate, expatriate, incarnate, inviolate, laminate, moderate, ordinate, predicate, profligate, postulate, separate, syndicate.

The people who standardised those spellings clearly did not give any thought to ease of learning.

mrz Sun 07-Oct-12 17:09:52

OMG!

Euphemia Sun 07-Oct-12 17:11:05

Bloody hell where are you copying and pasting this stuff from?

Euphemia Sun 07-Oct-12 17:12:17

"Chaf"? hmm

Euphemia Sun 07-Oct-12 17:14:44

So are you suggesting we shift to a regular phonemic spelling system?

I'm still not sure I've understood your point, and massive lists of words are not helping.

Mashabell Sun 07-Oct-12 17:17:42

I am sorry that picking out letters in bold works so unreliably on MN.

I think the fact that these words
Advocate, aggregate, alternate, appropriate, approximate, articulate, associate, consummate, coordinate, degenerate, delegate, deliberate, desolate, duplicate, elaborate, estimate, expatriate, incarnate, inviolate, laminate, moderate, ordinate, predicate, profligate, postulate, separate, syndicate
have one spelling for two different words, just like 'read, lead, tear, minute, second...'
makes a mockery of all heterographs (e.g. their/there, hear/here) and particularly 'to practise / a practice'
-compare:
to/a notice, service, promise, menace, surface, purchase, work, play
and hundreds more.

mrz Sun 07-Oct-12 17:19:54

The surplus <-e> endings undermine the 'magic' or 'vowel-lengthening' role of <-e>

They don't lengthen masha!

Euphemia Sun 07-Oct-12 17:20:37

Sod this, I'm on half-term and I just don't want to waste my time here!

Mashabell Sun 07-Oct-12 17:27:03

Sorry about the misspelling of 'chav'.

So are you suggesting we shift to a regular phonemic spelling system?
I am suggesting we could take steps towards greater transaparency of the short - long vowel spellings by getting rid of totally useless dross like redundant <-e> endings.

It took centuries to mess up English spelling. So it's unrealistic to think it could be made totally phonemic in one go, but it could gradually be made much better, not with any drastic transformations, but with sensible, well-considered and discussed improvements.

massive lists of words are not helping.
How else can I possibly show how big a particular problem is?

mrz Sun 07-Oct-12 17:28:06

chav???

insancerre Sun 07-Oct-12 17:28:42

My brain is proper mashed now.
<<runs away very fast, looking nervously over shoulder in case they are following>>

Euphemia Sun 07-Oct-12 17:28:55

Chave?

mrz Sun 07-Oct-12 17:33:14

masha thinks we should simplify our spelling system and spell the way she does and that will prevent riots, drought and global warming. I'm not convinced.

Mashabell Mon 08-Oct-12 08:03:05

It is universally known that learning to read and write English takes longer because of its many abuses of the alphabetic principle (of representing speech sounds in a regular manner).

Among those abuses is the use of surplus <-e> endings which serve no phonic function and undermine the vowel-lengthening function of <-e>, as in 'gone - cf. bone, stone, home'. The wrong vowel spellings don't help either (come, some).

I am suggesting that we could take steps towards greater transaparency of the short - long vowel spelling system by getting rid of totally useless dross like redundant <-e> endings to start with.

Are u saying that the redundant <-e>s never confuse children in any way?

Euphemia Mon 08-Oct-12 09:25:26

I honestly think we need to live with the spelling system we have. We have such standardisation nowadays as a result of print, dictionaries, the internet, etc. that spelling reform would have such huge ramifications as to be impractical.

Literacy is no longer the preserve of an élite, where some self-appointed worthy can decide to instigate a reform of spelling because he happens to favour the conventions of Greek over Latin, as has happened in the past.

We need to work with what we have, and phonics seems to be the best system for providing children with a strong foundation in reading.

Mashabell Mon 08-Oct-12 10:04:24

I agree that phonics seems to be the best system for providing children with a strong foundation in reading. Yet despite it, many children still find learning to read and write very difficult, with roughly 1 in 5 never managing to do so.

If we removed some of the dross and amended some of the spellings that are chiefly responsible for making learning to read and write English much more difficult and time-consuming than other alphabetically written languages, we would make the use of phonics far more effective and the teaching of reading and writing much less time-consuming.

The invention of computers and the advent of the internet make this far more feasible than it used to be, but it requires that people stop regarding English spelling as god-given, never to be meddled with, not even for the better.

It is a man-made system which has fallen deeper and deeper into disrepair over the past 600 years. Children, parents, teachers and the public purse pay a heavy price for this. They could be much reduced by repairing the most damaged parts of it.

It is only relatively recently that people have begun to analyse the inconsistencies of English spelling more closely (Hannah and Hannah in the 50s, the late E. Carney in the 90s, followed by me).

Euphemia Mon 08-Oct-12 12:42:24

There are many more barriers to literacy for the 1 in 5 than finding learning to read difficult.

mrz Mon 08-Oct-12 16:58:43

The problem is masha teachers aren't teaching phonics! (even some of those who believe they are). Until universities teach student teachers how to teach phonics rigorously things aren't going to change.

MadameCupcake Mon 08-Oct-12 17:28:30

I didn't know about these things when DS1 taught himself to read (phonectically built words) at age 3. I then taught him magic e then also just told him the words it didn't apply to as we came across them - there really aren't that many. He started school at NC 1a so it didn't really cause an issue at all - he never joined in the phonics lessons in YR and has never had a problem due to me teaching him this way.

I understand there is a proper way to teach this which I did not realise of course but I don't think it is anything to worry about and the school will teach them correctly hopefully anyway.

Elibean Mon 08-Oct-12 18:45:42

Hmm. I think Euphemia has a point - out of the 5-6 year olds in dd1's Y1 class, the few who are struggling to learn to read are nearly all children who are either not read with often at home, or who have other issues that make concentrating very hard for them, or both.

I don't think phonics teaching is responsible all the time, though clearly good phonics teaching makes a big difference to many.

Mashabell Mon 08-Oct-12 19:27:45

There are many more barriers to literacy for the 1 in 5 than finding learning to read difficult.

Yes. But their difficulties with learning to read and write exacerbate their problems. Parents make a huge difference. - With better spelling systems children can learn to read and write easily even without parental help.

MadameCupcake Mon 08-Oct-12 19:32:30

I think the phonics system is brilliant if taught well, DS1 is really lucky - they are brilliant at his school and there are many children that went to school unable to read and are achieving high level 2's/3's by the end of year 1.

DS2 has just started school and cannot read at all but yesterday managed to read it, is, and, on, as by blending the phonic sounds he has been learning.

Euphemia Mon 08-Oct-12 20:03:33

Maybe so, Masha, but you're living in cloud cuckoo land.

vesela Tue 09-Oct-12 10:20:40

I call it "an ay that goes round the letter". (ok, so it's round the consonant, but round the letter gets the idea over to DD).

When I was showing a_e to her in the word cake, for example, I'd join the a and e with a little loop that went under the k. When she writes words like that, she still sometimes joins the a and e, i and e etc. with a loop to remind herself.

Mashabell Tue 09-Oct-12 10:45:39

In early reading the concept can be taught with words like
bake, blame, brave, cake, came, cave, crane, date, late, lane...

But when it comes to spelling, the <a-e> patterns is used by 338 common words, but there are at least 107 exceptions:
break, great, eight, straight, main, wait....

vesela Tue 09-Oct-12 11:14:49

Wait and main aren't exceptions, though, they're just ai. Don't make things so difficult!

DD knows that sometimes it's a_t_e or a_k_e, sometimes it's ait, sometimes it's eat or eak. Occasionally it's something else. Big deal.

vesela Tue 09-Oct-12 11:24:04

by which I don't mean to suggest that it's a walk in the park. And I do think massive spelling reform would bring advantages. I worry not just about literacy in English-speaking countries, but that lots of people expected to learn English as an international language are going to be left behind.

That said, given the extreme unlikelihood of massive spelling reform I don't see what purpose you serve by continually making the situation out to be worse than it is.

vesela Tue 09-Oct-12 11:26:40

In other words, why don't you start threads called "We need spelling reform now" rather than coming on to every phonics thread and making your case for spelling reform there? You're writing about spelling reform, not about phonics teaching, so I don't see what your purpose is in coming on to threads like this.

Mashabell Tue 09-Oct-12 19:07:20

I don't see what your purpose is in coming on to threads like this.

To explain why phonics is not whole answer for learning to read English, and even less for learning to write. It's a good start, but after YR and Y1, it's simply memorise, memorise, memorise.

And 'wait' and 'main' are predictable for reading (although undermined by 'said'), but they are unpredictable for spelling. 'Main' a little less so, because '-ain' endings are much more common than '-ane', but u also have 'reins, reign, deign, feign, vein, champaign' and 'champagne.

For spelling, the <a-e> grapheme has at least 107 exceptions. To claim that u can learn to spell those by the phonic method is just shmonix.

mrz Tue 09-Oct-12 19:19:39

but you don't offer an alternative masha just loads of negativity about the nature of English and stupid lists of words.

Mashabell Wed 10-Oct-12 07:13:49

In practice, phonics advocates do the same thing after Y1 as other teachers: practise, practise, practise with little groups of words.

The lists which I post, to show what needs learning, tend to be ones which contain 'stupid' spellings. If it wasn't for the irregular spellings, nothing but phonics would be needed. Learning to read and write would be easy. There would be no need for endless repetitions of the same things again and again.

There would also be no endless debates about how best to teach children to read and write, or worried parents, or so many children struggling to cope.

So when a parent asks, 'Why is my child having trouble with x, y, z?'
I shall keep explaining what is tricky about those particular spellings. Because I believe that being aware what causes a learning difficulty helps with teaching it.

Removing that difficulty would be even better, IMO, but understanding the problem helps too.

The much revered phonics guru Diane McGuinness wrote in an article in 2002
www.rrf.org.uk/archive.php?n_ID=95&n_issueNumber=49

“It’s difficult for us to imagine what it’s like to have a transparent (or nearly transparent) alphabet code, like those in Italy, Spain, Germany, Finland, Sweden, and Norway. Teaching a transparent alphabet is incredibly easy ... Learning this is so easy, that children start to read late (age 6 or older) and finish early, by the end of the school year. So easy, that no country with a transparent alphabet tests reading skill by decoding accuracy. Everybody can decode.”

mrz Wed 10-Oct-12 07:41:54

No masha , "phonics advocates" offer a way to work with the spelling system we have rather than tell people "reading is too hard!"

mrz Wed 10-Oct-12 18:20:19

So when a parent asks, 'Why is my child having trouble with x, y, z?'
I shall keep explaining what is tricky about those particular spellings.
unfortunately most of the time what you say has no basis in fact

SoundsWrite Wed 10-Oct-12 18:43:01

'how can anyone say the magic e doesn't perform magic?'
Because letters or, more properly, spellings don't 'make' sounds and they don't 'say' sounds and they certainly have nothing to do with magic. If you want to confuse children instead of telling that that letters stand for the sounds in our everyday speech, that's the way to go about it.
The code is complex and because it is complex it needs to be taught from simple to complex over time. Throwing in ideas about letters being magic makes young children think that letters can 'do' and be anything at all. After all, the letter <a> can be 'a' in 'cat', it can be 'ae' in 'baby', it can be 'or' in 'all', it can be 'o' in 'wash'.
Maybe it's better to offer young children a new way of thinking about the split spelling: one that is logical, simple and true. smile

LittleFrieda Wed 10-Oct-12 18:51:49

Magic e makes the vowel says its name.

mrz Wed 10-Oct-12 19:16:05

Not in give or have or love or more or come or some or glove or store or .... many other words

Euphemia Wed 10-Oct-12 20:01:10

LittleFrieda have you read any of the thread? hmm

LittleFrieda Wed 10-Oct-12 21:58:45

Euphemia no I haven't read the whole thread. grin

It is helpful to teach magic e makes the the vowel say its name because mostly that is what it does. It's much easier to learn that and the few exceptions, than it is to try and understand language with no general rules.

maizieD Wed 10-Oct-12 23:09:12

Unfortunately, LittleFrieda, the 'few exceptions' probably amount to about 50% of words ending in 'e'.

I don't think it's very helpful to teach a 'rule' which only works 50% of the time.

And the OP did ask for the 'proper way' to explain 'magic e'...

vesela Wed 10-Oct-12 23:18:41

Masha - my daughter is also learning to read in a language that has a pretty transparent code. Yes, it's easy. Does that mean she holds up her five-year-old hands in horror at how hard English is? No, partly because I try to give her the impression that this is something she can deal with, bit by bit. (Or sometimes all at once: "Oh look, here's a handy list of ways to write the sounds (from Debbie Hepplewhite's site). Shall we tape it to your door?" (It's about as tall as she is, when it's printed out).

Of course it helps to understand the problem, but good phonics resources IMO help people to do that. And after that, a lot of it's about attitude.

LittleFrieda Thu 11-Oct-12 10:23:07

MaizieD The exceptions are not anywhere near 50%.

CecilyP Thu 11-Oct-12 12:51:00

Magic e makes the vowel says its name.

OTOH, if mrz has convinced us that all letters are silent (though who knows what they get up to between those closed covers of a book) it is we, the reader, who say the name in response to that particular spelling.

Unfortunately, LittleFrieda, the 'few exceptions' probably amount to about 50% of words ending in 'e'.

In the everyday words, particularly single syllable, that little children will be reading, the exceptions must be far fewer than 50%. I have been a child and I can't say that that approach confused me in any way, even though surrounded by the exceptions that were the popular girls' names of the 1950s. Surely, it can only be confusing if a child believed it is set in stone.

LittleFrieda Thu 11-Oct-12 14:19:40

Exactly CecilyP.

maizieD Thu 11-Oct-12 16:38:28

In the everyday words, particularly single syllable, that little children will be reading, the exceptions must be far fewer than 50%.

It's extraordinary how people seem to forget that little children will grow into big children and the restricted reading vocabulary that most of them (thanks to ORT) are getting now will become immeasurably wider and that, when that happens, a significant number of them are completely muddled by inaccurate 'rules'. What is more, they often grow up to be muddled adults who cannot understand 'phonics' because it isn't rule bound and who think that reading and writing are very hard to teach because the rules keep being broken.

Look at poor old masha who just cannot bear it that English spelling doesn't follow 'the rules'.

^ I have been a child and I can't say that that approach confused me in any way,^

And I was beaten regularly as a child and it never did me any harm... [where's the eye roll smilie when you want one...]

mrz Thu 11-Oct-12 16:50:53

CecilyP if they were making a noise between the covers I'm sure you would be able to hear them what with you being exposed to all that magic as a child.
Fortunately some of us found reading easy to pick up and didn't suffer any difficulties working out that there wasn't anything more magic about <e> than any other letter in the alphabet, it seems others are still under the spell.

CecilyP Thu 11-Oct-12 17:18:25

It's extraordinary how people seem to forget that little children will grow into big children and the restricted reading vocabulary that most of them (thanks to ORT) are getting now will become immeasurably wider and that, when that happens, a significant number of them are completely muddled by inaccurate 'rules'. What is more, they often grow up to be muddled adults who cannot understand 'phonics' because it isn't rule bound and who think that reading and writing are very hard to teach because the rules keep being broken.

No, I haven't overlooked the fact that children will grow up and read books with unresticted vocabulary - but they have to start somewhere. If, in your experience, it is better to teach children, from the outset, all possibilites of a-e, e-e, i-e, o-e and u-e, so they don't get confused later, then I will have to accept that. I am not sure why you would mention rule-bound. When you teach the DCs their first sounds, do you immediately say, of course this isn't always the case, or do you just add more possibilities gradually?

'I have been a child and I can't say that that approach confused me in any way,'

And I was beaten regularly as a child and it never did me any harm... [where's the eye roll smilie when you want one...]^

Not quite the same, as I can be sure about my lack of confusion - you cannot be sure if the regular beatings never did you any harm.

CecilyP Thu 11-Oct-12 17:23:21

CecilyP if they were making a noise between the covers I'm sure you would be able to hear them what with you being exposed to all that magic as a child.

Who's to say I can't. However, I had never actually heard of 'magic e' until I was an adult, but was definitely taught with the magic e, rather than the split grapheme approach.

mrz Thu 11-Oct-12 17:30:23

In primary schools we would teach the "simple" one letter represents one sound code first, teach that one sound can be written in different ways and one spelling can represent different sounds. For vowel sounds we teach the most common ways to spell the sound. So my Y1 children have been learning that "ae" can be written <ai> <ay> <a-e> and <ea> (most also know that <ey> <eigh> and <a> are also ways to write "ae") now they are learning that "ee" can be written <ee> <ea> <e> and <y>. Next we will look at how <ea> can be "ae" in steak and "ee" in stream.

dinosaurinmybelly Sun 14-Oct-12 22:10:25

enjoying this thread.. just marking my place..

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