What role does learning high frequency words play in phonics?

(104 Posts)
Kaida Wed 21-Nov-12 13:14:51

I thought in phonics there were no flashcards, lists of words to learn by sight etc. But lots of kids going through the care of the several foster carers in my family (several different schools) have these still. Have I got confused somewhere? (entirely probable, my firstborn is too young for reading yet)

picketywick Wed 21-Nov-12 14:44:00

I am an adult; and dont get phonics. I suppose it doesnt suit all children. Some teachers are said to dislike it.

Hulababy Wed 21-Nov-12 17:06:30

Depends what you mean by flashcards.

We have flashcards for sounds and on one side there are 3 or 4 words for blending, using those sounds.

anothercuppaplease Wed 21-Nov-12 17:41:02

Some words that come back frequently in books are 'tricky' words and are difficult to figure out even if the child understands basic phonics. That's why I think some schools/teachers will give out lists of words, I remember the only list we have ever received included words such as 'I', 'said', 'he', 'she', 'we', etc which are words that come back all the time in books. Learning these words by sight in my opinion gives them extra confidence to start reading the first level reading books and complements well the phonics method.

mrz Wed 21-Nov-12 17:46:13

high frequency words are, in whatever system you use, just that, words that appear frequently in text. In phonics they wouldn't be taught as sight words, not even the ones with tricky bits, but some schools are still using mixed methods while claiming to teach phonics.

nailak Wed 21-Nov-12 18:05:35

well you cant spell to, go, and stuff using phonics....

yes most schools do mixed methods,

mrz Wed 21-Nov-12 18:11:31

What a strange idea of course you can spell to and go using phonics.

Feenie Wed 21-Nov-12 18:13:44

And most schools fail 1 in 5 children...

nailak Wed 21-Nov-12 18:17:57

not stage 1 phonics though

CokeFan Wed 21-Nov-12 18:20:20

I thought the high frequency or "tricky" words were ones that you might have to initially learn because they are common and therefore likely to be encountered early on. It is still possible to decode them with phonics but the "rules" you need to do so aren't covered until later on.

Hulababy Wed 21-Nov-12 18:24:16

to and go are taught very early on as incidental teaching in phonics.

You say "in this word that letter is code for oo" so when you blend you say t oo to make to

peacypops Wed 21-Nov-12 18:29:15

I think most schools have a mixed approach to learning. The emphasis is on 'phonics' but as cokefan says, in the very early stages of phonics, it would be difficult for a child to decode some of the high frequency words.

mrz Wed 21-Nov-12 18:32:08

In any stage of phonics you can spell and decode to and go ...

Pozzled Wed 21-Nov-12 18:35:30

That's why if you are teaching phonics well you need to use suitable for phonics teaching, like Songbirds. They are specially written so that children only meet words they can decode. They're also (IME) a lot more interesting than the older books because they don't need so much repetition.

nailak Wed 21-Nov-12 18:38:49

how mrz?

tt and then o as in octopus, doesnt make to? it makes toh?

isnt 2 letters one sound and magic e and oo stage 3 phonics?

Pozzled Wed 21-Nov-12 18:42:28

You do it as Hulababy said- "in this word, that letter says 'oo' so the word is 't' 'oo'".

Same thing for 'go'.

My DD is at the very early stages of reading, but she knows that letters can make different sounds in different words.

Hulababy Wed 21-Nov-12 18:52:54

We do Debbie Hepplewaithe's Floppy Phonics at school and stage 1+ introduces some 2 letter sounds - ss, ff, le, ll etc

mrz Wed 21-Nov-12 18:57:59

No nailak it isn't stage 3 phonics, perhaps you mean Letters and Sounds phase 3 which some schools use. Even in L&S children are taught as Hulababy and Pozzled say ... this word has a tricky spelling and in this word (to) the letter <o> is how we spell the sound "oo" and in this word (go) the letter <o> is how we spell the sound "oe" ...

The basic concepts are that a sound can be written with one, two, three or four letters.
One sound can have different spellings.
One spelling can represent different sounds.

unlike some adults even small children find this easy to accept.

Mashabell Wed 21-Nov-12 19:02:13

Until the arrival of synthetic phonics, phonics used to mean only the teaching of the main sounds for the main English graphemes, such as ‘a cat sat’ or ‘lean, clean, mean’ or ‘no, so, go’. Learning to read the words in which those graphemes have other sounds (any, many, bread, great, to, do) used to be called ‘learning to sight-read tricky words’.

In SP, all teaching of reading and writing is phonics. So teaching children to read words with strange spellings is still phonics too, although in practice children still learn those words as sight-words, or use context to help them with decoding them, instead of simply sounding them out.
Masha Bell

Kaida Wed 21-Nov-12 19:07:54

"High frequency words are, in whatever system you use, just that, words that appear frequently in text. In phonics they wouldn't be taught as sight words, not even the ones with tricky bits, but some schools are still using mixed methods while claiming to teach phonics."

That's what I thought mrz (having lurked around on here and probably heard you say similar before) but it surprised me that every school that we've as an extended family (with several foster carers, all having had over the years lots of kids at different schools) had contact with has used a list of words sent home that the kids just have to learn to recognise. It seems quite rare for a school to use pure phonics.

EdithWeston Wed 21-Nov-12 19:14:02

Phonics has always and still does mean the teaching of the code of phoneme/grapheme correspondence, and has been in use for hundreds of years.

Leaving children to guess ("use context") or have the immense burden of sight reading by rote, or mixing methods has been shown over and over again to leave a fifth of children struggling.

Mashabell Wed 21-Nov-12 19:15:13

It seems quite rare for a school to use pure phonics.
Because with spellings like 'only, once, other, won, woman, women' it is impossible to do so.

Schools send home the tricky high frequency words for extra practice, because until children can read the following without hesitation they cannot read fluently.

In the first 100 most HF words, 42 are not entirely decodable:
the, he, be, we, me, she,
of, to, was, want, all, call, one, said,
you, by, my, only, come, could, do, down, into, look, now, other, right, some, there, two, when, what, where, which, who, why, your,
are, have, before, more, were,

In next 200, 55 are clearly tricky:
another, any, many, saw, water, small, laughed,
bear, great, head, ready,
ever, never, every, eyes,
find, friends, giant, I’ll, I’m, key, live, river,
people, pulled, put, thought, through, were, work, would,
coming, everyone, gone,
most, mother, oh, once,
grow, how, know, snow, town, window,
book, food, good, room, school, soon, too, took, door,
Mr Mrs

Another 13 are slightly so (partly depending on accent):
after, asked, can’t, fast, last, plants
animals, dragon, magic,
clothes, cold, old, told.

mrz Wed 21-Nov-12 19:16:40

In the first 100 most HF words, 42 are not entirely decodable: RUBBISH!

EdithWeston Wed 21-Nov-12 19:20:51

Bur, masha, the words you list are decode able!

If you do not understand how phonics works, are you after links to improve your knowledge?

IsabelleRinging Wed 21-Nov-12 19:47:22

I disagree Mashabel, some words are trickier than others, but all of the first 100 are decodeable.

If schools are following Letters and Sounds, as in my school, then the tricky words are taught in Phase 2 (to, go, the, I, into, no), these are taught as being decodeable (with a tricky bit), but in reality for children who are only just learning to decode simple words such as in, on, at, sat, pin, etc the reality is that they do learn these words by memory alone in order to decode and read the first Phonics books. I don't believe that many reception children are actively decoding the word 'the' or 'I' as they read those very first books which contain them.

IsabelleRinging Wed 21-Nov-12 19:54:53

Picketywick I don't understand how anyone can say they don't get phonics, you might have to unpick how you read yourself a little to understand it, but you wouldn't be able to read without it! Everyone uses it.

Even people who weren't explicitly taught how to use phonics to learn read use it, they just worked backwords from the words they learnt, and worked out the code themselves in order to apply it to new words. Teaching phonics is about giving children access to the code first so they don't have to work it out themselves later and therefore a more efficient way of learning to read (although it does appear slower to start with, a couple of years down the line children are better readers).

Hulababy Wed 21-Nov-12 19:58:05

oo is taught as two different sounds /u/ and /oo/ very early, even under letters and sounds.

maizieD Wed 21-Nov-12 19:58:58

There was a long period (post WW2 but mostly so in the 70's, 80's and 90's) when phonics was barely taught in UK schools at all thanks to the fact that whole word/look & say methods, which were widely used pre WW2 in the US, were seen as 'modern' and up to date and so enthusiastically adopted in the UK. Whole Word teaching had a particularly charismatic and influential 'guru' called Frank Smith who did a huge amount to promote and perpetuate Whole Word teaching and wrote some extremely influential books on the subject. Like many educational 'innovations' it was widely accepted and very little questioned.

The biggest problem with 'whole word' was that it failed to teach very large numbers of children to read. This inconvenient fact was blamed on many factors and whole word proponents had to try every way they could think of to get children reading without using the dreaded 'phonics' method. One way was to intensively teach the words which ocurr most frquently in written materials. The rationale being that if they represented a large percentage (50%+) of written text then children would be able to get the gist of what they were reading, even if they couldn't read everysingle word. Use of context and pictures was also strongly promoted to get readers to have a go at guessing the non-high frequency words.

One of the whole worders' biggest arguments against phonics was that the English language is highly irregular and that a large proportion of words cannot be decoded anyway.

Somehow, high frequency words and 'undecodable' words became irreparably associated in many teachers' minds, thus starting and perpetuating the myth that HFWs are not decodable. This myth is still going strong today.

It is entirely possible to teach a child to read with phonics without introducing any HFWs until teaching the graphemes that they contain. However, there are a few of them which are quite useful in early texts as they make the decodable text more 'natural' sounding. So, even good phonics programmes introduce a few of the most useful ones quite early on.

I have read Frank Smith's influential book 'Understanding Reading' (which, amazingly sells, 2nd hand, for astronomical prices on the US Amazon, but which I picked up for a fiver on UK Amazon) and can see in it the source of many current myths about learning to read. I am astounded that anyone took it seriously as it is full of very dodgy assertions and misinterpreted 'science', but, there you go!

Hulababy Wed 21-Nov-12 20:03:29

For those unsure of how it all works - here is the "alphabetic code" or sounds. In Floppy Phonics large posters showing these are displayed in every classroom, even reception, for children to access. There are also friezes to be displayed in addition plus other formats


morethanpotatoprints Wed 21-Nov-12 20:05:47

I too am an adult who doesn't understand phonics.
I think some schools are very good and run workshops or info evenings to enable you to support your dc, but none of ours ever did.
I have just heard them read and helped with spelling and reading the best way I know how.
I would like to know more but with dd now at home full time I don't have time to learn. Atm I think I'm using mixed methods but tbh she still struggles alot. I am confident she is improving though and far better than when she was at school. However, I have no idea what phase should be done at what age and am hoping it won't matter to much. grin

morethanpotatoprints Wed 21-Nov-12 20:11:26


I have just found your link, its exactly what I needed, thank you flowers
Please could you or one of the other lovely teachers smile please explain what a diagraph is, is that a word?
Thank you.

Wow Hula That is incredible.

mrz Wed 21-Nov-12 20:27:50

a digraph is two letters that represent a sound

so in the word shop there are three sounds "sh-o-p" sh is a digraph
in the word train there are four sounds "t-r-ai-n" ai is a vowel digraph

personally I don't think you need the technical vocabulary

mrz Wed 21-Nov-12 20:28:40

but if the school is using it, it is useful to know what they are talking about

maizieD Wed 21-Nov-12 20:30:49

A digraph is two letters which spell one 'sound', 'sh', 'ch', 'th', 'ai', 'oi' etc are digraphs.

Not to be confused with 'blends' (which aren't taught in a modern SP programme) which are just two or more consecutive consonant letters, each spelling one sound. 'str', 'sp' and 'scr' were often taught as 'blends'.

maizieD Wed 21-Nov-12 20:31:22

mrz got there first grin

Pozzled Wed 21-Nov-12 20:34:05

morethan A digraph is when you have two letters which together make a single sound e.g. ch, sh, oo, ee etc. The English language also has trigraphs (e.g. igh, air) and '4 letters which make one sound' (e.g. eigh) but I don't know if there is a word for those! (Quadgraphs?!)

Hulababy That chart is really useful, but do you (or anyone else) know if there is a sort of reverse chart- where it shows the graphemes and then the most likely phoneme? Or somewhere with the most common 'rules' e.g. on another thread someone mentioned that 'a' makes 'o' after a w- watch, was, want. That had never occurred to me before.

morethanpotatoprints Wed 21-Nov-12 20:34:46

Thanks mrz.

I had just heard the term in respect to resources I have found/ been using. So I wanted to ensure I was using them tbh smile.
These are the things I am needing to support dd with, she is struggling with the vowel digraphs like ae, ai, and vowels in general.
Oh well, ho hum, another day tomorrow.
Thank You for taking time to reply smile. You always help parents so much.

Pozzled Wed 21-Nov-12 20:34:49

Sorry, x-posts!

Sargesaweyes Wed 21-Nov-12 20:40:08

Bit of a highjack (so sorry) but has anybody got any links to lovely free phonic displays? I have to help sort somebody at works room out and obviously can't use sparklebox anymore. Sorry again for being of no use to op blush

morethanpotatoprints Wed 21-Nov-12 20:42:53

Oh dear, I have now just read trigraphs and blends now.
At least I know what they all represent now. This has really helped me no end thanks very much all of you.
I am going to make a note of them before my poor short term memory forgets them.
Please don't be too shock, I am not solely responsible for dds English, my dh is good at grammar, but not always here.

maizieD Wed 21-Nov-12 21:02:50

but do you (or anyone else) know if there is a sort of reverse chart- where it shows the graphemes and then the most likely phoneme?

I don't think that anyone has published a chart like that. I did try to make one once, years ago, to help TAs who were 'hearing readers'. I'll have to dig it out and see if it's worth sending to you or putting on line somehow.

radicalsubstitution Wed 21-Nov-12 21:28:17

Hulababy - that is a really great chart!

OK, please tell me off if I'm being a bit thick, or it may be just my accent, but I pronounce 'pour' and 'paw' quite differently. Are the 'our' and 'aw' considered to be the same sound?

Hulababy Wed 21-Nov-12 21:33:17

I say paw and pour as the same aw/or sound.

The phonics international website has a range of resources available for free inc such as the posters etc. plus there are additional ones on the unit 1 part of the site which is also free.

Pozzled Wed 21-Nov-12 21:43:12

Yes, I would pronounce paw and pour identically as well. There are obviously some regional variations in how the graphemes translate into phonemes. A lot of the time, I would pronounce 'a' as 'ar' (in bath, glass, ask etc) where many people would say 'a'.

maizieD Thanks, but don't go to any trouble! I'm just surprised that it's not something that's available. I guess maybe each grapheme can only be pronounced a few ways, whereas the phonemes can be written in many different ways- if that makes any sense?

mrz Wed 21-Nov-12 21:47:58

The Sounds-Write programme teaches
one spelling different sounds

Sargesaweyes Wed 21-Nov-12 21:48:14

thanks Hula

radicalsubstitution Wed 21-Nov-12 21:51:20

OK, just an accent thing then. Thanks!

I am definitely an 'a' 'bath' as in 'apple' person.

Today I ended up in a very amusing conversation with year 12 chemistry students where we were trying to decide the type of iron ion in iron oxide. I said that it would sound far less stupid if I was Scottish (a Scottish friend of mine always pronouned the 'r' in 'iron').

I guess phonics doesn't always account for regional accents...

mrz Wed 21-Nov-12 21:56:07

Yes phonics takes accents into account

morethanpotatoprints Wed 21-Nov-12 22:09:49


Sorry, its me being a nuisance again. When you say phonics takes accents into account what do you mean? I ask as dd struggles with sounds and spells as she speaks which is ok for some words but others its not so.
Her teacher used to say careless mistakes (quite often to dd) smile, but the local accent would pronounce it curless. So dd hears curless, says curless and spells it like this.
I am trying to correct the pronunciation of this type of word as it comes up in the hope it might help spelling. It seemed a logical approach but not sure if it will work. sad.

IsabelleRinging Wed 21-Nov-12 22:20:50

I am not sure phonics schemes do take all regional accents into account. For example letter a is taught as making a 'a' sound as in cat, bat and also 'ae' as in radar. I have never com across a scheme which teaches an 'ar' sound as in the southern pronunciation of bath (barth). The same goes for the pronunciation of 'to' as discussed up thread. In my local area it is pronounced 'tu' not 'too', and the phonics schemes do not teach letter o as representing the sound 'u', which really does make it a tricky word for a new reception child.

learnandsay Wed 21-Nov-12 22:26:56

I'm not sure that accent is all that catered for in the schemes. But it does seem as though allowances have been made for them in the phonics test. Quite how this is going to work out in practice I don't know!!

maizieD Wed 21-Nov-12 22:40:12

It's not so much the phonics 'schemes' taking accent into account as the intelligence of the teachers who are teaching them! If you are surrounded by children who say 'barth' for 'bath' then it's no good telling them that the 'a' in that word is the same as the 'a' in 'cat'. Phonics isn't elocution lessons wink It's about the letters corresponding to the sounds in the words.

I do think, though, that sometimes you just have to explain to a child that their accent isn't really accomodated (like the 'curring' example) and tell them to use a 'spelling voice' version of the word to remember how to spell it!

maizieD Wed 21-Nov-12 22:41:53

learnand say. In the phonics test a word/grapheme which is pronounced with the local accent is perfectly acceptable.

learnandsay Wed 21-Nov-12 22:49:42

Yes, but that is a test of what the child reads on the day. That's not the same thing as making sense of a sentence in a book, because that's not what the phonics test is looking for. In the main books aren't written in regional accents although some memorable and quirky ones are.

Cathycat Wed 21-Nov-12 22:54:17

I think that words are sent home to please parents. They ask for them.

Tgger Wed 21-Nov-12 22:59:19

DS didn't get any words sent home. Actually that's wrong, he got some just before half term for the first time (Y1). I glanced at them and said "oh, you know all those don't you". The letter was worded rather as you say Cathycat, for the parents rather than the children grin.

PiedWagtail Wed 21-Nov-12 23:04:22

Some words you can sound out; others you can't, and have to learn them by sight. Quite a few of the HF ones are in the latter category.

learnandsay Wed 21-Nov-12 23:28:05

hmmm, not really, Wagtail. As mrz is fond of pointing out there are nearly always common methods of sounding out portions of words, even ones which don't look likely like: he, to, I, say, said and so on and so on.

My own feeling is that familiarity is the mother of all irregular word reading/recognition.

Mashabell Thu 22-Nov-12 07:06:42

familiarity is the mother of all irregular word reading/recognition.
It is indeed.

mrz Thu 22-Nov-12 07:16:46

IsabelleRinging you may never have come across a scheme that teaches the letter <a> as "ar" but that is exactly what we do teach.

Mashabell Thu 22-Nov-12 07:17:37

do you (or anyone else) know if there is a sort of reverse chart- where it shows the graphemes and then the most likely phoneme?
I have done them both ways, sound to graphemes and graphemes to sounds, along with all their exceptions, but they don't show up well if posted on here as they lose their bold formating, and I can't give u links to my own stuff.

I'll paste in the list. It will come out as plain text, but I think u should be able to make sense of it.

The main spellings/graphemes for the 43 English sounds are as follows:
/a/ - |cat|,
/a-e/ - |plate, plain, play|,
/ar/ - |car|,
/air/ - |care|,
/au/ - |sauce, saw|,
/b/ - |bed|,
/ch/ - |chat, catch|,
/d/ - |dog|,
/e/ - |end|,
/ee/ - |eat, funny|,
/er/ -|herb|,
/f/ - |fish|,
/g/ - |garden|,
/h/ - |house|,
/i/ - |ink|,
/i -e/ -|bite, by|,
/j/ - |jug, bridge, oblige|,
/k/ - |cat/ot/ut, c/l/ram, comic, pick, kite/kept, seek, risk, quick, fix|,
/l/ - |lips|,
/m/ - |man|,
/n/ - |nose|,
/ng/ - |ring|,
/o/ - |on, want, quarrel|,
/o-e/ -|bone, old, so|,
/oi/ - |coin, toy|,
/oo/ -|food|,
/oo/ -|good|,
/or/ - |order, wart, quarter, more|,
/ou/ -|out, now|,
/p/ - |pin|,
/r/ - |rug|,
/s/ - |sun, face, lunacy|,
/sh/ -|shop, station, cautious, facial, musician|,
/t/ - |tap, delicate|,
/th/ - |this|
/th/ - |thing|,
/u/ - |up|,
/u -e/ -|cube, cue|,
/v/ - |van, river, have|,
/w/ -|wind|,
/y -/ - |yes|,
/z/ - |zip, wise|,
/zh/ - |vision, treasure|

There is also
the consonant doubling pattern (bitter - biter)
8 main endings (doable, fatal, single, ordinary, flatten, presence, present, other)
2 main prefixes (decide, invite).

mrz Thu 22-Nov-12 07:19:09

PiedWagtail if you couldn't sound out all words they wouldn't be words.

Spellings are the written code for spoken sounds if you know the code you can sound out the word.

scaevola Thu 22-Nov-12 07:25:13

There's a link somewhere to a really good chart of the common phoneme grapheme correspondences. I'll see if I can find it - it's more comprehensive than the list above (and probably more printer-friendly).

Mashabell Thu 22-Nov-12 07:32:16

Many of the graphemes/spellings have more than one pronunciation:
a: and – apron, any, father
a-e: came – camel
ai: wait – said, plait
al: always – algebra
all: tall - shall
are: care - are
au: autumn - laugh, mauve
-ate: to deliberate - a deliberate act
ay: stays - says

cc: success - soccer
ce: centre - celtic
ch: chop –chorus, choir, chute
cqu: acquire - lacquer

e: end – English
-e: he - the
ea: mean - meant, break
ear: ear – early, heart, bear
-ee: tree - matinee
e-e: even – seven, fete
ei: veil - ceiling, eider, their, leisure
eigh: weight - height
eo: people - leopard, leotard
ere: here – there, were
-et: tablet - chalet
eau: beauty – beau
- ew: few - sew
- ey: they - monkey

ge: gem - get
gi: ginger - girl
gy: gym – gynaecologist
ho: house - hour
i: wind – wind down
- ine: define –engine, machine
ie: field - friend, sieve
imb: limb – climb
ign: signature - sign
mn: amnesia - mnemonic

ost: lost - post
-o: go - do
oa: road - broad
o-e: bone – done, gone
-oes: toes – does, shoes
-oll: roll - doll
omb: tomboy - bomb, comb, tomb
oo: boot - foot, brooch
-ot: despot - depot
ou: sound - soup, couple
ough: bough - rough, through, trough
ought: bought - drought
oul: should - shoulder, mould
our: sour - four, journey
ow: how - low

qu: queen – bouquet
s: sun – sure
sc: scent - luscious, molusc
-se: rose - dose
ss: possible - possession
th: this - thing
-ture: picture - mature
u: cup – push
ui: build – fruit, ruin
wa: was – wag
wh: what - who
wo: won - woman, women, womb
wor: word – worn
x: box - xylophone, anxious
- y-: type - typical
- -y: daddy - apply
z: zip – azure

The use of one grapheme for more than one sound is what makes many English words thricky to decode, and does not happen in other alphabetically written languages. It makes learning to read English uniquely difficult.

Masha Bell

Mashabell Thu 22-Nov-12 07:38:47

The spelling chart I pasted in gives just the most often used graphemes, but most of them have alternatives (scoop - soup; root - brute, fruit).
I'll paste that in too, to give some idea why most children take a long time to learn to spell 'correctly', and why many never quite manage to do so.

cat - plait meringue

plate - wait weight straight great vein reign table apron dahlia champagne fete
play - they weigh ballet cafe matinee

air - care bear aerial their there questionnaire
car - are + (S. Engl. bath)

sauce - crawl always tall caught bought
saw - (UK also: or, four, more)


c/at/ot/ut - character, kangaroo, queue
crab/ clap - chrome
lilac - stomach, anorak
neck - cheque
rocket - crocodile, soccer, occupy, liquor
kite/ kept - chemistry
seek - unique
risk - disc mosque

chat - picture
clutch - much
dad - blonde
end - friend leisure head any said leopard bury Wednesday
eel - eat even ceiling field police people me key ski debris quay
jolly - trolley budgie corgi
her - turn bird learn journey
fish - photo stuff rough
garden - ghastly guard
house – who
ink - pretty sieve women busy build mystery
bite - might height indict style climb eider kind sign island
my - high pie rye buy I eye
jug / jog
fidget - digit
jelly, jig – gentle, ginger
k (see c)
lips - llama
mum - dumb autumn
nose - gnome knot mnemonic gone
pot - cough sausage
want - wont
quarrel - quod
mole - bowl roll soul boast most goes mauve
old - mould
toe - go oh dough sew cocoa pharaoh depot
oil - oyster
toy - buoy
food - rude shrewd fruit truth move group tomb manoeuvre
blue do shoe through
good would put woman courier
order - board
wart, quart – worn quorn
more - soar door four war swore abhor
out - town
now - plough
quick - acquire choir
rug - rhubarb write
sun - centre scene
face - case
fancy - fantasy
shop - sure chute moustache liquorice
ignition - mission pension suspicion fashion
ambitious - delicious luscious
facial - spatial
tap, pet - pterodactyl two debt
delicate - democrat
this thing
up - front some couple blood
cute - neutral newt suit beauty Tuesday nuclear you
cue - few view menu
have spiv
river - chivvy
window - which
fix - accept except exhibit
yak - use
zip - xylophone
rose - froze
measure - azure

Schwa (unstressed vowels - mainly in endings and prefixes)
loveable - credible
vertical - novel anvil petrol single
ordinary - machinery inventory century carpentry
fasten - abandon truncheon orphan goblin certain
absence - balance
absent - defiant
father - author armour nectar centre injure quota
decide - divide
indulge - endure

Consonant doubling
merry (regular – 372)
very (missing -384)
serrated (surplus – 158)
Consonant doubling alone makes the spellings of nearly 1000 words unpredictable.

In all, at least 3701 common English words contain some spelling uncertainty. That's why phonics is of limited use for learning to read and to write English. It's a good start, but no more than that.
Masha Bell

scaevola Thu 22-Nov-12 08:44:34
maizieD Thu 22-Nov-12 17:44:41

Of course it is, scaevola. It's produced by a person who knows exactly what she is talking aboutgrin

masha, there are times when I wish that mumsnet had a 'stifle' buttonwink Three consecutive lists! Aarrggghhh....

Hulababy Thu 22-Nov-12 18:57:41

sabelleRinging - In the audio on the CDs we use alongside Floppy Phonics the /ar/ sound in words such as bath IS included. I think the programmes include regional accepts simply by the way they are taught more than anything else though - the teacher stood at the front includes these as incidental teaching.

mrz Thu 22-Nov-12 19:06:39

We use the Sounds-Write programme and the letter <a> is taught as a spelling for the sound "ar" but generally teaching should reflect the accent of most children.

LeeCoakley Thu 22-Nov-12 19:22:19

We were doing the 'ar' sound this morning (L&S). Words with an 'a' in them that either went in the 'ar' column (e.g. fast, path) or the 'o' column (e.g. was, want)

maizieD Thu 22-Nov-12 19:30:16

Accents can vary quite markedly even in one place. I never know whether my children are going to 'luke at a book', 'luke at a buke' or 'look at a buke'. And some of them 'cook', while some of them 'cuke'.... You just have to be flexiblegrin

mrz Thu 22-Nov-12 19:44:07

but you wouldn't teach <u> in your accent when your pupils say "u" would you maizeD just as you would teach "ar" not "a" if your pupils said grarss not grass

SoundsWrite Thu 22-Nov-12 20:24:28

I agree, Mrz. I always recommend teaching to the accent of the children, which as Maizie says varies from one place to another. My mother always 'lukes' at 'bukes' and I never know what she's talking about grin.
It's nice to see you two have such a good sense of humour at this time on a Thursday night in November!

mrz Thu 22-Nov-12 20:26:57

Sometime you have to just have to find a reason to smile Sounds-Write grin

maizieD Thu 22-Nov-12 20:50:17

Our biggest 'differences' come over the word 'mum'. It wasn't until we'd been in the North East for a couple of years and I received a Mothers Day card (carefully hand made in school) dedicated to 'Mam' that I discovered that my 'mum' and the NE 'mam' are practically indistiguishable!

maizieD Thu 22-Nov-12 20:50:56

Arrghh..saw it just as I posted... 'indistinguishable'

maizieD Thu 22-Nov-12 20:52:10

Oooh. And now I've just found another example of 'u' spelling a /w/ soundgrin

radicalsubstitution Thu 22-Nov-12 20:55:53

My friend always took the piss out of the way I said 'money'.

I, as a midlander, say 'munny'. My friend (from Kent) said 'manny'.

My students moaned enclessly about a chemistry teacher from Teesside as they claimed they couldn't differentiate between his 'alkanes' and 'alkenes'.

learnandsay Thu 22-Nov-12 20:58:16

Right, but manny is definitely wrong! I don't care where you come from.

Mashabell Fri 23-Nov-12 07:17:34

there are times when I wish that mumsnet had a 'stifle' button
I think that as far as I am concerned, u, Mrz and most phonics fanatics wish that not just sometimes, but all the time. Especially when I post lists which show how unphonic English spelling often is and what learning to read and write this language really involves, like the three lists on the previous page.

mrz Fri 23-Nov-12 07:30:49

I confess I wish it every single time I see you give poor or downright incorrect information to parents and teachers masha your misinformation is damaging to children!

Mashabell Fri 23-Nov-12 07:36:28

Chicken? Or egg?

The differences in the pronunciation of short 'u' (bus, cup, front) and short 'oo' (book, foot, put) seem to distinguish speakers from different parts of the UK more than anything else.

Is that because the short 'oo' sound (of standard English) has no spelling of its own? Or does it have no spelling of its own, because of the overlaps/differences between (bus/boos, put/poot) in different accents?

Short oo has no spelling of its own. All the spellings used for it are more common for othersounds (foot - boot, root...; put - but, cut ..).

U hav to see the list, to see what I mean:
Good, hood, stood, wood.
Book, brook, cook, hook, look, rook, shook, took.

Bull, full, pull, bullet, bullion. Wool.
Bush, cushion, push, shush. Whoosh.
Foot. Put.

Could, should, would.
Butcher, pudding, pussy, sugar.
Wolf, woman. Courier.

Another fine phonic fiasco.

mrz Fri 23-Nov-12 07:39:13

Or another list [sigh]
"(foot - boot, root...; put - but, cut ..)" masha do you really say foot and boot with the same middle sound?

scaevola Fri 23-Nov-12 08:40:46

Te differences with accents are straightforward really, as long as you grasp the difference between phonetics and phonemes.

Phonetics refers to the actual stream of sound you produce when you speak, and this obviously varies with accent (and indeed between utterances from the same speaker). Phonemes refer to the chunks of language which alter the meaning of words, and it is this code that is used in the phonic approach to reading.

A good way to explain this to a child is to use the contrast between "ah" and "ar" to show that "bath" can be said 'barth' or 'bahth', but it's the same thing (a tub) but with a different (phonetic) pronunciation that makes no difference to meaning. A child who watches TV will have come across both pronunciations and internalised this possibility already. To show what is meant by the same ah/ar sound making a contrast in meaning, try the difference between "fat" and "fart". This will improve phonemic awareness and help with a phonic approach to reading. Attempting to just learn the word by sight just leave you stuck with unnecessary complexity.

SoundsWrite Fri 23-Nov-12 08:51:37

Masha said, "...I post lists which show how unphonic English spelling often is..."
What absolute drivel this is! How can any word in English (or any language) be 'unphonic'? All words are comprised of sounds and all sounds have been assigned spellings. If that wasn't the case, then we wouldn't be able to write down any new word in the language.
The problem is really that English has a complex alphabetic system. That doesn't mean that it can't be taught by someone who knows how it works.
Hail to Mrz and maizieD and all you other phonics fans! grin

radicalsubstitution Fri 23-Nov-12 12:04:11

There is no doubt that our pronunciation of words changes over the years. At some stage in the past, 'breakfast' was presumably pronounced as 'break fast'. Likewise, I think the k in knife wasn't always silent.

Interestingly, my great-great (something or other) gradnparents' surnames changed three times in three generations. Registrar recordds show they went from Bodycoat, to Bodicote, to Bodicoat. They were all obviously illiterate!

As a chemist, I find it interesting that words that come from the same root are pronounced differently. For example:

ethanol, ethanoic acid and ethanoyl chloride have the intial 'e' sound as in 'egg'.

ethane, ethene and ethyl amine have the 'e' sound of 'be'.

Luckily my A level students have such good phonics knowledge that they can move effortlessly between the two smile.

I can see that the Kent/cockney pronunciation of money could sound like 'manny'.

The Liverpool accent switching the vowel sounds of 'murky' and 'hair' makes me smile. (mairky / hur)

radicalsubstitution Fri 23-Nov-12 22:00:07

I love the NE 'fillum' for 'film'.

maizieD Fri 23-Nov-12 22:10:22

Oh heavens! I loathe it! I have to teach them to spell, don't forgetsad

radical Bristolians also say 'fillum'. smile
maizie I can see that is not such a laughing matter!

Mashabell Sat 24-Nov-12 10:44:27

How can any word in English (or any language) be 'unphonic'?
Words can't, but some spellings in them can be.
I admit that it would have been more accurate to say phonically irregular, (like the o in 'only, once, other, woman, women' or ou in 'couple, group').

English is the only European language with so many graphemes which are phonically irregular. This makes not just learning spell English but learning to read exceptionally time-consuming too, even with very good teaching. Learning to read with phonically reliable spellings (e.g. keep sleep deep) is much easier and takes much less time.

The 36 words with short oo (could put foot...see list in my last post above) are all tricky to read and to spell, because all the spellings used for it are the main spellings for other sounds: boulder, moulder, smoulder...but, cut, nut .... boot, root, scoot....

Short oo is the only English sound which has no unique spelling of its own.

SoundsWrite Sat 24-Nov-12 12:46:21

Masha said: "Words can't, but some spellings in them can be.
I admit that it would have been more accurate to say phonically irregular, (like the o in 'only, once, other, woman, women' or ou in 'couple, group')."
Unfortunately, you generate confusion, Masha. This is because you don't seem to understand how a writing system works. Writing systems are driven by sounds: the sounds are the basis for the writing system; the spellings simply represent the sounds.
The word 'one’ is derived from Old English forms 'en' and 'ane', whose pronunciation, by the fifteenth century, had changed to 'w' 'o' 'n' 'one' but whose spelling was retained. However, these anomalies are relatively few and far between.
Your example of the letter <o> in 'women' is another of your red herrings. In fact, it's a one-off and, notoriously, was used by George Bernard Shaw to try and prove how 'unphonic' the English language is.
Your whole notion of 'irregularity' is also so much dust in people's eyes. There are greater and lesser degrees of complexity: one is that sounds can be spelt in different ways and some sounds are represented by more spellings than others; another is that many spellings represent more than one sound. So, there is a lot to learn but the conceptual understanding require to understand how the system works is not great. A rose, a dandelion, a tulip, a daisy are all flowers. Even quite young children can understand this idea. Similarly, <ay>, <ai>, <a>, <a-e> are all ways of spelling the sound /ae/. Flipping it over, a circle can represent a moon, a ball, a pizza, a face, etc, etc. Similarly, the letter <a> can be /a/ in 'cat', /ae/ in 'baby', /or/ in 'ball', /o/ in 'want'.
Conceptually, these are NOT difficult ideas to grasp. What is difficult is the sheer amount of code knowledge to learn. Which is why it needs to be a taught a bit at a time (incrementally), building on understanding (how it works), developing code knowledge (which spellings represent which sounds in the context of words), and, crucially, the skills required to enable a potential reader and speller to use the knowledge they have and to enable to to achieve automaticity over time.
What makes the above much easier to learn than it sounds is the fact that, as William James pointed out over a century ago, the human brain is very, very good at spotting patterns and the patterns in our writing system are there in abundance.
Taught by people who know what they're doing, almost all children can learn to read and spell to a very high level of proficiency by the end of Key Stage 1 but then you wouldn't know that because you've never taught Key Stage 1 children in school, have you Masha?

Mashabell Sat 24-Nov-12 18:33:55

Soundswrite (although I have come to think of u as Soundswrong)
you don't seem to understand how a writing system works.
I have learned to read 7 languages and can write 5. So perhaps u underestimate what I know?

That aside, I agree that what's difficult is the sheer amoung to learn, but not how the code works. What takes learning are all the words which don't use the code.

I explained before that 80 of the 90 main English spelling patterns have exceptions, but some have very few. The ones which are chiefly responsible for making English literacy acquisition exceptionally time-consuming are the ones I'll paste in next.
(The first figure in the brackets on the right gives the number of words out of the 7,000 most common ones which use the pattern - the second those which don't.)

e: end – head, any, said, Wednesday, friend, leisure,
leopard, bury (301 – 67)
i: ink – mystery, pretty, sieve, women, busy, build (421 – 53)
u: up – front, some, couple, blood (308 – 68)

a-e: plate – wait, weight, straight, great, table
dahlia, fete (338 – 69)
-are: care – hair, bear, aerial, their, there, questionnaire (31 – 27)
au: sauce – caught, bought, always, tall, crawl (44 – 76)

er: her – turn, bird, learn, word, journey (70 – 124)
ea: eat – eel, even, ceiling, field, police, people,
me, key, ski, debris, quay (152 – 304)

i-e: bite – might, style, mild, kind, eider, height, climb
island indict sign (278 – 76)

o-e: mole – bowl, roll, soul; old – mould
boast, most, goes, mauve (171 – 100)
-o: no – toe, dough, sew, cocoa, pharaoh, oh, depot (106 – 60)
oo: food – rude, shrewd, move, group, fruit, truth, tomb,
blue, do, shoe, through, manoeuvre (95 – 101)

Consonant doubling:
merry (regular) – very(missing) – serrated(surplus) - (381 – 439 – 153)

s-: send, sing – centre, city, scene (138 – 49)
-ce: face, fence – case, sense (153 – 65)
-ce-: ancestor – counsel (62 – 29)
-tion: ignition – mission, pension, suspicion, fashion (216 – 81)
-tious: ambitious – delicious, luscious;
-cial: facial – spatial (216 –ti- -- 55 –ci- , 22 –ssi, 4 others)

Endings and prefixes:
-ary: ordinary – machinery, inventory, century, carpentry (37 – 55)
-en: fasten – abandon, truncheon, orphan, goblin, certain (73 – 132)
-ence: absence – balance; absent – pleasant ((176 – 58)
-er: father – author, armour, nectar, centre, injure (UK 340/US 346 – 135/129)

In reception, the irregular spellings for short e, i and u are the biggest impediments, followed by the other tricky vowel spellings.

The irregular endings and prefixes become significant much later.

mrz Sat 24-Nov-12 18:43:07

You still haven't said how many reception classes you've taught to read masha?

How long is a short e compared to a long e confused

Mashabell Sun 25-Nov-12 17:25:43

How long is a short e compared to a long e ?
Ever - even.

maizieD Sun 25-Nov-12 17:28:34

I think you have missed the point, masha. Which is that both 'sounds' are exactly the same 'length' in speech...

mrz Sun 25-Nov-12 18:25:17

How long is a short e compared to a long e ?
Ever - even.
Different sounds masha both the same length though

Mashabell Mon 26-Nov-12 06:24:25

In ever and even the es have different sounds and of different length too, just as es in end and m*e*.

I am certainly not the only linguist who refers to the sounds of the vowels a, e, i, o and u in
'hat, net, bit, hot, nut' as short and those in
*a*pron, m*e*, k*i*nd, only, men*u*' as long.

IsabelleRinging Mon 26-Nov-12 13:57:42

I think the terms long and short vowels are relaltively commonly used to be fair to Masha.

learnandsay Mon 26-Nov-12 14:26:25

I don't think the girls were intending to be fair to masha.

mrz Mon 26-Nov-12 16:16:48

A linguist (which masha claims to be) wouldn't use the term ...time them ...unless you say eeeeeeeeeeeeeeven and ever there isn't a long or short sound.

IsabelleRinging Mon 26-Nov-12 17:19:33

I don't understand where you are coming from mrz? It takes longer to say ee than it does to say e doesn't it? Doesn't it take longer to say bead than bed ? I think it does, although impossible to measure really as don't have anything that accurate to measure such small differences.

mrz Mon 26-Nov-12 17:47:49

try it Isabelle ... certainly no significant difference that would distinguish one as long and the other as short I could hold onto the "e" in ever for a very long time as cold you if you wished and cut of the "ee" in even quickly ...it's a confusing description for children who like you can't measure possible minute differences.

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