Phonics test - sudden concerns and how to help

(161 Posts)
Dentvincent Thu 23-May-13 17:59:02

My DD came home today with a note to say she wasn't making expected progress in phonics. She is Y1 and is due the Phonics test in June - which I have only really heard about on mumsnet until this note. It was a bit of a surprise as it has not been mentioned at all till now. She is on orange book band and pretty much always gets all her spelling right. In fact I thought she was doing really well. They have given me some websites to look at with her which I've done tonight. She seems to be great on all the real words - but I think 'knows' them now as they look pretty simple and so isn't using her phonic knowledge. The a made up word comes up and she just tries to make a real word out of. How can I help her best and should I be a bit annoyed that someone hasn't mentioned it before. She is in the top but one group in the year and at every meeting they have said she is flying

Thanks for help

Galena Thu 23-May-13 18:32:45

Do you ever play nonsense word games with her? DD loves making up rhyming words, whether they are real words or not, which can be interesting when she's rhyming with duck! She giggles about made up words. I think just the concept that there can be nonsense words is a learning point in itself. Also we've just been reading Dr Seuss books and they are quite good for nonsense words... I would suggest either 'There's a wocket in my pocket' or 'On beyond zebra'. Worth a try?

mrz Thu 23-May-13 18:33:59

Encourage her to actually look at the word and say the sounds in order. You might have to cover the word and reveal it sound by sound. The check uses less common real words so they may not be ones she "knows".

Fragglewump Thu 23-May-13 18:39:43

The test has a page of real words then a page of nonsense words then real words then nonsense. So just tell her that she can use whst she knows from reading to guess how to say a nonsense word. That's all she needs to do. You could write some silly words for her to have a go at. Dumb test confusing for children but has to be done at the moment!

mrz Thu 23-May-13 18:45:25

It shouldn't confuse children who know how to decode words ... the teacher is meant to tell the child which words are real and which are pseudo.

mrz Thu 23-May-13 18:47:29

Interestingly the evaluation of last year's check shows that most schools aren't teaching synthetic phonics.

freetrait Thu 23-May-13 20:28:34

Yes, I think I would be annoyed! DS and his year 1 class have been reading nonsense words as well as real words and playing the game where you put real words in one pile and nonsense ones in another all year.

Dentvincent Thu 23-May-13 20:56:35

Thanks everyone. We often do nonsense rhyming and I'll get the dr Seuss books out again - although she seemed to read these quite confidently. I didn't realise they got told if they were made up words or not - that will probably help - I think she currently sees a word and assumes it is real and guesses. She has a good memory eg - gets all her spellings correct at second attempt and therefore doesn't always rely on her phonics knowledge. I think now she is reading better she just doesn't sound out as much.
I guess I am pleased it has been picked up but it has knocked her confidence 'I can't do the phonics test' etc - so am cross it has been made obvious

Euphemia Thu 23-May-13 22:13:05

Interestingly the evaluation of last year's check shows that most schools aren't teaching synthetic phonics.

Are they actively not teaching it, or do they claim they are teaching it, but are doing so badly?

(That is one of the clumsiest sentences I've ever written! Apologies - I'm tired, okay? grin )

simpson Thu 23-May-13 22:24:49

I would be fuming if a school suddenly told me 3 weeks (or so) before the phonics test that my child was behind. Surely they will have known this earlier (if they were doing their job correctly)??

Will 2nd and 3rd others just make some words up like strit, plog, chom etc etc and see how she gets on...

I would also ask the teacher which sounds she is struggling with...

allchildrenreading Thu 23-May-13 22:35:23

Dentvincent - try a notched card to make sure that your child is decoding through the word. It's extremely effective - and doesn't cost anything..

mrz Fri 24-May-13 06:43:10

"^Are they actively not teaching it, or do they claim they are teaching it, but are doing so badly?^"

74% of schools questioned said they still used mixed methods

christinarossetti Fri 24-May-13 07:47:04

Does anyone know what % of children 'passed' the screening test btw, and how many were expected to?

maizieD Fri 24-May-13 11:43:35

Wasn't the 70+% figure you quoted, mrz, from the report on the Phonics check pilot?

Because this extract is from the evaluationof the 2012 Check and is even more depressing..

..some confusion was evident among those who identified themselves as teaching phonics using a ‘first and fast’ approach. Of these schools, 85 per cent ‘agreed’ or ‘agreed somewhat’ with the contradictory statement ‘A variety of different methods should be used to teach children to decode words’, as discussed in Section 2.1.

This contradiction in teacher responses reflects the misunderstanding described in Section 2.1 regarding what ‘systematic synthetic phonics’ means, and what ‘first and fast’ in this context implies. The guidance makes it clear that phonics alone should be taught initially, and that teaching other strategies alongside phonics is not recommended. It would seem that the figure of 53 per cent of schools who claim to be teaching systematic synthetic phonics ‘first and fast’ is potentially misleading, and does not provide an accurate representation of actual practice in phonics teaching. A high proportion of schools are clearly teaching phonics, but not necessarily in the way a systematic synthetic approach would prescribe.

maizieD Fri 24-May-13 11:48:21

Sorry, pressed 'post' too soon.

This seems to me to be saying that

a) Only 53% of schools say that they are teaching systematic synthetic phonics using a 'first and fast' approach

b) 85% of the teachers in these schools use 'other strategies' too, which means that they are not teaching SP as it should be taught.

How this correlates to their Check results I don't know.

Dentvincent Fri 24-May-13 12:00:53

Notched card looks great- have 'made' already - the limit of my crafting!!
I am worried that she has slipped behind unnoticed - but can she still be ahead on reading and writing and just her phonics be slipped. I've been so impressed by how with phonics the whole thing seems to come together but now it looks like some basics are not there. She did tell me this morning about magic 'e' - I thought that wasn't supposed to be taught now

Bosgrove Fri 24-May-13 20:27:18

Our school has suggested that we get our children to play the Obb and bob game on the phonics play website, and told us that to pass the test the children should be working at level 5.

We were also shown last years test booklet, all the made up words have alien pictures next to them, they are the adult names, so if they know that hopefully they know not to try and make it into a real word.

My DD has only a very slim chance of passing the phonics test, she is in the bottom group for phonics, but is reading at a higher level than DS was at her age, and he is doing well in Y3 now.

To stop DD worrying I have told her that it is to test how well the teachers have taught her, and to do her best, but not to worry about it.

I think they said that about 2/3 passed the test first time, if they fail they get retested a few months later, but only retested the once.

mrz Fri 24-May-13 20:38:13

"Our school has suggested that we get our children to play the Obb and bob game on the phonics play website, and told us that to pass the test the children should be working at level 5."

I think they mean phase 5 of Letters & Sounds which children are expected to have covered in Y1.

"I think they said that about 2/3 passed the test first time, if they fail they get retested a few months later, but only retested the once."

In some schools 100% of pupils passed.
If a child doesn't achieve the expected level they will be retested next June.

Dentvincent Fri 24-May-13 22:48:04

We've been told the same about obb and bob - up to phase 5. Which dd seems to sail through.

mrz Sat 25-May-13 07:40:57

From memory Phonics Play doesn't cover all the alternative spellings

Dentvincent Sat 25-May-13 10:39:07

Would you recommend something else then mrz? DD has loved reading eggs but not sure what elae

mrz Sat 25-May-13 10:57:30

Sorry but I would avoid Reading Eggs like the plague

Dentvincent Sat 25-May-13 11:18:05

Whys that mrz?

mrz Sat 25-May-13 11:19:38

because it isn't how phonics is taught in the UK and will only confuse children

teacherwith2kids Sat 25-May-13 11:27:18

School I was in - VERY mixed ability & mixed catchment, but great teaching - all passed except the statemented pre-verbal child. All the other SEN children passed.

christinarossetti Sat 25-May-13 13:52:00

This is interesting. When I first heard about the phonics screening, I was a bit hmm about whether children need any more tests and thought surely most of them have got a good grasp of phonics after 2 years of being taught them.

Now, having seem so many posts about teachers asking parents to 'practice' before the Y1 phonic screening, I'm tending to think the screening is a good idea.

I would be really annoyed if my child's teacher only expressed concerns about their phonic knowledge at the end of Y1 and even more annoyed if this was just to increase their pass % in the screening rather than because they recognised that inadequate phonics will impede their learning to read.

Dentvincent Sat 25-May-13 15:47:06

That sums up how I feel - thought I was being precious. My husband thinks its good it has been picked up but I feel it should have been picked up earlier, especially as we had been led to believe she was almost into the top group - which btw I find very frustrating that children of 5 are already 'ranked'.' my DD now says she will have extra every day - which I'm not sure whether is a push to pass the screening or to actually aid her. (probably will do both).

Dentvincent Sat 25-May-13 15:48:28

I'd kind of thought she was doing well at reading and phonics but maybe she is reading well despite not fully grasping all her phonics!

mrz Sat 25-May-13 16:24:52

The purpose of the screening check is to identify those children who aren't secure with phonics. The teacher has realised before the test which is good and to be fair if the problem can be resolved by the 17th of June it can't be a huge problem ...

christinarossetti Sat 25-May-13 20:10:01

Yes, it is good that individual children's lack of security with phonics is being picked up but it makes me wonder if phonic knowledge would have been seen as a priority if there wasn't a screening test to be got through.

So I am now fully in favour of the screening text, it seems.

Are you sure that the teacher will tell them whether a word is real or not? Have been doing Obb and Bob this morning and DD is getting the words in the wrong categories; changing words to make them sound real to her, or feeding real words she hasn't met yet to Obb. Not sure whether to help her or just try and make her familiar with every word in the English language before June.

christinarossetti Sun 26-May-13 08:37:03

This is from mrz up thread, who is a teacher and administered the phonics test last year in her school.

"It shouldn't confuse children who know how to decode words ... the teacher is meant to tell the child which words are real and which are pseudo."

mrz Sun 26-May-13 08:38:12

Yes the teacher will tell the child when words are real or the names of types of imaginary creatures [rolls eyes at that part] I think the pictures are an unnecessary distraction and would rather they weren't there. (page 12)

The following text provides an example of how you could introduce the check.

• In this activity, I am going to ask you to read some words aloud.

• You may have seen some of the words before and others will be new to you.

• You should try to read each word but don’t worry if you can’t. If it helps you, you may sound out the letters before trying to say the word.

• This practice sheet shows you what the words will look like.

• Have a go at reading out loud these four words which you should have come across before [at, in, beg and sum].

The words on this side [turn over practice sheet] are not real words. They are names for types of imaginary creatures. You can see a picture of the creature next to each word.

• Can you read out the words on this page for me [ot, vap, osk and ect]?

• Ok, now we are going to start reading out the words in this booklet and I’m going to write down what you say on my sheet.

In this booklet there are four words on each page. I will tell you at the start of each page whether they are real words that you may have seen before or words for imaginary creatures.

The first page has words for imaginary creatures and you can see their pictures.

• Can you start reading the words to me?

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 09:37:49

You may roll your eyes probably would have had eye strain if you'd encountered me as a child. I would have loved that the words were names of imaginary creatures. It would have given meaning to the whole task. My whole life at that stage was wrapped up in fairy tales.

I probably would have worried me if I was asked to read something I could not have made sense of to the teacher, without context. Admittedly I was petrified of the teachers...

mrz Sun 26-May-13 11:43:43

I know children (and adults ) like imaginary creatures daftdame but their were some children who were totally distracted by the pictures they were unable to think of anything but the creatures.

The new girl in my class (Buttercup Bogwort) transferred from the Enchanted Forest Primary School and the class pet is a baby dragon but I still say the silly pictures are unnecessary ...

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 11:52:47

Well it just makes the task exciting...over-excitement versus worry over a suspiciously meaningless task (I would have worried, why?). I guess I like to understand, give context to things. But I guess the concern of over-excitement is equally valid.

mrz Sun 26-May-13 12:13:01

Have you administered the task daftdame?

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 12:15:58

No, just relating my own experiences as a child. Also this was in reference to modifying the test as it already exists.

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 12:17:36

I did also read that (on an earlier thread) another teacher found the children responded well to the aliens.

mrz Sun 26-May-13 12:29:36

which would be a really good thing if the point of the exercise was for children to respond well to cartoon imaginary creatures

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 12:56:42

Don't you think making a test activity enjoyable and meaningful, by building context around it, is ever valid?

Using fiction / analogies to explain or give meaning to activities that would in themselves be dull, or only meaningful in terms of one person testing another, makes sense to me.

Since a child may not fully appreciate why they have to be tested making the test meaningful in another way makes sense.

Usually, in context, even singular words make sense, they may be a label for example or a shopping list. A child is discovering meaningful information, the reward is in the meaning.

Now if you take the point out of reading, it could be somewhat alienating (excuse the terminology but it does relate to good old Karl Marx).

fuzzpig Sun 26-May-13 13:00:35

Really interesting about Reading Eggs - I'd heard good things about it but will avoid spending my money on it now.

Just wanted to second Dr Seuss - brilliant for nonsense words. Red Fish Blue Fish is particularly good - DD really loved Mr Gump's Seven Hump Wump grin

mrz Sun 26-May-13 13:39:20

I think there are many more effective ways to make the check enjoyable daftdame, if that were the purpose of the pictures (which isn't the reason they were included).

Our Y1 pupils must have enjoyed the check last year as they asked if they could do it again

fuzzpig Sun 26-May-13 14:11:58

It sounds like the kind of thing DD will enjoy.

pooka Sun 26-May-13 14:21:40

Our school bollocksed this up last year somewhat - ds passed and was one of about 40 percent.

The teachers didn't tell them which words were "made up". There was a bit of a gruesome post-mortem.

Bonus has been that phonics teaching much improved this year, and there have been meetings with parents to discuss how the test will be operated, how parents can help their children and so on, in conjunction with the general improvement in phonics teaching.

So fingers crossed....

Incidentally, ds actually learned to read at 3, and is very fluent. He was more of a look and say kid. But I'm glad that he's also learned the synthetic phonics since he started school - great for when he comes across really unfamiliar words and can decode.

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 15:29:54

Just out of curiosity, why were the alien pictures included, mrz? Also what did your pupils find particularly enjoyable?

mrz Sun 26-May-13 15:40:39

The pictures were included to identify which words were real and which were made up because some people (mainly the press ) thought children aren't clever enough to understand when the teacher says "these aren't real words" that the words aren't real hmm ...

The children enjoyed the 1-1 time (teacher's undivided attention no distractions or interruptions) sitting on the couch relaxed, with a relatively easy task laughing at the funny words and of course a reward for trying their best.

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 15:48:04

Well that is probably where my experience is lacking since I did not like my teacher's undivided attention blush. Thanks for answering though, mrz.

mrz Sun 26-May-13 15:52:46

You disliked all of your teachers?

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 16:01:14

I didn't dislike all of them. However I always found 1 to 1 with teachers quite intimidating. Even in secondary the 'constructive' criticism was quite mortifying.

My reception teacher smacked me and some other children (bad old days) and I was petrified of her, she always seemed to be angry about something. I was very shy and it took me a while to like school.

Academically I liked the work (always quite bookish) and I made friends so I found my enjoyment this way.

Dentvincent Sun 26-May-13 16:29:57

I think the imaginary pictures will help DD. I also think they have been practising without being told. She said today: she doesn't like phonics now because they can't even spell the words right - they spelt nose as 'nos' - obviously we trying to say n o s not n o s e. I do think she has had her confidence knocked which is the hardest thing when she is someone that blooms with positivity and is utterly deflated when negativity crops up. Which I know is a lesson she will need to learn - and is slowly. But I also don't want her put off 'tests' which I always loved unlike DH

mrz Sun 26-May-13 17:15:47

"obviously we trying to say n o s not n o s e"

I hope not ...

Dentvincent Sun 26-May-13 17:41:32

No what I mean is:word NOS sounds different to word NOSE

Dentvincent Sun 26-May-13 17:42:32

And she says NOS is the same as NOSE but they have spelt it wrong (they obviously being whoever has written the word)

mrz Sun 26-May-13 17:57:36

I can see why they are concerned Dentvincent

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 17:59:50

Dentvincent Your girl sound as if she knows what is what. If by some blip she doesn't get top marks I don't think it will be down to what she can do, rather I think she may possibly be trying (too hard? re. spelling correctly) to meet expectations. Hopefully you will have been able to reassure her she just has to read the words that are there, even if they seem totally wrong!

Dentvincent Sun 26-May-13 18:01:19

Could you explain mrz. As an adult if I read NOS I would either assume shorthand for numbers or a child who can't spell NOSE. I'f she is not told whether the words are real or imaginary surely it is as easy to assume that it has been spelt incorrectly. And if you agree they should be concerned, should it only have been bought up the day before 1/2 term?

Feenie Sun 26-May-13 18:04:52

As an adult if I read NOS I would either assume shorthand for numbers or a child who can't spell NOSE.

Not if you had been told it was an imaginary word.

And if you agree they should be concerned, should it only have been bought up the day before 1/2 term?

Indeed - here you have a very good point. I would be cross if I was only just being told.

mrz Sun 26-May-13 18:27:27

perhaps they didn't realise that their teaching was ineffective until they began practising for the test

Galena Sun 26-May-13 18:27:53

mrz I'm intrigued... I've just had a look at Obb and Bob to see if I thought DD would cope with phase 5. A word came up which was 'reshied' - obviously a made-up word. But how would you expect a child to pronounce it? REE-shYed? RESH-eed? Just interested really.

I was a KS2 teacher for many years, but didn't really have any phonics training and I'm not entirely sure what 'synthetic' phonics are. I'm also worried now because DD loved Reading eggs...

mrz Sun 26-May-13 18:40:33

for non-words in the check any phonically plausible pronunciation is acceptable ...

mrz Sun 26-May-13 18:41:38
Galena Sun 26-May-13 18:47:24

Ta smile

LondonJax Sun 26-May-13 18:55:44

The nos - nose issue with phonics Dentvincent (I think, am not a teacher and am only going by the good old Alpha blocks and DS who is also year one), is that the 'e' at the end of nose means you pronounce the 'o' as its name not its sound. So the 'o' in'nos' would rhyme with cos - like cos lettuce. The 'o' in 'Nose' would rhyme with 'no'. I think.

Galena Sun 26-May-13 19:01:49

'course, we confused everything with DD by teaching her the letter sounds first, but giving her a name, Skye, which didn't follow the rules...

Should have called her 'Fred'

Dentvincent Sun 26-May-13 19:07:57

Exactly Londonjax (that's what I think!) DD if I now turn round to DD and get her to sound out she does it correctly ie rhyming with cos lettuce.
But when she just saw it as a word she assumed it was spelt incorrectly.
Agree daftdame in so much as she just cannot understand why she is now reading words that mean nothing when she has spent the last few months reading words that do. I DO see the point of the test but I think she is struggling to put it in context as just a phonics exercise not a 'sounding out whilst reading book' exercise where the word you have to sound out is in the midst of a sentence and a reader can use context as well as phonics to read the word iyswim. obviously this fully tests phonic skills and it is this She needs to concentrate ( not quite as fun as reading a book I guess!!)

LondonJax Sun 26-May-13 19:10:01

Sorry Dentvincent, my post didn't answer your question really. What I meant was, when your DD is tested I assume the teacher will be looking for children to read or sound out N O S for example, realise they don't recognise that word and say they believe it's a made up word. Not try to add letters in their head to make it into a word they recognise or sound it out incorrectly. All I do with DS if he's making a word fit what he knows is stop him, take him back and ask him to sound it out to break the 'I know what that should say' rather than what it actually says pattern. Not sure if that'd help or not.

mrz Sun 26-May-13 19:46:53

Out of the quarter million real words in the English language Dentvincent how many do you think will mean anything to your Y1 child? Will she dismiss them as wrong and try to turn them into words she knows that have similar letter patterns or have the same beginning ...

We all read non words everyday without thinking about it - the hairdressers called Cutz or the breakfast cereal called wheetos non words are everywhere.

pooka Sun 26-May-13 19:57:03

LOVE the latest link mrz! grin

mrz Sun 26-May-13 20:40:37

Galena I'm not sure which rules you mean but Skye has three sounds /s/ /k/ /ie/. The <ye> is a spelling for the sound /ie/ so no need to call your daughter Fred.

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 20:49:48

These real life nonsense words have context (be it a label or name) though mrz and you feel that the alien name context of the test is 'distracting'.

mrz Sun 26-May-13 20:54:30

No daftdame I don't feel the alien name context is distracting I feel the pictures are distracting ... very different things.

Galena Sun 26-May-13 20:57:22

I guess so. I think it was tricky because to start with she knew 's' 'k' 'y' and 'e' as 4 letter sounds, but now she does know that ye says 'ie'. I shan't change her name just yet then grin

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 21:01:59

Ah that makes more sense. However surely the children are very familiar with illustrations in their reading books, do you think these pictures are distracting too?

I must say the illustrations were a huge motivating factor for me as a child, I especially liked the full colour prints you get in old books. Just made me want to read...

mrz Sun 26-May-13 21:08:56

^ mrz Sun 26-May-13 08:38:12^

Yes the teacher will tell the child when words are real or the names of types of imaginary creatures [rolls eyes at that part] I think the pictures are an unnecessary distraction and would rather they weren't there.

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 21:15:09

I don't get your point mrz , I already acknowledged that it was the illustrations you felt were distracting with my 'Ah that makes more sense'. This does fit more with what you were saying about real life 'nonsense'.

I just don't get why these pictures are more distracting than the ones in reading books, unless you think they are distracting too.

mrz Sun 26-May-13 21:23:10

In reading books they don't normally have a picture next to each word on the page.

AcrylicPlexiglass Sun 26-May-13 21:24:48

Phonics test, schmonics grest, nonsense flonflense, do not worry, koo vrot plurrie. I predict that your baby will be a skilumphingly gloptiously hurriptious reader in her own good

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 21:26:28

I've not seen the test, is it too cluttered visually? What aspect is distracting?

I have seen early years books with only one word on a page and an illustration.

mrz Sun 26-May-13 21:35:12

Well firstly it isn't a test it is a "screening check" a diagnostic tool to identify possible problems

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 21:41:12

Right..check. But what about my question?

Is it that it slows down the administration of the check? Surely this must be weighed against making it more meaningful to the child by providing a context for the nonsense words.

mrz Sun 26-May-13 21:50:10

There is a context for the non words ... they are the names of imaginary creatures. The real words (some which may not be in the child's vocabulary) don't have context or pictures ...

AcrylicPlexiglass Sun 26-May-13 21:57:12

the first rool of skreening cheks and diagnostik touls is do not panik. Your jeminigeous gloopweevil may find it fonicley chalenjing but with your supought she will continue to aprotch reeding with a yompful skirridlike quinkling and develop luv four books. wen she is 47 and a harf know won will no or care wether she past a fonics cheque at 6.

mrz Sun 26-May-13 21:58:48

She might if she can't read unfamiliar words

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 21:59:46

Well..a strong visual context then as a motivating factor then, as with reading books. I still don't see how this is problematic and it could serve to make the check more engaging. How exactly are the illustrations problematic? Is it the time factor, as I asked earlier?

christinarossetti Sun 26-May-13 22:05:00

The screening test is 40 combinations of sounds, some of which make 'real words' and some of which don't.

I don't see why 6 year olds need to be particularly 'motivated' to decode words, as they're doing it lots and lots of times by the end of Y1.

AcrylicPlexiglass Sun 26-May-13 22:05:49

I probably couldn't have read flobgribbiflangeweevilheadscrew very easily at 6 but I can now, so all is well and I'm not even 47.5 yet. My point is that 6 is very young. Too young to worry unduly about this sort of thing. Some children take off with reading a little later.

mrz Sun 26-May-13 22:09:14

There isn't a time factor ...the check takes as long as it takes, the child can have as many attempts to decode each word as they want, the whole process is relaxed.

As I said the pages with non words have a picture next to each word (so not like those picture books for very young children with a word and an illustration) the pages with real words have no illustrations just words (are these pages less engaging?)

freetrait Sun 26-May-13 22:12:42

Yes. I think the title of OP's post "sudden concerns and how to help", shows parental anxiety and teacher anxiety rather than anything else.

Actually, I think it is unfair to help re trying to get things in place for the test this year. It is probably too late. Or at least, the help should be seen as general help with phonics rather than help to pass this screening check. If it has highlighted weak phonic teaching in the OP's school (which it sounds like it has) then this is what it was designed for. And you would hope that the school will revisit their phonics teaching and might improve it. It's a shame that parents and children should be anxious. Really it's the school's responsibility is it not? I can't imagine mrz is asking her pupils to practice at home for it, or at least not at the last minute. Or that her pupils would be confused about having to read nonsense words. Or am I wrong?

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 22:12:53

christina it would have motivated me at 6. As far as I was concerned,at that age, all the best books had pictures. It is why illustrative art exists...I much preferred activities with nice, preferably full colour pictures, than plain old lists of words to read, which would be less preferable.

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 22:14:13

But why the distraction mrz?

mrz Sun 26-May-13 22:21:00

Well hopefully the OPs children is sharing and enjoying wonderful picture books at home and in school.

Do you think that the school nurse should have colourful pictures on the eye chart when doing eyesight checks or something to motivate the child when doing in school health screening daftdame or are they only necessary for phonics?

mrz Sun 26-May-13 22:21:59

because some children focused on the pictures rather than on the words daftdame

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 22:26:33

Yes, yes mrz would make everything much more pleasant. I remember I did decide, when I was nine, I actually quite liked one of my teachers because she had shoes with rainbows on the wedges...

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 22:44:48

'..because some chilled focussed on the pictures rather than the words'. You'd agree that lists of seemingly random words are...ahem....boring then? What happened to a child centred education that is rich, meaningful and engaging then?

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 22:46:01

Sorry misquoted mrz should be 'child'!^

daftdame Sun 26-May-13 22:51:35

^'children' even.

christinarossetti Sun 26-May-13 23:41:10

daftdame, the phonics screening is 40 combinations of sounds. It takes children a few short minutes.

Sounds like you're over thinking it, tbh.

mrz Mon 27-May-13 07:25:49

No daftdame I don't agree the list of seemingly random words are ... boring.

Euphemia Mon 27-May-13 07:41:18

What happened to a child centred education that is rich, meaningful and engaging then?

This is an assessment lasting a few minutes!

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 08:17:53

Christina, mrz and Euphemia, I would just question the integrity of a check if merely having the presence of illustrations served as a distraction. If it is that easy to be distracted from the task surely almost anything could serve as a distraction, hence why I asked if the task itself was boring.

I would agree with what mrz hinted at i.e. that lack of focus could skew the results of the check. In my opinion it is a shame that this particular check is needed. If synthetic phonics were being taught effectively any way, the need for the check is debatable, any difficulties would be picked up by the teacher in due course any way.

However it is here, with illustrations, and there seems to be a certain amount of panic from teachers, at least in the case with the OP's child.

I do actually suspect the OP's child may be trying to show what she knows with regard to how she thinks things ought to be spelt. Once she is reassured she only has to read the word she probably will be OK. I can understand the kind of thinking - trick question? Remember being told to retell a story, thinking it was a test to see how much we'd remembered and trying to take a peek of the book in order to get the words 'right'. I actually knew the story anyway!

mrz Mon 27-May-13 08:30:13

daftdame the check is based on established effective screening methods (although there are no pictures ) used around the world for decades to identify children who may have difficulties with reading and writing. It picks up gaps in children's knowledge, understanding and ability to apply phonics regardless of the standard of phonics teaching. Early identification is important and means that fewer children will slip through the net.

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 08:41:27

mrz there will still be variables though, distraction being one you have already mentioned.

Early identification is all very well but the earlier checks are done, the more variables there are, simply because young children may not be entirely 'on board' with the check.

If it does highlight a genuine gap it has served its purpose which is good, I would never argue with that. If the result is due to one of the variables it could cause a bit of unnecessary worry.

mrz Mon 27-May-13 08:57:04

For that reason the check is supposed to be carried out somewhere relaxed with minimal distractions rather than in a busy classroom with noise, interruptions and other things to focus upon.

The check last year showed we had a number of children who weren't secure with split vowel spellings and polysyllabic words which means that we can adjust our teaching. I think you will agree that it is highly unlikely that "variables" would result in groups of children being distracted at the same point in the check so it indicates that this is a teaching need.

Most schools who teach phonics well will carry out similar diagnostic tests throughout the school (not just in Y1) each term. Our own check is much more rigorous than the national phonics screening version.

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 09:04:54

I agree with you there mrz if regular diagnostic checks are being carried out, the phonics screening will be less problematic and is more likely to serve the purpose that was intended. The child will be more familiar with the screening scenario and the teacher more familiar with what the child can do.

It is when the check seems to come 'out of the blue' (although it shouldn't!) that there would appear to be problems.

mrz Mon 27-May-13 09:25:22

If regular checks were carried out by schools the phonics screening check would not be needed. Perhaps the low number of schools actually teaching phonics correctly is the catalyst for schools panicking in late May.

If children have been taught to decode words the check should not faze them unfortunately children are still being taught to look at pictures and initial letters to guess unknown words

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 10:10:31

Except I also think familiarity with the check type scenario cuts down on the variables, children are more likely to know what is expected of them and wouldn't try to 'second guess' the check (as the OP's child possibly is).

So, strictly speaking, it is not solely about good phonics knowledge and decoding skills. Although if teaching synthetic phonics means that the children will be familiar with the scenario, as in your school mrz - problem solved.

I would say therefore that if teachers teach synthetic phonics well and do diagnostic tests anyway, the check may be not needed, but shouldn't be a problem.

However if teachers don't teach in the same way, the check may absolutely be needed, but also more open to the results being skewed by variables, due to the children's lack of familiarity with the check scenario. In this case an able (at decoding) child may also be put through unnecessary stress (as with OP's child).

AcrylicPlexiglass Mon 27-May-13 10:11:15

Learning to read is like weaning and potty training. A very few children will not achieve it at all, no matter what method is used. Some children will benefit from a particular method of teaching. A few children will take off without much guidance at all. Most children will get there in the end and the important thing is that they do not become battle scarred and turned off by the process.

The most essential thing about learning to read is that children don't conclude that they are stupid at 6, just as the most important thing about weaning is that children don't decide that mealtimes and healthy food are associated with tension and angst. There is plenty of time for children to read pretend monster names and Tolstoy and eat squid and asparagus souffle.

If your child is trying hard, has an interested engaging teacher and likes school then all is well, imo. I would tell her that the phonics check does not matter as long as she tries her best and carry on as normal.

mrz Mon 27-May-13 11:21:43

If they have been taught to decode words they know what is expected of them

mrz Mon 27-May-13 11:25:56

The child won't know if they got every word right or every words wrong so why should they be worried?

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 11:36:01

mrz In one respect I think you are correct. Indeed if they are taught to decode words they will know what to expect.

However it is possible learn to decode well, whilst only being formally taught a 'smattering' of phonics - as many of us who can read well after only being formally taught through 'mixed methods' will testify.

Also, I can imagine cases where systematic phonics are only taught in groups, whole class teaching so the child is not that familiar with much 1 to 1 time with the teacher. In many schools all / a large majority of the 1 to 1 work in reading is done with parent helpers or TAs at best, who will not (necessarily) be administering the test.

Why should a child be worried? - past experience informing on current expectations. They might not want to get something wrong which could be enough to worry them. It depends how 'mistakes' are generally handled in their experience.

Feenie Mon 27-May-13 11:37:30

But how would they know whether they were wrong or not, daftdame? They wouldn't.

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 11:43:44

Feenie My point is the worry comes before it is known whether they were right or wrong. The worry is about the possibility of doing something wrong.

AcrylicPlexiglass Mon 27-May-13 11:45:12

they know they are "wrong" when their teacher sends home a note to mum and dad saying "oh golly, oh gosh, little suzy gonna fail/has failed the phonics check. Please worry a lot and practice phonics till you're all blue in the face and crying." This thread is a great example of that!

mrz Mon 27-May-13 11:52:05

You seem to be ignoring the fact that all schools should be teaching children to decode so therefore the child should know what is expected of them when asked to decode 40 words.

Feenie Mon 27-May-13 11:53:35


That's an example of schools mishandling the check.

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 12:06:01

Feenie There are two spellings, both spellings are correct, it is the context that changes which is correct usage. How does phonics help?

mrz I'm not ignoring that. I just don't feel the check provides irrefutable evidence in itself. It could fail / be misleading concerning children who are able (in decoding ^ see above) without being formally taught in the way you have described.

mrz Mon 27-May-13 12:06:53

Do you not think parents have a right to know if their child is struggling with certain aspects of the curriculum AcrylicPlexiglass?

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 12:07:40

Feenie Perhaps I have not understood your point?

Feenie Mon 27-May-13 12:08:50

Feenie There are two spellings, both spellings are correct, it is the context that changes which is correct usage. How does phonics help?

I wasn't advocating that it did, I was correcting a previous post. It's a compulsion. But phonics helps decode either. Hth.

mrz Mon 27-May-13 12:09:05

daftdame it is a check to identify which children need more input from the school not a sentence of eternal failure.

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 12:28:00

mrz I agree that is exactly what it should be.

Awareness of the check, what it is, its limitations, how parents can help their child and what to expect from the school, should keep it as that and nothing more.

AcrylicPlexiglass Mon 27-May-13 12:55:20

I think it is good to know how the teacher thinks my child is doing, mrz, yes. But personally I would not be unduly concerned if my 6 year old did not pass this check and would not appreciate any input that made him/her feel worried about reading. All members of my family have been taught to read via different methods, according to the fashions of the day. We can all read. Some read earlier than others. The method used hasn't has any bearing on age/speed/ competence as far as I can see. Current reseach favours synthetic phonics and if that enthuses teachers then fantastic, go for it. the research may be right or not bit I suspect that enthusiastic teachers are the key to a class full of children reaching their potential. however, I would be angry if my very young child was inadvertently given the message from school that she was failing at something important. I agree that a lot depends on general teaching style. It sounds like the OP's child has been suddenly identified as at risk of failing and that a clear message to that effect has been sent home. This is not good, imo.

AcrylicPlexiglass Mon 27-May-13 13:00:32

Thank you for your grammar advice, Feenie.

mrz Mon 27-May-13 13:10:36

and that is exactly what the check is daftdame

No AcrylicPlexiglass it isn't how the teacher thinks your child is doing.

As a parent I can only regret this check wasn't around when my son was 6 years old

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 13:25:41

mrz you obviously possess some personal experience that makes you a passionate advocate of the test.

I said should be because of the OP's experience and others on similar threads. The worry that is caused by communication late in the day that children are not making expected progress should be avoidable. As a parent it is hard to disentangle whether this is because the child has a genuine difficulty or whether this is due to poor teaching. This makes a difference because if it is just poor or inadequate teaching the remedy is simply better / more teaching, if the difficulty is more complex finding a solution may be a more lengthy process.

As I have said before, awareness is key because whole school figures are not published and the teaching in schools varies.

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 13:26:14

^ sorry meant check ^

mrz Mon 27-May-13 13:38:02

Yes daftdame I have 2 decades experience as a teacher and a SENCO ensuring no child is failed because they were missed.

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 13:45:16

mrz what happened with your son, did he manage to acquire good decoding skills eventually?

mrz Mon 27-May-13 14:47:18

My son could read to a high level before he started nursery school daftdame and had a reading age in the teens in KS1 (roughly 8 years above his chronological age).

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 15:55:11

mrz So would the phonics check have indicated his decoding / phonic knowledge was good? Why do you regret that the check was not around?

Galena Mon 27-May-13 16:00:05

See, not sure about DD's reading now... I thought she was doing pretty good. She's 4.1 and here is a short video of her reading a page of a library book. However, she struggled to decode 'determined'. I will try her on Obb and Bob and on one of the MOTiF tests, out of interest, and I'm not going to panic as she doesn't start school for another 4 months! However, I'd rather not confuse her before starting school, so I'd like to know if I'm doing it right or wrong.

Galena Mon 27-May-13 16:00:45

(And yes, I know it should be 'pretty well' but I only got 3 hours' sleep last night and pressed post before changing it...) blush

mrz Mon 27-May-13 16:01:59

It would have identified his SEN before he got to secondary school daftdame

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 16:06:30

Galena - adorable! I think your daughter will do fine. She looks as if she is really enjoying her book. She will be taught more phonics at school, which you can support. Re. determined, she is still learning.

Galena Mon 27-May-13 16:13:13

Ok, Obb and Bob phase 5, she got 9/10. She really struggled with the non-words though as she could read them just fine, but didn't want to say they weren't words in case they were. She just froze up and took a lot of coaxing just to put the non-words somewhere.

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 16:15:19

mrz So he could read amazingly well but had difficulties applying phonic knowledge?

mrz Mon 27-May-13 16:16:36

he doesn't have any phonic knowledge

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 16:17:32

Galena Maybe try some books with nonsense words to share with her, Dr Seuss, Flanimals so she gets used to nonsense words being OK.

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 16:19:06

mrz ah, makes sense now. Thanks.

mrz Mon 27-May-13 16:30:52

I'm pleased it makes sense to you daftdame because it doesn't make sense to me that schools continue to fail to teach phonics.

Galena Mon 27-May-13 16:33:34

She loves nonsense words - she's perfectly happy to make up nonsense words of her own and giggle about them (luckily she thinks words like 'shit' and 'fuck' are nonsense words she's made up to rhyme with 'bit' and 'duck' respectively). She just hates getting things wrong, despite our constant reassurance that getting things wrong is ok, so she didn't want to commit to the non-words being fake, just in case they were real words she hadn't met yet!


mrz Mon 27-May-13 16:35:06

obb and Bob has nice alien colourful animations but isn't terribly effective for young children because it does use real words that may not be in their vocabulary

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 16:41:42

Sorry mrz didn't mean to be flippant, just trying to get my head round what you were saying. Posting can be a bit like a stream of consciousness if you're not very careful.

I do think phonics ought to be taught, just think its a shame when children are on the receiving end of poor / inadequate teaching and then have more pressure put on them (re. OP and note home) at the last minute regarding the check.

Where the check does the job it has been designed to do, fantastic. However if children are not being taught properly, no comment should be made concerning any potential ability, as the check merely demonstrates their attainment.

mrz Mon 27-May-13 16:44:12

The check is there to identify which children need extra phonics input in Y2.

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 16:49:39

mrz Whilst the extra phonics is certainly worthwhile, as a parent I would not be very happy if this was due to inadequate teaching. There are only so many hours in a school day, as I'm sure you will appreciate.

As I have said before, whole school results are not published, so how are the schools accountable to the parents?

mrz Mon 27-May-13 16:53:53

I would be less happy if my child had received inadequate teaching and it wasn't recognised and my child left to fall behind.

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 16:59:57

mrz me too, but I don't think in the OP's case the teacher indicated that the test highlighted material not fully covered in school. Neither was it indicated that the school were going to take responsibility and provide the extra teaching. Instead they asked the parent to do the extra work with the child.

mrz Mon 27-May-13 17:04:08

From what the OP has said I would think it is very likely that her child has not been taught adequately and having realised that the teacher/school is panicking.

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 17:10:14

mrz I agree with you there and I hope this issue is smoothed out.

I suppose you will get this kind of thing happening when there are new statutory requirements, which make schools more accountable. I just feel sorry for the parents and children who are involved the initial bedding down period.

mrz Mon 27-May-13 17:18:08

daftdame schools have had EIGHT YEARS to get phonic teaching right

daftdame Mon 27-May-13 17:23:06

mrz Oh dear...Well I suppose there must have been some pretty strong mindsets out there.

I certainly feel sorry for the parents and children now. At least now the check is here there is no hiding from schools...but still more pressure is put on parents to make up the gap and with the best will in the world not all can.

When do you think it will settle down, mrz?

mrz Mon 27-May-13 17:31:02

In all honesty I can't see it ever "settling down"

BabiesAreLikeBuses Mon 27-May-13 17:38:36

My dts go to the school i work at (sep sites for ks1and2) we have been saying for years that kids at y5/6 struggle with spelling as phonic knowledge poor and been reassured for last 5 yrs that synthetic phonics used. This yr in reception it is the first year that word packs have been dropped and only synthetic phonics done. I am sure it is because the pass level of the test last year was low. They have had years in which kids have been let down, this year it has been taught very well and i can see that my kids have better spelling knowledge than the ten year olds i teach. It shouldn't have taken a screening check to force the situation...

Feenie Mon 27-May-13 17:53:03

Like my ds's school, who only 'taught' phonics three times a week. (Paid it lip service, more like). Massive panic on now because only 40% met the mark required last year.

mrz Mon 27-May-13 17:59:18

It makes me sad to see that parents are more clued up about phonics than many teachers

christinarossetti Mon 27-May-13 19:59:23

Me too. The screening test should be absolutely no problem to children who have been taught synthetic phonics correctly, and the plethora of threads on MN about it lately seems to indicate that this correct teaching isn't happening as often as it should.

sazale Tue 28-May-13 08:17:11

Mrz, my son is still on phase 2 phonics so should he be disapplied?

He's also been sent home with practice sheets.

He's behind due to having phonological processing difficulties and I also believe rubbish teaching in Foundation. The school got told to improve by OFSTED earlier this year with a particular slating of the foundation unit and the whole school phonics teaching. He is currently on P6 for reading.

mrz Tue 28-May-13 09:12:03

It depends if the school use the check effectively or they see it as "something pointless the government make us do".

The check can identify what a child knows - so in your son's case if he can blend cvc words (like cat or vop) vc words (like am or ip) ccvc words (stop or brin) cvcc words (like sand or dunt) - which would help plan for his next steps

sazale Tue 28-May-13 21:32:27

Thanks mrz. He can do cvc words and us currently working on vc words.

Dentvincent Wed 29-May-13 19:30:14

Thanks for all advice/tips. Had phone call from teacher today(!) to check we were ok with letter home - seemingly there may have been complaints re the wording. DD scored 30/40 so they want to ensure she passes but don't want her to be concerned. I think they've probably made it a bit obvious that they are coaching certain pupils that are borderline but my DD now thinks she is 'rubbish at phonics.' probably if she had another couple of practices/better instruction she may have been ok. We have now gone back to basics and are reading normally with her and letting her read her books but then looking at words seperately and practising sounding out vocally rather than trying to read the word straight off. I think this has helped her understand the concept of what this screening is looking for. In other words this is not a reading test but a phonics test - which is what it is of course - but I'm not sure she had 'got' this. Not that I think kids should be aware they are being assessed anyway The teacher also said DD used her memory a lot and was a visual reader using other techniques to aid her reading. I said we were aware of this but obviously if her phonic skill is better this will only improve her reading/writing/spelling further do she can use a number of skills. At least she's enjoying phonics again! And she's read lots of dr Seuss this week and Roald dahls dirty beasts which has lots of fake words

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