Does anyone think phonics teaching has any harmful effects?

(728 Posts)
housework Wed 19-Jun-13 10:22:16

I am happy to be persuaded either way but would be and would be interested to hear all views. Am thinking about dd and whether phonics has worked for her.
DD is 7, reads very well and comprehends what she is reading on the whole. She passed the Y1 phonics test getting the magic 32 so many children got. However, she's a poor speller to the extent that an Ed Psych has suggested testing for dyslexia. I'd like to do some more spelling work with her over the summer holidays. Today I did a bit of the Alpha to Omega placement test with her. She spelt crash as 'Krash' and chip as 'thip.' I let her do the next words 'splash' and 'thrush'. She spelt these correctly. With chip, I think she knew there were 'th', 'sh' and 'ch' to choose from and just picked one of them.
The above and other incidences make me wonder. Does phonics stop a child trusting their instincts? In her case, I think she is not considering how a word looks to help her spell it. She will always fall back on a phonetic spelling unless she already knows the spelling. If school had focussed more on rote learning, regular and rigorous spelling tests, would she spell better. At the moment they're all still ploughing through phonics because the failures have to re-take this year. But there are no expectations re spelling, barely any spelling tests, no words given to learn. And dd is the type that will only do the work if school have set it.
I'm just wondering where to go from here. Thanks for reading.

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 10:29:42

If the person teaching phonics doesn't believe that it also involves teaching children to spell using gobbledegook then it most cases it's fine. Learning to spell and learning to read are different disciplines and phonics is for teaching children to read. So, no, in the main it's fine. We have had one or two cases on mumsnet where a mum has explained that phonics hasn't worked for her children. But that's for teaching them to read, not to spell.

housework Wed 19-Jun-13 10:37:15

Thanks learnandsay. Although phonics is for learning to read, I worry that it's adversely affected dd's ability to spell. Will look at thread.

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 10:49:11

It may not be the phonics but the way she's being taught to spell that's doing the damage.

housework Wed 19-Jun-13 11:12:04

I see no evidence that she's been taught to spell. As far as I can tell, they have lots of phonics sessions.

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 11:17:18

Not seeing evidence (ie she can't spell) isn't the same thing as her not being taught to spell. She may be being taught to spell in a dreadful way. (It does happen.)

Periwinkle007 Wed 19-Jun-13 11:21:17

I don't think spelling is taught so much now. There was a lot of evidence I believe that by giving spelling lists to learn and then having tests didn't actually achieve much, children would learn them, do well in the test and then when writing would spell things wrong so they have now on the whole stopped sending home lists to learn.

my reception daughter spells very phonetically still (well obviously as she is only 5) and how they learn to get the right spelling I am not sure. She spelt toad as tode the other day which I praised her for because she had used the right sound but just the wrong spelling. I assume that with practice they just learn words as they get used to using them but I am not sure. I was always rubbish at spelling (and quite probably dyslexic) and my daughter is also quite probably dyslexic so I will wait to see how she gets on.

What age do they focus on phonics until? anyone know? I sort of assumed it was mostly reception and year 1 and then by yr2 they were moving off phonics sessions as such and on to well erm other stuff.

DeWe Wed 19-Jun-13 11:21:22

I don't think it's harmful, but I don't think it's the be all and end all as some people think. I expect in 20-30 years along things will have shifted back again and schools that teach entirely phonics will be regarded as not teaching reading properly. Things go round like that.

My problem is that if you take a longer word with say the sounds ai and ough in.
Ai has lots of different ways of pronouncing it: eg. air, wait, said, plait,
Ough can be: tough, ought, though (may be others)

So if there are two groups of letters one of which can be pronounced in 4 ways and the other in 3 ways, there are 12 different pronunciations of that word, which is a lot to work through, and I think I would have lost sense of the sentence by the time I'd worked it out.

I don't understand the arguement that you can't remember enough words by look and say. Well at 6yo I read Lord of the rings. I did not get phonics at that point. I got phonics round about the end of the second book. And it was only the names that were foxing me. Unless you're telling me that I'm a superhuman grin then I think it's possible for most people.

As for spelling. Dsis and me were taught at preschool look and say. She's a brilliant speller. Could always spell it right. I am pleased when I get a difficult word close enough for the spell check to work out what I really want to write-I can usually recognise it when I see it. I was taught phonics at school, she wasn't.
My db was taught phonetics entirely. He spells phonetically, or maybe I should write "fonnetickally"? So phonic way it's right, unfortunately to the English dictionary it's not.

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 11:28:19

I've heard phonics goes right through primary school. Presumably it gets more complicated by then. Perhaps they teach children to do a word, as dowe suggested, with two sounds each of which has four different pronunciations and maybe six spellings each. How many possible combinations is that? 48

Maybe just learning to spell the word would be simpler.

Lonecatwithkitten Wed 19-Jun-13 12:13:05

As a dyslexic who also had hearing loss due to glue ear. The very first thing writing thip instead of chip would make me do is get my child's hearing check. I had this not quite knowing how the word started or ended so using something similar. It may not be hearing, but then it is ruled out.

justneedhandholding Wed 19-Jun-13 16:14:08

My DS1 learnt to read using phonics but they also do daily spelling tests. He is a brilliant reader and speller. I think phonics is brilliant and an easy way to learn to read, it can also be used for most spellings but of course the child needs to learn which 'version' of the sound to use which is of course tricky. Then there are the words they just need to learn by practising.

Most children will use phonics to spell as well as jusy knowing or learning the non phonetically spelt words - I can't necessarily see an issue unless they are dyslexic or have hearing problems.

maizieD Wed 19-Jun-13 17:00:42

I have an acquaintance who was brought up in S Africa, where phonics teaching as the 'norm' persisted for far longer than it did in the UK ('whole word' eaching took a real hold in the UK from the 1960s onwards). she taught in S African Schools and then came to the UK where she taught In english secondary schools. Being an academic sort of person she was rigorous about testing and record keeping. She frequently mentions the difference in spelling ability between the SA phonics taught children and the whole language taught UK children.

This is part of one of her recent posts:

I taught English for 5 years in secondary schools in South Africa at a time when good phonics teaching was routine in primary schools, though it wasn’t nearly as elaborate as some people now think necessary.....

It was only when I started teaching in England in 1978 that I started encountering children who had serious reading and spelling problems – e.g. 16-year-olds whose spelling showed little ability to write down letters which plausibly represented the sounds in words. This particular group formed quite a small percentage of the whole, but most of the rest had spelling problems which showed a lack of word-specific or morphological knowledge.

Despite what learn & say asserts, phonics is not just for teaching reading, it works for teaching spelling, too, and the teaching of both should be simultaneous.

One of the (many) strengths of phonics is that it teaches children to pay very close attention to the structure of words and to relate 'sounds' to their spellings. It places a far smaller cognitive load on children as most words are perfectly regular and the trickier ones usually only have one part that is unusual and needing to be memorised. Trying to learn the spelling of every individual word in the lexicon is just about impossible; like trying to learn 250,000 individual telephone numbers!

meditrina Wed 19-Jun-13 17:10:47

As phonics is the centuries old approach, I think it will be bried late 20th century fad for other methods (which left a far higher proportion of children with reading problems) which will be seen as the aberration.

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 17:11:06

My Y1 children all have spelling ages at least equal to their chronological age and have been taught spelling daily using phonics

singersgirl Wed 19-Jun-13 17:13:39

OP, if your daughter is suggesting 'thip' or 'ship' for 'chip' it's because her phonic knowledge isn't secure or because she has a hearing problem. 'Th' never represents the 'sh' or the 'ch' sound in English.

justsstartingtothink Wed 19-Jun-13 17:22:09

When my son was 3, he was shown a "C" at nursery and told it was "kh" (not sure how to represent the sound). The next day, as we were walking to school, he saw a police car and asked "Mommy, why does "police" have a "kh" in it?" His comment reinforced my belief that strict phonics as I've seen it taught here has grave limitations, in particular when children are encouraged to recognise letters by the sound rather than by the name. After the episode with the police car, I taught my son the letter "C" (prounounced "see", not "kh") has two different sounds -- "kh" and "ss". It is usually prounced "kh" but when it's in front of an "e" or an "i" it's pronounced "ss"; similarly, the letter "G" (pronounced "jee") also has two sounds, usually a hard sound as in "gallup" but sometimes, when in front of an "e" or an "i" (but not always) it has a "j" sounds as in "giraffe". At the age of 3, he was able to understand this explanation (I compare it to understanding dogs can make different sounds; cats can make different sounds; "c" can make different sounds, etc...).

meditrina Wed 19-Jun-13 17:25:51

An important part of teaching phonics properly is conveying the concept that the sound/letter correspondences are not 1-1.

To be rigidly wedded to the idea that "c" must be /k/ and cannot be /s/ In certain positions suggest that either he was at early stages and had not been taught that yet. Or that phonics was not being taught to him competently.

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 17:39:24

"After the episode with the police car, I taught my son the letter "C" (prounounced "see", not "kh") has two different sounds -- "kh" and "ss"."

what about represnting the sound /ch/ in cello hmm

Children are taught that there are 44(ish) sounds in English represented by the 26 letters of the alphabet and letters are visual representations of spoken sounds.

A sound can be written with 1,2,3 or 4 letters
A sound can have different spelling
A spelling can represent different sound

they are then taught the skills

segment, or separate sounds in words (spelling)
blend, or push sounds together to form words (reading)

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 17:41:28

justsstartingtothink was it a school nursery or a private day nursery?

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 17:46:04

Just because you know what sounds are in a word that doesn't mean that you know how to spell it. There's a flower which rhymes with Byzantium and starts with a cu sound. But that doesn't mean people know how to spell it.

singersgirl Wed 19-Jun-13 18:21:43

What, cuzantium? Or are you thinking of chrysanthemum? I wouldn't say that rhymed with Byzantium. And it starts with a 'k' sound, not 'cu'.

The OP was talking about very simple words for which there is one very likely spelling. 'Chip' could be spelt 'chipp' or 'chyp' or I guess 'chypp' (though the last two are unlikely) but 'thip' and 'ship' are not phonetically plausible.

Lonecatwithkitten Wed 19-Jun-13 18:24:39

As a dyslexic who learnt to read in the 1970s (so whole word). My spelling has been terrible up until 5 years ago. What happened 5 years ago my DD went school and learnt to read and spell using phonics. I discovered phonetical spell patterns I had never previously known about. My spelling is still not perfect mainly due to that whole visual processing thing of even when you spell the word right it still looks wrong.

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 18:29:30

I would check to see if she can write /th/ /sh/ and /ch/ if she can I would suggest a hearing check.

hopingforbest Wed 19-Jun-13 18:29:53

My daughter learned to read without formal phonics lessons. She is now six and fluent (more or less - reads chapter books). In the last eight months the school has stepped up phonics teaching. Her spelling has massively deteriorated since then. She used to remember words and write it as she remembered it and generally get them right. Now she is putting down phonetically correct but incorrectly spelled words. She finds it really bewildering.

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 18:47:16

It matters not. The fact is that knowing what a word sounds like isn't enough to know how to spell it. Otherwise we would all be able to spell every word that we can say.

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 18:50:49

Come on learnandsay is it either of those ...

morethanpotatoprints Wed 19-Jun-13 18:51:50

Yes, I think it can be harmful, especially to dyslexics anyway. My dd still doesn't get it at 9, so she is constantly trying new strategies to be able to spell please, [ples], chair [cher] etc.
I'm not sure which way would be better but we are trying grin

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 18:54:31

The flower? chrysanthemum.

The other one's an alien name isn't it. Have to add it to the phonics test.

pointythings Wed 19-Jun-13 19:00:54

My children went to a private nursery and at 3 they knew that 'C' could make different sounds depending on how it was used. I suspect bad phonics teaching.

I second a hearing check for the OP's DC, using 'th' for 'chip' makes no sense at all.

Lastly, learning to spell is a complex skill. Phonics do play a huge part in it, but it also helps if children are exposed to a lot of words so that they can see letter combinations doing different things depending on the word. That means lots of reading - them reading to you, them reading by themselves and you reading to them.

Spelling tests don't work.

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 19:14:31

Chrysanthemum do you say it to rhyme with Byzantium ...I don't so it is perfectly easy to spell from the sounds

I might try it with my Y1s tomorrow

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 19:15:33

Interestingly (for me anyway) it is the only word I can remember learning to spell at infant school.

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 19:26:01

Interesting phrase phonics do play a huge part in it. Unless you were taught to spell by rote.

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 19:31:14

You confused me with the flower saying it began with cu learnandsay
"cuzantium" but it wouldn't feature in the phonics screening as it has too many syllables's a simple check

BabiesAreLikeBuses Wed 19-Jun-13 19:49:54

As for the teaching bit.. In ks2 we teach literacy daily, one lesson a week is dedicated to spelling and grammar (then picked up throughout the week's activities). We have a pattern a week, eg words ending in tion. We do activities in the lesson eg find as many words as you can with that ending and discuss rules and exceptions. They are given ten words a week with the pattern to learn at home and then i randomly pick 5 of them or other words with that pattern to test them on - this tends to show if they've learnt the pattern rather than rote learnt it. I am thinking of adding in a ten minute burst of phonics next year too as the kids i currently have were not taught that way in foundation. Many of the patterns you mention are in our y5 syllabus, eg ough words, soft c sounds, hard c sounds, words from other languages ending in o and so on.
I think as a parent it is hard to know how well they should be spelling at each stage, some parents don't correct any spellings and some correct all to the point where dc are reluctant to have a go on their own.
Our school give spelling patterns from y2 onwards.

I can see th- for ch- given that the first sound in ch- is "t" (t-sh). She had an idea that it would be ch-, th- or sh-, sounded it out, heard a t- first and went for th-.

I mean obviously it isn't right but it isn't like she used gh- or something.

I am following this thread with interest, as a very visual learner with excellent spelling, taught in the 1980s by look-and-say, but who has been absolutely flabberghasted by the brilliance and simplicity of phonics for DS(4) in Reception.

justsstartingtothink Wed 19-Jun-13 22:39:53

Mrz -- yes, I did explain about c also having a "ch" sound in words of Italian origin (we are a multi-lingual family and one of his best friends is Italian so it was very natural to discuss differences in letter sounds in other languages from a very early age.
the nursery was a private day nursery; there wasn't an option of a school-linked nursery.
I'm not opposed to phonics-based teaching. I just think letters should be called by the letter name not by one of the sounds it represents. I know many children who still at the age of 9 or 10 spell words aloud using phonetic names for letters, yielding some very odd results. Based on your post, I think we might be in agreement.

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 06:13:42

Which is why I disagree with day nurseries "teaching" children phonics. I'm afraid too often the school has to reteach and correct taught misconceptions

Because knowing letter names is really useful for spelling and reading or simply because they are a convention?

justsstartingtothink Thu 20-Jun-13 09:49:07

MRZ -- even in reception and Y1, my children's teachers used sounds rather than letter names (ie C was called "kh" rather than "see"). A child called Amy would spell her name aloud as "ah - mm -- yuh" ( I don't know the correct way to represent the sounds but assume you'll understand what I mean). I just thought it was madness the children weren't taught the names of 26 letters and the fact that most letters can be used to produce more than one sound (alone or in combination with other letters). Children are able to understand much greater complexity than some grownups assume!

rabbitstew Thu 20-Jun-13 10:25:21

If children are able to understand much greater complexity than some grownups assume, then maybe some grown ups should stop thinking that a child is being seriously harmed by their phonics teaching?... Children aren't that stupid. At least if phonics helps you learn to grasp the mechanics of reading more quickly, it can help you start to read more, more quickly, and if you are reading more, you are likely to start understanding more, more quickly, and you will be seeing more words more often, so will start recognising them as whole words more quickly. Most children don't have to be taught every tiny detail of reading and spelling to be learn how to read and spell. After all, how many of you remember being given spelling lists for every word you know how to spell?!!!!!... What a ridiculous notion.

rabbitstew Thu 20-Jun-13 10:43:42

I agree with juststartingtothink that it's weird not telling children the "names" of the letters aswell as their possible sounds. I thought most children learnt the alphabet song at pre-school? That goes through the alphabet using the letters names, rather than their sounds.

AbbyR1973 Thu 20-Jun-13 11:32:15

Not sure the alphabet song really helps you with anything other than learning alphabetical order. It doesn't help with reading or spelling. My own view is that phonics is a good method for teaching children to read, however there has to be an understanding that some children are natural sight readers- with DS1 once he had seen a word once he would know what it said and it took a huge amount of effort to get him to sound out unfamiliar words even though he also knew all the constituent phonics sounds. I think he just didn't "get" why I would make him go to the trouble of sounding a word out when if I just got on and told him he would know and that would be that. I think it was worth the effort of pushing on with the sounding out despite his dislike as now he can read mirror less independently, he can quickly decipher the very few unfamiliar words he comes across.
Spelling is a different issue and I think I partially agree with LandS here. Phonics is part of the answer but not the whole answer to spelling. Simply because how do you know which particular graphemes to choose to represent a phoneme. I didn't have a single spelling test ever at school but I am a pretty good speller. I think that is because I read avidly and had a good visual memory and knew when a word looked wrong written down. Part of the answer to me therefore includes encouraging children to read as much as possible. I'm not really sure what part spelling tests have to play, I imagine the repetition helps a proportion of children.
I don't think you could say phonics was harmful at all though. I don't think it by itself makes children worse spellers.

learnandsay Thu 20-Jun-13 11:43:33

I think there are degrees of spelling ability too. We seem to be approaching the notion of spelling as either you can or you can't.

singersgirl Thu 20-Jun-13 11:47:08

HorryisUpduffed, if the child in the original post had secure phonic knowledge she wouldn't start with a 't'. She would hear the sound at the start of 'chip' and know that it is represented in English by the letters 'ch'. Good phonics teaching will teach digraphs as digraphs.

AbbyR1973 Thu 20-Jun-13 12:23:03

I agree LandS, it isn't as straightforward as can or can't spell.
I do think another key to good spelling is pronouncing words properly in the first place eg children that persist with using a "v" or "f" sound for "th" in the absence of a speech delay. Clearly if a child says "wiv" they are likely to write it rather than the correct with. Hence I correct DS's when I spot such habits appearing- recently they have take to intermittently dropping their "t"s eg Mummy "can I have some wa-er?!"

learnandsay Thu 20-Jun-13 12:25:40

My daughter does that sometimes, but I'm pretty sure she only does it to wind me up.

AbbyR1973 Thu 20-Jun-13 12:27:04

It certainly works for me as a wind
up grin

learnandsay Thu 20-Jun-13 12:38:45

My daughter also used to say there's not nothing in there. She only learned some of these tortuous phrases at school. My dad used to say if there's not nothing in it then there must be something in it. I repeated that to my daughter expecting her not to understand it. But it did the trick. She's stopped saying it. Maybe she never understood the logic but just understood that sometimes parents can be equally as annoying! grin

housework Thu 20-Jun-13 13:03:22

If dd hadn't been so phonicated she might know chip was spelt chip. She'd have relied on her memory of the word. What she'll have done is thought ' I've got to pick one of those c/s/th sounds so she picked one at random and added ip.
I know phonics has had a part in helping her read and to spell, but knowing the way her mind works, her reliance on phonics can confuse her.

rabbitstew Thu 20-Jun-13 13:09:33

Sorry, but I agree with the others that if she thinks Chip can possibly be spelt with anything other than a Ch at the beginning, then she either has a hearing problem or doesn't understand phonics very well at all.

rabbitstew Thu 20-Jun-13 13:30:43

Surely phonics is just pointing out patterns and most peoples' brains are attracted to patterns? I suspect the best spellers are those with good all-round memories and good visual and auditory processing skills. People who have better visual processing skills and visual memories might favour memorising whole words than dealing with phonics when it comes to spelling??? Unless you have a deficit in your auditory processing skills, though, I really don't see that learning phonics and reading the same words over and over again through the normal process of reading books is going to be harmful to you or seriously hold you back from learning to spell.

AbbyR1973 Thu 20-Jun-13 13:49:26

Just asked DS2 (4, not at school yet how to spell chip) answer: "ch-i-p" I asked him if he knew how we make a ch sound, he said "c and h"
Phonics should hopefully be teaching the children that ch, th and sh are different sounds.

learnandsay Thu 20-Jun-13 13:56:15

There is another way; cip, as in cello.

CecilyP Thu 20-Jun-13 14:01:21

I think you need both good phonic knowledge and good visual memory to be a good speller though weakness in one area can be compensated for to some extent by strength in the other. It would be hard to memorise whole words for spelling in the way you can memorise whole words for reading, but having a good visual memory means that you just know if your phonically plausible attempt is right or not.

So, no, I don't think phonics has had any harmful effects on OP's DD. Although we can't surmise a huge amount from what the two examples given, as it sounds like she misheard chip - perhaps she thought it was a 'nonsense' word. From the misspelling of krash, it sounds as if she is not picking up corrrect spelling from her reading - some people don't however much they read, so I think some spelling work is required that goes beyond basic phonics and onto the likelihood of specific spelling patterns and when 'c' or 'ck' or 'k' are most likely to be used.

Mashabell Thu 20-Jun-13 15:58:33

Nobody learns to spell all English words correctly by phonics alone, because 4 words out of every 7 (or 3,695 or the 7,000 most used ones which I analysed) contain one or more phonically unpredictable letters (e.g. speak, seek, shriek).

For reading, learning the different sounds which graphemes like o or ea can have (on, only, other...; eat, threat, break ...), can help with decoding unfamiliar words up to a point, because few have more than two or three different sounds. For learning to read English, phonics works quite well, most of the time.

For spelling, it's a matter of memorising words by word which alternative applies to a particular word. It's largely a matter of imprinting on your brain 'what looks right'.

Teachers can organise them into little groups (group, soup, coupon), but when children do their own writing, they simply have to remember which is right. Learning the main patterns (moon, noon, soon, spoon.. ) is not difficult. It's the exceptions which cause all the hard work and heartache.

scaevola Thu 20-Jun-13 16:18:45

The examples you list can all be spelt phonically. The phonic code is not a set of 1-1 correspondences. Yes, you have to learn which bit of the code to use for particular words, but that is based on a small selection of phonically possible graphemes.

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 17:21:05

justsstartingtothink even in Y6 we use sounds not letter names because letter names are pretty useless when it comes to reading and spelling

learnandsay Thu 20-Jun-13 17:24:13

Next time someone asks me to spell my name I'll use sounds and see what happens!

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 17:28:05

"There is another way; cip, as in cello." only if chip is originally an Italian word learnandsay

learnandsay Thu 20-Jun-13 17:29:40

I don't see why. If it's good for one word it should be good for another.

hippohugger Thu 20-Jun-13 17:38:13

I'm with everyone who suggested a hearing test if you're having 'th' is being substituted for 'ch'. That suggests either a hearing issue or a need to double down on the phonics, not abandon it. Spelling crash with a 'k' makes perfect sense for a 7-year-old and wouldn't worry me.

And as for the suggestion of dyslexia - have you pursued that?

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 17:46:09

"a child called Amy would spell her name aloud as "ah - mm -- yuh"" which shows the staff don't know their phonics because the letter <a> represents the sound /ay/ in Amy as in apron, apricot, April, Davis, lazy, acorn, angel and many other words ...I'm not sure how knowing the letter names would help

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 17:51:21

Amy is /ay/ /m/ /ee/ not "ay" "em" "why"

FairPhyllis Thu 20-Jun-13 17:54:27

Can I ask anyone who teaches phonics - how do you deal with accent differences within a class?

I say this because I always had a different accent to other children in my class, and if phonics had been used, would I have been forced to adopt another accent? Or would I have got horribly confused by everyone around me using a different sound-letter correspondence? How would you deal with that?

Does phonics privilege one accent over another?

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 17:54:36

"For spelling, it's a matter of memorising words by word" all 250000 of them masha?

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 17:59:27

FairPhyllis accent doesn't really matter

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 18:02:36

"I don't see why." I had noticed

ShipwreckedAndComatose Thu 20-Jun-13 18:07:34

Just wanted to agree with the person who said up thread... and that my spelling has also improved massively since going through phonics teaching with my two kids. It's helped undo the damage that whole word learning did in the seventies.

I think phonics does work really well.

FairPhyllis Thu 20-Jun-13 18:10:32

But why doesn't it matter? There's a reasonable range of variation in phonetic inventories between different English dialects - some people have vowels that others don't, some have glides in certain contexts etc etc.

How does it actually happen? Do you say 'this letter has xyz sounds attached to it' and then let the child figure out which sound works for their dialect?

As an RP speaker would I have been taught to recognise a different correspondence from the rest of the class by saying the /a/ in 'bath' as a long vowel? How would it actually have worked in the classroom?

daftdame Thu 20-Jun-13 18:22:26

Fair I'd guess you'd understand the word 'bath' (however said) So letter sound and then the context given of a particular word.

If the accent is so pronounced that you cannot understand it then you have more problems that just the reading.

With the spelling I can see you might make some mistakes initially before being taught all the combinations with context, but then this happens anyway, until you know which combination is right.

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 18:30:51

Whether you pronounce bath as bath or barth the spelling is the same ...if you live in the north the letter <a> in bath will represents the same sound as in cat, apple and ant while in some southern counties it represents /ar/ as in plaster, master and father - same spelling representing different sounds.

scaevola Thu 20-Jun-13 18:31:55

Phonics isn't another way of saying "phonetics" - it's a system of relating the phonemes of the language to the written version.

The (phonetic) differences in accents etc don't really come into it. It doesn't matter how long your "a" is in 'bath', but it does matter that it's a contrasting pair with say 'both' or 'path'

BabiesAreLikeBuses Thu 20-Jun-13 20:00:07

shipwreckedandcomatose i agree, my kids are having great phonics teaching in reception, they are explicitly stating things i implicitly know making me think about it again... Eg this morning ds was spelling matter and asked if it was one t or two. After that i asked if he knew which 'er' it was and he said yes- it had to be er not ur as ur doesn't go at the end of words.
For me a bigger concern would be the variation in phonics teaching, i'm lucky as school are doing it well but i know that's not so at all local schools.

justsstartingtothink Thu 20-Jun-13 20:33:26

Mrz -- If children are taught there are 26 letters and each letter has a name and one or more possible sounds, then the hypothetical Amy should spell her name aloud as A M Y (using the names of the letters) and read her name on paper (recognizing the sounds she's been taught to associate with letters) as /ay/ /m/ /ee/. I think it's absurd for a child to go around spelling her own name aloud as anything other than the letters that comprise her name. Likewise, I think it's absurd for a child to spell "cat" aloud as /kh/ /a/ /t/ (or however you represent the sounds) rather than using the letter names C-A-T. Children need to know -- and are capable of knowing -- the names of letters as well as the sounds letters can make (individually and in combination with other letters).

In response to your previous question about the nursery -- my son's teacher at nursery had previously been head of reception and head of literacy for many years at a highly rated primary school. (I'm not defending her or her methods -- obviously I don't agree with the methods, though otherwise the nursery was lovely -- but wanted to give a fuller picture. Clearly there is inconsistency in phonics teaching methods. Your students are very lucky to be able to benefit from your inspirational teaching.

scaevola Thu 20-Jun-13 20:35:45

If you start by teaching 26 letters, you're taking a poor and muddled approach to phonics. Where you start by teaching the 44 sounds.

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 20:41:31

It doesn't help someone who has never seen the name written down to know the letter names juststartingtothink.

Using the letter names A(ay) m (em) y(why) - meaningless

and see ay tea ?

She may have been head of all that but she is clearly clueless about phonics

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 20:48:24

aitch eye pea pea oh pea oh tea oh em oh en es tea ar oh es que you eye pea ee dee ay el eye oh pea aitch oh bee eye ay yes really helpful for reading

Hulababy Thu 20-Jun-13 20:53:11

Our infant school does Debbie Hepplewhite's Floppy Phonics program from Foundation to Y2. The program teaches both phonics for reading and phonics for spelling. Both skills are practised regularly, and tie in with handwriting too.

We use the phrase "In this word .... is the code for ...."
Children even from Foundation see the full alphabetic code and it is displayed in all rooms in and around school. They get used to referring to it.

The program does uses letter names as well though, along side letter sounds.

BTW - most educational research shows that traditional spelling tests have no academic benefit once a child is doing independent writing.

justsstartingtothink Thu 20-Jun-13 21:14:59

I'm not a teacher by training so have to defer to you and others on what is considered to be "best practice" teaching methods.

In reply to OPs question about whether phonics teaching can have harmful effects, I would still maintain that it can (and no doubt Mrz would continue to maintain the opposite, assuming proper methods are used).
Everyone I know of my (admittedly rather ancient) generation and of my parents' (even more ancient) generation, learned the names of letters and learned how letters are combined to make words and could read comfortably by the age of 6. I know many children in London who do not read as fluently as my generation did at similar age and, worse, can't spell aloud using letter names.

A(ay) m(am) y(why) is not a "meaningless" way to spell a name. It is the correct way to spell a name. I would agree the correct way to pronounce the name is /ay/ /m/ /ee/. Put another way, if a child asks how to spell "police" and is told /p/ /o/ /l/ /ee/ /s/ (or whatever the phonetic representation is) she could write the word in several different ways; if she's told p-o-l-i-c-e she will know how to spell it correctly. And.... having been taught the different sounds letters can make, she'll understand why the letter "c" sounds like /s/ in this word.

I was delighted my son learned to read fluently before he started reception as he would undoubtedly have been befuddled by the methods used here, at least in his school.

Hulababy Thu 20-Jun-13 21:18:19

There were a great many children who did not learn to read or write properly in the past. many children were failed in that respect, right up until leaving school.

I taught in an adult male prison and the literacy rates of those adult males were generally very very low. The percentage was astonishing really. They were having to start literacy at Pre Entry levels. In other words, they couldn't really read at all.

mrz Thu 20-Jun-13 21:26:52

Obviously my parents would be even more ancient as they were taught to read using phonics as were children for hundreds of years before them.

Letter names are a convention we use but not at all useful for working out what an unknown word is. If you had never heard the name Amy and someone said the letter names you would be no wise how to pronounce it but ay-m ee leaves no doubt.

ClayDavis Thu 20-Jun-13 21:35:33

I know many children in London who do not read as fluently as my generation did at similar age and, worse, can't spell aloud using letter names.

Can I ask why not being able to spell aloud using letter names is worse than not being able to read fluently? You seem to have got this arse about tit somehow.

AbbyR1973 Thu 20-Jun-13 21:44:51

Why is spelling using letter names "correct" and spelling using letter sounds not. There may well be a convention that spellings are given using letter names but using letter sounds is not wrong.
Actually attempting to teach a child to spell outloud using letter names I imagine is likely to be confusing since letter names often don't correspond to the sound a letter makes within a word.
As I mentioned DS2 age 4 spelt chip correctly earlier, he clearly didn't say cee-ach-eye-pee, he broke it down to the sounds ch-i-p and knew that he needed c and h to make a ch sound. Actually the ONLY use of learning the alphabet song is to help with learning alphabetical order.
DS1 actually knew letter names and sounds when he started school but our primary aim was to learn sounds, he just happened to pick up the names, nevertheless in his reading and spelling he will automatically use sounds rather than names.

prettydaisies Thu 20-Jun-13 21:57:20

DD who is 12, will still often spell using sounds and not names. Her spelling is good so it hasn't made any difference. She is still not that confident with the alphabet, often has to go back to the beginning to remember which letter comes after 'g' etc, but again it has done her no harm.
I was at a first school in the 70s and was taught reading by learning whole words (I remember the flash cards). I really struggled and could not read by the time I was 8 and had gone to middle school. So not everyone could do it back in the dark ages!

justsstartingtothink Thu 20-Jun-13 22:08:44

Hulababy -- if you went into a juvenile correction center (or whatever they're called in the UK), what sort of literacy rates would you find? Children are still being failed -- and I would guess at similar rates to years gone by -- despite phonics.

mrz -- clearly different teaching methods are used in different parts of the country. neither my British husband nor his British parents were taught to read phonetically. I grew up in another country, as did my parents and none of us learned to read by the method you describe. I don't question the fact it seems to work for some children; I just think a modified approach would work better.

ClayDavis and Abby -- I just booked a plane ticket over the phone (because the website was not working). I had to spell many words, including my name and my son's name and my street address, etc. If I had used anything other than letter names, the airline agent would not have been able to make the booking. Clearly, 6 year olds will not be in that situation. But they could feasibly be in a situation -- possibly even an emergency -- where they have to spell their names over the phone or spell their address over the phone. If they don't know how to do so with letter names, they won't be able to give the correct information.
Clay -- I don't know what "arse about tit" means; but I do not think it's worse not to be able to spell with letter names than not to be able to read. I think learning to read can be accomplished more effectively by combining knowledge of letter names with knowledge of sounds the letters make. I'm just adding one additional dimension to what mrz advocates.

Children understand some dogs say "wow" and some dogs say "woof" but they're all dogs and they're called dogs not "wows" or "woofs". Similarly, they can understand "c" can sound like /kh/ or like /s/ -- or even, /ch/ but it's still a "c". Give children credit for being more intelligent and more discerning than you seem to think they are!

maizieD Thu 20-Jun-13 22:23:29

^ Children are still being failed -- and I would guess at similar rates to years gone by -- despite phonics.^

That statement would only be anywhere near true if phonics had been the main method of teaching reading for the past decade or so. In fact, it hasn't. Even though many schools are now paying lip service to phonics teaching, since it became official 'guidance' in 2007, the studies of schools and teachers undertaking the Phonics Check last year and the year before quite clearly show that teachers are still using 'other strategies' alongside the phonics teaching. Before 2007 most schools taught predominately 'look & say' with a smattering of phonics thrown in.

I work with KS3 (11y+) children who 'struggle' with reading, using only phonic principles to support and improve their reading. It is very clear from their reading strategies that they have not had good phonics teaching. On the other hand, it is also clear from the way they respond very positively to 'phonics only' instruction that had they experienced it from the start they would have become much better readers by the time they left Primary school.

AbbyR1973 Thu 20-Jun-13 22:27:50

Actually the "correct" way to spell over the telephone/ emergency services is the phonetic alphabet- alpha, bravo etc.
I am quite certain that DS1 could make himself understood spelling with letter sounds if he had to. Actually as he gets older he is likely to increasingly get into the habit of spelling outloud using letter names rather than sounds, but at the early stages it helps most children to spell out using letter sounds.

learnandsay Thu 20-Jun-13 22:37:41

It's not a question of noticing. There is no reason why not.

Not phonetic alphabet, "callsign alphabet".

<linguistics pedant> grin

learnandsay Thu 20-Jun-13 22:48:20

It's quick and efficient (if you know it.) The slower was is to spell your name a for apple, l for leg, i for igloo ...

justsstartingtothink Thu 20-Jun-13 23:05:50

maizie -- I stand by my point that many children are still being failed -- regardless of education policy. I'm confused about education policy, though, as mrz says she learned through phonics but you say most schools taught predominantly "look and say" until 2007. No adult I know in England was taught by the method mrz describes. All of my husband's octogenarian relatives -- despite growing up in poverty and in deprived parts of the country -- learned to read as I did -- by learning letters and learning how letters form sounds and form words. These examples do not mean the way they learned was "right" and the way mrz teaches is "wrong". It does mean, though, that different methods of teaching -- if implemented effectively -- can have positive results. And different methods of teaching -- if implemented ineffectively -- can have negative results, as OP has noticed.

OP -- I think many teachers accept phonetic spelling. If your daughter is "falling back" on phonetic spelling (and applying phonetic spelling correctly) perhaps she is progressing "normally". What do her teachers say? If she is reading well and is able to express ideas in writing (whether spelled "correctly" or "phonetically"), I think you don't need to worry. It's better to develop fluency in writing, I think, even if spelling is erratic. If you correct her spelling too much, you might inhibit the fluency and encourage her to use only simply words she "knows" rather than attempt more creative use of words.

BabiesAreLikeBuses Thu 20-Jun-13 23:07:38

Where i work children tend to spell out words using sounds until about 8/9 then switch to letter names. Not to do with teachers or teaching methods but the think it sounds more grown up and that's important to a 9 year old. It's very easy to do both at 9 when you can already read and write but we simplify most things for younger kids and using phonics is more logical. They do learn letter names too but they're nowhere near as useful.
Fwiw when i did my teacher training mixed methods were advocated and i felt that was best but having seen quality phonics teaching in action i'm converted.

rabbitstew Thu 20-Jun-13 23:20:49

So, what do teachers call individual letters when they are being talked about as individual letters in front of very young children? Are you allowed to call them by their names, then?... It's not as if the letter C really says anything other than "see" when it's on its own, is it? And surely you sometimes want to talk about individual letters, when you are learning to write them???? Some people on here are giving the impression that knowing the "real names" of letters is somehow banned knowledge until children have learned to read using phonics. Which does sound somewhat bizarre. Real letter names are really not that confusing.

justsstartingtothink Thu 20-Jun-13 23:26:48

rabbitstew -- that's precisely my point. Perhaps I have only seen bad examples of phonics/literacy teaching. My observations over the last 6 years and of a handful of supposedly "outstanding" or at least "excellent" schools, is that children are not taught the letter names and teachers do not refer to letters by letter names. a "C" put on the wall is not called "see" but "kh". Hence my doubts about the system of teaching. Clearly mrz and others use different methods that are very effective with their classes. In answer to OPs questions, though, I thought it might be helpful for her to know that phonics teaching -- perhaps only bad phonics teaching -- sometimes has odd consequences (as do other methods, of course!)

mrz Fri 21-Jun-13 06:29:05

No justsstartingtothink mrz didn't say she learnt by phonics she said her parents and grandparents and their grandparents were taught phonics in school. I was one of those annoying kids who learnt without being taught and struggled with spelling for years until I learnt phonics at university.

Phonics was the main method of reading instruction in England for centuries until "look & say" was introduced from America (gradually from the 1920s but at it's height in the 1960s).

Of course letter names aren't confusing but they don't help a beginner reader to work out what a word is because the spoken word cat does not sound anything like see ay tea and of course they don't help a beginner speller to write the word. Even as adults if we don't know how to spell a word we think about how it sounds, perhaps break it down into syllables or sounds ...because it works. If we were spelling something out to others we would probably use the convention of letter names and so do children once they are secure with spelling.

mrz Fri 21-Jun-13 06:33:53

rabbitstew the letter c doesn't say anything whether is on it's own or in a word. It represents different sounds in different words cat, circle, cello.
Children are taught to write the spelling for a sound so would be taught "this is how we write /c/ in the word cat. Phonics is taught in context not in isolation as some people seem to think.

Mashabell Fri 21-Jun-13 07:12:10

"For spelling, it's a matter of memorising words by word" all 250000 of them masha?

That figure of 250,000 includes derivatives, such as 'works, workings, worker' from 'work' and thousands of foreign words which are listed in dictionaries but most people either don't know or never use (posada, Leitmotif, raconteur, racemose).

I have established that the core English vocabulary, i.e. the main words which most pupils can be expected to become familiar with by age 16, consists of no more than 7,000 words. Even that alredy includes some relatively little used ones like 'heifer, sleuce' and 'pommel'.

Of those, 3,695 contain one or more unpredictable letters, such as 'frIend, bUild, imaginE'.

English spelling is not completely chaotic, and children grasp the basic rules easily enough, as their sensible early spellings invariably show (frend, bild, imajin/imagin). But learing to spell such simple, common words in the unpredictable, unphonemic ways which have become enshrined in dictionaries takes many years, because there is no ways of learning to spell them 'correctly', except memorise their little quirks word by word.

Mashabell Fri 21-Jun-13 07:14:43

...there is no way ....

mrz Fri 21-Jun-13 07:17:19

No masha if you include derivatives the number is closer to half a million words you would need to memorise.

So are you are saying a child only needs to memorise between 3,695 - 7,000 words? ...easy peasy then hmm

mrz Fri 21-Jun-13 07:19:17

"and thousands of foreign words which are listed in dictionaries but most people either don't know or never use (posada, Leitmotif, raconteur, racemose)."
Interesting that you want to limit people's vocabularies to support your spelling reform

Feenie Fri 21-Jun-13 07:53:05

Ah Masha, there you are. Could you remind us please how many children you have successfully taught to read?

CecilyP Fri 21-Jun-13 09:05:22

Everyone I know of my (admittedly rather ancient) generation and of my parents' (even more ancient) generation, learned the names of letters and learned how letters are combined to make words and could read comfortably by the age of 6. I know many children in London who do not read as fluently as my generation did at similar age and, worse, can't spell aloud using letter names.

Did you know them all when they were 6? Were you there when they were 6 to do a study of how well they could read - or do you have only their word for it? You certainly weren't around when your parents generation were 6. Of course all your adult friends know letter names by now, but knowing letter names is of no help in learning to read - as msz's hippopotamus example illustrates. While the letter name 'ay' may, coincidentally, also be the first sound in Amy, the letter name 'why' is certainly not the last sound in Amy.

rabbitstew Fri 21-Jun-13 09:15:16

mrz - I'm not saying anyone learns to spell or works out spellings by saying letters' names (although when I do spell things out for people like that, I do actually create a visual image in my mind of the letters I am saying to check over what I have said afterwards, and when I spell my name, I do NOT sound it out, I check it out visually for the correct "look"... unlike long, complicated words, when I might check them bit by bit according to the "sound"). I AM saying that it is useful to know the names of letters. Otherwise what the hell are you supposed to call an isolated letter, given that it makes different sounds in different contexts??? I, personally, would call an isolated letter by its name so as to avoid the confusion caused by saying it says "k" when actually it can sometimes say "s" etc, etc, or saying it says k and s and all sorts of other things, when actually on its own all it "says" is its name. Surely when children learn to form their letters, they learn to form an "a" or a "b" or a "c" on their own as well as joining them to other letters to make words?

I really object to the idea of children being so easily confused by the names of letters when they can apparently cope with those same letters making lots of different sounds in combination with other letters, but can't cope with the sound of the letter's own name. Not ever mentioning a letter's name just seems a bit like someone being scared of being politically incorrect - a bit like not mentioning the colour of someone's skin when describing them, because you've forgotten what's acceptable these days: white, black, brown, Asian, dark, swarthy, Southern European... too many ways to get it wrong...

rabbitstew Fri 21-Jun-13 09:24:51

And given the Victorian (and before...) obsession with alphabet samplers, I really don't believe that teachers of phonics in the past had quite such an intense phobia of the existence of letters in isolation as is apparently now the case...

MrsMelons Fri 21-Jun-13 10:32:39

DS learnt phonics but now he spells using letter names, he will of course use phonics to sound out words he may not have heard of, as do all the other children on his class. I really can't understand the problem people have with phonics. I learnt it 20 years ago at school also.

justsstartingtothink Fri 21-Jun-13 13:46:40

MrsMelons -- I don't have a "problem" with phonics; clearly it works for some children (though over what seems to be a rather long time). I do think, as rabbitstew said, it could at least be combined with teaching that letters have names.
Cecily -- yes, indeed, before the age of 6 I knew letter names and the sounds they can make and could read fluently in two languages; as could my son (by the age of 4) as could my parents judging from the books they read at that age (and, no, I wasn't there so can't be sure they are correctly reporting what they did at the age of 6. I was very glad my son learned to read before starting reception because I have no doubt the phonics approach would have held him back and deprived him from the enormous joy he has derived from reading voraciously throughout the early years of school.

I shall now bow out of this discussion. Hopefully, OP will have seen by the comments on this thread that there can, indeed, be unintended consequences from phonics teaching -- unless, of course, you are lucky enough to have mrz as your teacher!! ;)

rabbitstew Fri 21-Jun-13 14:13:35

I don't understand the problem people have with phonics, either. I also don't understand the problem people have with letters having names... The two can quite happily co-exist in most adults' minds, so I don't see the problem for children...

MrsMelons Fri 21-Jun-13 14:19:30

The letter names are taught though, DS could read fluently by the time he was 4 by learning phonics, he did spelling tests in year R and they had to spell saying the letter names, I can see it could be an issue if schools are not teaching both but I have not actually heard of this in RL.

rabbitstew Fri 21-Jun-13 14:27:08

Neither had I until this thread, but this thread most certainly gives the impression that some teachers have an allergy to letter names in all contexts.

MrsMelons Fri 21-Jun-13 14:32:16

Its all a bit odd tbh

Chandon Fri 21-Jun-13 14:57:57

The current phonics system did not work well for my dyslexic DS, if anything it confused him.

I went into the phoincs system open minded and have no axe to grind, but I suspect it may not work that well for dyslexic kids?

So that would include OP's child.

English is a pain- in-the-butt, irregular language. Superimposing a phonics system ( with many exceptions) can be helpful. My DS gets on much better by learning words as a whole though.

rabbitstew Fri 21-Jun-13 15:58:23

I guess when it comes down to it, to be helpful, phonics has to be taught well. Whether badly taught phonics is better than other methods (whether well or badly taught) is debatable. You could say the same about modern maths teaching methods, which have the laudable aim of ensuring that children understand why they are doing what they are doing. However, if the result is that they still don't understand and are also confused by all the different ways of getting to the same answer, then that isn't really better than being taught the quickest and most efficient way first off and not understanding that.... it does at least result in less confusion...

mrz Fri 21-Jun-13 17:15:55

"I really object to the idea of children being so easily confused by the names of letters"

Perhaps that is because you haven't met the many children who write mAd (made) lIk (like) hOm (home) etc

mrz Fri 21-Jun-13 17:18:22

I agree rabbitstew, bad teaching is bad teaching, and I'm afraid there is a lot of poor quality phonics teaching taking place across the country.

learnandsay Fri 21-Jun-13 17:18:31

children who write mad and hom for made and home are three quarters of the way there.

rabbitstew Fri 21-Jun-13 17:18:46

Still seems like lack of practise, lack of experience and poor teaching to me. wink

rabbitstew Fri 21-Jun-13 17:19:07

Sorry for spelling mistake!

bibbetybobbityboo Fri 21-Jun-13 17:33:54

I haven't read through the whole thread so am probably repeating what has already been said but as a primary school teacher I can say that phonics for segmenting and blending is an important tool that children should be taught. It only becomes a problem when children are taught that it is the only tool. Children need to learn a number of strategies that they can call on for spelling and the aim with spelling if for children to remember how words are spelt without having to think about it just like we do most of the time as adults. Telling children to ignore this skill for words they have learnt and revert to spelling things phonetically is nonsensical but teaching this as a skill to spell words they are not familiar with makes sense. I don't think phonics is the issue more a case of a bad workman blaming their tools...

mrz Fri 21-Jun-13 17:38:50

No rabbitstew it is being 4 or 5 years old and arriving at school confused so the teacher has to sort it out

maizieD Fri 21-Jun-13 17:43:55

Children need to learn a number of strategies that they can call on for spelling and the aim with spelling if for children to remember how words are spelt without having to think about it just like we do most of the time as adults.

Yes, but that is mainly a result of kinaesthetic memory of the unique 'feel' of the word. Which can as easily be developed with phonics as with letter names.

rabbitstew Fri 21-Jun-13 18:33:42

Ah. My children didn't arrive at school confused. Fortunately, the school didn't go on to confuse them, either!

mrz Fri 21-Jun-13 19:00:02

I imagine your children didn't attend the same nursery as the OPs daughter rabbitstew.

rabbitstew Fri 21-Jun-13 22:05:51

My children's nursery didn't really do much in the way of phonics with them. They could both read fluently before they started school, though - two of the lucky minority who don't really need active teaching to learn to read. We did have an alphabet peg puzzle, though, and I did my best to confuse them by telling them the letter names when they were little. wink

maizieD Fri 21-Jun-13 22:20:45

I'm glad you recognise that your children are part of a lucky minority, rabbit stew. Could you also recognise that the experience of the lucky minority is not particularly useful for informing the teaching of the unlucky majority?

rabbitstew Fri 21-Jun-13 23:08:30

Only when teachers recognise that they also need to cater for the "lucky" minority who still need some kind of teaching, maizieD. And when teachers recognise that not all learning disabilities relate to verbal IQ - I didn't find any teacher teaching my ds1 how to use scissors properly. Apparently he could teach himself through play... but you just keep on concentrating on the majority and ignoring the rest, why don't you.

rabbitstew Fri 21-Jun-13 23:10:17

I wouldn't have thought the majority are particularly informative for dyslexics, either.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 21-Jun-13 23:16:56

This just came up on Active threads.

I haven't read all of it (sorry), but I did think this might be relevant: I don't know how widely known it is that some form of phonics has been the usual method of teaching reading for a lot of the time during which people have been reading English books. 'Look and say' is a bit of an abberation so far as I know. It's just worth saying because I know people who see phonics as 'new' and untested. I know current methods will be different from older methods, but in details, not in the principle, I think.

maizieD Fri 21-Jun-13 23:37:52

Only when teachers recognise that they also need to cater for the "lucky" minority who still need some kind of teaching, maizieD.

I don't understand why your perception that your children were badly taught should inform the teaching of reading for the majority of children.

I do kind of get the idea that you have an axe to grind, though...

As for 'dyslexics', you give me a good, universally agreed, operational definition of 'dyslexic'.

And then tell me why for many decades (the idea originating with Dr Samuel Orton in the 1920s) the stock remedial teaching for dyslexics has been based on phonics.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 06:25:55

rabbitstew the "lucky" minority and the "unlucky" minority and all those children who fall somewhere between should be getting high quality teaching and if your child isn't then that is something you need to take up with your child's school.

As for children who are "dyslexic" then phonics is the most effective method of reading instruction and has been regarded as such for almost a century, because whether you are one of the "lucky" ones or one of the "unlucky" ones you need to know how our written language works because learning all 250 000 words in the OED isn't an effective option.
Given time the "lucky" minority will work it out themselves but explicit teaching gives them a head start and they can quickly become fluent readers. My "lucky" minority have made over four years gain in reading age in just 8 months using phonics only ... yes they would have worked it out themselves eventually but it would have been a longer journey.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 06:32:21

I don't actually believe children who are reading fluently before nursery are necessarily "luckY", in my son's case it masked his SEN and I had 9 years of professionals telling me not to worry because he was a fluent reader.

learnandsay Sat 22-Jun-13 07:01:35

Assuming that many of these children continue readily happily they're luckier than the ones who later end up having problems.

learnandsay Sat 22-Jun-13 07:05:24

I've yet to hear a case where a poster has said she taught her child to read and now her child is having problems, (save but to say the schoolbooks are too easy, accepting myself.)

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 07:43:21

My son continued really happily learnandsay and is a prolific reader but still had problems with writing. I would also point out he wasn't taught how to read but worked it out himself as do the "lucky" ones.
Children taught by parents fall into the in between category, as it doesn't really matter who taught them to read or when and where they were taught, the fact is they needed teaching and aren't in the "lucky" minority of children who pick up reading effortlessly without any form of instruction.

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 07:58:26

There can be a problem with too much adherence (by teachers) to using scheme books in the way they were designed learnandsay.

Many schemes assume advanced decoding matches a certain level of prior knowledge, life experience, they match interest level to certain age-groups of children, match the questions at the back of the book and any other support materials with those that are covered at a later stage in the National Curriculum.

Then comprehension is questioned, but there is just a mismatch between the scheme book, its intended audience and the actual audience. It would be like trying to pluck someone off the street and expecting them to understand Advanced Pure Mathematics, after reading one book about it.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 09:01:26

Until universities recognises the importance of including "how to teach reading" in their initial teacher training courses (and I don't mean a cursory day or less) there will always be those who cling to the "handbook" because they don't feel secure to do otherwise.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 09:07:39

If you actually read my posts, maizieD, you would see I think phonics is a good way of teaching reading, so absolutely no axe to grind there. I am not one of its detractors. I do object to you talking about the "unlucky majority" and "lucky minority" however. And mrz has given plenty of reasons herself as to why she and I might object to that.

My only query is whether it is really true that some teachers can't ever bring themselves to say the names of letters. Would they never say that, eg, the letters ai together (naming said letters) can say ay as in maid or eh as in said? How do they introduce that letter combination? Do they encourage the children not to even see it as two separate letters, but a new type of symbol????? And if that's how they do it, then how do they talk about words where the sound is affected by an e, where the e is not right next to the letters it is having an effect on? It all sounds so complicated to always avoid saying a letter's name that as a parent, I would be put off trying to help my children with reading at all if they needed help, for fear of confusing them. How on earth would I help them sound out words, if I didn't know myself how I was and wasn't allowed to talk about the sounds and which letters made them???? Yet we all, I hope, know from the mistakes of the 1970s, that telling parents to butt out of their children's education and leave it to the experts was a disastrous idea and has resulted in a heavy campaign in recent years to try and bully and nag parents back into taking an interest and getting involved with reading, etc, at home.... Now, I'm sure mrz has said at some point that she helps parents with understanding how the teaching is being done so that they can help, but I don't think that happens everywhere, certainly not effectively. If it were done effectively, frankly you wouldn't get OPs like this one, anyway, would you???... So an OP like this one is a very good example of teachers doing a rather bad job one way or the other, by failing to understand the importance of the parents' understanding and attitude to help progress.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 09:18:41

I don't know any teachers who can't bring themselves to say the names of letters or indeed any children who don't know the names of the letters of the alphabet rabbitstew

"would they never say that, eg, the letters ai together (naming said letters) can say ay as in maid or eh as in said? How do they introduce that letter combination? Do they encourage the children not to even see it as two separate letters, but a new type of symbol?????"

Personally I would never say that that letters say anything ...
children are taught that <ay> is the spelling (and yes letter names would be used not sounds) for the sound /ay/ in day and <eigh> is the spelling for the sound /ay/ in eight and <igh> is the spelling for the sound /ie/ in light .

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 09:20:22

And my "lucky minority" children still had intensive phonics tuition at primary school and I did not object to them having that, despite the fact it didn't help them learn to read, because I did believe it might help them with their spelling and because, as a natural reader myself, I knew that I made use of an innate understanding of the things they were being taught, so it made sense to me that it was a good way to teach - making explicit what to me was implicit. So don't say that people who have natural ability at reading don't know what good reading looks like, because that just seems silly to me. Understanding how good readers do it is very useful, I would have though, rather than dismissing them as a lucky minority who don't know what they are talking about.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 09:22:27

Thank you, mrz. So you do say the letter names, you just don't use the word say.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 09:24:03

My "lucky" minority son had no phonics instruction (because he could already read fluently) and still wasn't writing in Y6

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 09:26:30

Teaching a child that /a/ /i/ says /ay/ would be as silly as saying that the letter A in Amy says /a/ and the letter <y> says /y/.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 09:26:35

Your ds isn't a good reader, then - he is a good decoder. Both my children are good readers.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 09:27:52

I don't see much difference between saying "the spelling ai in the following words says ...." and "the spelling ai in the following words sounds like..."

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 09:31:23

No rabbitstew he isn't a good reader he is an excellent reader. RA of 14+ at the beginning of KS1, Level 6 at the end of KS2.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 09:32:11

But I wouldn't say "the spelling says ..."

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 09:35:44

So is it just spelling he has trouble with, then, mrz?

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 09:36:25

Or structuring his thoughts for writing?

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 09:40:31

My son is autistic rabbitstew

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 09:40:56

In what way would phonics have helped your ds? Or are you saying that phonics wouldn't have made any difference to your ds and that's not how he learnt to read, anyway?

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 09:46:57

I believe (and so do numerous EPs) that had my son been taught phonics it would have helped with his writing/spelling/confidence. Perhaps had the phonics screening check been around his difficulties would have been acknowledged by school before the age of 14.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 10:06:12

That's a shame, mrz. Has he been/is he being taught phonics, now? My ds1, who was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum and then undiagnosed, has always been exceptionally good at spelling and writing, not just reading. I don't know, therefore, whether he actually needed any explicit teaching of phonics to help him, but I'm quite certain it never did him any harm. Ds2 is less good at spelling than ds1 and I think phonics is definitely helping him.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 10:09:42

No he was resistant to phonics at age 14 he had become disengaged with school. His ASD wasn't identified until he left school.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 10:36:59


justsstartingtothink Sat 22-Jun-13 13:08:08

Rabbitstew -- there seem to be many teachers who do not know how to teach phonics effectively in Central London, at least in the private schools with which I'm familiar. I do not know exactly what happens in the classrooms but I do know that many or most of the children I know at a large number of schools do not refer to the names of letters when they spell aloud and I have heard teachers use letter "sounds" rather than letter names when spelling aloud to children. For example, I've heard children spell "chair" as "/kh/ /h/ /ah/ /i/ /rh/" rather than "c - h - a- i -r" (I'm sure I haven't represented the sounds correctly but assume you can follow what I mean -- it sounds something like kh-huh-ah-i-rh" -- bearing no relationship either to the phonetic spelling nor to the "letter name" spelling). I have heard this sort of spelling from children as old as 9 -- children who can read and write but who identify letters only through sounds -- and only through one of the sounds associated with each letter. Hence my impression that the teaching method can lead to some absurd results.

Does it matter that children spell aloud in this odd way if they are able to put the correct letters on paper? Perhaps not, but it just seems very odd to me.

From many of the posts above, I assume I have just witnessed bad teaching and/or teaching by teachers who have not learned how to teach phonics effectively.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 13:20:03

If a child asked me how to spell chair I would say what sounds can you hear when I say chair? and hopefully they should be able to tell me that chair has two sounds /ch/ & /air/ and know how to write the sounds.

learnandsay Sat 22-Jun-13 13:24:05

If a child asked me how to spell chair I would tell her.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 13:34:47

I want the child to be able to spell words when there is no one around to ask rather than be dependent learnandsay. Telling is the easy option but not a great teaching strategy.

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 13:57:44

My son knows the letter names (and sounds) and uses them. I think they were taught to them in reception, I thought it was part of the curriculum now. If someone spells something out loud to him he understands the letter names and uses them himself when spelling out loud and with acronyms.

If he cannot spell something, he sometimes asks (because it is easy to) I usually would answer, 'Well have a try'. If it has been wrong, it has usually been a good guess (for example 'hare' instead of 'hair') and I would discuss other ways of making those sounds with examples. He can use a dictionary and spell check. However he is good at spelling and usually remembers how words are spelt quite easily. Lower down the school some teachers gave words out to learn regularly and he never had any problems.

I remember it taking me longer to learn letter names, used to sing the alphabet song to myself for them and the order. I don't think we were explicitly taught the names at school, my mother just taught me the song.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 14:05:23

Most young children will sing various versions of the alphabet song in nursery and reception.

learnandsay Sat 22-Jun-13 14:07:58

I'm not really sure how my daughter is doing it at the moment, but she seems to know how to spell many (albeit simple) words. I think if she asked how do you spell such and such a word she really means just that.

maizieD Sat 22-Jun-13 14:09:41

The debate, rabbit stew, was not about the teaching of phonics but about the introduction of letter names in the early stages of phonics teaching.

The opposite of 'lucky' being 'unlucky' it seemed appropriate to use the term when talking of children who can be muddled by the early use of letter names. Just because a few children can cope with this it doesn't follow that all children can; it's better not to risk confusing these initially.

learnandsay Sat 22-Jun-13 14:19:04

I just asked her how to spell school and she said

ess, cu (I asked which cu and she drew a c in the air) oe, oe el

and I told her that the word school actually has an aich in the middle of it. That's one of the things that you have to remember and we talked about the German word which she's already familiar with. I'll ask her again in a couple of months time. But it seems as though knowing how a word sounds often only gets you so far when it comes to spelling it.

learnandsay Sat 22-Jun-13 14:20:56

No, at first she said both cus, and then changed her mind to one cu, but didn't specify which, so I asked her.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 17:09:45

maizieD - you're just confusing the issue again. So you really, truly don't ever mention letter names? mrz does, and agrees that most children already know them from alphabet songs at nursery school, anyway.

A quote from mrz: "I don't know any teachers who can't bring themselves to say the names of letters or indeed any children who don't know the names of the letters of the alphabet rabbitstew." She also says (for the avoidance of doubt): "children are taught that <ay> is the spelling (and yes letter names would be used not sounds) for the sound /ay/ in day and <eigh> is the spelling for the sound /ay/ in eight..."

Do you therefore disagree with this? Or do you agree that this is not in any way confusing????? In which case, why on earth are you suggesting that knowing the names of letters is confusing?

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 17:11:58

Do you think mrz confuses the children she teaches?

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 17:17:33

maizie hasn't said that she doesn't use letter names, she has said that if they are introduced too early they can be a problem for lots of children, causing confusion as I said earlier in this thread.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 17:18:16

I would confuse them if I introduced letter names too early.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 17:19:24

So you disagree with the teaching of the alphabet song in nursery, then? When would you teach the names of the letters of the alphabet? Clearly before you start teaching phonic spelling, given the way you have described it.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 17:24:08

Phonics isn't pointing out patterns at all rabbitstew.

maizieD Sat 22-Jun-13 17:25:36

I avoid them wherever possible, rabbitstew because I work with the muddled secondary children and I have to make the connection between letters, and the sounds they represent, extremely clear so that children don't perpetuate the misunderstandings they have acquired. I particularly don't use them for spelling because it is news to these children that spelling is just writing down the sequence of sounds in a word with the letter, or letters, which represent those sounds and they need to forget about memorising letter strings.. Letter names bear no relation to these sounds and they are left floundering trying to remember a meaningless srting of letters.

None of the SP programme developers or trainers that I know would approve the use of letter names until the principle of letters representing sounds is firmly established. On the other hand, the alphabet would be taught by way of a chant or song as it is useful later for tasks requiring alphabetical order (though I don't really see much rationale for that, either; it's just as easy to sequence /a/ /b/ /k/ etc. as it is to sequence ae,bee, see etc.).

I'm surprised at mrz, but then, she teaches slightly older children (i.e she doesn't teach YR now, though I know that she has in the past).

learnandsay Sat 22-Jun-13 17:27:08

If you spell using sounds you're going to end up with some things which don't make sense like "school has got a hu in it." Well, it clearly hasn't, but there is an aich in it, clearly. And apple has only got one pu in it but two pees.

maizieD Sat 22-Jun-13 17:27:10

P.S. I'm not surprised at mrz now! She posted while I was writing and confirms what I said.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 17:27:27

No I don't disagree with teaching the alphabet song being able to recite the alphabet isn't confusing but it doesn't mean you know the relationship between the letter and the names you are reciting just as being able to recite the number names to 10 doesn't mean you can recognise the numerals or relate the name to quantities.

maizieD Sat 22-Jun-13 17:30:15

School hasn't got an 'aitch' in it either if you're using that logic, LandS...It has /s/ /k/ /oo/ /l/ and we spell the /k/ sound with these letters (pointing to them) 'c' 'h'...

learnandsay Sat 22-Jun-13 17:33:04

The third letter in the word school is an aich. That's a fact.

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 17:34:11

rabbit I think knowing the correct names of the letters and sounding out words when trying to think how they are spelt can be two distinctly different things.

What I mean is: imagine the sounds that make up chair, /ch/ and /air/, then thinking of the letter combinations that correspond and making your attempt is not the same as saying cuh, huh, ah, i, ruh (as in 'old style' vaguely phonic alphabet I was taught), which is where the confusion you have described could lie. I do remember being taught letter combinations but my initial alphabet was how I labelled the letters when I was small.

In my head I knew the letters had correct 'grown up' names but I did not remember them all easily until I was older. I did know the alphabet song from being quite young but had to say it in my head to find the correct letter name IYSWIM.

learnandsay Sat 22-Jun-13 17:40:07

I don't think anyone has ever tried to explain to my daughter that the second sound in school is k spelled ch and I hope they never do. What a load of rubbish! In German the whole sound in "sh" covering sch and the word is pronounced shoole (with a stress on the final e) That actually makes sense.

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 17:46:46

learnandsay But the letters 'ch' can make a 'k' sound in school or scholar.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 17:50:02

Well, I'm now feeling confused by the explanations as to how the squiggles in front of children (what adults call letters, but which children shouldn't have names for until they can read) can ever make sense to children! Particularly if there is absolutely no pattern to any of it.

Euphemia Sat 22-Jun-13 17:50:53

Yes learn but it constitutes a digraph with the 'c' i.e. two letters which together make one sound.

You need to remember that the sounds came first - the alphabet is no more than an attempt at a written representation of sounds, imperfect owing to the complex etymology of the English language. In order to become proficient spellers, children need to understand the alphabet. No-one disputes that. But learning to talk comes first, then learning to read, then learning to write using phonemic knowledge, then learning to write using this plus alphabetical and other linguistic knowledge.

I really don't understand your continual hostility towards phonics. It works - where's your beef?

learnandsay Sat 22-Jun-13 17:56:06

Because the word school already has a perfectly good cu sound in it with just a letter c. It's just stupid to add the aich and call it the sound cu.

It's better to say that the word school has a bloody great aich in the middle of it. It's unfortunate but it's life. Don't forget it when you spell the word school.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 18:04:51

Do the children know what "diagraph" means? Or is that just another complicated word designed to confuse everyone? grin If explaining how to teach reading is that complicated, I'm not surprised it's so badly done by so many people.

Euphemia Sat 22-Jun-13 18:07:29

Children will learn that school is spelled ess see aitch oh oh ell, but when the time is right. If their first attempt is scool or skool then that's okay. What is happening at that stage is that they are developing their phonemic awareness, not honing their spelling. Trying to do everything at once fails too many children.

Euphemia Sat 22-Jun-13 18:08:53

My P3 pupils (I take the bottom group) know what a digraph is, because I've taught them what it means.

Euphemia Sat 22-Jun-13 18:11:46

rabbitstew Did you think teaching reading was easy?

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 18:12:04

So they can cope with digraphs but not with the letter "C".

learnandsay Sat 22-Jun-13 18:12:46

I guess it depends on who you're teaching. Mine seem to be picking ui up with no problems.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 18:13:16

Euphemia - I think teaching it badly is easy and that's how most schools do it, with or without phonics.

Euphemia Sat 22-Jun-13 18:15:43

It's not about coping, rabbitstew, it's about skills progression.

Again you extrapolate from your limited experience to the whole of the English-speaking world, learnandsay.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 18:15:55

Also, you are not inspiring me with hope that all schools will become good at teaching phonics any time soon - you make it sound far too difficult. Which isn't good teaching, really, is it, if you can't teach others how to teach?

Euphemia Sat 22-Jun-13 18:16:13

What's your evidence for that, rabbitstew?

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 18:27:05

My evidence for what?

maizieD Sat 22-Jun-13 18:34:35

If you spell using sounds you're going to end up with some things which don't make sense like "school has got a hu in it." Well, it clearly hasn't, but there is an aich in it, clearly.

If you're spelling 'school' using sounds you say /k/ (not 'cu') and write 'ch'. Children manage to grasp this quite easily.

If you are insisting on assigning a 'name' of some sort to every letter in the word it is no more illogical to say that school has a /h/ in it than that it has an aitch in it.

I rather think that LandS is a potential convert to marsha's cause...wink

Euphemia Sat 22-Jun-13 18:37:43

rabbitstew for "teaching it badly is easy and that's how most schools do it, with or without phonics."

maizieD Sat 22-Jun-13 18:41:16

the word school already has a perfectly good cu sound in it with just a letter c. It's just stupid to add the aich and call it the sound cu.

Etymology. It's because the word comes from Greek and that's how the /k/ sound was written in Greek. Likewise chemist, chloride, chlorine, christian, christmas, psychiatrist etc. etc. they all have a bloody great aitch in them which isn't sounded as /h/.

Are you going to continually going to give your dd the impression that written English has no rhyme or reason to it?

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 18:46:41

learnandsayand rabbit I think it actually appears worse when you see the separate sounds written /x/ in terms of sounding out purposes. We are so used to seeing the language as written. As an aside with the OED way of representing pronunciation I have to look up every time, if I need to refer to it.

When you are taught the letters for example 'ch' make a (person makes a sound similar to steam train) sound it makes sense. It did for me in the 1970's, even with all the 'mixed methods' around.

It is one of the patterns we learn and can apply to other (although not all) words. Like 'magic' 'e', although not really magic and not used any more, it gave me an idea of what was written.

When splitting words into composite sounds whether children know all their letter sounds concurrently to me doesn't really matter. I do think having to learn all the letter names is a bit of an aside, as you primarily have to be thinking in terms of sounds when learning to read and write. When this is written you say this sound or when you want to say this sound you can write this.

Personally I always knew the names existed (like the Latin names for flowers) but knew I would not be expected to remember them until later on in my life.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 18:48:23

What is the first sound in Christmas, Christopher Chrysalis what is the second sound in scheme, schism & scholar ... and how is that sound represented in writing .... just because you don't understand it learnandsay doesn't mean that it is wrong.

"So they can cope with digraphs but not with the letter "C"."

If they had to factor in that the digraph <ch> is "see" "aitch" at the same time they probably wouldn't cope.

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 18:48:40

^ that should be letter names concurrently ...duh!

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 18:48:42

My evidence for that is: I've volunteered in quite a lot of schools now and seen all sorts of ways of teaching phonics that mrz would howl in disapproval at, and inappropriate reading books given to children (ie books they clearly neither understand nor can decode properly), and a whole mismatch of techniques used by people to help the children when they read with them (including parental strategies, which can only be wrong given the degree of complication apparently involved in doing it properly... which does to me seem unfortunately reminiscent of the 1970s when parents were told to back off and leave it to the experts, who then showed their inexpertise in the matter by failing to teach lots of children to read properly). It also comes from mumsnet: lots of parents not thinking phonics teaching is working for their children, or not knowing how to help their children themselves because they don't understand what their children are being taught so can't clarify things for their confused children. I haven't yet been into a school that appears to teach phonics in the way described by mrz.

Euphemia Sat 22-Jun-13 18:51:31

I haven't yet been into a school that appears to teach phonics in the way described by mrz.

So you've volunteered in "most schools", have you?

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 18:55:02

You are welcome to visit my school and see any of our staff teaching phonics ( as I describe it) if you are ever in the area rabbitstew.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 18:59:17

Thanks, mrz. grin
So you've worked in most schools, have you, Euphemia?

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 19:00:08

rabbit I think schools can rely altogether too much on volunteers for reading, which is fine as long as teachers do hear children read on occasion.

Too often questions are asked about specifics and the teacher does not know because the TA / volunteer hears readers , changes books etc (like they never speak together hmm).

Sometimes, as a parent, you just know comments in the reading diary are not read. They are obviously skimmed to check you are 'doing your bit' at home. This would not be so bad apart from the importance given to practising at home and writing in the diary by teachers. Added to this if you question what they are doing re. reading book levels etc, evasive would be a nice way of putting it!

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 19:04:59

My recent experience suggests that rabbitstew is right far too many schools do teach phonics very badly and it won't change until universities get their act together and improve ITT content and schools start to invest in high quality training rather than handing some poor teacher a tatty copy of Letters & Sounds (because it is free) and expecting them to get on with it.

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 19:14:37

mrz I think you are correct re. the universities.

This wastes money because it makes schools absolute sitting ducks for commercial companies selling 'reading scheme' resources. These may look good (lots of lovely data and easy tracking) but are totally inflexible, costly and do not necessarily match the national Curriculum.

Then when they do not match an individual child's development, as a parent you have to find out about the NC, find out about the scheme, on top of knowing what your child can do, just to converse with the teacher in any way which is meaningful.

Euphemia Sat 22-Jun-13 19:34:31

rabbitstew "Most schools" was your phrase, not mine.

mathanxiety Sat 22-Jun-13 19:34:32

My sisters and I all learned to read during the late 60s and early 70s through phonics (we went to a convent school in Ireland and my mother reinforced phonics at home). I am the only one of the sisters who can spell. My two sisters had varying degrees of difficulty and I think if sufficient attention had been paid to dyslexia at that time they could have been helped. Of my parents, dad couldn't spell to save his life but mum could tackle anything.

DS went through a phase where he spelled words beginning with TR as if they started with a CH sound -- truck = chruck and train = chrain. I don't know where he was getting the CH from but at least he was consistent. In his case I think he wasn't hearing the TR sound clearly. When he started reading more fluently and was exposed to TR words in texts he corrected his mistake. Another factor in correcting this mistake was encountering the words in lists of spellings for weekly spelling tests.

My DCs went to elementary school in the US where a combination of Dolch words and phonics were used with great success to teach reading and spelling. Dolch is a list of 220 'service words' (excluding nouns, which have a separate 95 word list) that readers need to be familiar with in order to arrive at fluency. I know the phonics purists look down their noses at Dolch words /sight words as most of them are straightforward phonetically and could be approached that way, but the beauty of learning them separate from gradual phonetic approach to the written language is that because they crop up so frequently they allow fast access to text once learned. Children can read books that are more interesting than the average very limited phonics reader.

In order to learn spellings and reproduce the words with pencil and paper, the letter names need to be known. Otherwise 'skool' should be just as acceptable as 'school' in a sentence. The DCs learned letter names and letter sounds in the same year.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 19:42:58

I'm not sure how knowing the letter names is essential for spelling the word school correctly.

If I knew how to write the word school it wouldn't matter whether or not I knew the letter names (I would just write the letters not say the names) and if I didn't know how to write it know the letter names would not provide a single clue to anything like the correct spelling.

mrz Sat 22-Jun-13 19:49:57

The type of phonics you were taught in the 70s was very different to the methods used in schools in UK now which is one of the reasons I suggest parents avoid US phonics packages.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 20:01:02

Euphemia - I don't actually think it's that unreasonable to assume, having volunteered in a variety of schools in London, in two different boroughs, and outside London in two different counties, that, if none of them taught phonics effectively, this might be part of a wider problem rather than an unbelievable coincidence that I only ever volunteered in schools that couldn't teach phonics.

learnandsay Sat 22-Jun-13 21:45:30

If you give letters sound names then those become their names.

So school becomes

su cu hu oh oh lu

those are the letters in the word school. You can do stupid things like join the letters together and give those joinings stupid names too, but it doesn't change the fact that the word school has six letters in it which all have to be identified by a name of some sort.

mathanxiety Sat 22-Jun-13 22:10:09

I'm still reading and spelling very successfully and so are my classmates who are now doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, civil servants, etc. smile.

If you didn't remember or know the letter names for 'school' then 'skool' would look just as good as 'school' when you tried writing it. It you learned it as s-c-h-o-o-l using letter names, then writing it would be easier than a process that involved figuring out whether it was one of the rare words that wasn't straightforward, with nothing to jog your memory except a dim recollection of seeing it written down somewhere as the sound of it would lead you to assume it had a K or a hard C and nothing else.

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 22:19:58

I don't think I was actually using letter names until I was in the Juniors.

I remembered by writing spellings out or using my initial, vaguely phonic alphabet, or I just remembered from imagining the word in print, as I had read it, before then.

I did learn some basic letter combinations in the 70's.

mathanxiety Sat 22-Jun-13 23:01:39

I don't think it's possible to say children learn to read and spell without ever knowing the alphabet or letter names or using memorisation of words as a strategy in spelling. Even if a school follows a pure phonics approach and avoids letter names it has no control over what a child is exposed to at home and in the community.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sat 22-Jun-13 23:03:18

'If you didn't remember or know the letter names for 'school' then 'skool' would look just as good as 'school' when you tried writing it.'


That makes no sense.

mathanxiety Sat 22-Jun-13 23:13:40

By that I meant - if you are spelling it phonetically, 'skool' is a perfectly good attempt. But it is wrong.

If you thought 'school' was pronounced 'ss-chool' (ch as in chair) then you would be pronouncing it wrong. At some point you have to suspend disbelief and accept that in this case CH is pronounced K and you have to remember this when you go to write it down. You have to remember the letters to use and the order in which to use them, and the sound of the word will not help you unless you distort it significantly in your head. You need the letter names.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 23:14:30

I still think that reading and writing relate to both sounds and symbols and that each symbol needs a name to make it feel less like a random squiggle that produces an array of different sounds - something to identify that symbol shape each time you see it. The name of the letter symbol relates to its shape, which is unchanging (unless you want to be told off for messy, inconsistent handwriting), it does not relate to the letter symbol's sound, which does change according to the context in which it is written. That's why, when spelling something out for others, it is kinder to spell using the names of the letters, because then the person copying down what you tell them will then be certain to copy down the word you are spelling out for them correctly, because they will have copied down the symbol shapes you told them, as identified by their names. They can then convert those symbol shapes into sounds using phonics in order to read what you have spelt out for them. Surely, when learning to write, therefore, it helps to know the names of the letters you are learning to form? And the government wants children learning to form letter shapes before they even start school, doesn't it? So surely you have to learn to identify the names of the letters BEFORE you have gone through an entire phonics programme and learnt to read fluently?

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 23:14:53

malenky I remember what it looked like on the page, visually, from reading. I used my knowledge of letter sounds to write a word I did not know how to spell. I knew the alphabet as a song, loosely, but would have to work out the proper names for letters by singing the whole thing in my head until I got to the correct one. I was more familiar with the first 'phonic' alphabet I was taught, ah, buh, cuh etc.

learnandsay Sat 22-Jun-13 23:15:14

PE are letters names or do children do pu eh?

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 23:19:12

^ so I didn't learn the names first. I could read and write before I started school.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sat 22-Jun-13 23:19:22

math - but that's nothing to do with letter names.

You could go through exactly the same process learning with letter sounds as letter names. Nothing to stop you.

There are multiple possible combinations of letters that could be valid phonetically but not orthographically, but using letter names surely wouldn't provide the magic answer 'ah, it must be 'school' not 'skool', would they? It's just that you have to learn some combinations are phonetically acceptable but happen to be incorrect spellings.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 23:19:51

But daftdame - I think being taught that A says ah, B says buh, etc, is now frowned upon, isn't it?... Because you are neither giving the letter its proper name nor necessarily identifying its proper sound within the word. You are, basically, just giving it the wrong name.

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 23:21:10

learnandsay Ironically we had gym, sound and movement and games.

KansasCityOctopus Sat 22-Jun-13 23:21:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 23:24:49

rabbit it is my post was just by way of explanation. Phonics are also taught now, with or without letter names it would seem.

I don't think I was disadvantaged by not knowing the letter names, until later, personally speaking.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 23:25:39

KansasCityOctopus - you'll just be told your child is one of the lucky minority who isn't confused by that sort of thing...

learnandsay Sat 22-Jun-13 23:26:30

You're right, malenky; in order to spell you just have to remember the correct sequences of letters for each of the words that you want to spell. How you do that is entirely up to you. You can scratch them all on your armpit and call each letter a hagoo if it helps. But no matter how you do it you have to come up with the correct sequence. I happen to think that giving the letters names and remembering the sequence of letter names in each word is the simplest method.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sat 22-Jun-13 23:28:06

I don't have an issue with people feeling it's the simplest method - what I didn't follow was math who seemed to be saying it was the necessary method, which I don't believe it is.

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 23:30:32

rabbit I don't think anyone would say reading to a child, so they can see what you are reading, confuses them.

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 23:30:47

But daftdame - you did have names for every letter. For a you had ah, for b you had buh, etc, etc, and I suspect that is because you were taught that, not because your genius ears had identified that a says ah, etc, given that it doesn't always say that.... If that is no longer permitted, because a does not always say ah, etc, etc, and real letter names are not permitted, because they are too confusing, then how WOULD you have dealt with that as a child????

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 23:34:14

learnandsay obviously not the simplest for me...I would have failed at letter names but could read and write before I knew them properly.

mathanxiety Sat 22-Jun-13 23:35:51

Malenky, you learn that some spellings are phonetically fine but orthographically incorrect faster by committing the exceptional ones to memory using the letter names. Otherwise you could wait several years before the SCH and CH pronounced as K or hard C are tackled in the course of your phonics journey.

Learning s-c-h-o-o-l by rote teaches you how to spell school. It doesn't take long.

I am not saying 'learn letter sounds OR letter names' in order to learn to read or spell. I am saying that not only is it counter-productive to stick to letter sounds on their own when trying to spell, it is unlikely that children who are learning phonetically are living in some sort of alphabet vacuum where they never get exposed to the names of letters. Any claims for pure phonics wrt spelling expertise have to be taken with a grain of salt as nobody can measure how much exposure to other methods of learning spelling goes on at home and in the community. Mrz may ask a child to sound out the word 'chair' and expect to hear CH-AIR, but at home, someone's granny may spell it c-h-a-i-r when asked. No school can control that.

KCOctopus -- 'I never had any problems and was an advanced reader reading 3-4yrs above my peers, but i'm also convinced that the fact my mother read to me very very regularly and i would follow along with a finger on the words being read and i think it taught me much much more.

i do the same with my yr1 ds and i read to him daily pointing out the words with my fingers, he's already 18m ahead of his year group and his spelling is very very good'

This is how the DCs learned to read well before school. There are more ways of skinning this cat than phonics.

BabiesAreLikeBuses Sat 22-Jun-13 23:36:37

Rabbitstew you're welcome in my school too. My dc in reception learnt letter names in the autumn term as well as phase 1 and 2 phonics and by November were talking about digraphs - and could explain what digraph meant. Reception age children are learning new words each week if not day so it's no big deal to them. By January we were on to trigraphs and now they're spotting split digraphs all over the place. It seems to be helping enormously with spelling too.

I agree that teacher training is an issue, our local uni keeps experimenting with the amount of time in uni and school and the trainees we've had in the last couple of years have needed intensive support. No lecturer helped me with how to teach reading either- I learnt it myself from books and in school training/ mentoring. It would be fair to assume this varies enormously.

mathanxiety Sat 22-Jun-13 23:38:54

To answer the OP, bad phonics teaching is as bad as any other method that is poorly executed by poorly trained teachers and will do as much harm as inexpert teaching of maths or typing.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sat 22-Jun-13 23:39:47

'Malenky, you learn that some spellings are phonetically fine but orthographically incorrect faster by committing the exceptional ones to memory using the letter names.'

No, I don't. confused

Why would I have to?

I learned the shapes and the sounds.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sat 22-Jun-13 23:40:09

(I am dyslexic so I may be doing it wrong, mind.)

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 23:42:23

rabbit I would have been fine because I could reliably decode for the phonics test, understand what I read regarding comprehension and could spell well enough for people to understand what I had read and pass tests.

Very flattering of you but nobody has ever commented on my ears being 'genius', I have sharp hearing though,very useful for knowing what people are doing in other rooms! grin

rabbitstew Sat 22-Jun-13 23:43:37

Daftdame - you also say you remembered how to spell words from imagining them in print and could write before you started school. When you first started writing, did you form all your letters in the same way they were printed in books (including, eg, the letter a)? If not, then how did you know how to form them in the more normal handwritten script? Surely you had been taught a lot more than you remember, rather than picking it up naturally??? Do you really remember how you learnt to read and write before you started school?

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 23:46:04

^ I mean 'what I had written' !

daftdame Sat 22-Jun-13 23:52:46

Yes, I can. I do actually have some very early memories, from being a few months old (wearing a particular dress and a swinging seat).

My mother taught me to read and write. She thought it was important because she struggled at reading, learnt to read at 7yrs.

I remember the lower case 'a' annoying me. Why couldn't they print it properly?

mathanxiety Sun 23-Jun-13 03:19:04

If you are dyslexic then I suppose yes, your experience of spelling may not be that of the majority.

I don't think it can be called wrong if it works for you.

How did you deal with letters that look different depending on the font? Lower case A for instance.
How did you deal with the difference between upper and lower case letters?

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 06:40:35

"If you give letters sound names then those become their names."

"So school becomes"

"su cu hu oh oh lu"

NO! shock only if you haven't got a clue and most 6 year olds would know that is completely wrong

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 06:44:53

A&a are the same letter with the same letter name but can represent different sounds.
A in Amy represents the sound /ai/ but in Africa it represents the sound /a/ just as a in apron is /ai/ and a in ant is /a/.

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 06:59:48

rabbitstew you can not use sounds as names in the way learnandsay did because English has a complex orthographical system.

We only have 26 letters in the alphabet but spoken English has roughly 44 sounds (dependent on accent) so those 44 sounds can not be written with one letter always representing the same sound as in languages like Turkish as someone mentioned earlier.

In English a sound can be written with one, two, three or four letters, the sound /ai/ can be spelt <a> in apron <ai> in train or <eigh> as in weight for example.
A sound can have different spellings - <ee> see <ea> beat <ey> money <e> he <ie> fiels <i> Ian <y> Amy <ei> either <e-e> Steve <ae > paediatrics
The same spelling can represent different sounds <ea> bread, beat & break.

It's a complex system brought about by a long history of "borrowing" words (and spellings) from other languages but straightforward to learn if you are taught from the start and not confused by poor teaching.

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 07:13:29

Learning s-c-h-o-o-l by rote teaches you how to spell school. It doesn't take long.

agreed for some children it might not take long for others it might take weeks or months or years but there are 250000 words in the OED so how do you decide which ones to learn and which ones to ignore because you haven't got time to learn them all even if your memory could hold them all.

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 07:33:08

"Mrz may ask a child to sound out the word 'chair' and expect to hear CH-AIR, but at home, someone's granny may spell it c-h-a-i-r when"
mrz wouldn't ask the child to sound out chair

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 07:46:21

You learn the different fonts by exposure. The first time you see the letter A written a you may need to be told it is another way to write A (and some children will need reminding many times )

When we are spelling we often say "that doesn't look right" and even some young children do that with words they have read many times. But if they haven't seen the word school in print they can still get a close approximation using sounds which requires only minimum adult support to spell correctly ... what sounds can you hear when I say school? great and in school we spell the /k/ sounds <ch> = independent speller rather than a child who needs to be told how to spell every new word.

SockPinchingMonster Sun 23-Jun-13 07:59:11

Haven't read the whole thread but I would say that phonics has been a very effective way of teaching my twins to read. They have just turned 5 and are reading ORT level 5 with ease at school ( and harder books at home ) thanks to the phonics work they have done. I can't see how learning to read using phonics has any detrimental effect - it seems like the most common sense approach to reading. I noticed that a few people have mentioned that the word 'school' is confusing phonetically - I don't think it is, my children were initially taught that CH makes the sound as in 'Church', but as their knowledge improved they were taught that in some circumstances CH can also make a C sound as in 'school' or a SH sound as in 'chef'. They have had no problem understanding this - so normally they will try the word with the normal CH sound and if it doesn't sound right they will automatically try one of the other sounds that CH makes - seems logical to me.

daftdame Sun 23-Jun-13 08:00:10

maths It was Malenky who said she was dyslexic (was the comment for her?)

I think everybody's experience of remembering how to spell various words can be slightly different, there are a number of strategies.

My primary one when faced with an unfamiliar word was sounding out.

However I did imagine, for correct spelling, an image in my as head print on the page or wherever I have seen it (still do). Different typefaces do not bother me greatly, I imagine in a variety of them. Although as I said I was annoyed by lower case 'a' (but I got over it grin). I was taught upper and lower case letters, for recognition purposes side by side so knew both. My memory will give me a visual image (like a photograph), I still can remember the (pink card, handwritten) flash cards my reception teacher used. She also had words, we might want to use, pinned up on the display board (Mummy, Daddy, house, school, the, was...) Now, if I want to remember a section of a book, I know the vague location of it on a page and visualise the page.

I did not learn very well by rote, and dreaded times table tests, as we were taught by rote initially. Familiarity with my tables (and later having a pencil case with them on) and spotting patterns helped me greatly here.

However I could remember songs and poems more easily (are these by rote? There is more pattern to them, rhyme etc). Sometimes when I want to remember numbers I make up a poem or assign them visual symbols eg tree = three.

I did use my initial phonic alphabet ah, buh, cuh.. to name letters (when talking about a spelling for example) but would sound out when thinking how to spell, in much the same way as children are taught now eg chair has a /ch/ and /air/ sound.

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 08:29:18

anything set to music is more memorable according to research daftdame

rabbitstew Sun 23-Jun-13 09:29:36

daftdame - so it was your mother, then, who gave you the names you used for the letters (ie ah, buh, etc)?

I do sometimes memorise things by visualising them in the way you do, daftdame. I don't necessarily find things easier to learn if set to music (I never remember the words to pop songs!), but I do find them easier if I create a rhythm for them. As a result, I find some times table "answers" easier to remember one way round than the other - eg seven fives are thirty five is easier than five sevens are thirty five, because the former has an easier chanting rhythm in my head... Oddly, I've always had an exceptionally good memory for relatively random numbers, which just pop into my head again without effort - eg phone numbers, pin codes, card numbers - but an appalling memory for peoples' names. I think the way the memory works must be quite complex!

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 09:46:42

As a child I was only taught the alphabet/letter names

daftdame Sun 23-Jun-13 09:52:38

rabbit Yes, my mother introduced me to a roughly phonic alphabet with my first alphabet book with pictures. Although the sounds are only rough representations they worked for me, they did have context with the book and its illustrations and then when I learnt how to apply the initial letter sounds for other words.

From that my mother taught me words that 'blend' easily like 'cat' and 'mat'. With 'cat' for example, I remember her just lengthening the way she said the 'cuh' so she could then change the shape of her mouth to form 'ah' and finally finish with the 'tuh', I copied and ''got it' quite easily. Another method she used was repeating the sounds quickly so they 'ran' together.

She then told me (rather proudly) I could read and introduced me to more simple words. After that I remember reading to her, her reading to me and starting school, coming across more difficult words but just being told about 'ch' etc and accepting it.

She also taught me how to write the letters and words. Interesting with the 'a' I couldn't write the one with an ascender at the top, which is why it annoyed me. I remember having to flick out the short descender because otherwise I thought it was difficult to see.

I think music just provides extra context rabbit which can evoke a memory, as smell or visuals can. I expect a strong rhythm can work in a similar way.

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 09:58:34

For centuries children learnt by chanting and singing their lessons (back to the alphabet song)

KansasCityOctopus Sun 23-Jun-13 10:18:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 10:46:10

Matilda was published a couple of decades too late to be useful

are you in the UK KCO?

KansasCityOctopus Sun 23-Jun-13 11:12:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 11:17:53

Is there a UK version of the fridge phonics song?

KansasCityOctopus Sun 23-Jun-13 11:22:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 11:35:25

Yes I've seen them, I just find it annoying that so many of these things aimed at young children are US versions and the manufacturers make no attempt to adapt for a UK market.

Mashabell Sun 23-Jun-13 11:49:18

^In English a sound can be written with one, two, three or four letters, the sound /ai/ can be spelt <a> in apron <ai> in train or <eigh> as in weight for example.
A sound can have different spellings - <ee> see <ea> beat <ey> money <e> he <ie> fiels <i> Ian <y> Amy <ei> either <e-e> Steve <ae > paediatrics
The same spelling can represent different sounds <ea> bread, beat & break.^
Most people are probably aware of that.
But these irregularities are NOT BECAUSE
We only have 26 letters in the alphabet but spoken English has roughly 44 sounds.

The shortage of letters can be overcome by combining some of them (ai, ch, sh). And if done in a regular, predictable way, English would have just 44 spellings for its 44 sounds. Perhaps something like

a, ai, air, ar, au, b, ch, d, e, ee, er, f, g, h,

i, ie, j, k, l, m, n, ng, p, o, oe, oi, oo, or, ou,

r, s, sh, t, u, ue, v, w, y, z, si,

and one for the unstressed half-vowel, as in 'decide, flatten, flatter'.

It could do with unique spellings for short oo (could put wood) and the two th sounds (thing thing) as well which it hasn't got despite using a huge number of different graphemes.

English has gradually become further and further removed from the alphabetic principle of spelling speech sounds in a regular, predictable manner, with 205 spellings for 44 sounds. Because of this, learning to read and write the language now takes an exceptionally long time and is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT for roughly 1 in 5 children.

Although some of the irregularities are due to borrowings from other languages, without anglicising their spellings (as used to happen earlier: beef, mutton, battle), many of the irregularities, such as mOnth, wAs, thrEAd, were created quite deliberately by scribes and printers who did not give a fig for ease of learning.

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 11:56:03

You missed this bit masha It's a complex system brought about by a long history which is why your reform will never gain popular support.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 11:58:02

math - to answer your question - with great difficulty. I have terrible visual memory anyway. And I hit the exact same problem when I tried to learn languages with different alphabets. If you spell something out to me, like 'aitch, ay, ar, em', I find that really difficult to put together.

I don't get the issue with there being many possible sounds for a symbol, though. That is obviously something we're good at coping with, isn't it? Take something like the national speed limit sign: sometimes it means 60, sometimes 70. It's not a problem. When you learn to read, you learn that there are several sounds each letter makes. That narrows down the possbilities immensely.

I don't follow how letter names would have an intrinsic benefit? I can understand for you and others they seem to, but I don't see why. They are just names. There's nothing to tell you 'school' is correct and 'skool' isn't.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 12:00:49

Btw, the demands of modern English aren't that complicated. There are other language systems where children have had to learn a much more complicated set of sounds and symbols, and still seemed to do it phonetically. Various types of phonetic teaching have been around for such a long time, it wouldn't have lasted as a method if it didn't work for many.

nooka Sun 23-Jun-13 17:47:51

My ds failed to learn to read despite two years of teaching with mixed methods. He was a frustrated little boy who thought he just couldn't do it. After six sessions (in fact it might even have been four) with a synthetic phonics tutor he 'got' reading because for the first time he understood that there were rules he could apply and a code that makes sense. He is now a voracious reader. He is also dyslexic, with an extensive verbal vocabulary. His writing/spelling is still terrible.

I learned to read before I went to school, and I have no idea how I did it. I really struggled to help ds learn to read because I don't tend to consciously break words down.

mathanxiety Sun 23-Jun-13 18:32:18

Mrz -- you teach the ones that are used most often to begin with (220 variety words + 95 nouns) and then you move on to explore patterns and a second tier of words that are used frequently, with third and subsequent tiers of words and patterns learned as set spellings, all of which takes place alongside exposure to text featuring the words and patterns in graduated fashion.

Malenky, what tells you 'school' is correct and 'skool' isn't is memorising 'school' and getting a red line through any other version in your spelling test. Then you go home and correct your mistake.

Daftdame -- (yes, I was posting to Malenky, hadn't refreshed my page and a few posts intervened) When using sounds to get a picture of a word in your head, how do you decide which symbol to use for the S sound? What about vowel sounds that can be silent (E for instance) -- most vowels change their sounds from word to word.

learnandsay Sun 23-Jun-13 18:37:56

In fact when you start school these days, scool, skool, skoole (as in Poole/Dorset) skule, sckule and scule are all correct.

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 18:39:09

That is very limiting mathanxiety

daftdame Sun 23-Jun-13 18:58:04

math I don't really understand your question, however I'll attempt to answer it.

Although I could 'read', as my mother put it, as soon as I managed to sound out and blend letters of very simple words, I continued building upon knowledge and having combinations pointed out to me.

I have always read voraciously, a lot of what I was taught was so gradual, it seems almost implicit. I shared books and read to my mother and she would point out rules for anything I could not read. Once I had these (rules), I remembered them along with visually remembering words I had seen written or printed. The visual picture is often a memory, I still can remember some of the display board in my reception class. I can also remember (I think Ladybird) Alphabet book and as I mentioned before the flash cards my reception teacher had.

mathanxiety Sun 23-Jun-13 19:01:02

I haven't seen it limit the DCs or any other children who were taught this way. Once they could read they never stopped. Their reading reinforced what was taught in school and what was taught in school reinforced what they read at home (where they spent the vast majority of their time). School was a springboard for them.

If children do not get exposure to the written word and to a rich vocabulary outside of school they do not sustain their progress and they do not succeed in subjects that require more reading skills than the decoding that phonics does so well. Children who get that exposure and who develop a wide vocabulary tend to do well when texts and reading skills become more demanding.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 19:06:09

'Malenky, what tells you 'school' is correct and 'skool' isn't is memorising 'school' and getting a red line through any other version in your spelling test. Then you go home and correct your mistake.'

Yes, but you said before this had to do with letter names. It doesn't.

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 19:06:23

How long does it take a child to learn 315 words?

maizieD Sun 23-Jun-13 19:09:58

I haven't seen it limit the DCs or any other children who were taught this way.

Do I recall correctly that your children were taught to read in the US?

maizieD Sun 23-Jun-13 19:25:25

How long does it take a child to learn 315 words?

Dr Morag Stuart has this to say:

Jackie Masterson, Maureen Dixon and I carried out a training experiment (Stuart, Masterson & Dixon, 2000) to see how easy it was for five-year-old beginning readers to store new words in sight vocabulary from repeated shared reading of the same texts. It turned out to be much harder than we expected! We tried to teach the children 16 new words, which were printed in red to make them identifiable as the words to be learned. There was one of the red words on each page. After the children had seen and read each red word 36 times, no child was able to read all 16 of them, and the average number of words read correctly was five.

(Can't give you a reference as it is an extract from a document sent me by the author)

It continues:

We were quite shocked by this, because we had made a database of all the words from all the books the children were reading in school, and so we knew how many different words each child had been exposed to in their first term reading at school. This ranged from 39 to 277 different words, with a mean of 126.
Hardly any of these words occurred frequently in any individual child’s pool of vocabulary: on average fewer than four words occurred more than 20 times – yet 36 repetitions had not been enough to guarantee that children would remember a word.
When we tested children’s ability to read words they’d experienced more than 20 times in their school reading, on average they could read only one word correctly.

As this is peer reviewed research I trust it more than MNetter's anecdotes of their exceptional children who remember words after one exposure.

mathanxiety Sun 23-Jun-13 19:26:17

It does, Malenky -- otherwise skool would be acceptable. School with the letters C and H is the correct spelling. Trying to spell it by using letter sounds distorts the sound of the word as a whole so much it becomes virtually unrecognisable. You have to know you need to use C and H and not just C, or K, or CK, and you have to know it's OO and not U for the vowel sound.

Depends on the child, Mrz. Since these words comprise approximately 75% of the words on any given page a child will encounter in any reading material aimed at children aged 8 and under, they tend to be learned pretty quickly if a child is being exposed to the written word.

learnandsay Sun 23-Jun-13 19:32:47

The point is that you have to identify the six correct letters and the correct order in which they appear in the word school. You can call the letters of the alphabet weeny-number-1 all the way up to weeny-number-26 if you feel like it. What you call the letters doesn't matter. But you have to be able to identify the correct letters and the correct sequence.

mathanxiety Sun 23-Jun-13 19:33:42

You are talking about look and say (guess) there MaisieD. I am talking about mixed methods (yes, in the US) done in a very systematic way. Perhaps 'mixed methods' suffers somewhat as a label since it seems to suggest randomness, but systematic mixed methods in school plus practice at home will do as good a job as phonics. And as remarked on this thread, 'phonics' is not well taught or consistently taught in a lot of British classrooms. And there is also the question of children taught phonics in school being taught in different ways at home by family members.

No, am I not talking about exceptional children who remember words after one exposure and I am pretty sure I did not say that.

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 19:36:08

Days, weeks, months, years?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 19:37:09

No, math, it wouldn't. They look completely different. They include different shapes.

You can't seriously mean that when you saw a correction from your teacher with a red line through the incorrect word, you didn't actually know what the difference between the two words was until you said to yourself 'ah yes, that one is es-kay-oh-oh-el', it's wrong'. confused

Surely you just looked at the differences? Else what is writing for?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 19:42:21

Sorry, I should say, I totally respect you may have done just what I describe and spelled out the names to yourself, I'm just surprised (and fascinated) by the idea of it.

maizieD Sun 23-Jun-13 19:44:00

Since these words comprise approximately 75% of the words on any given page a child will encounter in any reading material aimed at children aged 8 and under, they tend to be learned pretty quickly if a child is being exposed to the written word.

You didn't actually read the research I quoted, did you math?

maizieD Sun 23-Jun-13 19:47:28

No, am I not talking about exceptional children who remember words after one exposure and I am pretty sure I did not say that.

I didn't say that you did. It's just a common claim here on MN wink

I believe that the US has an even higher rate of illiteracy than the UK...

daftdame Sun 23-Jun-13 20:37:03

I do think what I have described, in terms of how my mother taught me, is very similar to phonic teaching now, although not explicit lessons. My visual memory is almost an aside.

The flash cards and words on the board is what the school did alongside with practising writing different letters on a worksheet with a picture of an object beginning with that letter.

I do remember using phonic skills when sounding out words and when spelling unfamiliar words. Visual memory only helped for the words I had seen before.

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 20:37:08

"Searchlights" the UKs mixed methods based on what was/still is happening in the US was done in a very systematic way ... but it failed an awful lot of children.

mathanxiety Sun 23-Jun-13 20:48:48

Mrz-- Dolch words 'all the Dolch words can be taught before children finish the first grade in school. Words in the second and third grade lists are more common in books for those age groups, but they do appear in books for earlier grades, just less frequently.' First grade means age 5-6 with children all turning 6 during the year. In the DCs' school the Dolch words were mastered by the end of first grade. Along with a strong focus on phonics this is what their first grade consisted of, plus other elements of reading fluency and basic grammar. The aim of teaching the Dolch/sight words is to make text accessible to even beginner readers and it is assumed children will read outside of the classroom. More reading brings more fluency. Fluency makes reading more rewarding and children likely to do more of it. All the elements of the reading programme complemented each other.

Malenky, No, I did not look at the differences, and doing so would have been pointless since both s-k-u-l-e and s-c-h-o-o-l are pronounced the same ('skool'/'skule'/'school'). When it comes to spelling, pronunciation is sometimes more of a hindrance than a help. Only one version of the word 'school' is right and to get it right, memorising the right letters by some means and writing them in correct order is necessary (As Learnandsay said). The two versions don't just 'look different'. The difference is accounted for by different letters. The letters have shapes and the shapes have names - A, B, C, D, etc.

There are studies suggesting that when reading as a fluent reader, the eye recognises the general shape of a word in a very fleeting way, and the brain does not decode from left to right through each word, but I don't think this is what you're saying here.

ClayDavis Sun 23-Jun-13 20:51:45

Having taught 1st grade in the US, the method math describes is not more successful there than it is in the UK.

ClayDavis Sun 23-Jun-13 20:52:04

no more, not 'not more'.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 21:01:23

'Malenky, No, I did not look at the differences, and doing so would have been pointless since both s-k-u-l-e and s-c-h-o-o-l are pronounced the same ('skool'/'skule'/'school'). When it comes to spelling, pronunciation is sometimes more of a hindrance than a help. Only one version of the word 'school' is right and to get it right, memorising the right letters by some means and writing them in correct order is necessary (As Learnandsay said). The two versions don't just 'look different'. The difference is accounted for by different letters. The letters have shapes and the shapes have names - A, B, C, D, etc.'

confused Sorry ... I don't follow at all. I didn't talk about pronunciation. I asked about the shapes.

I'm interested that you found the letter names so useful, but I don't see why you didn't just look at the letter shapes.

The names don't 'account' for the shapes. They describe them. It's the shape that I would use to distinguish one written letter from another. I had no idea this wasn't normal.

How do you cope when US friends refer to 'zed' as 'zee' - do you find it really throws you? Or do you just learn it as an extra letter, if you see what I mean?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 21:02:47

Btw, I am familiar with the studies - it's called 'bouma shape', btw. But no, that's not what I'm talking about, as I am not referring to fluent readers but to learners.

learnandsay Sun 23-Jun-13 21:06:15

People are capable of having multiple names for the same object otherwise learning other languages would be impossible. (And there wouldn't be so many slang names for certain body parts.)

mathanxiety Sun 23-Jun-13 21:06:37

The US has large disadvantaged areas and large immigrant populations that are illiterate even in their own first language, and often in English even if literate in a first language. That results in problems that are seen even in a country like Finland among similar populations (illiterate or sub-literate, poor, immigrant groups and groups whose culture does not value formal education or communities that have become alienated from the system), which normally sits atop the league tables for educational performance.

The US also has a completely decentralised education system and while my own DCs were successfully taught using the method their school used, children down the road could have been taught using another method entirely. Or they could have been badly taught using the same method. Just as in the UK, inconsistency is the norm, though variety is built into the system in the US because of the decentralisation (and the plethora of teacher training institutions, differences in quality from one university to the next, and the existence of many avenues into teaching doesn't help either).

When 'what is done in the US' is talked about you need to understand that education there is completely decentralised and that therefore 'the US' is not a very useful term. Public school districts operate independently of each other and private schools are separate again, and independent of each other. Even within the same district some schools perform well while others don't. Schools tend to be sensitive to the demands of the communities they serve. Systematic mixed methods might serve one community very well but the assumptions behind such a method (especially the assumption that what children do in school will be reinforced at home and that children have access to books and parents who value education) might be misplaced for another community and would therefore need tweaking or scrapping in favour of another approach. Increasingly, for communities who have not benefited from what schools have to offer, more community and parental outreach is being tried. This has been done in the UK too and has been found beneficial.

Teasing out exactly what accounts for illiteracy in the US is a political minefield 'difficult', just as it is in Britain.

mathanxiety Sun 23-Jun-13 21:28:24

I remember things by names.

It's a handy shorthand. I remember all shapes by name. DD1 has a name, DS has a name, DD2, DD3, DD4, the cat has a name. I appreciate that my mother has a name and is also known as Mum.

If you can remember the names of people and things in your environment (chair, table, desk) or more abstract shapes (square, circle, triangle) then it's a short hop to remember that the shape A is called Ai (and also in my brain acknowledge that it can make different sounds within a word and even on its own as the indefinite article).

I translate my zed into zee when in the US and when the DCs say it I know what they mean. American English I treat almost as a different language that I can speak and understand, read and spell. I can change pretty easily from one way of speaking English to another. My own first language is Hiberno-English (with a south Dublin accent); speaking American English in a way that can be understood by Americans without distracting them by the cuteness of how I speak requires a different accent and cadence. I don't treat any of it as extra, but equivalent (CAP-illary in the US, vs cap-ILL-ary in Britain; VY-tamin vs VIT-amin) or a translation in cases where different terms are used.

My DCs say Aitch which is normal American English, whereas I was brought up in a mixed Aitch and Haitch household and adopted Haitch as that was the norm in school. I now find myself using Aitch except when spelling something out for my mother (the Haitch parent). Both Haitch and Aitch are accepted in the UK in general (though with pockets of deep distrust towards Haitch) but Aitch is considered somewhat alien in the Republic of Ireland. When I say Aitch the same letter comes to my mind's eye as used to when I said Haitch. Equally, the DCs know what my mother is saying when she says Haitch.

ClayDavis Sun 23-Jun-13 21:29:33

But the method you described doesn't work all that well in a predominantly white, middle class school with parents who support their children at home. I doubt it works any better in a school with a more diverse intake.
I think there is a move towards well taught synthetic phonics with no 'sight words' or Dolch list though. Whether that will be any more successfully implemented than it has in the UK I don't know.

mathanxiety Sun 23-Jun-13 21:31:51

'But the method you described doesn't work all that well in a predominantly white, middle class school with parents who support their children at home. I doubt it works any better in a school with a more diverse intake.'

Says who?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 21:32:59

math - fair enough.

I remember letters by shapes, so I suppose it comes down to personal differences. I wonder how many people do it like you, how many like me and how many a bit of both? I'm guessing a bit of both is the most efficient but I wouldn't know.

Though, FWIW, I think they believe babies recognize people before they attach names to them, and from what I've seen, this is true. I think attaching names is useful for a different reason, so that when you talk to a third party, you all know who you mean by 'jane' or 'bob'.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 21:34:22

Btw ... sorry, going way off-topic, I just find this fascinating ... in those tests where you have to remember a random irregular shape, do you find it difficult or do you sort of temporarily assign a name to it?

ClayDavis Sun 23-Jun-13 21:38:40

Says an ex 1st grade and KS1 teacher. I've had far more success with systemic synthetic phonics programs in getting all children reading. From my experience I would say systemic phonics works best, followed by phonics mixed with Dolch word list, and the 'searchlights' strategy a long way behind.

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 21:44:59

Have Dolch lists been updated since 1936?

mathanxiety Sun 23-Jun-13 21:56:56

And yes, there is a move towards phonics and scrapping of the sight words, but with great variety in quality of teachers and resources of schools, to say nothing of differences in home environment, I would guess that some children will do very well and some won't, just as the situation stands right now.

mrz Sun 23-Jun-13 22:10:09

Schools in England are meant to teach phonics very few do!

learnandsay Sun 23-Jun-13 22:16:35

I guess the phonics check in Y1 is supposed to identify the ones who aren't (amongst other things.)

mathanxiety Sun 23-Jun-13 22:32:17

Malenky -- I haven't done any tests where I had to remember a random irregular shape but I did learn Russian as an adult, which involved a different alphabet as well as vocabulary, and when learning I used the letter names. Maybe there are similarities? When initially learning to decode I used a lot of worksheets where a passage was written in English but using Cyrillic script. I also speak and read Irish, where some letter combinations are are not found in English and pronunciation is different from what an English speaker could guess at using the rules of English -- 'mb', 'gc', 'bhf' for instance. I was never taught any Irish names for letters (this link illustrates pronunciation of all 26 letters in the English alphabet) so when spelling, used English names, but fewer of them. (Irish uses 18 letters of the alphabet.) Same letter names then, but different pronunciation.

Mrz -- no, afaik, no update since publication in 1948.

CD -- My own observation (as a parent) was that exposure to phonics in kindergarten followed by Dolch words plus phonics in first grade (plus other language arts activities) worked well for the majority of children in each of the DCs' classes. Some children were already reading fairly fluently before they got to kdg but the rest made great strides.

BabiesAreLikeBuses Sun 23-Jun-13 22:48:15

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too. Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghi t pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Don't see how memorising whole words or word shapes helped you just read that...

daftdame Sun 23-Jun-13 23:00:16

I can read it. Maybe it is my familiarity with my terrible typing though? grin They seem to the sort of mistakes I make quite frequently.

learnandsay Sun 23-Jun-13 23:08:06

I think lots of us can read it. But babies is adhering to some research. If we all started jumbling letters up to our hearts' content I suspect the results would be very different, (otherwise solving anagram solving wouldn't be any fun.)

rabbitstew Sun 23-Jun-13 23:14:58

I don't think many people really remember letters just by their shape. I'm sure most people remember the shapes because the shapes have a meaning to them, and in the case of letters, it is a "sound" meaning - ie they are not random squiggles, but symbolise something, and something more than a pretty pattern. Just try remembering 26 genuinely meaningless, random shapes and see how easy it is... a much harder memory trick. So I really don't think many people can separate written letters and words from the sounds they are intended to produce and claim that they have learnt the letters from their shape alone.

As for learning spellings off by heart and correcting spelling mistakes, I do clearly remember a teacher circling my spelling of definite in red pen. This taught me for all time that it is definite and not definAte, because I found the red pen so embarrassing! However, whilst I remember the big red circle, I don't remember the LOOK of the word when written correctly in red pen, I just remember to remind myself that I may say definAte, but I should not spell the word as I say it, but remember that it is relating to things that are finite and thus spell it as though it sounds like that... so I still remember the spelling by sound, it's just that I remind myself that the sound it should make isn't the one it does make when I say it out loud!

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 23:20:58

math - that's really interesting. As I say, I struggle like mad with languages in different alphabets.

rabbit - but the letter-shapes are connected to sounds, so it's much easier.

babies - I thought that was a myth, most everyone can read those.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 23:22:54

Btw (and I know, rabbit, you might not be meaning my posts) ... but I was being surprised by math's claim that letter names are necessary. That's not because I think they couldn't ever be useful, or that people remember the shapes alone. I'm just surprised if most people find it absolutely necessary to know a letter's name before they can spell, and no-one has yet given me an example that makes sense (this may well be me!), which is why I keep wondering what is going on.

rabbitstew Sun 23-Jun-13 23:32:22

No, I agree with you that you don't have to know a letter's official name before you can spell, but it goes back to the connection between the letter and a sound - you have to know the letter is contributing to a sound to be able to spell anything. So you have to have some noise going on in your head, surely, as you spell out a word, rather than just an image of a shape?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 23:34:23

I never said anything else. confused

rabbitstew Sun 23-Jun-13 23:35:55

And I think some of the confusion comes in when people try to talk about the sound connection - complaining that someone shouldn't say that a letter "says" a sound, or that a letter's "name" isn't important is talking at cross purposes more than anything else, it's just different peoples' ways of expressing the fact that the letter is making a noise to them in their heads!...

rabbitstew Sun 23-Jun-13 23:37:36

Sorry, Malenky, I must have misunderstood you when you said, "It's the shape that I would use to distinguish one written letter from another. I had no idea this wasn't normal."

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 23:38:27


Well, I don't follow but you may be right. All I know is I found the sounds and shapes much more helpful and still can't really cope well with letter names.

KansasCityOctopus Sun 23-Jun-13 23:39:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 23:39:47

Cross post.

Yes, it is the shape I'd use. Lots of sounds could be made using various letters, so you can tell which letter to use by the shape.

I must be missing something massive because this sounds incredibly obvious to me. I don't follow how on earth we'd have developed a phonetic system of writing if these weren't the basic elements to notice?!

rabbitstew Sun 23-Jun-13 23:40:58

Because where you would distinguish one written letter from another by its shape, I would distinguish them by the sound those shapes evoked in my mind, which in the case of individual letters is their names, but within words is more likely to be their sounds.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 23:42:42

But is there a reason you couldn't distinguish letters by the combination of the shape and the sound?

I can totally see that some people might find the name very helpful, but I don't follow why math thinks it's absolutely necessary. Isn't it an add-on that might be helpful, but some might struggle with?

rabbitstew Sun 23-Jun-13 23:42:57

In other words, the minute I see a letter, a noise goes off in my head!

rabbitstew Sun 23-Jun-13 23:45:36

I can't guarantee everyone hears the same sounds I do, but if everyone learns the same names for the letters, it can avoid confusion. I certainly found it exceptionally useful to learn how to say the alphabet in French!!!

mathanxiety Sun 23-Jun-13 23:46:51

But the sound and letter correspondence in English isn't straightforward so I don't understand how you could know where to use S and where to use C without at some point memorising the right spelling for words with the S sound. Or that many words have an E at the end that you don't hear.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 23:47:00

I'm sure that's true, that it can avoid confusion. After all, that's why letter-names were developed.

But if we are talking about young children learning, that's a bit different, isn't it? Unless you mean you're bilingual and had to learn to clarify whether you were spelling a word in French or English?

Even then, I don't quite follow why you wouldn't just have had a teacher who noticed which language you were using.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 23:47:34

math - because they are different shapes.

That's the point.

That's why we developed a written system with a whole set of visually distinct graphs representing a range of sounds.

mathanxiety Sun 23-Jun-13 23:47:55

^ That was in response to 'I must be missing something massive because this sounds incredibly obvious to me. I don't follow how on earth we'd have developed a phonetic system of writing if these weren't the basic elements to notice?!'

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 23:50:41

But math, the letter names wouldn't help you know how to spell a word, would they? What is there intrinsic to calling that graph 'ay' not 'ah or aaaa' or whatever, that teaches you that it is the third letter in 'teaches'? There's nothing.

It's a convenient system for spelling out words once you know the names, I see that.

rabbitstew Sun 23-Jun-13 23:54:02

I think knowing the official names for letters can help avoid confusion at any age!

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 23:56:42

I'm sure that's true, rabbit. I think, though, it's less helpful to think about what the really good readers need? Obviously if you had someone who was already very confident at an early stage, it'd be helpful.

mathanxiety Sun 23-Jun-13 23:59:53

But do you not assign any name at all to the shapes? We didn't just develop systems with different symbols for different sounds, we gave them names.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 24-Jun-13 00:02:22

Did that happen at the same time (I honestly don't know).

But yes - I know the letter-names but I have to think about them (as I said upthread, if someone spells out a word to me in letter names I have to think quite hard to write it down correctly). I'm aware I'm a bit odd. I'm just curious that for you, this was obviously the normal way of learning, to learn the names and use those without thinking about the other things, whereas I struggled so much with the names.

It is strange.

Do all alphabets have letter-names as well as sounds?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 24-Jun-13 00:02:58

Btw ... I should say, I'm not a learner any more! grin

So the names I assign are not really what I did when I was learning.

rabbitstew Mon 24-Jun-13 00:08:28

Sorry, I just find it easier to imagine at least being able to rely on all children being able to call every letter of the alphabet something before they know every sound every letter can make - it's just easier to talk about the letters in general, then, and identify, eg, which ones you are going to be talking about today, given that you are going to be talking about them making several different sounds. It just gives some kind of firm ground to work from, to my mind. How else do you talk about words that end in e, for example, where said e changes the sound of a large part of the word it as at the end of???

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 24-Jun-13 00:09:52

Yes, I'm sure I wasn't an 'easy' child to teach.

Luckily for me, someone did in the end decide that I and the others who weren't 'easy' might still benefit from some lessons.

rabbitstew Mon 24-Jun-13 00:10:04

particularly given that said "e" does not actually make any sound by itself in the word, but just affects the sound the other letters make?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 24-Jun-13 00:11:23

Would you not just say exactly that?

I'm sorry, but I find it extremely difficult to believe that calling the letter 'eee' made you suddenly grasp that pronunciation rule. I am sure someone will have had to explain it to you before that!

rabbitstew Mon 24-Jun-13 00:12:53

Would I not just say exactly what? If children don't know that the letter e is called eee, then how should I refer to it? I can't refer to it by its sound, because it has more than one sound, and you claim children don't have to know its name. So how do I refer to it????

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 24-Jun-13 00:17:28

Exactly what you just explained - that 'e' on the end of these words changes the preceding vowel sound.

Would you not be using written language at this point?

If so, the 'e' is a distinctive shape, so you can point to it.

I'm not saying it's not useful for adults and confident readers to know letter names. Plainly, it is. What I don't follow is why anyone thinks that you couldn't learn to read without knowing them.

There's nothing about the letter name that tells you the rule, and no reason you couldn't simply show a child which letter it is. If you think about it, pointing to the letter on the page is actually much more helpful, because you can show that it's the position that makes the difference - if you're merely using the letter-name, you also have to explain about the position.

rabbitstew Mon 24-Jun-13 00:20:33

I am quite certain that someone explained that pronunciation rule to me by assuming that if they explained to me that the letter ee had an effect on the other letters, they wouldn't have lost me at the first hurdle, with me asking, "what is the letter ee?"

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 24-Jun-13 00:21:45

Oh, yes, I don't disagree - I can see that might have been very useful to you.

I'm not in the least denying that people are different.

All I'm surprised by is this idea that it is necessary to know letter names, for absolutely everyone.

rabbitstew Mon 24-Jun-13 00:22:30

Sorry, but human beings have an intense desire to label things - we have names for everything. I fail to see how pointing to things that remain nameless is less confusing for a child - particularly a child in a class of 30 who can't necessarily see what you are pointing at, because there are so many other heads in the way.

rabbitstew Mon 24-Jun-13 00:24:25

What, other than letters, should remain nameless? It's amazing that the means for producing names for everything else in the world should have no names for themselves, because, apparently, their names are confusing.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 24-Jun-13 00:25:06

Well, I fail to see your way too, so we're in the same boat.

Children learn the names later anyway - what people have been discussing is the early stages of learning, isn't it?

Would you find it totally impossible to teach even for a short time, without names?

I mean, I don't know many people who'd teach a child 'oh, use the first person pronoun' when teaching them to write simple sentences. Human beings do enjoy naming things, but we don't always start out with the name, do we?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 24-Jun-13 00:26:02

I'm not suggesting anything should remain nameless.

I don't think letter names are confusing per se, I'm merely surprised anyone thinks they are necessary.

Am I not being very clear in what I'm saying, or do you suspect I mean something different from what I'm saying, so you're trying to respond to that?

rabbitstew Mon 24-Jun-13 00:30:02

The first person pronoun is a description, not a name! Obviously, it's not impossible to teach without names for a short while, since so many teachers obviously do it, I just think it's weird and that it disenfranchises parents who think in letter names... and there is nothing worse than turning something that, in reality, is NOT a colossal issue for the majority, into a complex mystery that turns parents off trying to get involved in their children's learning process.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 24-Jun-13 00:31:23

Mmm, I think it's a name really, TBH.

But if you say so, maybe you're right. I hadn't thought of how it might make parents feel. I really did just get into this because I was interested in what math said. I am trying to think about it all because I struggle, and because I'm interested in the history of how people learn to read, and absolutely not because I think I have the answers.

rabbitstew Mon 24-Jun-13 00:33:02

I absolutely don't think I have the answers, either, but I do think that the best readers (bar severe dyslexia) are those whose parents read an awful lot with their children and for whom reading is important. They are therefore important people not to confuse and alienate!!

mathanxiety Mon 24-Jun-13 00:36:37

There's nothing about the sounds that tells you how to use the letters in many cases though. Having names for letters allows children to put a variety of sounds into the same category. All the different sounds represented by A can be called A when you spell even if the sounds represented by A change within the same word. Same goes for E, even those Es that are not pronounced. It's a shorthand label.

Introducing the sounds before the official names helps children associate sound and symbol without clouding the matter, but I don't think any teacher can assume students know nothing of letter names so I'm not convinced of how essential this is to successful teaching using phonics.

I can't wrap my brain around not assigning any name at all to a symbol when every single other thing in the environment has a name and presumably you use those names. Do you say 'large thing that cooks stuff we eat?' when you mean oven?

Not saying that by way of disparagement -- I assign colours to people's names based on how the individual letter colours blend together. Dominic is a brown name, for instance. I only do this with names, so 'chair' has no colour...

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 24-Jun-13 00:36:46

There, we certainly agree. My parents read loads to me and thank god they did.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 24-Jun-13 00:38:06

math, I never said there was anything about the sounds that tells you which letters to use. You simply have to learn.

I agree names are a shorthand, but am I right you're moving away from the idea letter names are necessary, to the idea they're useful? If so, I certainly agree - that is what I've been saying.

You needn't wrap your brain around a false scenario - it's not relevant, just ignore it.

mathanxiety Mon 24-Jun-13 01:57:08

I learned by using the letter names which I understood corresponded to sounds. The DCs also knew the alphabet song long before they went to school. It didn't hurt them to know the names. Two of them started reading without any exposure to phonics, just a lot of reading by me with a finger following under the text. Three picked up reading during kindergarten but before phonics had got under way. I think knowing the names of letters is necessary in order to spell because of the lack of straightforward letter-sound correspondence in English. Relying on the sounds isn't always going to point you in the right direction and I really don't think most children can hold shapes in their heads at the level where that conceptualisation is useful for writing without naming them. Again, you may be an exception.

I am interested to know if you touch type and if so how did you find the learning process.

mrz Mon 24-Jun-13 06:31:36

But letter names don't correspond to sounds mathanxiety as I explained before the sounds in spoken words can be represented by one, two, three or even four letters, which is why letter names don't help at all.

mrz Mon 24-Jun-13 07:10:13

First can I say that the letter <e> on the end of the word doesn't change the sound of the vowel ... give, have, house, love, choice, loose, care, more, there

secondly phonics isn't about pronunciation rules

thirdly no one has said letters should remain nameless - they have names

what people have said is that letter names do not help a child learn to read and spell. They are a convention we use (because we like labels).

merrymouse Mon 24-Jun-13 07:37:41

I think the idea is that you use the main letter sound as the letter name to begin with. You just forget that a separate name exists. So rather than saying 'see' can sometimes make a 'ssss' sound, you say 'cuh' can sometimes make a 'ssss' sound if for instance your child is called Cyril.

In my completely unscientific and untrained experience, (2 primary school children), reading takes off when children have a large enough vocabulary of words they can read. No phonics programme is completely phonetic - they all have 'red words'/'tricky words' etc., however, phonics attempts to build the number of readable words more quickly than 'look and say' by focusing on words that can be easily decoded.

However, all reading methods work when they go at the pace of the individual child being taught and adapt to that child's aptitudes and learning style. Sometimes it is difficult to do this when you are trying to teach 30 children to read.

rabbitstew Mon 24-Jun-13 07:56:49

I didn't say the letter e changed the sound of the vowel, I said it had an effect on other letters in the word without appearing to make a sound itself (even in the ones mrz used), although sometimes it does affect the vowel sound - eg grate, state, late, chute, lute, tote, all of which would sound entirely different without it. That may not be phonics, but I find it useful to think of it in that way and self evidently I'm not the only person who does. I am a parent, I would naturally explain to my child what made sense to me, as daftdame's mother did to her (in fact, quite a lot like that, and I don't think that was anything like synthetic phonics teaching). If phonics is not explained properly to me and doesn't make sense, I will NOT help my child that way - I will instead do all the things phonics teachers seem to hate. Apparently, therefore, I will confuse my child - except, of course, my children didn't ever find reading confusing.

I agree that if a child arrives at school as a blank slate, from parents who have no interest whatsoever in reading to them, or pointing out words as they read, or commenting on letters or numbers in their environment, they may well be easily confused, because it's all a bit new, and that giving letters labels is obviously not the most important starting point for such children by that stage. However, I also think such children are at a colossal disadvantage generally and I wouldn't want all parents taking that attitude on the basis that if they got involved, they might confuse their children, because they don't know how to teach phonics properly...

merrymouse Mon 24-Jun-13 08:33:31

I think the idea is parents don't use the letter name with 2,3,4 year olds either. This is what I was told at my son,'s Montessori nursery.

However, I don't have enough experience with different children to comment on how much difference it makes.

learnandsay Mon 24-Jun-13 08:33:41

This thread stated letters do not help when spelling. That is false.

Letters names do help anyone, not just children to learn to spell and to spell in general, because spelling involves identifying the correct letters and the names are used for this purpose. Other names could be used but these are the ones that we currently use. Sounds do not uniquely identify all letters.

merrymouse Mon 24-Jun-13 08:40:59

There is a standard letter sound attached to each letter. When you have a child learning phonics you soon begin to start using letter sounds all the time, even when spelling your name to complete strangers - or maybe that's just me...

rabbitstew Mon 24-Jun-13 08:50:14

But that's wrong, surely, merrymouse? To teach the child the "standard" letter sound and always use that when spelling your name is not phonics, if you are using the wrong sound in that context, its using a common letter sound as that letter's name. Thus, I would have thought it was wrong to say the alphabet as ah, buh, cuh, duh, eh etc. Because those are not always the right sounds, nor are they the right names. That's why I'm finding it confusing...

rabbitstew Mon 24-Jun-13 08:52:06

For example, my nickname is not really "spelt" OR sounded out as "rrr, ah, buh, buh, i, tuh, suh, tuh, eh, wuh."

learnandsay Mon 24-Jun-13 09:11:07

c and k have the same sound. I'm not sure how the letter q is sounded out or x

But regardless, when letters are used for spelling it's clear what is being proposed. When you spell using sounds there will be times when you have to explain what you mean.

merrymouse Mon 24-Jun-13 09:16:12

They are the most commonly used sounds, introduced first when learning phonics.

C = curly cuh
K = kicking cuh
Q= cwuh
X= ks

When you pronounce the first three sounds you try to minimise the uh sound at the end.

rabbitstew Mon 24-Jun-13 09:18:04

But you don't say "curly cuh" when sounding out c in the word cat. You say "cuh." "Curly cuh" is a name, not a sound. Yet I'm told names are confusing.

merrymouse Mon 24-Jun-13 09:18:27

And if it isn't clear you aren't supposed to use letter sounds for ever and ever and you do introduce other variants later on - its just that this method is supposed to get children reading quickly, therefore minimising frustration.

rabbitstew Mon 24-Jun-13 09:19:04

I haven't actually seen the letter Q sounded out in phonics books - it always seems to come with a U so as to say "kwuh" in the early stages.