"So" is a sight word and can't be sounded out...

(313 Posts)
Stampstamp Thu 19-Sep-13 13:11:46

Said the reception class teacher today. Aaargh! Thank heavens DD can already mostly read (she's nearly 5). Why do some teachers and schools have such a limited understanding of phonics, it seems so fundamental to me?

lorisparkle Thu 19-Sep-13 15:16:53

I think the teacher meant that it is a word that can not be sounded with the phonics and phonic rules at a particular stage. I'm sure the letters and sounds handbook talks about the tricky words at different phases and often when a child moves onto a different phase a word could then be sounded out using the rules they are learning.

MrsMelons Thu 19-Sep-13 15:32:02

I am confused, so can't be sounded out using phonics. It is a tricky word as such, same as me, be, he etc.

IAmNotLouise Thu 19-Sep-13 15:52:23

so, he, me and be can all be sounded out, MrsMelons.

Stampstamp Thu 19-Sep-13 15:53:46

It can be sounded out with phonics. The letter "o" sometimes makes the sound as in "dog", and sometimes the sound as in "bone". Like so, no, yo, ho [perhaps a bit inappropriate grin]

Stampstamp Thu 19-Sep-13 15:55:48

She specifically said "So" can't be sounded out, it would come out as /s/ /o/ as in "dog". There's not really a point to this post, I'm having a rant as it frustrates me, and is concerning in a school.

Euphemia Thu 19-Sep-13 16:18:20

All words can be sounded out. Words are written representations of speech.

carrie74 Thu 19-Sep-13 16:23:48

It can't be sounded out using the system my children used (Read Write Inc), it would be a red word (ie needs to be learned by sight).

MajorMassSpecsMistriss Thu 19-Sep-13 16:24:22

I was under the impression that the 'o' in bone is pronounced that way due to the 'e' at the end, a rule that doesn't apply in the case of 'so'

Katz Thu 19-Sep-13 16:25:52

But o in bone is that sound because of magic e

frazzled1772 Thu 19-Sep-13 16:26:44

All words can be be broken down into their syllables. However the long vowel sound in so would normally be written either as "oa" as in goat, "ow" as in slow, "o and silent e (ask in poke) for example . "So" does not fit these rules as such it cannot be "sounded out" - using the rules of phonics.

nickelbabe Thu 19-Sep-13 16:30:30

yes, (to the longinator) but surely, the rule would state that if so many words of two letters are said with a long o, then it must be a phonic rule of its own?

ho ho ho
do (a deer a female deer) (although I think it's spelled doh in music so ignore that)
lo (he comes with clouds descending)

merrymouse Thu 19-Sep-13 16:39:01

Agree with loris.

Some (most?) words can be sounded out using rules that aren't taught in first phonics lessons.

Am sure I saw a government spelling list recently where common words moved from 'tricky' list to decodable list as child progressed.

CecilyP Thu 19-Sep-13 16:59:13

It is the normal pronunciation of the letter 'o' at the end of a word, so 'so' can obviously be sounded out should you need to. How else are you supposed to pronounce it. The word 'so' does, however, appear on the list of tricky words (I have no idea what is supposed to be tricky about it) in the Jolly Phonics scheme which most of the newer phonics schemes seem to follow on from. The teacher seems to be accepting this unquestioningly. When do you ever hear 'o' pronounced as in 'dog' when the the letter 'o' is at the end of the word?

CecilyP Thu 19-Sep-13 17:06:23

All words can be be broken down into their syllables. However the long vowel sound in so would normally be written either as "oa" as in goat, "ow" as in slow, "o and silent e (ask in poke) for example . "So" does not fit these rules as such it cannot be "sounded out" - using the rules of phonics.

Of course it can be sounded out. How else are you supposed to pronounce it? It is just another alternative and perfectly common spelling once you think beyond single syllable words. Whereas 'oa' is not, as far as I know, a permissible spelling of this sound at the end of a word as it would be pronounced as in 'boa' or 'Goa'.

merrymouse Thu 19-Sep-13 17:15:54

It's because of discussions like this that they start off with a few simple rules to get you going.

bibbetybobbityboo Thu 19-Sep-13 17:26:01

It is a tricky word. At this stage children will only have been taught that o is as in 'dog'. alternative phonemes come later The oa sound in bone is represented by the split digraph 'o-e'.

IAmNotLouise Thu 19-Sep-13 17:31:26

I think the government list you are talking about is the appendix to letters and sounds, merrymouse. It's not statutory.

Even then 'tricky' words are not taught as sight words. They are taught as words with a 'tricky' part, so you teach the 'tricky' part and blend them right from the beginning. 'so' would be taught by explaining that in this word the 'o' makes the sound <oa> and then you would blend the /s/ and /oa/.

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 17:39:22

the letter <o> represents the sound /oa/ in many words

so should not be taught as a sight word it should be taught as a word where the letter represents another sound to the one we know already and sounded out (even in RWI)

HumphreyCobbler Thu 19-Sep-13 17:44:00

Red words in RWI are those that make a sound the children have not been explicitly taught yet, NOT a word that cannot be sounded out. The teacher does not understand the phonic scheme they are using. Correct usage of RWI would be an explanation that in this word the o makes an /oa/ sound, with the understanding that this is a sound to be looked at later. And not that much later either, you get through the sounds very quickly in RWI.

Growlithe Thu 19-Sep-13 17:50:34

Could it be that they've only just started phonics (it's only the start of Reception) and they are introducing very simple sounds to start with, but maybe using the word 'so' as an easy word to learn by sight to encourage them when reading starter books? <I'm no teacher - just guessing>

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 17:55:14

frazzled1772 the sound /oa/ can be spelt

oa - boat
ow - grow
oe- toe
o-e -home
ough -dough
o - both
ol - yolk
ou- soul

as well as some more unusual ways brooch, beau, sew, yeoman

frazzled1772 Thu 19-Sep-13 17:57:07

Mrz some of those words are o~e (magic e words) old, cold hold etc are is not the long vowel sound it's the short vowel sound. They have to simplify the rules - so that children can begin to learn the basics, later on they get the complexities. "Tricky words" are words that don't follow the rules but are really useful to be able to sight read as they are used a lot. Long vowel sounds are taught at a later stage.

frazzled1772 Thu 19-Sep-13 18:00:09

so is a red word in RWI

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 18:01:57

[shocked] frazzled I currently teach Y1 after teaching reception for almost 20 years and frankly that's utter rubbish ...

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 18:05:30

As HumphreyCobbler explains so well red words in RWI aren't sight words

Stampstamp Thu 19-Sep-13 18:45:07

I don't think children need to be taught that any words can't be sounded out. The teacher didn't seem to understand phonics, that's what worried me. It's one thing telling a child that for now, "o" sounds /o/ as in dog, but in some words like "so" it makes an oh sound. What's wrong with saying that? Rather than telling them it can't be sounded out, which isn't the case. I haven't really looked at RWI as I taught DD reading at home and based it on Debbie Hepplethwaite (I think, does that name sound right?) but I'm sure we'll get some reading books home eventually which might explain things.

frazzled1772 Thu 19-Sep-13 18:54:58


mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 19:05:00

How would you pronounce soul and mould and boulder and shoulder and ?

frazzled1772 Thu 19-Sep-13 19:09:15

not the same as oa/ow/oe/o~e more like sholder, molder, bolder, if you see what I mean?

Feenie Thu 19-Sep-13 19:11:05


Growlithe Thu 19-Sep-13 19:11:21

We get threads like this every year. With all due respect, isn't it just that there is more than one way to skin a cat?

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 19:13:27

so you say sol? (as in costa del?)

frazzled1772 Thu 19-Sep-13 19:16:30


mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 19:17:12

but we aren't skinning cats Growlithe we are trying to ensure every child learns to read and spell.

frazzled1772 Thu 19-Sep-13 19:17:37

well not quite the same

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 19:18:22
frazzled1772 Thu 19-Sep-13 19:18:23

maybe more like shullder?

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 19:19:15

shull to rhyme with skull?

eddiemairswife Thu 19-Sep-13 19:24:29

looking at some of the correspondence about reading I wonder how I managed to learn. Started school at 5yrs 3months, couldn't read but knew my ABC and could recognise capital letters only. We didn't do phonics then, but learnt C_A_T spells cat, D_O_G spells dog etc.; we also had flash cards. After 2 terms I was reading well enough to read parts of the newspaper (Daily Mirror). We didn't bring reading books home from school. My children were taught using Look and Say, and also did not bring books home from school. It seems to me that whatever is in fashion at the time works. I do get concerned that very little children are being taught to read too soon, and that so many parents feel worried that 'my 5 year old can't read'.

frazzled1772 Thu 19-Sep-13 19:26:40

well as it sounds on the link you gave but that is not a long o sound.

Growlithe Thu 19-Sep-13 19:28:02

But isn't there a number of ways to do that mrz. The OP is having success with her method, but my DD's school (shes just gone into Y1) uses RWI and I am happy with her progress too.

Guess the only sticking point is getting them through the Y1 phonics check, although I'm not convinced on the value of that for the child.

But what do I know, I am a parent who is leaving it to the school. Not because I am thick, just because I am not a qualified teacher and I don't want to confuse DD with a different approach at such an early stage, so would rather support her teacher in the school's chosen method.

Feenie Thu 19-Sep-13 19:36:34

They're the same methods - different schemes is all.

teacherwith2kids Thu 19-Sep-13 19:42:20

eddiemair- of course, you learned to read, and so did I.

However, a significant percentage of children didn't learn to read when using look and say methods - and that percentage is reduced using properly-taught phonics (sadly, some teachers as well as many parents imagine that phonics is a strict 1 to 1 correspondance of sound and symbol and that any deviation from that is 'tricky' or 'can't be taught using phonics' or even 'shows that English isn't phonic so we have to teach all the rest by look and say').

The move to phonics isn't really for you and I - we would have learned to read by whatever method. It is for the children who DIDN'T learn to read that way and thus need a BETTER method.

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 19:47:40

Yes it is the sound /oa/ frazzled (check the phonemic spelling and compare to the chart - www.teachingenglish.org.uk/activities/phonemic-chart)

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 19:50:25

The phonics screening check is very useful to me as a teacher and it has certainly identified the so called good readers in some schools who don't have an effective strategy for tackling unfamiliar words.

eddiemairswife Thu 19-Sep-13 19:53:12

Point taken teacherwith2kids. I only taught Y5/6 and came across only 2 children who couldn't read.

frazzled1772 Thu 19-Sep-13 20:18:27

Mrz: govt link to phonics teaching p 136 - shoulder under common alternative pronunciations (not oa)


Also they do show sound buttons for "so" (as you describe), however it is as a tricky word but the expectation is that because they learn short vowel sounds first that it is not decode - able at this stage - but it is high high frequency word so useful to learn.

Not "rubbish" thank you very much.

simpson Thu 19-Sep-13 20:23:01

DD is in yr1 and told me the other day she is learning a song about 2 vowels walking hand in hand....

Not for the magic e (which I know is outdated) but for sounds like OA as in boat, coat etc.

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 20:23:30

You seem to be reading the Letters & Sounds document incorrectly frazzled

the page you mention is demonstrating that the spelling <ou> can represent the sound /ow/ in out and /oa/ in shoulder and /oo/ in you and /u/ in could (alternative pronunciations of a single spelling)

Feenie Thu 19-Sep-13 20:25:52

Keep reading, frazzled, and you'll come to the bit where they explain that tricky words are to be taught as decodable - just with a tricky 'bit'.

The trickiness in 'so' is obviously not very tricky at all - just a correspondence they may not have been taught yet.

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 20:27:45

oh dear simpson sad

frazzled also from Letters & Sounds phase 2 (reception)

1. Explain that there are some words that have one, or sometimes two, tricky
2. Read the caption, pointing to each word, then point to the word to be learned and read it again.
3. Write the word on the whiteboard.
4. Sound-talk the word and repeat putting sound lines and buttons (as illustrated above) under each phoneme and blending them to read the word.
5. Discuss the tricky bit of the word where the letters do not correspond to the sounds the children know (e.g. in go, the last letter does not represent the same sound as the children know in dog).

IAmNotLouise Thu 19-Sep-13 20:27:50

I know what you mean, frazzled. It's definitely not /oa/. I think it's an accent thing. I have friends that do pronounce it as an /oa/. But I just sound weird when I say it.

I think PI uses /oa/ for the sound 'o' represents in 'cold' and to me it doesn't.

mamaduckbone Thu 19-Sep-13 20:32:14

The fact is that it can't be sounded out with the phonics that your daughter has been taught so far, yet it is a word that will appear in her reading books and therefore needs to be recognised.

5 year olds on the whole are not ready for exceptions to the rules, and she may not even have been taught ow, oa, o-e yet, let alone that sometimes an o can make a long sound all on it's own. That's why words that don't follow the usual conventions are taught as tricky words.

A large group of adults are having a lengthy debate about this - all the teacher is doing is trying to keep it simple! smile

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 20:32:59

How would you pronounce old

ClayDavis Thu 19-Sep-13 20:34:45

mamaduckbone, most 5 year olds manage it with no problem at all. Its the recommended way of teaching it in all phonics programs and the way the government recommends teaching it.

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 20:38:59

mamaduckbone all the teacher is doing is demonstrating she hasn't a clue about the English orthographical system and doesn't know what on earth she is doing.

There seem to be quite a few posters who don't understand that tricky isn't a synonym for sight

teacherwith2kids Thu 19-Sep-13 20:39:04

"That's why words that don't follow the usual conventions are taught as tricky words. "

No, words that the child needs to know but contain an as-yet-untaught correspondance (a relatively short period if phonics teaching is properly rapid) are taught as HAVING A TRICKY BIT.

A couple of weeks later, once the new sound is known, then that 'bit' is no longer tricky and the word can be read using the new phonics knowledge about e.g.the sound 'oa'.

If phonics teaching is properly brisk and doesn't get ridiculously hung up on 'phases', then 'tricky bits' become fleeting things in the main (I would say that the 'oo' in 'two' and the 'w' in 'one' remain quite tricky, and I still have to think carefully about yacht, but there are really quite few others)

teacherwith2kids Thu 19-Sep-13 20:42:16

Most well-taught 5 year olds in current Reception and Y1 classes are entirely happy to discuss graphemes and phonemes, digraphs and trigraphs, alternative spellings etc etc. They LOVE rules and exceptions and new rules, it's SO much clearer to them than 'no, you just have to learn the list of words, which have been matched to pictures for you to guess their meanings'.....

ClayDavis Thu 19-Sep-13 20:42:27

Sorry, I've name changed back in the middle of the thread. It's not an intentional sockpuppet.

The same way I'd pronounce cold, gold or shoulder, *mrz. grin Stupidly, I can't think of any way of representing it in writing that can't also be pronounced as /oa/ in another accent. 'oh' is about as close as I can get. It's not the same sound that is in goat, show, toe, bone etc.

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 20:45:27

I would pronounce "oh" in the same ways as I would pronounce /oa/ confused

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 20:46:06
Growlithe Thu 19-Sep-13 20:46:10

But for all this talk, it is now just over two weeks into the school term (a couple of weeks longer in Scotland). Now I don't know about your children, but I wouldn't have expected mine to be discussing all the sounds you can get out of an 'o' just now.

DD started with a small group of sounds (you teachers may know them because I think it was a common way of starting and I've just got them from an Ipad app I got at the time in the hope of helping her: s,a,t,p,i,n,m,d). She wouldn't have even come across an 'o' this early in phonics.

ClayDavis Thu 19-Sep-13 20:48:20

I assumed you might, mrz. That's why I was having problems finding a way of writing it down.

teacherwith2kids Thu 19-Sep-13 20:51:04

I think the point is that either:
- The class teacher is using texts ahead of / divorced from the children's phonic knowledge and so is having to use the infamous 'mixed methods' for the children to decode them OR
- The OP's child is being given separate phonic teaching appropriate to her ability (as the OP says that she is close to reading already, and it may be that she knows the first phonic sounds well as the OP sounds like she knows her stuff) and so the teacher has moved on to more advanced work with her ... and is doing it incorrectly.

Growlithe Thu 19-Sep-13 20:57:14

teacher isn't your first point a really common thing as schools have whole stocks of books from old schemes which they are almost forced to use now?

Iwaswatchingthat Thu 19-Sep-13 21:00:27

Phonetically 'o' sounds like 'o'. It's name is 'oa', but not its sound.

The phrase used by most schools to describe words which cannot be built phonetically is 'tricky words'.

OP - the teacher is correct.

Iwaswatchingthat Thu 19-Sep-13 21:03:31

he, me, be she cannot be sounded out phonetically either.

h - e are the sounds in he, the sounds these graphemes make are not h ee

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 21:04:37

Incorrect twaswatchingthat the spelling <o> can be /o/ as in pot or /oa/ as in post

So has two sounds /s/ /oa/ and is perfectly phonetic

Growlithe Thu 19-Sep-13 21:05:54

But is this beyond YR week 3?

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 21:06:20

are you a teacher twaswatchingthat?

the letter <e> can spell /e/ in bed and /ee/ in be

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 21:07:00

No it isn't

Iwaswatchingthat Thu 19-Sep-13 21:09:21

Yes, alternate sounds covered in phase 5, but at the age of the OP's daughter - the words are 'tricky' in that it is much too soon and far too confusing to introduce alternate sounds. You could literally go on forever with alternate sounds.

Phonetically so would be spelt soa and post poast.

YoniBottsBumgina Thu 19-Sep-13 21:11:17

It can be sounded out, but it's part of a common group of words which children will likely come across before they have learnt how to decode the sounds in it. Like "the" for example. Extremely common word, very difficult sounds! You have th which is a complicated one (two letters, can be th as in these or th as in thin, many 4/5 year olds still unable to pronounce either) and then the "e" is a schwa which is difficult for an adult to get their head around!

Because there are a number of short common words which are tricky these will be taught by sight but the vast vast majority of words would be taught by phonics.

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 21:12:06

Have you read Letters & Sounds and how to teach "tricky words" in phase 2?

Phonetically it is spelt so

Growlithe Thu 19-Sep-13 21:12:35

Well, it would have been beyond my DD at this stage. The whole reception class had only just formed, having had a staggered start, and as I said earlier they set off with 8 simple sounds, 'o' in any form not being one of them.

mrz Thu 19-Sep-13 21:14:05

They are only taught by sight if the school is continuing to teach mixed methods despite the DfE policy to teach phonics.

eddiemairswife Thu 19-Sep-13 22:42:04

How do you teach phonics with respect to accents? i.e. I am a Londoner, pronounce castle,path etc. with a long 'a'; would I have to change my accent to teach children in the Midlands,Yorkshire.

fizzly Thu 19-Sep-13 22:43:36

mrz very quick question. As a teacher, how do you manage the fact that some children will have learned some words by 'incorrect' methods (sight, mix of sight and phonics taught by parents who don't now better....err....me) when they arrive in primary? I'm genuinely interested in this. DS is just 4 and has just started reception. He's been reading (blending relatively simple words) for a while and I have had to give my own crap explanation of tricky words as time has gone on and he has been desperate to read more and more. He has a phenomenal memory and has certainly learned meany of these words by sight, even though he can decode when he tries to do so slowly but I've not been able to give proper explanations for (for example) split digraphs. However, he can comfortably 'read' words like 'gone, done, love' etc as well as 'tricky' words like 'he, she, me, be, said etc. I totally buy in to the phonics approach, but short of keeping him away from all books for the last 6 months I don't think there's anything I could have done to avoid this situation and let him only learn true phonics at school. So, now he is in reception, he is going to have to sit through phonics 'lessons' (which I'm completely happy about) but will be reading things that are well above the level of some others in the class (who are still learning basics of what is a b and e and m etc). I'm happy that this school 'differentiates' in a reasonable but cannot work out how one actually deals with this in teaching terms when the whole class is learning about the 'ow' sound for example (which he has known for at least 6 months).

nickelbabe Thu 19-Sep-13 23:04:48

eddie generally, the people being taught the phonics are taught by someone of the same accent (or at least with the proper training in that accent)
so, I was taught in nottingham by nottingham teachers and dd will be taught in sittingbourne by sittingbourne teachers (poor thing)

notwoo Thu 19-Sep-13 23:12:02

mrz I just have to take this opportunity to say how much I enjoy and admire your phonics posts.

I am very pleased with my DD's reception teacher but I would love her to be taught by you!

Euphemia Thu 19-Sep-13 23:13:36

eddie I teach in Scotland and a few children in my class are English/have English accents.

I am teaching phonics with my own Scottish accent, but I will explain differences in accent as they arise. For example, the Scottish accent has an extra phoneme /wh/ such that which and witch are not homophones. I will explain to the children that English accents don't make the distinction.

Similarly, I'm not going to teach the phonemes that don't occur in Scottish accents (/or/, /er/, /ar/ and short /oo/), but I will mention them as they are relevant to the children with English accents.

ClayDavis Thu 19-Sep-13 23:13:46

That's not necessarily true, nickelbabe.

With a/ar if I was sounding out with the children or teaching the sound I would do it in the accent used by the children. Otherwise children are quite good at tweaking the sound a bit. I taught 1st grade in the US for a while and it caused much fewer problems than you would think.

Bethanybunny Thu 19-Sep-13 23:14:57

OP, I am with you on this. It is shocking that so many teachers refuse to fully accept the phonics approach. Mostly, I think because they don't understand it properly, and because they assume that children need to have strict, simple rules.

I think children can cope with a lot more complexity than we give them credit for. I taught my DD1 very early on that one letter can be pronounced in various different ways. We're from the London area, where 'a' is often pronounced 'ar' (as in last) as well as 'ay' (lady) and the more usual 'a' (pat). 'O' can be 'u' (love) 'oh' (no/so/go) and 'oo' (to/do).

I never taught these as tricky words, just as alternative pronunciations. DD1 took them all in her stride- and at the start of Y1 is well ahead of her peers who have been taught using mixed methods by the school. I'm so glad I educated myself through MN before working on her reading!

nickelbabe Thu 19-Sep-13 23:33:58

clay that was why I said or proper training in.thatxaccent. I suppose that was ambiguous. I meant "in using that accent" or "in teaching that accent"

most children, as you say, would be able to adjust the teacher's spoken words into their own accent and wotk it out from there.

BlackeyedSusan Thu 19-Sep-13 23:34:46

oh 'eck nickle, theres no hope for you then duck...

cold for me ... o is somewhere between oa and short o.

nickelbabe Thu 19-Sep-13 23:36:15

yes, "coad" is about the right pronunciation grin

and "bird" is pronounced "bod"

nickelbabe Thu 19-Sep-13 23:37:36

it's the sittingbourne "wewd (like weld but a w instead of an l) for world and gew for girl that I cannot reconcile.

TheBuskersDog Fri 20-Sep-13 00:11:32

I speak with a different accent to the children I work with, there is no way I would put on a different accent to teach them phonics but where relevant I will refer to how we pronounce things differently.
Maybe because there is not really a strong local accent, more generic middle England, and many of their parents are not local born and bred but the children seem to have no problems with the fact that we say grass, bath, laugh etc. differently.

ClayDavis Fri 20-Sep-13 00:14:26

I don't think I ever had any proper training. I'd been in the country less than a week. I'm not sure if that sort of training exists. I'm not aware of anyone round here having had any.

frazzled, I think you've got High frequency words and tricky words mixed up a bit. HFW are words that occur very commonly in written language. The 26 that are decodeable at phase 2 won't be tricky because they contain only code knowledge taught at that stage. The 'tricky' words contain one or more pieces of code that hasn't been taught yet. They are taught by pointing out the tricky part of the word and teaching children how to blend it.

merrymouse Fri 20-Sep-13 06:18:01

euphemia I think english people are taught that 'wh' sounds different, even if they pronounce it as 'w'.

(Although looking back was that school or my Scottish grandmother?)

Euphemia Fri 20-Sep-13 06:28:47

merrymouse I think the /w/-/wh/ distinction is disappearing from Scottish accents: I don't hear people saying it so much any more. I considered not teaching it, but it's bloody handy for spelling!

lljkk Fri 20-Sep-13 06:29:59

I agree with teacher in OP <Shrug>.

pozzled Fri 20-Sep-13 06:49:22

How can anyone agree with the teacher? I genuinely don't understand. 'It is a tricky word'- yep, true. 'It is harder to sound out because the 'o' isn't said in the same way as the 'o' in 'dog'- true. 'We haven't learned the code for this word yet, so we have to look at it carefully'- fine.

But 'it can't be sounded out'? Nonsense. It can. My DD learned it by sounding it out. Same as 'no' 'go' 'we' 'he' 'she', and, later on 'to' and 'do'. She sounded them out easily once she had been taught the alternative pronunciations.

mrz Fri 20-Sep-13 07:04:41

fizzly if a child recognises some words when they start school it can only be a good thing obviously as part of the general lessons they will learn how the sounds in that word are spelt so they can apply that knowledge to other words that have the same sound/spelling.

mrz Fri 20-Sep-13 07:08:26

Like many Dept for Ed documents (produced by committee) Letters & Sounds contains wording that isn't clear and choice of words that has obviously caused confusion ...and don't get me started on those stupid phases!!

mrz Fri 20-Sep-13 07:12:01

Teachers should adjust their teaching to accommodate the main accent of the children they teach for example if I'm teaching grass, bath, path, pass, laugh ... I would teach that the <a> &<au> represent the sound /a/ but if I were teaching in some other parts of the UK I would teach that they represent the spoken sound /ar/ accent really doesn't matter in phonics

meditrina Fri 20-Sep-13 07:18:25

I think there are a lot of people who don't understand the importance of the sound of the language in reading.

Eg from earlier in the thread: "We didn't do phonics then, but learnt C_A_T spells cat, D_O_G spells dog etc.". This is a phonic approach.

And phonics works via the phonemes of the language (the units of sound that, if changed, change the meaning of the word) - not the phonetics (the actual noises that are produced ) which is why all accents are accommodated.

"Tricky" words can be sounded out - they are simply termed as such because they contain correspondences that have not yet been explicitly taught.

The correspondences are not one to one, either sound-letter (phoneme-grapheme) nor letter-sound. I think this is what confuses some people who aren't very familiar with phonics.

SummerSevern Fri 20-Sep-13 08:21:33

In Letters and Sounds this would be learned as a non-decodable sight word until the latter end of phase 5, when children learn that o can make an /oa/ sound. Phase 5 is generally taught in Year 1.

Feenie Fri 20-Sep-13 08:29:47

In Letters and Sounds this would be learned as a non-decodable sight word

Garbage. There is NOTHING in Letters and Sounds which refers to either non-decodable OR sight words. They don't even appear in the document.

More confusion from teachers who THINK this is what they should be teaching - the training for Letters and Sounds must have been truly woeful, because this mis-interpretation gives the very opposite message to the one Letters and Sounds tried to achieve.

friday16 Fri 20-Sep-13 08:41:18

But 'it can't be sounded out'? Nonsense. It can.

So can be sounded out in such a way that the long vowel is apparent? So why doesn't "do" rhyme with "dough"? Why doesn't "to" rhyme with "tow"? You can obviously sound "so" out with a long vowel if, a priori, you know that the vowel is long whereas it's short in other cases of a consonant followed by an o. But that's effectively sight knowledge, yes? How would a pure phonics approach explain the different vowels in to, do on the one hand and so and go on the other?

Answers on the back of a postcard addressed to Masha Bell please.

All words can be sounded out. Words are written representations of speech.

Mr Cholmondeley is now a student at Magdalen College, apparently.

tanukiton Fri 20-Sep-13 08:51:24

by Richard Krogh,
take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, lough and through?
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
And dead: it's said like bed, not bead -
For goodness sake don't call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).

Feenie Fri 20-Sep-13 08:57:24


Growlithe Fri 20-Sep-13 09:23:36

As I say, these phonics threads pop up every year, and always seem to end with teachers arguing with each other and playing what seems to be a game of phonics tennis.

Would you think that the best thing to do as a parent is to try and mirror what they are being taught at their school, as long as it is not way off mark? I think trying to teach them differently could lead to confusion.

merrymouse Fri 20-Sep-13 09:31:42

I think I'd clarify with the teacher what she said. I have been assured by my children that they have been taught something that sounded a bit odd; to find out that they had got the wrong end of the stick and the teacher was trying to convey a completely different message.

MrsMelons Fri 20-Sep-13 09:39:06

I was thinking more about the initial phonic sounds that the children would learn in YR. I am guessing thats what the teacher meant.

DS2 has just started Y1 and they learnt the basic phonic sounds plus a few more like ow, ou, ay (all variations) hearnt so, he, me etc as tricky words. Presumably they will cover the variations of o, e next?

Feenie Fri 20-Sep-13 09:42:54

But 'this is a correspondence we haven't yet learned' is a totally different message to 'this is a sight word (ridiculous) - it cannot be sounded out.'

MrsMelons Fri 20-Sep-13 09:43:20

I don't really believe there are incorrect methods if a child is an able reader and learns before school, the school should ensure they have a sound phonics knowledge once they start school. Sometimes a lack of phonics knowledge is masked by a good memory for words but a good teacher will deal with this.

DS1 could read properly before he was 4 and learnt the phonic sounds but probably remembered other words by sight. He still learnt the phonics sounds at school and they tested him when he started YR and he knew them all up to level 5 (I have no idea what that is). It hasn't really affected him at all as is still an advanced reader at 7.

Feenie Fri 20-Sep-13 09:54:31

Bully for your ds.

My ds was one of the 20% - yes, one in five children - who couldn't learn using mixed methods similar to the rubbish the teacher in the OP came out with.

Halfway through Y1 both his reading and his confidence were at total rock bottom. We binned the mixed/sight stuff that confused him completely and ordered phonics schemes from Reading Chest.

Time it took to teach him to read? Around 4 months. Time taken to pick his reading esteem of the floor? Still counting (he is in Y3 now).

MrsMelons Fri 20-Sep-13 10:11:08

Was that aimed at me? Not sure that was necessary, just trying to explain why I thought mixed methods were ok, no need to be nasty. The school didn't teach mixed methods, not really sure why you are getting at me. Why is me saying that any different than you saying it didn't work for you DS. Sorry, I am baffled by your attitude, I have seen you on here loads and always thought how helpful you have been etc!

Feenie Fri 20-Sep-13 10:43:23

Pointing out that mixed methods fail one in five children is just fact. I rose to your point that children who can read before they get to school will not be affected by the misconceptions taught in the OP - what, so sod the 20% who will? I am sure you didn't mean that, but that's how that point always comes across.

friday16 Fri 20-Sep-13 13:01:32

'this is a correspondence we haven't yet learned'

You keep saying that.

do, so, to, go. Explain the "sounding out".

Feenie Fri 20-Sep-13 13:15:42

In 'go' and 'so', the 'o' is an /oa/ sound (yo-yo, no, only)

In 'do' and 'to' it's an /oo/ sound (move, movie, prove)

Children can accept things like this very easily - visit a good phonics lesson and see it done.

friday16 Fri 20-Sep-13 13:25:23

In 'go' and 'so', the 'o' is an /oa/ sound, In 'do' and 'to' it's an /oo/ sound

Yes, obviously, once you know that. The point is, you have to know that in advance. How does teaching the case-by-case exceptions differ from "sight words"? I can sound out rough and bough, too, but I'd need to know in advance how they sound in order to do so. Which is the point about 'sight words', yes?

Feenie Fri 20-Sep-13 13:35:22

Sight words are learnt as a whole, with the premise that they 'cannot be sounded out' - which we know isn't true.

It isn't something which teachers are supposed to be teaching.

I wouldn't call them case-by-case exceptions, either - I gave you at least four examples for each.

nickelbabe Fri 20-Sep-13 13:37:41

because phonics is about learning what letter groups make what sounds, and then deciding which rule to apply (you can usually tell by if it sounds like a word you know)
that's why different rules are taught at different levels.

Bethanybunny Fri 20-Sep-13 14:11:02

Friday16 when a child first encounters a word like 'no' they will be told that the 'o' makes 'oa'. When they then encounter the word 'go' they may at first read it as in 'god'. However, they quickly realise that it doesn't make sense so they can then recall an alternative pronounciation of 'o', try it out and correctly sound out the word. And repeat with so/ho etc. And so on with every word that they can't decode first time. They won't recall every single alternative at first, but with time they will get used to recalling and using the different variations.

Perhaps more importantly, if you tell a child that there are many words that 'can't be sounded out' you send the message that if you get stuck, you will probably have to ask an adult. If you tell children that all words can be sounded out, but some have tricky bits, then youare bbuilding independence. A child who always tries to sound out can work out a lot of words independently, even if they have the odd tricky part.

Stampstamp Fri 20-Sep-13 14:22:06

This thread has moved on since my last post! I'm glad some people understand my frustration, I just wanted to rant really as there's nothing in reality I can do about it - I don't think the school is going to update its phonics training for teachers on my say-so.

Just to clarify: The teacher saying that "so" can't be sounded out, was saying this in a whole class information session for parents about reading. It seemed clear in the context that she didn't mean "at this stage". I'm not worried that my DD isn't being taught sounds quickly enough, I'm frustrated that the teachers don't seem to understand phonics in any depth.

Bethany I teach DD as you describe - she tries the first sound she thinks of that matches the letter, and if it's the wrong one I remind her of the other sounds that letter can also make.

mrz Fri 20-Sep-13 17:01:34

"do, so, to, go. Explain the "sounding out"." It's very simple friday

In English a single spelling such as <o> can represent different sounds

In so & go the spelling <o> represents the sound /oa/
in do & to the spelling <o> represents the sound /oo/#in pot the spelling <o> represents the sound /o/

children are taught to try the most common first then the alternatives ...they aren't taught that this word needs to be taught by sight because you can't sound it out (unless the teacher is clueless using mixed methods )

friday16 Fri 20-Sep-13 17:14:25

children are taught to try the most common first then the alternatives

So they try "do" with oo to rhyme with new and with oa to rhyme with low. They know that do, pronounced conventionally is a word (presumably). They also might know that doe, again pronounced conventionally, is a word, because they've seen The Sound of Music. How do they decide?

mrz Fri 20-Sep-13 17:57:19

No they would try /o/ first as that is the most common then the others hopefully they would be able to decide that

Do you want an ice cream?
is D/oo/ not D/oa/

friday16 Fri 20-Sep-13 18:08:17

No they would try /o/ first as that is the most common

How would they know it's the most common?

Do you want an ice cream? is D/oo/ not D/oa/

So they'd use the context the world fits into? Hmm...the distaste being directed at "mixed methods" seems a little fierce when "phonics" is going to involve knowledge of the relative frequency of phonemes, always assuming that the vowel in do is more common than the vowel in so, which seems a pretty bald assertion. Checking your decoding by the syntactic plausibility in a sentence seems just like some of the "look and say" methods of yore, too.

mrz Fri 20-Sep-13 18:12:24

How would they know it's the most common?

because they have been taught
* Checking your decoding by the syntactic plausibility in a sentence seems just like some of the "look and say" methods of yore, too.*

not at all the child works out the code they don't guess

Growlithe Fri 20-Sep-13 18:31:01

I was told by our school that for reading they should be using a mixture of decoding, context (using the story and the pictures), and does the sentence make sense as read.

mrz Fri 20-Sep-13 18:41:06

So your school teaches mixed methods despite government policy Growlithe

Feenie Fri 20-Sep-13 18:43:16

That's searchlights - mixed methods - and not what they are supposed to teach at all.

Feenie Fri 20-Sep-13 18:44:54

Research blew searchlights out of the water ages ago , and it was done away with. Poor readers over rely on picture and/ or context clues - which are not clues at all, just guessing.

Growlithe Fri 20-Sep-13 20:32:48

Well, whatever method the school are using, it's seems to be working for my DDs, and the school KS1 SATS results are great for reading and writing.

I'm more than happy with the progress of both of my DDs through this school, and I've no need to complain about their methods. As I say, I'm not a teacher, but when my youngest is bringing her practise books home I'd rather she was getting a level of success so I'm happy for her to use the pictures - looking through the book to predict the story before we start reading. It's a great confidence boost for her.

Not all children are the same of course.

mrz Fri 20-Sep-13 20:36:28

I suppose it depends whether you want her to be a reader or a guesser in the long term confused

Growlithe Fri 20-Sep-13 20:41:18

This is why I love you mrz. For you invaluable support of parents on the primary thread. That and your extensive, very very impressive knowledge of phonics. I salute you. flowers flowers flowers

mrz Fri 20-Sep-13 20:45:33

or whether your child is one of the fortunate 80% who learn to read despite methods or the 20% who are continually failed by those methods

CecilyP Sat 21-Sep-13 08:21:23

Growlithe I was told by our school that for reading they should be using a mixture of decoding, context (using the story and the pictures), and does the sentence make sense as read.

mrz So your school teaches mixed methods despite government policy Growlithe

mrz ^No they would try /o/ first as that is the most common then the others hopefully they would be able to decide that

Do you want an ice cream?
is D/oo/ not D/oa/^

I have to say that sounds a little contradictory, mrz. What is that, if not using context?

meditrina Sat 21-Sep-13 08:29:09

That's selecting the appropriate sound from the (small) number of phonic possibilities. The teaching of homographs is of course part of a proper phonics course.

They're using their phonic knowledge to choose between two options, not guessing "XX want an ice cream?" from context.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 08:38:23

Of course it's context CecilyP ... context helps to decide which is correct read or read^ it also helps with comprehension and phonics doesn't exclude context.
Good phonics teaching takes place in context not in a vacuum, but it doesn't teach children to guess what word might fit in the sentence based purely on context, as in mixed methods.

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 09:00:17

But as I said mrz, my child isn't using context only. That wouldn't be appropriate, but decoding alone wouldn't either. They don't just put pictures in the books to just fill up the space after all.

And as a parent, I think my job is to get my child to enjoy a book. They have an intensive phonics lesson every morning at school. It would be a pity if my child only picked up books based on what phonics she had covered. I like her using context and encourage this because I think that helps her comprehension (and thus enjoyment) of a book.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 09:29:16

No Growlithe they put pictures in books to enhance the story and often the illustrations tell a separate narrative which really confuses a child taught to guess from picture clues. Picture clues weren't needed before the advent of Look & Say because children were taught to read the words.

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 09:47:20

I think the pictures are there for context and nothing you can say can make me think differently there. So, if a child is trying to read the Word 'astronaut', the child may get try and get stuck on say the 'naut' bit - but if there is a picture of an astronaut, the child may get a clue from this yes, but would also get a little confidence from the fact that they have 'read' a hard word.

I as a parent would know they had read a whole book and not guessed every single word (because that would surely not be possible) and would also know if they said 'spaceman' they hadn't tried and had just guessed.

As a parent, I would be glad that they had that little bit more confidence and wasn't put off trying to read the word at all.

And if I'm wrong for thinking that, well I will live with that.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 09:53:15

"So, if a child is trying to read the Word 'astronaut', the child may get try and get stuck on say the 'naut' bit - but if there is a picture of an astronaut, the child may get a clue from this yes, but would also get a little confidence from the fact that they have 'read' a hard word."

but the point is they can't read a hard word confused guessing correctly is still guessing and what happens when they meet the word astronaut without a picture clue ...they flounder!

simpson Sat 21-Sep-13 10:04:12

DS had this and in reception was given a book with the word " pancake" in it when quite frankly he struggled to read the word "dog" at the time.

He "read" pancake because he sounded out pan and then guessed the rest from the picture. But IMO that is not reading, its guessing.

The pictures are there to talk about whether kipper is happy making making pancakes (facial expression) etc.

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 10:07:53

So if she chose to read a book about an astronaut at home what would I do, stop her, or be delighted as a parent that she wanted to read a book with me?

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 10:12:09

If she chooses to read about an astronaut simply tell her that word is astronaut

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 10:18:23

No, because if she can get as far as 'astro' It is a confidence boost for her.

CecilyP Sat 21-Sep-13 10:19:15

I think Growlithe is saying that she wouldn't need to because her dd had already worked it out from a bit of phonics and a bit of context.

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 10:27:25

And gaining confidence and getting more fun from reading.

friday16 Sat 21-Sep-13 11:30:22

it doesn't teach children to guess what word might fit in the sentence based purely on context, as in mixed methods.

I'm sensing a straw man there. Guessing purely on context? Are you sure?

This is what reduces the debate about reading to shouting over the hedge at your slightly recalcitrant neighbours. Endless claims are made that there is massive research backing the speaker's preferred method, when in fact the studies are anything but conclusive (if you have a coach and horses available, you can have some driving practice with the Clackmananshire study) and the arguments advanced against the speaker's non-preferred method have the distinct scent of freshly cut straw.

Adults, in general, don't read by sounding out. Some do, but they read slowly and with great effort. Adults recognise words like astronaut (to cite an example) and, having seen them before, know what they are automatically. If this were not the case, Japan and China and other countries with partially or largely non-phonetic written languages would have mass illiteracy, when in fact they don't. So at some point successful readers stop reading by "sounding out" and instead read by identifying words completely. Skilled, experienced readers can find a key word in a page of text almost instantly; they are clearly not sounding out the entire contents of the page.

There is an entirely legitimate debate to be had about how people learn to do this, and whether it's a good way to start people reading. And it appears that phonetic methods have more to offer than they were said to twenty years ago, and that the objections raised by the likes of Masha Bell (spelling is irregular) and supposedly fixed by ITA (learn a more regular form) are not as strong as was made out. But it doesn't help anyone to claim that there is no other way to read (clearly, there is, as otherwise there would be mass illiteracy amongst 15 to 40 year olds), nor that the ability to decode from orthography to sounds is the only barrier (there are many other problems of comprehension), nor that people with slightly different views are recalcitrant idiots who just need to be smacked about a bit to see the error of their ways (although it's interesting to see teachers, who normally regard advice from government with scepticism, using "the government approves of synthetic phonics" as though that's the end of the conversation).

ClayDavis Sat 21-Sep-13 11:35:28

Why do you think sounding out would stop her getting fun from reading or from gaining confidence? It doesn't seem to have caused any problems for my neices.

Iwaswatchingthat Sat 21-Sep-13 11:35:31

I see phonics as more helpful in allowing children to write with confidence and be able to read back what they have written.

It gives them the tools to build words which say what they want them too.

Iwaswatchingthat Sat 21-Sep-13 11:36:02

Want them to


Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 11:49:40

* Why do you think sounding out would stop her getting fun from reading or from gaining confidence?*

But I'm not saying that. I'm saying that I allow my child to use context to support her skill in sounding out, so that if there are words she hasn't yet got the phonics knowledge to decode in their entirety, I see there being benefit in using the context to help her. I see this as not a guess but using a skill, comprehension.

It all makes her feel like she's a good reader which I think is quite a bit of the battle with a new reader.

ClayDavis Sat 21-Sep-13 12:18:34

But it isn't necessary to use that skill in that way. For some children it causes problems much later on. It isn't often that those problems show themselves in KS1. It tends to be later KS2 or even KS3 and KS4 when children are reading more complex texts with a wider vocabulary.

I don't really see any benefit of using it. My nieces have never used any other method of decoding a word they've never met than looking at the letters and using their phonic knowledge. It hasn't held them back at all. In fact, I suspect the younger one would have been one of the 20% if she'd been in a school that used multi-cueing strategies. She's very lucky that wasn't.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 12:27:16

"I think Growlithe is saying that she wouldn't need to because her dd had already worked it out from a bit of phonics.." so why not explain that the <au> is the spelling for the sound /or/ and then she has the knowledge to read the whole word plus any others with the same representation for the sound ... no pictures required!

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 12:27:16

I think that using sounding out alone would make books a chore in the early days, and I know that if I made my DD use only this method it would put her off reading.

I know she is doing OK because she does sound out words, and I can see in her writing she is using phonics.

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 12:33:48

so* why not explain that the <au> is the spelling for the sound /or/ and then she has the knowledge to read the whole word plus any others with the same representation for the sound ... no pictures required!

Because sometimes she doesn't want a phonics lesson, she just wants to read a story. And I think it would be a crying shame if I took that away from her.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 12:40:53

It isn't a phonics lesson ...she's stuck on a word you prompt (takes a second or two at most) and you empower her for the future ... when she will want/need to read books without pictures

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 12:40:56

Sorry for all the bold fails BTW. On awkward phone!

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 12:55:13

mrz DD would not enjoy me stopping a story she is reading to do this unless it was on her terms. This is her perhaps her personality.

I know she is coming along nicely in school at phonics. I know because her teachers tell me, because she does use it in her reading and because she displays it in her writing.

But although if she was reading with you in school it would take you no more than a few seconds to explain, it would cause her more frustration than pleasure if done whilst reading one of her books at home for pleasure, on my knee.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 13:04:28

What would you do if she couldn't work out a word from the illustration?

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 13:14:51

She would appreciate the help then of course and so it would be an opportunity to give it. Sometimes this is the case when the picture is there too.

Would you tell me to stop all this then if she was in your class?

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 13:17:43

If she were in my class she wouldn't need to use pictures

teacherwith2kids Sat 21-Sep-13 13:37:41

Speaking perhaps more as a parent than a teacher at this point, I would say that if a child uses a picture that is there to guess a word that is OK when looking at a book for pleasure, as long as nobody thinks that it is 'reading'. It isn't, it's guessing. And if a child was doing it in a 'reading lesson' envionment (reading in scool, reading a school book at home') both partries should be absolutely clear what is happening and would go back and review WHY the word said that and to give the phonic explanation,

In a similar vein, DS used to 'recite' - absolutely word perfectly - long books that he had had read to him (Little red train books or similar). Other people thought he must be reading. I knew that he was reciting from memory. I would never say 'good reading', i said things ike 'wow, yuou know that story really well, don't you'.

The aim is to read words, in order to make sense of texts. If on the way, in fun, on a few occasions, a cild 'guesses' at a complex word, as long as everyone knows that it IS a guess [and may sometimes go back and talk about how else it might have been approached, perhaps once the text is finished if in the middle of a story], it is not harmful. The only thing that would be harmful is if the 'guessing' is praised as 'well done, you have read a long word' and the child starts to apply that as a reading strategy, which is going to fail horribly at a future point - whereas phonics won't.

Iwaswatchingthat Sat 21-Sep-13 14:18:43

Am I the only one who thinks teaching alternate sounds for every grapheme is near impossible?

Our language is so complex there are hundreds of alternate sounds.

DFEE approved training advocates using action words and the like for certain words.

ClayDavis Sat 21-Sep-13 14:22:45

You're probably not the only one who thinks that. But it isn't impossible or near impossible. There are plenty of schools who do it very successfully.

Iwaswatchingthat Sat 21-Sep-13 14:24:09

They do eventually of course - phase five is for this and is very, very long and not conclusive.

But in the early days to get children going and enable them to read and write at a level which is required of them then it is not necessary.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 14:28:50

Iwaswatchingthat actually there are just 175 ways to represent the sounds of the English language so it is a realistic expectation for a child to master them relatively quickly so it is very possible unlike learning half a million words by sight

Iwaswatchingthat Sat 21-Sep-13 14:30:54

'Just 175' grin Ok.

If you keep looking there are many, many more. I have a colleague who collects them - she is now up to 215.....

Iwaswatchingthat Sat 21-Sep-13 14:31:25

I am off out now - just in case you think I don't reply to later posts.

ClayDavis Sat 21-Sep-13 14:39:21

Leaving 'phase 5' until year 1 seems to be quite specific to letters and sounds. Most schemes introduce alternative pronunciations/spellings earlier than that IME. Even then L&S teaches tricky words by pointing out and explaining the tricky graphemes so is teaching some alternatives from the beginning.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 14:41:09

I suggest your colleague needs to rethink what she is actually classifying as sounds

Cat98 Sat 21-Sep-13 15:23:24

I can sympathise with growlithe here, although I am pretty convinced by all the pure phonics arguments.

My ds (5) is doing well with reading, but I think his school uses mixed methods. However he appears to be one of the 80% who manage ok with this. Interestingly, we took him for a (free - done by a family friend who tutors) assessment the other day and she said he has a reading age of 7, but that his memory is amazing and she feels he has memorised a lot of the words and how they look rather than sounding out most of the time. I know he can sound out, but it's true he chooses not to and because he is quite capable, probably doesn't need to. At the moment - however I am a bit concerned that it may cause issues in the future.

I know school do some phonics, and by all accounts he's doing well leaning them, he just rarely seems to use them when reading and like growlithe says, stopping the books at home to get him to sound out all the time puts him off the story.

I don't really know what else I can do though, at the moment I just want to keep his interest in books and not put him off - he already prefers screen time sad so if just telling him a word when he gets it wrong rather than trying to get him to sound it out helps with this, I feel it's the approach I should take at home.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 15:29:07

As I keep saying there isn't any need to stop the books at home just supply the information in the pause where the child is stuck with a word rather than encouraging guessing by looking at pictures.

Iwaswatchingthat Sat 21-Sep-13 17:22:03

Ok I will pass on your comments to her!

Phonics is hugely important, but so are syntax and semantics. They are connect.

Iwaswatchingthat Sat 21-Sep-13 17:23:02

Whoops - mean they all connect!

atterley Sat 21-Sep-13 17:59:09

Good grief, I'm relieved that my children learned to read before educationalists decided it was so complicated.
How many children have ever had their reading ability held up by reading with somebody who took the time to read with them but didn't totally understand the latest fashionable teaching method?

meditrina Sat 21-Sep-13 18:19:02

Well, it's only really been a problem in UK since the 1970s when phonics (the centuries old traditional method) was abandoned for a whole bunch of other approaches, all of which have produced worse outcomes.

Why there is such resistance to using the older, and better, method is beyond me.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 18:28:36

atterley Look & Say & Mixed methods are the newcomers to teaching reading and in their relatively short history have failed thousands of children great if your child is a one of those fortunate enough to learn despite the method not so good if your child failed to become literate

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 19:06:53

I don't think I have said that I encourage the use of pictures to guess words. I am as supportive as my child is learning all of her phonics sounds. I was taught using phonics myself as far as I can remember, I can picture being in class and learning 'ch' and 'th' for example (and I was in school in the 70s). I'm sure someone will be along to tell me I wasn't taught correctly but I do see the point of phonics and try to chat to my DD about the sounds she has worked on that day on the way home.

I just can't see the harm in a child reading a book at home without this being used as a test of her ability to read all the words without using the pictures. You couldn't use the pictures to guess every single word of the text so I know she isn't doing this.

But, using my earlier example, I think my child would have more of a problem when reading a story about an astronaut, getting to the word, being able to read the beginning of it (with phonics knowledge) and stumbling on it because they didn't realise the story they were reading was about a man in space (even if there were no pictures). If a child wasn't understanding the story at that level, what is the point of reading the words anyway?

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 19:12:10

I don't think anyone has suggested that it is a bad thing for a child to read for pleasure quite the opposite.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 19:12:43

If a child can't read the words it makes understanding the story very difficult

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 19:25:25

Yes, that is true. But I'm certainly talking about a child who can't read any of the words. If that was the case I'd be consulting a lot more closely with the teacher. I's also be doing this if she could decode every word but didn't have a clue what she was reading about.

It's a balance.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 19:33:20

What would you do if your child chose to read a book containing some words that weren't in her vocabulary?

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 19:40:03

Well, I wouldn't necessarily know in advance a word wasn't in her vocabulary, but once that became clear, I would read her the word and tell her what it meant.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 19:43:53

How is that different to telling her a word she is struggling to read?

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 19:57:47

Because she can use the context to sort that one.

And you say that she might struggle further down the line, but I think that if she comes across a word in a novel as an independent reader, using the context will help her to increase her vocabulary. I see this in my 9 yo.

ClayDavis Sat 21-Sep-13 20:00:15

I can't really see how. If it isn't already in her vocabulary how is she going to guess what the word is?

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 20:01:51

Because you can often work out the meaning of an unfamiliar word by it's use within a sentence or paragraph.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 20:04:42

Context is great for meaning not so great for accurate guessing an unfamiliar word.

pozzled Sat 21-Sep-13 20:06:02

Growlithe I think it's really important to think about the long-term reading behaviour that you want to teach. In 4 years time, when your DD encounters a new and unfamiliar word, do you want her to try to guess the word from the pictures/context? Because at that stage, with the kind of texts she will be reading, it won't work. She'll be reading a lot independently and will need to be able to work out the word for herself- using her phonic knowledge. Of course, she can use a dictionary to find out the meaning, but she still needs to know how to say the word.

You might think that this will come naturally, with time- but it doesn't always. I have taught a lot of Y6s who can not sound out a new word- even one that they would recognise if they heard it spoken. These children really struggle with moving beyond fairly simple texts. They skip over a lot of words when reading independently and only understand half a text.

So, yes, using the pictures might help raise confidence in a 5 or 6 year-old. But long-term it can have the opposite effect.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 20:07:07

I've used this example before

"My granny lives in a ............ by the sea."

using context the missing word could be almost anything

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 20:16:23

Well, I have a Y5 at the moment. She obviously doesn't have pictures in her fiction any more. She is able to read out unfamiliar words by sounding them out. She asks what they mean. I ask her what she thinks they mean given the sentence, or maybe paragraph, she had just read. She is able to tell me this more often than not, and when not I tell her (or tell her to look it up if I think that would help her more).

I suppose this is wrong too. But I have girls who aren't struggling by any means in school, despite me.

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 20:20:09

mrz that word could be say 'yurt'. So the child could sound out the word using phonics. But they may never have heard of a yurt. The paragraph may go on to describe canvas sides and a ground sheet. The child may then think 'ah a yurt is a tent'.

pozzled Sat 21-Sep-13 20:31:31

"She is able to read out unfamiliar words by sounding them out."

That's great. She has obviously moved on from using picture cues to using her phonics knowledge- exactly as she should. She may be one of the 80% of children who seem to do this quite naturally. Your description of how you discuss the meaning of the word is similar to what I would do (only difference being that I would use a dictionary a lot as well).

However, I teach children who fall into the other 20%. They see an unfamiliar word and they just stop reading, or skip over it. If pressed, they make an attempt which usually involves most of the consonants, but not an accurate (or even plausible) decoding of the vowel sounds. I read with a group recently who couldn't read the word 'Jameson'.

Which is why I am passionate about teaching children that once they know the code, they will be able to have at least a very good attempt at sounding out ALL words.

pozzled Sat 21-Sep-13 20:34:14

I forgot to say- your example about a yurt. The children I'm thinking of won't think 'oh, I see, a yurt is a type of tent'. They might think 'a yorrit is a type of tent'. Or they might just think 'I don't get this, why does it say 'yutter' when it's talking about a tent. What a stupid book.'

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 21:05:30

The word could say château or auditorium or hostel or yacht or bungalow or cottage or dwelling or hermitage or even cave

FrussoHathor Sat 21-Sep-13 21:10:22

mrz is it a condo?

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 21:21:02

Yes, but wouldn't the same principle apply? Wouldn't the context help? Those words mean very different things, although most could be dwellings. The context would help with the meaning of the word.

I'm guessing if the granny lived in any of these places, there would be some description as to how or why. Auditorium would throw my 9 yo no matter what, I'd have thought. She'd ask me if reading it alone and I was there (not really sure what she'd do in school, I'll ask her in the morning). I'd say eh? and we'd read it together and work it out, since neither of us would expect granny to live in an auditorium.

mrz Sat 21-Sep-13 21:22:57

it could be village or town or resort or hamlet or settlement or farm or croft or manor or location

Growlithe Sat 21-Sep-13 21:25:32

The same principle would apply though. It would all be in the context of the paragraph.

ClayDavis Sat 21-Sep-13 21:25:35

I remember a post on here from years ago about reading the word 'cagoule' in a text. It went something along the lines of children would look at the picture and the 'c' at the beginning of the word and would be able to work out it said cagoule. I don't know about elsewhere but where I taught I can can pretty much guarantee that 100% of the children would have said 'coat' using that method. Cagoule is not even in their vocab.

Pozzled, your 20:31 post is the reason I'm glad my niece was lucky enough to get a place at the school she did. Even as one of the lower ability 'struggling' readers in her year I know she would have been able to sound out words like 'astronaut' half way through year 1. If it wasn't for their phonics program I'm convinced she would have been one of the 20% and would not have been reading without significant extra help which would have damaged her confidence.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 06:25:15

The context of the paragraph tells the child the word is something to do with places people live nothing more, which is why I haven't said butterfly, cardigan, elevator or aeroplane Growlithe.

It could be monastery, hospital, asylum, estate or commune. hmm

Euphemia Sun 22-Sep-13 07:13:02

It would all be in the context of the paragraph.

It's not all in the context, though, is it? As Mrz has demonstrated, the word has to be read.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 07:43:49

My granny lives in a ..... by the sea. I love to visit her and grandpa. In the summer we go to the beach and I build castles or search the rock pools for crabs and shrimp. In the winter we watch the waves crash on the rocks and collect driftwood from the shore.

zebedeee Sun 22-Sep-13 08:01:08

I've used this example before

"My granny lives in a ............ by the sea."

using context the missing word could be almost anything.

And using phonics; first fast and only, the missing word is....

Growlithe Sun 22-Sep-13 08:10:16

Yes the word has to be read, I am not saying it doesn't. if you read through my posts, I never say my children do not need phonics. i am saying that context is important.

In that case you've got there you wouldn't get the meaning from the paragraph that it is in, and if it was an unfamiliar word yes, my child would in that case have to ask or look up. Every book is different, however, and in a lot of cases you can work out the meaning of a word by reading it within the cantext of a paragraph.

I am getting a bit puzzled as to why you keep testing me and trying to catch me out here. You have obviously chosen this as your career and studied. I am trying to be a supportive parent to my children. I haven't studied teaching my children to read, I am just going with my own experiences and gut feeling.

I was actually told by DDs reception teacher that her reading was coming on very well in school and 'well done mum keep up the good work'. My eldest finished Y4 with a 4a in reading, so is doing ok too I think.

So yes, I think I may have two who are not in the 20%. Now this is a genuine question. not trying to point score or trying to be clever. Should I not carry on with them the way I am? Because at the moment they, and I, enjoy reading together and I really think that at the point I start labouring over every single word in the book I run the risk of spoiling this enjoyment.

working9while5 Sun 22-Sep-13 08:18:29

Oh seriously.... it is only phonics.

It is threads like these that make me wish there was no formal learning before 7. Most 5 year olds comfortably talk about graphemes, phonemes and digraphs? I hope there isn't one of them who can't tie a coat, open a lunchbox, join in with peers in play, retell a simple event or respond to simlle how and why questions.

Unfortunately I have yet to see a reception class where these practical, social and language skills are universal and in this context teaching the technical terms for letters and sounds just seems a nonsensical waste of time.

CecilyP Sun 22-Sep-13 08:28:11

"My granny lives in a ............ by the sea."

Yes, there is no way of knowing what this says from context. However, using growlithe's earlier astronaut example, if the sentence said, 'my granny lives in a bung** by the sea', would anyone really need to sound out the last few letters to know wat the word is?

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 08:36:59

Using phonics the child would decode the word that would be in the gap zebedeee not guess from context or illustrations.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 08:40:02

No Growlithe you said "It would all be in the context of the paragraph." which clearly isn't true in every case.

sparklekitty Sun 22-Sep-13 08:46:48

Um...reception teacher is correct at the level she is teaching.'So' is a tricky word at that phase of letters and sounds. The 'o' sound as oh is not taught until later in the phases, it is taught as a o as in dog at this stage.

It would be far too confusing to teach reception children all the different phonetic sounds of each letter right at the start of reading.

Strictly speaking you may be right but as far as teaching phonics at the correct level the reception teacher is right.

Growlithe Sun 22-Sep-13 08:47:18

Well you have obviously caught me out there. In your case there it isn't in the paragraph. In that case my DD would ask me, or her teacher if the teacher had the time (I just asked her what she'd do in school if reading independently - she did say it doesn't usually happen in the amount of time she's reading like that during the school day).

But now I've admitted you've caught me out, can you answer my last question?

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 08:49:02

What was your question ?

Growlithe Sun 22-Sep-13 08:52:16

So yes, I think I may have two who are not in the 20%. Now this is a genuine question. not trying to point score or trying to be clever. Should I not carry on with them the way I am? Because at the moment they, and I, enjoy reading together and I really think that at the point I start labouring over every single word in the book I run the risk of spoiling this enjoyment.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 08:53:48

sparklekitty the reception teacher isn't right the alternative representation would be taught in reception in the context of "tricky words" never as a sight word!

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 08:56:58

There isn't any need to labour over anything ... you said yourself if she met a word she didn't understand or she couldn't guess from illustrations or context you would tell her ...why is it any different to telling her a word she can't decode?

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 08:58:27

In your example of astronaut supplying the missing knowledge is hardly labouring

stantonherzlinger Sun 22-Sep-13 09:06:23

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Growlithe Sun 22-Sep-13 09:23:39

It's not. But you said that in the astronaut case I should tell her the word, or explain the 'au'. But she would have half sounded out the word and completed it using the context (either the story being about space or the picture). She wouldn't have made a complete guess (she didn't say 'spaceman' and I would have heard the sounding out at the start - but the rest of the word rolled out once she got the beginning). This one I wouldn't labour.

I suppose my point here is I (and their teachers) think my DDs are doing ok. This isn't being smug or anything, it's a fact. I didn't teach them to read before they started school - I didn't want to go there because I am not a trained teacher, I am their parent. I struggled in my own mind with DD1 when she started reading that I was doing and saying the right things when she read with me. But I began to realise I didn't have to teach her, I had to support her practice, and hopefully help her to enjoy books forever.

So as in the 'so' example, I think that teacher was probably pitching to her audience, a load of parents. Some, like the OP, know their stuff and have taught their child to read using a certain scheme already. Others (like me), wouldn't have done this and just come in from my own experience. I wouldn't have minded if the teacher had told me that 'so' was a sight word, rather than a tricky word. I would have had to have read this thread to be on the wavelength of 'but 'o' represents so many sounds - that teacher is wrong'. I can follow this of course, but you have to have your head in phonics all the time to automatically think this, and all parents are not primary school teachers. I can even see some parents thinking 'so, a tricky word, what is this teacher talking about?'.

pozzled Sun 22-Sep-13 09:24:15

CecilyP You gave the example of bungalow and asked if anyone would need to sound all the way through to read it. Yes. Absolutely they would. The kids I teach (many but not all EAL) would be very unlikely to know the word 'bungalow' in Y6.

But the problem with the method of teaching in the OP is that a lot of them won't get as far as sounding out 'bung'. They have been taught, implicitly and explicitly, that some words can't be sounded out and just have to be learned. So they see an unfamiliar word, and basically just take a guess, maybe using a few of the consonant sounds. It doesn't make a lot off sense to them, so they guess that it means something like 'house'. Probably a rough approximation in the context.

However, they also come across hundreds of other words like this. Each time they make a rough guess about both the word and the meaning. They probably understand half of what they read.

friday16 Sun 22-Sep-13 09:35:08

So pozzled, suppose that in a pure phonics world they accurately sound out bungalow and get it right (which they will, as everything in there is regular). But if they didn't know what the word meant, now what they have is the ability to pronounce correctly a word that they know means something like house. They didn't make a rough guess about the pronunciation, they did make a rough guess at the meaning. Other than if they're going to get a job as a newsreader, how much of an improvement is that, really? Phonics is great for acquiring reading skills for your existing lexis. But later on, when reading aloud isn't an issue, why is being able to pronounce words whose meaning you don't know a particularly useful skill?

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 09:35:36

I used your example of astronaut Growlithe but let us suppose she met a word that she couldn't complete from context alone surely iin the long term it's better to supply the missing piece, which can be applied in other words she will meet in the future than to use a picture.

In the case of "so" the teacher has told the class the word so is a sight word ...it isn't she also said it can't be sounded out ...it can and supplying her class with a single piece of information allows them to apply that knowledge to other words they will meet.

I'm all for parents and children reading and sharing stories what I struggle with is teachers teaching children to guess! Children don't expect the pictures to help them read words unless someone has encouraged them to do so.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 09:44:12

then friday a good teacher would check their understanding of the word and supply the missing knowledge

My class were reading a text on the IWB and came to the word "coast" ...they could decode it easily as you say but didn't know what it meant (yes their vocab shocks me too) so we read on and worked out the meaning from context. If they hadn't been able to I would have supplied the info ...that's my job as a teacher.

and do you really think limiting a child's vocabulary to words they know the meaning of is education?

Growlithe Sun 22-Sep-13 09:51:30

mrz the OP said later that the teacher said this in an information session with the parents.

'Coast' is a great example of a word that needs both phonics and context to read.

pozzled Sun 22-Sep-13 09:51:44

Friday16 because they now have awareness of a new word. They can go and ask someone the meaning. If they choose to look it up in a dictionary, they will also know how to say it and so be more likely to remember the meaning if they see it again. For many words, they will have heard it spoken- so as soon as they decode it they will recognise it. Especially true for technical words they meet in lessons, such as 'adjective' or 'civilisation'. It will be a lot easier for them to read and recognise names. And last but not least, the difference in confidence between a child who cam read fairly fluently (either aloud or in their head) and the child who stumbles on or skips over several words.

I would be very interested to hear from any other teachers (or indeed parents) who have seen both systems (phonics and mixed methods) taught really well. Is there anyone who can really compare the two systems and would choose mixed methods every time?

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 10:00:51

Sorry I missed that Growlithe ...but it's even worse because in her role as "expert" she is passing on misinformation to parents who are there because they want to support their child and unlike the OP may accept her nonsense shock

friday16 Sun 22-Sep-13 10:08:37

and do you really think limiting a child's vocabulary to words they know the meaning of is education?

No, and I'm struggling to see how you extracted that from what I wrote. I said that beyond their existing lexis, I'm not convinced that knowing how to sound words out is tremendously useful.

I don't know how to pronounce Kamchatka (is the ch hard or soft? Perhaps there's a phonics rule to help me?). That doesn't stop me from knowing it's a peninsula in eastern Russia or that the reason flights to Japan are now quicker than they were in the 1980s is that sensitivities about the missile fields have reduced. I think I was in my thirties before I realised that Magdalen College was the same place as Maudlin College, but that didn't stop me from knowing what it was or where it was (and again, perhaps there's a phonics rule to help me?)

For a proper noun that you come on, whose spelling is less likely to be regular anyway, and which you aren't going to read aloud, how does being able to make a stab at saying it (possibly incorrectly, cf. Magdalen) help your reading?

I would be very interested to hear from any other teachers (or indeed parents) who have seen both systems (phonics and mixed methods) taught really well.

Well, most people aged 20 to 50 can read. They were almost certainly not taught with strict synthetic phonics of the purity and zeal mrz is espousing. And the reason for the introduction of disasters like ITA was because in the 1960s, there was concern at the number of children who were not learning to read via the then-current phonic instruction. Mixed methods (and, indeed, ITA) weren't introduced by evil people acting in bad faith who knew that phonics was better and were wanting to undermine the teaching of reading, they were introduced by people who were wanting to do something to improve matters. We can argue about how efficacious that was (especially in the case of ITA) but it doesn't help anyone to impute bad faith in the "other side", or to claim that the new synthetic phonics orthodoxy means that the debate is over.

Panzee Sun 22-Sep-13 10:12:17

I once inherited a y2 class raised on mixed methods. In the astronaut example, most would have said "Ast..." <looks at picture> "...Spaceman." grin

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 10:13:27

^ I said that beyond their existing lexis^ yes you did ...and how do they/we extend out existing lexis? well being able to read new words is a very good place to start.

CecilyP Sun 22-Sep-13 10:17:05

CecilyP You gave the example of bungalow and asked if anyone would need to sound all the way through to read it. Yes. Absolutely they would. The kids I teach (many but not all EAL) would be very unlikely to know the word 'bungalow' in Y6.

Well obviously if they had never heard the word bungalow, by the age of 10 or 11, they wouldn't. It seems I am far too sheltered to have allowed for that possible scenario. Are you sure that their problems relate to the method of teaching in early years? As far as I am aware, all the early phonics schemes have their 'tricky words' or 'red words', which is possibly a child-friendly way of saying 'common words with uncommon spellings, and while I don't honestly think the word 'so' is one of them, it is listed in them as a 'tricky word'.

Growlithe Sun 22-Sep-13 10:17:37

But it's not really nonsense to an average parent, I don't think. It's nonsense to you and the OP.

But some parents may think that saying 'so' is a tricky word is nonsense, because they just think, 'so is surely an easy word to read'. As has been said here some parents may never have come across phonics in their own education. I know of one parent in DDs class who talked about reading with me. She claimed to only know the letters by their name. I couldn't get my head around this actually, and wonder if she just doesn't remember.

And how quickly really does 'so' swap from a sounded out word to a sight word anyway? Not a pure sight word in a teachers world, but in a parent and child reading situation. Is it wrong for a child to stop trying all the phonetically possible combinations of a two letter common word and just know it by sight? That is not the same as reading every word by sight, and is not encouraging that either. I'd have thought it was just a child becoming a fluent reader.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 10:17:50

ITA was introduced to remove the complexities of our orthographical system so was fine as long as you used texts using the same code but not transferable to ordinary texts.

Mixed methods were introduced as a response to the failure of whole language methods with the belief that combining something that hadn't worked with something that had worked perfectly well for centuries would make it better ...rather than dilute hmm

CecilyP Sun 22-Sep-13 10:20:20

So pozzled, suppose that in a pure phonics world they accurately sound out bungalow and get it right (which they will, as everything in there is regular).

Not necessarily, if you had never heard the word before, the last syllable could be pronounced to rhyme with cow!

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 10:27:44

Growlithe the whole purpose of teaching phonics is to provide an effective strategy to use when we meet unfamiliar words ... by introducing a simple word like so and explaining that the letter <o> is a spelling for the sound /oa/ the teacher provides a point of reference
If you teach so by sight the child can read so if you teach them that in some words the letter <o> is the spelling for the sound /oa/ they can apply it to

no go so bold comb hobo post ago Euro obey omega bolt don't hold Rover also hero ocean only bony fold host Rowan biro Hugo ogle open both ghost most sober duo jumbo okay oval clover Gobi noble total go photo oldest over cold golf notice volt echo solo
etc etc etc

which do you think is the quickest method to fluent reading being able to read one word by sight or dozens by phonic knowledge?

of course the teacher doesn't want the child to sound out words for ever they are aiming for automaticity, for some children they may remember that s+o is so after being told once other children may need to read the word 10 times or 100 times ...

friday16 Sun 22-Sep-13 10:28:10

"well being able to read new words is a very good place to start."

So are you saying that if I encounter a new word, look up its meaning, fit it into a sentence and could (say) answer questions on it, but mispronounce it (or, indeed, don't now how to say it at all), I can't read it? This is the heart of my concern about phonics: you talk about "reading new words" and "knowing words" as though being able to pronounce them is the first and main test.

Kanji is almost entirely non-phonetic. There are thousands of "sight words" with absolute no way to decode the ideogram into a pronunciation, or to construct an ideogram given knowledge of the spoken word. See, for example, here. And yet, Japanese has vanishingly low levels of adult illiteracy.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 10:30:32

No friday I'm not saying that are you?

CecilyP Sun 22-Sep-13 10:39:57

^Growlithe the whole purpose of teaching phonics is to provide an effective strategy to use when we meet unfamiliar words ... by introducing a simple word like so and explaining that the letter <o> is a spelling for the sound /oa/ the teacher provides a point of reference
If you teach so by sight the child can read so if you teach them that in some words the letter <o> is the spelling for the sound /oa/ they can apply it to^

Seems reasonable to me in relation to the word 'so'. In which case why does Jolly Phonics, which surely must have lead to the current resurgence of the phonic method, list it as a tricky word? Perhaps it is Jolly Phonics, that the teacher mentioned in the OP is using. If she does it unthinkingly, it is not a great leap for her to say that it can't be sounded out.

Growlithe Sun 22-Sep-13 10:43:32

I agree with you on the use of phonics to teach children. I can just kind of get where this teacher is coming from in this particular instance, with a load of parents who have just started reception. She's wound one up (who I suspect would have been almost pleased with the opportunity to show off her knowledge) but she hasn't bambozzled all the others at an early stage.

Anyway, I've spent enough of the weekend on this, I've got a sad occasion to commemorate this morning then a happier event to attend this afternoon.

Checking out of the thread now. Thanks for the discussion.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 10:43:43

I have never mentioned pronouncing words you seem to be the one who is confusing decoding with pronouncing ... decoding can be a totally silent process

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 10:47:04

In Jolly Phonics the tricky words were not meant to be taught as sight words but words that have a different way to spell the sound unfortunately over 20 years mixed methods have turned the definition of both High Frequency Words and Tricky words to sight words in the minds of many teachers.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 10:52:31

Japanese children have until the end of high school to master around 2000 Kanji characters English is topping a million words

CecilyP Sun 22-Sep-13 10:54:59

But if they are taught individually as 'tricky words' they are pretty much taught as sight words, I would have thought.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 10:57:24

No Growlithe she probably hasn't bamboozled the other parents but she has taught them words need to be learnt by sight untrue and that words can't be sounded out also untrue

I think at my next parents meeting I will tell them that 2+2 equals 22 hmm I'm sure they will see where I'm coming from

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 10:58:50

but they aren't taught individually as tricky words you would group them so, no, go look they all have the same spelling for the sound /oa/ lets say the sounds ..done!

CecilyP Sun 22-Sep-13 11:02:15

Even if they are taught as a group, they have been taken out and called 'tricky'. What you have described is what you would do (what I would do) but that is teaching another correspondence - something Jolly Phonics doesn't do at this stage.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 11:09:48

Jolly Phonics does teach the correspondence at this stage

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 11:12:13

teachers using JP may not because they are using mixed methods
recent NfER research showed that more than half of teachers who thought they were teaching phonics were in fact using mixed methods shock

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 11:13:32

and for the record CecilyP it isn't what I do because I don't teach Jolly Phonics

working9while5 Sun 22-Sep-13 11:15:09

It isn't irrelevant either that many children couldn't extrapolate bungalow in the example given.

Reading ability relies on underlying language comprehension and world knowledge. I work with language disordered young people at secondary who have age appropriate decoding skills but whose knowledge of language is extremely limited.

You can decode fluently without comprehension and it is a known issue in areas with high numbers of EAL students. It is common sense both are needed.... an example that seems to make sense to many is some Asian students who attend mosque who have very highly developed decoding abilities of Arabic with no knowledge of individual word meaning in Arabic. They have learned to recite on sight and yes, have phoneme grapheme correspondence etc but are missing the underlying language competence in Arabic for this to be true reading. This would once have been true re Latin inCatholic worship.

I am all for phonics but I despair when decoding is prioritized above language competence and debvelopment. Sadly there are vast swathes of children in the UK at reception who can't use 'so' in a sentence so talking about how precisely the grapheme 'o' is to be
taught as an example of trickiness is the least of many teacher's concerns and certainly not an indicator the teacher is thick or no child in their class will ever learn to read.

CecilyP Sun 22-Sep-13 11:26:11

Jolly Phonics does teach the correspondence at this stage

In that case why are these words taken out and referred to as 'tricky words'.

I don't teach Jolly Phonics

I know, mrz, but I am assuming the teacher referred to in OP does (or something very like it).

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 11:28:28

If that were true I would despair too but no one has ever claimed that decoding should be taught without understanding working9while5

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 11:30:05

No CecilyP but you said what I described is what I do when in fact it is in the guidance for Letters & Sounds Jolly Phonics and other progs

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 11:31:58

The prog I use doesn't have any tricky or red words

CecilyP Sun 22-Sep-13 11:34:08

Fair enough, mrz, but many popular programmes do.

working9while5 Sun 22-Sep-13 11:38:42

That's not how this thread reads. Synthetic phonics are now The Only Way to teach reading because of research that supports its use with children who already have basic oral competence.

I am not comfortable with the idea that to teach reading
effectively all five year olds have to be comfortable with understanding multiple levels of trickiness and labelling the mechanics of reading using technical terms from the early stages of instruction. Many are not linguistically or cognitively able for that and a more behavioural approach based on massed practice vs learning rules per se is more expedient.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 11:38:58

yes they have tricky words but they don't have sight words

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 11:40:48

No working9while5 the thread is about a teacher telling parents that the word so cannot be sounded out nothing to do with understanding

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 11:42:15

Technical terms like word & letters and sounds hmm

CecilyP Sun 22-Sep-13 11:43:16


slightly contradictory message on this video from the Jolly Learning website.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 11:46:41

If you look options are for spelling not reading

friday16 Sun 22-Sep-13 11:53:00

Mixed methods were introduced as a response to the failure of whole language methods

And whole language methods were a response to (at the time) a perception that the phonics of the 1950s weren't working as well as they could. There are no baddies in this: no-one was acting in bad faith.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 12:04:42

And whole language methods were a response to (at the time) a perception that the phonics of the 1950s weren't working as well as they could.

untrue I'm afraid friday

CecilyP Sun 22-Sep-13 12:12:55

If you look options are for spelling not readiing

I am aware of that, but I wasn't referring to the options but to the video.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 12:22:39

I apologise I will watch the video when I get the chance won't play on this laptop

TheSporkforeatingkyriarchy Sun 22-Sep-13 12:59:56

Pozzled - my eldest (9) is one who tends to skip over words. It's gotten better since he began a phonics review but it's still a habit he's gotten into that is of great frustration to us both. Even when reading aloud, he seems to do it automatically and that results in his getting lost in what's going on so easily. He's done it from the start, but became better at hiding it until fairly recently.

I wonder if there is anything I can do to help him with this?

friday16 Sun 22-Sep-13 14:52:05

untrue I'm afraid friday

So you believe that teachers knowingly discarded a working method in exchange for one they knew to be inferior? Why would they do that?

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 15:10:38

If you are talking about whole word methods you are in the wrong century, if you are talking about whole language you are in the wrong decade ... but lets suppose you are talking about whole language.
It was introduced as an untried theory (not method) that assumed children learnt to read as they learnt to speak based on constructivist philosophy as it became apparent that the theory was unsound it was disguised as "balanced literacy" or "mixed methods".

Why would they do that? your guess is as good as mine ...but remember politicians aren't educationalists

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 15:20:26

In the UK we had the NLS (1998) which was essentially Whole Language (with a bit of phonics thrown in) and was relatively short lived in the grand scheme of things but still causing damage.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 15:27:29

In the UK the real books movement (a whole-language offshoot ) reached its height of popularity in the 1980s, reading scores plummeted alarmingly. Martin Turner, an educational psychologist, published confidential reading test results from eight LEAs which demonstrated the seriousness of the situation – average attainment of seven year-olds dropped by seven months between 1985 and 1990.

Stampstamp Sun 22-Sep-13 16:22:54

Growlith I didn't "relish the opportunity to show off my knowledge" during this talk. I was really disappointed she said that, not pleased. I didn't say anything, and am not planning to say anything, because I don't see how I could draw it to their attention in a constructive way that wouldn't just piss them off.

friday16 Sun 22-Sep-13 16:46:11

Why would they do that? your guess is as good as mine ...but remember politicians aren't educationalists

Politicians had no power over, or interest in, classroom methods until Baker introduced the national curriculum with the 1988 Education Act. You can't blame politicians for poor teaching methods prior to then. Most of the controversial changes to teaching methods mostly came from university education departments and other theoreticians, a few from well-meaning amateurs (ITA was done by the son of the Pitman of shorthand fame, wasn't it?). Politicians had no power to compel anything (other than teacher RE to the locally agreed scheme) until the late 1980s.

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 16:58:13

"Politicians had no power over, or interest in, classroom methods"

sorry I just fell off my chair laughing

Whole Language was the 1990s long after Baker

friday16 Sun 22-Sep-13 17:05:09

Whole Language was the 1990s long after Baker


In the UK the real books movement (a whole-language offshoot ) reached its height of popularity in the 1980s

Could you make your mind up about who your opponents are?

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 17:11:08

WL became part of the National Literacy strategy in the 1990s

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 17:14:58

I don't have any opponents friday ...

friday16 Sun 22-Sep-13 17:34:30

Everything I've read about the problems with reading in schools says that the problem was ITT: for a variety of reasons phonics fell from favour, was replaced by a bunch of other methods (most of which didn't work) and teachers emerged from teacher training without the skills or knowledge to teach reading by effective methods. Blaming this on politicians is just nonsense. The reason politicians got involved later was because the teaching of reading had gone horribly wrong. But the people that were wrong were not evil, nor doing it in bad faith, and there was no golden age in which everyone learnt to read. Sure, synthetic phonics looks like the winning strategy, although arguing as though anyone who dares to deviate is a heretic isn't terribly appetising.

And if synthetic phonics is the stuff of choice, teachers also need to explain why Gove is the anti-Christ (when he's a passive proponent of synthetic phonics) while Labour education policy is the lost golden age (er, not so hot on phonics).

mrz Sun 22-Sep-13 17:48:25

Many universities still support Kenneth Goodman's ideas and The Institute of Education is the base for Reading Recovery in the UK so you are right there are flaws in ITT ... regardless of method prospective teachers get as little as one session on how to actually teach reading hardly equipping students for the classroom.

Labour initiated the Rose Review and published Progression in Phonics and Letters & Sounds while at the same time spending millions on ECAR (spin off of Reading Recovery & Gordon Brown's pet project) current government promoting phonics apparently.

Politicians come in all shapes and sizes and not all sit in Parliament ...LEAs also dictated school policies

working9while5 Mon 23-Sep-13 09:51:48

Sure, synthetic phonics looks like the winning strategy, although arguing as though anyone who dares to deviate is a heretic isn't terribly appetising.

This is it for me.

Read Friday's post again mrz. The point was that politicians weren't overly involved in pedagogy pre-Baker, not that Baker introduced Whole Language methods. You can pick yourself up from your derisive laughing fit I think hmm.

This thread is no longer about the specifics of the OP, MN threads rarely are by page 11. A discussion about the teaching of reading that divorces decoding and understanding is a bit of a nonsense. Many children across the UK do not benefit from metaknowledge of phinic rules in the early stages of learning to read. They need massed practice with decoding and a good proportion will need additional and simultaneous checks they have sufficient language ability to understand what they are reading.

working9while5 Mon 23-Sep-13 10:05:21

Also, competent readers who use decoding of new words to extend their vocabulary are usually lingustically and cognitively average or advanced for their age group and even still this is a skill that emerges really in KS2, developing well into adulthood. For younger learners, vocabulary arises from concrete experience mediated by adult scaffolding. Decoding of words is a skill that draws on a stable base of language understanding. All the decoding ability in the world isn't going to help a child who can't understand basic common vocabulary in the language they are learning to read in become a proficient independent reader without equal emphasis on development of the prerequisite language skills.

mrz Mon 23-Sep-13 17:59:38

Perhaps you & friday should get your facts right working9while5 ... mixed methods/whole language teaching was introduced by the Dfes in 1997 ...long after Baker!

Previously local politicians in the form of LEAs dictated methods in their areas ... hence ITA was only popular in some areas of the UK and other areas remained untouched

You may also like to consider the Rose Review of Reading as you seem to believe phonics is taught in isolation which couldn't be further from the truth

"All the decoding ability in the world isn't going to help a child who can't understand basic common vocabulary in the language they are learning to read in become a proficient independent reader without equal emphasis on development of the prerequisite language skills."

At best, our settings and schools draw upon these factors and embody the principles of high quality phonic work within a language rich curriculum that gives rise to high standards of reading and writing.

For example, nurturing positive attitudes to literacy and the skills associated with them, across the curriculum, is crucially important as is developing spoken language, building vocabulary, grammar, comprehension and facility with ICT .

working9while5 Tue 24-Sep-13 08:54:11

I think your own reading comprehension is a bit poor tbh.

The point Friday made was that politicians weren't involved in literacy teaching pre-Baker, not that Baker introduced these methods.

I don't know if this is factually accurate, just pointing out that you misread Friday's post.

I don't doubt the Rose review calls for balance. In practice though it still relies on children having a level of linguistic and cognitive competence that is lacking in
many many children across the UK on school entry where skills are so low it is a waste of time for many.

If you think knowledge of reading is poor among some teachers, knowledge of language development is non-existent for many.

working9while5 Tue 24-Sep-13 08:59:20

Positive attitudes to literacy are NOT essential to the development of spoken language in the sense I am talking about here. I am referring to children with limited or no language skills for interpersonal communication, the foundation for all teacher-directed learning, not the cognitive academic language proficiency required to extrapolate meaning from text or develop an argument etc.

mrz Tue 24-Sep-13 17:42:35

Obviously your comprehension isn't too hot either working9while5 because I haven't suggested that Baker did introduce these methods ... only that the methods were introduced by politician long after Baker and not when friday suggested (ie 1950s).

The point of the Rose review is that it highlighted that good phonics teaching occurred when schools provided a language rich curriculum which developed children's spoken vocabulary and understanding.

I don't think phonics is well taught in many schools as indicated by the OPs post and certainly not as part of a language rich curriculum because sadly many believe the myths that phonics excludes other books or teaching vocabulary & understanding

poppylover Mon 14-Oct-13 00:13:06

To the OP
So is a tricky word at the stage your child is at. The teacher is correct. It is not a tricky word when further phonemes have been taught at a later time. If you really want to help you should try to understand how phonics is taught..maybe get yourself a copy of Letters and Sounds or download it from the internet. Letters and Sounds very clearly shows the order in which phonemes are taught...it is not random, it is a well thought out programme. It sounds like the teacher was correct and you would be better off showing him or her more respect.

ClayDavis Mon 14-Oct-13 02:26:10

Presumably if the OP follows your advice and reads Letters and Sounds she'll see that it says that 'tricky' words can and should be sounded out from the early stages, not that they can't be sounded out. If, as you say, Letters and Sounds is a well thought out programme then it shows the teacher was incorrect.

mrz Mon 14-Oct-13 18:04:51

You beat me to it ClayDavis wink are you a teacher poppylover?

mrz Mon 14-Oct-13 18:14:24

from Letters & Sounds

Teaching Tricky words

1. Explain that there are some words that have one, or sometimes two, tricky letters.

2. Read the caption, pointing to each word, then point to the word to be learned and read it again.

3. Write the word on the whiteboard.

4. Sound-talk the word and repeat putting sound lines and buttons under each phoneme and _blending them to read the word_. ( note not learning whole word by sight )

5. Discuss the tricky bit of the word where the letters do not correspond to the sounds the children know (e.g. in go, the last letter does not represent the same sound as the children know in dog).

Thecatisatwat Wed 16-Oct-13 11:14:29

Mrz, I don't think Jolly Phonics does break down tricky words like you describe. In dd's Jolly Phonics workbooks it says 'Some words are tricky and cannot be spelt out' and suggests that the best way to learn them is to write them. In fact in one of the later books 'go' (and therefore presumably 'so') is given as an example of a tricky word. Assuming that the OP's teacher meant 'tricky' rather than 'sight' and assuming that she is teaching phonics using JP, I'd say she's right (and OP should direct her ranting towards something more worthwhile).

Thecatisatwat Wed 16-Oct-13 13:24:42

Should be 'cannot be sounded out'.

Stampstamp Wed 16-Oct-13 16:32:00

Thanks poppylover, I do have a copy of Debbie Hepplewhite's alphabet code and used it to teach my child to read. Which you would have known if you'd read my actual posts. The teacher didn't say anything about "at this stage", and was talking to the whole reception group of parents, not to me specifically. I haven't shown the teachers any disrespect apart from on this thread which given the circumstances I think is fair enough. But thanks for resurrecting the thread to have a go at me!

mrz Wed 16-Oct-13 18:23:09

teaching a "tricky word" as a whole is treating it as a "sight word" Thecatisatwat and if you read the title the teacher said "so is a sight word" which it isn't

maizieD Wed 16-Oct-13 23:51:40

In dd's Jolly Phonics workbooks it says 'Some words are tricky and cannot be spelt out'

I am absolutely astounded by this.

This is from the Reading Reform Foundation web site, part of the 'Principles of synthetic phonics teaching', a document co-authored by Sue Lloyd, one of the authors of Jolly Phonics

Introduce useful, common ‘tricky words’ slowly and systematically emphasising the blending skill once the tricky letter or letters have been pointed out. For example, when teaching the word ‘you’, say, “In this word (pointing at ‘you’), these letters (pointing at ‘ou’), are code for /oo/.” (‘Tricky words’ are a small number of words, in which there are rare/unusual graphemes, or, words in which not all the graphemes have yet been formally taught, which might be used in early reading material .)

To my knowledge, Sue would never say that tricky words cannot be sounded out


Thecatisatwat Thu 17-Oct-13 11:57:31

Well MaizieD, she's clearly changed her views since she wrote the JP workbooks with Sara Wernham.

Thecatisatwat Thu 17-Oct-13 16:04:10

Mrz - so tricky word = sight word?

Anyway, from what I can gather from JP workbooks and reading books (I don't obviously have the teacher resource books) JP teaches words that it thinks are tricky in a completely different way to the methods descibed here by Mrz et al.

e.g. 'These are the tricky words introduced in level 2 [reading books]'
The following list then includes words such as 'are', 'come', 'you', 'there', 'all' etc. The book then says 'Hint: encourage children to identify new tricky words from the same word family. For e.g. if they know the word "all", they can read ball, call, fall etc'
To me this seems far more logical than the whole 'phonetically decodeable bit plus a bit that you'll learn how to decode further down the line' (especially to a 5 year old). By learning 'so' by sight they are surely learning how to also read 'go', 'lo', 'no' (and even ho!) and learning that since 'to' and 'do' are NOT part of the family, they are read differently?

I'm surprised that the DoE hasn't banned JP from schools since JP methods seem to be different to what the government wishes teachers to teach.

Anyway, as many have said life really is too short to waste on these threads, I just thought that the op was being unfairly harsh towards the teacher concerned.

Feenie Thu 17-Oct-13 17:34:50

Nothing you've said there encourages teaching tricky words as sight words - nothing whatsoever.

Feenie Thu 17-Oct-13 17:36:26

By learning 'so' by sight they are surely learning how to also read 'go', 'lo', 'no' (and even ho!)

What you describe there is phonics teaching - not sight word teaching.

mrz Thu 17-Oct-13 17:47:02

No Thecatisatwat a "tricky word" most definitely does NOT equal a "sight word"

Thecatisatwat Fri 18-Oct-13 14:12:17

OK, one more try.

On the back of dd's JP Yellow Level reader reading book, amongst the blurb it says;

'Light type is used for those few letters that should not be sounded out, such as the (b) in 'lamb'. There are also a few 'tricky' words, in which light type is not used, as children should learn them by sight. The tricky words introduced at the Yellow level are shown at the end of each book'.

Which probably explains why I am still confused about the tricky/sight word issue.

I'm curious, Mrz, Feenie and MaizieD, do any of you teach phonics using JP since none of you appear to even vaguely recognise any of the stuff that I am quoting?

Not that I really care, I'm fed up of banging my head against a brick wall as usual on a phonics thread.

zebedeee Fri 18-Oct-13 14:40:21

From the materials I have seen, Dandelion Readers have 'sight words at this level' printed on the inside front cover and Sounds-Write has 'sight words to introduce' in each unit.

mrz Fri 18-Oct-13 19:05:27

No zebedee SoundsWrite & Dandelion don't have sight words at any level

mrz Fri 18-Oct-13 19:07:06

I don't use JP now but I taught it for 15+ years and was trained by Sue Lloyd

zebedeee Fri 18-Oct-13 19:13:30

So... they don't have sight words but use the term 'sight words' - I've quoted from their printed material.

mrz Fri 18-Oct-13 19:21:28

This document is intended to show where all of the high frequency words presented in Letters and Sounds occur in the Sounds~Write programme. However, we feel that the term 'high-frequency words' should be accompanied by a reading and spelling health warning.
In the minds of many teaching practitioners, the term 'high-frequency words' has become synonymous with 'sight words'. Very many of the high-frequency words in the Letters and Sounds word list are easily decodable in the early stages of the Sounds~Write programme and over seventy-five percent of the list of three hundred words can be decoded by pupils taught using Sounds~Write by the end of Y1.
From the beginning, our focus is on transparency: that is to say that we teach pupils a transparent system within which if they can read a word, they can spell it. Nonetheless, the focus on transparency from the beginning can initially restrict pupils’ ability to access text because there are a number of essential single-syllable words whose spelling at this early stage in their learning is not transparent to them. Words such as 'is', 'of' and 'the', for example, cannot easily be avoided when learning to read and write. When encountered in text, or in dictation, the teacher should take responsibility for these words and introduce them in the manner outlined in 'Reading and writing in text' in the 'Introduction to the Initial Code'.

"when reading a high frequency word the teachers says "This is of then immediately points sequentially to the two graphemes <o. & <f> saying and gesturing /o/ .../v/ - "of".

When writing a high frequency word the teacher says, "This is how we write the word is and whilst writing it points sequentially to the two graphemes <i> & <s> saying and gesturing /i/ .../z/ -"is" as they are written.

mrz Fri 18-Oct-13 19:25:35

and Dandelion books

"High frequency words are common words, some of which have complex spellings. Beginner readers may have difficulty decoding them. To help with these words point to the graphemes (letters) and say the sounds ..."

mrz Sat 19-Oct-13 11:29:21

zebedeee you might be interested in a new book - Dandelion Book of High-frequency Words (This photocopiable workbook offers a phonics approach to teach reading and spelling of those tricky high-frequency words.)

maizieD Mon 21-Oct-13 17:20:40


OK, one more try.

On the back of dd's JP Yellow Level reader reading book, amongst the blurb it says;

'Light type is used for those few letters that should not be sounded out, such as the (b) in 'lamb'. There are also a few 'tricky' words, in which light type is not used, as children should learn them by sight. The tricky words introduced at the Yellow level are shown at the end of each book'.

Which probably explains why I am still confused about the tricky/sight word issue.

I was so surprised by this that I got in touch with Sue Lloyd. This is what she had to say about the blurb on the reading book:

When the reading books were published in 2001 it did say that the tricky words needed to be learnt by sight. Sara and I were not shown the blurb on the back until they had been published. On the next print run, in 2003, the wording was changed (after we had objected to calling them sight words) to 'As before, light type is used for those few letters that should not be sounded out, such as the <b> in 'Lamb' ( but not in the new tricky words, which should already be familiar without this help).

So it looks as though you have an older edition of the reader. However, it is damaging that there are JP books around that say that. But it is clear that neither Sue nor Sara would endorse that statement.

(I didn't ask her about the video, though, mrz)

mrz Mon 21-Oct-13 18:42:15

Never mind maizie perhaps next time wink it's good to know that Sue & Sara support such statements.

mrz Mon 21-Oct-13 18:45:22

thecatisatwat I would suggest that the reason b isn't sounded out is because mb is an alternative spelling for the sound /m/ but the publishers are trying to make it simple for parents (and some teachers)

maizieD Mon 21-Oct-13 19:24:15


Sue did say that she and Sara do use the term 'silent letters' and she doesn't think it really makes much difference to results. (which is why the 'b' in 'lamb' is noted as not being sounded out)

However, until someone funds some studies which compare different systematic phonics programmes it can't be proved one way or the other.

mrz Mon 21-Oct-13 20:25:05

true ... as you know in Sounds~Write all letters are silent grin

ClayDavis Mon 21-Oct-13 22:17:04

That's interesting, Maizie. I've noticed a couple of extra resources (mainly the video) for JP that have odd inconsistencies compared with what's written in the handbook. The blurb on the back of the early editions of the readers seems to be one of them. I usually work on the assumption that the publishers have sometimes got a bit carried away rather than it being written by the authors of the programme itself.

A bit off topic but what is the phonic rule for "island". How do you explain s. I tried to google but could find an answer but am sure the experts on here would know.

maizieD Tue 22-Oct-13 14:44:07

I would just explain it as the 'is' being a rare/unusual spelling of the /igh/ sound. You'll find it in all the words derived from 'island' (isle & islet being fairly common), in 'lisle' (but I don't think anyone wears lisle stockings any more smile ) and the place name Carlisle. those were the only examples I could find.

The thing about these very unusual correspondences is that they are often the easiest to remember because they are so unusual. To remember it for spelling I'd tell my kids to remind themselves that it looks like 'is land'

A few years ago 'Kensuke's Kingdom' was studied at many of our feeder primaries. None of the 'strugglers' I worked with at that time had any problem with reading or spelling 'island'. Which just goes to show how using a word helps to embed it in memorygrin

SoundsWrite Tue 22-Oct-13 20:09:10

Just to add to what maizeD had to say: you might also, Icapturethecastle, want to think of word derivation. The Latin for island is 'insula'; in modern day Italian, it's 'isola'; and, in Spanish, it is 'isla'. In the last two, the <i> represents the sound /ee/ and the <s> /s/.
Then again, the word could come from Old England 'yland' or 'igland', derived from Old German.
The explanations of where more complex spellings of sounds come from are often fascinating for children of a certain age and can motivate learning.
Take your pick! However, things change and, as maizieD argues, today, the <i> and <s> represent the sound /igh/ in English.

maizieD Tue 22-Oct-13 21:37:16

'argues' S~W? hmm

Interesting notes on its derivation. Thanks.

Very interesting thank you maizieD and soundswrite

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

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

Register now