When do children stop needing to sound out words they've seen many times?

(82 Posts)
AcrylicPlexiglass Fri 06-Dec-13 20:08:23

My daughter is in reception and being taught phonics. She seems really good at sounding out and blending simple cvc words but it doesn't seem like she is getting to the stage where many words are entering her long term memory- ie every time she sees a word it's as if she's never seen it before and she has to use her phonic knowledge to work out what it says. She is able to do this successfully but it makes reading a whole sentence, even a short one, kind of laborious! Is this fairly normal or something to worry about?

Iwaswatchingthat Fri 06-Dec-13 20:12:37

Fairly normal - they learn blending then overdo it for a time! It is fine to point out that they have seen this word before and ask if they can remember it is maybe blend in their head a bit faster.

tiredbutnotweary Fri 06-Dec-13 21:33:21

Read Write Inc starts with phonic ditties before books. The idea is that the DC reads the ditty or little sentence sounding out and blending and then keeps practising the sentence until they can read it without blending. Once the ditties are mastered you then move onto the books.

The books have a page to practices the sounds learnt so far, then a page of words to practise blending (which will be in the story) called green words, as well as red words that have a new / less usual spelling for one of the sounds. Finally at the end is a table of speed words which the children are aiming to say quickly. However I would always give 1 tick for sounding out & two ticks for saying it without sounding out (sounding out is always better than guessing, though too many teachers seem to have a different view)

The point is learning to read takes time for most DCs and this part is the hardest bit. Taking time & practising just words, or short sentences can really help to build confidence too. My DD loved Read Write Inc stuff & I found this methodical approach worked for us (though it's not everyone's cup of tea)!

You can make up your own ditties of course - it's just the practise little & often that's required.

hopskipandthump Fri 06-Dec-13 21:38:54

My YR child has only just stopped doing this for 'the' - it was driving me mad, he'd have to sound it out every single time, even though it occurred so many times! He has started recognising it now though. I think it just comes when they're ready. He is still doing it for many other words, but generally slightly more complicated ones now.

MillyMollyMama Fri 06-Dec-13 22:29:49

This, of course, is one of the problems with over reliance on phonics instead of basic recognition! Some children recognise the word very quickly but others like to keep sounding it out when it should just be learnt. Using various methods works best, but phonics is all the rage right now. It will be interesting to see if our reading levels suddenly soar. I suspect not. Phonics can be a bit habit forming!

maizieD Fri 06-Dec-13 23:55:29

This, of course, is one of the problems with over reliance on phonics instead of basic recognition!

Utter rubbish!

For a start, it isn't a problem. Some children just take longer to get words into long term memory. It's only just nearing the end of the first term of reception, she's doing fine.

For the rest, I CBA to go into it all, yet again, when it's bed time. Suffice it to say that 'Look & Say' (which is the only other 'method' known to man) might 'appear' to have short term gains but it doesn't work in the long term and can be positively harmful.

@OP There's nothing wrong with apparently laborious reading at this stage, either. You wouldn't expect a child to be able to play a piano concerto aftr 3 months tuition, why should fluent reading be instantaneous? If you don't think she's understood what she's just read (though I think you'll find that she does) just get her to read it again.

Ilovemydogandmydoglovesme Sat 07-Dec-13 00:33:04

My dd2 is a bit like this and it is worrying me now. Spells out perfectly but seems to have real trouble remembering that ker-aah-ter actually spells cat. She thinks it spells keraahter. Phonics seems to have had the opposite effect on her. She's learnt the sounds but not the words. We help her read all the time and I also volunteer at the school so I know how her peers do and she definitely needs extra help.

my2bundles Sat 07-Dec-13 05:33:27

it sounds like your lo is doing exactly what they should be doing at this stage in reception. My son is in yr 1, he is still sounding out some CVC words and Ive been told this is normal at this point in his school life. Your child will more than likely still need to sound out well into yr 2 so dont worry. At this point in reception some schools havent started reading books and are working purely on phonics in class.

mrz Sat 07-Dec-13 07:16:15

Some children can sound out a word once and then recall it next time they see it, others need to sound it out a dozen times before they can remember it and others will need to sound it out time after time before it becomes automatic.

spanieleyes Sat 07-Dec-13 08:38:59

But ker-aah-ter does say keraahter, whereas if your child had been taught phonics correctly she would say "c" then "ca" and then "cat" without the er's and ah's at all. The sounds should be as "clipped" as possible to create the pure sound, not a long drawn out one.

AcrylicPlexiglass Sat 07-Dec-13 09:13:02

Thanks, everyone. I guess it will come in time, then.smile

mrz Sat 07-Dec-13 09:34:29

I've never used RWI but I would be shocked if they are meant to read sentences over and over until memorised!

Iwaswatchingthat Sat 07-Dec-13 09:36:32

RWI is awful.

mrz Sat 07-Dec-13 09:40:30

I'm not a fan but I'm making judgements based on what I've seen in schools which may or may not be taught as intended.

bronya Sat 07-Dec-13 09:43:10

You'd expect them to sound out everything to start with. There are some high frequency words in phase 2 that they will then see a lot in the books they read. As time goes by, they begin to recognize those words on sight AND their sounding out gets faster. So then you get to the stage where they get a sentence like: Sid did it. They know 'did' and 'it' because they've seen them so many times, so they read 's-i-d sid did it.' They need to read an awful lot for that to happen, so what you can do is make sure you read her reading book every night.

www.highfrequencywords.org/phase-2-high-frequency-word-cards-precursive.html is a list of phase 2 high frequency words.

bronya Sat 07-Dec-13 09:44:44

Obviously some children 'get it' faster and don't need so much practice, but many do!

AcrylicPlexiglass Sat 07-Dec-13 10:13:45

Thanks, bronya. My daughter would read: "s-i-d- Sid d-i-d did i-t it" at the moment, even though we read daily and she has sounded out and blended "did" and "it" many many times! I think she is actually very good at the sounding out/blending/decoding side of things. It's just that pretty much every word has to be decoded as if it's never been seen before, even when it has been seen many many times. But I guess we just need to keep going as you and others have said and it's reassuring to see that this is pretty par for the course for many reception children. It's very early days, after all!

hopskipandthump Sat 07-Dec-13 11:24:56

DS1 just jumped straight past blending to sight reading.

DS2 LOVES blending and is rather good at it - I think he could be an advert for how phonics works! I think he partly likes to sound out and blend every word precisely because he is so good at it, and he rather enjoys doing it. He has begun moving to sight reading for a number of words now though, saving blending for the more unfamiliar ones.

It sounds to me like your DD is similar to DS2 and rather enjoys / is good at the phonics process, so likes doing that way. I would think she'll make the move when she starts getting bored of it!

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Sat 07-Dec-13 11:43:37

My DD is Y1 now but she was doing the same as your DD for ages (not sure exactly how long but definitely well after Christmas. Eventually I told her that it wasn't necessary to sound out every word and to try and do them without sounding first and only sound if necessary. This sort of gave her permission not to sound out every word and she made really good progress after that just sounding out trickier words. I think she'd got the impression sounding out was compulsory smile It still early days for your DD and she sounds like she doing well.

ReallyTired Sat 07-Dec-13 13:55:26

I think we had the book that Op dd is reading at the moment. Is it the one where sid's sister ned sits on a pin?

I think that some people have unreasonable expectations of reception children. Blending takes a lot of practice and eventually children learn to do blending rapidly in their heads without having to blend out loud.

AcrylicPlexiglass Sat 07-Dec-13 14:30:48

I don't have any particular expectations, tbh, reallytired. I have 2 much older twin children and they were not taught phonics as it wasn't the fashion then. One of them was a very fluent reader at 5 and the other not till well over 6. I worried quite a bit about the later reader as he just didn't seem to "get" reading despite working v hard (and it felt very unfair as his twin was flying away with literacy despite putting zero effort in!) but then suddenly he clicked with it and could do it. Both are doing fine now and I feel pretty chilled about the whole thing this time round. It's interesting watching my daughter being taught by a different method, though, and having more formal teaching at a much earlier age. She doesn't "get" reading yet in the sense that she cannot read words with fluency and I do wonder if she will be a child who suddenly "clicks" as well. But learning the phonics decoding skills is helping keep her confidence high so I am a fan on the whole. My later reading son was feeling quite sad about the whole thing at one point and I think phonics might have helped him feel more competent and confident.

Ilovemydogandmydoglovesme Sat 07-Dec-13 21:47:06

But ker-aah-ter does say keraahter, whereas if your child had been taught phonics correctly she would say "c" then "ca" and then "cat" without the er's and ah's at all.

That's how they do phonics at our school. You sound out each individual letter and then say the word. Not sound out parts until you have the whole. So they learn c,a,t spells cat. Only my dd pronounces it very exaggeratedly and can't make the connection between the letters and the words.

She does sometimes, but not often.

BertieBowtiesAreCool Sat 07-Dec-13 22:00:48

Acrylic it sounds normal, don't worry. I think the over-decoding is probably a good thing, otherwise they tend to see similar words and guess or read them wrong e.g. reading dog where the word says bog. At 3 months or so into phonics it's definitely normal for them to still sound everything out - the important part is that they can decipher the word from what they're reading even if they are reading each individual letter separately.

Ilove it sounds like the school aren't sounding the letters properly because "c" shouldn't be "cuh" at all but more of a sound made in the throat. It's harder to explain with hard sounds like c, g, t etc (mmmmm, nnnnnn, rrrrrrrr are easier for example) but if you ever have Alphablocks on you can hear the sounds on there made by the letters. It's also harder to hear them because some of them come out very quietly like "p" is really just making a popping noise with your lips.

It might help to correct her, "not cuh ah tuh, /c/, aaaaaaah, /t/"

But this is in fact the entire reason why schools moved away from letterland type teaching which does say the letters as muh, ruh, cuh etc, because it is confusing and doesn't help them to decode at all.

They don't have to necessarily put /c/a/ together before adding the /t/ but they should be able to run the sounds together and it sound like a very elongated stilted version of the word. C-aaaaaaaaa-t with the - denoting a very brief stop. Again, it's easier to practice blending with softer sounds - mmm-uuh-mmm is a very easy and familiar one.

lougle Sat 07-Dec-13 22:05:43

DDs' school uses RWI and she's never been expected to read ditties over and over again.

Ilovemydogandmydoglovesme Sat 07-Dec-13 22:22:22

Yes I see what you're saying Bertie and I think that's what the school does, but my dd doesn't. I think it's just the way she speaks. Perhaps she'll learn in her own time then. I think the school are doing it right.

MillyMollyMama Sat 07-Dec-13 23:33:28

MaizieD. Do you have to be quite so rude! I am sorry to have dared to post on a topic where I am less of an "expert" than others who have posted. Does that mean my views and observations, as a very experienced Mum, are invalid and deserve be described as "utter rubbish"? Is is not possible to say, in a pleasant way, that you disagree with me? I really regret I posted anything here.

mammadiggingdeep Sun 08-Dec-13 03:42:54

From your comment millolly I thought you must have taught dozens of children to read.

Mashabell Sun 08-Dec-13 07:58:56

We had to tell one of my granddaughters that sounding out is just for learning to read, and that reading was just saying the word. At first she was doing both with all words, first sounding it out, then saying the word, and it was driving us mad. She is an excellent reader now.

But she was also the one who next told me,
"U can't sound out all words, grandma. U can't sound out a word like 'was'. U just have to read it!".

The wonder of English spelling.

mrz Sun 08-Dec-13 08:05:56

I hope you explained that you can sound out "was" masha wink what a pity the school hadn't taught her

maizieD Sun 08-Dec-13 09:43:35

From your comment millolly I thought you must have taught dozens of children to read.

I must confess that that assumption had informed my reaction.

I don't know how politely I can put this, MMM, but your views and observations as an experienced mum are not in quite the same league as the conclusions drwn from vast amount of scientific research into reading in the past few decades. Most of which contradicts the commonly held 'beliefs' about the teaching of reading which have been perpetuated by the stranglehold which 'whole word' teaching has had on reading instruction in the English-speaking world during the same period.

My frustration with hearing the same old unevidenced 'truisms' does sometimes become more like anger when I think of many of the wonderful children I have worked with over the years whose reading problems have been needlessly caused, or compounded, by teachers' 'beliefs' in practices which are, quite frankly, wrong.

wonderingagain Sun 08-Dec-13 09:58:25

You need to teach her small groups of letters. Put your thumbs over the other letters, break words up into small groups. She needs to see small groups of letters as an image. This makes it quicker. So, even hard words like 'catching', break down to ca-tch-ing. Then break it into syllables, so catch-ing.

Phonics is like learning long arithmetic, mental maths involves a different learning skill.

mrz Sun 08-Dec-13 10:03:24

NOOOOOOoooooooooo! shock

IThoughtThat Sun 08-Dec-13 10:31:14

All mine did it differently. One seemed to skip sounding out completely while another seemed to be incapable of remembering a word from one moment to the next. One thing that stood out for me was that they all seemed to improve in fits and starts. Mine are now nearly adults and all still love to read so any earlier worrying was pointless.

IThoughtThat Sun 08-Dec-13 10:40:02

Wow, isn't this an emotive subject. shock not sure why people have to be so aggressive

Feenie Sun 08-Dec-13 10:45:16

Because some of the opinions on threads like these are held by real teachers who damage children's reading, and worse - their reading self esteem. It takes a long time to fix the latter. That's what makes people cross.

IThoughtThat Sun 08-Dec-13 12:25:52

This is a thread about reading, there really is no need to be aggressive and unpleasant. It should be in a teachers capability to be polite when they disagree with people. confused. People loose credibly when they get stroppy about things like this.

The other poster was trying to be helpful and didn't deserve the snippy comments.

wonderingagain Sun 08-Dec-13 18:03:00

Sorry I should have said, that's how I taught mine, I am not a teacher. The important thing is to try out whatever works for your child. English has odd spellings and pronunciation, there is a point you get to where phonics doesn't suit. My dds have impeccable spelling as a result of not making assumptions that words that sound the same are spelled the same. Eg they learnt 'ought' as one spelling or phonic, and 'ort' as another, covering the other letters, b or sp or th. Worked for me. We only did this while reading books, real paper ones, never lists of words out of context.

wonderingagain Sun 08-Dec-13 18:05:07

The biggest mistake schools make is thinking their method works for all children.

mrz Sun 08-Dec-13 18:09:59

Eg they learnt 'ought' as one spelling or phonic, and 'ort' in phonics teaching they would learn that the sound /or/can be spelt in a number of ways <or> <ough>

Mashabell Sun 08-Dec-13 19:26:38

Mrz: they would learn that the sound /or/can be spelt in a number of ways <or> <ough>.

But they have to learn word by word which one to use in particular words.

But that's a spelling problem, not a reading one. For reading, other letters in a word and context help with decoding, or accessing, the tricky ones, even ones with really beastly spellings, like 'read, tear' and 'lead'.

Btw, my granddaughter learned to read very fast by accepting early on that words like was cannot be entirely sounded out. Luckily, this is what she was taught at school. I am not saying this is true of all children, but for some too much reliance on sounding out ends up being unhelpful.

And do u really have to be so constantly snippy?

mrz Sun 08-Dec-13 19:35:41

Masha children are taught the alternatives (most common ones first) and are taught that if one doesn't work try the others ... it's much easier than having to learn a million plus words.

I can stop when you stop posting your nonsense.

maizieD Sun 08-Dec-13 22:44:57

I can stop when you stop posting your nonsense.

Oh dear. Naughty step for you, too, mrz wink

wonderingagain Mon 09-Dec-13 00:28:37

I'm with you masha, the very early reading skills need phonetic sounds to learn the alphabet - where we learned the names of the letters, 'em' 'pee'
with phonics you learn the sound. This is a no-brainer to me but was only introducd a few years ago (despite the phonics system being decades old).

Over-reliance on phonics can really bugger up spelling I think unless it is done as part of everyday reading. I believe my dd has excellent spelling because I split the words for her while reading. I think this has also had an impact on her understanding in all areas as she got older and language was more complex.

The chinese learn in this way, words are small images rather than a series of letters. You can say the same of English - the meaning behind the word dictates the spelling, not the other way round.

mrz Mon 09-Dec-13 06:57:21

(despite the phonics system being decades old). you mean centuries old. There wouldn't be written language if someone hadn't linked sounds and symbols.

I believe my dd has excellent spelling because I split the words for her while reading. how do you think phonics teaches spelling? confused

lougle Mon 09-Dec-13 07:46:38

I like Read Write Inc. The teachers at dd2&3s' school gave an excellent demonstration of how the strands of reading, writing and spelling are woven together right from the beginning.

Children are taught how to say a sound, what the sound looks like, and how to form the sound along with a story which reinforces the formation. e.g 'm': "There was a little girl called Maisie, who wanted to climb a mountain. She looked down at her boots, looked up again and climbed over the mountain, but when she got to the other side there was another mountain, so she climbed that one too." This is then contacted to 'Maisie, mountain, mountain.'

They use 'Fred speak'to break down words into sounds (Fred is a frog who can't say words, he can only say sounds) and then when they are writing, children are encouraged to use their "Fred fingers" as they say a word, to identify how many sounds they should be using to write a word.

At DDs' school they set phonics across KS1 and have 30 or so groups of around 6-8 children. Every child's progress is monitored half termly by the phonics lead and the sets are reconfigured. Any lack of progress is investigated and intervention started if necessary.

Most children are off the phonics programme by year 2 and go on to the spelling programme.

wonderingagain Mon 09-Dec-13 10:58:46

mrz can you stop being bossy and picky please, this could be quite an interesting discussion if you could hear people out.

It's great when people question their child's learning and important that it's discussed before it's too late. I wish I had had that opportunity when mine were little.

Thankfully most schools are away from the 'sausage factory' methods of teaching but phonics could be used in this way by a lazy school, it isn't the answer for every child at every stage.

Mashabell Mon 09-Dec-13 19:35:49

U are absolutely right to think that
Over-reliance on phonics can really bugger up spelling.
In the early years children do try to spell phonically (frend, sed, bruther, wos, thaut) and have to be trained to spell 'correctly' instead. It is because 4 words out of 7 contain one or more unpredictable letters that even bright pupils need an average of 10 years to become proficient. Nearly half continue to have difficulties for the rest of their lives.

For the 332 words with two or more spellings (to/too/two, there/their, here/hear...) phonics is nowhere near enough.

English spelling is only partially phonic. That's why phonics alone cannot turn anyone into a proficient reader or speller. In other European languages phonics is far more effective, because the number of words with irregular spellings is much smaller, and no letters or letter strings (graphemes) have more than one pronunciation. Children never have to battle with the likes of 'won, woman, women'. This makes an enormous difference to the ease and speed with which they are able to learn to read.

mrz Mon 09-Dec-13 19:46:35

I disagree wonderingagain everyone needs phonics regardless of stage or age and it is necessary for all but a tiny minority

mrz Mon 09-Dec-13 19:48:22

Masha English spelling is complex but 100% phonetic!

wonderingagain Tue 10-Dec-13 00:46:14

Masha and then when they start writing and their spelling has to be constantly corrected they can lose a lot of confidence.

I remember being very frustrated that there weren't enough childrens books that had simple spellings (apart from the Ladybirds). In some ways thought my eldest ended up learning very complex spellings at a very young age by recognising them through reading. I still explain the origins of words and that helps even now she's doing GCSEs. Eg today 'Austerity' - comes from the word austere, harsh. I don't think they are taught to decode like that at school.

This is where weekly spelling tests are a waste of time as well. When I was at school we would have to write a sentence using that word - that way we spelled in context and understood what we were learning to spell.

mrz Tue 10-Dec-13 07:41:00

So you expect apprentice writers to be able to spell words correctly without being taught wonderingagain hmm as for being corrected I suppose it depends how you are doing it.

Thankfully there are now lots of phonics reading books which don't contain complex spellings that a child hasn't been taught and teaching the origins of words is very common and good practice.

Mashabell Tue 10-Dec-13 08:30:36

What I could not help but notice as an English teacher, and even more as a wife, mother and grandmother, is that

1) Spelling 'mistakes' are nearly all caused by irregular spellings (sed, bruther, wos) or unfathomable inconsistencies (arrive – arise, shorten - certain)

b) Some people learn to spell very easily, without really having to work at it (like me, my daughter, and two granddaughters) while others work their socks off and still keep making lots of mistakes (lots of pupils, my husband, my son, one grandson) and that the majority take years to become fairly confident.

The gifted spellers are simply better at ^ imprinting the right look of words ^ on their minds. The latter keep looking for sense and get hopping mad when there isn't any: b*e*d - h*ea*d, ba*ll*ad - sa*l*ad, fatten - abandOn. They hate having to learn things for no good reason. Their logical spellings are nearly all still perfectly legible (muther, uther, bruther). They can't understand why need to be spelt illogically instead.

Being a fairly good speller, but with a fairly logical mind too, i can't understand why so many people are so firmly in favour of leaving things as they are. I can't see any benefit to anyone from having to spend far longer than need be on something which is a daily necessity. So I am in favour of modernising English spelling and making learning to read and write a bit easier. Not changing any of the basic rules - just cutting some of the clearly surplus dross (e.g. havE, arE, promisE - cf, save, care, surprise) and restoring some of the sense it had earlier: ditty - pitty, send - frend, tuch - much. I can't bear generation after generation, children and parents going through the same pointless agonies.

In the eyes of Mrz, Maizie, Feenie and some other passionate phonics evangelists, this makes me stupid, verging on evil, and I am puzzled by that. Are they unable to see that the words which take longer to learn to read and write do so because of their irregular spellings? Why are they so in favour of keeping things as difficult as they are?

Moreover, their snippy and often quite rude comments don't fill me with respect. They merely leave me believing more strongly that* i must keep explaining what makes learning to read and English exceptionally difficult. *

lougle Tue 10-Dec-13 09:45:57

Masha there are lots of things in life that are hard to do but we don't shy away from. Science advances because people go beyond their currrent knowledge and expand it. Sports people go through processes of learning base skills then adding to them.

Why do you suggest that if the English language is complicated to learn, we should change it? If nothing else, children will learn persistence and determination from refining their skills in spelling.

When children using RWI at DDs' school have a word to spell with two different options for spelling, they can often be heard to ask 'Miss X, is it 'ou shout it out' or 'ow brown cow'?, for example. They gradually become familiar with the context that a word is used in and which spelling option is used in that context.

wonderingagain Tue 10-Dec-13 11:55:30

I don't think Masha you advocating re-definining the english language, I assume you mean that it's time we accept that the english language needs to be learned in a way that will make allowance for its peculiarities.

The Chinese written language is pictorial with thousands of letters and no logical system, we need to learn to read in the same way that chinese children do - obviously we can break down words a little but it is as you say Lougie, essential to look at words within the context that they are spelled - never as isolated letters except at a very basic foundation stage, where phonics comes in very handy.

I foresee a lot of bad spelling in years to come if they don't make sure that phonics is taught correctly.

My dd never learned her spellings every week in primary yet she spells almost impeccably. That's because of the way I taught her to read - fairly large groups of letters together, making up a word, always within a sentence and usually in a book or newspaper. Always breaking words down to their constituent parts - 'con-grat-ulations' and, if it still doesn't make sense explaining the meaning behind words 'with/con' 'grateful' etc.

I'm hoping that schools do that within the systems they use.

maizieD Tue 10-Dec-13 13:56:35

I foresee a lot of bad spelling in years to come if they don't make sure that phonics is taught correctly

What, even worse than it is now after years of 'invented spellings' and inattention to the role of phonics in spelling? shock

I think you need to look at some data

Try the data in this report compiled over a number of years by one programme developers:


columngollum Tue 10-Dec-13 14:16:46

It won't matter how phonics is taught it has little to do with how many English words are spelled. Phonics might help children (and some adults) to break the words down into their constituent sounds. But it won't help anybody to remember which particular variant spelling of that sound is correct in any particular word. That's the job of memory.

Feenie Tue 10-Dec-13 17:39:15

I don't think Masha you advocating re-definining the english language, I assume you mean that it's time we accept that the english language needs to be learned in a way that will make allowance for its peculiarities.

You assume wrong - masha has an entire spelling reform agenda (starting with changing 'you' to 'u') and has bored teachers to death campaigned on TES about it for years.

maizieD Tue 10-Dec-13 18:15:29

Moreover, their snippy and often quite rude comments don't fill me with respect. They merely leave me believing more strongly that* i must keep explaining what makes learning to read and English exceptionally difficult. *

I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with you doing that, marsha, apart from the fact that it is extremely boring.

Where you get the grief is when you start badmouthing phonics because it is absolutely clear that as far as phonics is concerned you have very little knowledge of how it 'works' and you post a load of nonsense about learning to read.

I still think that the reason you are anti phonics is that it is so successful in teaching children to read and write that one of the main rationales of your spelling reform campaign, the difficulty of learning to read & write, is minimised by good phonics teaching.

columngollum Tue 10-Dec-13 18:26:07

I'm not all that sure that masha is all that anti phonics. Phonics has close to bugger all to do with spelling which is masha's main concern.

maizieD Tue 10-Dec-13 18:51:59

Ah, well. The signs are all there for those who can read them...

mrz Tue 10-Dec-13 18:55:58

I assume you mean that it's time we accept that the english language needs to be learned in a way that will make allowance for its peculiarities. you assume wrongly

mrz Tue 10-Dec-13 19:03:25

So written words aren't a visual representation of spoken words? columngollum confused and letters aren't the symbols we use to visually represent spoken sounds in our language? very confused

columngollum Tue 10-Dec-13 20:31:25

When writing many English words the sounds are not particularly useful because the words include letters which are silent or the word itself can be spelled in more than one way, so it's not the sounds that are important in the spelling of the word. The important skill is in remembering which letters the word in question possesses.

columngollum Tue 10-Dec-13 20:34:04

Contractions, for example, contain apostrophes which have no sound and yet it is necessary to remember them and not to include them in possessive pronouns.

mrz Tue 10-Dec-13 20:36:54

All letters are silent columngollum people make sounds if they read aloud the letters on the page are totally mute.

lougle Tue 10-Dec-13 22:35:20

"so it's not the sounds that are important in the spelling of the word."

The sounds are important. What is as important, is building up a knowledge bank of the different way those sounds can be written. For example, DD2 insisted that 'sable' couldn't possibly be 'sable' because it would be 's-a-b-e-l'. I compared 'sable' with 'table', when she then insisted that it couldn't possibly be 'table' because 'table' is 't-a-b-e-l'. I helped her use her Oxford Phonic Spelling dictionary to look up 'table' and see that the 'bel' sound is 'ble' in that case.

Mashabell Wed 11-Dec-13 07:21:47

Why do you suggest that if the English language is complicated to learn, we should change it?
The English language is exceptionally simple and easy to learn - thanks to the lower classes ridding it of most of the Latinate grammatical dross which still encumbers most other European languages. They did this between 1066 and roughly 1350, when 'educated' people abandoned English in favour of French for everyday usage, and intellectual discourse continued to be conducted in Latin.

Most children already speak English remarkably well by the time they start school, but the inconsistencies of English spelling make learning to read and write it exceptionally difficult and very much slower than in any other alphabetically written language. I would like us to do for English spelling now what the peasants did for the language between 1066 - 1350.

Children can indeed often be heard to ask 'Miss X, is it 'ou shout it out' or 'ow brown cow'?,. And because they keep having to do so, it's much harder for them to concentrate on what they are trying to say and to learn to use language well, at secondary as well as primary level.

When letters have just one sound (keep sleep deep) learning to read is easy (unlike 'how slow'). Learning to spell is easy when sounds have just one spelling (cat, sat, mat) and beastly when they don't (speak, shriek, seek, see, me, ski, key...).

If learning to read and write English was not quite so ridiculously time-consuming (in comparison to all other European languages), children could learn more maths and science, spend more time on creative activities, learn more about health and nutrition, history, geography, etc., etc.

That's why i would like to see English spelling made a bit more sensible. Not changed root and branch. Just tidied up - removing the worst gremlins that needlessly waste precious learning time.

Mashabell Wed 11-Dec-13 07:28:21

Please stop repeating the lie that i am anti-phonics. I've corrected u on this many times before.

I merely want English spelling tidied up a bit, so that phonics works better - more like in the six other languages which i learned to read entirely with phonics and to write largely just with phonics too.

mrz Wed 11-Dec-13 07:33:33

Perhaps you should take the time to actually learn how phonics is taught in schools in England before making blanket statements about usefulness masha

mrz Wed 11-Dec-13 07:35:33

Once again you seem to imagine that English sounds the same around the UK or do you want us all to speak with your accent?

wonderingagain Wed 11-Dec-13 09:10:49

Mashabell, changing the english language to accommodate quirky spelling is a novel idea but I really doubt whether it would ever happen. If we want language logic we can always try Esperanto, or even abandon latin/germanic English altogether in favour of Welsh.

The point I am trying to make is that English isn't that hard to learn, it's hard to learn because we teach it in the same way that we teach other European languages. If we taught it in the same way that we learn Chinese we would be much better spellers.

I remember the Maisy mountain mountain thing, it is a very old system and was initially used to connect the abstract letter symbol with the recognition of sound. Great for early learning but rubbish for spelling later on.

wonderingagain Wed 11-Dec-13 09:15:33

masha has an entire spelling reform agenda (starting with changing 'you' to 'u') and has bored teachers to death campaigned on TES about it for years.


Penny drops. Thank you Feenie.

maizieD Wed 11-Dec-13 09:51:14

^ If we taught it in the same way that we learn Chinese we would be much better spellers.^

Did you look at the data I posted the link to, wonderingagain?

Chinese is taught by memorising the symbols representing the words as 'wholes'. From what I have read it seems that the 'average' Chinese learns somewhere in the region of 3,000 symbols. this is very difficult and takes years, far longer than it takes to learn to read and write English. The written English vocabulary would be far in excess of this and it would be impossible to 'learn' each individual word. I wonder if you have ever worked with children who have absolutely no knowledge of the fact that the spellling of a word is closely related to the sounds of which it is made up? I have. Their 'spelling' is non-existent.

wonderingagain Wed 11-Dec-13 10:01:43

Maizie if you had read my post you will see that I didn't suggest in any way that children should make no phonetic connection with written words.

Of course they shouldn't learn 3500 words by recognition, but they should move towards pictorial / memory based learning in context much sooner and save phonics to the early stages.

Yes I have worked with children, yes I know how hard reading can be without phonics, yes I know how hard spelling can be with too much phonics.

If you want me to read a link please repost it.

Mashabell Wed 11-Dec-13 10:47:34

I don't think Masha you advocating re-definining the english language, I assume you mean that it's time we accept that the english language needs to be learned in a way that will make allowance for its peculiarities.

Like so many people, u also confuse the words language and orthography (or writing system). When Turkey switched from Arabic to Latin letters in 1929, it did not change the language in any way. Nor did Finland's adoption of a brand new, very regular spelling system in the 19th century change the Finnish language. It merely enabled children to learn to read and write the language much faster than before. - I am advocating that intelligent people should get together and give serious though to making some similar improvement to English spelling.

But i felt that an essential first step towards this was to establish exactly how irregular English spelling is and which of its irregularities impede literacy progress most seriously. The work which i did for this has ended up being very useful to teachers, parents and many students as well. And i am very pleased about that, because until English spelling gets modernised, several more generations of children will have to put up with its current difficulties. I am as keen to help with that, as i am to get modernisation of English spelling of the ground. I value literacy extremely highly and don't dislike anyone being needlessly left educationally marginalised.

For many people, me included, it helps to understand what u have to learn and what's difficult about it. But i am intensely disliked for trying to improve understanding of English reading and writing difficulties by evangelical phonic furies who like to blame all poor literacy progress simply on insufficient use of phonics.

maizieD Wed 11-Dec-13 11:20:27

they should move towards pictorial / memory based learning in context much sooner and save phonics to the early stages.


If you want me to read a link please repost it.

You only had to scroll back up the page a little bit. Now you'll have to back a page..

wonderingagain Wed 11-Dec-13 11:45:23

Maizie were you involved in writing this document?

lougle Wed 11-Dec-13 11:57:29

masha, I applaud your academic knowledge of the history and development of the English Language. It must frustrate you that the rest of us don't understand the complexities of the development of the system. I'm more interested in how children today learn to read and write the English language of today.

maizieD Wed 11-Dec-13 12:14:43

Maizie were you involved in writing this document?

Good Heavens, no! Why do you ask?

It's just the data from one of the well known SP/LP phonics programmes. I linked to it because it shows excellent results for spelling when you were implying that spelling would get worse because of phonics instruction.

Mashabell Wed 11-Dec-13 18:56:12

I'm more interested in how children today learn to read and write the English language of today.

And i don't blame u for it.
I am very interested in that too and have been very much involved in helping my grandchildren with that, but because of my familiarity with several other languages, i am also keenly aware that learning to read and write English takes an exceptionally long time, because it is the most irregularly spelt alphabetically written language and that it could be easily much improved.

For pupils in the lower half of the ability range, for whom coping with the irregularities of English spelling is especially difficult, the long time they need for learning to read and write is especially disadvantageous. It leaves them less time and energy for other learning and is also demotivating.

For a country as a whole, having a more learner-friendly spelling system, like Finnish or Korean, has enormous advantages. Finland and Korea both had rotten, learner-unfriendly spelling systems before they modernised them.

mrz Wed 11-Dec-13 19:06:33

masha, I applaud your academic knowledge of the history and development of the English Language. grin

mrz Wed 11-Dec-13 19:10:08

I use the linguistic phonics programme from MaizieD's link and our children all have spelling ages at least equal to their chronological age.

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