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to think children should be taught to read and to form letters before being given spellings tests?

(89 Posts)
26minutes Tue 27-Sep-11 16:04:06

Ds2 who has just started yr1 now has weekly spellings tests. I think it's crazy enough as it is that a 5 year old is having to do this, I don't remember spellings tests until I was in the equivalent of year 4. But to make matters worse he cannot read, so therefore it makes it more difficult to learn to spell words. The phonics that schools now teach are stopping him from being able to learn to read as he tries to 'sound out' every word that is put in front of him. Would it not be a good idea to teach children to read properly first?

On top of that, he hasn't yet been taught to form letters. So for instance a and e he does in a really odd way, he doesn't seem to be able to 'unlearn' the way he does it.

Now I'm not expecting the school to do everything with him, I understand that that is part of my role as a parent as well, and I do do a lot with him. I can't teach him to read though as I have no idea how to unteach phonics. During the summer holidays I started teaching him words the 'old fashioned' way, i.e. showing them to him and teaching them to him. He was learning about 5 words at a time and learning them after only seeing them twice, words he had learnt at the start of the holidays he still knew 7 weeks later when he went back to school. Now though that he's having phonics drummed back into him he looks at them, tries to sound them out and gets confused and stressed so I've stopped. In year R he had only learnt 40 out of 100 words that they are supposed to know by the end of yrR, although many of them he didn't really know imo. I've sat with him trying to help him with form letters but any breakthrough I do seem to have is wiped away the next day after school.

The school say he is well ahead of where he would be expected to be - his work is what would be planned for the end of yr1, so he is 2 terms 'ahead' but I am struggling to understand why 1. spellings tests are a good idea for a 5 year old and 2. why they are not taught to read and write before they are taught to spell.

minimisschief Tue 27-Sep-11 16:25:50

Why are you trying to unteach phonics?

ThePumpkinKing Tue 27-Sep-11 16:33:51

Phonics are a useful thing. What do you have against the method?

worraliberty Tue 27-Sep-11 16:35:57

Phonics are brilliant...they're how I learnt to read and how all 3 of my kids learnt.

nickelbabe Tue 27-Sep-11 16:37:54

phonics are not that brilliant.
I didn't learn to read that way, and it utterly confuses me.

However ,the debate is that phonics does not help a child to spell.
In fact, it's totally counter-spelling.
I agree to that extent OP, but I think the idea is that they learn to spell the words they've learned to read - thus meaning it gets implanted into their brains.

nickelbabe Tue 27-Sep-11 16:39:40

also, they're not for everyone, and it looks like the OP's DS is is finding phonics a challenge... (learn by rote seems to be his favoured method at the moment)

MothershipG Tue 27-Sep-11 16:46:21

Phonics are not some kind of magic panacea, I know that they work well for most, but speaking from my DS's personal experience they don't work for every child.

Don't try to 'unteach' anything, just let him do what he needs to do at school but if that doesn't work for you at home you can use your own strategies. But most of all, he's 5 so give him a break and don't put too much pressure on him.

And YANBU, spelling tests at 5 are silly, I'd have a friendly word with the teacher and point out why they inappropriate for your son.

pyjamasinbananas Tue 27-Sep-11 16:49:13

I didn't do phonics. I still don't get how it all works but my reading was always ahead of my age. DS doesn't get it either but he is only 2 grin

minimisschief Tue 27-Sep-11 16:57:09

yes but phonics works. it may not be perfect but it dos work. it is also the method the school is using. unteaching the child everday is counter productive and is just going to cause problems.

slavetofilofax Tue 27-Sep-11 16:57:35

You are contradicting yourself. The reason that they have spellings is precisely because not all words can be spelt with phonics.

At our school, practicing spellings is a handwriting excercise as well. Both are practiced together. He will only break the habit of writing e badly by practicing it the correct way lots of times. I am sure he will have been told at school how to form the letters correctly.

nickelbabe Tue 27-Sep-11 17:12:04

I agree with filo about practising spellings going alongside reading.

mini - it doesn't work for everyone, that's the point.
It wouldn't have worked for me. (ooh, and look how well I turned out! grin )

26minutes Tue 27-Sep-11 17:16:59

The thing is he's putting pressure on himself. He comes home everyday and wants to practice his spellings which is a good thing I suppose as at least he is still in 'school mode' at that time and hopefully he will keep this up when he is older. A lot of the spellings he has atm have a's or e's in them and the 2 look very similar when he writes them, he goes round and round in circles then does a little flick so sometimes you can't tell one from the other. He was also getting very stressed with learning his 'keywords' last year. The 1st 2 sets had words like 'on', 'off', 'at', etc, then they added in words like 'the', 'one', 'out', but were still doing daily phonics with them. So he looks at words like that and tries to sound them out which can't be done and he gets stressed because he can't make a word with the sounds and isn't able to understand that not all words can be sounded out.

They are my reasons against phonics, so few words in the English language are spelt phonetically that it seems pointless to teach them as the bog standard. OK they may be good for some children, but I wish the teachers were able to teach a different way for those who don't get it. I have spoken to the teachers about it on many occasions, I've written in his reading record book that comes home asking "please can we teach him a different way?", but still they teach the phonics. The teachers have even commented on the fact that he gets stressed out trying to read certain words. His name is a perfect example of a word that is totally different when written down to how it sounds when it is spoken. Their name is one of the first words they try to teach them when teaching phonics, so the problems start right away.

He's actually got 10/10 on both tests so far but that doesn't stop me from not liking it grin and it doesn't stop him from getting stressed out about it sad.

26minutes Tue 27-Sep-11 17:25:20

Also I know things have changed since I was in school - you were given words and you went off and learnt them by being taught them, you weren't taught the individual sounds that the letters make. Plus spellings tests didn't come in until much later. I have no doubt that at his age I was taught how to spell the words, but I certainly wasn't tested on them until middle school.

Whether phonics are good or phonics are bad (in his case I think bad) I don't know, ds1 could read before school so never used phonics, ds2 doesn't get it so im(limited)e they're not good.

It just doesn't seem right to me to be testing 5 year olds and putting pressure on them.

MoreCrackThanHarlem Tue 27-Sep-11 17:25:45

I bet the teachers were rofling at your request that your son be taught a different method to the rest of the class.

And your belief that most words cannot be 'sounded out' is totally false. Look at the words in this post, for example.

Spellings are taught alongside this method to promote sight recognition of tricky words and rules for, say, adverb/adjective endings.

nickelbabe Tue 27-Sep-11 17:26:06

you need to work on that aspect of his handwriting then - explain that every letter needs to be legible (that's another gripe i have with the latest methods - they want kids to form letters with the joining flicks from the very beginning -too confusing i think!)

nickelbabe Tue 27-Sep-11 17:26:52

you can't sound out "false"

itisnearlysummer Tue 27-Sep-11 17:27:37

26minutes 'out' can be sounded out. Ou is an alternative grapheme for the the 'ow' phoneme. If he really is 2 terms ahead of himself he will know this.

'One' and 'the' are 'tricky' words. He will have learned to read and spell 'the' quite early on in Reception. And will also be familiar with the term 'tricky words' - i.e. those which cannot be sounded out and have to be learned as you say.

In fact, many children find it easier to spell the tricky words because they are taught these discretely rather than in the sounding out method.

Phonics aren't a perfect method, which is why many schools use a variety of tools for teaching children to read.

You want to consider him lucky - my DD's spellings this week include where, wear and were. She's also in year 1 and wasn't 5 until the summer holidays!

slavetofilofax Tue 27-Sep-11 17:27:59

Your negativity about it is probably helping him get stressed. Be more positive about it, because he is going to have to deal with it. The school isn't going to change it's system for one child.

Can't you just explain to him that some words are tricky words, and don't work with phonics? That way, he will be able to use sounding out when it helps and it works, but if he tries it and it doesn't work, then it must be a tricky word that just has to be learnt. His name is the perfect example to use.

itisnearlysummer Tue 27-Sep-11 17:33:01

Slavetofilofax is right. He will do phonics until the end of year 2.

hocuspontas Tue 27-Sep-11 17:37:45

It is (or was) only 45 HFWs that children are expected to know in Reception. Phonics does help spelling. You break down the word into sounds. Please don't 'unteach' phonics! How confusing that would be.

MoreCrackThanHarlem Tue 27-Sep-11 17:49:36

One word, nickelbabe.
Op claimed very few words could were aptly phonetically, which is clearly untrue.

Would you have children learn by rote the entire English dictionary?
Once children grasp the basics in phonics, spelling much longer words by breaking them into phonemes becomes much easier.

MoreCrackThanHarlem Tue 27-Sep-11 18:10:27

Be read phonetically

MoreCrackThanHarlem Tue 27-Sep-11 18:14:13

'He will do phonics until the end of year 2.'

Actually in my school phonics are taught throughout the school, particularly in the lower ability literacy sets, and even children in year 6 at level 3a/4c use the Lexia system which is phonics based.

itisnearlysummer Tue 27-Sep-11 18:37:28

Ha MoreCrack. I know of a couple of schools where phonics has been rolled out through KS2 too.

I didn't want to tell the OP that in case it sent her over the edge!

Feenie Tue 27-Sep-11 18:50:45

you can't sound out "false"

Yes, you can. 'a' is an alternative grapheme for the 'o' sound - and children will have already come across this in 'was'.

The 'e' is silent, but the rest is easy.

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