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bad reading teaching -am I powerless?

(35 Posts)
camicaze Mon 12-Jul-10 13:51:16

I've been into dd2's school a few times to help with reading and I'm quite shocked. Well over half the children in this reception class don't seem to readily recognise individual sounds or know how to blend them together. I'm talking about kids on L3 ORT that can't recognise all the letters in 'stop' or sound it out and kids on L2 ORT that can't read 'can' or 'red' and seem stumped when asked to identify the sounds within the word and then when I sound out for them have limited ability to work out the word.
I ended up doing alot myself with dd2 so she is making very nice progress but even if shes OK I don't want her in a class of weak readers and I'm pretty certain the majority of reception children should be able to do this. They have all been taking reading books home since Christmas, its a school with virtually no children from stereotypically difficult backgrounds, lots of parental support but very few children are beyond ORT L2.
I asked the class teacher afterwards if she wanted me to ask the children to sound out words they didn't recognise and she said 'Oh Yes'. I said that lots didn't recognise letters and found sounding out hard and she answered that its a very hard skill and needs lots of practice.
The funny thing was that this week the assessment file for one boy that could recognise hardly any sounds or soundout was open at my desk and I could see that the teacher had ticked the chart to say he knew all his lower case letters!
The head at the school has been very defensive and unhelpful when other reception parents have raised concerns this year and I suppose the governors would listen to her and the records which I'm guessing say the children know their letters.
So the thing is I'm pretty certain I'm powerless in this situation...

Hulababy Mon 12-Jul-10 13:55:07

What is the phonics teaching like? Do they do phonics daily? How is it done?

RedArsedBaboon Mon 12-Jul-10 13:58:59

Are you talking about reception children? If so, then of course there will be some you don't recognise sounds.

Nothing clicked with my youngest until he was almost 8 and now as fluent as the rest. I think you are perhaps worrying far too sonn.

camicaze Mon 12-Jul-10 14:22:46

I don't think they can be doing much daily phonics but I don't know.
The problem is that its not just a few kids that don't know their sounds its loads and even many of the ones on ORT L2 seem to able to read very few of the words on the page - theres just loads of wild guessing. For dd1, with a different teacher, they weren't given serious reading books (just ones for parent to read with child) till they pretty much knew their letters and could sound out. Which for most of them was before Christmas. So the situation in dd2's class could never have happened. DD1's class had also made masses more progress as a group by the end of reception.

thirtysomething Mon 12-Jul-10 14:29:11

IMHO bad phonics teaching leads to an unusually high number of kids assessed as "dyslexic" by year 4/5. Just my very biased opinion though as this is what appears to have happened at DD's school where phonics teaching didn't happen in reception/y1.

civil Mon 12-Jul-10 14:32:07

All schools have different approaches but this sounds quite poor.

My dd1 is in a very mixed school with some disadvantaged children but at the end of reception she was ORT level 10, book band purple.

A couple of other children were on higher levels. And we're not talking about middle class families in this school.

By the Christmas of year 1, the 'average' readers were reading book band turquoise.

Your dd's class don't seem to making a great deal of progress. However, my dds school, because of its intake, has to work very hard with its children.

Thromdimbulator Mon 12-Jul-10 14:35:52

East Sussex by any chance?

camicaze Mon 12-Jul-10 16:07:09

Not East Sussex - Why whats the experience there???

Thromdimbulator Mon 12-Jul-10 16:21:57

Experience here is pretty much exactly as you describe. I eventually found out that what you (and I) call 'wild guessing' is the lion's share of official literacy policy here. I removed my child from one school after it came apparent that they were not only going to fail to teach him to read, but were also going to undermine all my attempts to. I'm now ruining him with phonics, so he is probably "over reliant on sounding out" and destined to be "phonic-bound" for life hmm. Hope he doesn't tell Child-line.

Fayrazzled Mon 12-Jul-10 16:25:13

Quoting civil: ^"My dd1 is in a very mixed school with some disadvantaged children but at the end of reception she was ORT level 10, book band purple.

A couple of other children were on higher levels. And we're not talking about middle class families in this school."^

On the other hand, my son, who has achieved all the early learning goals for reading, is currently on ORT stage 3(I think that's yellow) at the end of his reception year. TBH, I'm happy with his progress. He has had an excellent grounding in phonics and knows all his sounds and can blend. He's just not especially fluent yet.

camicaze, I would be concerned if the reception teacher wasn't focusing on the children learning the phonemes and belnding techniques.

camicaze Mon 12-Jul-10 16:36:04

Fayrazzled - thats exactly why I am concerned. Its not that ORT L1 is inappropriate for some children at the end of the year. But I think they should be able to use phonic knowledge to read and its a bit odd that two thirds of the class are still L1.
Question is - is there anything one can do about it? I didn't think it was that controversial to expect most children to know their sounds by the end of reception. I have also made my child over-reliant on phonics! The teacher seems to find the fact she sounds things out is quite odd. But she is L6 - unlike the rest of the class...

IndigoBell Mon 12-Jul-10 16:50:53

You could write a letter to the chair of the board of governers expressing your concerns.

camicaze Mon 12-Jul-10 18:23:41

I suppose thats the crux of my question. I think the governors would simply ask the head or even if they were to investigate, the pupil records seem to say they do know their sounds - which makes me feel like I can't believe the evidence of my own ears because they sooo don't!

smee Mon 12-Jul-10 18:45:00

Not sure if this helps, but DS's reception focussed purely on enjoyment of books, with very little phonics, etc. In Year 1 the teaching's more formal and now at end of the year, they're all reading well. A fair few on ORT10 and above. Am not saying your school's like this, but it might be worth checking what the philosophy is before steaming in.

camicaze Mon 12-Jul-10 21:17:07

I wouldn't mind if that was the approach but the thing is they are doing proper reading books while not learning their letters. All my (limited) understanding is that the whole point of phonics is that children should learn to read using letter sounds and not just whole word recognition. The school says they are doing phonics but surely they can't be doing much.

paisleyleaf Mon 12-Jul-10 21:36:52

I've also been feeling that my DD's reception class hasn't been doing enough of the basics. (East Sussex, Throm).
DD's lucky in that she's an older one in the year group and came into school knowing her letter sounds really well. So she has been learning to read fine. They did letter sounds at preschool, but it seems funny they hardly seem to do it in school.
The other one I've been surprised about is letter formation. I've been thinking of trying to find some worksheets or something myself, although I'd really rather not, but DD is starting to get into bad habits with her writing where they're just not doing it at all. Again, it was something they did a little on at preschool. I think other local nurseries did too, so you'd think the school would build on that. But it's almost as if the teacher is taking it as given that the DCs already know this stuff.
Something's not quite right if they do some of this stuff at nurseries/preschools, but then not again until year 1.

minimathsmouse Mon 12-Jul-10 22:06:13

I'm in West Sussex and the experience here is much the same. My son was learning to read before he started reception but within a few weeks of being in school he started to make random guesses at words and get upset.

The teacher rarely reads with him although I listen to him everyday and the book is changed everyday.

The teacher requests that we write a comment in the journal everyday. I state that DS has sounded out new words, in response she states he has used picture clues! I write that he sounded out, she writes back, he anticipates (guesses) the next word and used contextural clues!

I beleive that many older teachers who trained and worked in the 70's and early 80's were trained in the look, see, remember whole word methodology.A friend who is a primary head, a lady in her 50's said to me I should label everything in the house "Thats how we did it." Hardly going to help a child when they encounter new words. I was taught that way and I could not read fluently until I was eight! The problem is some teachers are now using a mix of different strategies, enough to confuse any child.

roadkillbunny Tue 13-Jul-10 01:50:28

My dd is just finishing up her reception year, she is May born and the youngest girl in the class with only 2 boys younger then her (by a couple of weeks). She is curently on ORT 1+ mainly working on floppys phonics. The words you talk about in your op my dd can read just fine by sounding out, she can read ORT stage 2 no problem but her (fantastic and very skilled) teacher put her down to stage 1+ because she is a chronic guesser, she trys to find the easy route and also has a bad habit of learning words by how they look rather then how they are formed and although this is okay for a very few words her teacher explained that if we didn't get her down to basics and have her sounding everything out, even words she knew by sight and could write from memory then reading wise she would hit a platau (excuse my poor poor spelling, just can't furger that word out, send me back to foundation lol!) reading and writing wise and would not progress past a certain point.
It seems to me that some schools in an effort to make themselves look good and parents feel that their children are doing extreemly well progress children through the levels too quickly, always looking to the next stage without ensuring that all the learning goals of the lower stages are met.
I admit I avoid the ORT reading threads like the plague, they make me feel bad for me dd, she is only young yet, she has had time off for surgery this year, she has speech problems that hinder her use of phonics and I feel she may be like me, take a long time for it to click into place but when it does she will be away at speed but now reading this I am starting to think that maybe it's down to the quality of teaching and the fact that only 2 of the 26 children in dd class have streaked ahead with reading levels is due to the fact the teacher is knowlegable and diligent, she ensures children are ready to move up and understand what they are reading and how they are doing it, setting firm foundations for the future.
In the op's case I would talk again with the teacher, ask to sit in with her when she is reading with a child you feel struggles with the level they are on and see what happens, if you are still unhappy I would speak to the head and tell them about your conserns about the gulf between what you see and what you read and have been told about the childrens reading abilities. (sorry for the long post)

smee Tue 13-Jul-10 09:49:19

You're right, it does sound unthought through camicaze. Why not go talk to them? Doesn't have to be critical (even if that's how you feel!). You could go with a: 'I don't want to confuse her, so how is she being taught, exactly', sort of approach. Then if they can't answer you can start kicking off. Have you had parents' evening yet? Easy time to ask if not.

roadkill, your primary sounds similar to ours in approach and it's working well for DS. He's a May birthday too and he's reading well now, but it's only just clicked. His teachers all along have been great about not pushing him, just gently laying the foundations. It's definitely worked for him.

civil Tue 13-Jul-10 10:04:25

It probably doesn't matter that much when children learn to read and how it's taught as long as it's

1) consistent
2) well thought through
3) there is a plan (a whole school plan)

All our local schools do intensive phonics but - to be honest - my dd's reading by 'knowing' the words was ahead of the phonics. They still do intensive phonics in year 1 although - her group - do theirs with year 2. Her group can all read fluently (they're free readers)so it seems that the phonics is to help their spelling.

They were also being encouraged to do joined up by the end of reception.

All the children read with their teacher in reception once a week. The strugglers read more frequently. Plus they had another adult going through their 'reading tins' with them each week when they were in reception. Now in year 1, the 'free-readers' read with the teacher and a 'reading buddy' from year 5 or 6.

But our school has to push and push because it get a poor intake and Ofsted breathe down your neck if you don't get great sats results. And, in our school, poor teaching can't be hidden by lots of middle class children doing well despite the teaching.

DreamTeamGirl Tue 13-Jul-10 10:16:32

I am slightly confused by all this
My son seems to be on Level 4 ORT books, and is on his 5th list of key words and seems to be doing fine. He enjoys them and likes the stories getting more involved ad interesting as he moves along.

However he rarely tries to sound out a word- does this mean something is wrong? I wouldnt know where to start and have no idea what phenomes or the like are
Should he still be on the almost picture books with 2 or 3 words a page if he doesn't sound out?

Thromdimbulator Tue 13-Jul-10 12:43:03

The question of being powerless is really interesting (and I'd love to find out you're not, though it seems you probably are). In our case I did take issue with the school and was met with a fairly hostile response despite my best efforts to be tactful! However, I later found out that the school were just parroting the line of the county literacy advisors who seem to steadfastly refuse to move from 'balanced literacy'. Why these 'professionals' have failed to be be convinced by the efficacy of modern synthetic phonics teaching, or indeed whether they have even read the research I do not know. It is, to put it mildly, greatly frustrating though.

dorie Tue 13-Jul-10 12:59:12

The children at our local primary School are not given any formal reading books until Year 1. I thought this was a bit strange and took it up with my DS teacher when he was in Reception. Teacher said the school considers most reception aged children to be too young for formal reading and that most are ready by year one.

DS is now year 3 (Going in to year 4 in Sept) and he, along with most of the children in his year group, have completed ORT series and are now on "free reading".

I can only conclude that it makes no difference what age a child starts to read. As long as they make steady progress they will catch up.

civil Tue 13-Jul-10 15:57:22

'However he rarely tries to sound out a word- does this mean something is wrong? I wouldnt know where to start and have no idea what phenomes or the like are'

You only have to sound out words if you don't know them.

My dd was definitely a 'sight' reader, so phonics in reading disappeared with us pretty quickly. But, they do lots of phonics at school.

I don't think it really matters how a school does reading...whether it pushes it in reception or in year 1. I think - as a parent - you just need to know that there is 'a plan'.

DreamTeamGirl Wed 14-Jul-10 10:03:33

Thanks civil
He seems to know by site most words, although has a tendency to guess based on the first letter if he doesn't know it!! (As opposed to trying to work it out)
He doesnt only read ORT and the like so I shan't worry just yet and just keep reading with him over summer and see what they do in year 1. It was just the OP that had me worried.

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