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Learning Key Words...

(35 Posts)
crazygracieuk Thu 11-Nov-10 09:33:34

Is there a way to make learning key words more interesting? My youngest is currently in Reception and learning them slowly but I'd love to make the process more interesting for both of us (especially for me who is doing it for the third time)!!

Chamomile Thu 11-Nov-10 09:47:44

Have you got enough words yet to make sentences? We play "silly sentences".
I made a few extra cards with family names etc to mix with her words from school and we take turns to make sentences like
" Mummy is in the tree."
"DD is a cat." Dd loves it.

WowOoo Thu 11-Nov-10 09:56:46

I've been doing a thing where he tests me on the words. I say them wrongly and he corrects me. But these are with words he's already familiar with.

Silly sentences great idea.

Apart from that I just fet him to read them and make up sentences of his own. Boring, already but ds1 is my first! Doing it for the third time would be a bit yawn inducing.

lovecheese Thu 11-Nov-10 10:01:49

Magnetic letters and a board?

invisibleink Thu 11-Nov-10 10:06:38

Has anyone got a link to the key words?

IndigoBell Thu 11-Nov-10 10:20:48

Remember that all the teachers on here consistently advise against learning the key words, and say instead that the kids should be learning to read phonetically....

crazygracieuk Thu 11-Nov-10 10:46:06

Thanks. Love the silly sentence idea in particular.

Indigobell- I'm confused. Many words can't be read phonetically like where. Is he supposed to say " w-h-e-r-e where"? He knows where as here with w at the front. Is that the wrong way to learn?

ElbowFan Thu 11-Nov-10 10:46:49

If "all the teachers advise against learning key words" who do you think may be providing these for Reception children to take home?

crazygracieuk Thu 11-Nov-10 10:48:09

Indigobell- The school sends home the key words as flash cards and they learn 3 sounds a week. I know that other schools round here do that too. Is it considered wrong to learn like that?

IndigoBell Thu 11-Nov-10 11:18:42

I said all the teachers on here - in RL teachers vary.

I'm not a phonics teacher and don't know all of the 150 phonics rules.

Certainly 'wh' is one sound that makes the /w/ sound (as in what and when).

I assume 'ere' is another phonic that makes the /ere/ sound (as in here and where and there)

Look up posts by mrz, maizieD and maverick for very vehement arguments against 'whole word learning'

It definitely is not considered 'best practice' to send home flash words to learn - that does not mean your school won't do it.

IndigoBell Thu 11-Nov-10 11:24:40

Although, after just googling, I can't find a good link to back up my claim....

crazygracieuk Thu 11-Nov-10 11:51:01

Thanks. At our school they do more complex phonics rules in years 1 and 2 to help the children write better. I hope the people that you mention reply to this thread as I am very curious about the rationale. I understand that reading isn't a one method suits all skill - I'm just nosey and want to help my son learn to read.

halfapoundoftreacle Thu 11-Nov-10 12:06:59

At my DS's school they have to know key words by sight, so I go with the flow...

What I've tried at home is a matching pairs game with my DS2 to try and get some sight words to sink in. He's been stuck on a dozen or so recently so I used some card to make small cards with each word written on them. I did this twice, to make the matching pairs.

Then, like any matching pairs game, you turn them face down and take turns finding the matching words.

My idea behind this was that he could recognise that two words are identical, ie HAD is not the same as HAVE, and THE is not the same as THEY, and then if he wins the pair he has to tell me what the word says. We do a summary of all the words at the end of the game when we count how many pairs we have and who is the winner.

His older brother enjoys playing too and both he and I say the words outloud as we turn each card over so as to model how DS2 can play the game as he recognises more words.

debbiehep Thu 11-Nov-10 13:40:19 %20English%20Alphabetic%20Code%20-%20complete%20pi cture%20chart.pdf

This might help.

The grapheme 'ere' for example, can be /eer/ as in 'here' and 'sphere' and /air/ as in 'where' and 'there'.

You can help your children reading by knowing the alphabetic code (see link) yourselves.

When your child cannot blend a word, point to the grapheme (letter or letter group) which is causing the difficulty and say, 'In that word, those letters ARE CODE FOR the /eer/ sound' (or whatever). Then your child can attempt to sound out and blend, or you can model the blending.

If you think it is a really strange word and you yourself do not understand how to decode it (sound it out and blend it), then, instead just say what the word 'is'. This is in preference to asking your child to guess the word from picture and context cues.

As for 'key words', these should nowadays be introduced very slowly and systematically - but you should not just be getting a list of key words for your children to recall. You should, if anything, be receiving a list of decodable words with the occasional tricky word added to the list. In this way, your children should experience success and really hone their blending skills.

These same decodable words can be used for spelling practice. Say the word really slowly and the sounds all-through-the-word will 'pop out'. Tally the sounds to left hand thumb and fingers (palm facing) and then allot graphemes (letters and letter groups) for each sound identified.

In an ideal world, all your children's schools should be providing parents' information evenings to explain these things to you.

If I was a parent of a reception child, I would be enquiring at the school about teaching methods.

I'm a grandparent of a reception child, and I'm having to ask, 'Where is the sounds book?'!!!!

TeacherElizabeth Thu 11-Nov-10 14:03:38

DebbieHep beat me to it! I agree that you should use the alphabetic code with your child. Here are my suggestions:


First, look carefully at the words and identify the letter-sound correspondences. Try to say the sounds and point at the letters, rather than say the letter names, as letter names can be confusing when talking about the sounds.
• Some key words are straightforward, e.g. ‘big’: ‘b...i...g’. For those words, ask your child to say the sounds and blend them every time he forgets them.
• With words like ‘out’, ‘then’, ‘look’, ‘back’, make sure he knows that ‘ou’, ‘th’, ‘oo’, ‘ck’ are each code for one sound (although they are spelled with two letters).
• Words like ‘me’ and ‘go’ are only a little tricky. Just explain that in these words ‘e’ is code for ‘ee’ and ‘o’ is code for ‘oa’. (I mean the sound made by the letters ‘ee’ and ‘oa’, but I wouldn’t say it like that to a child. It’s much easier to talk about than to write down in this message!)
• Other words are more tricky. With a word like ‘come’, say the word carefully together ‘come ... c...u...m’ and notice that the ‘c’ and the ‘m’ are letters you’d expect in the word, but the ‘o’ and the ‘e’ are tricky.
With ‘where’, say, sometimes this (pointing at ‘wh’) is code for /w/ (unless you’re Scottish) and this (pointing at ‘ere’) is ‘air’.
Do you get the idea? It means he won’t have to remember the whole word like a picture. He’ll only have to remember the tricky parts, and analysing the words will help him remember. Let him read them like this several times if he needs to, before worrying about whether he remembers or not.


However, some children have much more difficulty than others in moving on from here to saying the words automatically. If he isn’t remembering a word after you’ve done this more than five or six times, you could try timing him, but only after you've talked about the sounds. Time him reading all the words he brings home and write down how long he takes. Let him take as long as he needs to work out the words with your help, as above. Later or the next day, ask him to read them again. Repeat this several times. There may be a time when he takes longer than a previous time, but overall, he will get faster and more automatic. If he’s competitive, he’ll enjoy beating his previous time.

A game

Talk about the sounds as I said at first, before playing this game. Write the words on cards, with two cards for each word. Play pairs. Turn them all upside down on a table and take turns picking two. If you get a pair, you keep it and get another turn. You have to read the words before you can keep a pair, but it's okay to read them slowly, sounding and blending. I find children usually win, because they’re better than me at remembering the position of the words.

tempertemper Thu 11-Nov-10 14:16:36

This may be a dodgy was of doing it (I am not a teacher!) but I get my DS (reception) to pick one or two tricky words to read when I am reading a story to him. I read the text then stop and point to the words we have agreed he will read (like to, and the). When I do this for a few nights in a row, with different stories, I find he has become very used to recognising these words. Although, this is most useful for the high frequency tricky words - like, to, the, said, come etc.

crazygracieuk Thu 11-Nov-10 14:25:55

Thank you for all of the replies- especially the detailed ones from debbiehep and TeacherElizabeth. The school send the key words hope in groups of 10 and they are a combination of ones that can be sounded out and ones that can't. The children are tested on those 10 key words weekly and if they know them then the school send back another batch of 10.

We have had little help from school with regard to phonics. They told us in nursery that children are taught phonics so to teach Ah,Buh,Cuh rather than Aye,Bee,Cee and which colour reading books to choose from. The posts about the alphabetic code are very interesting.

Parents Evening is next week so I will asking more about this.

maverick Thu 11-Nov-10 14:43:54

crazygracieuk, do look at Debbie's Alphabet code chart -you'll find it really useful.
Also, my page on synthetic phonics explains a lot about teaching the code, with a zillion links for further information:


mollymax Thu 11-Nov-10 14:47:19

I made a word bingo with the 45 reception words.
My dd's loved it, the winner got a sticker.
That reminds me I better dig it out again for dd3

EdgarAirbombPoe Thu 11-Nov-10 15:13:42

words like 'and' and 'is' i stick to parts of the kitchen, then DD can win points for hitting the right one first (i compete against her)

eg i say 'and' - she hits the right word, gets one point, then 'is' i hit it first..winner gets a sweet.

or do the same with the words on the floor and 2 squeaky hammmers to hit with.

IndigoBell Thu 11-Nov-10 15:32:27

But how do you know she's learnt them? I mean how do you know she can distinguish between 'and' and 'ant'?

crazygracieuk Thu 11-Nov-10 16:09:43

Maverick - thanks for the excellent link. That's got a lot of detail that has satisfied my inner geek. It explains things really well. It sounds like our school starts with Letters and Sounds and moves to synthetic phonics in year 1. Hmmmm... At our school, parents change reading books and I now have a better understanding of which ones to pick and which to avoid. I may get a synthetic phonics set off the Book People site so ds2 can practice. Off to print off the code before I read with ds1...

mrz Thu 11-Nov-10 17:00:09

crazygracieuk Thu 11-Nov-10 10:46:06 Indigobell- I'm confused. Many words can't be read phonetically like where. Is he supposed to say " w-h-e-r-e where"? He knows where as here with w at the front. Is that the wrong way to learn?

If a child has been taught correctly and thoroughly they would know that wh represents the sound w and ere represents the sound air.

Lots of teachers are still using the old literacy strategy method of learning long lists of words by sight which was identified as failing children and I'm afraid are not too confident in their own phonics knowledge.

Simbacatlives Thu 11-Nov-10 17:02:16

Letters and sounds is synthetic phonics.

mrz Thu 11-Nov-10 17:04:47

mollymax the government scrapped the 45 word list and replaced it with 300 key words split into decodable from the earliest stages to decodable once the GPR has been taught.

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