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letterland versus jolly phonics versus oxford reading tree biff and chip: save me from going ever so slightly mad

(44 Posts)
Greythorne Tue 30-Nov-10 23:20:26

I am lost.

I am abroad and trying to make sense of how to teach the DC to read in English but seem to be going round in circles.

We have this Letterland book which I thought was good (got DD1 to recognise all the letters, plus she enjoyed the stories and chartacters.

But now I see there's from Jolly Phonics and wonder if I have made a mistake teaching the alphabet sounds (buh for bouncing ben, tuh for talking tess, fuh for fireman fred etc) because we now need to do the phonics phonemes which are not the same .

So, do I jump into Jolly Phonics or songbirds

We are abroad so cost is an important factor, as everything comes from amazon and obviously delivery costs bump up the price.

Any help gratefully received. Thx

ThursdayNext Tue 30-Nov-10 23:44:55

I vaguely remember reading that some children become so focussed on the Letterland characters that it distracts them from the sound of the letters. Might have made that up though.
What age and stage is your DD1 at? You say she knows the sounds of all the letters, can she blend letters together yet? Has she starting learning two letter sounds?

IndigoBell Wed 01-Dec-10 08:14:43

If you are abroad I think it is going to be too expensive going for a Reading scheme like that.

Either go for a computer based scheme like headsprout or a book which contains a whole scheme in one book like dancing bears reading.

Greythorne Wed 01-Dec-10 08:32:34

Ok, thx indigo
going to investigate your suggestions
are they both decodable phonics?

IndigoBell Wed 01-Dec-10 08:54:41


maverick Wed 01-Dec-10 09:07:28

Yes, but HeadSprout is American -with American accent I believe, and Dancing Bears is designed for children with reading difficulties.

I recommend Phonics International -especially the Early Years starters pack -fully online, modern UK synthetic phonics, designed by a top reading specialist and very inexpensive

homeboys Wed 01-Dec-10 12:47:31

Message withdrawn

littleducks Wed 01-Dec-10 12:53:57

I would recommend starfall and reading eggs both online site (reading eggs used to have an australian accent but now there is an uk version)

For phonic based books, i like Ruth Miskins schemes, read write inc and superphonics

Do you have anyone with a uk address who could take parcels for you? You might be able to get a couple of sets from the book people, i would try more than one

PoppetUK Wed 01-Dec-10 13:08:50

Hi ya,

I'm not sure where you are but we recently moved back from Australia and I looked into a few things.

Knowing my daughter was behind in her reading and I wanted to move back I wanted to do some intense work with her to bring her up to class level over here. I was searching around and we ended up doing a a few months of Kumon and lots of reading of ORT Biff , Chip and Kipper bought through Book Depository (free delivery).

Now I'm here and I've looked into it a lot more I wouldn't have done it the same way again with my next two. I started DS on (do the free trial and then they'll write with offers), I taught him his sounds through the Jolly Phonics workbooks which really got him going. Because I've already got the ORT books he'll be reading them to but I do like readingeggs still and have just subscribed to that (he's just about to turn 5) or another year or was it 2 years for the price of 1. I can't remember. Because my DD likes to play on it to I've added her because it didn't cost very much. I figure that she's missed a lot of the phonics practise in school and it will never hurt her.

In Australia my daughter only got sight words for spellings - a big mistake in my opinion. I now make sure she gets spellings with some words that you can spell phonetically because it gives her practise at making words as well.

I hope this helps in some way.


ClenchedBottom Wed 01-Dec-10 13:14:06

homeboys - the 45 words for YR readers is rather out of date now.

I would avoid Letterland!!!!!!!! (Shudders emoticon, sorry!)

Have a look at 'Letters and Sounds' online to see what is used in lots of schools now (sorry can't do links, should google easily)

Other than that, I would suggest a sensible phonic approach - by sensible, I mean that I don't ascribe to the hysteria provoked in some by the idea that a young child might very occasionally look at the picture at the same time as blending phonemes to generate an initially unfamiliar word.....

This is not the same as teaching children to guess from pictures!

PoppetUK Wed 01-Dec-10 13:14:23

p.s thanks for that tip about changing the accent. Just made my account English

pps. my ds did Letter Land and all he could remember was fireman fred not the "F" or "f". He totally got Jolly Phonics. DD got her alphabet without any of it, can just look at something and remember it (perhaps why her phonics isn't as strong but perfectly good enough I hope)

BeenBeta Wed 01-Dec-10 13:20:40

For those of you who are worrying about teaching your young DCs letter sounds etc.

There is filthy, dirty, grubby shameful secret about learning to read.

Its all about sheer volume of reading not phonics. The more that a DC reads the more they just 'remember' what a word looks like. The sounding out letter stage is just a crutch to get them there ASAP.

The very high league table Prep schools just drive children through ORT and other schemes at as fast a pace as possible by sending two new books home every week and expecting parents to relentlessly drive encourage DCs to read them. The more often a child reads a given word the more they are likely to remember the word by rote learning.

That is how the top schools do it and no teacher will ever tell you that. Children who read a lot with parents at home and at school just remember a lot more words off by heart than a child who reads less often. They then parrot them as they recognise them - just like you do as an adult.

Feenie Wed 01-Dec-10 14:27:25

Yes. And all the research says that it's simply practice, and definitely NOT any kind of teaching strategy which is most successful. hmm

Practice and interested parents counts for a hell of a lot, Beenbeta - but it's not a straight substitute for any kind of teaching strategy. Just ask some parents of struggling readers right here on MN.

Feenie Wed 01-Dec-10 14:28:13

PractiSe - sorry, abandoned car at school and had to walk 2 miles home, have frozen brain.

ClenchedBottom Wed 01-Dec-10 14:43:48

Beenbeta - goodness, how quaint you are!

Did 'a top school' tell you this magical nugget of information????

(Backs away slowly whilst smiling encouragingly....)

sarahfreck Wed 01-Dec-10 14:44:54

And this is why some poor students in high league table prep schools (and others)suddenly find that they are stuck at at a reading age of about 8 years, because they are dyslexic, have reached a plateau of words they can remember and have not been taught the phonic skills to synthesise new words!

Children without specific learning difficulties often do learn to read well as you have described because they internalise some of the phonic rules and so use them to decypher new words without realising that is what they are doing. It is what you are doing when you read this:

A good grounding in synthetic phonics is a great start in reading for every child and really essential for those with difficulties.

OP - you have not done the wrong thing with letter land - the letter sounds (ah buh etc) are phonic sounds. Dc's need to learn the two and three letter phonics ( like ai, igh) as well though. There is no one best scheme in my opinion. Jolly phonics is good because of the way it has actions to go with the sounds but you don't have to use it.

If it were me I would get a 3 year subscription at the grand price of £33 to phonics international as mentioned above. This will give you all the core synthetic phonics you need, but I would then supplement this with a mixture of phonic reading books (read write inc, songbird phonics, jolly phonics reading books, floppy's phonics) bought as cheaply as possible via Amazon and Ebay.
The Phonics international stuff is very comprehensive but may be a bit dry and paper based. I would supplement it by making as many activities as possible into games (read a word to go up the ladder in snakes and ladders, - how many sounds can you read in a a minute) and also introduce some multisensory elements such as making the different graphemes out of plasticene/playdough and using magnetic fridge letters (lower case) to make sounds and words.
For most children I would also introduce a set of tricky words to be learnt as "look and say". These are common ones that don't follow the most common phonic rules ( they do follow other phonic rules and would be introduced eventually in a pure synthetic phonics programme) but children can sometimes get to reading a wider range of texts more quickly if you introduce these as "look and say". I know I'm likely to be slated by the synthetic phonics evangelists for saying this but it works best for most children in my opinion (and is how both Jolly Phonics and Read Write inc deal with the issue)!

Using starfall is great if you don't mind the american accent and something like readingeggs might be a good resource (not used it myself) if your dc likes computer based activities but not 100% necessary imo

maverick Wed 01-Dec-10 15:14:20

'I would also introduce a set of tricky words to be learnt as "look and say"...and is how both Jolly Phonics and Read Write inc deal with the issue)!'

Sorry Sarah, you're wrong about that.

Jolly Phonics, RWI and the DfE's programme Letters and Sounds which is based on JP and RWI, all treat 'tricky words' in the same way:

'Even the core of high frequency words which are not transparently decodable using known grapheme–phoneme correspondences usually contain at least one GPC that is familiar. Rather than approach these words as though they were unique entities, it is advisable to start from what is known and register the ‘tricky bit’ in the word. Even the word yacht, often considered one of the most irregular of English words [it's of Dutch origin], has two of the three phonemes represented with regular graphemes' (Letter&Sounds Notes of Guidance p16) Teach the regular part of the word and draw attention to the irregular part/s. Do NOT teach as global wholes. For a list of the approx. 100 HFWs with singular or rare spellings which need to taught directly and systematically -see D.McGuinness. Early Reading Instruction p58.

There are only seven HFWs words <one>, <once>, <two>, <who>, <the>, <are> and <eye>, that may need to be memorised as whole units i.e. are true, high frequency 'sight' words, though no English word is completely phonologically opaque.

BeenBeta Wed 01-Dec-10 15:18:00

Feenie/ClenchedBottom - we truely lived the experience of our DSs learning to read at a high league table school. The teacher told us that in her experience the best readers do just 'remember the words' and dont really do phonics after a while. The pushy parents with older DCs knew this and practiced reading book agter book with their DCs to within an inch of their lives every night. You bet they did.

Phonics is fine to start with but true reading ability is about sheer volume. Dont believe that your DC will learn to read by just doing 20 minutes a week. It has to be every night for 10-20 minutes and once they learn what 'Biff' and 'Chip' and 'the' and 'and' and all the other common words look like they fly.

I might say the same about learnng to do maths. Number lines are fine but as another teacher told us that is only a crutch to get children to the point of adding up, subtracting, multiplying in columns.

IndigoBell Wed 01-Dec-10 15:27:38

BeenBeta - it's not just private schools that recommend reading 10-20 minutes every night with your kid. Every single school recommends that.

And almost all parents do do that - and for some children it helps and for some children for various reasons it doesn't.

The point of phonics is to decode words you don't already know how to read. You are meant to learn words by sight after you've read them a lot. That doesn't mean they originally get taught by sight....

Reading every night without properly teaching children how to read sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. Depends on the kid.

BeenBeta Wed 01-Dec-10 15:37:27

We moved schools between DS1 and DS2. The second school was much more phonics based and did far less reading volume. We found with DS2 that phonics held him back. He just didnt get it and wasn't patient enough to want to do it. He just looked the context and the first few letters of a word and then guessed. He just wanted to read and often said 'this is just boring' when we made him do sounding out.

It was only when we ditched phonics and just got him reading as much as possible, albeit with mistakes, that he progressed a lot faster.

Feenie Wed 01-Dec-10 15:38:08

"The teacher told us that in her experience the best readers do just 'remember the words' and dont really do phonics after a while"

So? I don't care what one misguided teacher's experience is, and overwhelming amount of research over many years tells us different.

What happens if a child comes across a loger word later - how can they sight read a word they don't know?

Sarahfreck, most tricky words are partially decodable with a tricky bit, and that's what you should be teaching.

Feenie Wed 01-Dec-10 15:38:33

aN. God. Proofread, woman.

BeenBeta Wed 01-Dec-10 15:54:20

Feenie - thse were outstanding teachers in an outstandng school. The truth is phonics is a fine tool for early readers and children with specific reading difficuties - but after a while it is just not how able children read.

Our experience with DS2 who did 'Jolly Phonics' was that he was great at doing the excercises in class just like he was great with Letterland letters. He just could not relate it to reading at all. Jolly phonics he loved but it became an end in itself unrelated to words he had to read in a book.

Far too many protocols and procedures in teaching overide the objective and phonics is one. It is only one approach.

mrz Wed 01-Dec-10 16:10:06

but after a while it is just not how able children read. BeenBeta I think you are confusing children who have become accomplished readers after serving as apprentice readers overtly using phonics to read each word to being able to discretely use phonics when they encounter unknown words.
Phonics is an early reading skill and as children become more proficient they need other skills such as comprehension, context, syntax ...
I would suggest to you, phonics doesn't get in the way of reading, rather it is a very powerful tool to enable most children to become readers.
If the teacher had told me her theory I would have pointed to the host of children who have not become readers in spite of extensive exposure to books and reading. (and then removed my children quickly)

Feenie Wed 01-Dec-10 16:20:27

What mrz said - but she is much more eloquent. And ha - outstanding experienced teacher here too, and a Literacy coordinator.
Mrz, you must be so busy being Lit coordinator and Senco too, I don't know how you do it! <respect emoticon>

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