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phonics - can any experts help me?

(18 Posts)
preschoolly Tue 02-Aug-11 11:31:09

You've all been so good in the past on the reading stuff so wondered if you can help me here. DD is four (just) and starts school in Jan - currently in preschool nursery so is I guess doing some phonics work there. Unfortunately the six week hols seem to be coinciding with her wanting to do more. I want to keep her going with it because when she goes up to Recep in Jan the other kids will have had an extra term of phonics at Recep level and I'd hate her to feel disheartened and confused at what they can do. (there's the possibility she may end up doing literacy with Reception anyway, but that is a whole other story)

I'm just struggling a bit with next steps. She knows all her simple sounds and can read, for example "Zak had a bag, Zak sat on a tin". But she CANNOT read the word 'the' which is driving us both bonkers. She's done the songbirds purple books but I don't quite know how to get over the 'the' hurdle. Do I try to teach it as a sight word, or try and explain 'th' now? We're using Starfall, and Reading Eggs as well as Songbirds at home. I'm a bit hopeless at all this - and a working mummy so can't spend all day trying to help her.

Obviously, before anyone says, I am mostly reading stories to her, not pushing her and helping her to enjoy books. But she is wanting to read them herself, and I don't want to stop her. But THE is driving us both MAD

wheresthepimms Tue 02-Aug-11 12:18:23

when we were learning with DS we put any words he couldn't get on a card and played a race of who can pick the word "the" our or "come" out etc etc, he raced the older 2 or me or DH. With second DD who starts this September we have just stuck to the simple words, got an excellent phonics reader set from the USA that doesn't introduce the until you are on level 8 or 9. I wouldn't think the others will be that far ahead in Jan so wouldn't worry too much.

Lizcat Tue 02-Aug-11 13:49:53

Not a phonics expert, but a dyslexic mum who has learnt a lot about phonics when her DD learnt to read.
'th' is one of the first Phonics double sounds that is taught along with 'ch' and 'sh' and at DD's school these were learnt before christmas in reception. I think I also remember the being on the tricky words list that were partly learnt by sight because 'th' 'eh' do not make the.
I just checked the jolly phonics website (the scheme DD's school used) and 'th' is in the sixth week's group of letters if they do a group a week and 'the' is listed as a tricky word that can not be sounded by using a combination of phonic sounds.

preschoolly Tue 02-Aug-11 14:09:32

Maybe I'll take a deep breath and try and teach her some digraphs then? I must admit I find the whole thing a bit terrifying. Scared of doing it wrong/putting her off (not the most patient mummy in the world, I must admit) but we'll see how we go. Thanks

Jesusgirl Tue 02-Aug-11 15:15:34

There're some words that don't necessarily follow the phonics'-rule and those should be taught as sight words. Eg the, you, play, have, thank etc.

What worked for us was to make flashcards with those words and play games with them. You could teach maybe a new word per day. Show it to her and tell her what it is then point to it in books, on signs etc. Play games like placing 3 cards face down and ask to pick the word 'the' the other person says right or wrong with each card picked.

You could get a list of 'high frequency words' off the Internet. In reception there're 45 HFW to learn.

Renaissancewoman Tue 02-Aug-11 15:33:19

I'm not an expert but an interested observer.

My DC's nursery taught 'the' as a sight word in nursery before any of the blended phonic words/CVC words eg c-a-t. At home we would read reading scheme books ahead of their ability and I would read them as I pointed to the words pausing every time the word 'the' appeared for them to read. As they got more confident I would pause more often and ask them to have a go at the easier cvc words.

I think it may be a little difficult to teach it as a phonics word at your stage as it sounds different to all the other th words eg thank/thumb etc are softer th words.

I also did the kind of games with flashcards that Jesusgirl describes - very effective.

jamdonut Tue 02-Aug-11 15:54:17

I'm a TA who helps to teach phonics groups. "The" is taught as a "tricky word" which you just have to learn. You can learn the phoneme/digraph "th" as a soft or hard sound ie as in "this" or "thick"...but the "e" is explained as not following the rules, and is an "uh" or "ee" sound as apposed to "e" (as in egg) There is a whole list of "tricky words" which are learned gradually through each phonics stage.
I'd not worry at this stage ,quite will come with practise when reading at home and

jamdonut Tue 02-Aug-11 15:58:07

*oops that should be "as opposed",not apposed! blush

maizieD Tue 02-Aug-11 16:07:39

There're some words that don't necessarily follow the phonics'-rule and those should be taught as sight words. Eg the, you, play, have, thank etc.

Where did you get that strange idea from? Etc. is a funny one, I grant you, but the rest are perfectly easily decodable.

OP. Please don't teach words a 'sight' words. It could be damaging. It might not be, but you won't know either way until the damage is done)

Pompski Tue 02-Aug-11 17:27:47

"The" is taught as a tricky word in phase two of Letters and Sounds. If you are interested in how phonics is taught in many primary school have a look at

Feenie Tue 02-Aug-11 17:51:51

The tricky words are taught as decodable - but with a 'tricky' bit.

Feenie Tue 02-Aug-11 17:53:43

Jesusgirl, I too am baffled as to why you think those words don't follow 'the phonics rule', particularly 'thank' which is about as straight-forwardly decodable as you can get!

hocuspontas Tue 02-Aug-11 18:07:33

I suppose it depends what stage you are up to. If a child has only learnt 's-a-t-p-i-n' for example then the 'th' will not be decodeable at that point. Likewise 'play', the 'ay' sound won't become decodeable until phase 3 (or 5? I can't remember) if using Letters and Sounds. The 'ou' in 'you' is an alternative for the 'oo' sound in Phase 5 iirc.

Wants3 Tue 02-Aug-11 18:09:34

I am pre-school supervisor and I teach 'jolly phonics'. Just the songs and rhymes with actions but the children enjoy it and pick up the sounds. It sounds like you have a bright little girl, just follow her lead and don't worry about the little words. They will come when readysmile

Feenie Tue 02-Aug-11 18:12:06

The OP says her dd knows all of the initial letter sounds, so th would be an easy next step. The words mentioned are still decodeable though, and don't have to be taught as 'sight' words.

preschoolly Tue 02-Aug-11 21:54:12

Thanks so much everyone. I shall stop being scared of digraphs - we started on the Songbirds second level and she seems able to do those now (including the, thank goodness) so I guess I'll go with that for a bit and see how we do and try some of the suggested games, too. I just don't remember learning to read which makes it a bit difficult to put myself in her shoes. But she does seem to love it, which is really exciting!

Feenie Tue 02-Aug-11 22:01:10

smile And that's the hardest part taken care of! Good luck.

blackeyedsusan Tue 02-Aug-11 23:50:48

and don't panic. some tricky words they just "get" and others seem to take forever, but they do come eventually and then you wonder what all the fuss was about, especially such an "easy" word because now they are stuck on something else.... and so it goes on...

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