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How to start teaching a child to read with phonics?

(171 Posts)
Zimbah Mon 12-Nov-12 22:40:22

This is probably a really stupid question... I've read hundreds of threads on this forum about phonics and have got myself in a tangle about how to actually go about teaching DD to read. She's 4, knows the letter sounds for the alphabet, and has started being able to separate out sounds within words although this is still a bit ropey. What do I do now - I'm paranoid about getting it wrong and making things harder, I initially started by teaching the old "Letterland" style sounds e.g. Muh for M, and now despite months of me only saying MMM she sometimes still says Muh. Can I just jump in with some reading scheme books? I know there are 44 sounds, but presumably I need some actual books to teach them within a word context, once she's learnt more basic ones?

And yes I realise I can do what I like as I'm her mum but I would prefer to follow a synthetic phonics way of teaching if possible, as that's what she'll do at school next year, so I'd rather that was her starting point.

learnandsay Thu 15-Nov-12 21:44:49

Meaning what?

mrz Thu 15-Nov-12 21:47:13

meaning ... if she's doing that she's been badly taught

mrz Thu 15-Nov-12 21:49:37

sorry that should have been on the "straight " sounding out post

learnandsay Thu 15-Nov-12 21:50:34

And she should have been doing what?

learnandsay Thu 15-Nov-12 21:55:00

She hasn't been taught that. She's inferring it. She recognises igh from sight, high, light as (eye) she sounds out stra, she knows igh, and adds (t) at the end

she hasn't been taught to do that. She using what she knows to read the word

she hasn't been taught how to read it.

She hasn't been taught how to read a lot of words that she can read she uses the knowledge that she has to work out how to read them.

Her phase is "figure it out."

mrz Thu 15-Nov-12 21:58:11

Then perhaps she shouold have been taught it when she was expected to read it...

mrz Thu 15-Nov-12 21:58:23


learnandsay Thu 15-Nov-12 22:02:21

Why? If she can work out how to read on her own why should she have to wait for a system to catch up with her?

mrz Thu 15-Nov-12 22:07:04

She doesn't have to wait ... she should be told when she meets the word.

learnandsay Thu 15-Nov-12 22:08:50

And if she doesn't need to be told? What if (as she says herself) "she can figure it out" on her own?

mrz Thu 15-Nov-12 22:10:54

Well if she knew straight away of course she wouldn't need to be told but if she sounds it out as "igh" hmm

learnandsay Thu 15-Nov-12 22:13:23

She doesn't sound it out as igh that's not what I said. She sounds out


and makes stra-eye-t

and converts that into straight.

And on the basis of the words that I've seen which contain "aigh" I'm not motivated to correct her.

Feenie Thu 15-Nov-12 22:14:57

Er...that is indeed 'sounding it out as igh'. hmm

Feenie Thu 15-Nov-12 22:18:12

It's a dangerous misconception which, on this occasion, led to her guessing 'straight' correctly.

But could lead to incorrect guessing if allowed to continue.

What about 'eight', for example? If she sees 'igh' in isolation instead of as another 'ay' sound (eigh) that could hamper her accurate decoding of a series of words.

learnandsay Thu 15-Nov-12 22:25:16

Well, that depends on what we're referring to when we talk about "it". Sounding "it" out as eye. It refers to igh which represents eye in right, Wight, sight and so on. The aigh combination of letters appears rarely in words other than those which contain the entire word straight. Therefore in the instance of aigh I consider the risk low and will take no further action.

In the case of eight, there are a lot more words (161) that contain that combination of letters. My daughter and I will look at that pattern much more closely.

zebedeee Thu 15-Nov-12 22:43:24

But learning that eigh can be ay may lead her to dangerous shale-type sedimentary rock card tricks rather than the safer nimble fingered sleight of hand ones.

learnandsay Thu 15-Nov-12 22:46:22

Zebedeee, we haven't examined eigh yet. So she hasn't learned it as anything, yet.

legoballoon Thu 15-Nov-12 23:02:12

"but this could lead to incorrect guessing if allowed to continue"

or independent, problem-solving attitude?

Most native speakers, when acquiring English, over-generalise their past participles and arrive at words like "eated" before they eventually note the correct form (in this case "ate"). If learnandsay's DD makes incorrect guesses, that's not going to stop her from learning to read.

A child sounds out p-u-t, and arrives as "putt". Where does that leave a purely synthetics phonics model? Or is that a "tricky word" (aka whole word learning in a sheep's clothing?) The jury's out on synthetic phonics, and there are vested interests in presenting it as a pedagogic panacea.

Sweet dreams zzzzzz

TheOneWithTheHair Thu 15-Nov-12 23:46:09

Just place marking. This thread is really relevant for my ds2. Thanks.

maizieD Fri 16-Nov-12 00:36:00

^ The jury's out on synthetic phonics, and there are vested interests in presenting it as a pedagogic panacea.^

Oooh. We've been reading Michael Rosen and The Guardian, have we?

I'm afraid that the only jury that is 'out' on SP is the one that contains either people who have had no experience in teaching large numbers of children to read with SP, those who have an academic reputation built on Whole Language theories to defend or those who have been brainwashed by said 'academics'.

What is astounding is that people such as authors of children's books who have a real vested interest in having as many children as possible reading sucessfully (increased sales of their books, just in case it needs spelling out) are fighting so hard against a very sucessful method of teaching reading.

Of course, cognitive psychologists, who have been researching how children best learn to read for several decades now, are just about completely in agreement that phonics is the most effective method of teaching reading and that whole word methods come a very poor second.

But why let scientific research and evidence get in the way of unevidenced dogma?

Mashabell Fri 16-Nov-12 07:24:36

Fluent readers decode unfamiliar words, but the 7,000 or so most used ones they read as whole words by sight, as all readers of these posts do.

For as long as children need to stop and work out the correct sound for oo, ow, a and many others, as in 'boot - foot', 'how slow', 'many aprons', they are not fluent.

The ultimate aim of all reading instruction is to be able to recognise and pronounce those words as wholes, as we do in speech, without hesitation. A bit like learning to put names to faces. Learning them all by tedious phonic sounding out is certainly not the only route.

After a few weeks of phonics, my children and now their children all discovered that a far more fun way of doing so was by reading and re-reading some of their favourite books, like the Dr Seuss ones (with a lot of encouragement from me) and they all were / are among the best readers in their classes.

Phonics is ok to start with, but some children need very little of it for learning to read.

It's more essential for learning to write, but still very insufficient for learning to spell the likes of 'any, many, said, head, friend, leopard'.
Masha Bell

Bonsoir Fri 16-Nov-12 08:57:21

"Not just intuition, but classroom and parenting experience."

Observation of children reading, or attempting to read, tells you nothing about what is going on in their brains.

Bonsoir Fri 16-Nov-12 08:58:14

Mashabell - what you call "sight reading" is just very fast phonics wink

legoballoon Fri 16-Nov-12 12:11:29

MaisieD "Oooh. We've been reading Michael Rosen and the Guardian have we?"

IMHO your tone is a bit unpleasant. However, I have followed the phonics debate for a long while and agree with some of what Michael Rosen says. I also think synthetic phonics is a good introduction to reading for many children (but you chose to ignore that as I'm not singing from exactly the same hymn sheet as you.) All I am saying to the OP is that, as they develop, good readers use a range of strategies - starting with phonics, whole word recognition (in the guise of 'tricky' words), and using context. Children need a range of input to help them learn to become good readers. Being read to, being helped to decode words around them, playfulness with language, songs, eye-spy, etc. all help.

There is now a lot of money to be made from reading schemes etc. Teachers are under pressure to get their classes to pass the PA test in Y1. There is still a lot of debate amongst academics about the best ways to get children able to read and reading. For me, as a parent speaking to another parent, advising a range of language and learning activities is not that controversial.

CecilyP Fri 16-Nov-12 12:54:47

It's a dangerous misconception which, on this occasion, led to her guessing 'straight' correctly.

How disparaging can you get? It does not sound anything like a guess; it sounds like a clever little girl using what she already knew to work out something that she didn't.

BTW, learnandsay, you can scrub quaigh of your list of aigh pronounced as ay words as the gh is voiced (as Scots pronounce the ch in loch).

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