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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.

Feenie Wed 05-Dec-12 19:23:03

Stealth advertising on your very first post, Beckysmom! - what are the odds, eh. wink

maizieD Wed 05-Dec-12 19:13:57

With English spelling being as it is, there isn't a correct, foolproof way of teaching reading that is equally reliable with all children.

So you would like us to believe, masha hmm

Mashabell Wed 05-Dec-12 17:02:43

With English spelling being as it is, there isn't a correct, foolproof way of teaching reading that is equally reliable with all children.

The basic idea of sounding out letters or letter strings and blending them into words is simple enough. What spoils this simplicity are the 69 spellings with more than one sound like ou in: sound/ soup/ sought/ should/ shoulder / touch...

Beckysmom Wed 05-Dec-12 05:25:18

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

mrz Mon 19-Nov-12 21:03:21

Having looked at it carefully I really wouldn't recommend it to parents.

Feenie Mon 19-Nov-12 21:02:18

Cambugs Apps have been developed by educational psychologists in partntership(sic) with the University of Cambridge

The rest of the advert sounds like your post, and some words and phrases which are exactly the same.

This wouldn't be your work, by any chance, would it, branflimflam? wink

Feenie Mon 19-Nov-12 20:57:27


mrz Mon 19-Nov-12 19:24:17

Sorry but it only has the 26 letters of the alphabet and there are 44 sounds in English and 175 ways to write them ... it doesn't teach reading

branflimflam Mon 19-Nov-12 19:15:36

I guess it is, but there is more to it - one new sound learned alongside known sounds (this increases retention) and the timed test, which ensures fluency - if they don't know them quickly they go back to be relearned. It's very simple, but effective. So many apps have American pronunciation and many don't really help teach sounds so this is just another one that people might like. However, I know there are others too so I'm not trying to sell this one - anyway it's free!

mrz Mon 19-Nov-12 19:08:55

I must be missing something with the APP. It seems to be alphabet flashcards ... is there more to it?

branflimflam Mon 19-Nov-12 19:07:42

Enjoyment is definitely possible with phonics, made even more so by great schemes etc. The point of the App is to get children really fluent before moving on to the next stage because often children are taught too quickly and don't retain the information. You don't need an App to do this, it's just another resource if needed. You would be amazed at how many KS2 children (or maybe you wouldn't!) actually don't have the basic phonic knowledge, but with a bit of support can pick it up.

Excuse my grammar in previous posts, finishing a bout of flu and still a bit wonky...

Feenie Mon 19-Nov-12 18:59:20

I asked what you meant - I didn't say I disagreed with you. I don't understand the 'but' in your post; it seems to imply that enjoyment isn't possible when learning with phonics books.

mrz Mon 19-Nov-12 18:53:24

I've just had a look at the APP and I'm not sure what the point of it is bran. Could you explain?

branflimflam Mon 19-Nov-12 18:52:40

Wow, first and probably last time on mumsnet with that type of feedback ! That is the aim of reading - happy, confident children who enjoy reading and understand what they have read Phonics are the building blocks of reading but what you want is the rest. Shame you disagree with that.

Feenie Mon 19-Nov-12 18:38:50

Phonics books are good, but the aim is for your DD to be a fluent, happy, confident reader with a love of books.

What on earth does that mean? confused

It's practiSing, btw.


branflimflam Mon 19-Nov-12 18:25:14

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Cat98 Mon 19-Nov-12 14:12:40

MaizieD - I get where you are coming from and I have a lot of respect for your posts generally (and Mrz and others) as you are clearly very knowledgeable about the subject. That's why I was a bit surprised at your "daft" comment as surely you know the best way to encourage people to come round to your way of thinking or accept the evidence is to engage with them rather than shout at them ;)
Anyway, I still don't think you understood what I meant as I was saying some children suit other methods (as I did) but that I fully support phonics being used in schools as they have to cater to the majority! I was referring more to parents worrying about things they don't really have to worry about, tbh. And there was a thread on here illustrating my point at the time (a parent worrying her DS was reading "too well") and the majority of the replies - including Mrz's - agreed that it sounded fine and that her ds was one of the lucky ones who just picked up reading well. Which is basically what I was saying.

I'll shut up now smile

learnandsay Sun 18-Nov-12 20:14:02

I didn't put the children to bed tonight, my other half did it, and apparently left them alone for a period, got back to listen to our daughter reading her baby sister a book in German. I guess if the language is phonetically regular then why not? (The other half of the family is German.)

Feenie Sun 18-Nov-12 09:12:37

And I can assure posters and readers of these threads that nearly all their children (unlike the children whom Maizie teaches) will be in the lucky position of needing very little phonics

How do you know that? That's an impressive crystal ball you have there, Masha.

mrz Sun 18-Nov-12 08:09:28

masha once again can I ask you how many young children you have taught to read? How many reception classes have you taught in? How many KS1 classes have you taught? How many primary schools have you visited?

You are now making unfounded statements about SEN ...people don't become dyslexic, you don't catch it like a cold ... but children are failed by poor teaching.

Mashabell Sun 18-Nov-12 07:25:13

If people have been lucky enough to have discovered them for themselves (and many, many people do) that is fine for them

And I can assure posters and readers of these threads that nearly all their children (unlike the children whom Maizie teaches) will be in the lucky position of needing very little phonics. They'l grasp the basic idea very quickly, but also realise that lots of words cannot be completely sounded out, that they have to be worked out with help of context, and that the best strategy for coping with those, in order to become a fluent reader as quckly as possible, is to learn them as whole words as quickly as possible.

As for the others, all children are taught phonics when they are taught to write. So nobody goes entirely without. There would be no lengthy discussions about how best to teach reading, if it wasn't for the irregularities of English spelling - if phonics really worked, as with 'stop not on hot spot' or 'a fat cat sat on a mat' or 'make, bake and take cake'.

The people who become dyslexic are invariably ones who have above average difficulties coping with spelling inconsistencies like 'man - many - men', 'on - only - lonely'. They are less able to suspend logical thinking and just memorise them all, no matter how stupid. They are less able to cope with the stupidities of English spelling.

It's a great shame that there is so much need for it in English.
Masha Bell

maizieD Sat 17-Nov-12 19:48:38

Cat98. It is the 'one size fits all' comment that I am 'arguing' with!

Wrong of me, maybe, but it is a bit of a 'red rag' comment to me as it is usually trotted out in defence of mixed methods, or 'other (unspecifed) methods' and as a triumphant 'clincher' to a debate about whether synthetic phonics should be the only method used in the initial teaching of reading. "Well, that's settled her hash" hangs unspoken, but implied, in the air "because, of course, all children learn differently..."

I would agree that in many areas there could be different ways to teach the same skills, but as far as teaching reading is concerned the 'other methods' either don't teach the same skills for reading or don't teach them adequately. This is a vital point that a lot of people don't understand; they see all the methods as being much of a muchness, having the same ultimate result, and can't see what the fuss is about.

Knowledge of the alphabetic code and decoding and blending are vital reading skills. If people have been lucky enough to have discovered them for themselves (and many, many people do) that is fine for them, but they generally haven't been taught them and it is very hard on the people who haven't been able to discover them for themselves. They end up believing that they are 'dyslexic' or just plain 'thick'. Which, in most cases, is just not true. They just aint been taught.

mrz Sat 17-Nov-12 18:18:55


learnandsay Sat 17-Nov-12 18:00:18

I choose when to tell my daughter how to pronounce and or sound out a word and when not to. If she was going to use the aigh spelling often in words other than straight then I'd point it out to her. But she isn't so I wont. Next time my daughter works out an unusual word we can argue more about it. Phonics guessing can tell you what the alternative sounds are but it can't tell you which one is the right one. Wriggle as much as you like, phonicsy people. But your theory still includes guessing as a core method, whether you like it or not. (The simplest answer is just not to criticise guessing so much, since is so necessary to your own method.)

mrz Sat 17-Nov-12 16:35:32

I've just realised from your response I had missed the word the from my previous post I apologise.

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