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Sounding out, whole word and phonics question

(482 Posts)
Shattereddreams Fri 11-Jan-13 14:43:43

My dd is doing well with her reading. Y1.
At home we read more extensively than school books so I am aware there is an element of pushing her above her school ability so to speak. But her school books are not particularly challenging ORT Level 7.

When she approaches a long unknown word, she basically panics. Small words if unknown don't cause problems, just long ones.

If phonetic, I ask her to sound out. But she can't. I think she reads in a whole word way, and she tries to make a word that she does know without really looking at the word.
Tethered she wanted to read as teacher.

She has a lazy supply teacher this year so hasn't made much progress in school, plenty at home though.

Is this fear normal progression?

I wondered about the phonics test because if she can't sound out unknown words then this could be a problem.

CecilyP Sat 12-Jan-13 11:50:11

but I would normally get a child to blend as far as they can so perhaps "t" "e" tell them "th" "er" and they can finish off "e" "d"

But there is no second 'e' sound in 'tethered' - which might be part of the problem if a child isn't even familiar with the spoken word. There is more than one possible pronunciation of many multisyllabic words and often the sounds are distorted. If OP's child can confidently blend short words but baulks at long ones, I would find some words that have simple pronunciation and don't distort for her to practise on and get her confidence up - words like 'picnic' and 'fantastic' - I am sure there are many more but can't think at the moment.

Tgger Sat 12-Jan-13 12:28:51

Well, it's all a matter of balance. I can see a teacher perhaps has a different perspective to a parent. Teachers will generally follow good practice that has been shown to work for most children whereas parents can tailor make it to their child (although perhaps good teachers can and should do this too to an extent?). Maizie I think learnandsay is right here. Whilst it's not a good practice generally to tell children words, as you may miss teaching blending, or taking the emphasis off it if you do this all the time, there's nothing inherently wrong with it. In some contexts it is the most intelligent thing to do. Like most things, it's the way you use it.

Tgger Sat 12-Jan-13 12:36:41

Although have just read the thread in a bit more detail and I don't think it's helpful to "decide if she's a whole word reader or a phonics reader". DS learnt using both. He was only taught using phonics (well, unless you count the words I told him!) but am sure he used word recognition a lot due to his fantastic memory. I wanted him to learn with phonics as that's how it's taught in school and is best for spelling so that's how we approached difficult words, with the exception of those I told him (!)

maizieD Sat 12-Jan-13 13:19:32

But what you don't do is keep hammering away at her that what she's doing is wrong and what you are doing is right

No, of course you don't because you don't actually offer them the opportunity to do the 'wrong' thing. You just take it for granted that sounding out and blending is the way to go.

^ Thousands of children have learned to read beautifully using whole word recognition. I was one of them.^

And thousands of children haven't learned to read beautifully using whole word recognition. The trouble is, you won't know which will and which won't until the child has started to fail.

. But I'm against this notion that we just keep banging away at the child until we break her down into doing it our way because our way is best.


learnandsay Sat 12-Jan-13 13:33:44

The child is starting to fail at the moment if she can't read long words. The question is what to do about it. Not giving her the opportunity to do the wrong this is simple; only give her short words to read.

Clearly this is not what we want. We want her to be able to read long words comfortably. First we need to know whether or not she can blend. At the moment we don't know this. We need to find out. If she can't blend then we have two choices, either we can teach her to blend or we can teach her how to read long words using sight reading. Teaching children how to use sight reading isn't inherently wrong.

maizieD Sat 12-Jan-13 13:42:31

Maizie I think learnandsay is right here. Whilst it's not a good practice generally to tell children words, as you may miss teaching blending, or taking the emphasis off it if you do this all the time, there's nothing inherently wrong with it. In some contexts it is the most intelligent thing to do. Like most things, it's the way you use it.

Jeez, you lot are so frustrating!

Look at the situation. The child has problems with decoding. The child finds memorisation easy. But memorisation will only work for 2 - 3,000 words out of the at least 60,000 words in a decent adult reading vocabulary. She has to learn to automatically use sounding out and blending. With some children 'telling' the odd word won't hurt, but this child already seems to have a problem. 'Telling' only reinforces the behaviour that you don't want.

Unless the child suddenly cottons on to the fact that letters represent sounds and that she can use this knowledge to work out what the further 58,000 words 'say (cotton on she'll have to because it seems that no-one is thinking that it is particularly important that she learns this skill to automaticity early in her reading 'career') she is going to struggle when she is older and supposed to be reading more text containing a wider range of words.

I work with children who have not been rigorously taught to sound out and blend and whose only alternative has been whole word memorisation. By the time they are 11 these children are reading disabled.

It makes more sense to concentrate on the essential sounding out and blending skills now before the child has real problems.

"decide if she's a whole word reader or a phonics reader"

There is no such thing as a 'whole word' or 'phonics' reader. Reading is not a natural process, it is a taught skill. Children will read the way they have been taught, AND, if they've been taught a mixture of methods they will always go for what appears at the time to be the easier option, whole word. If they are lucky, they can survive the idiocy of their teachers by working out the phonics for themselves.

maizieD Sat 12-Jan-13 13:43:52

Teaching children how to use sight reading isn't inherently wrong.

It is angry

simpson Sat 12-Jan-13 13:52:37

But I also don't think the child is starting to fail hmm

I think it could be down to a lack of confidence (or phonic knowledge).

mrz Sat 12-Jan-13 14:06:49

In my local accent we miss out the "er" so it's more like teth- ed CecilyP

learnandsay Sat 12-Jan-13 14:10:29

Of course it isn't inherently wrong. What kind of dogma is that?!

mrz Sat 12-Jan-13 14:20:55

If the OPs child is confident with cvc words I would move onto compound words .
So if she can read bat and man she can read batman and if she can read can and not she can read cannot - car and pet she can read carpet -pop and corn popcorn - rain and bow rainbow then move onto polysyllabic words.

CecilyP Sat 12-Jan-13 14:52:44

In my local accent we miss out the "er" so it's more like teth- ed CecilyP

Yes, I think that is how I would pronounce it too, but the point I was making is that the final 'ed' is just pronounced 'd rather than ed as in, say, 'wanted' - but if a child was encountering the word for the first time they would not necessarily know that, and how you suggested that they sound it out would not have been particularly helpful.

CecilyP Sat 12-Jan-13 14:53:40

However, I do agree with your later suggestion of compound words.

CecilyP Sat 12-Jan-13 15:03:35

Maizie, I doubt that anyone would suggest that children learn 60,000 words as sight words. However, if a child comes to a new word that is way beyond their current phonic knowledge, it makes sense to supply the word and move on to encourage them to work out the words they can. Then, if they have good visual memory, they might remember the word they have been told or they might not. It doesn't really matter, they still have a further 59,999 words to work through to practise their decoding skills on.

To some extent OP's DD may simply be trying to read books that are a bit to hard for her.

learnandsay Sat 12-Jan-13 15:29:56

You don't learn 60,000 words or anything like that number. What you do is learn how to read. It's possible that during my time of learning to read I learned two or three thousand words by sight but it didn't feel like it. The first thing that I did was become very familiar with books such as Dr Seuss, Little Bear, and many many others. I also read lots of Ladybird books as a child. Much of my early skill with reading came from either being familiar with the text, familiar with the words or familiar with the context that the words were set it. Next comes spelling. From spelling the child learns how to construct words. fat cat sat mat are different words. In learning how to spell different words children learn how different words are constructed using letters, not sounds. Not every component requires a sound in order to have its place in the scheme recognised. One of the reasons why whole word became popular is because great strides are made at the beginning of the method. Young children can read whole books quite quickly. But if the children don't learn how to construct words by spelling then they won't be able to progress once the words become harder to recognise or the contexts become more difficult.

nickelbabe Sat 12-Jan-13 15:38:58

i would say te-therd

are there other -ed words that have -ered as the end?


maybe you should do some?
it's past participle, so get some pieces of paper with ed on them and then lots of pieces of paper with the word-ending-in-ers on them, and get her to join them and say them.

maybe it's because she hasn't learned this spelling rule yet?
i think this is more than just not sounding.

i know you said she was doign ti with other words, so maybe find a pattern in each word she doesn't know and build words from phonic blocks.

you can easily make it a fun game.
and then make some fake words with the blocks!

hels71 Sat 12-Jan-13 15:55:19

My DD is also on ORT 7 and gets a bit panicky at longer words often guessing. What I have been doing is (as I think someone else suggested) covering the words and revealing one sound at a time so she can see that she can do it. She is now starting to do this herself. It has taken time but she is getting there. She is good at blending though (Alien words are no problem unless they are long) she just can get overwhelmed by longer words at times.

maizieD Sat 12-Jan-13 16:17:38

Of course it isn't inherently wrong. What kind of dogma is that?!

Not dogma, lands. Fact.

Read Jeanne Chall 'Learning to Read the Great Debate'.

Then read lots of research about reading.

Then start working with children who have been disabled by the way they have been taught to read'; spend a great deal of time thinking about what you know about the psychology of learning, what you know about the reading process, what you know about memory, what you know about the children's errors and what could possibly have caused them. Do this for 10 years and then come back and tell me that there's nothing wrong with whole word teaching..

mrz Sat 12-Jan-13 16:55:46

I would distinguish between telling a young child who is reading a book for pleasure and meets a word beyond their current ability and expecting the child to learn/remember the word by sight. I would also distinguish between a very young child who perhaps hasn't been taught all the phonics code and an older child who has the knowledge but isn't applying it.

learnandsay Sat 12-Jan-13 17:57:49

In this case right and wrong are value judgements. Therefore saying this is right and that is not is dogmatic.

Tgger Sat 12-Jan-13 20:07:21

Maizie, I find your comments equally frustrating. Note no "jeez" or "you lot" there grin. Not sure if there is a "I find that rude" icon...?

Whilst your comments are pertinent to your experience, mine (and others') are pertinent to our own. Neither is necessarily right or wrong. Is it not possible for both scenarios to co-exist (answer yes IMO). So, I appreciate your concern that lots of children fail to learn to blend and this in turn causes them great handicap as they get older and can't read well. Therefore yes, blending should be the way children are taught. That is a given in my book. HOWEVER, there is room for manoeuvre for individual children according to their abilities/stage in reading/if it is a teacher or a parent listening etc etc.

Shattereddreams Sat 12-Jan-13 20:20:46

I'm hoping that my DD has a bit of all of your opinions!

She def memorises words. She can blend to an extent. But blending seems to have stopped at short words.

She's ok with compound words as she tends to read ahead to grasp them. But she doesn't naturally break them in half and this is the same as the longer words, she won't break them up.

She doesn't like made up words, there is no point to them for her.
Her phonics teaching is woefully behind her reading ability.

She can spell pretty well, I can see gaping holes in her phonics teaching by this. She doesn't know alternative sounds for oo. ue etc. but she can absolutely read these words.

I think it's all pretty normal, her progression but for her ability there seem to be too many holes. Her book this week is actually gold level - the long journey ORT and follows Max makes breakfast, so she has actually jumped up again.

Perhaps it is just cnfidence.

Tgger Sat 12-Jan-13 20:30:03

Hmmmm, all sounds quite normal, apart from the bit "her phonics teaching is woefully behind her reading ability". Do you mean she hasn't been taught all the diagraphs/alternative spellings yet? That sets alarm bells ringing IMO! You need to be taught them to read them grin. And Y1 should have covered them all for those that are able I think!!

I taught DS them myself last year as he was really beginning to fly with his reading but being held back by not having been taught a lot of the sounds (this was YR).

maizieD Sat 12-Jan-13 20:43:04

Lands, let's try ,correct' and 'incorrect' then.


I did try, in my first post, to explain why i was suggesting the particular course of action I suggested. If neither you, nor lands can get past your indignation about not 'telling' children what a word is, I'm sorry. I find it very frustrating not to be understood.

I don't happen to agree with the view that teaching reading is a matter of opinion; it's not a particularly difficult or mystique filled process but it is easy to mess a child up if it isn't done correctly.

Shattereddreams Sat 12-Jan-13 21:19:58

They still use a word book. It's pointless to me, she can just read whatever they put in. Currently doing numbers.

Phonics I'm not totally sure. She isn't very verbal about school. But teacher is very unapproachable, bats every question away, TA is in charge of reading books. Head practically out door retirement so no one particularly cares.

I think she won't do very well in the phonics test but this is not her ability and totally about lack of teaching. She doesn't have breaking down skills which I would assume comes hand in hand with good phonics teaching.

I'm not bothered by the test btw. It's more about the (lack) of tools in her arsenal to continue to be a good reader.

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