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Phonics versus Biff, Chip and Kipper

(406 Posts)
Lukethe3 Thu 31-Jan-13 14:09:57

I find it slightly irritating that at DS school he is taught phonics but then sent home to read the old ORT stuff which has tricky words at even the easiest level. Is this purely because the school has no money to buy new books or is there actually an advantage to be taught like this?
I have bought some Songbirds books for DS and these seem to make far more sense to me as they include the sounds that DS is learning.

simpson Thu 31-Jan-13 19:54:45

Surely there comes a point where the school books are not phonetic?

I mean, I get that all books are decodable but that the harder the book (ie the higher the reading level) it is not obviously phonetic iyswim.

If they can read, they just read....

Alibabaandthe40nappies Thu 31-Jan-13 19:58:40

Phonics does not have to be the be all and end all. It is a useful tool alongside other methods as far as I can see.

learnandsay Thu 31-Jan-13 19:59:57

Yes that's what happens. But I'm not sure when it happens on the new ORT. I don't suppose it matters to me if we're reading non decodable books anyway. But if we get put back onto decodable ones somewhere along the line and they're too easy then it'll start to matter again.

mrz Thu 31-Jan-13 20:00:18

Surely there comes a point where the school books are not phonetic?

All books are phonetic simpson that's the point ...whether you are reading Top Cat or Sohrab and Rustum. So the argument that phonic scheme books made her sound out more is misguided.

learnandsay Thu 31-Jan-13 20:04:14

To be fair to simpson, I think all she's saying is that some books avoid tricky words and hide certain sounds from children who haven't yet seen them. And at some point along even an obviously decodable scheme this stops happening.

simpson Thu 31-Jan-13 20:04:23

Ok , I guess I am comparing the books that DD started reception on ie jolly phonics readers where the text has obviously been chosen to aid a child in learning to read compared to what she gets now which is just a book iyswim.

I get that all books are decodable/phonetic but the earlier ones more so as they are a learning aid....Surely the later ones are a comprehension aid??

simpson Thu 31-Jan-13 20:05:26

Yes, LandS that is exactly what I mean (you worded it better than me grin)...

teacherwith2kids Thu 31-Jan-13 20:09:22


All books are phonetic. The only reason for phonic reading schemes is to (as part of the process of mastering all phonics) to limit the range and type of phonic sounds encountered at any point.

So first books = only the fist, single letter, sounds, no alternative spellings.

Next stage = more single letter sounds.

Next stage = diigraphs, most common spellings.

Next stage - digraphs and alternative spellings.

As the stages go up, then 'rarer' alternative spellings are introduced.

It's like learning an instrument - if a child has learned middle C, B and A, then the tunes provided for them to play are those, as single notes. As they add new notes, then more music can be played ... and then there is a further stage in which those notes are combined in more and more complex ways....

Look and say books are the equivalent of saying to a child 'look, here's Ode to Joy in a full score version. To make these sounds, put your fingers down in these ways.'

mrz Thu 31-Jan-13 20:13:46

Music is always a good analogy thank you teacher

learnandsay Thu 31-Jan-13 20:15:11

I think she already knows that. The problem is that some children have been taught all their sounds and even complex graphemes before they arrive in school. If they then face a rigid through-scheme plod life can get a bit tortuous for both the child and the parent.

simpson Thu 31-Jan-13 20:17:12

Teacherwithkids - yes I get all that now, thanks. But I guess as the book gets harder its not so obviously phonetic (as a teaching tool).

DD had one look at say book at the end of nursery. An ORT one called The Pancake IIRC. I can't remember all the words in it (not that there were many!) but she certainly couldn't read "pancake" as she didn't know the a/e sound. So she looked at the picture and guessed (basically not reading it) and the TA of her class wrote in her reading diary that she read it really well hmm

mrz Thu 31-Jan-13 20:18:17

If you look at early look and say books simpson they simply repeat the same word on each page so even more simple.

learnandsay Thu 31-Jan-13 20:20:12

Early phonics books aren't exactly rocket science either.

simpson Thu 31-Jan-13 20:22:06

But also it must be a early level book (I think it was red level) that has tough words in that a child on red level is not expected to know.

I remember one (from reading with yr1s) which had the word "concrete" in it. Now I can decode the word concrete fine, but not sure a child who is finding red level a stretch could...

mrz Thu 31-Jan-13 20:22:28

at least they start with sentences not the same single word on every page.

learnandsay Thu 31-Jan-13 20:27:08

I suppose they do. But some children can manage so much more than that it's untrue. I didn't realise the Elsie Marinarik's Little Bear and The Cat in the Hat are towards the end of some schemes. My daughter started with those. I'd always understood that they were for teaching children to learn to read. I guess it depends on what you think learning to read is. When I first say Sam's Pot I didn't know what it was. And when we got a book with no words in it we wrote the words and closed them inside the non-reading book.

teacherwith2kids Thu 31-Jan-13 20:27:29

"If they then face a rigid through-scheme plod life can get a bit tortuous for both the child and the parent. "

Yes, but that is NOT anything to do with phonics teaching, or phonics schemes. That is a DAFT policy by a particular school.

DS read 1 level 4 book, about 3 in level 7, started on the scheme properly at about Level 10 and read all the ones considered appropriate for a 4-5 year old up to Level 14/15 by mid Reception, then started on (banded) real chapter books - Flat Stanley and the like.

Having to read every book has nothing whatever to do with phonics. It is just a bad idea.

mrz Thu 31-Jan-13 20:33:01

In my previous school we used Ginn 360 (look & say scheme) and the literacy coordination insisted every child read every book and we were only allowed to change books once a week - I lost the will to live never mind the kids) which is why when I rose to the dizzy heights of calling the shots I made it clear that staff should use their professional judgement as to where to start a child and when to move them on and if skip levels ...
Our Y2 inherited a child on red level who he has immediately boosted to gold

mrz Thu 31-Jan-13 20:34:26

coordinator (I should check spell check)

learnandsay Thu 31-Jan-13 20:36:42

I can't imagine how soul-destroying it must be to have a gold-level child reading red level books. I hope lots of teachers are reading this thread and thinking a little bit about their reading policies. But I sincerely doubt it.

simpson Thu 31-Jan-13 20:38:11

I agree with it being ridiculous having to read every book at a level.

DD was on jolly phonics readers until Xmas (she is in reception) and got to green level (so only had one more - blue, to go) but after Xmas read 1 ORT stage 7 and was then bumped up to gold and now reads gold/white books.

The only look/say books that she has read are Peter and Jane..."Here is Peter. Here is Jane. Peter is here. Jane is here." etc etc (I found them in a charity shop).

DD started Flat Stanley last night and is loving it although we are only 2 chapters in...

simpson Thu 31-Jan-13 20:39:26

Are Ginn 360 look / say??

DD had a non fiction one a few weeks ago about spiders (it was written in 1982).

teacherwith2kids Thu 31-Jan-13 20:44:05


In your shoes, I would stop arguing the toss with your school about phonics vs non-decodeable, and go for an attack on the real problem - the policy that a child needs to read all books at a level. Question it with the teacher, take it higher, point out the ridiculousness of it. Ask for your child's reading to be properly assessed to see if she has been put on an appropriate level. IUt may be that she is. It may not be. But the sheer ludicrousness of a 'read all books' policy is definitely a 'foe worthy of your steel'...and a much better thing to argue about than phonics vs not phonics.

mrz Thu 31-Jan-13 20:44:34

Yes simpson

book 1 Look
book 2 Here
book 3 help
book 4 home
book 5 Lad
book 6 Ben

learnandsay Thu 31-Jan-13 20:45:18

I think that's great, simpson, if your school is willing to do that. But lots of teachers it seems want all the books read in order regardless of whether the child can read harder books or not. Teacherwith was saying that a policy such as that is mistaken. But mistaken or not, clearly, it's a popular policy.

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