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Does anyone think phonics teaching has any harmful effects?

(728 Posts)
housework Wed 19-Jun-13 10:22:16

I am happy to be persuaded either way but would be and would be interested to hear all views. Am thinking about dd and whether phonics has worked for her.
DD is 7, reads very well and comprehends what she is reading on the whole. She passed the Y1 phonics test getting the magic 32 so many children got. However, she's a poor speller to the extent that an Ed Psych has suggested testing for dyslexia. I'd like to do some more spelling work with her over the summer holidays. Today I did a bit of the Alpha to Omega placement test with her. She spelt crash as 'Krash' and chip as 'thip.' I let her do the next words 'splash' and 'thrush'. She spelt these correctly. With chip, I think she knew there were 'th', 'sh' and 'ch' to choose from and just picked one of them.
The above and other incidences make me wonder. Does phonics stop a child trusting their instincts? In her case, I think she is not considering how a word looks to help her spell it. She will always fall back on a phonetic spelling unless she already knows the spelling. If school had focussed more on rote learning, regular and rigorous spelling tests, would she spell better. At the moment they're all still ploughing through phonics because the failures have to re-take this year. But there are no expectations re spelling, barely any spelling tests, no words given to learn. And dd is the type that will only do the work if school have set it.
I'm just wondering where to go from here. Thanks for reading.

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 10:29:42

If the person teaching phonics doesn't believe that it also involves teaching children to spell using gobbledegook then it most cases it's fine. Learning to spell and learning to read are different disciplines and phonics is for teaching children to read. So, no, in the main it's fine. We have had one or two cases on mumsnet where a mum has explained that phonics hasn't worked for her children. But that's for teaching them to read, not to spell.

housework Wed 19-Jun-13 10:37:15

Thanks learnandsay. Although phonics is for learning to read, I worry that it's adversely affected dd's ability to spell. Will look at thread.

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 10:49:11

It may not be the phonics but the way she's being taught to spell that's doing the damage.

housework Wed 19-Jun-13 11:12:04

I see no evidence that she's been taught to spell. As far as I can tell, they have lots of phonics sessions.

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 11:17:18

Not seeing evidence (ie she can't spell) isn't the same thing as her not being taught to spell. She may be being taught to spell in a dreadful way. (It does happen.)

Periwinkle007 Wed 19-Jun-13 11:21:17

I don't think spelling is taught so much now. There was a lot of evidence I believe that by giving spelling lists to learn and then having tests didn't actually achieve much, children would learn them, do well in the test and then when writing would spell things wrong so they have now on the whole stopped sending home lists to learn.

my reception daughter spells very phonetically still (well obviously as she is only 5) and how they learn to get the right spelling I am not sure. She spelt toad as tode the other day which I praised her for because she had used the right sound but just the wrong spelling. I assume that with practice they just learn words as they get used to using them but I am not sure. I was always rubbish at spelling (and quite probably dyslexic) and my daughter is also quite probably dyslexic so I will wait to see how she gets on.

What age do they focus on phonics until? anyone know? I sort of assumed it was mostly reception and year 1 and then by yr2 they were moving off phonics sessions as such and on to well erm other stuff.

DeWe Wed 19-Jun-13 11:21:22

I don't think it's harmful, but I don't think it's the be all and end all as some people think. I expect in 20-30 years along things will have shifted back again and schools that teach entirely phonics will be regarded as not teaching reading properly. Things go round like that.

My problem is that if you take a longer word with say the sounds ai and ough in.
Ai has lots of different ways of pronouncing it: eg. air, wait, said, plait,
Ough can be: tough, ought, though (may be others)

So if there are two groups of letters one of which can be pronounced in 4 ways and the other in 3 ways, there are 12 different pronunciations of that word, which is a lot to work through, and I think I would have lost sense of the sentence by the time I'd worked it out.

I don't understand the arguement that you can't remember enough words by look and say. Well at 6yo I read Lord of the rings. I did not get phonics at that point. I got phonics round about the end of the second book. And it was only the names that were foxing me. Unless you're telling me that I'm a superhuman grin then I think it's possible for most people.

As for spelling. Dsis and me were taught at preschool look and say. She's a brilliant speller. Could always spell it right. I am pleased when I get a difficult word close enough for the spell check to work out what I really want to write-I can usually recognise it when I see it. I was taught phonics at school, she wasn't.
My db was taught phonetics entirely. He spells phonetically, or maybe I should write "fonnetickally"? So phonic way it's right, unfortunately to the English dictionary it's not.

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 11:28:19

I've heard phonics goes right through primary school. Presumably it gets more complicated by then. Perhaps they teach children to do a word, as dowe suggested, with two sounds each of which has four different pronunciations and maybe six spellings each. How many possible combinations is that? 48

Maybe just learning to spell the word would be simpler.

Lonecatwithkitten Wed 19-Jun-13 12:13:05

As a dyslexic who also had hearing loss due to glue ear. The very first thing writing thip instead of chip would make me do is get my child's hearing check. I had this not quite knowing how the word started or ended so using something similar. It may not be hearing, but then it is ruled out.

justneedhandholding Wed 19-Jun-13 16:14:08

My DS1 learnt to read using phonics but they also do daily spelling tests. He is a brilliant reader and speller. I think phonics is brilliant and an easy way to learn to read, it can also be used for most spellings but of course the child needs to learn which 'version' of the sound to use which is of course tricky. Then there are the words they just need to learn by practising.

Most children will use phonics to spell as well as jusy knowing or learning the non phonetically spelt words - I can't necessarily see an issue unless they are dyslexic or have hearing problems.

maizieD Wed 19-Jun-13 17:00:42

I have an acquaintance who was brought up in S Africa, where phonics teaching as the 'norm' persisted for far longer than it did in the UK ('whole word' eaching took a real hold in the UK from the 1960s onwards). she taught in S African Schools and then came to the UK where she taught In english secondary schools. Being an academic sort of person she was rigorous about testing and record keeping. She frequently mentions the difference in spelling ability between the SA phonics taught children and the whole language taught UK children.

This is part of one of her recent posts:

I taught English for 5 years in secondary schools in South Africa at a time when good phonics teaching was routine in primary schools, though it wasn’t nearly as elaborate as some people now think necessary.....

It was only when I started teaching in England in 1978 that I started encountering children who had serious reading and spelling problems – e.g. 16-year-olds whose spelling showed little ability to write down letters which plausibly represented the sounds in words. This particular group formed quite a small percentage of the whole, but most of the rest had spelling problems which showed a lack of word-specific or morphological knowledge.

Despite what learn & say asserts, phonics is not just for teaching reading, it works for teaching spelling, too, and the teaching of both should be simultaneous.

One of the (many) strengths of phonics is that it teaches children to pay very close attention to the structure of words and to relate 'sounds' to their spellings. It places a far smaller cognitive load on children as most words are perfectly regular and the trickier ones usually only have one part that is unusual and needing to be memorised. Trying to learn the spelling of every individual word in the lexicon is just about impossible; like trying to learn 250,000 individual telephone numbers!

meditrina Wed 19-Jun-13 17:10:47

As phonics is the centuries old approach, I think it will be bried late 20th century fad for other methods (which left a far higher proportion of children with reading problems) which will be seen as the aberration.

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 17:11:06

My Y1 children all have spelling ages at least equal to their chronological age and have been taught spelling daily using phonics

singersgirl Wed 19-Jun-13 17:13:39

OP, if your daughter is suggesting 'thip' or 'ship' for 'chip' it's because her phonic knowledge isn't secure or because she has a hearing problem. 'Th' never represents the 'sh' or the 'ch' sound in English.

justsstartingtothink Wed 19-Jun-13 17:22:09

When my son was 3, he was shown a "C" at nursery and told it was "kh" (not sure how to represent the sound). The next day, as we were walking to school, he saw a police car and asked "Mommy, why does "police" have a "kh" in it?" His comment reinforced my belief that strict phonics as I've seen it taught here has grave limitations, in particular when children are encouraged to recognise letters by the sound rather than by the name. After the episode with the police car, I taught my son the letter "C" (prounounced "see", not "kh") has two different sounds -- "kh" and "ss". It is usually prounced "kh" but when it's in front of an "e" or an "i" it's pronounced "ss"; similarly, the letter "G" (pronounced "jee") also has two sounds, usually a hard sound as in "gallup" but sometimes, when in front of an "e" or an "i" (but not always) it has a "j" sounds as in "giraffe". At the age of 3, he was able to understand this explanation (I compare it to understanding dogs can make different sounds; cats can make different sounds; "c" can make different sounds, etc...).

meditrina Wed 19-Jun-13 17:25:51

An important part of teaching phonics properly is conveying the concept that the sound/letter correspondences are not 1-1.

To be rigidly wedded to the idea that "c" must be /k/ and cannot be /s/ In certain positions suggest that either he was at early stages and had not been taught that yet. Or that phonics was not being taught to him competently.

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 17:39:24

"After the episode with the police car, I taught my son the letter "C" (prounounced "see", not "kh") has two different sounds -- "kh" and "ss"."

what about represnting the sound /ch/ in cello hmm

Children are taught that there are 44(ish) sounds in English represented by the 26 letters of the alphabet and letters are visual representations of spoken sounds.

A sound can be written with 1,2,3 or 4 letters
A sound can have different spelling
A spelling can represent different sound

they are then taught the skills

segment, or separate sounds in words (spelling)
blend, or push sounds together to form words (reading)

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 17:41:28

justsstartingtothink was it a school nursery or a private day nursery?

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 17:46:04

Just because you know what sounds are in a word that doesn't mean that you know how to spell it. There's a flower which rhymes with Byzantium and starts with a cu sound. But that doesn't mean people know how to spell it.

singersgirl Wed 19-Jun-13 18:21:43

What, cuzantium? Or are you thinking of chrysanthemum? I wouldn't say that rhymed with Byzantium. And it starts with a 'k' sound, not 'cu'.

The OP was talking about very simple words for which there is one very likely spelling. 'Chip' could be spelt 'chipp' or 'chyp' or I guess 'chypp' (though the last two are unlikely) but 'thip' and 'ship' are not phonetically plausible.

Lonecatwithkitten Wed 19-Jun-13 18:24:39

As a dyslexic who learnt to read in the 1970s (so whole word). My spelling has been terrible up until 5 years ago. What happened 5 years ago my DD went school and learnt to read and spell using phonics. I discovered phonetical spell patterns I had never previously known about. My spelling is still not perfect mainly due to that whole visual processing thing of even when you spell the word right it still looks wrong.

mrz Wed 19-Jun-13 18:29:30

I would check to see if she can write /th/ /sh/ and /ch/ if she can I would suggest a hearing check.

hopingforbest Wed 19-Jun-13 18:29:53

My daughter learned to read without formal phonics lessons. She is now six and fluent (more or less - reads chapter books). In the last eight months the school has stepped up phonics teaching. Her spelling has massively deteriorated since then. She used to remember words and write it as she remembered it and generally get them right. Now she is putting down phonetically correct but incorrectly spelled words. She finds it really bewildering.

learnandsay Wed 19-Jun-13 18:47:16

It matters not. The fact is that knowing what a word sounds like isn't enough to know how to spell it. Otherwise we would all be able to spell every word that we can say.

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