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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.

mrz Fri 28-Jun-13 18:09:53

I've met student teachers & NQTs who are still teaching that Ferguson.

Ferguson Fri 28-Jun-13 17:58:07

I haven't waded through all this thread, but when I was first a TA, 20 years ago, we found many children (even up to Yr3) thought the Lower Case letter was the 'sound' while the Capital letter was the 'name'. Presumably today's phonics will have eliminated most of that.

mrz Thu 27-Jun-13 17:07:31

"How long on average do you find it takes children to become secure at the basic 44 sounds?" I expect most children to be at this stage by the end of reception although some will be much earlier.

Elibean Thu 27-Jun-13 14:47:56

Oh, just like dd1! Top marks in spelling tests every time, but I find spelling mistakes of very basic words all over the place in her work even now wink

She's nearly finished Y4. FWIW, I do also think that some people have good visual memories and spell easily (me), and others have other sorts of memories and don't (dd, my sister). But dyslexia runs in dh's family, so I always wonder if dd has it mildly...

good luck with the test.

WileyRoadRunner Thu 27-Jun-13 14:41:47

Thanks Elibean, the only reason I think it was school as opposed to dyslexia is because we moved her to this school because of concerns about the teaching at where she was. I had raised several issues which had been ignored.

Obviously the test will help us see which it is but I guess I am just impatient at wanting to help her before she becomes frustrated herself.
Also once she has actually used look, write, cover method she then correctly spells the learnt word every time .....

of course on the flip side she can often copy words from a book to her paper incorrectly.

Elibean Thu 27-Jun-13 14:22:43

Wiley, my dd1 had very poor spelling in Y3, and a high reading level - she did have some sort of processing disorder, not sure if I'd call it dyslexia, as her eyes would 'jump' from line to line and reading for long periods of time was impossible. Even though her reading ability was very high.

All I can tell you is that her little sister has learned through exactly the same phonics teaching, and is an ace speller at the end of Y1 - so not sure the teaching method was relevent in my dd1's case.

Elibean Thu 27-Jun-13 14:20:11

Personally, Rabbit, and in a very uninformed, inexpert sort of way, I think as long as they're enjoying learning and getting lots of practice.....wink

WileyRoadRunner Thu 27-Jun-13 12:34:50

This is very interesting and am hoping to jump aboard this thread for some advice.

DD yr 3 has just completed SATs at her new school. They want to test her for dyslexia as her spelling is absolutely appalling - she attained level 2 in literacy. However, she has also attained a level 4 in reading comprehension completely astounding her teacher!

I don't actually think she is dyslexic but that her spelling is down to doing it phonetically and the poor teaching which never corrected this. It is now so ingrained I am desperately trying to find a way to help her improve her spelling.

Any advice would be very much appreciated - I have considered trying the Ruth Miskin superphonics spelling or the Nessy learning programme.

rabbitstew Thu 27-Jun-13 12:09:58

I wonder which is worse: to have taught your child letter names in isolation, or to have told them that "ay says a, like a in apple" "bee says b like b in bag" etc... grin

Elibean Thu 27-Jun-13 11:24:18

Though now, a year later, they have caught up with their phonics.

Elibean Thu 27-Jun-13 11:23:14

Not pedantic, Rabbit, just accurate wink

I think the children I am thinking of in this instance had prior knowledge of letter names. They knew 'it's called an Ay' or 'Bee' or 'Cee' but hadn't yet held on to the phonic sounds for those letters - though they had been taught them, several times.

It seemed to get in the way of their learning the phonic sounds for a while, because every time they saw a 'B' they associated it with the information they had first: it is the letter 'Bee'. Not with the phonic sound.

Some kids managed to retain both sets of information without trouble, but several (younger ones, iirc) persisted with letter names rather than sounds until almost the end of Reception. And it did frustrate them in their attempts to read.

CokeFan Thu 27-Jun-13 08:33:31

My DD starts school in September. She's done some phonics at nursery and I've been reading with her (teaching her to read?) for a while now.

When she's at school I'm expecting the teacher to be teaching phonics by learning a particular sound and then showing DD the way (or ways) to represent that sound.

When we're at home we start with a book and work out what sounds the letters/words in them make to read them so it's kind of the opposite way round.

I haven't taught her letter names but I'm sure she knows a lot of them. She doesn't know the alphabet song (or at least can't sing it accurately) but she knows what sounds to say when she encounters all the letters individually and can recognise lower and upper case letters.

I think she's doing pretty well so far. We're having a couple of issue where I have to tell her that in a word we're reading you can't read the letter sounds one by one e.g. "th" or "ea" (digraphs?) and also I had to tell her that "dress" doesn't begin with the "j" sound and train doesn't begin with the "ch" sound because she still says "jwess" and "chwain".

rabbitstew Thu 27-Jun-13 07:50:24

OK, thanks. How long on average do you find it takes children to become secure at the basic 44 sounds? Is this by the end of year 1 and the phonics check, or have most got there well before then (and some after)?

mrz Thu 27-Jun-13 06:52:17

I think there is secure knowledge at every stage at the basic 44 sounds- single spelling and secure at the next level where the child knows the most common alternative ways to represent those 44 sounds.
Once they are secure at the basic level I would teach letter names linked to letter shapes.

mrz Thu 27-Jun-13 06:04:11

rabbitstew, often it isn't a case that the child doesn't know the sounds. It is a case that they know both sounds and letter names superficially and swap between the two in the same word.

Hulababy Wed 26-Jun-13 22:00:33

I guess part of it is knowing what people mean by secure knowledge as opposed to basic knowledge.

We teach letter names once basic knowledge of phonics is taught, so in the latter half of Foundation possibly. I consider secure phonetic knowledge as being further along the line.

rabbitstew Wed 26-Jun-13 21:47:45

I can see that it could be extremely confusing to have incomplete knowledge of both letter names and phonics. Not wanting to be pedantic or anything, though (it's just that I can't help myself!), Elibean, but I do think there is a difference between being confused between the names of the letters and the sounds the letters represent, and being confused because you can't remember all the sounds, so when you forget you resort to using the letter names, instead, because you know those better and don't want to say nothing at all. The former is genuine confusion, the latter is just a sign the child hasn't learnt all the relevant sounds, yet, but at least recognises the letter shapes and can name them.

Elibean Wed 26-Jun-13 21:30:29


So much for bowing out. Its just too fascinating a thread to abandon.

Elibean Wed 26-Jun-13 21:29:53

I do remember reading with Reception children who, early on in the year, most definitely didn't have secure phonics knowledge. Some knew the names of a few letters (from parents, presumably), and they actually did seem a tad confused when reading - they would sound out the letter name instead of the sound it makes/represents/however you want to put it.

By the end of the year, most of that had stopped, and during Y1 it definitely has. No confusion any more.

So that would fit with what most of you are saying - phonics first, letter names joining in once basic phonics are in place.

mrz Wed 26-Jun-13 20:54:45

Most people would use names in Y1 once children have basic phonic skills

Hulababy Wed 26-Jun-13 20:53:51

Not seen the new framework, I did wonder if it would go.

Debbie definitely used names in Y1. I was sure she used it in the spring term (would have been late on iirr) in Foundation, but happy to be mistaken and mixing up the demos. As I said we saw her do a few. I don't teach in Foundation very much, only half a day a week, and don't do phonics with them at all. My main teaching roles are in Y2.

The scheme, regardless, appears to be working very well in our school and we re, at present, pleased with the way it is going.

mrz Wed 26-Jun-13 20:43:21

I can only say Debbie herself has stated many times that children should be secure with sounds before teaching letter names (although no one is suggesting that this excludes teaching the alphabet song).

Yes naming letters was scale point 4 in the old profile but many schools left this until the summer term when children were proficient with basic phonics. It isn't an ELG in the new profile

Hulababy Wed 26-Jun-13 20:19:43

rabbitstew - no, as said before, on the whole we do teacher letter names, especially once in Y1 and often in Foundation too.

Letter names are actually on the EYFS assessment grid thing isn't it, or has it been removed in the new one? I don't do much Foundation teaching, and no Foundation assessment, so not overly familiar with it.

Hulababy Wed 26-Jun-13 20:18:05

I can only say how we have been shown to teach it mrz, by Debbie herself. We were taught specific phrases, teachers and TAs from Foundation through to Y2, to use with children. We also have several demo lessons where DH came in and did it herself, with out classes, and also where she observed us teaching phonics.

rabbitstew Wed 26-Jun-13 20:18:01

Thanks, mrz. My last post was addressed to Hulababy before I saw your reply.

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