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Different ways to learn to read...

(67 Posts)
allyfe Thu 03-Apr-14 10:12:59

My reception DD (5.1) is doing well with her reading (not compared to the free readers, but I'm still impressed smile). But, she must also be one of the only children in the country (based on my reading of MN anyway) who actually likes Biff & Chip. In fact, she much prefers Biff and Chip compared to phonics books at the same level. I think that partly she simply doesn't like the stories/way of writing in phonics books. She never has. She loved the Read at Home ORT, but wouldn't touch the Read, Write Inc ones. But I think it is also because she recognises a lot of words, and tends to work things out based on the form and the meaning of the text (so sometimes she will say the wrong thing because it makes sense in the context of the sentence, and it has the same first letter as the word she should be reading). She does still sound words out if she doesn't know them, but she seems to need to have the satisfaction of having a lot of the high frequency words that she already knows.

She does also read other things than Biff & Chip (she will have a go at a lot of stuff - she has tried a simple Horrid Henry Early reader, and some I can read books (which she read all of).

So, my question is, is this a problem? And, she has been moved up a level recently, and whilst she still flies through the Biff and Chip, she doesn't like the phonics books she gets and won't try with them. Typical pushy mum, I think she could easily move up another level because it takes her five minutes to read the Biff & chips we get home. And, again, as with so many children, she reads higher level books at home. We only get two school books so I'd like them to be appropriate. But I did just wonder about her lack of interest in phonics texts, and if it is something we should try to work on more, or if I should just let her read in what seems to be a ORT way!

bauhausfan Mon 07-Apr-14 11:54:11

I think Songbirds is a seriously brilliant series. I am using it with my 4 year old and he loves it.

bluewisteria Mon 07-Apr-14 11:04:04

We bought our daughters a 'KURIO', it IS great...
We download 'games' through their store for her to use. You can set up different users so she only has certain things loaded on to play with - you need to be strict with yourself about what you download for her....
Maybe have a treat at the end that ISN'T based on the computer - or she will ask nag incessantly if anything like mine throughout her 'educational time'.

There is a game on, story boarding, really that allows you to take pics and animate and load up stories - which involves writing/creative play etc. We use that now even though she is 4, as she sounds out how to spell words in chunks/phonics.

We did 'teach your monster to read' online for ages too, that really helped with phonics. It is very easy at the beginning so could really draw her in and give her a boost on doing well.

Or, A second hand iPad??

Ah, Kurio deal at JL

allyfe Mon 07-Apr-14 10:46:36

bluewisteria I did think that she might enjoy reading the book on my laptop for that reason, but she wasn't impressed. I have wondered about getting an ipad because the interactive bit is more fun (she can't work the mouse on my computer - not that she has had much chance to try in fairness). I think she would enjoy the 'computer game' bit of it. I think the idea is great, but it is the cost that is holding me back at the moment. Although I do think there is a risk she would rather play the 'dress the disney princess' game she has played at a friends house!

bluewisteria Mon 07-Apr-14 10:36:17

Hi allyfe,
Have you tried using a different medium to do phonics based work? EG a computer app or a game?? Maybe something that is new and removes any kind of (possible) psychological 'block' or turn off that she has when she sees a book with longer words. I just thought it may be a way of encouraging her to extend her phonics knowledge without turning reading longer books into a fight or 'problem'.
There must be a character or animal or something she likes that could be linked to a computer app or game or something?? So pursuing your goal as a parent but in a less obvious book like manner I suppose.

It was just a thought. My DD is 4, and everything I research on reading comes back to 'make sure there is a breadth of reading material'. It doesn't need to be in book format - there are ZILLIONS of magazines/DVDs/games etc dedicated to interesting ways to learn phonics. It just sounds to me like she could do with having the method shaken up a little, then returning to more traditional longer books later on. Maybe that is a goal you can have come Year 1, but between now and then focus on inventive alternate ways to teach them.

allyfe Mon 07-Apr-14 10:02:36

Ah, thanks MaizieD. I am probably a bit more obsessed with reading than I ought to be. I'm dyslexic and I am very much hoping that my DD isn't. She seems to be doing really well, but at the same time I am aware that she isn't just relying on phonics. I know that it is much too early to tell one way or the other, but good reading skills now are a good start in the non-dyslexic direction!!

maizieD Sat 05-Apr-14 14:25:09


You & your dd sound lovely. I'm sorry if I seem to have given you a bit of a hard time on this thread, but I spent the last 10 years working with struggling readers at KS3 and I know the damage that it does to children. It is so difficult for them to 'unlearn' faulty strategies. That's why I am really keen for children to learn properly from the start to save them unneccessary problems.

mrz Sat 05-Apr-14 14:24:45

Phonics has been the main method of teaching reading for centuries except for a relatively brief (in the grand scheme of things) when Look & Say arrived bringing with it a decline in literacy

allyfe Sat 05-Apr-14 14:15:35

MaisieD I learnt to read 30 odd years ago. But I have clear memories of it partly because I think I was at the stage my DD is rather later. I do think that is partly thanks to phonics as a method for learning reading, and partly due to governmental pressures/societal expectations. Expectations for reading and progress are very different now. And many local schools do allow at least a book a day.

Feenie and mrz I am genuinely reassured. However, based on my experience at the moment, I don't think it is always the case. My DD is perhaps not a typical case because she is a little bit scared by her teacher, and so doesn't communicate as effectively with her and the TA's as she does with adults outside school. But it is nice to know that some teachers will be able to identify individual needs and learning.

mrz Sat 05-Apr-14 14:12:26

Sorry maizieD I wasn't very clear what I was saying teachers can teach individuals so they reach their individual potential (not that the teaching is based on learning styles)

maizieD Sat 05-Apr-14 14:07:04

I find it hard to imagine how it would be possible to teach all children based on their individual learning styles.

I'm not mrz!

All well informed teachers are aware that 'learning styles' is a completely unproven concept. If it worries you, good phonics instruction is multi-sensory (except that children aren't expected to 'taste' anything; though I have seen an account of a teaching method from that 19th century where letters were made of gingerbread and children did, indeed, eat them as they learned them grin)

Hear the sounds : auditory
See the letters : visual
Say the sounds : oral
Write the letters : kinaesthetic

Teachers manage very well...

mrz Sat 05-Apr-14 14:02:06

Yes allyfe I think teachers are able to do that

Feenie Sat 05-Apr-14 14:01:38

Competent teachers can, yes. It's much easier with a smaller class, but good teachers make sure that all 30 make the best progress they can.

maizieD Sat 05-Apr-14 14:00:09

The school is a very middle class school (surprise) and there are tons or parent who go in to help, and so if they can give two books once a week, for any child who wanted them, they could do two books twice a week. They used to but stopped doing it. That would make reading at home easier.

My children learned to read in the dark ages of 30 years ago without a single book ever being sent home from school.

allyfe Sat 05-Apr-14 13:52:57

mrz - I know that is a teachers job, but do you think that teachers are actually able to do that with so many children in a class? It is a genuine question. I know that teaching is NOT the same as parenting, and I am not a teacher, but if I had to keep 30 children behaving acceptably, coordinating the many activities they have to do, I find it hard to imagine how it would be possible to teach all children based on their individual learning styles. I just can't imagine how it can be possible. But as I said, I'm not a teacher.

maizieD Sat 05-Apr-14 13:52:17

I do totally agree that phonics is a crucial part of learning to read. I just do not think that it is the only part.

I agree, phonics is not the only part of learning to read, but it is the only effective way for word identification. And word identification is the first step in the actual process of reading. The next part is making meaning; initially recognising what the word that has just been decoded and blended 'means' (which will be dependent on the child's expressive and receptive vocabulary) and then how it works with the rest of the sentence so as to understand the idea that is being conveyed in writing. Clearly if the child doesn't get the first bit (decoding etc.) right they are going to struggle with the next bit.

So, a child comes to any form of learning and applies strategies.

So they may well do, but it is up to the teacher and parents to ensure that the correct strategies, those that will lead to effective, problem free reading, are learned and incorrect strategies not allowed to develop.

No-one is attempting to straitjacket your child into a one size fits all mould; children can all be taught the same way without losing their individuality. With reading, the aim is to make it so 'natural' feeling and so automatic that children have the ability to access a whole worlld of ideas and information through text, which they can use to help inform their individual views and character, without having to worry about the mechanical process behind word identification. And, as with learning any skill, practising the correct method to automaticity is the way to achieve this, even though it might feel a bit tiresome at times.

mrz Sat 05-Apr-14 13:41:39

Well, a teacher's job is worrying about the overall performance of the group. no columngollum the teacher's job is to even sure every individual child learns to the best of their ability so they reach their individual potential.

allyfe Sat 05-Apr-14 12:55:00

bauhausfan I know. I don't blame the teachers at all.

I did try DD with the oxford owl e-books, but she wasn't keen on reading them on my computer. I think she would have had more fun if we had an ipad. But we don't currently. One thing I do think the school should and could do would be to give us more than 2 books a week. The school is a very middle class school (surprise) and there are tons or parent who go in to help, and so if they can give two books once a week, for any child who wanted them, they could do two books twice a week. They used to but stopped doing it. That would make reading at home easier.

bauhausfan Sat 05-Apr-14 12:32:56

I don't know about primary but I know as a secondary school teacher (a bit different as there are far more children to deal with) that it is so hard to give each child the attention that they need and tailor learning to their need too. I suppose that is why more and more parents are hiring tutors.

allyfe Sat 05-Apr-14 11:51:05

It is important to teach what is going to make the majority learn - i.e. phonics. That is what the school do. But it does feel to me like there is no scope in the system for looking at the individual child after the majority method has been employed.

I wish that teachers had time to have proper parents evenings, where they could spend more than 10 minutes with parents, talking about where the child is at, and what that INDIVIDUAL child needs to do to progress.

columngollum Sat 05-Apr-14 11:07:28

Well, a teacher's job is worrying about the overall performance of the group. We don't yet know if phonics is going to remove the long tail of underachievement in reading. But there are some indications that it might. Or at least it will have a damn good go at removing it.

Where it comes down to an individual child, especially one with a mother who is able to examine the reading teaching methods herself and pick and choose accordingly the whys and wherefores are probably beside the point.

allyfe Sat 05-Apr-14 11:02:29

But MasieD research that shows that a class of children perform better if they are using phonics is NOT the same thing as it working brilliantly for every single child. It is showing that overall, a group performs better. But, there may well be individual children within that group who would perform better if they were doing mixed methods (and in that I do believe phonics is a crucial part).

No, she uses them because she has been taught them, whatever you might say about the school teaching phonics. There is nothing natural about reading

Again, I don't agree. There may not be anything natural about reading, but learning is natural. We are naturally programmed to seek information and learn. Children are learning from the day they are born, learning to move to sit, to walk, to speak (which again, you could argue is unnatural - it was for our ancestors). So, a child comes to any form of learning and applies strategies. Some will be effective and others not so effective. I do totally agree that phonics is a crucial part of learning to read. I just do not think that it is the only part.

bauhausfan Sat 05-Apr-14 10:58:56

allyfe - I joined this site (it's free) and you get access to loads of different level ORT books. I home ed and it has been a real money saver. You can switch the audio off so the child reads it or keep it on and the child and listen to the words. It's great.

allyfe Sat 05-Apr-14 10:55:19

Just to add one more thing, DD loves to write. She sounds things out, but what she puts down for what she is sounding is generally a long way from the actual phonetic sound. But remembering phonemes is not the same as recognising phonemes. Two different skills. The words that she writes correctly are the ones that she can read without now having to sound them out. But she loves writing. Again, we were told not to correct spelling so that the child didn't loose the interest and enthusiasm for writing.

maizieD Sat 05-Apr-14 10:55:02

^ At the same time, I honestly do not believe that phonics alone works brilliantly for every single child.^

Honest belief doesn't override evidence. And I'm afraid that the evidence shows that classes of exclusively phonics taught children perform better than 'mixed methods' classes.

One of the reasons I think that is quite simply from the fact that my daughter uses mixed methods quite naturally.

No, she uses them because she has been taught them, whatever you might say about the school teaching phonics. There is nothing natural about reading.

At the early learning to read stage looking and guessing is much, much easier than decoding and blending. That's why your dd prefers it. Though it is heartening to know that she still tries to decode & blend unfamiliar words. Encourage that and knock the guessing on the head...

allyfe Sat 05-Apr-14 10:45:22

Missed the second page of this.

Just to add - I don't think that the school is necessarily teaching whole word reading. But what I think the school is trying to encourage is comprehension in reading and enjoyment of reading.

My DD does use phonics. She does sound out words, she does get impatient, she does get satisfaction from reading the words that she now knows from sight. She does want to be a fluent reader and she does find learning to read hard work.

Honestly, I think that none of the above is particularly unnatural, nor particularly unreasonable.

I do think that some children find phonics more 'natural' than others. Some children will have a good auditory memory, others will have a better visual memory. Some will have great comprehension and stamina in listening to stories, others less so. My guess is that all of these things impact on the way a child learns to read. It doesn't make sense to me to say there is only one 'right' way to learn to read. There might be a better way to teach reading (which suits the majority of children), but surely all is fair in Love and reading learning? And I will just specify that I mean learning to read (such that a child can pick up a new text and read it, not just remembering where they pick up a book they have read before and recite).

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