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question on learning to read

(25 Posts)
6031769 Sun 09-Nov-14 22:11:45

DS just started in reception in sept.

He didn't read before starting but has seemed to come on in leaps and bounds. he got his first biff and chip book before half term and has now been put on to level 3 (floppy and the bone i think the current book is called).

anyway he's my first and i've no experience of how young kids learn to read but i'm not sure he's learning phonetically. They have phonics at school but when he reading he just seems to know what most of the words are and if theres one he doesn't know he just guesses it, and if i say sound it out he will say the sounds and then just say some random word, sometimes i'll say the sounds for him, gradually putting them together and he'll get the word but i think he's learning more from memory of written words then from phonetically sounding out. does it matter at this stage?

LittleMissGreen Sun 09-Nov-14 23:05:54

Being able to blend is a bit of a skill. I found with both DS2 and 3 it clicked almost overnight and once they could do it, they could do it. We used to practice playing I Spy, but using first sound rather than first letter. Or I might say pass me the c...u....p c.u.p cup. When reading I found initially after getting them to sound out the letters if I sounded them back to them they could blend them more easily than when they had read them out themselves, presumably as it removed one less thing to think about at a time.

Ferguson Mon 10-Nov-14 18:26:09

I was a primary TA / helper for over twenty years, and during that time methods of learning to read and write changed greatly. The main thing is that he is learning SOME phonics, and that he is enjoying books, and is happy to share books at home. Keep it relaxed, and if some nights he doesn't want to 'work', then don't worry.

It is little more than two years since he learnt to TALK, so he has probably learnt much more new stuff in that time than you have!

You might find this useful:

An inexpensive and easy to use book, that can encourage children with reading, spelling and writing is mentioned in the MN Book Reviews section. In “Children’s educational books and courses”, the Oxford Phonics Spelling Dictionary presents words by their initial SOUND, unlike a ‘normal’ dictionary, which is always in alphabetical order. Thus, in the ‘S’ section are words like ‘cinema’ and ‘cycle’, which have a ‘S’ sound, even though they are spelt with ‘C’.

The Dictionary is colourful and amusingly illustrated, and can be used by children on their own, or with adult support, from Reception age right up to the start of secondary school.

The review has a link to view sample pages, and purchase if you so wish.

maizieD Mon 10-Nov-14 20:10:29

If the book he is reading is called 'Floppy and the Bone' then I suspect that he is not being given decodable books to practice his phonic skills on. In other words, the words in the book may contain letter/sound correspondences which he hasn't yet learned so he is having to guess some of them. Is the book from the 'Floppy's phonics' series or is is it just 'ordinary' ORT?

Have you had any advice from the school on how to support him with his reading?

There is nothing particularly wrong with him reading words without sounding them out if he truly 'knows' them but the fact that he can sound out a word and then come up with a completely different word makes me wonder if the school is consistently expecting pupils to sound out and blend unfamiliar words or whether they are encouraging guessing from other cues, such as pictures.

InfantTeacher Tue 11-Nov-14 23:07:21

You don't need to worry at all - the phonics part will catch up as he learns more spelling choices. Your son sounds like a bright little button to be reading level 3 already, yet his phonics skills will be at a much earlier level, so he will be remembering some words by sight which is no bad thing. He's doing really well and as he learns more phonics you will notice his ability to decode improves. Contrary to what some teachers will tell you, there are other ways to learn to read (which is what your son is showing you right now).

maizieD Wed 12-Nov-14 09:47:02

@infant teacher,

Perhaps you should read this

Mashabell Wed 12-Nov-14 11:02:02

I agree with Infantteacher.

Many children need very little phonics for learning to read, because they are quickly able to recognise words as wholes.

In English this gives them a huge advantage, because children who have to rely on decoding for longer, tend to be much slower at learning to read common words with tricky bits in them, like
many, one, two, four, who, said, through...

I think u have nothing to worry about.
Your son will be using phonics for learning to write, but even for that phonics is not nearly as useful in English as in other languages.

Being able to remember the right 'look' of horrors like blue, shoe, flew, through helps with writing too.

maizieD Wed 12-Nov-14 12:48:08

"Many children need very little phonics for learning to read, because they are quickly able to recognise words as wholes."

On the contrary, marsha. Cognitive psychologists undertaking research into reading since at least the 1970s have consistently found that the most skilled readers have a high degree of phonic knowledge and skills. It is actually an illusion that words are processed as pictograms or 'wholes'; Dehaene shows that processing starts from the individual letters in the word:

What appears to be true is the the apparent 'success'* of Look & Say' or 'immersion' instruction is ascribable to the ability of a significant number of children to intuit the alphabetic code for themselves, even from minimal or inadequate phonics instruction. If this were not so then the cognitive psychologists above would have found something completely different about how skilled readers read and the Reading Wars might never have happened.

*But let's not forget that Look & Say failed enormous numbers of children.

Mashabell Wed 12-Nov-14 15:35:56

Psychology was half of my university course. - It's not an exact science, as u must also know from having dealt with Ed psychs as an SEN teacher.

And by writing about
the ability of a significant number of children to intuit the alphabetic code for themselves
u are merely confirming my claim that quite a few children need only minimal phonics instruction for learning to read.
The phonically regularly bits of English words, like most consonants, are quite easy to grasp.

Pupils with a good visual memory have the great advantage of needing to work much less hard on words with letters which have variable sounds,
e.g. a, o, ea, ou in an, any, apron; on, only, once; treat, great, threat; sound, soup, double.

Regardless of what anyone claims, nobody becomes a fluent reader of English until they can read the 7,000 or so most common English words by sight - as everyone on here can.
This applies in other languages too, but in English it takes longer to reach that stage, because of the many letters/graphemes which having more than one sound.

No other European languages have letters with variable sounds.

maizieD Wed 12-Nov-14 16:56:56

Psychology might have been half of your university course, marsha but you clearly never studied reading research.

Ed Psychs I've encountered in schools don't seem to have studied it, either. They were mostly ex-teachers trained, like you, in the Look & Say, learn to read by osmosis, theories and had the weirdest ideas about helping struggling readers.

Fortunately I know of some who are better informed.

ArthurShappey Wed 12-Nov-14 17:01:09

My DS sounds similar... He's phonetically blending some words but the mostly he seems to just know the word like he's learned it. First parents evening tomorrow so I'll ask but I'm not concerned.

Feenie Wed 12-Nov-14 18:48:55

The book is a home ORT reader and non-decodable.

Yes, do read the link and wake up, Infantteacher - or at least be honest about dishing out advice that is contrary to both recent research and statutory requirements.

mrz Wed 12-Nov-14 19:46:00

"Many children need very little phonics for learning to read" could you remind us how many young children you have taught to read masha?

Most children who rely on sight learning very quickly hit a "brick wall" as they don't have an effective strategy for tackling new words. Not a problem with predictable ORT home reader texts which rely heavily on repetition and picture clues not so good for reading more interesting books.

GoogleyEyes Wed 12-Nov-14 20:44:57

My dd1 learned sight words faster than phonics - her YR teacher realised, gave her books that kept her interested, but kept on emphasising using phonics. By the end of Y1 she got full marks in her phonics check and was reading chapter books for pleasure, so it all worked out well.

mrz Wed 12-Nov-14 20:49:20

Sight words are faster initially especially if using a Look & Say text specifically written for the purpose but in the long term slow down reading development ...

InfantTeacher Wed 12-Nov-14 21:10:15

For the record Feenie and MaizieD, I'm a huge advocate of phonics and teach children to read with fully decodable books. The question asked by the OP was whether it matters at this stage (having just started Reception) given that her son is making good progress with his reading. I'm fully aware of all the research, but the facts are that he IS learning some words by sight and he is doing well. What I said was not to worry because his decoding skills will catch up with him as he is introduced to more graphemes. Yet another example of the phonics police getting on their high horses without actually considering what the OP asked.

Feenie Wed 12-Nov-14 21:17:36

he is doing well.

Is he? That's not what the OP says, though, is it?

if heres one he doesn't know he just guesses it, and if i say sound it out he will say the sounds and then just say some random word

And you can see the school is not using decodable books. As I said, at least be honest and say 'I am going against statutory advice here'.

Feenie Wed 12-Nov-14 21:19:29

Not the phonics police - but the EYFS, NC, Ofsted, DfE. Stop using your anti-statutory advice to snipe.

InfantTeacher Wed 12-Nov-14 21:35:38

I consider level 3 by November of Reception to be doing well, and my advice to the OP was not to worry - nothing anti-statutory about that. No child learns to read by any one single method in pure isolation - most phonics programmes include some sight (tricky) words to start with.

I had a child start Reception in September who could read fluently, but didn't have any phonic knowledge at all - he had learnt to read entirely through whole word recognition with no brick wall in sight. I'm not suggesting that we teach all children to read this way, but the fact is that some do. Perhaps we should tell the children that they are going against statutory advice?!

6031769 Wed 12-Nov-14 21:59:00

hi thanks for all the comments. Have slightly changed my opinion of DS with his reading in the last couple of days and now know he can actually blend words and is sometimes doing it very quickly so not so noticeable. He got a load of words from his phonics group with the th and the sh sound in them some of which were made up words and he was able to read more or less all of them with very little help, I think he has to be in the mood and want to do it, he won't do thinks to order!

i learnt using the 1970s phonics method rather than look and say which came into fashion later and when i am reading i don't have to sound out words i know i just recognise them, i would only have to sound out a word i didn't know to work out what it says. Maybe its the same for kids but at a lower level?

maizieD Wed 12-Nov-14 22:49:18

when i am reading i don't have to sound out words i know i just recognise them, i would only have to sound out a word i didn't know to work out what it says. Maybe its the same for kids but at a lower level?

Some children only need to sound out a word once for it to go into long term memory (and thus read 'at sight' subsequently), some have to sound it out loads of times; all children are different..

And of course we don't go round consciously sounding out every word we read though research seems to indicate that the brain processes words in a way similar to sounding & blending when we read but it is entirely unconscious and takes milliseconds. Research also shows that skilled readers revert to sounding out and blending when they encounter unfamiliar words, just as you say you do. Yes, it will be just the same for children, so long as they have learned the technique.

I'm so glad that you feel happier about your son's reading.

Feenie Thu 13-Nov-14 07:09:31

The reading book is non-statutory, not the child.

I am guessing that you didn't read the link.

I wouldn't say to any poster that guessing random words is 'fine' and 'nothing to worry about' purely because they're bright.

Tricky words are not the same as sight words, btw.

OP, I'm pleased to hear you are no longer concerned about your ds's reading.

mrz Thu 13-Nov-14 07:46:05

6031769 children taught phonics don't have to sound out every word however rather than relying on a sight vocabulary of a few dozen/hundred words they have an effective strategy that will allow them to read any word they encounter with high levels of accuracy giving them access to a much larger range of books/texts. A child taught a word by sight can read a word whereas a child taught to decide the same word can apply that knowledge to many words.

I do love it when people claim to be advocates of phonics teaching then go on to demonstrate they don't know what phonics teaching is!

Mashabell Thu 13-Nov-14 09:57:25

i don't have to sound out words i know i just recognise them, i would only have to sound out a word i didn't know to work out what it says. Maybe its the same for kids but at a lower level?

Of course it is.

And as Maizie said,
Some children only need to sound out a word once for it to go into long term memory (and thus read 'at sight' subsequently), some have to sound it out loads of times;

Your ds seems to belong to the first group.
With my own children, i had one in each group, so i am well aware of the different ways children learn to read, and that some need much more help and take much longer than others.

Yet despite their early differences, and the very hard time we had with teaching my son to read, they both ended up at Oxbridge. So there is hope for all.

Count your blessings and relax.

PS My quick, non-phonic reader found learning to spell very easy too.
I am certain that with English spelling being as it is, the children who don't need much phonics instruction are the lucky ones. - Some of my grandchildren are like that too. It makes their schooling vastly easier and more enjoyable than those who arnt.

LittleMissGreen Thu 13-Nov-14 10:48:32

Glad you are feeling more confident about your DS's reading OP. DS3 is now in Yr1 and every now and then I still get glimpses of just quite how quickly he is blending to read new words on the fly.
The link to the Youtube video that Maizie posted above is a very good demonstration of how the latest neuroscience research shows reading in action in an adult. As a neuroscientist I found the whole video interesting, but I'd recommend watching from about 30mins in where it focusses specifically on reading with phonics.

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