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Sythetic phonics hell: any KS1 teachers/parents with soothing words?

(255 Posts)
Notnowcato Tue 09-Dec-14 17:41:53

So, DS2 is learning to read. He loves books. We read them together ever day. Lots of them. All sorts. Just as my DD and DS1 did.

He has 'learned' quite a few words because he recognises them. He makes others up, from context. The story moves along. He 'reads' aloud with expression and he laughs at the jokes. This is at home. At school, he crumples into tears in front of 'b-a-t' and says he can't do it and he's rubbish at reading. [I know because I help in the classroom.]

So I say to the teacher: "What are we doing here. We are destroying his love of stories. Why do we have to do synthetic phonics? You [teacher] and I didn't learn to read like this. My older daughter (now 12, level 6 reading and writing in Year 6 and is currently at the top of her 'Accelerated Reader scheme in Year 7) didn't learn to read like this. Leave him with me (he reads at home to me every day, I read to him every day). By the time he is in year 2 he will be reading fine." But no. She says he must sound out words so that he "understands" them. But he doesn't understand 'the cat sat on the mat' because he is crying. He does understand Alan Ahlberg's Crazy Fox stories because he tells me all about the silly fox and the lovely dog for hours afterwards.

Now were I being cynical (who me?), I might say that the teacher is more concerned with getting my son to 'pass' his phonics test at the end of the year, than she is in keeping the love of reading alive in him.

Thank you for the space to vent! [I hasten to add that I say nothing to undermine the teacher in front of my son, either at home or at school. We read his Read Write Inc. level 1 books very quickly and then go on to more interesting books.]

More practically, what can less angry parents/sympathetic teachers suggest about how I tackle this, given that my darling boy has another two terms of this teacher to endure. I really think that he is starting to hate reading at school. I really don't care if he fails his phonics test, I just want him to enjoy reading as much as his siblings do.

toomuchicecream Tue 09-Dec-14 17:52:30

Don't forget that phonics is really important for spelling too. If a child can sound a word out and then choose the best fit spelling pattern for each sound they hear, they have got the tools they need to write independently from comparatively early on.

Notnowcato Tue 09-Dec-14 18:01:44

No, I know. And I support the teaching of phonics, up to a point.

But I also think that if a child loves reading then, ultimately, he/she will know huge amounts, will write fluently and will spell correctly [unlike me with my 'sythetic' in the subject line!] ... including all those many, many words in our language that are not phonetic. For me, the most important thing for a young boy is that he, currently, loves books. And I don't want that to be taught out of him.

I suppose I just have to buckle under: do the phonics, read lots of fun stuff at home and hope it all comes together. It just annoys me that the whole situation is so different now from the way it was even just four years ago, when DS1 sailed through year 1, making things up and having great fun, in exactly the way that DS2 now can't.

iKnackered Tue 09-Dec-14 18:11:04

We're having the same issue here. DS (Reception) reads Biff and Chip level 6 books easily and he loves them. However, his grasp of phonics is poor, he can sound out CVC words now, just. He's given one phonic reading book a week. His love of reading is disappearing fast. Yes, we read all sorts of books at home, but he needs the progression of a reading scheme still. But no, it has to be phonics.
His sister never learnt phonics and she left Reception scoring higher than most year 6s in their SATs, she had a spelling age which probably rivalled mine, yet no one taught her phonics.
I know phonics are excellent, but they are not the be-all and end-all in learning to read.

So, no idea what to suggest, except we will take the approach that children have different ways of learning to read and that what works for 75% of the class might not work for the remainder.

mrz Tue 09-Dec-14 18:40:03

The reason many children "read" Biff and Chip easily is because they were written to provide a predictable structure and to encourage guessing... Unfortunately many children who are "fluent" with these books aren't able to read simple books that don't follow the same structure.

It's very sad that your child is getting upset because he is being asked to accurately read words beyond his current ability. I would continue to share books together and laugh at his jokes but also encourage him to read (and show him how if necessary) what's on the page rather than guess from context

iKnackered Tue 09-Dec-14 18:57:57

I used Biff and Chip as an example that most people could relate to; I understand that they are completely formulaic and repetitive with their approach.
He read 75% of a Charlie and Lola tonight after he refused to read his CVC phonics book, yet this isn't deemed the right thing to do.
I firmly believe he will pick up phonics or chunking methods in his own time, I do not want his love of reading knocked because it's school policy to only do phonics.

Mashabell Tue 09-Dec-14 18:59:38

Yes, Nonnowcato.
do the phonics, read lots of fun stuff at home and u can be absolutely sure that it will all come together in the end.

The 'nothing but phonics' madness will calm down before long, but i feel very sorry for children going through it now, especially that absolutely idiotic phonics test in which half of the 40 test words are nonsense words.

SP theory disregards the nature of English spelling, by pretending that it obeys a 'code' just like other alphabetic languages, when it actually does so only partially.

Phonics is ok even in English - at the very beginning of learning to read and write. Making children aware that words are made up of separate sounds and that we use letters to represent them on a page, using predominantly words in which letters have their main sounds (a fat cat sat; stop on spot), is absolutely fine.

But because large numbers of common words contain one or more letters that are phonically irregular (an - any, on - only, our - your); and identical sounds often have different spellings (late - wait, straight, eight), phonics is only a very small part of learning to read and write English.

fatterface Tue 09-Dec-14 19:08:22

The teacher is interested in him learning to read, rather than just guessing and memorising words.

I'd be concerned about him getting so upset about being slightly challenged at school though. Is he a perfectionist or used to being able to do things easily? Children need to learn to persevere with things they find tricky initially. I would focus on encouraging him to do that.

mrz Tue 09-Dec-14 19:10:09

Masha please get your facts right once again you are making statements that are incorrect based on your own perception of phonics not on reality.

Feenie Tue 09-Dec-14 19:13:23

I feel duty bound to point out that Masha isn't, and has never been a primary school teacher, and her opinion on phonics stems from her own 'research', plus a fervent desire to reform English spelling.

Obviously after that posters can form their own conclusions.

MyCatIsAStupidBastard Tue 09-Dec-14 19:15:59

My DS does not get phonics, so in YR1 they have started sight reading with him whilst maintaining some elements of phonics- this he gets and is now reading.

I do understand the need for children to be able to breakdown words so they are able to spell and understand them, I dont understand the 'one rule of lesson' for all No two children are the same so we should, as much as possibly look at a variety of teaching tools. Maybe your school can do this as well?

Pelicangiraffe Tue 09-Dec-14 19:17:21

Personally I'd just read interesting books at home and let them do phonics/biff at school.

Pelicangiraffe Tue 09-Dec-14 19:21:41

It won't take them that long to cover the basics of phonics and it's not uncommon for children to take a while to grasp it initially - then stream ahead. Maybe the school reading sessions need to be more fun and less pressurised?

meditrina Tue 09-Dec-14 19:22:47

Phonics is the traditional method which has been around for centuries. There was a time in late 20th century when schools tried out all sorts of new methods, and it has been shown over and over again that all of those methods, nor any combination mixing methods produce more children with inadequate reading skills than traditional phonics.

That is why it is back in the classroom, and should not combined with other methods.

Also, evidence is beginning to emerge that those who are most competent at decoding are also the children who gain the highest SATS marks for literacy (read it on MN, so assuming it's right).

Now it is possible for a child to be excellent at literacy but not do well in SATS, but I'm not sure that's very likely.

mrz Tue 09-Dec-14 19:30:45

Is it a state primary school Mycats?

MrsPepperMintonCandyCane Tue 09-Dec-14 19:36:00

If you want to make phonics fun at home then look at the THRASS app and website. It teaches the phoneme and grapheme choices in groups and with raps and games.

mrz Tue 09-Dec-14 19:38:20

THRASS doesn't match current phonics methods I'm afraid

Chandon Tue 09-Dec-14 19:44:46

My child floundered with these phonics. He learned to read and write eventually, but phonics only confused him and made him believe there was logic and system in English, which there isn't.

There are too many exceptions.

It does work for lots of kids but not all.

IME it is a bad idea to be in the classroom though, whilst not supporting what is taught and how it is taught.

Your teacher does not have the power to change the national curriculum.

Your DS must pick up of your not approving if the teacher and the system, and this must worry him

maizieD Tue 09-Dec-14 19:45:35

'Phonics' isn't merely a method of teaching, it is the body of knowledge that children need to learn in order to become proficient, independent readers.

It is more than likely that the children mentioned in this thread who apparently learned to read without any explicit, direct instruction in phonics have worked out for themselves the principles which underlie the written word; i.e that the spoken word is made up of discrete speech sounds, known as phonemes, and that the written word consists of a sequence of symbols which represent each phoneme. The symbols for each phoneme are written in the order in which the phonemes ocurr in the word. Reading research by cognitive scientists has demonstrated that skilled readers, whatever method they were taught by, use phonological recoding skills (sounding out & blending) as their prime method of working out unknown words; not all the guessing strategies beloved of the whole word/Look & Say proponents. As these don't teach systematic phonics it could well be surmised that children who become skilled readers by this route do so despite their teaching rather than as a result of it.

Which is a long way of saying that this is why there is (rightly) an emphasis on systematic phonics instruction in KS1 (and should be in EY, too).

I am surprised that OP's son struggles with something as simple as b-a-t if she thinks that he has worked out the phonics by himself. He should find it a breeze.

Chandon Tue 09-Dec-14 19:48:38

Maizie, imo finding out the underlying principles yourself is a higher level of "learning" than being told them.

MrsPepperMintonCandyCane Tue 09-Dec-14 19:48:59

Can I ask in what way you mean mrz, that it doesn't match current methods?

catkind Tue 09-Dec-14 19:53:32

Do I gather he's in Year 1 if he's KS1 and has a phonics test at the end of the year? If so and if he still can't sound out b-a-t, then something's not working for him in the way it's being taught. Did the teacher say anything about how they are helping him with this? Cos if they're just banging on saying b-a-t at him since this time last year then it's no wonder he's getting upset that he still can't do it. And if he can't sound out a word yet there's no earthly point trying to get him to decode a book full of them.

What I would be doing is making the phonics something completely separate from books at this stage, and making it fun.

The general sort of order my kids seemed to learn phonics was
knowing what sound words begin with (i-spy etc)
knowing what sound words end with
starting to recognise letters and know their sounds
hearing sounds in the middle of words
sounding out words if I said the letters for them first (Me: "what does c-a-t say?" DD:"meow"). Top tip that I read here: say the first letter slightly louder than the rest, so C-a-t rather than c-a-t.
sounding out words reading their own letters
spelling out words in fridge letters etc
THEN reading simple sentences, captions on pictures etc
THEN reading books.

Can you work out what he CAN do and make up or find games to play with him starting at that level? There's some great online things - you could try something like "teach your monster to read" (free), alphablocks (free) or reading eggs (you can usually get a few weeks free trial). Of those reading eggs is probably the slowest approach to blending, so if that's where he's struggling that might be a good one to try.

mrz Tue 09-Dec-14 20:08:49

THRASS follows analytic phonics methods for reading which isn't how children are taught under the national curriculum

MrsPepperMintonCandyCane Tue 09-Dec-14 20:13:17

Thank you. I was just curious because we used it in my last school (they still do) and it worked well.

LePetitMarseillais Tue 09-Dec-14 20:14:19

Blimey my G&T literacy child who could read anything at 4 managed to do it without synthetic phonics,ditto my other two very able readers.

I think some flexibility is needed as above all you want kids reading,the more kids read the better they get.

I was teaching back in the day when phonics was verboten.I snuck it in(probably a watered down version) alongside high frequency words and never had a child leave my class not reading well.

I think phonics are needed but to be frank I'm so glad my dc are beyond this stage as the new straight jacket approach ,lack of autonomy with their book choice and almost religious fervour you see some posters showing as regards sp and the control teachers should have over texts I find worrying.Pretty convinced my dc wouldn't read as well as they do now as they'd have been bored shatless and read half the books they have during their reading lives.

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