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Can someone explain phonics to me?

(114 Posts)
ChangeYouFucker Wed 10-Dec-14 20:40:56

My DD is in reception and I am dutifully doing her sounds and blending words with her.

However I've got no idea what is happening and feel a bit blush about it.

So I'm looking for the wise MN education bods to explain it to me!

I don't want a debate about phonics (lots of other threads with those on).

I just want a Dummies guide to phonics and how I help my DD with them.

Ta very muchly.

AuntieStella Wed 10-Dec-14 20:43:18

Here's the MN introduction to phonics

fatterface Wed 10-Dec-14 20:46:06

Do you know if they are following a particular programme like Jolly Phonics? Some of them come with little songs or actions to help children remember the sounds.

You can also google "Letters and Sounds" which is the government guide for teachers to teach phonics.

Pelicangiraffe Wed 10-Dec-14 20:50:43

Jolly phonics for the basic sounds of the letters. There's a CD available

Then there are lots of rules.
- When two vowels are together, the first does the talking (hence the ee sound in feat)
- it's the same rule for words like fate/time. The vowels are split but the first does the talking
- then there's a silly c which makes an S sound
- igh makes a long 'i'sound

Pelicangiraffe Wed 10-Dec-14 20:51:36

A 'g' that makes a 'j' sound

LittleMissSparklyGreenTinsel Wed 10-Dec-14 20:53:34

I can tell you how our school do phonics, but I think every school do it a bit differently depending on the programme they are following. Some schools do it well, some pay lip service to it.
When the children join reception they learn a phoneme each day, some programmes have an associated action, or a little rhyme to help the child remember how to write the letter down. In our school we have changed programme since my DSs were in reception, but when they were there in the first week they learnt s, a, t and p. They brought home one letter each day and had to find things around the house that started with that sound and then draw them into their books (or cut things out of magazines etc) or just practice writing the letter. They got their first 'reading' books that backed up these sounds - so just had the phonemes in to practice and then some blending practice at the back when they had done all the sounds. We had to make sure that we learnt to say the phonemes correctly so sssss rather than suh for example.
Once they had whizzed through all the initial phonics (not just single letters because I think things like 'll' were done around same time as 'l' their reading books started to become a little harder, having sentences rather than just single words to read.
At some point they started having to also learn to read words with tricky parts - so words where at that particular point they hadn't learn the exact phoneme yet but would do in the future, but a word that was useful to them e.g. for DS3 I remember him having 'was' as he was using it a lot in his writing and they wanted him to learn to spell it correctly rather than wos. It didn't take him long then to realise that a lot of the words starting with a 'w' actually used an 'a' to make the 'o' sound.
If you are practising saying the phonics sent home with your DD you are probably doing the right thing. You can also practise finding things that start/end with that phoneme for example, or practise writing the letters with the correct formation, practise listening to how you say short words that have phonemes in that your DD has already learnt e.g. cat and see if she can hear the individual sounds (and write them down if she wants to).

ChangeYouFucker Wed 10-Dec-14 20:54:43

So I'm confused (or dumb!)

They learn the sound without relating it to the spelling first?

ChangeYouFucker Wed 10-Dec-14 20:56:13

So they learn the 44 sounds and then how they are represented in text?

Damnautocorrect Wed 10-Dec-14 20:59:39

Basically they learn the sound rather than the 'name' of a letter.
We learnt the names, they learn the sound.

If that makes sense. There is some awesome videos on YouTube showing the exact sound (sounds silly as of course you know it) and actions they use.

Wait4nothing Wed 10-Dec-14 20:59:50

The sounds are normally introduced with the graphemes (letter or more than 1 letter)

Wait4nothing Wed 10-Dec-14 21:01:06

Geraldine the giraffe (by Mr Thorne) is a great YouTube series that the kids love. Has lots of different sounds.

ChangeYouFucker Wed 10-Dec-14 21:13:11

I get the sounds as have looked at Mr Thorne. My DD has picked up the sounds really well and is blending simple worlds.

I guess I still don't get the fact that the 44 sounds are written for the purpose of learning the sound (as I understand it) but that's not how they are spelt in words.

How do they make the leap and how do you help them read the words where the spelling does not match the phonic?

So I can easily blend c-a-t.

But how do you move onto words like style for example.

I realise this is a big leap but it's an example (and I have Greek style yogurt in front of me).

sleeplessinderbyshire Wed 10-Dec-14 22:13:28


the y-e is a split digraph although the y sound is tricky in style (I think but I'm not a phonics expert just a mum)
Apparently split digraph used to be called magic e, I never did anything like this at school, no idea how I learned

style would be tricky, my Y1 DD1 would probably give it a go

maizieD Thu 11-Dec-14 00:00:11

The English language uses about 44 'sounds' (depending on accent) to produce the spoken word. Children are first taught 1 way each of the sounds is represented by a letter or letters. Once they have learned this they are taught the common alternative ways they are represented.e.g the sound /ae/ can be spelled 'ay' or 'ai'. There are about 160 common ways to spell the sounds. They practice reading and spelling words containing the sound spellings they are learning. This is done with text as soon as they have learned enough sound spellings. Many children, once they understand the principle, are able to self teach to a certain extent.
Ideally children should not be expected to read words containing sound spellings they haven't yet been taught. This gives them confidence and helps to ensure that they don't find reading difficult at any stage.
Most children pick up reading quite easily this way. Some require a great deal of overlearning. It all depends on the child.

mrz Thu 11-Dec-14 06:51:22

They shouldn't be learning sounds in isolation ... But many programmes introduce a sound a day so can't start blending for reading and segmenting for spelling until the first set has been taught.

Iggly Thu 11-Dec-14 06:56:11

Some words are learned by sight.

As the kids get older they will have a go at sounding, but using their wider knowledge (and this is why it is very important for you to keep reading stories and talking to expose them to loads of words) they will get it.

Phonics isn't the only way they learn words. It is a tool to read.

Feenie Thu 11-Dec-14 07:05:50

Some words are learned by sight.

Not usually - this isn't recommended by the national curriculum and isn't a component of most phonics schemes. Read, Write, Inc is the only one I know of which still advocates this.

EhricJinglingHisBallsOnHigh Thu 11-Dec-14 07:15:34

St y le
My son could sound that out I think (year one) I only know that phonics seem to have helped him to read long complex words, and have pretty good spelling, far better than mine was at that age. So I'm in favour smile

Mashabell Thu 11-Dec-14 07:42:06

Maizie does at least admit that Some require a great deal of overlearning.

She makes learning to spell English sound quite easy:
Children are first taught 1 way each of the sounds is represented by a letter or letters. Once they have learned this they are taught the common alternative ways they are represented.e.g the sound /ae/ can be spelled 'ay' or 'ai'. There are about 160 common ways to spell the sounds. They practice reading and spelling words containing the sound spellings they are learning.

The most common way of spelling /ae/ is actually a-e (late, date, same), but because it's a bit more complex, it gets left till later, which is fair enough.
But knowing the different ways a sound can be spelt (late, great, straight, eight, veil) does not enable children to decide which is right in a particular word. - That has to be learned word by word for at least 4,000 common words with one or more irregular spellings. Children learn them in little groups, but to learn them all takes at least 10 years.

But that aside,
Maizie fails to mention a most crucial fact about English spelling when it comes to learning to read, and which is the main reason why many children need lots of overlearning:
Apart from having different spellings for identical sounds,
*69 English letters and letter strings spell more than one sound*:
an - any, ever - even, on - only, woman - women, sound - soup ....

The phonics experts can correct me on this,
but the way that phonics deals with those is to teach the common alternative sounds as well, after teaching the main one first:
e.g. ou can be as in 'out, group, double' and when children come across a less familiar word with ou like 'young', 'youth' or 'your', they should try to remember the different sounds they have been taught and see which one works in the word.

Phonics experts, who regularly post on here, like Maizie, Mrz and Feenier, constantly accuse me of not understanding how phonics is taught, but that is what i have learnt from their explanations on here. So if i got it wrong, i hope they will explain it better.

Many other teachers would argue that when it comes to teaching words in which some letters have irregular sounds, it is no longer a case of using phonics, but teaching to read those words as wholes - that phonics only works up to a point, for teaching the main sounds of letters and letter strings.

What is certain is that there continue to be lots of disagreements about how best to teach children to read English, and they are caused entirely by the spellings (graphemes) which have more than one sound. They are what makes learning to read English much harder than any other alphabetically written language.

Cric Thu 11-Dec-14 07:51:42

Iggly Thu 11-Dec-14 08:03:35

I said some. I.e. words like "we, be, me"

HalfSpamHalfBrisket Thu 11-Dec-14 08:09:14

Iggly - I don't teach those words 'by sight' - I teach that in those words, the sound /ee/ is represented by the letter 'e' - so when I teach I point to the word and say - /w/ /ee/ - 'we'

Iggly Thu 11-Dec-14 08:43:41

Which is by sight surely- because children will need to know that rule and the only way is by looking at specific words?

So if you had "we" and "wee", " be" and "bee" - then the rule falls down and you have to teach that in the words above, you say it a certain way I.e. by sight. Ds knows his w/b/m sounds but using phonics would not work.

Iggly Thu 11-Dec-14 08:44:40

(I will add I am not a teacher, this is my layman's view)

NoSundayWorkingPlease Thu 11-Dec-14 10:33:28

Some words are learned by sight

Not usually - this isn't recommended by the national curriculum and isn't a component of most phonics schemes. Read, Write, Inc is the only one I know of which still advocates this

Completely disagree with this. Of course lots of words are learned by sight.

Ds2 is 4 and on stage 2 ORT Biff and Chip books. He reads all the character names and has done since he was 3 - all learned by sight.

His books now have lots of words that he can sound out - was, but, can, cross. But each book also has a few words thrown in that, as a 4 year old, ds could in no way 'sound out'. His most recent book had the word 'concrete' in it, which obviously had to be read TO him on the first go.

But if you now write down the word 'concrete' he can read/recognise it with ease, even out of context of the book, and can make an admirable attempt at spelling it.

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