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Reading, writing and spelling Year 1 Help

(21 Posts)
Squigglybear Thu 08-Jan-15 18:24:12

Does anyone have any suggestions for helping my 5 year old with reading, writing and spelling? He doesn't enjoy writing and spellings, I know it is partly a maturity thing as my other DS had similar issues until he got the gist of it all. His spellings are terrible and he appears to be getting worse. He practices the words by copying them, then I will test him, we go through it together to see where he went wrong then copy the wrong ones again. Because it's tricky for him he naturally doesn't want to do it so I struggle with getting him to do homework, often using bribes.
He loves looking at books and having stories read to him but when he reads he often gets the same words wrong and has difficulty deciphering words even when I have helped on previous pages of the same book!
My DH is dyslexic so I do have that at the back of my mind although my main goal is to give him as much help as I can at home whatever his needs are.
Any tips or learning material suggestions welcome.

Ferguson Thu 08-Jan-15 20:33:47

Has he been properly taught, using Phonics? Does he UNDERSTAND what he is aiming at with decoding words, reading and spelling?

If he is not yet good at writing, as a TA I supported Yr2 less able readers, with a scheme that used wooden letter blocks, and children would set out the letters to spell simple words. They would then be asked how they would change one word, to a different words; which letters would they need to change?

So the first word might be: 'mat'; how would you change that to 'sat'; now change that to 'sad'. When doing an exercise like that, say the words slowly and clearly, allowing the child plenty of time to think about it, and repeat several times, with emphasis on the sound that needs to be changed.

This was an expensive resource, but if you can get a supply of plastic letters, lower case, and possibly some capitals, that should serve the same purpose. [I have just looked on Amazon and also Educational Suppliers and haven't really found suitable things, but I'm sure they must be out there somewhere!]

Also this book will help: An inexpensive and easy to use book, that can encourage children with reading, spelling and writing, and really help them to understand Phonics, is reviewed in the MN Book Reviews section. Just search my name and ‘Phonics’.

catkind Thu 08-Jan-15 21:06:13

Is the "terrible" of the spelling coming from you or his teacher? At DS school it seems they're mostly aiming for them to have a phonetically plausible attempt and enjoy writing at this age. So yes many many of DS spellings are wrong, but he still gets credit if it sounds right. Main thing is to encourage them to write and get their ideas down on paper.

How is his phonics? What sort of words is he getting caught up on? What sort of mistakes does he make? Can he correctly spell and read phonically simple words like mum, cat, dog? Sorry for all the questions, but what to suggest would depend if he's struggling to spell "cat" or "the" or "antidisestablishmentarianism".

Phonics is absolutely key to learning spelling. DS has been asked to learn some common spellings this term but they're all words he's been reading for a year and knows all the phonics for, so all he needs to do is remember which correspondences to use in which word. We mostly do it verbally in the car on the way to school. Just sitting down and learning - no way, wouldn't work.

Squigglybear Thu 08-Jan-15 22:07:27

Thanks for your replies. He has learnt phonics and can decipher these types of words in books when in the right mood. Other words such as 'said', and ones that begin with 'th' he tries to pronounce phonically. How do schools teach children how to know when to pronounce 'a' as 'ah' or 'ay' or 'o' as 'oh' etc..?
With spellings he seems clueless. He can't seem to spell 3 letter words. One spelling test was simple, 'mum', 'cat', 'hat', 'log'... ,which he can read, his spelling was so poor I thought he had just decided to make it up for fun, he does get easily distracted so maybe misses what the teacher says.
His teacher has not said anything about any of the things I have picked up on tbh. At parents evening she seemed unconcerned about his abilities. The class is separated into same ability groups but they don't pick up on issues unless they are way under par or have not improved by the end of year 2.
I feel he would benefit from one on one attention though as I am sure I did more with my other one but he was more willing and a quick learner.
Will look at that book Ferguson, thanks.

Mashabell Fri 09-Jan-15 07:48:44

Please remember that children here start school exceptionally early. The European average is 6, with some as late as 7.

Some children are much less ready for formal schooling by age 5 than others. So perhaps go a bit easy on him and do more of what he can do and be less pushy about spelling which he is clearly finding difficult.

Please be aware too that English spelling is absolutely beastly for dyslexics and those with a poor visual memory. I bet all the words he has trouble decoding are ones with tricky bits in them, like 'one' or 'said'. They are responsible for reading difficulties, but learning to spell them is even worse.

My son was dyslexic. He was greatly helped by me blaming his problems on English spelling and constantly pointing out the stupid bits of words whenever he misread or misspelt one.

The main work of learning to read and write English consists not of phonics, which is the easy part, although essential too, but coping with letters that don't behave as they should.

Galena Fri 09-Jan-15 10:28:01

Has he had sight and hearing tested?

Squigglybear Fri 09-Jan-15 18:15:06

I don't know if I should be questioning dyslexia at this age so keeping an open mind. They are young starters at school, I definitely would have put him in school later if given the choice.
Galena he has glue ear, had grommets that have now come out, hearing seems ok atm following last test. Still has glue so will probably affect his hearing at times.
He's just read beautifully to me, a book we read yesterday, but was remembering / guessing the hard words as opposed to looking at it and deciphering it. Bless him. He copied his spellings (yes, to, she) but cannot do it without looking.

Ferguson Fri 09-Jan-15 18:43:56

Read with him as much as you can, using his school books, but also other books that interest him. And read TO him as much as you can, so that books, reading and learning become an enjoyable activity, and not a 'chore' that he thinks might be beyond his abilities. As I said to someone else the other day, imagine if you of I had to learn Chinese or Arabic: that must be how starting to read must seem for some children.

Another technique I used with reluctant readers, that can improve their interest and boost confidence, involves reading slightly harder books with him, but books that so contain some words he can read or can work out. He can point to words as he goes along, and read them if he can. If it is a word he can't decode, he hovers his finger over it, and YOU read to him. Don't stop to analyse things, but try to keep the flow of the story going (albeit maybe rather slowly at first).

Try not to criticize if he doesn't remember words the second or third time round, but praise him as much as you can. If he gets fed up with doing it that was, just take over and read the rest of the story to him, but he can continue the 'pointing' to words if he is prepared to.

There ARE some words that can't really be sounded out, particularly 'the', and 'said', though once are the 'rules' are learnt, even those do conform to a pattern. The book I referred you to WILL clarify many of those kinds of problems, in an accessible way.

maizieD Fri 09-Jan-15 20:26:25

No, don't be thinking of dyslexia at this age!

For spelling, is he able to break words into their component sounds? For example, if you asked him what sounds he can hear in 'log' would he be able to tell you /l/ (which should be said as /ul/, rather than /luh/) /o/ /g/? If he can, would he be able to tell you what spells the /l/ sound, the /o/ sound and the /g/ sound and write each sound spelling down? This is the basic technique for spelling; breaking words into their component sounds and then spelling each sound in the order in which it comes in the word. It's a lifelong technique, it's what adults tend to do when asked to spell a completely unknown word, so learning how to do it is essential. I'm afraid that just copying words doesn't help with learning to spell them.

If he can't 'hear' the individual sounds in a word try saying the word very slowly so that the individual sounds are more distinct. If he finds this difficult, even after lots of practice, it may be that the breaking down of words has to be related to 'feel' and mouth shapes. If you say a word very slowly you can 'feel' the different way each of the sounds is produced and use that 'feel' to distinguish each 'sound'.

Using phonics for spelling should help his reading skills too.

For reading it is the repetition of sounding out and blending that gets words into long term memory, some children need lots of repetitions to do this and that is quite within the 'normal' range.

Of course, I don't know how good his phonic knowledge and skills are, or how well he has been taught them at school. It may be that phonics isn't taught very well and he is confused about how it all works. (There are so many reasons why a child could find it difficult which would take far too long to explore!.)

I suggest that you have a look at this website*; It has loads of information about phonics and very helpful free resources.

(*I have no connection with this site, I just know it is very comprehensive and written by a leading phonics expert)

Squigglybear Fri 09-Jan-15 22:40:49

Interesting to hear what you say about feel and mouth shapes. He would always mispronounce words probably due to his ear problems so maybe is just taking longer as he is relearning. He can't seem to link letters to the sound of the word in spelling, he wrote 'f' for 'th' when attempting to write 'the'.
Thank you for the fab advice. Both the phonics spelling dictionary and the website look great to start.

catkind Sat 10-Jan-15 00:09:12

I'm really questioning the quality of phonics teaching at this school. Why are they trying to get him to do spelling tests when he hasn't got the basics of phonics secure?

I was wondering if he might enjoy one of the many online phonics games. Maybe something like "teach your monster to read" starting with basics so he can have fun and get his confidence up a bit. That works on both directions, letters to sounds and sounds to letters, so maybe would help if he can segment words out loud but can't get from the sounds to the letters to write down.

We also liked alphablocks (free BBC videos and little games), pocket phonics (app), reading eggs (can usually get a few weeks free trial).

maizieD Sat 10-Jan-15 11:11:51

He can't seem to link letters to the sound of the word in spelling, he wrote 'f' for 'th' when attempting to write 'the'.

Can he say /th/ correctly?

It's a bit unusual for children to substitute 'f' for 'th' when spelling 'the', they usually do it for words like 'thing', 'think' and 'thought' because that's how some say them; 'fing', 'fink', 'fought', but he may just be a bit muddled.

The thing to do is to practice relating the /th/ sound to its spelling. I would model it first, using a word like 'this' or 'that' as they have more straightforward letter/sound correspondences. So, using 'this', write each grapheme (sound spelling) on a separate piece of paper*, put them together and, if he can read the word get him to read it, if not, tell him 'this word is 'this' and get him to tell you each sound that he can hear, repeating it very slowly if necessary. Once each sound has been identified show him its grapheme 'this is /th/, this is /i/, this is /s/.' Then move on to writing 'th' "Can you write a /th/ for me?" He can copy it to start with but what you are working towards is him being able to write it without copying. Get him to say the 'sound' every time he writes it; this helps to promote muscle memory of how the sound is spelled. A few minutes practice at writing 'th' every so often will help with embedding an automatic response of writing 'th' whenever he hears the sound/th/.

It might seem odd that we're using another word initially but the objective is not to 'learn the spelling' of any discrete word but to learn an automatic written response to a discrete sound. Once learned this will transfer to any word in which there is a /th/ sound.

I know that our mate marsha will burble on about all the different spellings of discrete sounds but learning word specific spellings comes later. The first task is to embed the principle that each sound in a word has a 'spelling' and to make the breaking down of words into their component sounds in order to spell each sound an automatic reaction.

*If you have each grapheme on a separate piece of paper you can manipulate the word e.g pulling it apart to emphasise breaking it into sounds, pushing them together to emphasise how the 'sounds' are blended. You could do this with magnetic letters but they don't, as far as I know, come with digraphs (2 letters spelling one sound) already joined so aren't so explicit IMO. Post-it notes and a pen are cheaper and far more versatile grin

maizieD Sat 10-Jan-15 11:24:04

P.S It is absolutely essential that you and your child pronounces the discrete sounds correctly. If he (or you) adds a little 'schwa' sound to them (e.g. says /suh/ rather than /s/) and you're teaching him to spell each 'sound' he hears he might try adding in the schwa, which, of course, will lead to a wrong spelling! There's a link to a video of the sounds being correctly pronounced on the website I linked.

catkind Sat 10-Jan-15 16:24:24

You could do this with magnetic letters but they don't, as far as I know, come with digraphs (2 letters spelling one sound) already joined so aren't so explicit IMO.
We have some with digraphs joined! think they came free with something tho so that's not much help.

Galena Sun 11-Jan-15 20:41:47

Jolly phonics fridge magnets have digraphs joined.

Galena Sun 11-Jan-15 20:44:11


Squigglybear Sun 11-Jan-15 21:03:51

Tbh catkind I don't know well he has been taught phonics at school. My other DS seemed to get on ok (same teacher) but he is definitely far quicker at picking things up. Thank you maizieD that makes sense, great advice.
My DH mentioned getting a home tutor! Not happening until I have at least tried with him. Will speak to his teacher tomorrow to see if her opinion has changed since last parents evening and get helping him.
Thanks all.

maizieD Sun 11-Jan-15 23:45:37

Thanks folks for putting me right about magnetic letters & digraphs grin

Think paper and pen is still more versatile...wink

FeedTheBirdsTuppenceABag Mon 12-Jan-15 10:09:59

At 5 my DD was a slow one sentence a page reader...a year later she is flying don't panic too much hasn't clicked yet but when it does he will be fine.

can you get fun books like fergus far flung adventure with plenty of pictures

Medoc Tue 13-Jan-15 00:23:11

Sorry, I tried to post a long message earlier, but it got eaten!

I was going to recommend getting his eyes tested, as long-sightedness is often overlooked in small children, yet can be as debilitating as short-sightedness.

We had a book named Jolly Stories (it's £11 on amazon or £4.50 at ELC atm) which is published by the jolly phonic people, and my DS1 found it very helpful- on each page there are little pictures to find, words to sound out, a phoneme to trace with fingers etc. I was sick of it by the time he could read, but he was certainly keen on it! DS1 had grommets/hearing issues too, so I know what it's like, trying to ensure they've heard each sound properly.

Mashabell Tue 13-Jan-15 07:38:45

My DH mentioned getting a home tutor! Not happening until I have at least tried with him.

Good on u! As a parent, if u have the will and can find the time, u can help a lot. One to one, u can see what his problems are better than anyone else, if you keep your eyes open. And little and often works far better than just a couple of longer sessions per week.

U can do lots of practice with the phonically regular spellings, like
a, at, cat, sat, mat, fat, hat ... end, send, bend, lend...

There is plenty of stuff u can buy for that, as others have mentioned. There are plenty of free online resources too. U can also do your own thing with just paper and a thick pen.

U can google for lists with regular spellings if stuck for ideas.
After he gets confident with the main patterns, u can start practising some of the high frequency words with sillier spellings, like 'one, two, your...'

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