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Over-reliance on phonics leading to poor spelling in Y3 & 4?

(74 Posts)
pickledsiblings Fri 13-Nov-15 11:19:16

How do you mitigate against this? Lots of reading?

Is a whole word approach to spelling in these years for these children the right thing to do?

JohnnyDeppsfuturewife Fri 13-Nov-15 12:30:16

Some experts will come along in a minute but isn't it the opposite? I thought good phonics teaching led to good spelling.

<prepares to be flamed by phonics haters>

lostInTheWash Fri 13-Nov-15 12:51:09

I doubt it's phonics that is the issue but more not teaching it to apply to spelling .

They need the complex phoincs code but also some idea when to apply it - for which words which letter combinations are needed.

You can use things like spelfabet which has workbooks that show group patterns www.spelfabet.com.au/materials/level-1-workbook/ deals with dge words - you can find them on you tube going through each word book.

We went down the morphemic strategy with apple and pears - but there still you are learning to listen to the sounds in the words, learning group patterns what letter combinations are making that sound for that group of words - as well as word building.

Reading is going to improve vocabulary but may not impact at all on spelling. I was told as a child to read more which I did it and it was a good thing but had no impact on my spelling - seen the same thing with one of our children.

However writing correctly spelt words does help - spelling is part muscle memory your not stopping to think about how to spell every word written.

Last school my DC went to they believed spelling would naturally evolve and improve as the DC aged. What happened was they practised writing words incorrectly a lot with few if any being picked up.

We'd see things like hate spelt like hait - not flagged up to the child at all - phonically plausible so they were attempting to apply the phonics taught them in reading but the wrong word patten.

Basically the weren't being taught to spell at all but had spelling lists of random or contradictory patterns sent home but forgotten by the next week and never appear in their writing.

I'm probably explaining this very badly.

But I'm trying to say looking at group word patterns and continuing to link sounds to letter patterns is probably going to be more effective than whole word memorising - where you have a long string of letters to remember. Though practising writing correctly spelt words is going to be a help all by it's self.

maizieD Fri 13-Nov-15 12:51:11

Good phonics teaching in the early years should lead to good spelling but I'm afraid this just doesn't happen in some schools where phonics is used to teach reading but spelling is somehow treated as a completely different from reading. In reality spelling and reading are two sides of the same coin in that words are constructed by spelling each of the sounds in them.

Having said that, spelling is more difficult than reading because of the fact that some sounds can be spelled a number of different ways and one spelling may spell more than one sound; in reading, the sound spellings can be seen which obviously makes it easier to try the different sounds associated with that spelling and so arrive at the correct pronunciation of the word. In spelling, the child has to remember just how the sounds are spelled in that particular word. If the school has not integrated the spelling and reading instruction so that children gradually acquire a 'bank' of words spelled with the lettter/sound correspondences they are learning to 'read' then spelling will be more difficult for them. However, what they should will have learned is an awareness of the individual sounds in words, and at least one way of spelling them, so that they are likely to spell words 'phonetically' rather than correctly.

You don't say 'how' your child spells (i.e phonetically? or just wild guesses at letter strings?) so it is not easy to offer any advice until we know.

The only alternative to using phonics for spelling is to learn each and every word as a series of 'letter strings'. This is actually impossible for all but a very few exceptional children. (imagine trying to learn about 30,000 telephone numbers)

Reading helps children to become familiar with the 'look' of discrete words but the idea that extensive reading will enable anyone to be able to mentally visualise every single word they can read when they are required to spell it is very flawed. In most cases, all it will do is enable one to see that a word 'looks' wrong when one has written it down. And of course, if one has never seen the word written down one is completely flummoxed..

Please tell us a little more about the spelling problem smile

N.B The idea that 'overreliance on phonics' leads to poor spelling is a myth..most adults actually do use phonics when faced with spelling an unfamiliar word.

maizieD Fri 13-Nov-15 12:53:03

Oh, well done lostInTheWash. X posted but you've explained it much better than megrin

lostInTheWash Fri 13-Nov-15 12:57:26

www.spelfabet.com.au/2013/07/spelling-for-kids/

meat to link to this page for explaintion of word patterns

9. Many spellings behave predictably
If you collect up a whole lot of words with the same sound, and sort them into groups according to the way the chosen sound is spelt, you can often see spelling patterns.

For example, the "aw" sound is typically spelt "a" before the sound "l", as in "all", "fall", "tall", "call", "also" and "walnut".

It's typically spelt "ar" after a "w" sound, as in "dwarf", "quart" and "swarm".

It's typically spelt "ough" before a "t" sound, as in "bought", "fought", "thought" and "nought".
Many spellings occur in a particular place in words – the "oy" in "toy" and the "ay" in "day" occur typically at word endings, while the "ti" in "action", "inertia" and "patient" is often the first spelling of the last syllable.

The whole page is good - but while there are exceptions there is also predictability with English spelling.

lostInTheWash Fri 13-Nov-15 13:02:16

maizieD thanks smile -

Mostly learnt all from this board as my understanding of English spelling was very poor till I decide we had to help our DC not have our problems and started looking for help here.

They have thankfully massively improved their spellings grin.

midgeymum2 Fri 13-Nov-15 14:50:06

That's a really interesting question. I'm having this issue with my dd in p3 and want to discuss with her teacher at parents eve next week but I'm not sure what I should be asking iyswim! She spells all her words phonetically plausibly but often wrong, even quite high frequency words, and from what I can see this is seldom corrected by her teacher. She writes with imagination and good structure but spelling seems to take a back seat. However, contrary to this, to me, is a weekly spelling test, marked out of 10!? This can include half marks for words which are 'nearly right' I.e. still wrong imo. And she has a word book which she can ask her teacher to write words she doesn't know how to spell in for her but this is unused as she doesn't know she doesn't know how to spell them! It just seems so confusing even to me I don't know how to help dd learn.

BoboChic Fri 13-Nov-15 14:52:09

My DD learned to read in both her mother tongues using phonics and her spelling in both is great. A lot of her peers learned to read in French using phonics and in English using whole word and their English spelling is much less good than their French spelling.

Phonics is, IMO, a huge help to spelling, providing spelling is taught in line with read, simultaneously, and not sequentially (when you lost a lot of the benefits, IMO).

pickledsiblings Fri 13-Nov-15 15:06:58

Thank you all for your interesting and informative comments.

I am a school governor and I will be robustly monitoring our phonics teaching in EYFS.

The comment in the OP about an 'over-reliance' on phonics is one that the head teacher made.

I don't think this particular HT is fully wedded to the phonics strategy and our phonics check results this year are slightly less than National results - they are on a downwards trend despite our GLD results being on an upwards one. Around 4/24 DC fail the check each year and as far as I know over the last 3 years only 1 DC has had a specific issue (APD).

Also found out that the HT rather than the class teacher does the check - is that the norm?

pickledsiblings Fri 13-Nov-15 16:20:28

Bobo your comment on teaching spelling alongside reading is how I thought phonics teaching worked: now you've got me wondering...

Do the available phonics schemes that schools use encourage spelling to be taught in line with reading?

mrz Fri 13-Nov-15 17:02:54

I would also suggest that if the teacher never corrects the spelling mistakes become ingrained. The more times they write and see it written incorrectly the more likely they will remember the wrong spelling.

Praise the ability to identify the correct sounds in the word but also point out if the wrong representation has been used.

Yes that is a way to spell that sound can you think of another way we spell it? Yes that is the way the sound is spelt in this word ... Can you change it?
If the child can't /doesn't know the alternative simply tell them and get them to put it right.

mrz Fri 13-Nov-15 17:04:45

It would be interesting to know which programme they use and how much actual training staff have received

pickledsiblings Fri 13-Nov-15 17:05:21

Re: this
We'd see things like hate spelt like hait - not flagged up to the child at all - phonically plausible so they were attempting to apply the phonics taught them in reading but the wrong word patten.

I have always corrected my DS's attempts whilst praising him for getting the right sounds. He was actually surprised to find out that there is a correct way to spell words and thought you just had to give it a go and come up with something plausible.

midgeymum the half-right, half mark thing would annoy me too.

Re: this
In most cases, all it will do is enable one to see that a word 'looks' wrong when one has written it down.

I was thinking that reading might help with recognising correctly vs incorrectly spelled words. If DC are secure with their phoneme grapheme correspondences, is trying alternatives until you get one that looks right not the right strategy? I have used this successfully with my DC.

pickledsiblings Fri 13-Nov-15 17:08:41

x posts mrz, glad to see I've been doing some things right with my DC. I wonder how the school deal with this. I know they don't 'fix' all phonetically plausible attempts. DC make a lot of them in the beginning, don't they? By Y4 would you expect all incorrect attempts to be fixed?

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Fri 13-Nov-15 20:01:00

By yr4 I would expect them all to be fixed, but there shouldn't be that many by then anyway.

The beginning is a bit more difficult. IIRC the Read Write Inc policy on marking spelling is something along the lines of all spelling in dictated sentences/phonics sessions should be corrected. As should everything except adventurous word choices in all other writing.

Someone might be able to correct me on this but I think part of the problem is schools trying to set independent writing tasks too early. We've moved forwards in terms of using decodable readers but the same hasn't quite happened with writing. Waiting a term or so until all 44 sounds have been taught, as a minimum might be a start. Until then oral language development and sentence dictation within phonic knowledge would probably help children more

WishIWasWonderwoman Fri 13-Nov-15 20:03:27

I don't really know which system is better but the phonics programme is not taught in our country past term 1 of a child's first year of schooling (i.e. not taught beyond the very basics) because it is believed to negatively impact reading speed and word recognition.

I'm not sure about spelling.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Fri 13-Nov-15 20:04:53

Which country are you in ,*wish*?

WishIWasWonderwoman Fri 13-Nov-15 20:12:17

New Zealand.

There was a study a few years back comparing Scottish and Kiwi methods. I'll see if I can find it.

WishIWasWonderwoman Fri 13-Nov-15 20:15:10

Rafa this isn't the study but a press release on it (link here)

Relevant part: The first research project found that six-year-old Scottish children taught through phonics read at a much slower speed than comparable children taught through New Zealand's more book-centred approach.

They also performed more poorly in deciding whether words were real or not at ages eight and 11, with non-words such as "blud" being picked more often as real words.

The researchers also found that Scottish university students who had been taught through phonics as children were worse at reading new or unfamiliar words that do not follow regular taught letter-sounds than their New Zealand counterparts.

The researchers said it was becoming clear that explicit phonics instruction left a "cognitive footprint", resulting in a long-term disadvantage when the reader attempted new words.

So based on that phonics were not integrated further into the NZ curriculum.

mrz Fri 13-Nov-15 20:35:52

this is seven years spelling data of children taught using phonics. Very much in line with our own data

mrz Fri 13-Nov-15 20:38:26

Why New Zealand's literacy strategy has failed

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Fri 13-Nov-15 21:19:22

The results of that study don't seem to fit with other studies comparing nz and scottish children. Or nz and other countries that use phonics to at least some extent.

I have a feeling that if it were picked apart properly, you might find that reading recovery are involved in it somewhere. Or at least someone trying to protect reading recovery.

caroldecker Fri 13-Nov-15 21:43:53

why the hell should 8 and 11 year olds be able to pick real and 'fake' words?

How many would recognise zarf, frazil, dottle or boyg?

Blude is also a scottish variant of blood.

WishIWasWonderwoman Fri 13-Nov-15 21:53:45

Oh, okay interesting. I don't really have a horse in this race as all mine are past the learning to read stage, it was just something that had stuck in my mind.

And I am well aware that New Zealand's education system is not perfect- we went private.

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