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Phonics - sounding out digraphs as individual sounds

(35 Posts)
bluespiral Thu 28-Jan-16 15:05:52

DD is in reception. They're following the Read Write Inc scheme. Sorry if I don't use all the right terminology as am new to phonics!

She's been doing well so far with blending - knows all the individual letter sounds, the digraphs they've learnt so far and is confident blending CVC words.

What I've noticed however is with some of the most recent set 2 digraphs (the vowel ones such as ow, igh etc. rather than sh, th etc.) although she can recognise and sound them out in isolation, she doesn't always spot them in a word and tries to sound out each letter if that makes sense.

Eg - she knows the sound that "ar" makes - but if she encounters a word she doesn't know by sight already, lets say "cart", instead of sounding out c/ar/t she tries c/a/r/t and obviously it doesn't blend into a word.

Is there anything I can be doing to help her recognise digraphs within words, or is it just a case of doing lots of reading until she instinctively knows they're there?

maizieD Thu 28-Jan-16 16:20:00

I think that it will come in time, she's just not yet fully familiar with them.

I would suggest that if you know that she 'knows' a digraph' in isolation but she tries to sound each letter separately when in a word I'd say ' 'might' be correct, but is it making a word?' If she responds 'no' then say 'perhaps we could try it like this..'; cover up all the letters apart from the digraph and ask her to sound it, then let her try it with the other letters. This way you'll be helping her to learn to apply all her knowledge of letter/sound correspondences when there is a choice of posssibilities.

That's what I would have done with the older children I worked with. No doubt others will have good tips/better ideas!

ihearttc Thu 28-Jan-16 18:56:45

Just to say my son is doing exactly the same thing. He can tell you what the digraphs are on their own but can't see them in the words as he is reading so says individual sounds. I think it just might need lots of practice.

Ferguson Thu 28-Jan-16 19:11:30

What is expected from Reception children these days is probably much in advance of what was the 'norm' twenty, or even ten years ago.

Recognising print, and making sense of it, is a very advanced skill, and depending how much children have been exposed to it BEFORE starting school may influence progress. But it will 'come' gradually, over months or a year or two.

A book that will help children, and adults supporting them, is available:

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 ‘Phonics’ and my name.

cariadlet Thu 28-Jan-16 19:18:56

This is really common when children start to read. Some of my year 1 children still need prompting.

If she recognises digraphs in isolation, then whenever this happens I'd just remind her when she's reading words with digraphs. If she has sounded out each letter, point to the digraph, ask her what sound that digraph makes /those 2 sounds make together, then get her to sound out the word again.

It really is just a case of lots and lots of practice. If she confidently blends cvc words and knows the digraphs in isolation then there's nothing to worry about. She sounds like she's doing well.

fuzzpig Thu 28-Jan-16 19:19:41

It probably is just a matter of time and more practice - she's still small, and my DS had similar issues with digraphs at first.

One thing that has helped my DS (not just with phonics but learning generally) was to make something he could physically handle. Letter magnets helped with individual letters, you can get digraph ones too where the letters are joined together, but I think they're expensive IIRC. I instead made DS some cards with all the digraphs/trigraphs as well as individual letters so that when reading and building words he could 'feel' as well as see that they were one sound.

Pico2 Thu 28-Jan-16 19:25:41

My DD is doing RWI and they have probably spent almost a term doing set 2 sounds. They go back over them repeatedly until they are really secure with them. So if your DD has only just started them, there will be loads of practice coming up.

bluespiral Thu 28-Jan-16 19:30:14

Thanks all. Glad to hear it's common. I am basically getting her to sound out the word again and have just ordered the next lot of flash cards which include these Digraphs so hopefully that will help.

bluespiral Thu 28-Jan-16 19:31:16

Thanks Pico that's reassuring.

debbiehep Thu 28-Jan-16 19:31:47

One step that is not always made explicit in teaching is asking the children to 'scan' or 'look at' the new printed word to see if any letter groups can be recognised.

Then sound out and blend.

Teachers sometimes assume too much about children automatically noticing a letter group in a printed word.

bluespiral Thu 28-Jan-16 19:39:53

So if we encounter a word she doesn't already know (she has a good memory and therefore sight vocabulary already) I should ask her to look at the word and see if she can spot any digraphs before trying to sound it out?

bluespiral Thu 28-Jan-16 19:48:38

I'm sorry that these must sound like such silly questions. I don't feel that there has been much guidance from the school on how to support them at home - there was a phonics session but it was very basic in what it covered. I only know what sounds they've covered through digging around for the RWI order and checking with DD!

Mizzicles Thu 28-Jan-16 19:55:57

I think asking her to check for digraphs is a good idea. You can make a game of it, get her to look at the whole sentence/page and spot any digraphs. That's the type of thing we'd do in phonics lessons at school.

(I think…am only just back at work after mat leave, still getting back into the swing of school things!)

ktkaye Thu 28-Jan-16 20:04:42

I second the 'digraph hunter' post. I give my class highlighter pens (they love using a 'grown up' pen) and some simple sentences. The task is to highlight all the digraphs they can see. It helps the kids associate the letters as being 'together'. Also, do you use sound buttons? So a single grapheme sound (i.e. b) would have a dot under it and the digraphs/tri graphs have a line under them. Adding these to words is another good way to help break the habit of segmenting everything in to single letters. It's hard for them because first they are praised to the skies for segmenting CVC words - and then told that they need to stop breaking all the letters apart because some go together!! Totally normal to find it all hard, they click eventually! X

debbiehep Thu 28-Jan-16 20:15:14

bluespiral - your points and questions are excellent - and needed - you don't need to apologise for any of them!

Yes, just ask her to study new words before sounding out.

The very reason for using a form of 'flash cards' with letters and letter groups is for children to recognise them to automaticity.

It is the letters and letter groups that should 'prompt' the reader to say the sounds from left to right of the printed word.

But if the child just gets stuck into a new word before 'looking at it', then it is natural for that child to just sound out each letter.

Mizzicles is right - studying a few sentences or short text of 'printed words' to look for any recognisable letter groups and highlighting or underlining them is a good activity to focus on the need to pay attention to known letter groups.

You can also teach new or unusual letter groups simply by pointing under them in a printed word and saying, 'In this word, these letters are code for the sound /.../' then provide the sound and see if the child can then sound out and blend.

Of course most children need plenty of repetition but, too often, teachers repeat for 'revisit and review' the letter/s-sound correspondences but not necessarily cumulative word level work or sentences/texts (cumulative + words and texts consisting of alphabetic code already taught).

Repetition and practise is key which is why it is wonderful if parents and carers can find some time to support with practice and repetition in the home.

bluespiral Thu 28-Jan-16 20:16:24

Highlighter pen is a great idea thank you. You've also shed some light on why DD went through a phase of doing dots below anything she wrote!

MissHoneyBee Thu 28-Jan-16 20:19:56

2nd diagraph by hunt. Also, in addition to blending a wording together, have some words in front of you with those sounds, (b-ow-l) etc.

You can push the sounds together when you're reading them - I.e blending, as well as 'pulling it apart' when she's read the word. I.e stretch your arms while you break up the word and sound it out.

Just lots of practise will help, she will get it smile

bluespiral Thu 28-Jan-16 21:14:07

Ok so another question...

So far I have only been consolidating what I know they've learnt in school. I haven't wanted to introduce any sounds or digraphs myself until she's learnt them at school already. Any unfamiliar words which has digraphs or trigraphs she can't yet sound out, I just tell her what the word says rather than attempt to help her blend it.

However, the reading books she's bringing home are above her phonics knowledge (mostly ORT) as well as what we read together. Is it okay for me to introduce her to letter groups as we encounter them? I feel like it could be counter intuitive not to really.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Thu 28-Jan-16 21:18:02

It's fine to do that.

That's incidental teaching and goes alongside the systematic teaching that will be happening in her phonics and reading lessons at school.

PagesOfABook Thu 28-Jan-16 22:42:49

I did something similar to what was suggested above

I printed out flashcards from the jolly phonics word bank.

So one week i'd focus on sh words or 'oa' words. I highlighted the digraph in each word so DS immediately spotted in and started linking those two letters together. It worked very well for him and he picked up his phonics quickly using that method.

debbiehep Fri 29-Jan-16 00:09:18

Definitely point out alphabetic code (letter/s-sound correspondences) as they arise in wider reading and the environment.

She'll either begin to understand them or she won't, but it won't hurt to just keep drip-feeding the code 'incidentally'.

I promote 'two-pronged systematic and incidental phonics teaching' as a specific approach. (I'm associated with two phonics programmes where there is the overarching approach.)

It's great for differentiation, drip feeding, over-learning, wider reading and writing - and it does not minimise the systematic introduction of the alphabetic code.

It can also be used to minimise an acceptance of only invented (plausible) spelling in Reception.

Feenie Fri 29-Jan-16 07:28:01

Excellent advice so far.

When another poster inevitably comes along in a minute, bemoaning the difficulty of the English language, posting lists of words in bizarre combinations and declaring it's impossible to read well anyway if you are poor and your parents don't help you at home, please ignore.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Fri 29-Jan-16 09:50:30

Shall I do it now just to get it over and done with Feenie?

fuzzpig Fri 29-Jan-16 10:25:57

Rafa grin

Feenie Fri 29-Jan-16 14:36:03

grin grin grin

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