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Is phonics ability different to reading ability?

(69 Posts)
Thomasina76 Sat 02-Jul-16 10:33:03

DS2 is in year 1 and is in the top group for reading. He is on ORT level 12 and chapter books. He was on ORT level 9 but after the phonics test in May he was put onto Level 12 and chapter books so I assumed he had done well. Just found out that they are putting the class into sets for phonics and that DS is not in top set. His other friends who used to be in the top set for reading are in it but DS is not and seems to be in a middle or low group with kids who are on ORT level 4-5 for reading. I am completely confused as I why he is in a lower group for phonics whilst in the top group for reading. I thought they were one and the same thing. I will ask the teacher on Monday of course but it's going to drive me mad all weekend.

AuntieStella Sat 02-Jul-16 10:52:48

Phonics is the technical ability to read, by being able to decode the marks on the page accurately and fluently.

If matters, because without it readers may be floored by a word they've not seen written down before, or they might guess (rightly or wrongly) or they might try to change the word into one they do recognise, thus altering or losing meaning.

irvineoneohone Sat 02-Jul-16 11:15:29

This sound very odd. My ds was completely opposite. High decoding ability and not so good comprehension.He was able to decode pretty much any word accurately, but we had to work on inferring, deducting etc.
If you can't decode words, how can you be able to read chapter books?
Can he comprehend?

NeedACleverNN Sat 02-Jul-16 11:17:25

Phonics is reading the words as they come to help understand the word

So cat would be
Cuh ah tuh and it spells out cat for them to understand. Bit it's a bit weird your ds can read but not phonetically

plimsolls Sat 02-Jul-16 11:23:31

It's not "weird". It's fairly common for a child to be more skilled at one or the other (phonics vs reading). As PP have said, they are two very different things. Reading ability involves lots of skills including word recognition, memory, comprehension and so on. Phonics is more about understanding the relationship between sounds and letters/letter combinations. Many children don't 'click' with phonics and struggle with phonics in early primary, these children tend to rely on other reading strategies such as sight word recognition, contextual cues and so on. (These strategies are actually the "old fashioned" way of learning to read e.g. How I was taught to read!).

It's more important for a child to be good at reading than phonics. If your child does struggle with phonics then it's a really good idea to get them reading for fun as much as possible, if only to expose them to as many words and grammatical structures as possible (similar to learning a foreign language by immersion). It is worth getting some basic hearing and language skills checked out though. For example, sometimes glue ear can be a barrier to learning phonics/developing phonological processing skills.

plimsolls Sat 02-Jul-16 11:25:30

Actually, sometimes a child seemingly being better at reading than phonics can be down to the fact they find phonics boring and therefore don't engage with the activities as much. Phonics can feel a bit abstract and meaningless, particularly if the child has already acquired other reading strategies.

Anyway, shouldn't be anything to worry about smile

MangoIsTheNewApple Sat 02-Jul-16 11:25:42

If a child has a really good memory, they might remember a word (having once been told it) without actually being able to decode it by themselves in the first place. DD1's teacher explained to me that she was reading very fluently because she had a super memory, but that the phonics was important a) because she will inevitably reach a point where she can't remember everything and b) for accurate spelling in her writing. Perhaps that's the case for your DS2?

DonkeyHotay Sat 02-Jul-16 11:27:44

I didn't learn to read phonetically. I read and could comprehend when I was very young but had terrible problems in school reading out loud. I understood what words meant but could pronounce them. In dc's school they lump literacy together. Phonics is also the start of spelling and letter formation (the way they teach it here). It could be that the school are getting the phonic building blocks up to the same level as his reading?

Brownfiesta Sat 02-Jul-16 11:28:46

Reading is both decoding print on the page and then understanding the meaning of what has been read. Phonics is a reading skill and good readers use a combination of decoding and sight recognition to read print, alongside good comprehension of the printed text. The word "the" has to be read through sight recognition as it is not phonetically regular. Phonetically regular words such as "shark" may be decoded when first encountered but will eventually be recognised and read by sight. It is possible to learn to read entirely by sight but, without a knowledge of phonics, the individual will struggle to read new and unfamiliar words. As an adult encountering a new word for example "antidisestablishmentarianism", we would still use a phonic approach to read and spell that word until we had encountered it several times and therefore recognised it by sight.

Feenie Sat 02-Jul-16 12:07:23

Recognised to automaticity, not by sight. That's a different reading strategy, and isn't recommended.

The terminology there is quite important smile

Feenie Sat 02-Jul-16 12:12:28

And this bit is total bollocks, sorry.

The word "the" has to be read through sight recognition as it is not phonetically regular.

/th/ is perfectly regular. The 'e' isn't, but that doesn't mean that the word isn't 'regular' or that it has to be taught using sight reading - that's poor teaching and hasn't been recommended for years

tireddotcom72 Sat 02-Jul-16 12:24:59

It could be he is good at decoding but not applying phonics in other areas such as writing so needs to revisit. Most of my class passed the screening test but are not ready to move to phase 6 in year 2 as they are not secure in spelling using phonics. They will carry on in phase 5 ( middle set) or phase 3 ( lower)

catkind Sat 02-Jul-16 12:51:15

Did you get the phonics check result? Or didn't they share them yet? It may be it did raise some concerns. How do you think his phonics are? Can he decode words he hasn't seen before easily? Does he use phonics in his writing?

Also are you sure it's sets and that it's a lower set? They juggle them around quite a lot at our school and will e.g. sometimes have two parallel top sets, or have things they work on in mixed ability groups.

It's quite possible for them to know a lot of words at sight but still need help with phonics; one friend's DD was reading chapter books and started school on ORT11, but decoding was at a quite normal starting-reception level. She stayed on that level reading books for a couple of years while her phonics caught up.

Feenie Sat 02-Jul-16 13:44:44

Most of phase 6 is suffixes, and you can teach that alongside your phase 5 revision, tireddtcom - you'll have to, anyway, it's the Y2 curriculum.

GraceGrape Sat 02-Jul-16 13:48:46

How is his spelling? If he reads well but is not using phonics to spell out his words he may need the support for this. Phonics in Year 2 is increasingly focused on spelling.

AuntieStella Sat 02-Jul-16 15:41:52

"These strategies are actually the "old fashioned" way of learning to read e.g. How I was taught to read!). "

This is a myth.

Phonics has been around for centuries. Other methods were in vogue, briefly, in the late 20th century only.

About 5% of children will struggle to learn to read on a phonics programme. For any other single method, or any mix of methods, it's around 20%. You cannot predict which pupils will be in that 'extra' 15% or so, and of course it's better for every child if the teacher has fewer strugglers who need greater support and input.

Also, 'sight' recognition of words is not necessarily that (unless you are learning a non-alphabetic language like Chinese, where it has to be like that, and the classroom experience is rote learning and barking at print) because what brain scanning shows is that it is very rapid phonic decoding (same areas of brain light up), so fast and automatic that it is not a conscious process.

irvineoneohone Sat 02-Jul-16 15:53:20

I've just re-read the OP.
So he was Lv9 and after phonic check, he was moved to Lv12. That means he has no problem with phonics, and school knows.
So it is very weird that he was put in lower table for phonics. Doesn't make sense.

plimsolls Sat 02-Jul-16 15:58:15

Ha. Yes auntstella when I said "old fashioned and how I was taught to read" I was referring to about 1980 onwards, rather than centuries ago.

mrz Sat 02-Jul-16 16:48:36

We all use phonics to read, whether we were explicitly taught how the sounds in our spoken language are represented by the symbols of our written language or we were fortunate enough to be able to work it out ourselves otherwise we would need to learn every single word as a whole. It would take most of our school lives to learn enough words to read a tabloid newspaper ... If lucky.

mrz Sat 02-Jul-16 17:07:49

The OP should have been given her child's score in the phonics screening check so shouldn't need to assume he'd done well. Combine this with ORT and phonic groups I'd question how phonics has been taught previously

irvineoneohone Sat 02-Jul-16 17:26:06

My ds learned to read without phonics, but had no problem with phonics teaching at school.
Sometimes I see the comment, "good readers can fail phonics test" on MN.
It seems very confusing, I always assumed my ds was able to read the word he has never seen before because he figured out some system to decode.
I thought most of early readers are the same. They use some strategy to decode.
It's confusing that you can read chapter books, but cannot get phonics.
They must be using similar system without knowing. I thought my ds learning phonics gave him proper explanation to what he has been doing in his head without realizing.

mrz Sat 02-Jul-16 18:31:17

Good readers don't fail the phonics screening test its one of those myths that repeated often enough becomes a "fact".

Thomasina76 Sat 02-Jul-16 23:18:16

Thanks all. Does shed some light but still a bit confused. I don't know his score from the phonics test as I didn't ask but the letter sent home said that we would be told if our DC failed, so I think I can assume that he didn't fail. Was speaking to some mum friends and we think the only explanation can be that he is v good at reading but less good at phonics and so didn't make it into the top group for phonics. It still seems weird though as why move him from level 9 to 12 straight after the phonics test? His spelling and writing are excellent, and his reading is completely fluent. Just really confused and upset for him. We went through some sounds in advance of the phonics test and he knew all of them - no problems identified at ate stage.

Thomasina76 Sat 02-Jul-16 23:21:39

And yes Mrz, I do feel a bit misled, especially after they had put him up to level 12 although he was ready for it and manages longer chapter books really well. If he had not performed well or as expected then I would have expected the teacher to tell me but nothing has been said.

wobblywonderwoman Sun 03-Jul-16 00:04:54

I wonder if it is a mistake? It doesn't seem for if he is doing so well.

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