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Sight/tricky words - do we actually ‘know’ the best way to teach them?

(84 Posts)
TheDuchessOfKidderminster Fri 20-Oct-17 10:47:49

I stumbled across this blog post recently, where the comments underneath are actually more interesting than the blog itself, so well worth looking at the whole thing. It’s something I have a professional interest in (I’m not a teacher though) as well as personal (my DS is in Y1 and learning to read following the Letters and Sounds guidelines). It strikes me reading this that we really don’t know yet what is the best method, although it is very clear that phonics teaching should predominate, it’s debatable whether that should be to the exclusion of other methods.

I’ve read a few debates about this recently on Mumsnet (there’s one in AIBU that sparked quite a long discussion about it), so I thought some people might find this interesting. Or maybe just me smile

http://readoxford.org/guest-blog-are-sight-words-unjustly-slighted

TheDuchessOfKidderminster Fri 20-Oct-17 10:49:46

readoxford.org/guest-blog-are-sight-words-unjustly-slighted

Clicky link.

MiaowTheCat Fri 20-Oct-17 10:55:03

I've put the list on the fridge - when the child in question (it's DD2 at the moment) comes to see what I'm doing in the kitchen and why dinner isn't ready at that precise second, they usually wander over there and start faffing about with the fridge magnets and notices on there and delight in showing me which ones they know and what words they can make.

The fact the selection of fridge magnets on the fridge is just the phonics they've been covering in school is purely coincidental - not! (I got told off last night that I need to add several other sounds they've been doing in phonics this week by an indignant little 4 year old).

This will descend into the usual outrage about how schools shouldn't be teaching sight words with parents being bollocked for just doing what they're being asked to by the school in question by about school hometime tonight. Not much the poor parents can do caught in the middle of it so it always smacks of shooting the messenger somewhat.

prh47bridge Fri 20-Oct-17 13:46:23

it’s debatable whether that should be to the exclusion of other methods

No it isn't debatable at all.

Study after study has found that teaching reading using synthetic phonics alone results in at least 95% of children learning to read successfully. Many studies show success rates in excess of 99%.

If you use mixed methods, even if one of them is synthetic phonics, the success rate drops to around 80%.

The blog post is misguided to say the least. Yes, "sail" and "sale" are different words that have the same pronunciation but that does not mean we should encourage children to treat them, or any other words, as "sight words". If you scan the brain of an adult reading you will find that there really is no such thing as a "sight word". All words are read using the same areas of the brain that children use when sounding out and blending. Treating a word as a picture encourages children to use a completely different part of the brain.

Feenie Fri 20-Oct-17 16:43:10

^Yes! This. Very well said.

irvineoneohone Fri 20-Oct-17 17:15:16

I wonder if you use other methods than phonics, how do children learn to spell longer words in later years, using sight words etc., especially for spelling.

First 2 words from yr3 spelling list is accidentally and actually.
If you use phonics and break down words, ac/ci/den/ta/ lly, ac/tu/a/lly,
it seems a lot easier to spell the words, than memorising as a whole words.
Just a thought.

TheDuchessOfKidderminster Fri 20-Oct-17 19:14:37

Irvine this article is interesting re the importance of not just knowledge of phonology but broader language skills.

www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/joshi.pdf

irvineoneohone Fri 20-Oct-17 19:30:11

I read it, and only this stuck to my mind.

More recent studies, however, do not support the notion that visual memory is the key to good spelling

That's what I was asking/ saying. My ds has exceptional memory. He still use breaking down into segments methods to learn to spell words. He doesn't even need to memorise it. He just mumbles words in segment and voila! That's it. Super easy. Just need to know how to pronounce the words. 10/10 every time.

TheDuchessOfKidderminster Fri 20-Oct-17 19:30:33

I’m interested in where this 95% vs 80% statistic comes from - do you have references for that?

Also, skilled adult readers process words differently from beginner readers - it’s a very rapid process and largely based on reading words from memory by sight, as discussed here:

www.pitt.edu/~perfetti/PDF/Ehri.pdf

irvineoneohone Fri 20-Oct-17 19:44:35

Also I would like to add, the word he learned to spell by segmenting, he won't forget. Because he only need to know how to pronounce it.

I really don't get your motive for this thread. If you want other methods for your child, do it. 4/5 chance they won't suffer.
But other people(especially the teachers) have to put the facts, so all the other who are reading this won't get confused.

If you search past thread, there are links to the study about 95% and 80% thing. Or maybe some others link it for you if they have it handy.
Can't be bothered to find the link from past post, sorry.

TheDuchessOfKidderminster Fri 20-Oct-17 21:36:40

I really don’t get your motive for this thread

It was just something I thought was quite thought provoking and might be helpful to discuss with other people who are interested in literacy development. Evidently not sad

cornflakegirl Fri 20-Oct-17 21:47:21

irvine - just knowing how to pronounce a word isn't enough. Partly because of alternative spellings and homophobes - bow / bough, read / reed etc. And partly because the vowels in unstressed syllables are often schwa - eg the last syllable of accidental is pronounced 'ul' - you really can't tell by listening how to spell it.

However, phonics does give you the possible alternatives.

AuntieStella Fri 20-Oct-17 21:53:08

It's hard to discuss discredited ideas, without coming across as hostile towards them.

prh is correct.

Norestformrz Fri 20-Oct-17 21:53:59

*“*^*Also, skilled adult readers process words differently from beginner readers - it’s a very rapid process and largely based on reading words from memory by sight, as discussed here*^*”* not true adult readers process words rapidly sound by sound ...read Dehaene Reading in the brain

Dehaene says, "Whole word reading is a myth…the brain does not use the whole word shape". Skilled readers are processing letters simultaneously, whereas children need to work slowly, one letter at a time, till they gradually get faster and more automatic.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MSy685vNqYkYk*^

Or try Seidenberg or Lemov

irvineoneohone Fri 20-Oct-17 22:22:26

Yes, agree, cornflake. But what I was saying was about learning to spell by segmenting words you see.
So you get the list of words, segment it and learn it. Ds doesn't forget.
If he encounters new words he never met, if he reads it, he can read it by segmenting, and learn the spelling at the same time.
If he hears new word, of course he doesn't know how to spell it. He would simply use his electronic spell checker/dictionary to check the spelling and lean the word same way as he read it after he saw how it was spelt. I think his good memory is definitely part of attaining good spelling, but his phonics knowledge plays equally the big part, imo.

Feenie Sat 21-Oct-17 17:04:07

www.thereadingcentre.com/2014/08/19/should-key-words-be-taught-as-sight-words/

Norestformrz Sat 21-Oct-17 17:29:39

https://www.spelfabet.com.au/2016/07/dissing-choosing-and-teaching-sight-words/

Norestformrz Sat 21-Oct-17 17:30:57

https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=oNkiatQo-pQ

underkerstumbled Sat 21-Oct-17 17:38:53

adult readers process words rapidly sound by sound I read fast. Too fast to be thinking of sounds. It's image recognition in my opinion.

Just knowing how to pronounce a word isn't enough Very true,, it helps if you know what it means as well grin

QuackDuckQuack Sat 21-Oct-17 17:48:30

Due to the many spellings to one sound nature of English, there must be an element of memory for spelling. Particularly to be able to spell homophones. But I’d argue that whatever is going on to be able to spell various homophones is a pretty high level skill as lots of people haven’t mastered it.

Norestformrz Sat 21-Oct-17 17:58:00

^*adult readers process words rapidly sound by sound*^*”*^^**
_*I read fast. Too fast to be thinking of sounds._*
You don’t need to consciously think of sounds your brain can process sounds in milliseconds.

sirfredfredgeorge Sat 21-Oct-17 18:36:27

Particularly to be able to spell homophones

People right different homophones specifically because the part that is doing the composing and the part that is doing the transcription are (possibly only in some people) independent. The dictation from the composing part of the brain is transcribed without thought beyond spelling the word, often the wrong word, but a homophone is produced.

Arkadia Sat 21-Oct-17 19:27:13

I have to say (and not having read anything specific about it), I find it hard to believe that MY brain analyses sounds and not shapes. For one, I remember words by shape and not sound (to me English and Chinese are pretty similar from this point of view), primarily because I don't know how to read sounds in isolation (and I cannot read an unknown word, unless it is easily guessable).

Norestformrz Sat 21-Oct-17 19:42:39

“*^ I remember words by shape*^ *“*.** So you can distinguish he and be by shape alone how about hats and bats or barn from burn or born? So many words have the same shape it’s a pretty useless strategy I’m afraid.

prh47bridge Sat 21-Oct-17 19:45:52

It's image recognition in my opinion

Definitely not. If you look at a brain scan of an adult reading you will find that completely the wrong areas of the brain fire up for it to be anything to do with image recognition. It isn't even the correct hemisphere of the brain.

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