Phonics experts - come talk to me!!

(33 Posts)
Babypythagorus Tue 07-Nov-17 06:40:10

I'm new to primary (background in secondary) and there seem to be some very well informed ppl on here!

My school currently uses thoroughly mixed methods to teach reading, with incredibly old Ginn reading books. We are investing in ORT, and I wonder if any of you can tell me:

- where is the research often quoted on here that solely teaching SSP will ensure a higher % kids learn to read? The Rose report is often cited, but I can't find that particular bit in it.

- How does ORT work, in class and at home? Their website is impenetrable...

- which ORT sets are fully decodable? (And, for that matter, what does that phrase mean?! Surely all books are at some point?)

And lastly;

- what would you recommend I read to learn about this?!

Thanks phonics pros smile

OP’s posts: |
Norestformrz Tue 07-Nov-17 07:19:42

You need books matched to the child’s phonic knowledge and skills so if they’ve only been taught six sounds the book they take home contains words using those six sounds (so generally the text would be Sam sat... sit Sam ) and build as more sounds are learnt. Personally I wouldn’t choose ORT but the new Floppy’s Phonics are aligned to Letters and Sounds (which I’d not choose either). There are much better options out there.

The IfERI site has lots of research
I’d also read Dehaene, Lemov, Seidenberg as starting points

Norestformrz Tue 07-Nov-17 07:20:08

Forgot McGuiness

Hippywannabe Tue 07-Nov-17 07:32:20

We use ReadWriteInc , I have always been in KS2 and only really came to be doing phonics regularly a few years ago. It is a fab programme, I think itbis expensive but all resources are done and the kids love it. i have been amazed at the quality of work they are capable of on it.

Babypythagorus Tue 07-Nov-17 07:35:18

Why wouldn't you choose ORT??

OP’s posts: |
Anotheroneishere Tue 07-Nov-17 07:36:35

Not that I'm a phonics expert. I find it interesting and have learned a few things.

One answer how ORT is used in schools: in our school, ORT books are used as one of the reading schemes. There is a separate phonics curriculum and a separate writing curriculum.

Decodable books are books that include a limited set of phonics so that every word is accessible to a reader. Songbirds have a very clear progression that is the easiest to understand.

In general, you can extrapolate that to the ORT levels, but there will be some inconsistencies. A decodable stage 4 book won't have split digraphs for example, and a decodable stage 2 book won't have long vowels.

This is a useful list of ORT books that I personally find more useful than the ORT website.

For the lower levels, in general, Songbirds, Floppy's Phonics, Decode and Develop, Snapdragons, and Glowworms are decodable. First sentences, Patterned stories, Traditional Tales, Fireflies, and In fact are less or not decodable. There are different series as the levels progress, and the question of whether or not a book is decodable becomes much less relevant after stage 5, when the alternative spellings have been introduced.

Norestformrz Tue 07-Nov-17 07:47:05

I wouldn’t choose ORT because there aren’t enough texts for each set of sounds to ensure children are secure in their blending skills and sound knowledge before moving on.


RafaIsTheKingOfClay Tue 07-Nov-17 09:10:07

You are right that all books will eventually be decodable, usually by the end of year 1. Decodable books are just the ones that children use to learn to read up until that point. Each level will gradually introduce more sounds until they have all been introduced and children can read anything.

One of the problems with ORT is that in some series even some of the earliest levels require children to be familiar with a lot of sounds I.e. all of phase 2. Whereas something like Phonics Bug or Dandelion Readers/launchers can be used as soon as children know 5-8 sounds and can blend. Then each level introduces 3-4 more so they can be used to practise what is being taught at the time.

Grumpbum Tue 07-Nov-17 09:14:03

not remotely an expert but our School used Dandelion Launchers/readers initially which I thought were excellent

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Tue 07-Nov-17 09:38:15

Actually, I'd be a bit careful with the decode and develop ORT books. I don't think they are very decodeable in the early stages. They are just more decodeable than the original books.

Floppy' Phonics, Traditional Tales, Alien Adventures and Songbirds are definitely decodeable in the proper sense. The first three follow the order of Letters and Sounds.

Feenie Tue 07-Nov-17 11:00:17

For the lower levels, in general, Songbirds, Floppy's Phonics, Decode and Develop, Snapdragons, and Glowworms are decodable.

If you read the small print, Decode and Develop are only 60% decodable and are definitely misnamed, if you ask me - I know of two local schools who use them and think they are offering decodable readers.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Tue 07-Nov-17 17:53:53

I think OUP have helpfully added phonics/decodeable to their descriptions of a number of schemes which aren't really. 'Fully decodable in line with letters and sounds' seems to be the phrase you need to look for in order to work out which ones are decodeable.

Snapdragons and glowworms aren't unless they have rewritten them.

Norestformrz Tue 07-Nov-17 19:10:25

As I said the problem I have with ORT is that there aren’t enough books to ensure pupils are secure in their phonic skills. I think Songbirds are great but they just don’t work as the only scheme but work well alongside others.

Babypythagorus Wed 08-Nov-17 06:51:39

The ORT quote we've had for a starter pack gives one class pack of 6 titles for each level - is that enough? Or will we need more?

OP’s posts: |
Anotheroneishere Wed 08-Nov-17 07:37:28

Babypythagorus, have you as a school approached ORT with these questions? They have a vested interest in your success, and while asking the supplier isn't going to get you unbiased advice, it will at least get you professional advice.

How many books you need will depend on what years you are buying for, how many children you have, and how often you expect to send the books home and read the books in school. Consider how many books per stage you expect a below average reception child to need in order to sufficiently practice the sounds without memorizing books. It would indeed surprise me if ORT has a sufficient number of lower level books to be the sole reading scheme at a school.

Does your school have a training budget? Bringing in an expert would be a great choice.

Babypythagorus Wed 08-Nov-17 07:58:55

Yes, we've got our area rep who constructed our starter quote and is booked in for a training session. The set up pack they've suggested has 6 titles at each level from 1-11, this is for primary 1-4 (we're in Scotland, thats R to y3).

OP’s posts: |
Anotheroneishere Wed 08-Nov-17 08:40:37

Six titles at each level won't get you very far. Consider that an average child in P1 would finish P1 at level 3. There would then be a total of 18 books for them to read the entire year. That's less than one per week.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Wed 08-Nov-17 09:21:06

6 books at each level is nowhere near enough.

Does it have to be ORT that you invest in, or do you have scope for looking elsewhere?

Norestformrz Wed 08-Nov-17 18:32:26

Can I ask which books the rep is recommending? All to often the reps are clueless

Babypythagorus Wed 08-Nov-17 18:36:39

She recommended the biff ones, but we've swapped them out for fully decodable ones at the early levels and some of the more modern ones higher up. Am now worrying about if we've got enough! How many would you need? I guess you don't need whole class sets of them all, do you? Just some for class work and lots of individual ones for home reading?

OP’s posts: |
cantkeepawayforever Wed 08-Nov-17 18:47:43

One cheap way of getting LOTS of copies of early decodeable books (when lots of children are at the starting out stage and all the children need books at a very similar level) is simply to buy LOTS of discounted Songbirds packs from somewhere like the Book People.

In fact, if you know what you are doing, you can often get quite a lot of the basic Phonics ranges via a similar route. Obviously it gives you lots of copies of the same book, which isn't ideal as children mopve on but may need lots of practice at a particular stage, but can be great initially.

What you do need, though, is someone who knows what they are doing to tie them together and then link them tightly in with the phonics teaching and progression - and that will be someone who teaches Phonics well, not a book company rep. Is there someone from a local school who gets very good Phonics check scores (it's entirely possible to get 100%, or high 90%s, year after year if you teach Phonics really well, regardless of intake) who might be able to help you?

For an 'all in one off the shelf programme', I believe RWI is good, though it is obviously quite expensive.

Balfe Wed 08-Nov-17 19:03:36

Is there someone from a local school who gets very good Phonics check score

No phonics check in Scotland.

At my Scottish school, we used our PEF money for Songbirds (from the Book People as someone said) and for Dandelion Launchers, which are fab. I am inherently suspicious of reps.

How big is your average intake? We have 2 classes at each stage and went for 10 copies of each individual book. We only change books once a week because we have no classroom assistant.

PT is currently investigating an online resource (Bug Club possibly) for those who want extra home reading.

Norestformrz Wed 08-Nov-17 19:22:00

Songbirds are great but again only offer six books at each level. I’d highly recommend as a supplement to a main scheme.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Wed 08-Nov-17 19:25:08

phonics bug or Dandelion launchers/readers might be cheaper than RWI.

You could also link the teaching to the scheme, since they are very finely levelled and clearly sequenced, rather than having to try and link books to existing progression.

You won't necessarily need a whole class set of each book. If you have enough individual titles at each level then you have plenty of books for lots of children to be on the same level and children who need more practice will have a range of books rather than being stuck with the same 6.

Norestformrz Wed 08-Nov-17 19:29:47

One book for each set of sounds isn’t enough (having 36 copies of the same books isn’t necessary).

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