A balanced approach to phonics (or is it?)

(27 Posts)
Arkadia Sat 24-Mar-18 17:29:35

Waiting for someone to explain to me what that article about "phonics and a balanced approach to phonics" actually says, here is what I have just discovered the "balanced approach to phonics" at my school is (we are in Scotland, so we have in general little or no clue about phonics).
I was revising some words with DD (P4, more or less equivalent to Y3); this week she is supposed to revise the two lists of tricky words they have been working on since after Christmas (along with 2 sounds, <oo> and <f>).

It goes without saying that having a list of 30 "tricky" words per term is highly inefficient because you are not going to get anywhere anytime soon (and certainly not by the time primary is over). However, the discovery of the day is that the teacher asked them to make up "mnemonics" (her word) to remember the really tricky ones. So now she has:

Fred Runs Up Into Town - Fruit
Setting Up Races Everyday - Sure
Big Eagles Fly Over Roosters' Eggs - Before

OK, I need to get out more, I know, but still I was appalled that the teacher suggested such an approach. What about having "ui" when you did <oo>? Indeed, now DD knows how to spell "fruit" (and I was surprised when she got it right first time, but now I know why), but what about "cruise" and "bruise" and "suitcase" and so on?
Also, does "before" really need a "mnemonic"? "Be" shouldn't be a problem and "fore" is the same as "more", "core", "bore" and so on.
The only word I am not sure how to decode is "sure", but I know that this is MY problem and the teacher should teach ME (via my DD) how to do it. But no... "Setting Up Races Everyday".

In fairness this years' teachers are much better than the ones we had in the past, but still...
Mnemonics are not entirely new to us because in P2 we were given one to write "because" (something to do with elephants... can't quite remember it now) and at the time I thought it was quite a smart thing to do :D :D Unfortunately now to me this is a balanced approach to phonics... my ass!

OP’s posts: |
dementedpixie Sat 24-Mar-18 18:23:52

Big elephants can always understand small elephants

dementedpixie Sat 24-Mar-18 18:26:18

Your suggestions are also mnemonics as they are an aid for remembering spellings.

Arkadia Sat 24-Mar-18 18:40:21

Indeed, but you will agree that to have one mnemonic per word is rather inefficient.
To know that <oo> can be spelt "UI" will save A LOT of time and memory space.
How better off am I knowing "Fruit" in isolation?

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dementedpixie Sat 24-Mar-18 18:47:55

Our school has different strategies for spelling and mnemonics is one of them. It also includes 'sounding out', 'syllables', 'words within words', 'compound words'(2 words joined together), 'analogy' and 'spelling rules'. It is up to the individual to use whichever method is more suited to a particular word. Ds is also at school in Scotland

user789653241 Sat 24-Mar-18 18:56:23

After so many phonics thread you started, I just can't believe you are still following school's approach.

Arkadia Sat 24-Mar-18 19:07:30

Hahaha irvine, you are quite right. However today DD left me speechless (no mean feat grin) when she told me about the mnemonics. I was about to say something rather derogatory about the teacher, but JUST managed to bit my tongue :D

demented, my DD by the end of the year will have done 135 "tricky words". I went through the list and the only ones noteworthy (about of 105) to me are: breakfast, cupboard, sure, February. All the others are absolutely normal words with absolutely normal spellings.
For example, this time she has: seven, seventeen, never, before, fruit, sure, garden, yesterday, swimming, believe, decided, another, quiet, quite, clothes.
Why on earth should she even try to memorize these words is beyond me, let alone have mnemonics...
To give you an example, DD wasn't sure about quite/quiet, so I had her sound them both out and she got them right every time without having to remember anything at all.

I can understand that mnemonics could come in handy for unusual spellings, like "my frIEnd is Incredibly Elegant" and such like, but not for perfectly regular words like "fruit".

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dementedpixie Sat 24-Mar-18 19:16:17

There is 'a rat' in separate. StationEry - E for envelopes. One collar and 2 sleeves for necessary

Trying to think of other strategies that are used.

Arkadia Sat 24-Mar-18 19:22:58

demented, your examples are all fine and I could not object to them, but they are not the same as my ones which have really no reason whatsoever to exist, and neither does my list of "tricky" words (I mean, where can you go wrong with "seven" or "seventeen"?)

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Arkadia Sat 24-Mar-18 19:28:58

demented, to give you some background info, my DD was/is a TERRIBLE speller. I mean, COMPLETELY useless. She just has NO clue of phonics of blending the sounds of recognizing patterns, etc. Even now (this year she has improved a lot) as soon as she is not concentrating disaster ensues (the other day she had to do a short assignment. Out of the 25 words she wrote there where 8 spelling mistakes...).
In order to help her out I have been trying to understand how spelling works and how it is being taught (English is not my first language), and here we are... My DD is the living embodiment that mixed methods DO fail SOME children (and yes, I have taken up this with the school on many occasions in P2 and P3). The fact that she was an able reader form the start led us to believe that she would be able to spell too. How wrong can one be...

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runningoutofjuice Sat 24-Mar-18 20:21:08

Some of your words - eg February, fruit and believe are in the list of Common Exception Words for years 3/4 (English curriculum). Words that are not tricky as such but use rare spelling patterns that aren't necessarily covered in phonics sessions but are expected to be learnt and spelt right. I'm just wondering if the other words are in the list because they all contain a schwa and are commonly misspelt because of it?

sirfredfredgeorge Sat 24-Mar-18 20:51:18

Could she spell mnemonic?

Arkadia Sat 24-Mar-18 20:59:04

running, in February you have to remember the "r", so that's OK.
"Fruit" I am not so sure, as there are a handful of very common words that use the "ui" spelling. As I said before, now she knows "fruit", but what about "bruise" or "suit"? Hardly uncommon words. What not bang them together when they did <oo>?
"Believe" is not that hard either if you sound it out, although the combination of letters can look odd, but, again, it is not unique.
I have asked my DD for further details on how these words are introduced and she says that they are asked to write them down on their whiteboard and that they have some spelling cards that they would use at school.
I asked if they would sound out the words, and she said no. For example "fruit" they wouldn't say "f-r-oo-t" trying to separate the sounds and identify the problem. DD said that you cannot do it because them you would write "froot".
Re: schwas, I think you are right. I thought of that myself, but there must be a better way of teaching that. I have lost count of the number of ways a schwa can be spelled... If you learn them one word at the time, you will be at university by the time you know them all (and forgotten 2/3 of them along the way). Oh, and yes, my DD did write "gardin" the first time. :D
Besides, my DD does not know what a schwa is (but I believe that is NOT uncommon).

Forgot to add to the list of interesting "tricky" words "beautiful" (which, apart form "beauty", is unique) and "busy". However the latter could have been taught along with business, minute and lettuce (there should be another one, but I cannot remember now). However, if they are not even trying to sound the words out I can see that the exercise of putting similar words together would be pointless.

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Arkadia Sat 24-Mar-18 21:00:58

Sir, after reading your message I asked. The answer was "NO IDEA!". Probably she needs a mnemonic to spell mnemonic... gringringrin

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sirfredfredgeorge Sat 24-Mar-18 21:34:03

Mnemonic Never Easy reMembering Order In Characters?

runningoutofjuice Sat 24-Mar-18 22:42:00

Memorise Never Ending Mind-numbing Old Nonsense In Class grin

runningoutofjuice Sat 24-Mar-18 22:42:39

Ha! Took so long and beaten to it!

sirfredfredgeorge Sun 25-Mar-18 08:24:01

I may have been first, but yours was actually good.

user789653241 Sun 25-Mar-18 12:28:15

Mnemonic is not the answer to the problem, and you know it. What's the point of learning spellings for few words correct? With proper phonics, children should be able to decode any words within their knowledge, and at the same time, they should learn and be able to encode.

Arkadia Sun 25-Mar-18 16:03:43

Running I have googled "common exception words" and found that, yes, there are similarities, but it is not the list we use. I have tried to google that, but haven't found anything, except some homework dated 2015 where the very same list is being used. I take it it must be something coming from - who knows - the Scottish government or the local council.
What would be good to understand is the logic of the list (I mean, should I really have the 12 months of the year as tricky words?) and the way the information is delivered.
Last time we had parents night the poor teacher had to listen to a speech by myself where I was urging them to actually commit to phonics and not use some unclear mixed methods (yea, I am that parent...) which obviously don't work for some (i.e. my DD). I asked her why they were doing what they were doing and she pretty much said that she... didn't know, or at least didn't want to tell me (that was before the mnemonic thing).

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Norestformrz Sun 25-Mar-18 17:20:30

Try Anne Glennie hello@thelearningzoo.co.uk she was a teacher and is now a phonics trainer based in Scotland so may be able to help.

Arkadia Sun 25-Mar-18 17:27:36

Yes, I know of her. Will do, thanks.

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alisonm85 Sun 25-Mar-18 20:14:40

Not all words are phonetically decodable. Some word have to be memorized.

Feenie Sun 25-Mar-18 20:25:46

Which words do you think are not phonetically decodable?

Norestformrz Mon 26-Mar-18 06:34:54

Arkadia I've contacted Anne and she's happy to help if you contact her.

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