5 year old reading well but struggling with phonics

(168 Posts)
backtothegrindstone Wed 26-Feb-20 20:22:40

Just been to parents evening and have been told that my year 1, 5 year old (late August born so very young for the year) has been moved into a booster group for kids struggling with phonics. I was shocked as his reading is decent and he's making really good progress. I've never noticed him having any issues and he sounds out words perfectly when we read at home. He's my 2nd child and if anything reads better than his older brother did at the same age- and his brother was always in the top set. I got the feeling that his teachers feel his reading is absolutely fine but that he's not reading the WAY they want him to read - he likes to read whole words rather than breaking them into bits. They want me to work with him on the phonics at home. So, should I be concerned and put a happy but rather tired little boy who's progressing well through extra work at home, or just ignore it all and assume that phonics just isn't his thing?

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MiniGuinness Wed 26-Feb-20 20:31:41

Some children do learn to read by whole word recognition, my daughter did (aged 3 with almost no input from me- 2nd child). The problem is that without an understanding of phonics there may be little progression. It is easy to recognise the words at this stage, much less so as they progress.

backtothegrindstone Wed 26-Feb-20 20:35:45

I'm not sure what you mean by progression? He's reading whole books and understanding them and is on track for his year group and progressing well.

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backtothegrindstone Wed 26-Feb-20 20:37:30

I should add, he wasn't an early reader. He's quite average and has been learning and progressing all through the two years he's been at school. His reading is progressing normally, just as he would with phonics, but he's not really using phonics as they want him to.

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Yeulisloveofmylife Wed 26-Feb-20 20:54:03

Can he read new words that he never seen?
My dc had natural gist for phonics, so she was a great reader and able to read any words. But when she encountered new words, she always used phonics knowledge in KS1. In yr1 the words they encounter are very short and easy. But what about when he is in yr6? Or yr8?
I just don't understand the parents not being happy about their children having extra help. The teachers are experts. If the think your children need extra help, why can't you be happy just to take it?
Your dc is getting a booster, so, engage with the teacher and help him at home as wel if you can, or just ignore them, thinking they are wrong to think he needs any help.

crazycatgal Wed 26-Feb-20 20:54:47

If his reading is fine but he's not decoding then I'm guessing that the booster group will be because of the phonics screening check towards the end of year 1.

RainbowMum11 Wed 26-Feb-20 20:55:07

DD6 doesn't get phonics either - to be fair, neither do I!
Her reading is now ok now that she has teachers that understand that not everyone learns in the same way.


Yeulisloveofmylife Wed 26-Feb-20 20:59:56

Rainbow, If your dc is only 6 and her teacher thinks it's ok that your dd doesn't get phonics, I would be worried.

Pipandmum Wed 26-Feb-20 21:01:42

I remember school telling me that my daughter needed remedial spelling lessons at the start of Y1. I was like she is 5 what exactly do you expect her to be able to spell? So she had an extra list to learn every week which she did fine. I wasn't bothered at all but felt it was a bit OTT.
She's now 14 and still not a great speller but is top set of everything and loves to write.
My son on the other hand saw a special teacher for years over his poor handwriting. I knew it was his impatience. Sure enough he (16) still writes poorly unless he slows way down.

Cantchooseaname Wed 26-Feb-20 21:04:53

Some kids ( not many) don’t learn through phonics, and have the visual memory to recall whole words.
However, phonics is a really useful tool.
At 5 years old it is too soon to write it off as a technique that he can’t learn. It may never be his natural Or first choice, but there will be times when he needs an alternative.

backtothegrindstone Wed 26-Feb-20 21:19:41

I'm not writing off phonics, and don't have a problem with him getting extra help @yeulisloveofmylife. But I have a little boy who's young for his year, and who to all intents and purposes is doing just fine (he can read new words just fine even big ones, and sounds them out, just not in quite the way they want him to it seems) and I'm being asked to give him even more homework on top of the normal reading and maths and topics. And work which in fairness is totally dull to a 5 year old who should be playing when he comes home from school so I'm disinclined to push him to do more than he is already that's all. Nobody learnt phonics when I went to school and we all seem to be getting in fine, so I'm just wondering if it's really the be-all-and-end-all, or as @crazycatgal says, it's just a tick box exercise for the government and ofsted.

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Yeulisloveofmylife Wed 26-Feb-20 21:30:05

If he can read and sound out the words fine, then I really don't see the problem. The teacher shouldn't be worried. Nothing to worry about. Great.
Nobody learned phonics back then, and everyone learnt to read fine. Then there is nothing to worry about either. As you say, it's all about tick box exercise.

MiniGuinness Wed 26-Feb-20 22:02:58

I'm not sure what you mean by progression? progression in the early years is often similar between whole-word recognition and synthetic phonics. It is as they progress (through the years) that it may be become more difficult if they do not have a grasp of phonics. It may all click into place at some point though, 5 is very young.

gran75 Thu 27-Feb-20 07:26:04

You should definitely just ignore it all and assume that phonics just isn't his thing, backtothegrindstone and not give him extra work at home.
Phonics is fine for giving kids the basic idea that we use letters to represent speech sounds, but nowhere near enough to become a fluent reader. That's much more a matter of learning to recognise all the most used words on sight. The teacher just wants to make sure that he scores well in the yr 1 phonics check which is utterly pointless for children who are making good progress in their reading. Quite a few people are slowly starting to realise that phonics is not the cure-all for English reading difficulties, as promised by the Rose review of 2006 englishspellingproblems.blogspot.co.uk

backtothegrindstone Thu 27-Feb-20 07:51:26

Thank you @gran75, that's really reassuring. I had my suspicions, especially as I don't really trust the current government hmm

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LetItGoToRuin Thu 27-Feb-20 08:59:28

“he sounds out words perfectly when we read at home”

“he's not reading the WAY they want him to read - he likes to read whole words rather than breaking them into bits.”

“he's not really using phonics as they want him to.”

I think I’d want to know a bit more detail from the teacher, to understand exactly what the problem is. If a child has been taught phonics systematically at school and wasn’t previously taught using ‘look and say’ at home, I can’t imagine the teacher wanting to discourage that child from speaking whole words, as long as the teacher is confident that the child is segmenting in their head when they need to, and can do so out loud when asked, for specific words.

Might he be using guessing strategies sometimes? Is he skimming and rushing?

Regardless of what Gran75 says, without strong phonics knowledge there is likely to come a time when, being faced with harder words, a child starts to guess, assume meaning etc. which will mean that the child can’t reliably understand more difficult texts. The Y1 phonics check is in place to identify those children early on, before their poor reading strategies fail them in secondary school.

Phonics gurus such as @feenie and @norestformrz will explain it much better than I can. (I’m not a teacher.)

If the school are teaching phonics well and have identified a problem, I would be inclined to support the school (though I would ask for very specific information from the teacher).

If you’re worried about adding to his homework, tell the teacher you want to prioritise his phonics work at home, and will therefore be giving the projects a miss for the time being, until he has caught up.

Kuponut Thu 27-Feb-20 09:33:11

One of mine was a bit like this, and I was as a child - would get by on sight recognition and the context of words. I had to rein school in at times in terms of assuming she's a really good reader as she will blag her way through books given half the chance and when you slow her down, her phonic knowledge is really good - she just does not use it. I now have a dyslexia diagnosis and I suspect she's similar - there's something not right with text tracking in particular there.

One thing that worked for us was we did Dancing Bears for a while and particularly the idea they have of a cursor (L shaped bit of card) to reveal a phoneme at a time to reinforce blending through the word. That helped it to click very well and she did get full marks in the Y1 phonics screen (helped that it was monster themed and she LOVES silly monsters so it had her full attention!)

Dancing Bears I found mildly pricey but worth it as it helped the penny drop for her - now it's just a case of reminding her to use the flipping phonics instead of just trying to blast through on the general gist of the book!

Purpledragon40 Thu 27-Feb-20 10:00:56

I mean if he is struggling with phonics and is resorting to whole word learning it's probably a phonological deficit where children hear words then can't break them down into individual sounds which is the inverse of phonics but you need to be able to do it to do phonics.

You can test it if you play games like I spy or ask him which words rhyme.

If it turns out he has a phonological deficit then you could do phonological awareness exercises to build up his ability so then he could do phonics.

I know whole word learning seems ok now but that's right now. Later on in junior and infant school they're going to expect him to be able to read words he hasn't seen before and phonics is going to be needed.

backtothegrindstone Thu 27-Feb-20 10:55:22

@LetItGoToRuin if he were sounding out wait he would say w-a-i-t rather than w-ai-t is the example the teacher gave

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strawberrylipgloss Thu 27-Feb-20 11:11:42

I remember my kids going through the phase or not seeing digraphs.
S-h-o-p became sh-o-p once they had enough reading practice to look out for digraphs. They would self correct if they said s-h by mistake

The ones in the middle of words are harder to spot imo but came with practice.

Phonics helps with writing as well. Of course they need to read in order to know phonics isn't spelt fonics or phonicks but most kids are working on that for a while (years) to come

backtothegrindstone Thu 27-Feb-20 11:34:04

I doubt it's a phonological defect bu your explaination @purpledragon40. He's great at rhyming and I spy!

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LondonGirl83 Thu 27-Feb-20 12:23:36

9 million adults in the UK are functionally illiterate so I’m not sure that it’s true that old methods still allowed everyone to read just fine.

It doesn’t sound like you understand exactly what the issue is but I’d explore that first and then support your son where the gaps are as school has requested.

LittleCandle Thu 27-Feb-20 12:33:30

Phonics is a shit way to teach reading and categorically doesn't suit every child. If your DS prefers reading whole words, tell the teachers that and say you don't want him in the booster group. As someone said, they just want him to do well with phonics and the fact he can read well is irrelevant. Phonics is not the be-all and end-all of reading.

PurpleDaisies Thu 27-Feb-20 12:38:08

if he were sounding out wait he would say w-a-i-t rather than w-ai-t is the example the teacher gave

That’s not sounding out the word, that’s just making sounds for each letter. If he blended w a i t together it wouldn’t make “wait”.

If he is reading unfamiliar words correctly, it doesn’t matter what process he has in his head. The fact his teacher is concerned makes me think that he isn’t.

drspouse Thu 27-Feb-20 12:38:33

Please ignore gran, she has an axe to grind and (I suspect) something to sell.

Your example suggests he needs to work on his digraphs - so, if you see a two letter combo like -ai- then if he sounds it out as a i, then get him to try it again.
He must be doing this in his head if he can then say "wait". I assume he can?
He just needs to do it obviously so that when it's a harder letter combo (like -ure) he isn't tripping up by sounding all 3 letters out.

Phonics is the best way to teach children to read for 95% plus of children.

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