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How to start teaching a child to read with phonics?

(171 Posts)
Zimbah Mon 12-Nov-12 22:40:22

This is probably a really stupid question... I've read hundreds of threads on this forum about phonics and have got myself in a tangle about how to actually go about teaching DD to read. She's 4, knows the letter sounds for the alphabet, and has started being able to separate out sounds within words although this is still a bit ropey. What do I do now - I'm paranoid about getting it wrong and making things harder, I initially started by teaching the old "Letterland" style sounds e.g. Muh for M, and now despite months of me only saying MMM she sometimes still says Muh. Can I just jump in with some reading scheme books? I know there are 44 sounds, but presumably I need some actual books to teach them within a word context, once she's learnt more basic ones?

And yes I realise I can do what I like as I'm her mum but I would prefer to follow a synthetic phonics way of teaching if possible, as that's what she'll do at school next year, so I'd rather that was her starting point.

ditherers Mon 12-Nov-12 22:47:12

Or you could do nothing and let her learn along with her classmate at school. That's what my ds did - i knew nothing of phonics and learned along with him. He is in his second year now and ort stage 10 so it obviously didn't do him any harm not knowing the sounds before school - most children won:t -you may find you have had your views skewed by the posters on here.

FromEsme Mon 12-Nov-12 22:50:29

There are videos on youtube to show you how to pronounce the phonemes.

Check that she actually understands what she's reading too.

I could read before I went to school and I think it really set me up for a lifetime of loving to read. Think you have to be careful that you're doing it correctly, though.

simpson Mon 12-Nov-12 22:56:29

If you think she is ready you need to get some phonics books.

The songbirds pack of books for sale by the book people are fab....They start with basic books like "Top Cat" and " Bob Bug" which are great little stories to start reading and easy to follow....

You can also check out the Oxford owl website, they have some books with no words in to discuss what is happening and then you can build up from there...

The alphablocks programme on cbeebies in fab too....

It might be worth checking out your local library,my DD's first ever book that she read was a library book called "Run Rat Run" ( think "Rat ran.....Rat hid etc etc")

Zimbah Mon 12-Nov-12 22:57:31

I could just leave her to learn at school, but that's nearly a year away and she's really interested in reading and writing, she asks me how to write words like Mummy etc, it would seem a bit odd to put her off for a year.

Esme - I know how to pronounce the phonemes (after research to double-check), but what do I actually do? Give her some cards with CVC words on? Go straight to books? I just feel totally clueless.

Zimbah Mon 12-Nov-12 23:00:21

Sorry, I cross posted. Thanks, ok so I can start with some books, I'll have a look online and will check out the library, didn't think of that. She's just discovered the alphablocks computer games and enjoys doing them.

ReallyTired Mon 12-Nov-12 23:01:22

Jolly phonics have loads of lovely resources you can buy or you can just make your own.

With my children I played games with no text. Ie Robot speak

"touch your h-e-d" (ea is one way of saying the e sound)
2wave your h-a-n-d"

Or in the supermarket

"please can you get me some m-i-l-k"
"Where is mummy's c-ar?"

Its not reading as such but training the child's ear to blend sounds.
Dd has taken the game a stage further by attempting robot speak.

I would not get children to read from books at this point. Its just too hard. With my children I made simple word boxes of intially 2 letter words



as the got confident I have done simple C-v-c words ie. cat, dog, sit, etc.
I have introduced them to longer works by getting to read simple 3 letter word like

"pin" and then getting them to read "spin"

Diagraphs like "ai", "oo", "er", "or" or "ee" are quite hard and I found it helps to underline the diagraph.

Don't introduce reading books until a child is confident with blending and knows some tricky words. Otherwise its very hard. Its better for a parent to read books so that the child can enjoy the story.

simpson Mon 12-Nov-12 23:04:43

Personally ( I was in the same situation as you a year ago - although DD had already taught herself to read at a " cat sat on a mat" level without me realising blush) I would go straight to basic books as you want to make it enjoyable for your DD.

To me is so much more important to nurture a love of reading iyswim and flash cards at this stage might put her off. So lots of talking about what is happening in the pictures and sounding the words out together etc etc.

You can always introduce games later on ie write cat, dog, pig on card and stick them around your front room and have a winner who gets to the correct word first...

Does she go to a nursery school attached to the school she will attend?? Can you find out which system they use ie jolly phonics or RWI???

ReallyTired Mon 12-Nov-12 23:14:15

The problem with introducing reading books too soon is that the child will resort to guessing as they have not learnt any other strageries. Some children find blending a difficult skill to master and will take short cuts by guessing from the picture or the context. My understanding was that the OP wants to avoid mixed methods.

If the OP wants pure synthetic phonics then she needs to use decodable books in the early stages. Word boxes are not flash cards as such. They are for practicing the skill of blending. The child decodes the words rather than remembering them as wholes.

Nuturing a love of reading and teaching a child to read are completely different activites. I agree that children need to be read to. If a parent reads then a child can enjoy whole range of literature.

"Can you find out which system they use ie jolly phonics or RWI??? "

I don't think it matters too much what synthetic phonics system a school uses. There are 44 sounds and they are exactly the same sounds in both systems. Many schools use a mixture of both jolly phonics and RWI.

This is a good website

AbbyR1973 Mon 12-Nov-12 23:26:00

DS2 is 3 1/2 and sounds fairly similar to you. DS1 started in reception this year and reads really very well. DS2 of course wants to do everything DS1 does.
He already knew all letter sounds- we looked at them with jolly phonics because that is what most schools seem to use plus it's fun- both DS's love the actions. Until 2 months ago DS2 could recognise the letters in words but couldn't hear the blend ie he could sound out c-a-t but couldn't hear cat. He has suddenly got it and has been playing around by himself with a leappad game with CVC words in it. He also plays on reading eggs whenever he wants to. Now he can recognise half a dozen high frequency words-I go to he she we be the etc. I have some of the songbirds so we look at them from time to time now he is sounding out. I agree it is hard work for them if they have to sound out every word so I give lots of help at the moment and read most of it for him. Sometimes at bedtime story I will stop at a word I know he knows and ask him to help me. He likes to read the title of his bedtime story out too pointing to each word. Sometimes we work backwards too and I'll read the title and then ask him to find a particular word. He mostly does this through knowing the initial letter sound at the moment but its a start. Lots of modelling with sounding out too.

simpson Mon 12-Nov-12 23:26:18

The school I do my placement in had different sounds for RWI than they did for JF ie the nk sound.....

I agree you don't want your child to be using the pictures to guess. I suppose my DD could already read at a basic level when I gave her basic books but I do think you have to be led by the child....

learnandsay Tue 13-Nov-12 12:30:58

You can always introduce games later on ie write cat, dog, pig on card and stick them around your front room ...

This is how I did it when my daughter was a bit younger than 4. I started with pseudo words moo, coo, boo and stuff. If your daughter is older than mine was and knows her letter sounds I guess there's no reason not to start with cat and dog. I don't know your daughter but I think the advantage of starting with moo, boo, coo is there's very little difference between the words so the child doesn't need to work very hard to select the right word and it leaves more time to enjoy "playing the game." Maybe because the words are nonsense words the child doesn't have to work out whether the word corresponds to anything. (I don't know if that's a real advantage.) It was a long time ago now. But I think my daughter got the game straight away.

Malaleuca Tue 13-Nov-12 12:53:21

Designed for 4-6 year olds - hard to beat IMHO - BRI Beginning Reading Instruction, as one mum said to me, all you have to do is 'shut up and listen'

rrbrigi Tue 13-Nov-12 13:11:42


I read your DS interested about writing as well. Please check with the school where she will go if they use cursive writing or not, because if you tech the wrong type it will be a nightmare for her to learn in the other way as quick as her class mates.

rrbrigi Tue 13-Nov-12 13:13:46

Sorry I mean your DD.

cornflakegirl Tue 13-Nov-12 13:44:09

Usborne do some Very First Reading books that have a bit for the parent to read (the actual story) and a much simpler bit for the child to read. My son likes these, and they're not so painful to listen to.

I think that using the pictures to help with reading the words is a good thing. We use a range of skills when reading, to do with context and understanding, not just recognising phonemes.

ReallyTired Tue 13-Nov-12 14:41:34

"I think that using the pictures to help with reading the words is a good thing. We use a range of skills when reading, to do with context and understanding, not just recognising phonemes. "

The OP stated she wanted to do synthetic phonics. You cannot do synethetic phonics with mixed methods in the early stages. The whole point of synethetic phonics is that you build up very simply so that the child gains confidence. It is too much to expect a child to use a range of skills at the start of their journey in learning to read. Dyslexic children get confused by learning lots of different skills at once. Even bright children can be dyslexic.

Learning to infer meaning from context is a very advanced skill that many children struggle with in secondary school. Expecting a reception child to even attempt to do this is unreasonable. Ofcourse reading is a lot more than just barking at print recongising phonemes and blending, but Rome was not built in a day.

Tgger Tue 13-Nov-12 16:13:23

Take her lead as you have done up to now. So first of all she needs her letter sounds, and then she needs to start blending as pp have said. Personally I would keep it informal and in games etc/looking at the books you already look at and just pointing out words/doing a bit of blending as you go along, until you are pretty sure she is blending fairly easily. Then when you do jump in with a reading book it is more likely to be successful and easy and you will both have fun with it. With DS nursery just slipped into conversation "oh, he can blend well now and has started reading,"- oh really!!! Well, he was an older one, 4.8 at this point and they had been doing all the sounds and blending all year. He then read the first 3 levels of Songbirds over the Summer without much trouble at all- no struggling stage at all (hooray!).

learnandsay Tue 13-Nov-12 16:28:27

tgger, which is the struggling stage you're referring to?

simpson Tue 13-Nov-12 16:34:42

The usborne reading books linked earlier are read a page and then the child reads a (simpler) page....

maizieD Tue 13-Nov-12 16:49:49

I think this might be something that gives the impression that there is a 'struggling stage'

I agree it is hard work for them if they have to sound out every word so I give lots of help at the moment and read most of it for him.

So long as the text contains only words which use the graphemes (sound spellings) that the child already knows (plus one or two that they are currently learning) they must be allowed to sound out every word if necessary. They will only achieve fluency and automaticity with practice. Sounding out and blending is exactly the practice needed, however painful it might seem to the listener...supplying the words may lead to dependence on an adult/skilled reader when what you are trying to achieve is independence.

Of course, it's not good to overface the child with huge chunks of text to sound out and blend.

learnandsay Tue 13-Nov-12 17:06:38

I suppose it depends on whether you've bought the text from a shop or written it with a marker pen. Because if you've written it with a marker pen then you're not going to write words that your child struggles with. At your leisure you can then add new sounds and new words and make better and better stories. Fairly soon you end up way beyond

Dan and Ann can ban a fan and a pan. (Which a school gives you.)

But you're not trying to get the child to read Beatrix Potter or Enid Blyton either and wondering why she can't.

mrz Tue 13-Nov-12 17:36:05

learnandsay everytime you post about your child's school I'm more and more shocked that such a place exists shock

Tgger Tue 13-Nov-12 18:05:15

Yes, all I meant was as maizie says sounding out and blending take plenty of practice. I was pleased that DS had had this practice and the easy parts had become automated for him so when he got to Mum Bug's Bag he read it independently straight away with enjoyment. Hooray!!

coldcupoftea Tue 13-Nov-12 19:12:54

I am a primary TA and also have a 4yo in reception. I take 3 phonics sessions a week and use the free resources on the phonics play website for planning, as do most of the teachers and TAs! There are lots of free games that we use too, such as Buried Treasure.

Alphablocks is great, and very true to synthetic phonics. I have also just ordered the set of Julia Donaldson Songbirds books for DD for xmas, for her to read alongside school books.

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