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Sounding out, whole word and phonics question

(482 Posts)
Shattereddreams Fri 11-Jan-13 14:43:43

My dd is doing well with her reading. Y1.
At home we read more extensively than school books so I am aware there is an element of pushing her above her school ability so to speak. But her school books are not particularly challenging ORT Level 7.

When she approaches a long unknown word, she basically panics. Small words if unknown don't cause problems, just long ones.

If phonetic, I ask her to sound out. But she can't. I think she reads in a whole word way, and she tries to make a word that she does know without really looking at the word.
Tethered she wanted to read as teacher.

She has a lazy supply teacher this year so hasn't made much progress in school, plenty at home though.

Is this fear normal progression?

I wondered about the phonics test because if she can't sound out unknown words then this could be a problem.

learnandsay Fri 11-Jan-13 15:02:11

The words don't have to be in a book. Practice with her by writing words on pieces of paper and have her read them out to you. Start with simpler words and let the words get progressively harder. If she can blend and decode simple words it sounds as though she has the technique but just gets overawed at the sight of a long word and the technique goes out of the window. Practice and confidence are what she needs. When she sees that she actually can do it she will begin to trust herself. You need to help her to practice. That's what mums are for.

ClayDavis Fri 11-Jan-13 15:59:47

What would happen if you gave her a CVC nonsense word like 'vip' or 'diff'? Would she have any problems sounding them out?

Some children with very good visual memories can build large 'sight' vocabularies very quickly. With a scheme like ORT this can mean they can 'read' fairly fluently and a reasonably high level for their age.

Could the school have missed the fact that she can't blend because of how well she appears to be reading?

Shattereddreams Fri 11-Jan-13 18:43:44

Clay I personally do not rate the supply teacher and feel very little reading is actually taking place. She says they are learning phonics but she knows them all, so I don't think the harder sounds are being tackled.

Yes I think she has good sight vocab that's a good way of describing it.

She doesn't like nonsense words! She tries to make it a proper word.

Confidence and DD will be two words forever together trough school I fear!

Shattereddreams Fri 11-Jan-13 18:45:35


cornyclam Fri 11-Jan-13 18:51:24

Is she able to decode nonsense words though?

learnandsay Fri 11-Jan-13 19:11:47

I've got a feeling the answer to the nonsense words is no she can't decode them. It looks as though she replaces them with a word that does make sense.

mumchat Fri 11-Jan-13 19:15:48

I think many children are scared off temporarily by long words aren't they? When we get one my daughter looks at me with a "no way" face. I then use my finger to cover most of the word so only the first sound is visible. Saying "so what is that sound?" She then tells me and I move my finger so just the 1st & 2nd sound visible & she reads the 2nd sound & then silently I move again & so on. By the end of the word she has said all the sounds and suddenly realised that she hears them blend to make the big word.

No idea if that is correct method (or stating the obvious) but it has worked for us.

learnandsay Fri 11-Jan-13 19:16:23

The problem with using sight vocabulary or mainly sight vocabulary is that you have to read an awful lot to get good at it. You have to read, rhyme, spell, get really familiar with the words where they appear, what they look like, how to construct them. It's not a part time activity.

positivelypositivenow Fri 11-Jan-13 19:19:54

Not in UK so different school system but my dd1 is 6 and in what I think is equivalent to Yr.1. Your description of your dd sounds very similar to mine.

My dd also looks at the start of a long word and says a word she thinks will 'fit'. She also panics when she sees a longer word.

I have a box of word cards and I have taken to picking them up at random and asking her to read a few out a couple of times a day. There are no clues on them and no context so when she gets one right we know it is because she can read and it is really helping her confidence.

When she doesn't feel under pressure and I remind her of the rules she can sound out most words. I am sure she has a good sight vocab but by getting her to read the radom words I can see how she is progressing.

this is what we have. My sister found it in a charity shop.

simpson Fri 11-Jan-13 19:23:45

What you could try doing is sounding out the word yourself "hopping" h o pp ing etc but don't actually say the word (point to each letter or group of letters as you do it) and then see if she can say the word...

Do that for a couple of weeks (only on the words she finds tough) and then see if she is ready to progress to trying them herself...

Also lots of "do you want to go to the p ar k" or " can you see the c a t" etc in every day conversation and see if she knows what you are saying to build up her blending confidence....

On the nonsense words DD was told that aliens had landed and wanted to communicate with her and some words would make sense and some would not....

Shattereddreams Fri 11-Jan-13 20:44:48

I like the word box but think it may exacerbate her issue as once she knows a word, she knows it.

I will try as Simpson suggests to make her hear the sounds in words. That's a good idea.

I always cover the word into parts but she is then mid panic so doesn't want to try.
If I tell her the word, then she just knows it. So when the next long one comes up, I'm back to square one.

But small words she just reads. So not sure if its panic or inability to blend.

learnandsay Fri 11-Jan-13 20:54:57

Panic will cause an inability to blend. The problem is that if she can't read any made up words at all then it's possible that either she can't blend or she can't do it very well. If she would be willing to play the alien game with you where an alien lands and says

"Welf moki dabba noom caba rool"

and so on, you would be able to see if she can actually pick letter sounds and put them together or not. But if she refuses to play the game or does play it and tries to turn the alien words into real words then you've a fair idea that she can't do it, (which is what you've already suggested.)

Shattereddreams Fri 11-Jan-13 20:57:35

Guess what we're playing tomo!!

Tgger Fri 11-Jan-13 21:00:19

My DS would do a similar thing at about that stage in reading. It sounds very familiar. He also has a fantastic memory and I think learnt a lot by sight as well as the basic phonics. Thus it was unusual for him to have words he didn't know and he would panic/ wildly guess as it caused him anxiety and it seemed just wanted to fill the gap with something.
What helped was slowing him down on new words and segmenting them- doing that for him to start with and then getting him to do it himself. Then sounding out each segment and putting together. And model the blending yourself if you need to. DS could blend fine but would prefer not to bother (!). I took the pressure off him by doing it myself to start with and then gradually getting him to do it. Also, sometimes I would just tell him a word just to keep the pace going with the reading/if he was tired etc. It's fine to do that I think as long as they do have the skills, or are building them so that they can do it themselves.

CheckpointCharlie Fri 11-Jan-13 21:06:37

Good ideas so far re splitting the word up into manageable chunks and reading it out phoneme by phoneme.

I might suggest looking through and discussing together what happens in the book first, you look for any words that might stump her and feed them into the conversation,ie to use your example (hard word conceptually though) 'ooh look that horse is tethered to the stable door there' so you are giving her the words before she has to read the without her knowing.

She might then ask you what it means and you can chat about it so when she gets to it she has kind of been pre taught it.

Haberdashery Fri 11-Jan-13 21:19:12

DD was also similar when she was at the stage between knowing all her phonic sounds and being able to confidently put them together. I am pretty sure it's normal - she's a good reader now and will have a go at most words though she still very occasionally gets into a flat spin and goes a bit bonkers when she forgets to take it slowly. I did what Simpson did and didn't let her get to the stage of panicking so I waited for her to get it wrong and then said 'let's do it together, slowly' and sounded it out with big gaps and let her put the sounds together. After a few weeks of this, she started to do it herself quite naturally.

Haberdashery Fri 11-Jan-13 21:21:29

Also, you have to bite your tongue, but don't say no or that's wrong or anything, just say 'let's try it again together' with you doing the actual sounding out and let her put it together. That way, she is doing the actual reading part and getting it right (hopefully) so she will start to feel a bit more confident.

Shattereddreams Fri 11-Jan-13 21:21:49

Tethered was an unusual word from an older book but was a great example and was fresh in my mind. There was a pic to go with it

I am keen to get through this phase as she is doing so well and is almost able to read a book to herself in her head but then we have these panics!

Tgger Fri 11-Jan-13 22:05:57

"Tethered" is a hard word. Not really because of the sounds but as it's not in the vocabularly of an average 5 or 6 year old. DS reads fluently now but I'm not sure he'd get "tethered".

Stay calm when she panics and take her through it in steps, no judgement. Won't be long before she has the confidence to do it herself.

maizieD Fri 11-Jan-13 23:23:58

I wouldn't be too keen to let her read silently to herself if she isn't securely sounding out and blending words. You wouldn't know what bad habits she's perpetuating. Sight word memorisation is easy for some children at this stage and is easier to 'do' than is sounding out and blending. But once her capacity for memorising whole words is exhausted she'll finding sounding out and blending really slow and, possibly, difficult and could well regress or just get turned off reading.

Good advice given about breaking longer words into chunks and getting her to sound out chunk at a time. I always get pupils to sound out and blend each chunk, this puts less of a load on memory when it comes to blending the whole word (i.e child only has 2 or 3 chunks to remember and blend instead of 6 or 7 'sounds'.)

I wouldn't ever 'tell' her a word if she is so good at memorising them as wholes. Always get her to sound out and blend unfamiliar words. If there are a lot of long and difficult words in her reading material then you, or the school, are possibly overfacing her; this could well explain the panic over reading multisyllable words.

learnandsay Fri 11-Jan-13 23:38:16

Refusing to tell her a word if she's good at remembering whole words implies that remembering whole words is a bad thing to do. It isn't. But not being able to recognise and construct words if you're a whole word reader is bad. If you're going to be a whole word reader you have to practice the technique a lot. It would be better to decide if she's a whole word reader or not and then to commit wholly to phonics or whole word than to constantly shilly-shally between the two.

mrz Sat 12-Jan-13 07:39:35

I would only tell a child a word if it was beyond their current knowledge, rather than let them guess.
I don't know if your daughter has been taught <th> <er> yet but I would normally get a child to blend as far as they can so perhaps "t" "e" tell them "th" "er" and they can finish off "e" "d" it means they get the incidental teaching of two new sounds (which they may remember when they meet other words containing <th> <er>) which is more useful than being told something that really only enables them to read that particular word.

maizieD Sat 12-Jan-13 09:58:24

Refusing to tell her a word if she's good at remembering whole words implies that remembering whole words is a bad thing to do. It isn't

In this particular context it is a bad thing. It is essential that the child learns to use sounding out and blending as an automatic strategy for working out new words. This is, initially, a far more labourious process than just being 'told' the word and memorising it. There is a limit to how many words can be memorised as 'wholes' and once the child reaches that limit they will find the unfamiliar sounding and blending strategy a pain to do. This could turn them right off reading.

Please believe that I know what I am talking about, lands. I have a fair amount of experience of working with switched off readers. You have taught one child to read and it is too early yet to tell whether your method is successful or not. Children can appear to be doing brilliantly on memorisation for a couple of years and then they run out of memory and it all goes pearshaped.

Insisting on sounding out and blending all words right from the start makes the process automatic and easy and eliminates the possibility of regression once memorisation fails.

It is also essential to get rid of the notion that reading is about 'learning words' and that it doesn't matter how they are learned. Sounding out and blending a word a number of times (anything from once to hundreds, depends on the child) fixes the word in long term memory and it can then be read 'on sight'; nothing wrong with that. But while the child is sounding out and blending they are also honing that essentiaL skill. The process kills two birds with one stone!

You will notice that I even differ from Mrz on this point though I think it is probably a lot 'safer' for her to 'tell' the odd word because at her school they rigorously teach sounding out and blending to automaticity.

learnandsay Sat 12-Jan-13 10:09:19

I don't for a moment think that you don't know what you're talking about. But I'm against this notion that we just keep banging away at the child until we break her down into doing it our way because our way is best. If the child learns fantastically by learning whole words then great. The crossover point between whole word construction and phonics blending is spelling. Whole word children must learn to spell words and construct them sat, cat, mat
They don't learn to sound the words out but they do learn how to recognise them and how to spell them. They learn to become very familiar with words in general. Of course you can also explain to a child that words can be sounded out too. There's nothing harmful in telling a whole word child that. But what you don't do is keep hammering away at her that what she's doing is wrong and what you are doing is right. That's not teaching that's cruelty. Thousands of children have learned to read beautifully using whole word recognition. I was one of them.

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