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Phonics versus Biff, Chip and Kipper

(406 Posts)
Lukethe3 Thu 31-Jan-13 14:09:57

I find it slightly irritating that at DS school he is taught phonics but then sent home to read the old ORT stuff which has tricky words at even the easiest level. Is this purely because the school has no money to buy new books or is there actually an advantage to be taught like this?
I have bought some Songbirds books for DS and these seem to make far more sense to me as they include the sounds that DS is learning.

bigbadbarry Thu 31-Jan-13 14:10:42

I think most schools these days do a mixture of phonics and "tricky words".

learnandsay Thu 31-Jan-13 14:13:49

I think lots of schools get a mixture. I think the new Boff, Chop and Chipper books are decodable.

Lukethe3 Thu 31-Jan-13 15:22:38

Have just reread my OP. just want to clarify- only mildly annoyed by this, not actually losing sleep. Just curious to know if it is a good way of teaching or if it is because these are the books that the school has.

learnandsay Thu 31-Jan-13 15:48:52

I don't know why individual schools do it. I've heard of teachers throwing all their look and say books out or giving them away or hiding them. But I think that's a bit extreme. It wouldn't surprise me if a lot of teachers see reading books as reading books. I've made a point of asking for look and say books, not because my daughter reads that way (although she did to begin with) but because they've got a more realistic feel to them. The only phonics books I've ever liked were the Usborne Big Pig on a Dig series. I don't know if schools have them though. I've hated all the others.

Lukethe3 Thu 31-Jan-13 15:52:20

I am quite enjoying the later Songbirds ones. Paula the vet being a firm favourite!

learnandsay Thu 31-Jan-13 15:54:46

If my daughter's school didn't have any look & say books at my daughter's level and only had phonics readers I'd be going bananas because the school insists that she reads the books in scheme order and the phonics ones at her level are too easy. The non phonics ones are about right.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Thu 31-Jan-13 16:54:27

DS1 is in reception and is being taught phonics at school, and they use the ORT scheme.

I'm finding that the mixture is working well for him, and we have bought some of the Songbirds books for him to have a go at at home.

I think pure phonics would be hard at this stage because it would really restrict what he could read. As it is, he is delighted to discover that he can read some Thomas the Tank Engine stories to his little brother - and it just wouldn't have happened with a purely phonics method I don't think because he would have been stumped by the tricky words.

mrz Thu 31-Jan-13 17:07:10

I'd be going bananas because the school insists that she reads the books in scheme order and the phonics ones at her level are too easy.

If they are too easy for her then they aren't at her level ...

Lukethe3 the government made £3000 per school available in matched funding for schools to buy phonics training/books/resources/mixture or these.

learnandsay Thu 31-Jan-13 17:13:04

f they are too easy for her then they aren't at her level ...

Isn't this where some parents get bogged down in the whole reading scheme thing? She's reading yellow books at the moment. The decodable ones are too easy for her but the non decodable are about right. On average they contain a word, maybe two that she finds challenging. I don't know who's doing it, but someone in the school must have gone to a whole lot of trouble to find the non decodable books that I asked for because they're sending books so old that the sellotape being used to hold them together is brown and cracked. But I don't mind, just so long as the words inside them are right.

mrz Thu 31-Jan-13 17:17:22

Wouldn't it be simpler to assess if she could read the next book band

GwendolineMaryLacey Thu 31-Jan-13 17:17:22

DD1's school seems to send random books home with no rhyme or reason. She struggles with the HFW and I'm not sure to what extent they're covering them. There's no guidance really on what we're supposed to be doing with these books and how much she is supposed to be able to know or how much I should be reading to her IYSWIM.

learnandsay Thu 31-Jan-13 17:20:10

The teacher insists on having them read in stage order. I think that's why someone must have been sent down into the basement to dig up stage 3 non decodable books from the Iron Age . Because yellow books have other stages in them but the teacher won't let me have any.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Thu 31-Jan-13 17:20:37

mrz - generally the phonics ones seem easier - for DS anyway. He is just coming to the end of stage 1+ of the ORT Biff, Chip et al books, but can already read stage 2 Songbirds (so pure phonics) books - the level of challenge is the same for him, so they do appear to be slightly mismatched.

I'm wondering what you think about the fact that he is getting through one book every day at the moment? Would you think that it means the books he is getting are too easy or about right? I'm anxious both that he doesn't either get bored - which he does if he keeps the same book for 2 days - or fed up because the book is too hard and he feels it is hopeless.

We do obviously read other things at home, so I am not making him read the same few pages over and over.

mrz Thu 31-Jan-13 17:26:05

Alibabbandthe40nappies they are easier for children to read because they contain words the child can read independently using phonic knowledge not words they can't hope to read independently .

I think a book a day is fine and not an obvious indicator that books are too easy. They don't have many words to a page and not many pages to a book so don't take long to read. I suggest parents spend 10 to 15 mins a day on school reading scheme books.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Thu 31-Jan-13 17:32:11

Ok that sounds about right then, thanks.

simpson Thu 31-Jan-13 18:12:42

DD always found the songbirds books much easier than old style Biff etc (read from Oxford owl).

My DC school recently seem to have spent quite a bit of money on new books (wonder if it is what mrz said) and have bought songbirds, the new Biff &Chip books (decodable), floppy's phonics and dandy lion books.

However any old style Biff (non decodable) there are half decent are being used.

But DD came home with an Australian book this week which is totally different to anything I have seen before (not colour coded to fit UK reading levels) and it looks brand new.

simpson Thu 31-Jan-13 18:13:27

that are blush

teacherwith2kids Thu 31-Jan-13 19:13:18


The 'scheme order' thing is barmy.

I was discussing this with a friend of my DD's the other day. Said friend attends another primary school, where they have to read every book in the reading scheme in order.

In Year 5, she has just completed it - as far as I understand it, their 'scheme' levels are old ORT levels so the levels go p to 15 or so. This is a child who read all the Harry Potter books a couple of years ago, so really DOESN't need scheme books. 'Banded' books, a wide variety of 'real' books selected to be appropriate to her age and stage, absolutely, but Treetops Level 14 just wouldn't add anything to her reading skills..

She was absolutely aghast when I breezily told her that my DS (an early and very able reader) read those same Level 14 books in Reception before going 'off scheme', and even DD, who didn't read until she started school, did a few books per level thus reaching the level 14 or so stage at the end of year 1/ early year 2 - which was right, because that refelcted what she could read and comprehend and therefore to constrain her to 'every book in the reading scheme' would have been just plain daft.

Equally, some children need to read all of the same level 2 or more times as they are consolidating certain kills - and may then zoom up a few levels once that is done.

[Mutters darkly into beard]

birdbrain17 Thu 31-Jan-13 19:26:06

just very briefly, I teach groups in reception and year 2. The phonics are taught in a specific order, which match the weekly spelling words for the older kids, so it is possible that "the books at her level are too easy", as phonics books are in order of sounds not difficulty. The plus of using non-phonic books is that it teaches the children to recognise sight words, and to read books without sounding everything out as they do with the phonics. Even though even with the easy biff, chip and kipper books there are difficult words these books do encourage fluency in reading....
We only started using both schemes alongside each other half way through last year when we used a grant to buy new phonics books, and I have really seen an improvement in the time frame that it takes children to learn to read

mrz Thu 31-Jan-13 19:30:20

Why do they need to recognise sight words birdbrain? and why can't they read phonic books without sounding everything out?

birdbrain17 Thu 31-Jan-13 19:38:55

sight words and learning to read without always sounding out help build up fluency. I worked with a child last year who had learning difficulties and couldn't blend words together only sound them out, as she was in year 4 this was quite a problem as she was too slow to follow any work the class was doing. we started using both schemes alongside each other and within a few months she was able to recognise a lot of common words and was sounding out much less. She is still not confident enough to read out loud in the classroom but is able to do worksheets by herself (without someone reading them to her) and it takes her longer then her peers but at least she is now capable!

mrz Thu 31-Jan-13 19:42:39

you haven't explained why she couldn't just read a phonics book without sounding everything out.

learnandsay Thu 31-Jan-13 19:43:51

The thing is we read real books at home which have no levels at all. They're meant for adults to read to children. So the gap between her and her school books is going to grow unless the school continues to provide her with non decodable books for each level (as it might well do.) Mind you, the basement might not hold that many tatty books or the student being sent down there to rummage around might leave.

cowmop Thu 31-Jan-13 19:44:13

teacherwith2kids, it's the same at my children's school. They have to read every book at every level and dd who is 9 has read some books in her band twice whilst she waits for the single copy of the one she hasn't read to be available before she can progress. Talk about nit picking!

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