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do kids vary in the way / style they pick up reading in the early stages?

98 replies

imaginaryfriend · 21/03/2008 22:21

Not a great thread title.

I'm just curious about this. Dd's in Reception, not a child genius by any standards but I'm pleased with how she's getting on with her reading and writing.

So far I've mostly stuck with reading the books she brings home from school but I've had a huge batch of ORT books given to me buy a mum friend whose ds is a year ahead of dd at school. With the 'ordinary' ORT books she can pretty easily read a stage 5 story but with the Songbirds phonics books although there are less words per page she really struggles through a stage 4 book but isn't too bad with a stage 3 book.

Which raises a question about teaching by phonics or sight words ... I think.

Any experts around to enlighten me?

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mrz · 22/03/2008 15:19

Since the Rose Report schools have been told to drop mixed methods (look and say, context, picture clues) and teach using phonics fast and first. Many people believe this is the only way children can master reading. As the mother of a child who has mastered reading and hasn't mastered phonics I would question the idea of one size fits all.

wheresthehamster · 22/03/2008 15:30

Although I agree mrz, the number of children in our year 1 this year who have 'mastered' reading through phonics and tricky words is astonishing. Unless this cohort is unusual.

It's amazing to watch 5 year olds sound out and blend words such as 'manchester' 'hairbrush' 'starlight'.

There are of course some children who find blending difficult and as you say one size doesn't fit all.

mrz · 22/03/2008 16:04

I am a big fan of Phonics and believe the method works for most children and is an important skill. I think the danger is that the rare exceptions may not have their learning styles recognised

cat64 · 22/03/2008 17:02

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Miggsie · 22/03/2008 17:10

My DD does not "get" phonics.
She is very bright in other respects but struggles with reading, but her logic skills are amazing!

imaginaryfriend · 22/03/2008 22:23

These are really interesting posts, thanks.

I think dd's definitely learning through phonics / tricky words. BUT the books she brings home to read aren't phonics-orientated. They're quite old (a series called Storyworlds) and they really do consist of a lot of what I guess are called 'sight' words [?]. In guided reading with the teacher she's reading level 5 ORT books, not the Songbirds books, just the ordinary reading range.

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cat64 · 22/03/2008 22:39

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imaginaryfriend · 22/03/2008 22:48

cat, 'the' comes up very early in the list of 'tricky' words, as does 'all', 'one' etc.

I do agree with you though. And I noticed that the ORT Songbirds series which are all phonics orientated are a pretty dire read.

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cat64 · 23/03/2008 15:16

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imaginaryfriend · 24/03/2008 00:00

So is the Rose Report suggesting that the use of 'sight words' and all the other non-phonics techniques be discouraged?

Over this weekend dd's read so beautifully and confidently... Everything that's not 'phonic' based!!

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seeker · 24/03/2008 00:16

imaginaryfriend - I feel I would be failing in my duty if I didn't come on to your threads and say something like your dd is NOT struggling with her maths if she has to use her fingers to add 2 and 2 in Reception! She might POSSIBLY be described as struggling with her maths if she's still doing that this time next year. But she isn't now.

There, I've said it!

And as for reading - the trouble with English is that you can't really learn to read using phonics alone - there are too many exceptions. So a mixture of phonics and sight words seems to be the best way forward. I think some children get confused with pure phonics - they try to apply what they know to a word like - oh, I can't think of one, but you know what I mean - and it doesn't work so their brains overheat. At ds's school, these are called "cunning trick" words - and they are happy with the fact thathese are words that have to be learned, not puzzled out. When I was reading with mine, I used to tell them word like this "Oh that's a cunning trick -it's thorough" then go back once whe had finished the book to see if they remembered it.

imaginaryfriend · 24/03/2008 15:57

seeker, sorry, I didn't mean to suggest dd was actually struggling with anything. I'm really pleased with how she's doing in everything to be honest. And as for her art work it's extraordinary although of course nobody mentions that at parents' evening

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imaginaryfriend · 24/03/2008 15:59

I know I'm starting a lot of threads on reading related subjects. It's because it's all so new to me and I find it utterly fascinating.

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seeker · 24/03/2008 16:32

I know - I'm completely fascinated by the process of learning to read too. What I can't understand is that there are some children ins ds's year 2 class who STILL don't get it. They are perfectly averagely bright, some of them are good at maths - but they don't get reading. There is one little boy who has such an enquiring mind and such a thirst for knowledge and he knows so much about lots of things - but he can't read at all. I would LOVE to know why!

I keep asking people to recommend me books on the subject, but there don't seem to be any.

I'm not stalking you, by the way - I just always look at threads about reading, because it's a fascination of mine too.

imaginaryfriend · 24/03/2008 21:08

Seeker I always appreciate your input probably because you seem as fascinated by it all as me! In the same way as you find it extraordinary that some children haven't 'got it' I find it equally fascinating when dd does 'get it'. She'll suddenly read and remember such a lot of words. Before last September she could just about read the letters of the alphabet although not all of them and not reliably, and already just 6 months later she's reading well over 100 words. HOW?

Dd's best friend who's a couple of months older and slipped into the year above dd by a couple of weeks, has always really struggled with reading and writing. I remember she used to say 'I"m in the lazy group' which made me and her mum very sad, not least because one wonders where she got that title from. But now suddenly half way through Year 1 she's started to grasp reading and she's moving along really quickly. Who knows why ... it's a mystery.

Maybe we should write a book seeker?

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wheresthehamster · 25/03/2008 15:27

If schools are following the NLS 'letters and sounds' phonics teaching then tricky words are included as part of each phase. If you look at the individual phases you can see on the right the content that that phase includes. Don't click on the links - you get some transcripts of how you could run a session. Ours are nothing like this!

imaginaryfriend · 25/03/2008 21:08

Blimey, that's so complicated! I think from looking at it that it seems dd's class is on phase 3 as they've definitely been doing some of the things suggested there.

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seeker · 26/03/2008 07:40

I think children in ds's year 2 class are at every stage on the continuum. There are children who can't read at all - not even seeming to recognize any phonemes at all to others who are galloping through Harry Potter. I would LOVE to know why some of them can't read - as I said, there is one little boy in particular who seems bright and interested and knowledgable but who just can't grasp reading at all. It's as if there is a key that nobody can find that would unlock reading for him.

wheresthehamster · 26/03/2008 10:02

That's why in our school we do phonics across the school. Children don't all learn at the same speed.

At 9.30 every morning all the children go to different parts of the school where they are taught the phase that is suited to them. So you could get some R children learning with yr2. There are six phases and twelve staff, so there will be some doublng up of phases depending on the number of children in the phase. After approx 5 weeks the children are assessed and move up or repeat the phase.

We only started this a year ago with the R class in the summer term. In September the whole school started. From now on the R children who start in September will expect to have covered all the phases by the middle of yr1. Only time will tell if it successful generally but as I mentioned before we have really noticed the difference in the children coming into year 1 this year.

I love watching readng click with a child, it's one of the best parts of being a TA

maverick · 26/03/2008 10:22

Re.OP. Children use the methods that they have been TAUGHT -see research below:

Cardoso-Martins, C., 2001. The reading abilities of beginning readers of Brazilian Portuguese: Implications for a theory of reading acquisition. Scientific Studies of Reading, Vol. 5 No. 4 (2001) 289-317. Cardoso-Martins was interested in the 1990 suggestion of Wimmer and Hummer that the regularity of a writing-system may be the main factor encouraging beginners to use phonics as a reading strategy from the start and that this may be why English beginners do not use this strategy. She felt that teaching methods might be an equally important factor. She compared a Brazilian school using a phonics approach from the start with one using a whole-word approach at first and introducing phonics in the middle of the first year. Portuguese has a much more regular writing-system than English, and if this had been the main factor affecting children?s strategies, then all the children, regardless of teaching method, should have relied more on phonics than on anything else. The results showed, however, that teaching method was a more important factor: the children initially taught by a whole-word approach did not start using phonics strategies until taught to do so.

The best books on reading are by Prof. Diane McGuinness -I recommend 'Why children can't read: and what we can do about it' (this may be out of print so look on Amazon market place or Abebooks) or, if you're up for a really academic read, 'Early Reading Instruction: what science really tells us about how to teach reading'

Also, you may be interested in all the pages on teaching reading at:

imaginaryfriend · 26/03/2008 14:18

wheresthehamster, that sounds like the approach taken by that school in the recent t.v. documentary? Could it work with a very huge school? I'm trying to work out how 60 in each year could be successfully split into all those groups and then dispersed throughout the school! It's an interesting approach though. In dd's R class the teacher teaches all the children at once during carpet time regardless of whether they know what 'a' sounds like or can read quite long words. It seems impossible to understand how the struggling children gain from this and the advancing children are kept stimulated.

maverick, that's true to an extent but as I said in my OP, dd seems to respond better to learning 'whole words' rather than decoding via phonics. She's being taught I combination of both from what I can gather.

Hello seeker you sought me again

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wheresthehamster · 26/03/2008 15:02

The phases are designed to be completed by Yr1 once the programme is up and running. Obviously there will be children who need extra input or need to repeat a phase. Providing the Literacy Hour is the same time throughout the school this shouldn't be a problem.

I only half watched that documentary so don't know if they used the same phonics programme but the whole school concept is the same. It would be interesting to re-visit that school to analyse the results.

The main problem with our teaching is space. There aren't enough rooms for the amount of groups so some groups (different phases)are being taught in the same room which isn't ideal. One group has to use the canteen which is separate from the main buildng so 5 mins of valuable time is spent in transit/coats on/coats off etc!

mrz · 26/03/2008 18:30

Phases 2-4 are intended for reception
phase 5 year 1
phase 6 year 2

phase 1 is continuous from nursery onwards and is normal good practice in all school years

The Channel 4 programme featured the Ruth Miskin phonics programme the cost for the school featured was apparently £27000 in the first year

imaginaryfriend · 26/03/2008 18:39

Presumably not all the children grasp all of those phases though? What happens if they don't? Do they get repeated?

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mrz · 26/03/2008 19:30

Phase 2 and 3 introduce all the sounds of the English and begin blending sounds to read words and segmenting words into their sounds for spelling.
The other phases start to introduce alternative ways of writing the sounds
"a" sound can be written ai/ay/a-e for example
The idea is all children progress at their own pace (the year groups are only for general guidance)

The whole idea of the teaching programme is that it is broken into four parts

revisit/review all the sounds taught so far
teach new letters/sounds or "tricky" words
practice blending and segmenting
apply what they have been taught in own reading and writing

so it is continual reinforcement at each phase.

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