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Letters And Sounds/synthetic Phonics


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I'm preschool, but I hope you don't mind me posting in your reception forum (I used to be a reception teacher many years back and my own daughter is now in reception.)

 

I've just been doing some reading about the whole letters & sounds and synthetic phonics approach. From what I can gather, teachers are now encouraged to stop children from recognising words by sight. Would that be a correct assumption or am I misreading the guidance?

 

The reason I ask is that my daughter is picking up reading really, really quickly. But I can already tell that she is using a mix of the phonics based approach she's been taught in class, backed up heavily by the sense that she can 'see' a word and know what it is without feeling the need to sound it out. It does mean she very occasionally reads a word wrongly, and needs reminding to blend it, but equally it means that she can speed through books where she already knows most of the words and doesn't need to blend them to read them. (That's not to say she can't blend them, just that she doesn't need to).

 

I've also been talking to her about how some words are impossible to read by sounding out, and she's really interested by this idea.

 

If I am interpreting the letters and sounds stuff correctly, does anyone else feel that maybe we have thrown the baby out with the bath water, particularly for those children with a visual rather than an auditory learning style?

 

I'm also concerned about what it means in terms of learning speed reading techniques and spelling non phonetically spelt words later on in life.

 

I'm just really interested to hear how reception teachers feel about this.

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We follow letters and sounds although not to the letter( ha ha). We use the approaches, letter orde, daily sessions etc but we only move on when we feel the children are ready. At the beginning of thris term I spent a long period of time ensuring the children were understanding the elements of phase 1. We then covered satpin for at least 3 weeks and aspects of phase 1 are splattered liberally throughout our continous provision and teaching throughout the curriculum.

 

We read lots encouraging the children to tell stories, make up stories and retell books that are their favourites etc. We start guided reading and sending books home from the second week of term and each child takes a phonics based book and a whole word type book so that hopefully we can catch whatever type of learner they are. We also send home the sight words/ HFW to practise as appropriate.

 

I feel that the variety ensures all the children are learning to read, decode and understand books at whatever level they are ready for. It works for us.

 

S

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in my understanding and practise with L&S it's not meant to replace learning to read by sight but to work alongside it. There are opportunities in the L&S activities to learn and use HF words too.

 

If a child knows how to blend, segment etc they can use the words that they know by sight to practice doing this because they know what the word is meant to sound like... does that make sense? I know what I mean!

 

Basically, L&S is to help teach kids to blend etc. How you teach reading by sight is separate to that but both strategies enhance each other. If you remember the searchlights model it's just like that because it's giving the child another strategy to help them read but not saying that they should only use this one. If you think about how you, as an adult, read it's mainly by sight but if you came across a word you'd never seen before you'd be able to sound it out. It's the same for kids but they have a smaller sight vocabulary. Ideally they are extending their knowledge of sight words by finding out what a word says using L&S strategies and then remembering that word by sight.

 

I hope all this makes sense (I'm very tired!) and makes you feel a bit less worried about L&S. I've got to admit I wasn't convinced by it at first but in my experience it really does work and the kids enjoy it too :)

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in my understanding and practise with L&S it's not meant to replace learning to read by sight but to work alongside it. There are opportunities in the L&S activities to learn and use HF words too.

 

Sorry that is not the case and is why L&S emphasises the "tricky" words in each phase which once the child has been taught the "code" are no longer "tricky".

 

There are only seven HFWs words one, once, two, who, the, are and eye, that may need to be memorised as whole units i.e. are true, high frequency 'sight' words,all others are completely decodable once a child knows the "rules"

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Marion, I'm not sure exactly what you thought I meant but here is the L&S appendices with the HF word lists :o

 

missblinx I knew exactly what you meant what I disputed was that L&S advocates teaching "sight words" alongside phonics although many teachers seem to be stuck in applying the old reading strategies methods of teaching all the HFWs by sight when it is totally unnecessary.

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Could you come and convince my colleagues, marion please, as Im failing with that one.

 

I'm winning with mine (since I became literacy co ordinator) :o

 

I teach the ones that are "tricky" in each phase while explaining which part is "tricky" so that when they meet words that follow the same rule they can apply it to decode.

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I'm winning with mine (since I became literacy co ordinator) :o

 

I teach the ones that are "tricky" in each phase while explaining which part is "tricky" so that when they meet words that follow the same rule they can apply it to decode.

 

 

Spot on Marion and that was the message in all of the CLLD training on L&S!

 

Susan is thewre not a CLLD consultant in your LA who co9uld come and do some IBSET to support you as the mixed message is so wrong if you want them to rely on the phonics!

 

Lorna

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Can I piggy back onto this one?

 

What is the current approach to hearing children read in Reception?.When I was teaching reception 10 years ago it was given huge priority when they(children) were ready to run with it. I know it's all guided reading now.

 

My son has been at school since September and was given reading books to take home in September as he knows the phonic code and is reading Oxford Reading tree stage 2. He has been at school for 14 weeks and no-one has ever heard him read.He has read over twenty school books at home in that time.

 

Is that usual nowadays?

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Just to put another angle on this topic - both my sons, now 17 and 20 went to a very traditional type nursery and primary school, learning to read by 'sounding out' words and by sight, using the 'Roger Red Hat' group of books. They also used to bring a 'word tin' home with words to learn and later spell. I love children's stories, so lots of books read to them at home.

Both began reading early (ditto writing), enjoyed books enormously and achieved A* in their GCSE's (one taking it to A level). elder son always has been, and remains, a keen reader of books, the 17 year old only uses books when he has to. Both remain good 'spellers' and writers.

I'm not a teacher, just a nursery practitioner.

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Yes, I would second that, my daughter is heard reading every single day either by the teacher or a TA (and by me at home). Admittedly she is in a very small class (mixed age but only 5 in reception so all older ones reading well already).

 

I am ambivalent about the current emphasis on decoding. I think it goes against learning styles theories, because some children can easily 'see' words as whole units of a particular shape very quickly, i.e. those who take a visual approach to learning.

 

I'm not saying that children shouldn't learn to sound out and blend and all that good stuff, just that we shouldn't feel the need to rule out other approaches for those children who prefer them. Surely it's about differentiating and personalised learning?

 

Where reading is delayed, this I think is more to do with large reception class sizes, poor parental input/support and also children who don't see lots of reading going on at home. I also think the fact that many young children at our preschool don't seem to talk very much or very clearly is probably an issue.

 

I read a great deal and do so using speed reading techniques. The theory behind these is completely at odds with phonics, i.e. it relies on you NOT sounding out words because you recognise them as whole units and can therefore skim over them very quickly.

 

Don't you feel that you should perhaps trust your experienced teachers who have 'done it like this' for many years with great success?

 

I'm prepared to be shot down in flames, though! :o

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We've been told that children should even do high frequency decodable words (like dad)by sight as sounding them out isn't quick enough!! :o

 

But as soon as I've learnt to sound out d - a - d I can see that it has a shape - it has a particular look to it. Why would I as a child waste time sounding it out when I can 'see' it in an instant?

 

I've always felt as a teacher that we shouldn't be hidebound by particular rules, but that we should be allowed to partly trust our instincts about what works with our children.

 

There is no 'magic solution' when it comes to the complexities of working with young people, and surely that includes teaching them to read?

Edited by Guest
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I'm in reception. I'm going to stir things now by saying we do not send home 'reading books' nor do we listen to children read. Our 'reading' is part of our daily phonics input when a sentence is read and written by each child as plenary that applies what the teaching input was. Our children take home weekly a library book which is a free choice from passed reading schemes. We (and parents) are pleased with the current results both for reading and writing. We have been due ofsted since September so it will interesting their take on it.

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Edlee-

 

ORT stage 2 is good. Are they colour banded too? Stage 2 seems to go over several colour bands.

 

Is it possible that he is in guided groups at school. If that is the case then then I would not expect to see a written comment about reading very often. I am in year 1 but my children are reading every day to me although sometimes only briefly and often not explicitly as we have several opportunities during the day when they read and I listen in so I do not regularly write in their reading diaries as there is not time or opportunity.

 

If Guided reading is happening regularly and successfully, the independent reading at home should be just that, at home to practise the skills that have been taught in the guided group.

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Sam we know that the home learning environment has a huge impact on the success of all learning for children and your post confirms this!

 

As for hearing children read I have always seen this as very different from teaching children to read. In reception I would have guided reading twice a week once with me and once with the TA/NN and during this time I am teaching reading skills. I would also be doing daily phonics and just as Susan has said there are lots of incidental opportunities to hear children reading and for meaning! I would then be doing guded writing weekly as well as shared reading and shared writing all of qhich provides me with the opportunity to hear children reading and to model reading.

 

then

 

All of those Child Initiated times have opportunities to read and there are many times when an adult will sit in the book corner and share a book with a child.

 

Lorna

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Marion, I'm still not sure how what you're saying is different to what I'm saying. As I said in my earlier comment, children are able to use L&S to decode a word and then can often remember that word by sight, therefore moving towards the way that we read as adults.

Are you saying that we shouldn't allow children to read by sight? Because that seems a little silly. Whatever method the child finds most successful should be the one we encourage. I've taught several children- my own son included- who struggled at first when it came to using phonics to read but were able to remember words instantly on being told what they said. Obviously I still taught them to blend but why not take advantage of the skill of having a good memory for sight words? It would be very unfair to hold them back rather than taking advantage of their favoured learning style.

Surely when you are reading a book you don't sound out every word? You read using sight words and the goal is for children to eventually do that too but to also have the skills to decode unfamiliar words.

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My little boy is 5, he has had flashcards for all letter sounds and moved on to flash card words, he's eager to sound out stories I read to him..... but no reading book yet. Very difficult for me when I teach at his school (i used to teach reception before I had him), and they stopped sending book bags home last week, previous to this he had the same words for....17 days not checked. By the time we go back in January it'll be nearly 7 weeks since he was heard at school..... i'm not a happy bunny :o

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Can I piggy back onto this one?

 

What is the current approach to hearing children read in Reception?.When I was teaching reception 10 years ago it was given huge priority when they(children) were ready to run with it. I know it's all guided reading now.

 

My son has been at school since September and was given reading books to take home in September as he knows the phonic code and is reading Oxford Reading tree stage 2. He has been at school for 14 weeks and no-one has ever heard him read.He has read over twenty school books at home in that time.

 

Is that usual nowadays?

 

We don't do guided reading :o shocking I know ... Children read everyday in the class as part of the phonics lesson and I always tried to hear individual readers as often as possible so that all children were heard at least twice a week. It isn't easy depending on staffing and school organisation

 

I think a part of the problem for many teachers is the fact they are being told to teaching reading using a systematic phonics method (synthetic) but not having access to appropriate reading books especially in the early stages. Once children are reading confidently they can read anything but faced with ORT which is a Look and Say scheme and words they haven't yet been taught the skills to read they are forced to guess and fall back on the idea of key word learning

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I'm glad you 'admitted' that Marion - I work in a similar way.

 

I sometimes do a guided reading activity with my more able phonics group (who are just about to start Phase 4 - I know you don't do the Phases as such), but other than that we hear them read individually every week, sometimes a couple of times, depends on what else is going on to be honest! I find it much easier (and more specific) to hear them inidividually at such an early stage.

 

Most do read at home - there'll always be some who don't and we do try to hear those children as often as we can.

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I totally agree with you Marion about schools not having the right books to support phonics teaching. Luckily we invested in phonics based reading books for the early stages and they have had such incredible impact. Head teachers need to understand the investment they are making by buying into a phonics scheme.

 

Blending to read using phonics should be the prime approach (except for tricky words) with the view to leading to fluent reading over time. So course missblinx, you are not going to make a child sound out and blend a word to read it if they can read by sight - thats common sense. What Letters and Sounds is saying that we should not be sending home word lists for children to learn to read by sight (except tricky words) but teaching them decoding skills which will eventually lead to them being able to read them by sight. Phonics teaching allows children to attempt to read any word (once taught the srategies) unlike children who learn by sight and have no way of attempting an unknown word.

 

I do actually send some word lists but they are words using the sounds we have been learning that week and parents are told at they are for the children to practise blending the sounds and not to be learnt by sight. I put tricky words in blue so they know these one can be learn by sight - but spend time teaching children why they are tricky and which parts are trickyl As eventually as they learn more strategies some words which were tricky become decodable.

 

And i am a big advocate of guided reading, because if you have the right books, then you can plan a lesson to practise and teach the skills you are learning in phonics. These sessions are much more effective than individual reading as no teacher would plan an individual reading session in the same way.

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I agree KST and that is exactly what I was saying in my first post. Obviously I didn't make it very clear but as I said at the time I was very tired and ill!!

 

I agree about the lack of decent books. I've resorted to making my own, laminated and spiral bound. It's time consuming but it means that I can get exactly what I want. My little ASD kids are only on phase 1 & 2 so they're very simple books but they're proving useful for practising the skills we're learning in lessons.

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That's a great idea to make your own books - very resourceful! But yes I imagine very time consuming. What I love about Letters and Sounds is that children who only know a few sounds can still read some words/books which gives them great confidence, x

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