Phonics for those that struggle with phonics



When I taught my two children to read, it was with the Peter and Jane ladybird books the same as the ones I was taught to read with. I taught them with a mixture of “look and say” as well as using phonics to sound out some of the words and this seemed to work fine with them as it had with me.  They began nursery with a smattering of reading skills and I had no worries.  Then I came into contact with other mums and their worries about trying to teach their child to read in case this messed with how the teacher would teach them.  I realised that no teacher would be able to give the one-to-one attention a parent could and continued to help my children to read in anyway that they seemed to hook on to.  

Then I trained to become a teacher and was taught a whole plethora of reading skills to encourage children to engage with reading. But it was once I was actually in the classroom that I really began to realise that not all children seemed to catch reading.  Some children couldn’t even recognise their letters let alone use this knowledge to sound out words.  Some children weren’t able to recognise the same word when it appeared in the next sentence.  I read a very interesting book Why Children Can’t Read: and what we can do about it” and although as an American idea couldn’t get the graphophonix resources over here at the time devised my own little totally decodable books and began teaching reading (20 mins a day) using this method, with my headmaster’s blessing, to a group of six children (4 EAL and a child with possible dyslexic tendencies and a child with terrible memory retention) .  The children all made rapid progress except for the child with very poor memory retention.  The year after, I was sent on ELS training (Early Literacy Support) which also used a strong phonic decodable premise to its teaching and this too worked well with Year One children. Then along came Clanarkshire and The Rose Report into phonics and everyone knew exactly how children could be taught reading and that was by a structured phonic approach and I was very happy to go along with this.

As well as using phonographix and ELS, I have also taught phonics using Jolly Phonics, RML (Ruth Miskin) and Letters and Sounds and still employ a mixture of resources from all.

However, I am still finding children that cannot seem to learn this way and I am responsible for planning lessons that mean that every day for half an hour these children struggle to learn the way their peers do.  For some of these children a “look say” method appears to be the way they can learn certain words but they can’t learn all words like this.  I have had some success introducing the “Taming Tricky Words” method which associates a little story and action for lots of common words.  But I still find it so difficult to plan phonics tuition for others to follow and teach to children who seem to find it so difficult.  They can recognise some of the phonic sounds but when it comes to using this knowledge to blend for reading they are stumped and let’s face it that’s what phonics is all about – enabling a child to read.

At the moment, I have gone back to making some resources based on onset and rime or word families in the hope this might help with the blending skills but I would be delighted to hear from anyone who has a successful method of teaching blending.  I have tried the normal ones such as softly speaking the first sound, the children are quite adept at making the correct sound so no over running e.g. buh, cuh etc, running fingers below letter cards, they can hear the word when spoken in “Fred Talk” but they still appear defeated by the written word.


One thought on “Phonics for those that struggle with phonics

  1. Having retired from secondary teaching two years ago, I have volunteered with the Norfolk Reading Project to listen to year one children read at a local school. This post is interesting for someone who hasn’t taught phonics. Thank you.

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