Letter names

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maizie
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Post by maizie » Sun Nov 05, 2006 11:28 pm

Why deliberately "disadvantage" kids who have somehow avoided learning letter names before entering school?
Tell parents not to do it!

When I was a young mother of preschool children, 20ish years ago, it was somehow universal 'mumsy' knowledge that you didn't teach letter names, because letter names didn't help the children to learn to read. We had our lovely Ladybird Alphabet friezes, upper & lower case letters, as I recall, and carefully taught our children the 'letter sounds'. Where did us young mums get this from? I don't know, all I know is that we 'knew' it was the right thing to do!

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Post by CuriousMum » Sun Nov 05, 2006 11:52 pm

And it is still 'mum' knowledge in the UK, at least amongst the (admittedly well-educated and socially advantaged) people I know. All the nurseries I know teach 'letter sounds' when they introduce letters, even if they don't teach synthetic phonics or blending. In fact I know of some people who have got quite worried because their child has picked up the names of the upper-case letters from watching programmes like "Countdown".

I think the problem come swhen children try to spell a word like 'the' as 't - h - e', which of course it isn't. The letter 't' is not making the 't' sound there.

My younger son, who has been thoroughly phonicked by me, is just 5 and has moved from sounding out words to spelling words with letter names ie "There are two kinds of 'made' - em-ay-dee-ee when you have made something, and em-ay-eye-dee, which is someone who helps you".

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Post by Judy » Mon Nov 06, 2006 12:40 am

Dick - as far as I can tell from the children I teach, the mums, and many of the grandparents have taught the children the sounds (at least of the letters of the alphabet).

It is in school that the children have been taught to use the letter names and it makes teaching them to spell by using SP methods very difficult! It really holds up the process of ensuring that that they can segment properly.

And, as Derrie said, there is no need to mention letter names till well on in the Advanced Code as the graphemes can be identified visually.

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Post by maizie » Mon Nov 06, 2006 12:52 am

We're just going round in circles here :(

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Post by Judy » Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:42 am

One last try and then I'm giving up!

If a child comes to me for help with spelling, I can be sure that they have been taught to use letter names for spelling in school and that is why they are in difficulties.

I teach them to segment the word they want to spell into its constituent phonemes (and most of them find this very difficult at first) and use the correspondences which I will by then have taught them for reading to 'build' the word.

Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion initially as they try to break the word up letter by letter (using the letter names) instead of sound by sound. But once they get the hang of of using sounds instead of letters and their names, they are up, up and away!

I have had two 9-yr olds tell me, separately, this week that 'it's all becoming clear now.' And the look of amazed satisfaction on their faces is equal to that of the child who suddenly discovers that decoding is the key to reading.

Time and effort would have been saved if they hadn't had that initial impulse to use letter names instead of sounds.


That's all. :D

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Post by Kelly » Mon Nov 06, 2006 7:15 am

Well, I think you can all count yourselves lucky over in England by the sounds of it. NZ Mums (including the more affluent families) teach letter names (and no sounds). When I finally meet a child that knows a sound on entry to school I just may kiss the parent.

I have found (in my admittedly limited experience) that in some cases the children do start getting confused (between name and sound). At the moment my latest culprit is a 5 year old boy (who has come to us from a different school).

When asked what the first sound was that he could hear in say, "pig", you could see him work out the sound, then translate it into name and then answer 'pee'. He has found this a really hard habit to break. It has taken endless weeks and a lot of time to break this habit.

My son and daughter (now 6 and 5) have been schooled by me. My daughter is about three quarters of the way through Mona's curriculum and she knows the vowel's names (for obvious reasons) and some random ones. I will not be formally 'teaching' my daughter any names as they just seem to happen naturally.

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Post by CuriousMum » Mon Nov 06, 2006 11:53 am

Well, I know that "letters don't make sounds". But I find it extremely convoluted to say to small children "What do we say when we this?". And in a sense sounds do have names. We name lots of sounds (baa, moo etc) so I don't see why it is unreasonable to name the sounds of spoken language.

I am an ardent believer in synthetic phonics, and have just listened to whole word readers in my son's Year 1 class, which always reinforces my belief. But I think it's possible to get too pedantic. As we agree, 'letters don't make sounds'. But when you write a 't' next to 'h', in English the two letters make a new grapheme which represents a specific phoneme. So I think the shorthand 'make a sound' is perfectly acceptable.

But anyway......

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Post by Anna » Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:45 pm

Hi all,

I have found very similar experiences to Judy when trying to remediate older pupils when it comes to spelling. I think they very much believe by this point that sounds are 'babyish' and I suspect that if they ask for spelling at school or home they are just told the letter names. I don't believe this helps struggling pupils to remember spellings. Those who have worked out the code for themselves can probably just write the word a few times and their strong visual memory and the kinaesthetic process of writing will probably be sufficient for them to remember the spelling but it won't work for our strugglers. These are the pupils who can't learn spelling but look, cover, write, check even if 'say' is included. They need to break up the word into individual phonemes/graphemes.

So, as Derrie says, this is where training and information comes in about when it is appropriate to use letter names and when to use sounds. As Debbie illustrated for us on Friday, when encountering unfamiliar words, adults write them down saying the sounds (or syllables) and choose a best fit spelling variation based on their knowledge of probabilities.

I agree with Dick that certainly many parents do teach letter names to pre-school children even if they also teach sounds of the alphabet. It would probably be a hard task to eradicate this but this doesn't mean we should include them in the early stages of an SP programme. It seems sensible to put all the focus into the important skills and knowledge and to explain to parents why we are doing this.

Dick, you may well be correct that if the children had been taught by a sound SP architecture from the start and consistently told to say the sounds (for both reading and spelling) it maybe wouldn't be a problem to teach names concurrently through an alphabet song. However, as dictionary skills etc aren't important at the early stages it seems sensible to me to leave it at least for a term and I would have no problem with it being left until Year 1. If there is even a chance of causing muddlement, it seems like a sensible thing to do to me.

With my older pupils I would expect them to know letter names and we use them for looking up words in the dictionary. I also don't really have a problem if they were to give me the letter names for a spelling variation of a particular sound eg i r for /er/ (although I try to just write the spelling or give a clue word).

For older pupils, I think the root of the problem is not them knowing the names but that they have been taught (or have somehow assumed through lack of explicit teaching) that saying the letter names is the way they should try and learn spellings.

I have a pupil who has worked through the whole SRS and has made great progress. However, he still makes the odd guess when reading which he can usually correct immediatley when I pull him up on it. When we are spelling I will remind him to say the sounds as he writes the graphemes and he will still mix letter sounds and names. Clearly this is not a positive strategy! It is a habit which he has fallen into and like the guessing habit, it seems to be very hard work to eradicate it. :cry:

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Post by Derrie Clark » Mon Nov 06, 2006 8:37 pm

I have found that Jim Rose listens to reason. :wink:

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Post by willow » Tue Nov 07, 2006 2:59 pm

As the mother of a 5 yr old and a 3 yr old I most definitley endorse the 'sounds first, names later' ethos.

My dd, now in Yr 1 is just beginning to use names and sounds interchangeably and becasue she is a fluent, confident reader who no longer painstakingly 'decodes' individual words she has no problem with this.

If i try teaching my ds the names he will get confused as he is by no means as confident in reading. He is learning the names in alphabet songs and ultimately will learn the link when they will not confuse him.

Incidentally my mother swears by learning by rote

Letter 'ay' says /a/
Letter 'bee' says /b/

etc as she was taught that way - just shows there will always be differences but teachers need to do what is best for EACH child and if that means leaving names till later, good for them.

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Post by Anna » Tue Nov 07, 2006 6:58 pm

Hi Dick,

I am not aware of any SP architectures which introduce letter names concurrently.Are they part of BRI/ARI? I don't see them in the reading books but just wondered whether they are part of the spelling programme which I know is forthcoming.

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Post by Judy » Tue Nov 07, 2006 7:35 pm

It's also perfectly reasonable for a program architecture to treat reading and spelling as separate but interdependent instructional matters. God didn't say that the two must be taught concurrently
As a matter of interest, do the main SP programmes (JP, RML, SRS etc) teach reading and spelling concurrently?

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Post by maizie » Tue Nov 07, 2006 7:47 pm

Judy wrote: As a matter of interest, do the main SP programmes (JP, RML, SRS etc) teach reading and spelling concurrently?
Yes, they do.

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Post by Judy » Tue Nov 07, 2006 8:00 pm

Thank, Maizie, I assumed they did as it seems so logical to do it that way and the one can reinforce the other, so to speak!

But what is the reasoning behind lagging the spelling behind the reading? :?

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Post by maizie » Tue Nov 07, 2006 10:11 pm

But what is the reasoning behind lagging the spelling behind the reading?
In the case of the children you & I work with, I'm strongly of the belief that they have already acquired automaticity in spelling words incorrectly and that is very hard to eradicate!

In the case of SP taught children, I think that it is probably because spelling is difficult, however it is taught, and some children just cannot remember which sound spellings belong to which word! However, it looks, from results of programmes such as Sounds-Write, as though more SP taught children acquire a good grasp of spelling, and, at least, the ones who don't spell perfectly can spell phonetically and communicate clearly in writing. I often wish that spelling could be marked on a scale of correct, phonetically correct and wrong. I bet the SP children are more 'phonetically correct' than they are just plain 'wrong' :)

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