Letter names

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Bob Boden
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Post by Bob Boden » Sat Nov 04, 2006 2:04 am

I agree with you, Dick. It is good to have names for things, and if the names do not have direct relevancy with respect to sound they are still useful in talking about related subjects. Furthermore the letters of the alphabet often do not represent just one sound. I know some little children who are just now learning to point to a named letter, and to pick it up and put it on a magnetic board. They will soon be learning that letters represent sounds, and how to put them together to spell and read simple words. It was ever thus.

Bob Boden

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maizie
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Post by maizie » Sat Nov 04, 2006 11:58 am

Well,

You two have obviously never taught children who are thoroughly confused between the name of a letter and the sound it represents :(

I don't mind if children have 'incidentally' picked up letter names but I can see absolutely no valid reason for actively teaching them to children. It wastes time and has no relevance to learning to read & spell.

What I find particularly irritating is the association of letter names with 'grown up' reading & spelling behaviour, with sounding out being looked on as 'babyish'. In reality, sounding out & segmenting are very adult skills...

elsy
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Post by elsy » Sat Nov 04, 2006 12:36 pm

I do think it becomes useful at some stage, though, to be able to say /ee/ spelt 'ee' 'ee' or /ae/ spelt 'ay' 'why'. I never feel quite comfortable when I hear /th/, that's 'tuh huh'.

I do realise Maizie that this would be the case for those who have learnt to read and spell adequately and understand how letters work and for clarifying the spelling of a particular word rather than lerning how to spell in the first place.

ps I found, when writing this post that I don't actually know how to spell the names of letters of the alphabet!

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maizie
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Post by maizie » Sat Nov 04, 2006 3:56 pm

But this is about the easiest maladaptive pattern to extinguish, because it consistently doesn't work.
So, why put children in a position to acquire this 'maladaptive' pattern in the first place?

What function do letter names have, apart from the fact that we, as adults who learned to read very easily as children, are familiar with using letter names and don't have any problem with the extra level of decoding or encoding that the use of them requires?

Judy
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Post by Judy » Sat Nov 04, 2006 4:17 pm

I think it is in teaching spelling that the letter names are a real bugbear for the strugglers in particular.

Once children have got into the habit of using letter names in spelling, it is just about as diffificult a habit to eradicate as guessing is.

And I would use the same argument as the one used re SP - if even a minority of children are going to be confused by teaching letter names early, why teach them at all until it is absolutely necessary for purposes other than learning to read and spell.

There is still the fact that many children are taught letter names at home before they start school but gradually that number is decreasing as parents become aware of the best way to teach their children to read, mostly through JP I should think.

Derrie Clark
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Post by Derrie Clark » Sat Nov 04, 2006 4:20 pm

I can't agree either Dick. I find that children who have over learnt letter names through systematic teaching of these give them as an automatic response to the symbol, and I don't think it is that easy to extinguish - particularly when it is difficult to give them the time for catch-up interventions anyway. In addition, when it comes to spelling, youngsters simply put a letter to represent the name, eg, Tcher and Rmy. It's not just about SEN - although those youngster will have their difficulties compounded by use of letter names - but I would argue useful for all children to focus on sounds and not letter names.

If teachers are helped to understand why it is not helpful using letter names and why it is important to encourage pupils to say the sounds as they write them, albeit 'under their breath' if necessary, I don't find they have a problem with it. Too often teachers are told to do and not do things and they never really have an understanding why.

Digraphs, trigraphs and individual letters representing different sounds can just be provided visually and there is no need to spell them out - pupils also then have the visual reinforcement.

Not using letter names really does have to be an ingredient of the cake (as Diane Mcguinness pointed out at the conference) not an add on for decoration.

Judy
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Post by Judy » Sat Nov 04, 2006 6:09 pm

Because the letter names are useful (almost mandatory in spelling instruction), we introduce them in connection with SPELL
But it's with spelling that letter names are a real nuisance!!!!

FEtutor
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Post by FEtutor » Sat Nov 04, 2006 8:04 pm

With adult students I do have to spend a long time weaning them off the letter names which have led them astray all their lives, and onto sounds. I still remember, after 17 years, the comment of the 50+ man who, having been muttering "double-you eee be, double-you eee be" was asked to try the sounds and suddenly said " /w/ /e/ /b/ web??? It's easy for you , but it's like climbing a mountain for me!!!"

I usually try a purist approach, but tend to agree with Elsy that it is sometimes necessary to clear up spelling confusion by saying the sound and then saying 'spelt' followed by the letter names- when it's not possible to show digraph/ trigraphs etc visually.

I've noticed that that's what some of the quicker adult students I've taught seem to do naturally, under their breath. One saw my worried look and said 'It's OK, I always say the sound first, but it's how I remember which letters are needed'.

What's your mantra for spelling, then, Dick?

Judy
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Post by Judy » Sat Nov 04, 2006 8:08 pm

Dick, I think Derrie has provided the answers to your questions. :D

elsy
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Post by elsy » Sat Nov 04, 2006 8:12 pm

Incidentally, the spelling of English letters is the letter, pure and simple.
Dick you left yourself wide open! And the name for 'w' is? :D :D

I do think there is a place for naming the shapes in our alphabet. Some of us would have a hard time giving our names and addresses over the phone without them and sometimes we need to name those shapes.

Are we finding it hard to agree about this because of the difference between teaching beginners and remediating older children and adults? Do those who begin with sounds only and gradually introduce letter names find the names becoming a problem?

Another point to consider with not so old but struggling readers who cannot blend easily. When they sound out what appear to be letter names instead of the simple vowel sounds, are they using letter names or are they using a phonemic representation they have seen often eg no, go, so he, we she, I? How can we be sure?

mtyler
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Post by mtyler » Sat Nov 04, 2006 8:36 pm

It seems that in the issue of teaching advanced code one would need names. Using Dick's example of 'instructionally,' the sound /sh/ is spelled 't' 'i,' not /tuh/ /ih/.

A few anecdotes:

In my limited experience (5-6 kids), one boy struggled with mixing up the letter names and sounds. His mother never taught them, but he picked them up from television and listening to his parents use them. This boy, though, struggled with any change to his knowledge. I listened to him argue with his mother for 20 minutes, stating that '20' was called 'twelve.' It took his mother three days of patient instruction to convince him it was 'twenty.' He is reading well a year later, probably not up to par with 'state standards', but he is progressing and has no sense of failure or shame. I believe his mom still does not use letter names, but she admits its awkward.

Another friend wrote a little comic strip (after introducing the basic code and the apropriate advanced code) where the letters, portrayed anthropomorphically, said, "I am (letter name). I say (letter sound). Her son loved reading it. Seemed to pick up the point quickly and without trouble and is also doing very well. Once he mastered blending, he has had no problems and has moved along very rapidly, and probably would be ahead of 'state standards.'

I think that even in an ideal world where children do not know the letter names before being taught to read, the letter names need to be addressed as they are part of our verbal and written modes of communication. My daughter, as we were listening to a news report on the radio, asked, "How do you spell 'FBI'? Is is spelled efbeeie?"

Melissa
Minnesota, USA

elsy
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Post by elsy » Sat Nov 04, 2006 9:46 pm

The letter name "w" is spelled "w."
You've got me there, Dick! :oops: Though my dictionary does feature 'zed' and 'aitch'. No, I haven't gone all the way through the alphabet to prove a point, just thought I'd met these in print in the past.

Melissa, that's an interesting point. It would take some doing to phase out abbreviations like FBI and individual unvoiced phonemes don't trip off the tongue very well in English.

Derrie Clark
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Post by Derrie Clark » Sun Nov 05, 2006 2:19 pm

Letter naming is, of course, not irrelevant. It is helpful for literate adults who are, for example, communicating a spelling of a word to another literate adult or using an alphabetic reference to look up something.

And, of course Dick, you don't have to act like you've had your tongue cut out because you would be saying the sound the grapheme represents as you write it. (I like to join the letters as well when presenting a grapheme of more than one letter.)

And, whatever else, I can honestly say that teachers have never found me odd when I raise this on our training. They are helped by the fact their awareness is raised to it (and it fits in with their new found knowledge, concepts and skills that relate to the alphabet code and spoken English). Having their awareness raised means they can use letter names appropriately and avoid their use appropriately.

When it comes to 'instruction' in letter names, teachers are also in a better position to know when children are ready for this. When it comes to instruction in the 'extended/advance' code, children should already know / be automatic in the sound letter correspondence for the intial code, so beginning instruction in letter names then is not a problem.

The main point is to inform teachers so that they can use their knowledge and professionalism to make choices about when and how to teach letter names.
SP proponents sound "odd" to teachers and citizenry when they proscribe any use of letter names. It seems a trivial matter to contest.
We should not be too concerned about the citizenry who have a problem with this or consider us odd - I think we are big enough to handle it. If it is not letter naming, it will be something else that is picked out. Those who really understand what synthetic or better still, linguistic phonics, is all about will really not have a problem with what we are saying here.

Derrie Clark
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Post by Derrie Clark » Sun Nov 05, 2006 6:10 pm

I make it a rule not to prescribe or proscribe Dick! I would never profess to be expert enough. It is the teacher who is the expert in their own teaching context at any point in time with any one child. That's why they need to be furnished with information and understanding that will best inform the day to day decisions they make.

I do, of course, believe we should have a list of criteria by which a quality phonic method or strategy can be recognised and, personally, I think that criteria should also include quality training of the approach itself.

On a further point, I will continue to differ with you about letters being central to the teaching of reading. My daughter, who is now 8, was a fluent reader and a very good speller before she knew her letter names.
Plus the names are the crux of using dictionaries, reading acronyms/abbreviations, alphabetizing, constructing outlines, and as markers in mathematics and subjects other than reading.
Yes, but don't you have to be literate in the first place. :?:

Derrie Clark
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Post by Derrie Clark » Sun Nov 05, 2006 6:14 pm

On a further point, I will continue to differ with you about letters being central to the teaching of reading. My daughter, who is now 8, was a fluent reader and a very good speller before she knew her letter names.
:oops: Whoops . . . . I, of course, meant 'letter names'. Where would be without our letters, certainly not involved in this forum.

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