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Part 3 – Problems with four of the phonic skills

Ideas are provided for teaching children with reading and writing problems, including parental involvement and support.

Part 3: Problems with four of the phonic skills

Problems with all four aspects of phonic knowledge and skills

The children who are in need of extra support are usually poor in all four aspects of phonic knowledge: they do not know enough letter sounds or tricky words and are poor at blending, segmenting and writing. It is difficult for them to read the books that they have been given. In fact, they often hate being asked to read books at home and at school. There is little pleasure in reading when it is difficult to actually read the words on the page.

In my experience, all children want to learn to read but not when it is made too difficult for them. This is why I recommend, at this stage, that the children should not be given books to take home to read to their parents or guardians. It is more sensible to spend the time working on the gaps in their letter-sound knowledge and improving the skill of blending, for a while at any rate. This is very much a matter of judgement and it will depend on how poor the child is at reading and his or her attitude to it.

Parental involvement

Naturally, it is important to discuss the issues with parents or guardians. Most parents want to help their children, but not when the homework is too difficult and they have to battle with the tantrums. Frequently, they say that their child hates reading and that it is terribly difficult to get him or her to do any reading at all. These parents or guardians welcome the reading books being taken away for a little while. It is important to explain why their child is having problems. Showing parents the results of their child’s assessments helps them to understand the difficulties. They can see the gaps in their child’s letter-sound knowledge and are usually aware that (s)he tends to guess the unfamiliar words rather than blend them. Of course, if parents are not able or willing to be involved then even more teaching is needed at school and it will most likely take longer for the child to catch up.

Identifying bad habits

Usually the children with reading and writing problems have developed bad habits because they have not been taught from the beginning using strong synthetic phonics and decodable readers. Generally speaking, mixed methods will have been used, meaning that the books they were given used words that had letter sounds that had not been taught or learnt. This stops some children developing their decoding skills and makes it an impossible task for those who have a poor memory for whole words and who are unable to crack the code on their own. This inevitably leads to them having to guess at the words. Once that guessing starts, the children’s problems just get worse as the months go by. Frequently, they will start to forget many of the letter sounds they have learnt in the first place.

  • Letter-Sound Knowledge - Steps 1 - 3

    Print the first sheet and ask the child to say the sounds for the letters, recording any that are not known. Some letters represent more than one sound, which the child should also know. The second and third sheets provide guidance for these alternative sounds.

  • Letter-Sound Knowledge - Steps 1 - 3 - print letters

    Print the first sheet and ask the child to say the sounds for the letters, recording any that are not known. Some letters represent more than one sound, which the child should also know. The second and third sheets provide guidance for these alternative sounds.

  • Letter-Sound Knowledge - Steps 4 - 5

    Print the first sheet and ask the child to say the sounds for the letters, recording any that are not known. Some letters represent more than one sound, which the child should also know. The second and third sheets provide guidance for these alternative sounds.

  • Letter-Sound Knowledge - Steps 4 - 5 - print letters

    Print the first sheet and ask the child to say the sounds for the letters, recording any that are not known. Some letters represent more than one sound, which the child should also know. The second and third sheets provide guidance for these alternative sounds.

  • Tricky Words - Steps 3 - 6

    Print this sheet and ask the children to read the tricky words, recording any that are not known. Use dictation to find out how well they can spell them.

  • Tricky Words - Steps 3 - 6 - print letters

    Print this sheet and ask the children to read the tricky words, recording any that are not known. Use dictation to find out how well they can spell them.

  • Suitable words for testing the skill of blending

    These words are not frequently read by young children, so they are suitable for testing how well a child can blend unknown words. The words start with letter sounds the children learnt initially and progress to the more unusual letter sounds in Step 5.