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how to teach a child to read using phonics

[synthetic phonics] [1]


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how to teach a child to read using phonics [synthetic phonics] - a clear and simple explanation of how to teach reading rationally and systematically. Aimed at teachers and parents. NOT look-say.
on teaching reading how to teach a person number, arithmetic, mathematics

Index
introduction
the vowels sounds
the most common consonant sounds
teaching rationally
forming words
the rest of the consonants
reading independently
reading schemes
teaching notes and pronunciation rules
words and sentences using the first 15 sounds
words using all sounds
further words
bibliography
end notes


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introduction

In speech/instruction/discussion/interaction with the child, you must establish the distinction between the name of a letter and the sound it usually makes (see also alphabet).

The vowels a, e, i, o, and u, are presented first. Letters are spoken of as both having a name and having a sound. Thus the letter ‘a’ has the name as pronounced when you say the alphabet (e.g. in “late” or “slate”) - [eɪ] [2] - and the sound as in “cat”, “apple”, etc. - [æ].

a picture (photograph) of a cat
a picture (photograph) of a cat

Spending at least 5 to 10 minutes twice daily, once in the morning and once before bed, take the child through the first section: the vowels. Do not refer to the pictures [example pictures to follow] accompanying the letters as being the objects they represent; they are, as you should say, “a picture of an apple” or “a picture of a dog”, etc. This increases precision and forms a better grasp of reality.

Sound each vowel as follows below and point to each letter as you so do. You may, if the child seems interested, say also “apple” and “picture of an apple” whilst pointing to the appropriate object or picture and slightly emphasising the first sound, but do this only after establishing that it is the shape/letter ‘a’ that makes [3] the sound as in cat, not that the picture of an apple is (represents) the sound of ‘a’.

This process gradually builds up the association for the child, who will be able to pronounce the correct sound when the letter is pointed to and the sound is asked for, i.e. “What sound does this shape make?” or sometimes vary it with “What sound does this letter make?” or “What sound does ‘a’ make?” (pointing to the letter).

The time taken for this accomplishment will vary from child to child according to a variety of factors, the main ones of which will probably be intelligence, concentration, obedience, sufficient sleep and food, calmness in the surrounding atmosphere, and the rationality of the person supposedly teaching the child.

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the vowel sounds

Vowel sounds are the voiced part of language. The vocal cords are used and the sounds are much louder than with other letters/sounds in language (consonants). Traditionally, the vowels are taught as ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘o’, ‘u’, but I prefer to add ‘y’, as in ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘o’, ‘u’,‘y’; because ‘y’ is also widely used as a vowel sound, as in “by” or “my”. Therefore, you may think of ‘y’ as both a vowel and a consonant (as in the word “yacht”).

I find useful to teach the vowels to children as:

a, e, i
o, u, y

Thus giving a simple rhyme and aiding memory. Read also at this point the section counting with things.

There are other letters that sometimes function as vowels.

The vowels sound as follows:

  • a as in apple, [æ]
  • e as in elephant, [e]
  • i as in indian, [ɪ]
  • o as in ostrich, [ɒ]
  • u as in umbrella, [ʌ]

Vary the order.

Remember to focus on the letter, rather than a picture, and sometimes cover the picture to remove associations with pictures. The purpose is for the child to associate the sound with the letter, not with the picture. A picture is an indirect link to the real world. Therefore, also establish direct links to the real world, such as a real world apple, or a real world cat, again establishing the pointing nature of language.

When the child can sound each of the vowels correctly for about 5 to 10 times - do not bore the child by unnecessary repetition, but be sure that the child can do the sounds reliably and not by chance - proceed to the ten consonants in the next section.

You can check the child’s progress by maintaining records. Bear in mind that the child will have ‘good’ days and ‘bad’ days in reading. One day sounds thought to be committed to memory the previous day seem to have been forgotten, and so forth. Be patient - this seems to happen with many children and is probably a mechanism of learning that we do not yet fully understand. Do not lose your temper or become irrational. However, a little pushing may trigger the memory or make the child put more effort into its work.

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the most common consonant sounds

The ten consonants should be taught to sound as follows:

  1. s as in squirrel, [s]
  2. m as in monkey, [m]
  3. f as in fox, [f]
  4. r as in rabbit, [r]
  5. n as in nest, [n]
  6. g as in goat, [g]
  7. b as in bear, [b]
  8. t as in tiger, [t]
  9. p as in pig, [p]
  10. d as in dog, [d]

These should not be sounded as [sə], [mə] etc.: consonants are whispered.

It is very important when teaching reading that you do not add the ‘-er’ or schwa sound - [ə] -, or even more exaggerated, the schwa plus an 'r' [ər], onto the end of consonants. Adding those extra sounds will tend to confuse and cause the words to be synthesised incorrectly. For example, if you teach your child to pronounce ‘c’ as [cə] or [cər] and ‘t’ as [tə] or [tər], then when they try to pronounce ‘cat’, it will become [cəætə] or even [cərætər] (“ker-a-ter”), rather than [cæt]!

With this total of 15 sounds (5 vowels and 10 consonants) the child can then be shown how to sound out approximately 150 words, which helps to satisfy the child and give it a sense of accomplishment in fairly short order. A full record should be kept with each reading session.

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teaching rationally

Records should be kept accurately and should not be distorted by irrational emotional involvement. For example, you may find yourself distorting your records because you have convinced yourself - from some wish that the child achieves quicker than it does, or simply by chopping corners - that the child really does know something which it does not. Such behaviour will not help the child. It may make you feel a little better temporarily, but will certainly be bad for the child. Adopting such an approach will inhibit their ability to learn and in other ways disturb the child. If you can not control yourself and learn yourself, you are better leaving the child to the fate of the state teachers, even though they are, in our experience, almost invariably sub-competent.

Above all, be calm and quiet and patient, but do not allow the child to misbehave, to take advantage of you, or to be a nuisance. The child is getting something from you, not vice versa. Neither over-push nor under-push, find the balance for each individual child.

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forming words

When making words, do thus: say “Sound out this word. What sound does this letter (or shape) make?”. Point to the first letter of the word, use a pencil if necessary to indicate the letter you mean. If the child takes too long - what ‘too’ long means you will have to learn to judge by working with the child - suggest the sound softly until the child picks it up. Repeat the sound and get the child to repeat. Then go on to the next sound. At the end of the word, sound the letters with, say, about a second in between:

b         a         t

And get the child to repeat the sounds in order on their own. Next you repeat the sounds in order quicker and get the child so to do:

b         a         t                   b      a      t                   b   a   t                   b a t

Another method of joining is as follows:

b         at                   b      at                   b   at                   b at

And get or wait for the child to copy you. Then ask “what does the whole word say?”. If the child waits too long, coach it by sounding the word as "b    at" several times, each time gradually running the two sounds together until arriving at “bat” and getting the child to repeat after you. After some time (perhaps a month or more) the child will usually catch on and be able to sound words out in the way indicated.

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the rest of the consonants

When the child is fluent with the 16 sounds above and has got the hang of sounding out the majority of the words such as those listed, move on to this section, which presents double lettered sounds and the other ten single letter sounds (“c”, “h”, “j”, “k”, “l”, “q”, “v”, “w”, “x”, “z”).

This should be done in conjunction with the following section, which describes some of the sounding rules of the English language. Remember that rules are not universally consistent, but gradually teach the child these inconsistencies starting with the most common usage, by which time the child will be quite fluent and probably able to cope with 1b to 3b of the Ladybird Reading Scheme. Do not think the rules useless, just because there are inconsistencies: the rules are helpful memory short-cuts.

It is vital to teach the child how to guess. The child’s spoken vocabulary will be far ahead of its reading vocabulary. English is pretty idiosyncratic in that its spelling rules are not reliable, as in some other languages which have been modernised and phoneticised.

When the child is finding difficulty with compounding (“synthesising”/“blending”) a word, you should teach them to guess whether it is a word they already know. Ask the child what word it sounds like and help if necessary. Teach the child to think about what sounds right in the context of sentences e.g. “read”, (sounded “red” or “reed” depending on context).

You should also teach them that guesswork is always unreliable, and is merely a help/assist. A child’s experience in effective guessing will develop slowly and steadily over time.

Sound the next letter combinations as follows:

  • c as in cat, [k]
  • ck as in sock, [k]
  • k as in kid, [k]
  • l as in lion, [l]
  • h as in horse, [h]

Teach these sounds as you did the others and extend the reading vocabulary as enabled with these extra sounds. When these letter combinations are fluent, go on to the next set, sounding them as follows:

  • j as in jug, [dʒ]
  • w as in wagon, [w]. It is very short [ʊ] sound [4], not a hard ‘w’. Thus the word is sounded as ‘ooagon’. Teach the child a soft ‘w’ sound.
  • v as in van, [v]
  • qu as in quilt, [kw]
  • y as in yes, [j]
  • z as in zebra, [z]
  • sh as in sheep, [∫]
  • ch as in chick, [t∫]
  • tch as in thatch, [t∫]
  • ng as in sing, [ŋ]
  • nk as in pink, [nk]
  • th as in thank, [θ]
  • wh as in whip, [w]
  • cks as in tacks, [ks]
  • x as in fox, [ks]

When these sounds are fluent and words containing these sounds are reasonably easily achieved, we suggest you move to higher numbered books in the Ladybird B series. Unfortunately that scheme is strongly sexist and trite. Jane the little girl helps her ‘mother’ make tea, Peter the little boy, helps ‘daddy’ paint the window frames or Jane picks flowers whilst Peter (the lucky little so and so) builds a boat. Apart from this, we also object to the cosy, hunky-dory picture of a nuclear family which is reinforced at every point. Whether you mind this is a matter for yourself.

In the late 1970s, Ladybird attempted to level with modern times by introducing the odd coloured person into street scenes and the like but s/he is never invited into the house. It is possible to annul the sexist and nuclear family tripe with the use of a little Sno-pake or Liquid Paper (typist’s correction fluid, obtainable from stationers), and to insert minor amendments to the text which remains still very useful.

Of course there are many other schemes available, and you can even make your own. We refer you to the Ladybird books as they are easily available and linguistically well organised - they can be used as cribs and a reference source of things to think about in your own teaching.

Of course, at some point your child is going to decide “I want to read about football”, or “I want to read about pandas”, or even “I want to read about wizards” [5]. At which point you can introduce them to libraries and teach them to research and follow their own interests. Do not bore or undermine the independence of the child by trying to force them to be interested in your interests. Beyond basic literacy, numeracy and social skills, it is up to the child to decide what they want to learn and do with that learning.

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reading independently

I identify a stage in children’s reading which I call “reading on their own”. This occurs at a level of around the average eight year old’s reading skill [6]. By this time, it is important that the child is thoroughly familiar with the alphabet and can recite it fluently. This can be started as a game way back amongst three or four year olds. It doesn’t have to wait until the reading stage. Learning the alphabet is a vital skill, contrary to some fashion-driven teachers. Without it, you cannot fluently use a dictionary, or an encyclopaedia, or a catalogue, or any of a hundred other services.

By the “reading on their own” stage, the child should not need much more than guidance from a teacher. They should be able to look up words in a dictionary and ask for help when they come across an unfamiliar word or concept. Developing independence is a vital part of any serious education. The prime task of a teacher is to help the learner gain independence from teachers. The child should be taught to use dictionaries, encyclopaedias, and above all libraries, including the Internet/Web.

There are also cut-down and large print childrens’ dictionaries available, though I am inclined to haved a child transitioned early to something more challenging.click to return to the index

reading schemes

While there are many reading schemes available, I am using the Ladybird system as context only because it linguistically well-structured and widely available in the UK. In any educational bookshop, you will find a great range of schemes. These schemes are immensely profitable to the publishers and many a teacher will swear that whichever one they use is far and away the best, but in fact you can work with almost anything. In days of past poverty, responsible parents teaching their child to read would even resort to cutting out the letters from newspapers and forming them into words.

As with so much in the educational area, American books are often in advance of the British market. Along with the Ladybird system, I highly recommend Reading with Phonics, Teacher's Edition, by Julie Hay and Charles E. Wingo, and published by Lippincott. The book is now out of print, but it is still widely available secondhand in various editions.

Another useful subsidiary for phonics practice are the Dr.Seuss books. They have a nice surrealistic twisted sense of humour, which is often very appealing to brighter children (I have known rather serious young people being ‘offended’ by the ‘idiocy’, but this of course sometimes an opportunity to teach more of a sense of fun!). There are large number of Seuss books, they are not cheap and are not all at the same level of difficulty, so look at them carefully before parting with the hard-earned.

The home schooling movement in America is considerably more developed that in Europe, as parents vote with their feet against state ‘education’. The estimates run to well over two million children currently in home schooling. A good proportion of those who involve themselves in home schooling do so because they have rather fundamentalist ‘religious’ or ‘political’ beliefs, which they wish to ram into the heads of the young. Thus, the McGuffey readers - from 1879! - which Henry Ford learnt from as a child, with their ‘moral tales’, ‘improving reading’ and structured ‘correct’ grammar, are now heavy sellers in the United States.

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teaching notes and pronunciation rules

It is not necessary for the child to be specifically taught all the details that follow, but it is necessary for the person teaching to be aware of these details:

  1. Always explain the meaning of the words the child is sounding out, and check for feedback after your explanation. It’s no use the child just saying “yes” and you not knowing whether you’ve been understood. You may as well not bother teaching in the first place if you do not check your success or failure.
  2. Repeat stilted sentences properly after the child has read them out loud, so the child can hear how it ‘should’ sound and get a sense of the rhythm of the language and is better able to understand the meaning. It is difficult for the child in the early stages to concentrate on both sounding and comprehension.
  3. If there are two vowels together, or only one consonant between, very often the first vowel says its name and the second vowel is not sounded. For example, “real” and “gate”. However, if two consonants intervene the first vowel says its sound. For example, “rabbit”.
  4. The [k] sound has 3 written representations:
    1. c before a, as in “cat”
      c before o, as in “cot”
      c before u, as in “cut”
    2. k before e, as in “kept”
      k before i as in “kid”
    3. ck after a, e, i, o, u and usually at the end of a word e.g. “sock”, “sack”, “rock”.
  5. q is never used alone, it is always followed by u and then another vowel. It is sounded [kw].
  6. y has two sounds: the name of the letter ‘i’ - [aɪ] - as in “my” and the sound of the letter ‘i’ as in “yes” - [ jes] or [ɪes] [7] - and “funny”.
  7. ‘wo’ has four sounds: [wʊ] as in “womb”, [wɪ] as in “women”, [wə] as in “woman”, and [wʌ] as in “wonder”.
    1. ‘ch’ can begin a word, e.g. “chick”, or follow an ‘n’, e.g. “ranch”.
    2. ‘tch’ comes at the end of words after a, e, i, o, u. For example, “hitch” and “match”. There are exceptions such as “such”, “much”, “which”, and “rich”, where ‘ch’ follows instead of ‘tch’. Both are pronounced [t∫]
  8. ‘th’ is sounded voiced - [θ] - and unvoiced - [ð] - as in “think” and “this”.
  9. ‘g’, ‘b’, ‘t’, ‘p’, ‘d’ are not prolonged sounds, but are short, almost whispered sounds.
  10. ‘x’ is sounded usually as [ks] [e.g. “fox”], but sometimes as [kz] [e.g. “mixer”], [gz] [e.g. “exit” [8]], and [z] [e.g. “xylophone”] and as its name [eks] [e.g. “x-ray”]. Generally if an ‘x’ follows a stressed vowel [e.g. with “exists”], it has a [kz] or [gz] sound. Remember also “tacks” and “tax” sound similar but have different meanings, point out this sort of occurrence.
  11. Plural endings: an ‘s’ makes an [s] sound or a [z] sound - make sure to distinguish clearly.
  12. Possessive case: explain the possessive case; John’s dog means the dog of John, the apostrophe and the ‘s’ is used as a shortening to show possessive or ownership relationships.
    The apostrophe is also used to mark a missing letter, or letters, in shortened forms. This is especially confusing with “it’s” and “its”, where the form without an apostrophe (“its”) is the possessive and the form with an apostrophe (“it’s”) is a shortening for “it is”.
  13. Teach non-phonetic words as specials. There are about 145 non-phonetic words, which are described as such because the vowels do not behave as expected e.g. “cold”, “find”, “piece”, “bread”.
  14. Teach ‘ing’ - [ɪŋ] - as a syllable.
  15. There are some syllables that contain vowels whose sound is changed by the letter r. They are ‘ar’, ‘er’, ‘ir’, ‘or’ and ‘ur’.
    • ‘er’, ‘ir’, ‘ur’, usually have the same sound as ‘ur’ - [ɜː] in “hurt”.
    • ‘or’ usually sounds as in “for” - [ɔː].
    • ‘ar’ usually sounds as in “farm” - [aː].
  16. In the letter combinations ‘ai’ and ‘ay’, the ‘i’ and the ‘y’ are silent. For example, ‘rain’ and ‘play’. The first vowel is sounded following rule 3: say its name. You should treat the ‘y’ as a vowel in these situations.
  17. In the letter combinations ‘ee’ and ‘ea’, the final ‘e’ or ‘a’ is silent as in “tree” and “each”. Note ‘ea’ sometimes does not follow the rule whereby with two vowels the first one says its name. For example, in the word “head”, the ‘e’ makes its sound not its name.
  18. With ‘ie’ and ‘y’, the ‘e’ is silent and both ‘ie’ and ‘y’ are sounded as the name of ‘i’, as in “cried” or “fly”.
  19. With ‘oa’, ‘oe’, and ‘ow’, the second letters are silent. For example, “loan”, “toe” and “own”.
  20. When ‘ce’ directly follows a vowel, the vowel says its name, e.g. “ice”, “rice”, “slice”. When ‘ce’ follows ‘n’, the vowel makes its sound, e.g. “mince”.
  21. ‘ou’ and ‘ow’ are sounded as in “out” and “down” - [aʊ]. If they forget, try pinching the child to make them say “ow!”, and make it into a game.
  22. ‘oi’ and ‘oy’ are sounded as in “coin” or “boy” - [ɔɪ].
  23. There are some letters and combinations of letters that are silent such as in “sigh”, “high”, “daughter”, and usually any ‘gh’ at the end of a word. There is also a silent ‘g’ before ‘n’ as in “gnaw”, but then there is also the hard ‘g’ as in “ghost” with a silent ‘h’. The ‘k’ is silent in “knot” and “knight”. In “doubt” the ‘b’ is silent and in “write” the ‘w’ is silent. You need to be aware of these and point them out to the child.
  24. The combination ‘oo’ offers two different sounds:
    1. [uː] as in “moon”, “soon”, “too”, “spoon”, “goose”, “food”.
    2. [ə] as in “look”, “took”, “cook”.
  25. ‘ew’ and ‘ue’ are spelling variations of sounds already taught. Both are pronounced the same as ‘oo’ in “moon” and “soon” - [uː]. For example, “few” and “due”. “Fuel” is an exception - it is pronounced with an extra schwa sound: [fuːəl].
  26. Note the [z] sound of ‘se’ in “please”, “cheese”, “nose”.
  27. Note the [ f ] sound of ‘ph’ in “elephant”, “telephone”, “enough”.
  28. There is a generalisation for two syllable words ending in ‘le’: if the last syllable ends in ‘le’, the consonant proceeding‘le’ usually of that last syllable. For example it is “tric-kle”, not “trick-le”.
  29. The combinations ‘tion’ and ‘sion’ are sounded [∫n], as in “station” and “impression”.
  30. Teach the child to sound out long words by breaking them into syllables. If necessary cover the other syllables with your finger as the child works along the word.

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words and sentences using the first 15 sounds

These words and sentences are provided for practice, and will be expanded in further editions. Many more may be thought of or looked up in a dictionary.

We suggest writing the words on large sheets of card, and placing such charts on a wall at child height. These charts may be replaced as necessary and supplemented by such children’s books as are available and appropriate.

sun sit sip sum
sup met miss man
mud fun fit fig
fuss red run rip
rib rag rat rot
nip got gas gust
big but bust bed
bug bus top ten
tag pin pot pig
peg pop pan pat
den dot did dent
sat sap sand set
mop mat mess men
fog fed fan fat
rub rug rid ran
not nap nod nut
get gum gift bit
bat bag beg bet
tan tap tip tub
pup pun pit pen
pump puff dug did

A man sits in the sun.
Sam fed the pig.
The pig nips Dan.
The gust got Met.
Sam dug the sand.
The rat ran.
Pam is in bed.
Rob made dots with a pen.
Peg mopped the mud off the rug.
The man had a nap.
The pup ran after the rat.
Bob fed ten figs to the pig.
Tom has a top and a doll.
Ted has a tin tub.
Peg has a bat and a bus.
Tom spins his top.

words using all sounds

kid cup cod cot
hum hit ham hut
had mill tent milk
belt pant self tend
send self band hunt
lock damp pump fond
silk lift best find
pond help held belt
hid hat hem him
hump felt bump mist
film rust sand lift
hint land lump lamp
rent dump fund hand
sent bent sack pack
kin cat sick tick
rack deck ruck tuck
led leg lip let
bell sill fell doll
can kiss kit cap
pick rock sock sack
back neck dock lot
lend lad lock lag
tell bill sell fill

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further words

wink tank sank rink kink bank pink link chunk
bunk thank thin thing thud thatch thick thick thump
this thus than that them then which when whip
whisk tacks tax box fix fox six ox wax
mix pox block black blend bland bliss blink blank
clip clock clink clinch cling clap click clank clench
clang flesh flip fling flit flash flap flung flat
slip slam slush slid slap slum slash sled plan
plum plus plot plant plump plush plop glad glass
gland glum class skin skid scuff skip scan skill
skull scum smack smelt snip snag snap snug sniff
spank spin spill spat span spell spit stock stop
stub stuff stick step stiff swim swift swing swam
switch swept stamp smock cane hate mate bake shame
fate rake tape sake pane shake made lake take
same fade plate mane quake wake late game gate
tame gaze flame blame ripe hide shine like ride
pine fine kite file dike bite tile time mile
quite pile side wine lime dive tide life mine
time hive wide nine five stile smile spike spine
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endnotes

  1. In my view, no person with any sense teaches a normal child to read using “look-say”. Look-say treats the English language in a manner similar to learning Chinese characters [Hanzi/Kanji/Hanja], where every word has to be recognised and memorised separately, but without the aesthetic appeal of the Chinese ideograms.

    The look-say method has been immensely popular with poor teachers, because it gives the appearance of quick learning as the first few tranches of words are learned. However, it results in the child never making an easy transition to reading independently, it leaves the child with poor spelling even in adulthood, and it encourages the child/adult to guess wildly instead of attending carefully to what is actually on the page.

    I have used the look-say method with children of very low intelligence as means of conditioning a basic reading level for very simple material. This method has been used in experiments with chimpanzees and parrots.

    The English language, as stated, is not phonically standardised. Around the early 1960s, an attempt was made to standardise English, called I-T-A (Initial Teaching Alphabet), using forty-four letters (phonemes), with the objective that once the child was moving along under such a scheme, the transfer to standard orthography would easier.

    I-T-A may have been a good idea had it become the universal print medium, although that would make millions of extant books rather difficult for the next generation! See, for example, the Han-gul alphabet, forced on the people of Korea by King Sejong in 1446, which is acclaimed amongst linguists for its excellent and scientific design. However, I-T-A in its intended use suffers from similar, but lesser, problems to look-say.

    Learning to read is one of the earliest serious intellectual skills most younger children must acquire; I’m all for a good bit of brain exercise in pursuit of developing intelligence. Look-say merely turns the reading task into a pointless and cumbersome memory exercise, whereas phonics requires far more in the way of analytic skills.

    For more on this subject, and some technical detail see the supplementary page, Reading test and related information.
     

  2. Using written English words, or partial words, to demonstrate pronunciation is unreliable at best, and misleading at worst. This is especially true when the reading audience is global, with a global variety of accents, as with the abelard.org website. Thus we write pronunciation using phonetic symbols, surrounded by square brackets and yellowed. For example, [cæt] is the British English pronunciation for the word "cat". The linked page shows the symbols used for English, with examples and mp3 files to demonstrate the sounds.

    For those having problems seeing the phonetic symbols, please see this footnote on the phonetics chart page.
     

  3. “Represents” or “indicates” in adult language. Your mind should be clear on the difference and you should wean the child into understanding that difference, and gradually increase the person’s vocabulary to cope with such refinements.

    The letter does not ‘make’ anything. The letter is not an active being. Humans may assemble a chair. The letter is made by humans out of material such as ink on paper or electrons on your computer screen. By understanding fundamental logic of this type, the learner will reason more clearly from early on, rather than being confused.

    To teach these difference effectively, use the concept of pointing. You point at a tree, make the child aware of pointing at a car, or a kitchen sink. Teach the child that the words are like pointing - the words are used to point at objects without you having to raise your index finger. Likewise the letters indicate, or point at, sounds.

    Which sounds the letters point to is arbitrary, it varies with local accent and amongst human languages. The same applies to the way words are ‘made’ from letters.

    The letter or shape ‘a’ may also be called, or thought of, or treated as an object; just as an apple can called an object, or a picture of an apple may be called an object.
     

  4. The [ʊ] sound and [w] sound are very similar, and in normal speech you are unlikely to notice the difference if someone were to start substituting one for the other. However, the mouth positions/movements for the two sounds are different, which suggests there should be some hearable difference.

    The sound [w] starts with the lips together. The sound [ʊ] starts with the lips apart and slightly pushed outwards. However, these real differences are probably not significant for any but the most careful speech therapists or linguists, especially when dealing with a child having difficulties understanding how to form particular sounds.
     

  5. See reality, laying the foundations for sound education:-

    “It is important that this learning is sound. I would never introduce a young child to any fictions, without making very clear to the child that it was a game and checking to make sure the child understood the difference between fiction and reality. That means that I would never teach a child that Father Christmas is a real entity who was likely to intrude on their bedroom, down a chimney! If you teach the young falsehoods about the world, how will you expect them to think clearly? If you teach them falsehoods in among facts, as if there is no difference, how do you imagine they will not be confused? It has been known clearly since at least 1930 that 'fairy tales' form a part of most children's fears. Yet the casual foolishness continues; even Plato suggested not teaching fictions.”

    I have a list of some of the most popular children’s fiction of the last century here.
     

  6. The Ladybird scheme is numbered 1-12, with A-C at each level. Number 1 is the most basic, number 12 is the most difficult. The ‘A’ books introduce the new material. The ‘B’ books are revision of the same level of material. The ‘C’ books include writing and interactive exercises. Ladybird assert that the completion of number 8 is equivalent to an eight year old reading level.
     

  7. The [y] sound and [ɪ] sound are very similar and with a word like “yes” you are unlikely notice the difference should someone substitute one for the other. However, as above, the mouth positions/movements for the two sounds are different, which suggests there should be some hearable difference.

    The sound [y] is somewhat whispered, the tongue briefly goes to the top of the mouth, and the mouth is mostly closed. The sound [ɪ] comes from the throat, the tongue moves less and the mouth is opened wider. However, these real differences are probably not significant for any but the most careful speech therapists or linguists, especially when dealing with a child having difficulties understanding how to form particular sounds.
     

  8. “exit” can be pronounced both as [eksɪt] and as [egzɪt]. You may find that your child finds the latter easier to say. I doubt, however, someone from the “every word as a silver bullet” school of speaking would approve!

  9. Often explained to a young child as “ ‘a’ says its name”. 

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Related links for further reading:
a phonetics chart for british english
reading and vocabulary tests, and related information
Book reading lists
reality, laying the foundations for sound education
aristotle’s logic - why aristotelian logic does not work
citizenship curriculum
introduction to franchise discussion documents The logic of ethics
franchise by examination, education and intelligence power, ownership and freedom

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