When does o say oa?

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Katrina
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When does o say oa?

Post by Katrina » Sun Apr 12, 2009 10:26 am

Hi, I'm a mother at home teaching my daughter to read using synthetic phonics. I started out using using How to teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons and have recently switched to Debbie's Phonics International resources but have come across the same minor stumbling block in both. In both programs the letter o represents the oa sound for words like 'go', 'so', 'no' and 'most' which I understand and fits with my Australian accent, however words like 'old', 'fold', 'cold' and 'gold' are also given as examples of the the oa sound. To me, those words are closer to the o sound in 'hot', 'got' and 'rot'. Is this due to my accent or am I missing something?

BTW I'm in awe of the incredible wealth of knowledge available to anyone who's interested on this site; it's an amazing resource for those of us working at home with no available outside assistance.

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sun Apr 12, 2009 1:30 pm

Katrina - first of all, thank you for your kind comments regarding the website! It is gratifying to receive confirmation that our efforts to share information and discuss issues around education and literacy are welcome by at least some people!!!

Secondly, don't worry at all by the accent thing.

I depend upon, and encourage, anyone using a synthetic phonics programme to talk to learners along the lines of, "In this country.../ in our region.../ in our county.../ in this part of the world..., we pronounce these words in this way [demonstrate].

So, you might take those words of 'old, gold' and so on and simply say them slowly, identify YOUR sound for the 'o' letters in THOSE particular words and adapt the programme accordingly.

I am in the process of providing some alternative Alphabetic Code Overview Charts to address some small changes around the /or/ sound and /aw/ sound for North American and Canadian users.

Various exemplar words that I have selected are not accurate for North America and Canada.

With support from a lady in Canada and some ladies in America, I am going to provide specific charts for the North American and Canadian 'overall' accents.

But this has been through a careful process of negotiation because it is impossible, and unnecessary, to provide different charts for every place there is a different accent from the 'accent' I have based the original charts upon.

In England, for example, there are many, many regional accents.

So, the main issue is not that people pronounce these words slightly differently, but simply about the notion of a written code representing various sounds as spoken in the area.

So, you would say, "We use this written code for the sound /.../ as in the words 'old, gold, most'" or whatever. In effect, you have simply adapted the code to your needs.

It is also a point of education for learners to be aware of the various accents around the world.

The discussions with my American and Canadian friends looked at 'best' word examples, at the capacity to 'tweak' word pronunciations following the sounding out and blending process to reach the ultimate region-specific way of saying the word, the need to keep some fidelity to the original charts or it opens the flood gates to so many different charts.

On balance, the vast majority of the material in Phonics International (and other synthetic phonics programmes) will be completely suitable for users across the world - and the 'teachers' need to be confident to question the words which don't seem to work perfectly for their regional accent - and then simply adapt the lesson or point this out to learners accordingly.

I hope this helps!

:grin:

Katrina
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Post by Katrina » Sun Apr 12, 2009 2:28 pm

Thank you Debbie - that's very helpful. I've been reading through older posts on this website today about accent and pronunciation and found out all sorts of things I'd never even thought of. At least I only have to think about my child who speaks like me, and not be mindful of a whole class and their varying backgrounds.

Producing materials suitable for the many English accents around the world must be quite a task. I taught English in Japan for a year a long time ago, with people from the US, UK and New Zealand and remember how the differing accents produced no end of discussion and even undermined our training sessions. I well remember a day where the specialist presenter taught us how to teach our Japanese students to speak English with a perfect New York accent.

Even finding suitable exemplar words can create the occasional cross cultural pitfall. I sat at my computer last week with your A5 Frieze poster for the oa sound and the lovely illustration of a big old tree wondering what on earth the link was between the two (and feeling very foolish of course). We don't have oak trees where I live and it took me a while to make the connection. I checked my dictionary for a more suitable oa word and realised that with only oak and oats to choose from, neither would be likely to prompt my suburban child. But please don't think I'm complaining, I just use words like oak, nettles and supper to expand my child's vocabulary.

Thanks again. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the resources and advice.

Happy Easter.

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maizie
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Post by maizie » Sun Apr 12, 2009 3:01 pm

I checked my dictionary for a more suitable oa word and realised that with only oak and oats to choose from, neither would be likely to prompt my suburban child.
'boat', 'coat', 'boast', 'toast', 'coast' ?

Don't forget about 'tweaking', a very useful concept! In my accent 'old', 'cold', etc have a value for the 'o' somewhere between /oa/ and short /o/. Either could be used for the initial sounding out and then the word 'tweaked' to fit the child's pronunciation! Most children don't have a problem with this.

Katrina
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Post by Katrina » Sun Apr 12, 2009 3:32 pm

Thanks Maizie. I was looking for a word that started with oa, but as you suggest, it doesn't have to start with the sound to be meaningful. My daughter decided to draw a picture of a girl wearing a float in the water; not my choice but it works for her.

Your description of the o and oa sounds makes sense to me and I like the idea of 'tweaking' sounds. I worry sometimes that I'm not teaching correctly or contributing to problems because I've never taught anyone to read before. 'Tweaking' at least, will help me deal with the occasional letter/sound correspondence that doesn't quite fit.

Thanks for your help.

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Post by chew8 » Sun Apr 12, 2009 8:09 pm

Hi Katrina -

I'm 100% in favour of 'tweaking', and I think I probably coined the term, at least in relation to phonics teaching - it's one of the most useful strategies available. People need to realise, though, that it works well only in the reading direction - i.e. when we are translating letters and letter-groups into sounds and then blending the sounds together. To use one of your examples: the letter pattern in 'old' (vowel letter followed by two consonant letters) would normally suggest the 'short' sound for the 'o' as in 'hot', We could all sound it out this way to start with and either leave it that way when we blend, if that sounds right in our accent, or else tweak it into the 'long' /o/ sound if that sounds more like the way we normally pronounce 'old'. This particular tweak is very easy, as the two vowel sounds are actually not far apart, especially when followed by the /l/ sound.

Things are much less straightforward in the sounds-to-letters direction. I have always said there is no way of setting out the alphabetic code in this direction which works for all accents in which English is spoken. This is borne out by the fact that Debbie is now adapting her charts for use in the USA and Canada with help from people in those countries. Even within one country, there is often no absolute right and wrong about the pronunciation of particular sounds or the sets of words in which they occur, so there's really no need to worry too much about whether you are getting things absolutely right.

Jenny C.

Kelly
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Re: When does o say oa?

Post by Kelly » Sun Apr 12, 2009 9:18 pm

Firstly, good morning Katrina and welcome. :smile:
Katrina wrote:In both programs the letter o represents the oa sound for words like 'go', 'so', 'no' and 'most' which I understand and fits with my Australian accent, however words like 'old', 'fold', 'cold' and 'gold' are also given as examples of the the oa sound. To me, those words are closer to the o sound in 'hot', 'got' and 'rot'. Is this due to my accent or am I missing something?
I would have to agree with you. For my Kiwi accent the 'o' sound in cold is closer to 'o' than to 'oa'.
Katrina wrote:'Tweaking' at least, will help me deal with the occasional letter/sound correspondence that doesn't quite fit.
I agree about tweaking. A wonderful skill to have.

If I came across word/s in a word list or activity that didn't fit my Kiwi accent (and were not easily tweaked) I wouldn't bother getting my child to read them.
Katrina wrote:I worry sometimes that I'm not teaching correctly or contributing to problems because I've never taught anyone to read before.
What Mona McNee said to me in my 'early days' was: You will be fine. Just use your common sense. :grin:

Good luck.

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:28 pm

Common sense - yes. This is a very large part of what is needed. One can take a lot of liberties with the technicalities and still teach very successfully.

Jenny C.

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