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6 year old non reader

Posted: Sat Sep 25, 2010 10:19 am
by Maltesers
I work in year 2 with children 6 and 7 years old. I have taught SEN children in small groups for many years and this year I am struggling with one little boy. He is 6 and has had Letters and Sounds teaching for 3 years. He still does not blend or segment consistently. I have currently had him as part of a small group of 3 for 3 weeks for phonics 4 days a week plus 4 sessions of individual work a week and still I cannot get him blending. He can occasionally get a word if I say the sounds but he just does not get it for himself. He knows most of the phase 2 sounds due to daily practise last year and he really does know them. He shouts them out instantly when shown and can write them and find the appropriate magnetic letter. When shown a cvc word he can say the sounds quickly but then comes out with a competely different word. I get him to repeat and repeat and repeat but he still guesses. When segmenting he always hears the first sound but then guesses at the rest. This in itself is different to what I am used to. I usually find the child gets the last sound they hear (short term memory). I have tried getting him to crash the first sound into the second eg. ca then add the t but still this does not work. I am at a loss what to do. He has glasses so eyesight ok and his hearing is good.
I have tried using my puppet to practise oral blending. Pass me the p/e/n. He loves this but it takes probably five or six attempts before he gets the pen and passes it to the puppet.
The last teacher he had thinks he is dyslexic but I am not too sure about that. In my experience the dyslexic children I have had have had very poor memories, buthave been very articulate, good drawers and usually pretty good in other areas. I wouldn't say any of these things apply to him. He is generally poor in all areas including maths. Any suggestions would be very welcome on what I can try next.

Re: 6 year old non reader

Posted: Sun Sep 26, 2010 10:31 pm
by Maltesers
Well it seems like I may have found an answer to my own post so I will share it.

Particularily interested in the 'singing' of sounds. Am going to give that a try tomorrow :grin:

Re: 6 year old non reader

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:45 pm
by Anna
Hi Maltesers,

In my experience as a tutor, I highly recommend the BRI books for pupils like this. The fact that the words are only increased very slowly in the first few sets may be the key. You may still need to model the blending a lot at first but hopefully the fact that he is paractising blending with the same words repeatedly and just adding a few new ones each book, provides the overlearning he needs. I have had great success with these books with pupils who struggle with both blending and/or remembering code. The stories are always a big hit with my pupils - even older ones.

I have one pupil who struggled so much with blending. She got the idea but just couldn't hear the word happen. It was a very gradual process of my modelling, then she got the word after 3 tries, then 2, then first time. Now she can usually just read the word but may just slow down a bit to decode in her head. Her fluency is really improving now too. :grin:

Re: 6 year old non reader

Posted: Wed Sep 29, 2010 7:40 am
by Maltesers
Thank you Anna, I will certainly ask if there is money available for these books but in the meantime I think I will try setting up a bank of words for him to practise daily, starting with just a couple that he knows. I will continue with the modelling. I did try singing the sounds and he did seem to hear the word better. I do think I smooth blend but perhaps I need a bit more practise and the link I found certainly has highlighted this as a possibility.

Re: 6 year old non reader

Posted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 1:58 pm
by Kiki
Hi Maltesers

Do tell us how you got on, the link you posted was very interesting and I'd love to know if you found the advice helpful.

Re: 6 year old non reader

Posted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:45 pm
by Maltesers
Hi there, I have been singing the phonemes to him and it does work. He is definitely getting the words with this method. I have to do it several times but it is working. I also found this on the internet and wondered if anyone had tried it. ... e=toobaloo

I am thinking of ordering one. I think it will really focus him into hearing his own voice.

Re: 6 year old non reader

Posted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 9:30 pm
by maizie
I think that the 'toobaloo' is an excellent idea. I have intermittent contact with someone on another forum who has been involved in research using something similar and who says it is a very good tool.

I'm fascinated by the musical phonemes; do you have to make them into/fit a tune, or do you sing them all on one note? :?:

(I am also sneakily glad that I don't have any children with the same problem as your chap. I think that 11+y olds would think I'd gone bonkers if I started musical blending... :shock: )

Re: 6 year old non reader

Posted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:36 pm
by Maltesers
Maizie I am pretty tone deaf when it comes to musicality but he really doesn't seem to mind. I sort of do doh ray me...3 notes. I have just read on the internet how you can make one of these phones using a small piece of plumber's pipe and 2u bends. Might need to have a trip to a B & Q :lol:

Re: 6 year old non reader

Posted: Fri Oct 01, 2010 4:31 pm
by maizie
Maltesers wrote:I have just read on the internet how you can make one of these phones using a small piece of plumber's pipe and 2u bends.
Funny, I read something like that recently, too. But when I saw the price of the toobaloo I thought that the plumbing 'bits' might work out about the same. :grin:
Might need to have a trip to a B & Q :lol:
I f you wait 'til Wednesday I'll come with you and you can get a discount on my Diamond Card ;-)

Re: 6 year old non reader

Posted: Fri Oct 01, 2010 11:41 pm
by Debbie Hepplewhite
Thanks for the links above - all very interesting!

I've ordered 2 of those thingies!

Re the 'singing' of phonemes:

I've been thinking about this all evening before I posted.

It may well work in desperate circumstances - but I wouldn't want to encourage this as a regular thing to do.

Saying the sounds as close to real speech as possible is, I believe, the way to go.

The 'sounds' have a sort of note/pitch all of their own.

We should be pointing out to our pupils (or asking them) what the sounds taught for graphemes actually 'sound like'!

Some are so quiet - which? Some are deep and loud - which?

Of course, many youngsters will not hear all the sounds, or not hear them easily. We know that glue ear, for example, affects hearing.

Children with poor hearing may not hear the high-pitched 'sounds' or the low-pitched sounds.

In addition, classrooms often have very poor acoustics - or the heating is blowing out - or some noise is coming from elsewhere.

People can gain great expertise at modelling how to say the sounds in a phoneme-like way and in such a way that you can discern the target word more easily. When you, as an adult, model the sounding out, ask yourself whether you have done a job to emulate as closely as possible, the target word.

I have noticed that children when excited will add 'schwas' (/uh/) to sounds when going through flash card routines. The adult does not always 'check' the children for this.

I have noticed that children might say a purer sound when doing, for example, the Jolly Phonics mnemonic action at the same time - but when they stop doing the action, they revert to adding the schwa.

So, whilst I do not have experience of 'singing' the phonemes, I just wanted to suggest that this is not a route everyone should take for granted as being a great idea and one to do under normal circumstances.

In the field of phonics teaching, there a number of ideas which arise that people can assume are a great idea without questioning them fully.

One that springs to mind is 'robot arms'. I can't for the life of me see the sense of doing robot arms whilst sounding out and blending print for reading.

I suggest that finger tracking the word from left to right whilst scanning mentally for graphemes which are recognisable, and sounding out, followed by a finger-sweep under the whole word when it is said as a whole - is more direct and focused than doing robot arms in beat with saying each sound - and yet I see robot arms on the DVDs for modelling synthetic phonics teaching.

Re: 6 year old non reader

Posted: Sun Oct 03, 2010 7:50 pm
by Maltesers
Thanks for the advice Debbie. Under normal circumstances I wouldn't dream of 'singing' phonemes but this little chap has me beaten so far and I am resorting to desperate measures. I know his hearing is fine and he has glasses now so eyesight is fine. I just do not understand why he cannot hear the word. I intend to withdraw the singing asap. I am hoping the penny drops and he understands what I am wanting him to do and we can go back to more normal blending. I have made him a little pack to do each day after thinking about Anna's advice. Graphemes learnt so far and starting off with 3 vc words to blend. I am going to build this up slowly until he gets the hang of things.

Re: 6 year old non reader

Posted: Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:12 pm
by Debbie Hepplewhite
Forgive me if I am repeating myself:

Have you tried the activity where you provide three animals or objects, you say the sounds of one of the words for the objects and ask him to select which object you are referring to?

In other words, he is getting a 'leg up' because he already knows the three simple words (e.g. cot, glove, pin), then he hears the sounds you give him (e.g. /g/ /l/ /u/ /v/) and he has to pick out one of the objects. Can he do this?

Then, you can do variations on a theme even without the objects such as providing the sounds of a word, telling him it will be an animal, but 'which' animal is it?

Then you might say /h/ /or/ /s/.

Can he hear 'horse' because you have given him a little 'leg up'?

If this works (not with singing, by the way, but with sounds as close as possible to those in the whole spoken word), this should encourage him (and you) and you can carry on in this way building up his ability to discern or 'hear' the target words.

Meanwhile, getting him to say the sounds in response to graphemes in sounds without the schwa and with the correct pronunciation.

Then, give him a printed word to sound out consisting of graphemes he is very used to 'saying' the sounds for (e.g. sip) and this time, ask him to say the sounds. If he cannot 'hear' the word, then you say the sounds. If he still cannot hear the word, try a little clue as above again.

Keep going in this way as little and often exercises in quiet places.

If you have done all this, did you get nowhere with these types of activities?

Re: 6 year old non reader

Posted: Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:45 pm
by Maltesers
Yes I do say the pure sounds and I always correct children who don't say them correctly. I have tried using pictures of objects eg. sun, cat, dog, laying them out on the table and asking for one of them. Yes he does 'sometimes' get it but is very inconsistent. I am also virtually saying the word for him. One day he can get the odd word and the next he can't. I constantly ask him to listen carefully to the sounds. So yes I have tried all these things. He can get the initial sound of a word and with help can segment a word using 'magic elastic' and lots of stretching. So he can do it the other way round. He just can't put them together.

He is very fast at his GPCs now, there is no hesitation at all. When the blending does click I am sure he will soon be reading but perhaps I am being impatient I just think after 3 years at school having small group phonics work he should have got the hang of at least oral blending by now and we are in week 5 of this year with nearly 5 weeks of concentrated teaching with me and still he hasn't got it.

I have been teaching phonics to individuals and small groups of SEN and EAL for many years now and this little chap has really puzzled me.

Re: 6 year old non reader

Posted: Tue Oct 05, 2010 10:33 pm
by Debbie Hepplewhite
Maltesers - would you like to email me at and I'll send you a link for some new systematic resources to ring the changes. It might be worth a try just to have some fresh materials.

Re: 6 year old non reader

Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 8:35 pm
by Maltesers
Just over a month has gone by and my little chap is blending :grin: (almost every time)
It was lovely to see his face today during a Literacy lesson where the teacher asked him to read part of the title of the book. He did it! Blended beautifully and said the words.