Counting sounds in words.

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Goodenough
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Counting sounds in words.

Post by Goodenough » Fri Oct 10, 2008 9:06 pm

Maybe this question should be in the practical posts forum. I'll repost if I get no replies!
I seem to have only recently noticed that several synthetic phonic programmes suggest/insist that children should count the sounds in a word before writing the word. This seems to be of the form "Write 'cat'" Child counts to three, writes _ _ _, then writes c a t. I have never really done this as I don't see how you can count sounds without actually saying them so in my classes we tend to do "Write 'cat'" Child says c, a, t, and then writes c a t.
Can someone tell me if it is possible to count sounds in a word without actually identifying the sounds - (by noticing when your mouth changes shape I have read somewhere). If it is possible is it desirable/necessary? I don't seem to be able to do it myself with any ease but perhaps this is because I know the sounds in the word and it would work for beginners. I did try to get some children to try it as an experiment but as far as I could tell they were counting the sounds by saying them quietly to themselves and the beginners who couldn't do this yet couldn't count the sounds either. This has started to bug me so I would appreciate some insights and advice please.

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Oct 11, 2008 12:13 am

I don't think you should 'count' the sounds as in "one, two, three" - but you should 'count' the sounds as in put up thumb and fingers of the left hand, palm facing, whilst 'saying' the actual sounds, "/k/ /a/ /t/".

In this way you have both said the sounds (segmenting orally) and you have tallied how many sounds there are.

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maizie
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Post by maizie » Sat Oct 11, 2008 1:07 am

As it is just about automatic to 'say' the sounds as you count them, I see no useful purpose in trying to count them 'silently'.

Knowing the 'number' of sounds is, in itself, surely quite useless. The vital information needed for spelling is the sounds themselves. Tallying them on the fingers, as Debbie describes, I find useful for 'forcing' children to segment (as mine aren't used to spelling that way) and for checking that words have been correctly segmented; but it is not the number of sounds that is the focus, it is checking that they have all been identified prior to spelling the word. And, rechecking that they have all been written down after the child has spelled the word. I'd kind of view the fingers as a memory joggers for each sound.

(sorry, that sounds a bit confused; I hope you understand what I mean!)

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Sat Oct 11, 2008 9:17 am

I agree with Maizie that knowing the number os sounds in itself is fairly useless. There's probably some value in it in the very early stages when one wants beginners to get a firm idea of one-to-one correspondence in simple two- and three-letter words, and maybe also when they get to digraphs and need to grasp that the number of letters in a word may not be the same as the number of sounds. Once they have grasped this general principle, it's more important, for spelling, that they identify the first sound, saying it aloud or mentally, and write down a grapheme for it, then identify the next sound and write down a grapheme for it and so on through the word. At this point, keeping track of how many sounds there are is not important.

Jenny C.

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Oct 11, 2008 10:06 am

Many children when they write, leave out letters or get them in the wrong order. They get them in the wrong order particularly when they are trying to recall which letters are in the word, but they don't have an automatic oral segmenting skill. The 'Look, cover, write, check' approach also leads to letters being regurgitated in muddled orders and you can tell which children do not have an automatic segmenting skill from the way that they spell.

The 'sound-dashes' approach is particularly important for the middle-to-lower group of children in terms of a more natural ability to spell. Without this approach they can become very muddled indeed - and what the method is endeavouring to promote is the oral-segmenting skill becoming an essential ingredient of the entire spelling process.

You have given me much food for thought, Goodenough, with your interesting question as I know that it is my programme that you are trialling.

I am going to go back to my guidance and look to see whether I have written it ambiguously. My intention was never for learners to literally count "one, two, three" and yet this is clearly what you have 'understood' from my instructions.

I am so glad that you raised this.

I would have been very happy if you had raised it on the PI message forum and you could have raised it in exactly the same terminlogy (that is, it "bugs" you) because I aim for an entirely transparent message forum with honest feedback!

The beauty of an online resource (available to download online) is that it is readily changeable - much more so than hard copy resources.

Thank you! ;-) :grin:

Judy
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Post by Judy » Sat Oct 11, 2008 11:15 am

I find it useful for my 'strugglers' to actually count the number of sounds in a word, particularly a longish one or one containing a consonant cluster - eg 'spray'. They then write the same number of dashes on a whiteboard (or scrap paper), prior to making sure they write a grapheme for each phoneme they counted.

So many of these children have very weak working memories and get lost after the first few sounds are recorded, particularly if it is a word they don't use frequently. Also, if they don't normally speak very clearly, which is often the case, the only way to make sense of a word like 'hospital' - often pronounced something like 'hostle' - is for us to say the word clearly together, counting the sounds on our fingers and then transfer this to the whiteboard, as above.

For the children I work with, spelling is far more difficult than reading but actually counting the 'sounds' in a word is one of the strategies that really helps them. I also think it helps them to understand that our written language is a code for our spoken language - plus, they enjoy doing it! :lol:

Goodenough
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Post by Goodenough » Sun Oct 12, 2008 4:44 pm

Thank you everyone for your replies. I obviously misunderstood what people meant by counting sounds. The advice to have children hold up a finger for each sound as they say it and then draw a line for each sound before writing them sounds good and I will try that with my beginners and maybe with strugglers specifically for spelling.
Debbie, I am using material from your programme and intend to make more use of it but the question was not aimed specifically at you and certainly wasn't intended as a criticism. I have come across this advice several times. I think it might even be in Dianne McGuinness's "Why children can't read?" but I'm not sure where.

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:50 pm

I am just giving notification that I have received Goodenough's permission to link to this thread via the Phonics International message forum as I think it is an important topic to discuss.

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