Using unfamiliar real words for decoding practice

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Susan Godsland

Using unfamiliar real words for decoding practice

Post by Susan Godsland »

Elizabeth wrote in response to this blog post quote: ... ay/4643450 .
This suggestion that schools should have a ‘balance’ of pseudo and real words in their activities beggars belief and seems to reflect a complete lack of understanding of the point of the inclusion of pseudo-words within the check.

Pseudo-words are included in the Phonics Screening Check because they provide a clear and unambiguous picture of children’s decoding skills. If a child can decode one of these pseudo-words it shows that a child is able to apply phonic knowledge and the skill of decoding a word all the way through, from left to right. The decoding of a pseudo-word cannot be explained away as a word that the child happened to recognise or one that could be guessed from just some of its letters.

Children should be learning phonics in order to be able to decode with confidence any unknown word that they come across – whether the child has previously met that word or not, whether the child knows the meaning of that word or not and, for that matter, whether that word appears in any dictionary or not (e.g. brillig, Gruffalo, muggle, heffalump…).

It follows that the use of pseudo words can be reserved for assessment purposes and that children do not need to practise blending and segmenting pseudo words at all – least of all do they need Medway’s recommendation of a ‘balance’ between real and pseudo words
''Volunteer wrote:
Perhaps it would be better if teachers browsed through a very comprehensive dictionary to find real words for decoding practice - ones that young children are highly unlikely to have experienced in either speech or reading.
pseudo words should not really have a place in the initial teaching of reading except for assessment purposes.
I agree strongly with all of this and say so in my training - except that you don't need a very comprehensive dictionary to find suitable words. It is difficult to think of them on the spur of the moment when the children are in front of you, so I suggest to teachers that they think before every phonics lesson of one real word that is likely to be unfamiliar to the children and that uses the phoneme-grapheme correspondence they are practising in that lesson.

Here are some suitable words for practising reading words that use the phoneme-grapheme correspondences in Section 2 of the Phonics Check:

newt scribe farthing sphinx paw ploy tar ail glide joist prime glade void adorn croak gloat shoal shorn theme thorax bait twine plight mope probe hark yarn larva moat curd lurch spurn bane dale stoat hake abode