Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Tots on a Tuesday {Phonics vs Sight Reading}

I am super excited.

Yes, SUPER excited.

It truly doesn't take much, so don't you go getting too excited.

When I switched from using ACE as our main school curriculum, I had to decide which approach I wanted to take for teaching my subsequent children to read.  I researched it, and went with the same approach I was familiar with - phonics.  Albeit, the system I went with, Jolly Phonics, taught the phonics in a different order to what we had done previously, it still used phonics.  I was already having to face lots of new things, and staying with phonics seemed "safe".  I have loved Jolly Phonics, and I highly recommend it for British educators - it's relatively inexpensive, colourful, and BRITISH.  Yes, correct spelling, and MOSTLY correct pronunciation. (Why "mostly"?  It's ENGLISH..... Not Scottish..... )

However, I have been noticing that Abi seems to be learning some words by just reading them in her reading books, without sounding them out.  At the same time, I have noticed that Elijah has already taken a self-initiated interest in learning to write and read.  He seems to have a good memory for recognising letters, with very little instruction (he learnt to write his name from tracing it ONCE in a card... first of my children to do such a thing!). I got to wondering if he could learnt to read in a similar way.

If you are going to teach reading in this way, I *KNEW* that the Ladybird Key Words reading scheme was a tried and tested method.  They use "High Frequency" words, and the child learns to read based on those.  Did you know, 12 Key Words make up a 1/4 of those we read and write? 100 make up HALF of those we red and write, and around 300 words are 3/4 of what we read!!! Yes, that few words are the "Key words" of our reading experience.

This reading scheme involves introducing words to the child, in each book, and repeating them in various ways - switching the sentence structure around  a little, and adding in new words.  In book 1a, there are 16 new words, and they are repeated an average of 10 times each. In level  a and b there is progressively more complexity and variety in how these words are used, and book c focuses on writing, with activities for the child to copy out in an exercise book.

It's quite different to what I have used previously, but I am going to try doing it with Elijah and Abi together.  It will be great practice for "tricky words" used in Jolly Phonics, and a good "trial" to see how Elijah gets on.  I plan to also use the Reading Eggs apps, on the iPad, with Elijah, so he is concurrently learning all the letter names and sounds, for the words you can sound out phonetically.
This is a tried and tested reading scheme that has been on the go for YEARS! Decades, even!  I am hoping that means it could be successful for us, or at least be a great addition to our literacy lessons.

It's funny, it's taken me all these years to get more "adventurous" in how I do things!

You have to live a little, right?

And, I'm sure Elijah won't mind me using him as a guinea pig in a reading trial.....

I love that home educating allows the flexibility to find things that suit your individual child's needs.  And, which home educator doesn't need more books?? She says, having carefully researched, and purchased, a new bookcase for her home, only today....

So, how did you teach your children to read? What methods did you find to be successful, and which ones were  a flop?  Do you use the same for all of your children, or did you switch about, from child to child?  Please link up your posts about teaching children to read, or other literacy resources you find helpful.  If you don't blog, please share in the comments below! I love to her from my readers, and your experience may be just what someone else needs to hear, to encourage them.

IF you link up, please grab my "Tots on a Tuesday" button, from the side bar, and pop it in your post. Thank  you muchly.


  1. When I saw your FB post, I immediately said to myself, "Both!" Now that I have read your blog post, I see that great minds think alike. ;) I used phonics with my children, but I also encouraged recognizing words in a way that is probably akin to sight reading. We didn't have a sight reading program per se, but we read constantly, and I encouraged them to remember what various words look like. I miss those days with my children, and I love reading about your smart approaches to teaching yours.

    1. Such kind words, but I am not very smart! lol Just trying to do my best. I love seeing how they all learn differently, though. It fascinates me.

  2. I use both here as well! I started out with Jolly Phonics with my son. He remembered the sounds well, but blending was hard work for him. He's a very transparent boy- if something is working his brain hard, the little yawns come very quickly! I added in the Ladybird Key Words books and it's seemed to boost his confidence in his reading, probably because he has fewer words to sound out. At the moment, we alternate doing phonics work (sometimes just words, sometimes phonics books) with reading the Key Word books.