Moon Dogs Phonics Series


The eagerly awaited Moon Dogs Phonics Series for older, struggling readers has just been published by Phonic Books.

Moon Dogs Series Set 1 is a set of 8 books for older ‘catch-up’ pupils who would benefit from starting a phonics series from the very beginning (interest age 8 to 14, reading age Key Stage 1). A series of decodable books that introduce the sounds of the alphabet to older readers. These high quality books have 1 or 2 lines of text to a page to help build confidence in the early stages of reading with phonics.

Moon Dogs Series Set 2 is a set of 8 books that build on the sounds learnt in Set 1 – they have 2 to 3 lines of text to a page to help continue building confidence.

The books are designed to appeal to older reluctant readers with clever, motivating Manga-style illustrations.

Moon Dogs phonics books are now in stock – further details can be found on the website here

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Children are all different, so why not use a mix of approaches to teaching reading?

It is true that the majority of children will learn to read whatever method of teaching is used. The question of whether or not to use a range of strategies is one that causes the most disagreement when the subject of teaching early reading is discussed. Many teachers teach phonics as a main early reading skill, but also encourage children to develop a range of other skills.

The first argument for using a range of strategies can be summed up by the phrase often heard to describe children using phonics alone – that they are ‘barking at print’ (i.e. correctly sounding out words, but deriving no meaning from them). As the point of reading is to understand what has been written, why reduce reading to a technical exercise and impose one strategy to the exclusion of others?

Secondly, there is no ‘one size fits all’. if children are all different, why not just offer them all the methods of teaching reading from the outset, so that if they are one of the very small minority who find learning to read with phonics difficult, then they will pick up words by sight memory and will be able to work out the rest by looking at the pictures and making a good stab at the meaning of them.

On the face of it, these arguments both seem to be based on rational and sensible points of view.

There is a flaw in these arguments however, and that is the problems that can emerge further down the line in a significant minority of children. In the early stages of learning to read, remembering words by sight and guessing from pictures, initial letters and context are all easier and quicker than sounding out and blending the sounds to read the words. These therefore become the default methods and children can go on quite quickly to be independent readers.

It is, however, very sad to come across so many children – often around the age of about seven – who are otherwise very bright and able, but who have literacy problems. This is often because they have become reliant on the other methods and have not developed a strong phonic knowledge to enable them to work out new words.  Even if reading is not perceived to be a problem (by this stage children are usually reading silently and the fact that they be reading many words incorrectly can go unnoticed), poor spelling may be causing concern.

This is therefore the reason that phonics advocates believe strongly that phonics should be used ‘first and fast’ – so that children develop good decoding strategies from the very beginning of learning to read. Once a firm foundation is laid, they can go on to develop higher order skills – comprehension, reading for meaning, and using context to help decide on which spelling alternatives to use.

There are very strong beliefs held by people both for and against using a mix of methods, and the debates are often very heated. This is just one of those arguments that will run and run……

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Dandelion Launchers and Dandelion Readers

Dandelion Launchers and Dandelion Readers are designed to launch children into reading. They introduce new sounds very gradually and provide plenty of opportunity for practising reading the sounds in words.

Dandelion Launchers are ideal for children who are at the very early stages of learning to read and need extra support when blending sounds to read words. Each page has just one line of text with simple CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words to read, enabling children to gain confidence and build self-esteem.

Dandelion Readers follow the same phonic progression as the Launchers, but offer more text to a page as the series progresses. The length of text in the stories increases very gradually to keep pace with the child’s developing reading skills. The Readers go on to cover more complex parts of the English phonic code.

Dandelion Readers Levels 1, 2 and 3 and the Split Vowel series cover the vowel sounds and introduce the concept that the same sound can have alternative spellings:

 

Book

 

Level  1 Level  2 Level  3 Split Vowel Set
1

 

ai ai, ay, a ai, ay, a, a-e, ea a – e
2

 

ee ee, e, ea ee, e, ea, y e – e
3

 

oa oa, o, ow oa, o, ow, oe, o-e i – i
4

 

ur ur, er, ir ur, er, ir, or, ear o- e
5

 

ea ea, e, ai ea’ as, ae, ee or e u – e
6

 

ow ow, ou ow’ as ow or oe All spellings
7

 

oo oo, ew, ue oo, ew, ue, u-e  
8

 

igh igh, i, y igh, I, y, ie, i-e  
9

 

oo oo, oul, u oo’ as in boot or look  
10

 

or or, a, aw or, a, aw, au, al  
         

Dandelion Readers Level 1, 2 and 3 books can be used in two ways:

  • Children can read all ten books in Level 1, which will introduce them to one spelling of each vowel sound. They can then read Level 2, followed by Level 3, which will offer alternative spellings of the sounds learnt in Level 1.
  • Alternatively, children can read Book 1 from Levels 1, 2 and 3, followed by Book 2 in all three levels etc. This will introduce children to alternate spellings for each sound before moving on to the next sound.

The Workbooks that accompany the Launchers and Readers provide fun multisensory activities linked to the stories and characters in the books.

For more information on the sounds covered in the books and discounts available, these books can be found on the website here.

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Alba Series – Phonic books for reluctant readers aged 8 – 12


 

Alba Series is a brand new phonic reading series for girls and boys aged 8 – 12 who are reluctant readers. The series runs parallel to the very successful Totem series, and is designed to appeal to older readers with exciting and motivating stories and illustrations.

Alba Series provides an exciting, fresh start for older pupils that builds up their reading skills from CVC (consonant/vowel/consonant) level through to vowel digraphs (Phases 2-5 of Letters and Sounds). This highly-structured, cumulative series includes 12 books which cover the essential phonics foundations that a ‘catch-up’ reader will need.

Take an adventure with Alba, a tiny hero in a huge world. 

Alba is a smart, empowering heroine who has to use her wit to overcome literally HUGE odds. Alba’s dad is a scientist. A breed of superbugs is destroying all the apple trees in the world and Alba’s dad is working hard to save them. He has the last apple pip left in the world safely at home in his flat. Max, from the lab, sneaks into the flat and tries to steal the pip. Alba escapes with it but Max shrinks her to 10cm tall! She has to get the pip to her dad in the lab and save the apple trees. She will need to dodge Max who is following her. 

Will she succeed in crossing the city and getting the pip safely to Dad? Will she ever be a normal size again?

The  books include the essential phonic foundations that a ‘catch up’ reader will need.

Features of the series:

  • clear phonic focus in each book
  • 3-4 lines of text for reluctant readers
  • cream backgfound to make text reader friendly
  • dyslexia-friendly font
  • strong female character
  • exciting and motivating story and illustrations
  • multi-syllabic words chunked for the reader
  • comprehensive workbook complements the series

These exciting new books can be found on the website here.

 

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trugs – Teach Reading Using GameS

Every so often a fantastic resource comes along that just has to be added to the website. I had read good comments about trugs card games from teachers and literacy specialists, so when I had a chance to see the games last week for myself, the decision was easy.

Trugs games were developed by Joanna Jeffery, a hiqhly qualified teacher and literacy expert.

The synthetic phonics structure has been put into 15 stages and Guess itMatch it and Take it card games are played at each stage to make reading practise easy and fun . Each stage builds on the one before, making it easy to follow. The best thing is that parents and children can forget about phonics stages and jargon and just enjoy playing simple traditional card games, so this great resource enables you to help your child through the process of learning to read without needing any training!

Readers of all ages, not just those with dyslexia, can improve their reading by playing trugs.

There are 3 boxes for use by parents at home or by tutors on a 1:1 basis and 3 boxes for use in schools. The great thing is that virtually all the words are different in the home and school boxes so the range of words available to read is vastly increased. There are also two boxes of ‘tricky words’ card games for helping children practise the high frequency words that they need to read early on.

If you have been searching for a simple, effective, fun and quick game to play to boost reading ability, then trugs games are the answer!

For more details of these games, you can find them on the website here

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Focus on Phonics Pinterest

Focus on Phonics now has a ‘Pinterest‘ page!

Pinterest is a pinboard-style photo sharing website that enables you to find and pin images from the web. You can create ‘boards’ to organise your pictures and you can link it to sites such as Twitter and Facebook to share pictures with others.

Our Pinterest page includes ideas for phonics activities and useful resource websites – hopefully it will grow over time into a useful phonics information area.

Click here to visit our Focus on Phonics Pinterest page

 

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Magic Belt Series – Phonic Books

We have just added the latest series of Phonic Books to the website. The ‘Magic Belt’ is a series of 12 books for older pupils who would benefit from starting a phonics programme from the very beginning, providing a prequel to the very popular ‘Totem’ series.

Starting at CVC word level, it progresses in small steps to CVCC, CCVC and CCVCC word levels and then introduces one consonant digraph at a time (ch, sh, th, ck, ng, wh, qu), allowing practice and consolidation at each level.

A fantastic reading resource for older beginner readers – more details can be found on the website here .

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Why ‘good’ readers might have performed poorly on the Year 1 Phonics Check

If threads on Mumsnet and TES are anything to go by, there appear to have been significant numbers of children with above average reading ability who did not reach the required standard on the phonics check (correctly reading 32 out of a possible 40 words).

So should parents be concerned if their child did not perform in the check as well as they were expected to, based on their current reading levels?

One of the aspects of the check that has caused a lot of debate has been the use of ‘pseudo’ or ‘alien’ words.

It appears that some able readers could decode the words but got confused when it was a word they’d never heard of. If they did not recognise it as a ‘real’ word, they changed it to something recognisable. Even if they had decoded the word correctly (e.g. ‘strom’) but then changed it to a real word (‘storm’), their final answer had to be taken and teachers were not allowed to give any help with this.

Some children will have been used to reading these pseudo words prior to the test (some phonics schemes routinely use them) and all children should have been made aware exactly which words in the test were real and which were not – maybe some teachers administering the check did not make this clear enough.

Setting this issue aside, there are more important reasons for a lower than expected performance.

  • Firstly if the child has poor phonic decoding skills and is reliant on whole word and context strategies, they would probably not have performed well on the check. This can lead to literacy problems later on, so it is useful to have it highlighted so it does not lead to future difficulties.
  • Secondly, if the child is not reading accurately, they may be flying through books, getting the general gist of the text but missing or guessing words as they go along. This may not present itself as a problem – particularly if the child reads silently – but as the texts get more challenging in Key Stage 2, this can become a problem. The habit of glossing over words is quite difficult to break once it has become entrenched, so again it is useful to highlight the problem of inaccurate reading now.

If a child is strong at writing and spelling, poor performance on the phonics reading check may be no real cause for concern. If a child has performed poorly on the check and their writing ability is not matched to perceived reading ability, it is likely that the check has highlighted a problem that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. This will enable the school to provide additional phonics support in the coming year.

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English National Curriculum – Draft Proposals

Michael Gove has announced draft proposals for the English National Curriculum (Key Stage 1 and 2) that will be introduced to primary schools in September 2014.

The main aims of the new curriculum are to raise standards in English, whilst at the same time getting children reading for enjoyment.

There has been a lot of anti-phonics press lately, particularly leading up to the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check. Much of this is because of the emphasis being placed on decoding words rather than on encouraging reading for meaning and reading for pleasure.

The draft curriculum has obviously been designed with these criticisms firmly in mind. There is a strong emphasis on phonics, but also on other reading skills. It explicitly states that different kinds of teaching are needed for word reading and for comprehension.

I hope that this will be well received. Something drastic needs to be done to raise the reading standards in this country. It is shocking that so many children are still leaving primary school unable to access the curriculum due to poor reading skills. It is also sad that there is so much vitriol whenever the subject of reading and phonics is discussed by those in favour and those against placing undue importance on it.

If the new curriculum can reduce the arguing and achieve what it is setting out to do, then the future could be brighter for many more young readers.

Detailed information has now been published in the national curriculum consultation document published February 2013  – see here

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Year 1 Phonics Check – revisited

There has been an enormous amount of interest over the past few weeks from parents looking for information on the Phonics Screening Check (test).

I have to admit to actually turning off the paid Google ad for this due to scarily high click-through rates!

The main thing to remember about the check is that the sole aim is to measure your child’s competence in decoding words – saying the sounds from left to right through the word and blending the sounds to hear the whole word.

During Reception and Year 1, your child will have been taught the basic code of the English language and common spellings of the advanced alphabetic code. If you want a detailed summary of this, see The English Alphabet Code (Author – Debbie Hepplewhite).

If your child already reads well, they will still take the test. It will check whether they are using their phonic knowledge to read words, or have learnt lots of words from memory and now have a good sight vocabulary. That is why the nonsense (or alien / fake) words are included – to make sure children actually sound out all through the word to read it. The test will spot any gaps in phonic knowledge and where additional support might be required.

There is already a lot of testing in schools, but despite this, a large number of children are still leaving primary school unable to read properly. Until now, there has not been a test for the very skill that underpins all the other reading skills such as reading fluency, reading with expression or reading comprehension. These are vital skills, and highly important so your child understands what they have read, but your child needs to learn how to actually read (decode) words first.You can only understand what you have read if you can read it in the first place.

This latest test will hopefully pick up any problems at a very early stage. All good schools will have been doing a routine phonics check, but until now it has not been compulsory.

At the end of the day, the results will show if a school is teaching children the basic skills they need to read. Can’t really argue with that can you……….?

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