Question about onset & rime word families in ESL context

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Question about onset & rime word families in ESL context

Post by debbie »

I was just notified about this question via LinkedIn but thought it was an important question considering the prevalence and promotion of 'onset and rime' phonics and the promotion of looking at 'word families' at the expense of 'spelling word banks' where words are spelt with the same letter/s-sound correspondences (graphemes) but don't need to have the same endings:
query: Is teaching word families analytic phonics? vs. Synthetic phonics?

I am an ESL teacher in China.

I understand the use and value to teach word families for Rhyme awareness . . . however, when dealing with ESL students (in particular here in China) . . . I find a purely synthetic approach to be better.

I have needed to adjust the lesson material since Chinese is chiefly a CV language compared to CVC or CCVC or CCVCC etc. in English . . . so I gradually am dealing with CC blends later in a decodable fashion.

The pressure to teach word families is everywhere. Its in all the major publisher's works (but not necessarily the more traditional programs found almost exclusively in conservative publishers in the USA). I know that I have seen Word families taught in the early readers of 150 years ago, but it did not seem to be the major emphasis .. .

Personally, I observe that a purely synthetic approach has been working better in teaching my current grade 2 students. Grade 1 would interfere too much with PinYin. Formal English education does not begin until grade 3. I have found very little negative against word families but some suggestion that it more resembles sight reading as it greatly enlarges upon the normal 74 or so phonograms of English.

see ... d-families as one example that is more polemic in nature (not necessarily supported by formal evidence but thought provoking).

Does anyone know of research? I found a paper which seemed to suggest that the synthetic approach has better results compared to the analytical approach. Where does teaching Word families fit in the spectrum of Analytic phonics vs. Synthetic phonics. I'd be glad for some input. Thank you kindly

Ref: above .. . Riggs instit http://www.childrens-books-and-reading. ... onics.html
Debbie Hepplewhite MBE FRSA sent the following message at 10:10 AM

Onset and rime phonics is not the method to use for phonics provision. I am not surprised you are having greater success with synthetic phonics even in your ESL context.

Onset and rime 'word families' is a very limiting approach - restricting the learners to only the same endings of groups (the word families) of single syllable words on the one hand, but leading to enormous numbers of word families to look at, and not leading to great flexibility of all-through-the-word sounding out and blending for decoding (reading) and all-through-the-spoken-word oral segmenting for encoding (spelling).

Go with your experience and stick with systematic synthetic phonics. I have developed an approach which I call 'two-pronged systematic and incidental phonics' for teaching and learning. This is based on giving learners the rationale of how the English alphabetic code 'works' and its historical roots (a mixture of languages and their spelling systems).

An overview Alphabetic Code Chart is provided for reference from the outset (I provide 'giant' over charts and 'mini' tabletop charts for free), then use a systematic approach to introducing the letter/s-sound correspondences with a body of work from code, to word, to text level material (that is, all 'cumulative' and including plenty of vocabulary enrichment, language comprehension, and building up knowledge of 'spelling word banks' for spelling purposes).

'Spelling word banks' are not the same rationale as 'word families'. They are groups of words spelt with the same letter/s-sound correspondences so they do not necessarily have the same endings and you can include plural words and different verb endings into the group if you like.

Learners need to be aware that English is hard to learn to spell, so there is no hiding from needing to know 'which' words are spelt 'which' way (with which spelling alternatives or pronunciation alternatives).

Synthetic phonics, as opposed to onset and rime phonics, enables great flexibility of applying the blending and segmenting phonics skills for single syllable and multi-syllable words.

The two links below lead to an explanation of 'two-pronged systematic and incidental phonics teaching' and also a 'How to set up and use the core PI resources...' booklet. This latter booklet provides further electronic links with some helpful pdfs of the phonics routines and other features of systematic synthetic phonics for teacher-training.

In fact, I'll include some electronic links with some great free resources both for professional use and learner-use! ... dout-1.pdf

I'm sorry that there is a bit of overlap between the pages of free resources.

Warmest good wishes, Debbie
Debbie Hepplewhite
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