Acorn to Tree LLC was created by NYS certified teacher and mother Patrice Badami.
Patrice Badami has a Masters in Elementary Education and Special Education. She has advocated for families of special needs children as well as for her own children with special needs.
Acorn to Tree Learn and Grow was created to help all children and their families have access to free educational and recreational resources.
Patrice Badami 0:00
Okay. Hi, this is Patrice Badami, with Acorn to tree family Podcast. Today I have a leading phonics consultant. And that’s AMI MC MC. I’m sorry, I had to give you the pronunciation once again, not Johansson. That was I said, you know, I had it and then I didn’t have I lost it. Okay, so McElhatton, and that’s Amy, and she’s going to be discussing phonics with us today. So, good morning, glad you’re with us. I think you’re in England. Are you in England?
Amy McElhatton 0:29
Patrice Badami 0:54
Phonics is not a scheme for teaching reading as some people think it is. Phonics is actually the way our alphabetic code works. So it’s the correspondence between what the letters look like on the page and what they sound like. When children learn to read, they learn the alphabetic code, and the shorthand for that is phonics.
Amy McElhatton 1:19
Okay, great. Now and within phonics, there are certain terms such as segmenting, blending, and decoding. Oh, could you tell us a little bit about those things?
Patrice Badami 1:29
Yeah, these are all jargon. So they sound scarier than they are. Segmenting is the process of breaking a word down into its sounds. Blending is the process of putting it back together again. A digraph is where two letters make one sound. And a try graph is where three letters make one sound.
Amy McElhatton 1:52
Okay, great. Um, just because people might not know these terms, and I want people who listen to the podcast, the families, I want them to know everything about these topics, so they can properly, you know, advocate for their children if they need to get certain things, services. So here’s a question. So I didn’t get phonics. And supposedly people will say, I’m fine, per se. Can you explain why that might not be true?
Patrice Badami 2:21
Yeah, so there’s a, there’s a historical thought that sight reading is enough of a process for learning to read. So sight reading is basically where we look at a word and somebody tells us what that word is enough times for us to memorize the shape and the look of the word by sight. So you’re essentially not using your phonics, your alphabetic code to read that word, you’re just learning what that word looks like by sight. The trouble with learning by sight is that although it can take you far, to a certain extent, far enough with learning to read, you then will hit a brick wall. And this happens when children are at about age seven. So often parents will say, Well, my kids learned to read by sight, they’re six years old, they’re fine. But actually, what they often find is maybe a year later, when the words become more complex, and children really need to rely on actually knowing how to break that word down. That’s when they come to a stumbling block. So sight reading takes you far enough. And bond Nicks is what will take you beyond that sort of age seven stumbling block, that often we find,
Amy McElhatton 3:34
that actually makes a lot of sense, because I’m thinking in terms of, if the child doesn’t understand the sounds of the different letters and pieces of the words, they’re not going to be able to extend it when they start having the more like, for example, you know, jump in, they’ll have the jump with the NG, they’re not going to really understand how to pronounce it. I guess that makes a lot of sense.
Patrice Badami 3:58
And the thing is that, you know, children, they need to know the alphabetic code to then be able to decode more and more complex words. And if they haven’t gotten that alphabetic code, they’re really relying on an adult to be sat with them at all times, telling them what those new words are, so that it doesn’t encourage independent reading, if they’re starting. And they need adults really present to help them to read any words that they haven’t seen before.
Amy McElhatton 4:25
That makes sense. They need to know how to break these things down. The thing is that another thing is going to need to be understood, like being able to hear something. So that’s the auditory part of it. Visually, if you’re looking at a word, that’s the visual component, but to have the reinforcement of the auditory piece by doing the phonics part, it’s going to make it even more solidified in their brain. Makes sense to me. You know,
Patrice Badami 4:50
that’s it. That’s it. Yeah.
Amy McElhatton 4:51
Can I try and learn to read when they have dyslexia? How does dyslexia know, how does that contribute? Due to Onyx issues or how Polish could help them actually,
Patrice Badami 5:04
that’s really interesting. So children with dyslexia really benefit from phonics because it is systematic and it’s structured. What I often find with the children I’ve worked with is, if they have got dyslexic tendencies from early on, if they’ve had some really good structured phonics teaching from somebody who really understands what that child needs, those dyslexic dyslexic tendencies actually might not come out because actually, they’ve they’re learning to read and to keep up with their peers, and they’ve got the tools that they need to learn to read. I think it’s only when it’s left, and maybe they’re taught by somebody who can’t understand how to really help them get through those stumbling blocks, that then it manifests itself in what we know is dyslexia. So actually, the dyslexic children that I’ve worked with, although they do have those tendencies there, if they have learned phonics really securely from the beginning, actually, it shouldn’t come out as an issue later on, they should be okay. Just with that structured phonics that they’re having. And it might be that we need to teach them one to one, or it might be that we need to break it down into smaller steps more than we need to change it or adapt it in that way. But there’s no need to change the way that we teach them to learn to read, because no matter what, what issue or need, you might have, actually, the brain learns to read in much the same way.
Amy McElhatton 6:34
That’s interesting. Right? So because I was just gonna say if, if they have that piece with the phonics that that foundation that will give them the competence to know their sounds, I know the sounds and I can move forward. Yeah. And they can start to sound things out. That sounds like it’s really making sense to me to apply it to my daughter, because my daughter was born 10 weeks early. So she has developmental issues, and she loves to read. And we did this 1000 Books Before Kindergarten when she was like four, we did it way before. So she wants that independence. And she wants to say I can do it myself. That makes sense. Okay, so what are you? This is something I want to do with the phonemes and graphemes. Can you explain the difference between those? Yeah,
Patrice Badami 7:19
so this is another sort of jargon term. So the phoneme is the sound we hear and it’s the smallest unit of sound we hear in a word. So if you think about the word cat, it has three phonemes. And they are the smallest units of sound we can hear in that word. The grapheme is the sound written down. So what the sound that you’re hearing looks like on the page. So for example, the sound we write with the letter C, the sound we write with the letter A, and the sound we write with the letter T. So it’s the visual representation of the phoneme.
Amy McElhatton 7:58
Right? Right. Okay. Sometimes though, I want to ask you, because I was watching something online where she was having them spell out a word, and it had the sound at the end. And the child wrote a que, but she didn’t jump on that, even though it was supposed to be a C, she explained, and then she this whole silence II thing, where they need to understand that the Silent E, how that works as well with when you’re creating the words like t, what that does. And so that was interesting. Yeah, um, so
Patrice Badami 8:31
yeah, with the Silent E, I’ll just jump on that point there. So the E on the end, for example, on the word tape, we wouldn’t say it silent because it’s helping this sound to change to an A, because you’re on the end that would say tap and you’d say is a short vowel. But the E on the end actually is a digraph, even though they’ve been split, which gets quite confusing. So the app is changing into a with that E on the end. So rather than it being a magic E or A Silent E, it actually is part of the digraph. A split e however, it’s
Amy McElhatton 9:10
like making the so it’s one sound created from the E. So using the Silent E term is maybe archaic. So it’s more of a helper, it’s creating a different sound. So it’s a combination centered.
Patrice Badami 9:23
Okay. Nowadays, we call it a split digraph. So it’s a digraph. But it’s been split and there’s another letter in between, okay.
Amy McElhatton 9:33
Um, can children who don’t speak English learn to read using products?
Patrice Badami 9:37
Yeah, absolutely. So there’s no reason why a child who has English as an additional language cannot learn to read using phonics. The schools I work in have the majority of children with English as an additional language and they’re learning to read with phonics perfectly fine, as well as or if not better than some of their peers. So there’s no reason why No, yeah, in
Amy McElhatton 10:01
a way, it’s almost like it’s introducing it in a different way, and possibly a more productive way that will be more or less and more lasting, and be a stronger foundation. So that’s a good thing to know. Also, can children who let them know that they don’t want to ask you this? When Should my child spell correctly? What? When does that come in?
Patrice Badami 10:22
Yeah, so spelling and reading clearly would come hand in hand, because we’re teaching the sounds, we’re teaching the children how to read those sounds in words. And at the same time, any good phonics program, we’ll also be teaching them how to spell those sounds in words, as well. So there’ll be writing and reading the same words that we were teaching that they come hand in hand very early on. What we do see through, is sometimes when a child has learned a particular grapheme, for example, if you think of the double E and the word green, so good, or E, the double E, make an e sound, they would maybe write that in the word dream, because they don’t know EA yet. So it might be that they haven’t learned the alternative version of the grapheme. And there are plenty of alternatives in the English language, because it is a complex code. But actually, if they’ve only learned one version, that’s all we can expect them to know. They don’t know the other version yet, so they can’t write it. So in that sense, I’d allow that spelling of dream if they’d spelt it d r, e m, because that’s the only e they know, I’d say, that’s fine. And I wouldn’t correct that at that point. However, once a child knows all of the alternative graphemes. And that would happen, when a child is sort of six, seven years old, we then start to look at correcting it and saying, Oh, hey, in this word, if the e sound doesn’t look like that it looks like this instead. But it’s only when a child sees the word over and over that they start to get a visual memory of which grapheme to use. And sometimes there’s a rule, maybe if it’s on the end of a word, it’s more likely to be this graphic than that one. But actually, they need to see the words over and over to get a visual memory of what it looks like for spelling. So we can expect children to start to make a correct spelling choice when they are about seven years old. And we’d start to look at correcting that at about that time, right.
Amy McElhatton 12:19
And then words like two, two and two, so to TW o t o, so some things are so there is some, you know, parts of the language when they’re learning that they will have to have some sight but having the foundation for the most part, there are going to be exceptions, but for the most part, it is something where by using phonics, they’ll be able to look through and we’ll be able to move forward with learning, you know, words of writing and reading but learn the exceptions as well just have to get that first part in. So letter sounds or letter names. That’s something on
Patrice Badami 12:57
always letter sounds at the beginning of learning to read letter names are actually not very helpful for learning to read. Because if we’re saying our letter names, it sounds nothing like the word. So if the child is sounding out the word dog, they would be saying do gooder. And those are the letter sounds and then that clearly blends together to read dog. Whereas if they’re saying D O G, it doesn’t sound like Exactly. You know, we would need to teach at some point the letter names because of course, they need to know that as well. But actually, it’s not helpful for reading. So I would always encourage parents to avoid touching letter names until they really got their foundations of their letter sounds.
Amy McElhatton 12:37
Right. So for example, if you have things where they’re using flashcards or laminated letters, and so you would hold up the A and go, you would say A and that happens to be that they sound like it’s the letter name as well. But B, you would go exactly that way. That’s a great way.
Patrice Badami 13:55
Yeah, you are always saying the letter sounds and not the letter names. And sometimes people think we should teach it side by side and say, Well, this is the letter A, and it makes the sound ah, but actually, that then can confuse children. So we would just say this is and just have the letter sound and the letter name,
Amy McElhatton 14:13
because that’s not something that I have known. And I would have tried that if I had known that I did a app. I didn’t know. So if you’re introducing your child to the letters, try to do it where you’re introducing the sound of the letter, because then it’ll make it more fluid later when they’re learning. They’re learning more detail. Phonics. Yeah. Now my child can read but not right.
Patrice Badami 14:36
Okay, so, writing always follows reading. I mean, it there’s a couple of exceptions. But really, when you think about the skills needed for writing, it’s a lot harder than reading. When we’re reading we need to recognize the letters we’ve been taught and the sound those letters make, and then we blend the word together. But for writing, we need to segment the word into its sounds, then we need to think about what those sounds look like the grapheme the visual representation of both sounds, but then we need to figure out how to hold a pencil and how to control it and how to get the formation of that letter, and how to write the sounds next to one another. So when a child early on is learning to read and write, you know, writing well will follow the reading. And I know that with my own son who’s three, he knows all of his sounds, he can blend, but there’s no way that he can write them all yet, and that he can’t form them properly. So writing will come after, I think the only thing we can do is just help them by helping them to segment the word. So they’re wanting to spell the word dog, finding out the sounds in that word. So saying, Okay, we need to do good, and then helping them to write those sounds down, and helping them with their formation. Because actually, if we have incorrect information, we then do a lot of work on trying to undo that later on. So we’re right now when we first learned to read, we’re kind of looking at trying to get those letters formed correctly at the same time, and that they will need some support with that if they if they’re struggling,
Amy McElhatton 16:08
right, I was just gonna say, sense with my daughter, she can see that she can see things and she knows what she needs to write, sometimes having dyslexia, she will invert the letters, though. But if I show her a page, where there’s a whole bunch of BS, she’ll know which ones are incorrect. It’s just there’s a peace between the brain and the hand, and the fine motor skills, and the processing skills to write down actual, but then just keep prompting them. Keep prompting them a
Patrice Badami 16:37
visual card there for her, you know, if we know that she’s going to struggle to write that letter, having some sort of visual so that she can refer to it. And the children I work with always, you know, lots of them have something on their desks that shows them all of those letters so that when they get to write the letter D, they’re looking to find which way round it goes, you know, so they’re not going to get it incorrect. And then we’re encouraging that success because they get it right the first time rather than having to correct it.
Amy McElhatton 17:04
Yeah. And I have that next door dance. So let me ask you this. How do I help my child read a word?
Patrice Badami 17:14
So help them to break this word down into its sounds, if the word has got a digraph in it. So if one of the sounds is two letters, making one sound, look at the digraph first, spot that first and then help them to sound out the word from the beginning and blend it together. If they’re reading, for example, the word fish, you might get them to spot the sound first, then we go back to the beginning, we sound it out. Blend together, fish. If a child can’t blend, you know you would do some oral blending first, which is where we do some sound blending, just listening out to hear those sounds and blending into words. So you can help them with their blending if they can’t do that. But spotting the digraph first before they start reading the Word is a really good tip.
Amy McElhatton 18:06
Great first. Okay, great. Um, my child doesn’t understand what they’re reading about. Is that okay?
Patrice Badami 18:16
If you’ve got a young child who’s first learning to read, of course, that’s okay. Because their brain is full of decoding. And their brain is full of working out what those sounds say. blending it together and reading the whole word. So actually, we have to do a bit of comprehension for them on their behalf when they’re first learning to read. When a child can read at about 100 words a minute, that’s when comprehension really kicks in, because they’ve got enough speed of reading, to start to grasp and hold on to what they’re reading. But if they’re reading it slower than 100 words a minute, actually, there’s very little comprehension that will be happening at that moment. So they will understand anything, we need to actually help them to get quicker at every day and speedier so that then they can start to understand what they’re reading after. I actually just did a real today, which I’ll put on Instagram tomorrow, about giving the child a little synopsis of what they’re about to read. So they sort of feel motivated and get that understanding of oh, actually what I am reading does make some sense, but they might not be understanding that yet whilst they’re reading it and that is okay in those early stages of learning to read.
Patrice Badami 19:30
Right. Okay. What are the key stages of learning to read?
Amy McElhatton 19:37
So, we would start off with our single letter sounds, so do etc. Then we need to learn how to blend those sounds into words. So to read do or go, Doc. After that, we start learning the initial digraphs like in the word fish or quit or chin, for example. So we start to learn those digraphs and then be able to read those in words. After that, we then need to learn to read for sound words. So we’re reading words like cat and dog, first of all, but then for some words get quite a bit harder. Excuse me. So, for example, with a word like, ran, they’re having to blend two consonants together. And that then sometimes can be a challenge as well. So once they can read three sound words, and they’ve got those first digraphs, they can read those in words, we then look at trying to blend those consonants like good, or at Gran, and do or drip those four sound words. Once we’ve got those, we start to move on to the vowel digraphs. Like the A in play, or the E in green, or the I in might, for example, so we then start to learn the vowel digraphs, and how to read those in words. And then finally, we need to learn the alternative vowel digraphs. So for example, we haven’t just got a is in play, we’ve also got the split a is in cake or a isn’t snail and we have to learn all of those alternatives. And then to read those in words.
Patrice Badami 21:22
Okay, so like, for example, when you say I just want to make sure I understand and maybe reinforced when you say the vowel digraphs. You said the word Gray, and might think you said, and then cake play and snail. So that’s where it’s a I so the for that would be the vowel digraph or the two vowels together making a separate sound. So two vowels together making different sounds okay?
Amy McElhatton 21:49
But it might now’s together so it’s a vowel digraph because it’s a vowel sound, but you might have a y making the sound a like in play. Or you might have a split e making the sound a locking cake, or you might have a I making the sound a liking snail. They all make the sound but they look different. We learn one of them first and then we learn the alternatives afterwards.
Patrice Badami 22:15
Yeah, I was gonna say something that she’s being told in school or we have these are the things that she’s having her work on: SNAP words, sight words. So snap words sight words, and they’re also having a look at word families. Now this is, if you will, the old school way of it, how does that compare? With what the way you approach this type of
Amy McElhatton 22:41
I see, I’m assuming here that snap words are just words she needs to learn to read at speed.
Patrice Badami 22:47
That would be a snap that they need to know automatically. In other words, metros, just know that I am that type of person. Okay.
Amy McElhatton 22:57
So I would avoid this process because actually, she can use her sounds for a word like and she can use her sounds for a word like then, you know, they’re common words, of course, and she will learn to read them at a glance. But she doesn’t need to learn them by sight because she can use her sounds. Yeah, there are some words though. We call them tricky words normally here, where we do have to learn them by sight because they have a really infrequent grapheme in them. For example, the word said is a tricky word. Because air is being made with the letters A i in the word said, and that is not a common graphic. And I don’t actually know any other words where I make this error, it’s just a mad word. So actually, that one does need to be learned by sight. So I would encourage any of those tricky words where you can’t easily sound it out because it has a very infrequent Rafi minute, but it’s the high frequency word, we see it a lot. Yes, those need to be learned quickly, you know, snap words or sight words or whatever we want to call them. However, words that we can use our phonics for then wish those sorts of words. Actually she can use her phonics, she doesn’t think this is very
Patrice Badami 24:16
helpful. This is really helpful for me personally, because I agree with that. Because there are not seven or eight tricky words or sight words, like snap words, there’s around 36 And that’s just kindergarten and then they do it. So they’re doing more of a memorization, you know, like holding up the flashcards and I don’t think that’s getting it’s not penetrated in. So what I’ve been doing is I’ve been doing a sensory based program at home to reinforce in addition to phonics, phonics, plus Orton Gillingham, that’s what I’m doing at home to help her get past where she is. She’s struggling a little bit. So that makes a lot more sense to me to do it that way. Okay. Great. Um, Another thing is that I noticed that these are all questions, the questions I’ve been discussing are ones that you can find on Amy’s. Instagram, I just want to have a point of reference. cursive writing is important.
Amy McElhatton 25:15
So cursive writing, otherwise known as joined up writing is something that some schools would like to teach from early on. So what you would say is kindergarten, sort of age four, five onwards. cursive writing is very tough for a very young child who’s learning to form their letters, because not only are they learning to form the letters correctly anyway, but they then have to try to put a lead into the letter, and then a lead out of the letter. So into the next letter, and what you then often find is a child forming a letter beautifully, but then putting a little stick at the beginning a stick at the end to show the join in the join out. So they haven’t learned to form it correctly at all. Because actually, they’re just doing it so that it looks like they’re supposed to. When a child has learned to form the letters correctly, without any cursive joining a tool, they naturally will start to join anyway. But they need to be able to write those letters speedily and with the correct formation before they can actually join them up anyway. So in my opinion, we wouldn’t touch cursive writing until they can really easily form their letters effortlessly and beautifully. And then adjoining will come very naturally. Anyway, if I try to teach cursive writing from the very beginning, when they’re first learning to form letters, in my opinion, and from what I’ve seen, it can be a bit disastrous,
Patrice Badami 26:41
right? Yeah, they teach it here and usually second grade, but I don’t even honestly, I’m not even sure if they’re actually teaching it at this school. I know where I taught. That’s what it was part of their lesson. But I’d have to look further into what we’re researching now. Um, how often should my child be practicing reading?
Amy McElhatton 27:01
Ideally, everyday reading, when we learn to read, we are creating new neural pathways. And it’s it’s not, it’s not something that comes naturally, it’s not something that our brains have ever been wired to do is a human construct. So unlike, you know, the ability to learn to walk, for example, we have to actually teach reading, and we have to refine our neural pathways when we’re doing this. So the more practice we get, the quicker those pathways will cement themselves and children will become more effortless readers. So ideally, every day, right? Wouldn’t be the most the ideal. Yeah, no, I
Patrice Badami 27:41
that step. I agree with you 100%. On that, also, what would be my philosophy about the reading is, I read to her from the time I held her. And what they do is they associate reading with a comforting, happy, close experience. And then before you know what they’re asking for several books a night, which is fine. And I love books, and that’s one of my things. So I think that yeah, I definitely do it every day. And if they ask for it, you know, it’s your choice, how many how many books but
Amy McElhatton 28:11
yeah, it’s great every day, I really do believe as well that alongside teaching them to read with phonics, we need to obviously read wonderful pitch books, etc, to them so they can see the end goal, you know, so they can see working towards when they are learning to read, because phonics books are not the most exciting stories in the world, but you can read the most exciting stories in the world to them, so that they know that’s the end goal, when they have learned to read, that’s what they can do. That’s what they’ll be able to read themselves.
Patrice Badami 28:40
Right. And I made a big deal out of it when I my other two kids, when we went to get their own library card, it was a big deal. We went out to dinner, we made it into a big thing. And they were very excited about it. Making them excited about reading is just going to be a great foundation for everything they do in their life, you know? And now, what does it mean to read with more fluency?
Amy McElhatton 29:03
When we say more fluency, we essentially just mean with more speed, and with a storyteller voice. So if you think about those stages of reading, sort of look at all those, you know, all those digraphs and graphemes, etc, children have to learn to read with. Once they’ve got those, they can start to read the words more effortlessly at a glance, we call it and once they can read words at a glance, they can then start to build a speed of reading, and therefore comprehension and a storyteller voice. So when a school says to a parent, your child needs to work on their fluency, what they mean is speed and comprehension and storyteller voice but as we’ve looked at previously, we can’t actually get comprehension until we’ve got some speed of reading anyway.
Patrice Badami 29:49
Right, right. So everyone, thank you so much for listening, Amy medical Hatton. correct pronunciation on that one. Okay. Once again, she worked for Ruth Miskin for eight years. Now she is her own consultant, you’ll be able to find her on Instagram. And here she is. She’s going to tell you other things where you can find her online.
Amy McElhatton 30:09
That’s great. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I’m on Instagram at the phonics fairy. And you’ll be able to find any other links on that page to the website and direct message me if there’s anything you’d like to ask. Or I also offer parent consultations and courses so you’ll be able to find everything on my Instagram page which is at the phonics fairy.
Patrice Badami 30:32
Right? And, you know, the other thing to remember is that I’m gonna have this on Spotify, all your favorite podcast platforms, and we’re going to have show notes with the links so that you can immediately go right to her different areas that have information for you. So once again, Patrice Badami acorns retreat, family podcast, the phonics fairy, Amy McElhatton, and we’re so glad you listened and everyone have a great day. Thanks so much.
Amy McElhatton 31:01