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UKEdChat podcast with Debbie Hepplewhite re use of nonsense words in phonics provision + further podcasts

Posted: Sat May 26, 2018 10:44 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
I was very grateful to have the opportunity to share my observations and experiences regarding the use of nonsense words in England's statutory phonics check compared to the use of nonsense words in routine phonics provision.

I don't recommend the use of nonsense words in practice other than introducing a few games similar to the Year One phonics check a week or two before the phonics check to familiarise the children with its format. Otherwise, it is surely far better to use a cumulative bank of real words for routine phonics practice for children to enable additional vocabulary enrichment as part of the phonics provision.

The @UKEdPodcast – Episode 22 – Phonics Pruning and Thriving with @debbiehepp @JohnStanier1 & @MartineGuernsey

Hosted by @digicoled, in this episode we explore the Phonics teaching and learning strategy in England with an in-depth, fascinating interview with Debbie Hepplewhite MBE. You can view the printable Alphabetic Code Charts mentioned at along with her latest free chart with audio throughout at ... ith-audio/

Re: UKEdChat interview with Debbie Hepplewhite re use of nonsense words in phonics provision - podcast

Posted: Mon May 28, 2018 3:09 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Thanks to Susan Godsland for flagging up this Department for Education advisory document via Twitter:

The phonics screening check – responding to the results

Departmental advice for Reception and Key Stage 1 teachers ... 0final.pdf

Page 7 (I have added the red colour font):

‘Reading real words well but struggling with pseudo-words’

If your pupils did well on reading the real words in sections 1 and 2 but most of them struggled to read the pseudo-words, this suggests that they might not be using phonics as their first approach to unknown words. It is vital that all pupils can decode swiftly and accurately, including your good readers. Pupils who rely on recognising words on sight often struggle later when they come across words in their reading that are not in their spoken vocabulary because they don’t have a strategy to decode them.

It is not necessary to practise pseudo-words, if your pupils did not do well on them. The knowledge and skills pupils need to decode them are exactly the same as they need for any unfamiliar word. Pseudo-words, however, are useful for assessment which is why you will find them in systematic, synthetic phonics programmes, as well as in the screening check.

Regular, real words that pupils have not heard (e.g. brock, hoax, squib, vending, carnival) are a good way of increasing their confidence in decoding. Make sure you talk about the meaning of each one so that you are increasing the store of words they know.

If it was only individual pupils who struggled with pseudo-words, reinforce their knowledge of GPCs and their blending skills.

Further, on page 8:

Pupils with special educational needs

It may be that the outcome was what you expected and that you already knew – or suspected – that the pupil has special educational needs (SEN). However, before going down that route, remember that Ofsted commented on ‘schools that identified pupils as having special educational needs when, in fact, their needs were no different from those of most other pupils. They were underachieving but this was sometimes simply because the school’s mainstream teaching provision was not good enough, and expectations of the pupils were too low’.2

Re: UKEdChat interview with Debbie Hepplewhite re use of nonsense words in phonics provision - podcast

Posted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:43 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Reporter Helen Ward writes about a survey of views about the Year One Phonics Screening Check: ... -non-words

Tears over phonics check as teachers drill 'non-words'

Four in five teachers think that 'pseudo words' should have no place in the phonics check, research shows

Re: UKEdChat interview with Debbie Hepplewhite re use of nonsense words in phonics provision - podcast

Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2018 1:35 am
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
As the use of nonsense words in the phonics check is topical for this thread, I'm adding my response to David Reedy of the UKLA (United Kingdom Literacy Association) which might help some people to understand various concerns about the use of nonsense words - and provide answers to address the concerns raised:

Debbie Hepplewhite’s direct response to David Reedy’s suggestions expressed in the ‘Teach Primary’ magazine, April 2013: ‘The Great Debate – Is it time to ditch the Y1 Phonics Screening Test?’

Although David Reedy's comments and my response was written some time ago, the UKLA, headed up by Margaret Clarke this time around, are still intent on conducting surveys for opinions about the check - undoubtedly to undermine the advent of the check.

Re: UKEdChat interview with Debbie Hepplewhite re use of nonsense words in phonics provision - podcast

Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 5:50 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
A huge thank you to interviewer, Ross Thorburn, who was interested in my take on phonics and reading instruction when English is a new and additional language.

Following edits to our very long original conversation, Ross has provided four, 15 minute podcasts featuring my responses to his very pertinent questions about aspects of teaching reading which might be of interest to teachers and parents/carers: ... YcTUYQ89qO