Today’s poll: Is it ok to teach children nonsense words in phonics?

An official evaluation of the phonics check has found that nonsense words – such as thob, blim and flamp – are now taught in almost two-thirds of England’s Year 1 classes. Is this a sensible approach or do you have concerns that it breaks the link between words and their meanings?

[yop_poll id=”169″]
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Categories: Poll and Primary.


  1. penguin_charl

    SchoolsImprove Are children being taught nonsense words? Or are nonsense words being used to practise blending?

  2. hecharden

    SchoolsImprove No!My son’s reading went backwards in yr 1 as he started sounding all words phonetically even when the result was nonsense

  3. hecharden

    SchoolsImprove In the end we made up a yr 1phonics game and I used to wish my son nig-h-t nig-h-t which made him laugh!

  4. damianainscough

    hecharden SchoolsImprove Bright son who sees through it (and is perhaps confused by it)?

  5. Tessotd

    hecharden Result of children who are over reliant on phonics later in ks2 is kids who read without understanding.

  6. CASEeducation

    hecharden SchoolsImprove my daughter could read andwould have been confused with the nonsense words. Kids were correcting my Scots

  7. FionaTipper

    hecharden SchoolsImprove I used to sing to my daughter ‘Old Mcdonald had a farm, e-i-g-h-t’

  8. hecharden

    ChrisChivers2 SchoolsImprove Definitely tinged with sadness. He used to cry and dread ‘the carpet’.

  9. hecharden

    damianainscough SchoolsImprove After actual illustrated phonics test my son finally understood…We’ve been learning alien! 1/2

  10. hecharden

    ChrisChivers2 Happily he now has fantastic NQT in yr 3 who is challenging him to read real library books:) He thinks she is a great teacher

  11. garrodt

    penguin_charl:SchoolsImprove Are children being taught nonsense words? Yes- let’s teach Spelling correctly instead !!

  12. penguin_charl

    garrodt SchoolsImprove Where nonsense words are used, it’s to practise blending for *reading*, not spelling skills.

  13. garrodt

    penguin_charl SchoolsImprove Whatever !! Most kids still cannot spell and are not fully encouraged to do so.

  14. penguin_charl

    garrodt So you’re arguing with a strategy that some schools might use to teach reading skills, because you think kids can’t spell?

  15. penguin_charl

    garrodt SchoolsImprove But the tweet was about nonsense words being used to teach reading. Why are you bringing spelling into it?

  16. KikiNowers

    Par4Ed GawainLittle hecharden link didn’t work. Ultimately I’d prefer good ITT & CPD and no more ideology over evidence in education.

  17. laurajskip

    DavidWray SchoolsImprove odd question. doubt they are ‘taught’ nonsense words. Likely ‘used’ to teach a reading strategy. 1 I’ve seen work

  18. little_mavis

    DavidWray SchoolsImprove Do they actually teach nonsense words or just explain that some words they are asked to read may not be real?

  19. DavidWray

    little_mavis The report says teachers and schools were TEACHING nonsense words. I suppose they include these words as egs of blends etc

  20. little_mavis

    DavidWray You have to practice nonsense words or the kids will, quite reasonably, try to make real words out of them.

  21. DavidWray

    little_mavis True, but doesn’t that seem a bizarre activity? School is often nonsensical enough for young children.

  22. little_mavis

    DavidWray If they’re going to have to read non-words in an assessment, you have to prepare them for it. The whole thing seems bizarre to me

  23. little_mavis

    DavidWray Where I work, the person delivering the phonics lesson made it a game “spot the phoneme”. Or I suppose grapheme.

  24. DavidWray

    little_mavis Yes, bizarre. But it gives me a good joke to tell at international conferences. British eccentricity always plays well.

  25. Claire__Ryan

    SchoolsImprove Nonsense words or blends of sounds/vowels? It’s important kids can break down sounds in words so it makes perfect sense!

  26. Claire__Ryan

    SchoolsImprove Breaking down sounds in words is very important for speech & language as well as literacy. Don’t get what the issue is!

  27. ChrisChivers2

    Claire__Ryan SchoolsImprove But if asked “Is this a nonsense word?” they need vocabulary to match. Good phonics+rich language environment.

  28. andesitictuff

    SchoolsImprove nonsense words in context eg poetry, fine. Otherwise, absolutely not, unless you’re playing with language.

  29. Claire__Ryan

    ChrisChivers2 SchoolsImprove Yes true, surely that’s covered in presentation tho? Playing with sounds is surely a positive thing?

  30. Claire__Ryan

    andesitictuff SchoolsImprove What other reason would there be other than teaching reading/literacy/phonics awareness?

  31. ChrisChivers2

    Claire__Ryan SchoolsImprove Can be a significant variable, esp if phonics a discrete lesson. Playing with words essential, IMO.

  32. andesitictuff

    Claire__Ryan SchoolsImprove sadly, to boost a school’s phonics test scores #cynic #talewaggingdog

  33. Claire__Ryan

    ChrisChivers2 SchoolsImprove Mine too. So the variable is the presentation of the approach? Therefore a method issue?

  34. Claire__Ryan

    andesitictuff SchoolsImprove Ok I’m really confused now! I work in SALT & teach blending sounds/nonsense words as standard. Phonics tests?

  35. Claire__Ryan

    ChrisChivers2 SchoolsImprove Agree. Son makes up words & gives them real definitions & meanings. I think its very creative!

  36. Claire__Ryan

    andesitictuff SchoolsImprove Not if it makes me more annoyed with what Gov puts little children through 4 ridiculous reasons! Thanx tho

  37. ChrisChivers2

    Claire__Ryan SchoolsImprove Enjoyable as well as creative& develops an inquisitiveness to add for himself.

  38. andesitictuff

    Claire__Ryan weighing the pig won’t make it fatter and other such metaphors may now be applied.

Let us know what you think...