Professor Maryanne Wolf, an international expert on the reading brain and dyslexia, will give a seminar at Collingwood Town Hall on 9th September 2016.
Prof Wolf is from the Centre for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University in the US. Her seminar will be called, “Lessons from the Reading Brain for Reading Development, Dyslexia and Instruction in a Digital Age”.
The books young children are typically given at school are called “Levelled Books”, which are used in class for “guided reading” or “shared reading”, where a teacher and a group of children read a book together, and discuss it. They’re also used as home readers.
Teachers typically encourage children to use a range of different strategies while reading these books, including guessing words from picture cues, first letters and context (e.g. “what word would make sense there?”), plus sounding words out, though often only as a last resort (perhaps thanks to the lasting influence of Dame Marie Clay, author of Reading Recovery and the Observation Survey still widely used in schools). Continue reading →
Woo hoo to that, I say. But if it’s spent on doing the same sorts of things that didn’t work in primary school, it will be a waste.
Secondary school students with poor decoding skills and very little ability to spell generally need a good initial blast of synthetic phonics to build their awareness of sounds in words and knowledge of spelling patterns, followed up by work on vocabulary, comprehension and fluency. I’ve been doing this type of work for 14 years, in conjunction with the world’s most fabulous integration teacher and aides. We’re yet to find someone we can’t teach to read, including students with intellectual disability, language disorder and English as a second or third language.
Here’s roughly what I’d do and buy if I were a decision-maker in a secondary school with a number of students who have encoding/decoding difficulties.
I've made a new video about predictable texts, sometimes called repetitive texts.
These are short books typically given to little kids when they first start school, and which they take home to read with their parents.
Each page usually contains a sentence and a picture. The same sentence frame repeats on each page, with just one or two words changed to reflect the new picture.
Children often "read" these books by guessing from pictures, first letters and context, i.e. they engage in reading-like behaviour, but they're not actually reading. Often it's only when texts get more complex that adults notice that they can't actually decode.
Let's have a look at some example repetitive, predictable texts, and compare their spelling patterns and syllable structures with decodable texts, and see what they look like to a beginning reader.
If you get this blog post by email and the embedded video below has dropped out, click here to view it online.
I've been using and recommending High Noon Books' Sound Out Chapter Books since before I started this blog, but recently 18 of them became available as an iPad app, so I decided it was High Time to show you them on video.
The Sound Out Chapter Books are decodable (simplified text) books for older, struggling readers. Most of the stories are about teenagers or young adults, and I've also used them with a few upper primary students.
They're mostly interesting-enough stories, insofar as it's possible to write such a thing using a restricted set of spellings, and there are a couple that my students have wanted to keep reading, to find out what happens, even after the lesson ended.
Most of the books my local schools give beginners to read are of the repetitive, look-at-the-picture-and-guess variety. They contain a large, random selection of sound-letter correspondences, and often long words and hard spellings.
There’s no way beginners can sound many or even most of these words out, and schools typically have few or no decodable books, which strip back this complexity and provide children with focussed opportunities to practice the sounds and spellings they’ve been taught. Crazy, eh? But there it is.
Class teachers often don’t get to choose the books available, and don’t have a budget to buy decodable books. They must either use the too-hard books or (if they are determined to teach in accordance with the best scientific evidence) get free or cheap decodable books that reflect their teaching sequence. Free ones are great but involve downloading, printing and binding them oneself, which is time-consuming, and it’s hard to get a professional-looking result.