Last week, I read my state education department’s booklet advising parents on how to help children with literacy and numeracy. I understand it will be in the Prep bags given to all Victorian children starting school in 2019.
I was, frankly, appalled. The booklet mentions phonics only once, saying onscreen phonics games improve reading and “letter sound awareness”, whatever that is. It doesn’t mention phonemic awareness or handwriting at all.
La Trobe University and the Victorian Department of Education have this year collaborated to run workshops across Victoria about learning difficulties including dyslexia. The workshops have been available to teachers and other Department of Education staff.
The information from these workshops is now being made available free online via YouTube as webinars. Wow. Amazingly generous of both the University and the Department, since most professional development of this type and quality is paywalled. So thanks to all involved.
The webinars are presented by Dr Tanya Serry from La Trobe University, and the workshops on which they are based were developed with Professor Pamela Snow, Ms Emina McLean and Assistant Professor Jane McCormack also from La Trobe, and Dr Lorraine Hammond from Edith Cowan University in WA. Continue reading →
The debate took me back to my halcyon, pimply youth at Warrnambool High School, where our public speaking teacher, Mrs Melican, used to say, “You don’t win a debate by ignoring the topic and debating something else”.
The Phonics Debate’s topic was “Phonics in context is not enough: synthetic phonics and learning to read”. The theoretical backdrop to this is the robust, evidence-based Simple View of Reading, first proposed by Gough and Tunmer in 1986, showing that reading comprehension is the product of two separate skills: decoding and listening comprehension.
Here’s my favourite analogy for the Simple View of Reading: reading comprehension (RC, apparently AKA in the Ed Biz as “meaning-making”) is the gold in a treasure chest with two separate locks: a decoding lock (D) and a listening comprehension (LC) lock. Continue reading →
For a while I’ve been trying to think of a good way to represent individual sounds in words (phonemes) in a video.
First I tried using my toy fruit and vegetables. These showed nicely that actual productions of a phoneme (allophones) can be slightly different. A cob of corn is still a cob of corn, whatever its size or shape. An /n/ sound is still /n/, no matter where it’s found in a word.
Phonemes are perceptually distinct speech sounds that distinguish one word from another, e.g. the “p”, “b”, “t” and “d” in “pie”, “by”, “tie” and “die”. They’re also articulatory gestures.
A 2009 article co-authored by reading guru Linnea Ehri says “awareness of articulatory gestures facilitates the activation of graphophonemic connections that helps children identify written words and secure them in memory.” Melbourne Speech Pathologist Helen Botham (Hi, Helen!), lists a number of references on her Cued Articulation website indicating articulatory awareness facilitates phonemic awareness.
I sit right across the table from my clients, so we can see and hear each other’s articulation well. It must be a lot harder to teach a whole class about phonemes, in order to link them to graphemes. Videos on the internet (including my own) about phonemes seem to put them all in one video, making them hard to isolate and repeat on a classroom interactive whiteboard.
I’ve thus filmed my utterly adorable and orthodontically photogenic niece Vivien (thanks, Vivien!) saying each phoneme separately. The 44 videos are below, each with example words which link to the relevant spelling lists on my website. Continue reading →
Spelling tests are boring, right? The teacher reads out a word, everyone writes it down, then it gets marked. Ho hum. Nobody really likes them except annoying pedants and teacher’s pets.
Quizzes, on the other hand, are fun. They have quizzes on TV and in pubs, board games and apps. Quizzes are about thinking laterally, friendly competition, and having a bit of a laugh. They can even be done in teams, if collaborative learning is the main aim. You can ham it up with a top hat and some pictures of typical quiz prizes (you win the steak knives!).
Here’s an example beginner’s quiz for a six-year-old. She is working on three-sound words with “short” vowels, and starting to learn about consonant digraphs like sh, ch and th. She was keen to write on a whiteboard rather than use pencil and paper, but whiteboards aren’t necessary. My questions were something like:
I’m like a really big car that lots of people can fit in, and I drive on the road, and stop to pick people up, and I start with the sound “b” and I rhyme with “fuss”.
The opposite of the bottom is the “t…”
I am an animal that says “woof, woof” and I like to go for walks, and when I was a baby I was called a puppy.
When I need to buy something, I go to a “sh…”
I am a thing you can wear on your head to keep the sun off or keep your head warm, and I start with “h” and I rhyme with “cat”.
One of my fun summer activities has been refreshing and editing the free spelling lists on my website (yeah, weird, I know).
I hope teachers find them useful when teaching spelling, I know some already do. Other free spelling lists on the internet tend to focus on what words look like, but not what they sound like, or how they’re constructed, or they tend to reflect UK or US accents, not Australian English.
My lists menu allows words to be looked up in three different ways: