Early years teachers around Australia are this week starting to set up their classrooms for the new school year. Many are about to set up alphabet friezes and word walls.
I’m hoping that my new, cheap-and-cheerful embedded picture mnemonics ($10 plus GST) will encourage and help them to instead set up sound friezes or sound walls.
Early last year I commissioned talented, tolerant, patient Melbourne illustrator Cat MacInnes to turn my vague ideas into 46 cute, colour pictures you can print to help kids learn sound-letter relationships. They’re her copyright, so I have a limited number available (get in quick!).
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.
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: