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 →
A lot has been written by philosophers and in Dilbert cartoons about different types of knowledge.
Often these are described using terms like “explicit” versus “tacit” or “declarative” versus “procedural” knowledge. What matters most for spelling?
Declarative versus procedural knowledge
Explicit, declarative knowledge is theoretical information about a subject e.g. that we use a base 10 number system, and that our Solar System has 8 planets (sorry, Pluto). Libraries, databases and the internet are full of it.
Procedural knowledge is often harder to describe (more tacit) and more practical. It’s knowing how to do something, like tie up a shoelace, play the guitar or ride a bike.
I have quite a bit of explicit, declarative knowledge about how to play brilliant tennis (yes, the Australian Open men’s final is on, but we love both Roger and Raffa, so who to barrack for?!) but despite years of trying (our tiny country town didn’t have enough kids to field a team without unco asthmatic me), I never managed to convert this into much procedural knowledge.
I’ve been nerdily immersed in spelling books lately, and have realised that most books about spelling are full of explicit, declarative knowledge, but aren’t necessarily much help with the “how”, or what we should be doing to build tacit, procedural knowledge of spelling. Continue reading →
Recently I told a tweenage student to "speak like the Queen" when spelling long words, and her mother said "I don't think you've ever heard the Queen speak, have you?" (headshake) "We must listen to the Queen's Christmas Message this year".
The Queen's Christmas Message used to be A Thing Australians listened to, before we had 27,000 TV channels and our own national anthem, and before Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith became so elderly she stopped going on telly much at other times of the year.
Reading Bear is an American website containing free phonics and vocabulary activities which are designed for young children, but aren’t actually very teddy-bearish, so could be used with older catch-up learners too.
The idea came from Larry Sanger, one of the people behind Wikipedia – the sort of person who makes the rest of us feel inadequate, and recalls the Tom Lehrer joke, “When Mozart was my age, he had already been dead for three years”.
Funding for the site came from an anonymous donor, and lots of volunteers and other good people contributed with the intention of creating something great to help little English-speaking kids around the world learn to read, and build their vocabularies. Nice one.
You can use the site without logging in (she wrote, aware that she just lost a lot of readers who are now going to click here and explore the site for themselves), but if you do tell the site your email address and a password, then you’re instantly logged in and can start adjusting the settings and recording your progress.
"English Isn't Crazy! The Elements Of Our Language and How to Teach Them" is a neat little book by US author Diana Hanbury King, who's been working with struggling readers and spellers since before most of us were born.
It's written for teachers who want to know more about the English language.
The book gives a thumbnail sketch of how the English we speak today has changed over the centuries, from Proto-Indo-European, through the Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Danes, Old English, the Normans, Middle English, the Classical Revival, Modern English and American English. It's not as hilarious as the UK Open University's History of English in 10 Minutes, but is more consistently factual.
"English Isn't Crazy" is 120 pages long, including seven appendices and a bibliography, and it's a very easy read. I got through it in a couple of hours. Perfect for teachers easing back from holidays, and parents wanting to help kids understand English spelling complexity.
I've been busy working on my spelling lists, but it can get a bit boring going through the dictionary and thinking about all the allowable sound combinations, so I'm sometimes tempted to take shortcuts by looking at other spelling lists on the internet. Perhaps I've listened to too many Tom Lehrer songs (you can listen to that while you read, can't you?!?).
For example, today I am looking for extra words with the letter g representing both the sound "g" as in gate, geese, girl, goat and gum, and the sound "j" as in gaol, gel, gist and gym.
After lunch and before my coffee kicked in, I googled "soft g sound" and found a page with a long spelling list. A lot of them were words in which the single letter g does in fact represent the sound "j", for example:
However, quite a lot of them had the spelling "ge" representing this sound:
This is typically how the sound "j" is spelt after two-letter vowel spellings, or after consonants (though it's also at the start of the name "George").
A few other words had the spelling "dge", which is typically used after one-letter "checked" or "short" vowels:
Some also had the spelling "gi" for the target sound: