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 ACARA media release on the latest NAPLAN data says, “compared with 2016, there is no improvement in average results across the country that is significant”.
Sigh. So many teachers working so hard to improve results, and still 10% of Australian kids are not meeting basic minimum standards. Add to that the many strugglers who didn’t even sit the NAPLAN tests. Sigh.
What-works-in-education expert John Hattie even puts Whole Language on his pedagogical “disasters” list, see slide 11 here, whereas Phonics Instruction is on slide 21’s “winners” list.
However, the Whole Language pig still has not been put out to pasture where it belongs. Our literacy education brains trust simply applied a bit of phonics lipstick, changed its name to Balanced Literacy, and carried on much as before. Continue reading →
I have a quick workshop activity which gives adults a small taste of what it’s like for children beginning to learn to use a new alphabet.
I’ve decided to make it available to my gentle blog-readers to try out with colleagues, at workshops etc., to help make the point that learning new, abstract symbols is very difficult.
You can download the worksheets for this activity here. The pictures are free-to-use ones from the internet, thanks so much to the generous photographers.
The activity takes about five minutes. There are four tasks:
Filling gaps in sentences by listening to them being read aloud and copying the relevant high-frequency words. Five-year-olds are often asked to memorise the 12 “golden” words used (a, an, be, I, in, is, it, of, that, the, to, was) as one of their first literacy tasks when starting school. Typically adults find they can do this task quickly and without having to think very hard. Continue reading →
I’m mentioned in The Age newspaper today because as usual I’ve been talking to anyone who will listen about the need for more and better phonemic awareness and phonics teaching for beginning and struggling readers and spellers.
I was a bit sad that the article started off saying that “the ‘reading wars’ have been reignited”, as I’m not interested in war with anyone. I just want teachers to be given the skills and resources they need to teach all but a tiny minority of children to read and spell, confidently and well, on their first attempt. But I guess in the media it has to bleed to lead.
It was lovely that the article discussed the successful use of an explicit, synthetic phonics program with the Preps at Westgarth P.S., one of my local schools. Nothing is so powerful as a good example.
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 →
The excellent Lorraine Hammond, President of Learning Difficulties Australia, was on Radio National’s Life Matters program this morning, with the unenviable task of explaining how children learn to read in ten minutes.
The program was a follow-up to last week’s much longer discussion about the research showing that the widely-used literacy intervention Reading Recovery is not effective.
Many people contacted the show afterwards to defend teaching literacy using a bit of everything – a bit of rote-memorising “sight words”, a few alphabet lessons, a bit of guessing etc. This is what currently happens in most schools.
Lorraine pointed out that this still leaves us with many children who can’t sound out words, and thus struggle in school and fall further and further behind. One upper primary school child she met had had 10,000 hours of instruction, and was still looking at the first letter and guessing words. Unbelievable. Continue reading →