Wherever possible, I use valid, reliable, standardised tests for assessment. However, I once administered a Running Record to a child with selective mutism, because she would talk to me, but not other adults at school (we were working on it). Her class teacher thus asked me to administer the assessment required by the school, which (sad face) used a multi-cueing model of reading and a text level gradient approach to reading assessment. Continue reading →
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 →
A decodable book is a book for a beginning or struggling reader which contains words she or he can sound out.
In practice this means it contains sound-letter relationships and word types its reader has been taught. It doesn’t include patterns not yet taught.
Decodability thus describes how well a book/text matches its reader’s decoding skills. It gives us a proper, objective way of identifying a just-right book, by ensuring lesson-to-text match. Continue reading →
Loud protests, of course. Not another mandatory test, etc. But I agree with his advisors that this short, simple test will be a good thing. I’m optimistic that once it draws teachers’ attention to not-currently-obvious gaps in their students’ reading knowledge, they’ll move to fill them.
This is a big problem for teachers as well as children. Teachers lose a lot of sleep over children in their classes who just keep falling further and further behind in reading, and who they’re not adequately trained or equipped to help.
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.
Literacy beginners and strugglers are often given high-frequency words to rote memorise, drawing them from the Oxford, Magic, Dolch, Fry or some other high-frequency word list.
These lists treat written words as things to be visually memorised, rather than sounded out.
They work from most to least common words without regard to spelling complexity or word structure, and include a mixture of simple, more complex and unusual spellings.
Teaching high-frequency words in order of frequency reinforces the impression children get from reading repetitive texts that English spelling is a dog’s breakfast, by obscuring rather than illuminating the spelling patterns.
Visually memorising regularly-spelt words is also highly inefficient, and can give children with weak awareness of sounds in words the idea that written words are lumpy wholes without reusable component parts.
I agree that frequency matters, but it’s not more important than complexity.