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Reading Reform Foundation (RRF) - Promoting Synthetic Phonics : Page Title

RRF Newsletter 59 back to contents
Report on the Reading Project in Carriacou and Petite Martinique Elizabeth Nonweiler


Teachers in Carriacou and Petite Martinique have now begun to use synthetic phonics teaching methods with their students. This is the first report about the progress of the project. A proposal written in July of this year explains the background and provides details about aims and long-term plans.

Meetings with Representatives of the Grenadian Government

A meeting was held on Friday 24th August at the Ministry of Education in Grenada between Mr Martin Baptiste, Chief Education Officer, and Mrs Elizabeth Nonweiler, Project Leader, to discuss the project. On 5th and 6th September, Mrs Andrea Phillips, Curricular Development Officer for Language Arts and Caribbean Centres of Excellence for Teacher Training, and Mrs Elizabeth Forsyth, a reading specialist from the Education Ministry, visited Carriacou to meet Mrs Nonweiler, Mrs Gertrude Niles, the Education Officer for Carriacou and Petite Martinique, and Mrs Susan Godsland, an assistant trainer for the project, to further discuss the project and to observe some of the training. These meetings provided a valuable opportunity to exchange information and explain relevant issues.

Training and Workshops

The purpose of the training was to tell teachers in Carriacou and Petite Martinique about synthetic phonics teaching methods and to support them in implementing these methods in their schools. The trainers were Mrs Nonweiler, Mrs Godsland and Mrs Maggie Downie. Training included workshops and visits to schools, to explain teaching principles, describe and demonstrate methods, and discuss issues.

Teachers of children in Pre-Primary 2 and Kindergarten (four- and five-year-olds) were trained in the use of Jolly Phonics and given daily lesson plans for the first twelve weeks of teaching. Teachers of children in Grades 1 to 6, and teachers of secondary-school students with reading difficulties, were shown how to structure lessons according to Sound Discovery’s ‘Snappy Lesson’. It was stressed, however, that synthetic phonics teaching is not dependent on commercial programmes, and all teachers of students from Pre-Primary 1 to secondary school were also told about a range of activities and resources to help teach reading and spelling. Donated materials were distributed and teachers were shown how to use them.

Some of the training was repeated several times, as not all teachers attended the initial workshops. Mrs Niles oversaw the training, and Miss Michelle Coy, Reading Specialist for Carriacou and Petite Martinique, attended the workshops for primary schools.

Details of Training




28th August

Synthetic phonics teaching principles for Primary and Pre-Primary teachers

How to prepare children for reading for teachers of Pre-Primary 1 (three-year-olds)

Initial teaching of reading for teachers of Pre-Primary 2 (four-year-olds) and Kindergarten (five-year-olds) – the Jolly Phonics programme


29th August

Initial teaching of reading for teachers of Pre-Primary 2 and Kindergarten – lesson plans, resources and assessment


30th August


Moving on and helping children who have problems with reading for teachers of Grade 1 and 2 children

Initial teaching of reading for teachers of Pre-Primary 2 and Kindergarten – shortened training including lesson plans

Extending reading and spelling skills for all children, and helping children who have problems with reading, for teachers of Grade 3, 4, 5 and 6 children

Helping students with reading and spelling difficulties for the secondary-school teachers who teach reading and spelling to these students


31st August

Supporting all students with reading and spelling during normal lessons, for secondary-school subject specialist teachers at Hillsborough Secondary School

Helping students who have problems with reading for volunteer helpers


5th September

Meeting with primary school principals – overview of training, and questions

Short meeting with Mr Lendore, principal of Hillsborough Secondary School, to discuss practical implications


6th September

Training of Pre-Primary and Kindergarten teachers at Mount Pleasant School, observed by Mrs Phillips and Mrs Forsyth

Individual training for Kindergarten teacher at Hillsborough Government School


7th September

Visit to Petite Martinique to observe implementation of synthetic phonics and answer questions


8th September

Making and using resources for Pre-Primary and Kindergarten teachers

Training for Pre-Primary and Kindergarten teachers and one Grade 4 teacher


11th September

Short meeting with Ms Quamina, principal of Bishops College Secondary School, to discuss practical implications and to arrange a short training session for subject specialist teachers

Visit to L’Esterre School: training for Pre-Primary teachers, demonstration lesson for Grades 1 to 6 teachers

Parents of Pre-Primary and Kindergarten children at Mount Pleasant School: explaining synthetic phonics and how to support their children

Parents of Pre-Primary and Kindergarten children at L’Esterre School


12th September

Visit to Harvey Vale School: meeting with school principal, training and demonstration lesson for Pre-Primary and Kindergarten teachers

Parents of Pre-Primary and Kindergarten children at Hillsborough Government School


13th September

Visit to Dover School: demonstration lesson for Bogles Pre-Primary teachers and Dover Kindergarten teacher; demonstration lesson for Grades 1 to 4 teachers; discussion and training with Grades 5 and 6 teachers

Brief visit to Winward Pre-Primary

Supporting all students with reading and spelling during normal lessons for secondary school subject specialist teachers at Bishops College

Parents of Pre-Primary and Kindergarten children at Dover School

Parents of Pre-Primary and Kindergarten children at Harvey Vale School


14th September

Visit to Hillsborough Government School

Visit to Day Care Centre in Hillsborough – request from staff for training

Progress and Assessment

Assessment has two distinct purposes, which are to inform teaching and to report progress. Assessment plans as described in the project proposal have not been strictly adhered to in every school, as this has proved difficult to explain or carry out in some circumstances.

Formative Assessment

For the initial teaching of reading, all teachers have been asked to use the daily lesson plans for the first twelve weeks. No formative assessment is necessary at this stage. After this and before moving on, children’s knowledge of the alphabet code and their blending and segmenting skills will be assessed, in order to decide which children need extra practice in the skills taught.

It was suggested that the Sound Discovery placement test be used to place children in Grades 1 to 6 in groups according to their word reading skills. In the secondary schools, teachers have used their usual assessments to decide which students most need daily lessons to improve their reading skills. For both groups, the placement test is to be used to decide at which stage of the Sound Discovery programme teaching should begin.

Assessment to Report Progress

For reporting purposes in September 2006, it is most important to assess the children beginning Kindergarten, who spent a year in Pre-Primary 2 in 2005/06. This is because the reading skills of children who have had a year in Pre-Primary 2 in 2005/06 can then be compared with those of children who have had a year of synthetic phonics teaching in Pre-Primary 2 in 2006/07. This will provide comparative evidence about the effect of the implementation of synthetic phonics teaching methods on the islands.

The Neale Analysis of Reading Ability (NARA) is to be used to measure and report annual progress. The purpose of using NARA in September 2006 is to establish a baseline from which to measure progress. However, it is expected that many children in Kindergarten will find NARA too difficult. To decide which children should attempt it, they are to be assessed first using the Burt Word Reading Test. Any children who score ten or more on this test are to attempt NARA.

NARA can also be used to establish a baseline with those children in Grades 1 to 6 and in secondary schools who have been identified as having reading difficulties and who are to be taught daily using synthetic phonics teaching methods.

Mr Baptiste suggested that the results of the NARA tests could be compared with the results of the Caribbean Centres of Excellence for Teacher Training (CETT) assessment.

The Schonell Spelling Test is easy to administer to whole classes and provides a baseline for assessing spelling, and so it was suggested that all children in primary school, and secondary school students with reading difficulties, should attempt this test. It is not suitable for children in Pre-Primary classes.

Future Monitoring and Support

Mrs Niles and Miss Coy will continue to monitor and support the project on the islands, Mrs Nonweiler has offered support and advice by email, and teachers have been told about the websites, and, where they can write messages asking for advice from synthetic phonics experts and from other teachers world-wide. Mrs Nonweiler will return to train and advise according to need, in October and December 2006, and again in June 2007. Details of monitoring and support for the following years will be planned later.

Responses to the Training

Responses to the training have been both thoughtfully critical and overwhelmingly positive. Enthusiasm has grown since teachers have begun to use the methods in their classrooms and have noticed the responses of the students they teach. Parents’ sessions were well attended.

There have been some challenges. A very few teachers, in particular those who missed part of the training, have been anxious about changes to the methods they have been used to. In contrast, other teachers have been keen to get started, but have found it difficult without their own copies of resources. Teachers in Grades 1 to 6 have asked for further information about the Sound Discovery programme. This information is available in the manuals donated to the islands, and permission was given to make copies for each school. However, it is not easy to photocopy and bind so much material. Solutions are being discussed. Sharing Jolly Phonics materials between Pre-Primary and Kindergarten classes calls for careful timetabling and home-made copies of some of the resources such as a frieze of a basic code, and in a few situations this has been difficult.


Enthusiasm, commitment and team-work have resulted in an excellent and exciting start to the project. Combined with a highly effective teaching method, this means that the project is set for success. Progress will be regularly reported.


Donations to the Reading Project

We are grateful to the following people and organisations that have contributed finances, resources, services and time to this project.

Mr Peter Allan

Mr Reynold Belmar, Petite Martinique Gas Station

Mrs Janine Bosley

Mr Bernard Bullen, Bullens Enterprises

The British High Commission

Mrs Geraldine Carter

Mrs Jackie Day

Mrs Maggie Downie

Flexitable Ltd

Mrs Susan Godsland

Ridgehill Publishing

Hills & Valley Chemist

Professor Rhona Johnston

Jolly Learning

Mr Edward Kent

Mrs Sharon Koor

Mrs Emma Logan

Mr Paul Maskell

Mrs Eileen Measey

Mr Laurence Measey

Mrs Mendes, Carriacou Lotto

Mr Chris Mills, Carriacou Regatta


Rev Otis Nichols, The Anglican Church in Carriacou

Mrs Gertrude Niles, Education Officer for Carriacou and Petite Martinique

Mrs Elizabeth Nonweiler

Ms Lyn Ostick

Rt. Hon. James Prior

The Promethean Trust

Mrs Janet Seaton

Mr Jerry Stewart

Steill Family, Hillsborough Deli


Our thanks to all of those concerned with education in Carriacou and Petite Martinique – principals, teachers, parents and volunteers – for their willingness to put time and effort into work to improve the reading skills of local school children.




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