Terms and Philosophies

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Tricia
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Terms and Philosophies

Post by Tricia » Wed Aug 08, 2007 12:35 pm

Hi,

I've been carefully following the discussion about the Belfast Linguistic Phonics programme. I know I seem to jump in with the same idea, but I'm afraid I'm going to say it again ........ Actually, I ended up with a rather long response so I made a blog entry here.

My mission here is to define some terms and keep friendly lines of communication open between teachers of all educational philosophies and none. Do feel free to comment here or there.

:grin:
Tricia Millar
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http://trt-for-teachers.com/
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Post by Elizabeth » Wed Aug 08, 2007 2:05 pm

Re 'discovery learning':

I approve of the kind of discovery learning Tricia describes in her blog. It's what I do too.

In my training around 1970, discovery meant giving children a few clues and expecting them to work out how to read for themselves.

I.e., teach the sounds of alphabet letters and use the first letter as a clue; look at and try to memorise whole words, then use the 'does it make sense?' clue to guess whether you remembered correctly; try to memorise the story and guess from that; look at the picture and guess. After doing all of that, quite a lot of children 'discover' enough of the alphabet code to get by - but many do not.
Elizabeth

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Post by Elizabeth » Wed Aug 08, 2007 2:08 pm

Oh, and the other thing we did a lot:

Ask the children to tell you their news. Write down what they said. Ask them to copy under your writing. Ask them to read it back. They 'read' it back from memory, and after they've done that many times, they may begin to discover how it all works.
Elizabeth

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Post by Anna » Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:04 pm

Hi Elizabeth,

We did news weekly when I taught my first Reception and Year One class after qualifying in 1994! I didn't know how else to teach writing. All my training had focussed on writer's workshops, teacher as scribe etc!

:cry:

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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Wed Aug 08, 2007 5:08 pm

We still do 'news' in the reception class where my daughter and I share a job.

The expectation, however, is not that the children write themselves until we have taught them to write through a synthetic phonics approach.

Thus, some children are much quicker at attempting to write their news than others but this does not matter. There is no pressure whatsoever.

The focus is on the speaking and listening and how to develop a dialogue, how to listen, how to ask questions and so on. It works beautifully because the children are talking about their own families and their own activities.

Then they draw their picture and the adult does write a sentence of the children's choice about the news picture.

Over time, this becomes the children's own writing as the children are taught how to spell and handwrite.

So, last year's reception class has had this weekly news experience. Their speaking and listening and asking questions, recalling each other's news, knowing what constitutes 'news' and what type of questions leads to information amounting to 'news' is very successful.

A couple of children can manage a supported sentence. Some children can write a couple of sentences. The vast majority of the class can write one or two sides of A4.

The children's news books are a delight. Mostly they start off drawing the usual head, body, and two legs. By the end of the year, their pictures are very sophisticated and the writing amazing.

When I went to the official government roll-out of Letters and Sounds and attendees saw a video clip of the official DVD where some children were writing in books, there was an outcry that surely reception children should not be 'writing in books'. The presenters' response was almost apologetic "No, no, these are year one children".

Oh, this is what we are up against. Many people see it as 'wrong' that four to five year olds are taught, allowed, whatever, to 'write with pencils on paper'.

I wish they could see the pride of these children in their news books and other 'work' which we undertook last year.

And the parents will have the most wonderful memento of the children's first year at 'school'. ;-)

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Post by JIM CURRAN » Wed Aug 08, 2007 8:04 pm

Discovery learning is a nice idea and I am sure that it is something that works fairly well for most middle- class children. If it doesn’t work for these children their parents will hire a private tutor who will be more of a teacher than a facilitator and things will generally work out fine. For children from disadvantaged backgrounds discovery learning has been an absolute disaster and because of it 25% - 30% of children leave primary school every year unable to cope with the secondary curriculum. For discovery learning to be any way useful a child needs a good language and general knowledge base which disadvantaged children don’t have. When you come to school with multiple disadvantages you need a teacher not a facilitator.

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Post by Lesley Drake » Wed Aug 08, 2007 9:15 pm

Jim,
When you come to school with multiple disadvantages you need a teacher not a facilitator.
I could not agree with you more!!!

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Post by bwking » Wed Aug 08, 2007 9:43 pm

Jim,

THE GOVERNMENT say 40% can't handle the texts of the secondary curriculum. (BBC news twice).

Brian K.

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Post by JIM CURRAN » Wed Aug 08, 2007 10:06 pm

Thanks Brian for those figures. In my own school 50% - 60% of the year 8 pupils arrive from primary school reading two or more years below chronological age.

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Post by Tricia » Thu Aug 09, 2007 8:34 am

I'm glad we're talking!

When I say discover, I'm NOT talking about guessing. (You must know me that well by now! lol) Guessing is the number one enemy of the struggling readers I meet and the worst strategy ever for getting meaning from a text.

I think that main problem with this kind of discussion is that certain words immediately bring different things to different people. I never mentioned "discovery learning" and don't know what it is.

As far as facilitating vs teaching, I do know what you mean to a certain extent but I don't think we have to choose one over the other. I think the ideal teacher is a facilitator who is relentless in getting learners to find the right answer and always willing to TELL the right answer if the only remaining option is for the learner to guess.

Guessing isn't learning. But equally, regurgitating what a teacher has said isn't learning either. In my perfect world :grin: No one guesses (unless engaging in an hypothesizing activity) and no one lectures.

And I'm going to disagree completely with the idea that children with multiple disadvantages need teachers more than facilitators. They do, however need the temporary but expensive advantage of one-to-one help.

Almost without exception, the young people I meet hate school and feel that teachers do nothing but ridicule people who don't understand. I so wish that I had documented the stories that they've told about getting things wrong and how they've been treated by people who seem to think that reading is easy or that familiar words should always be easy to read. These are almost always memories from primary school and the beginning of the reading process. With that kind of history, a teacher is the last thing they need!

They need someone who will sit with them, engage in conversation and guide them through the process of discovering how the alphabetic code works. They need high expectations for remembering spelling options
and clear and helpful error correction so that they can, as far as possible, make their own corrections. They also need permission to make mistakes and not "get in trouble" or feel stupid. They need to discover that they are capable of real learning even if they're not very good at sitting still in a desk, listening and giving back what they've just heard.

Far too often, the teacher-led classroom experience had left them feeling that they don't want to try anything risky and reading is risky.

I know what I'm picturing when I talk about Discovery and Facilitators. It's not theory but practice and I've seen it work with some of the most educationally disaffected young people in this country. I've had teachers tell me that if it hadn't been for meeting up with a ThatReadingThing tutor, Lee would be "on the scrapheap" but now he's in school. Or that Matty not only reads but can now participate in maths and finds he's good at it! Nothing changed in these young people's lives except their perception of themselves as learners, and their understanding of how reading works.

Wow - that's too emotional for this time of the morning. I know that we agree far more that we appear to through this discussion. If you saw my practice and I saw yours nobody would be shocked. Again, I simply want teachers with all sorts of classroom practice to know that they can create ways to make sure that their children/teens/adults understand and use sound-based strategies for reading.
Tricia Millar
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Post by chew8 » Thu Aug 09, 2007 10:28 am

I have often felt that even when people are on very similar wave-lengths, problems can arise when they start fleshing out details, and particularly when they say that certain things are 'best'.

The following is in your blog entry, Tricia:

Starting with sounds – If you want to facilitate discovery then it’s best to start with something that your learner can already do. Assuming they have no serious hearing or speech impairment then you can start with the words that they can hear and say and use in meaningful speech. By saying the word aloud, attaching a written symbol to each sound and writing the symbols in order whilst saying the sounds, they are discovering how the English code works. No one has stated: “This is how it works” and no one needs to.

I am quite happy with the idea that starting with sounds is one good way of approaching literacy instruction, but I'm not yet convinced that it's the 'best'. Moreover, I have a problem when the case for doing it this way is argued as above. The words that children can 'hear and say and use in meaningful speech' are whole words, not words segmented into individual phonemes. Words segmented into individual phonemes are a whole new ball-game and 'attaching a written symbol to each sound' is yet another new ball-game - so I feel that there's a bit of questionable logic in basing the case for starting with sounds on the 'familiarity' argument. You say 'No one has stated: “This is how it works” and no one needs to' - but someone has surely had to teach the children how to segment whole spoken words into sounds and has had to teach them the letters for those sounds, so it seems to me that someone has had to teach the children how the code works.

Note that I'm querying the way the case is argued rather than seriously querying the practice of starting with sounds. When what I see as the questionable logic is removed, I think that the case for starting with letters and the sounds they represent (which is what I and many others have always done) is just as strong as the case for starting with spoken words and segmenting them into sounds.

Jenny C.

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Post by Tricia » Thu Aug 09, 2007 11:54 am

Thanks Jenny, I appreciate your taking the time to question my logic. It's too easy to type away with a false sense of authority if no one asks good questions.

You're right about the word "best" - I hadn't thought about how that might rub people up the wrong way. I fully acknowledge that it's my opinion and it's very much about a specific learner group. I'm sorry if it sounded in any way arrogant - that's not my style.

Here's a little more of the logic behind starting with sounds rather than print. Older struggling readers think they know what reading is and think they know what spelling is; they also think that they can't do either. I love to watch a young person relax just a little when he finds out that ThatReadingThing doesn't require him to read very much to start. Once we're a few minutes in and blending and segmenting every word, it's easy to throw in a few sentences.

As for teaching segmenting, all you have to do is ask the person to listen and tell you the sound. "What's the first sound you hear when I say 'bit'?" "what's the next sound?" etc. Once they have said the sounds clearly and found the matching symbol for the sound and written it, they're beginning to discover how the code works. With most teenagers, they will work through all 1 sound to 1 symbol correspondences in the first hour - often in the first 20 minutes.

It also works with "What's the first sound in 'circumnavigation'?" But that one also requires identifying syllables first.

I've never used the word segment with a young person because they don't need to know about segmenting; they just need to be able to do it. So I guess my answer is that a person going through ThatReadingThing discovers how the code works by using it and not by getting any explanations from an instructor.

I notice during trainings that trained teachers have a harder time understanding this than volunteers with no teaching experience. Teachers who work with TRT often progress through the levels much too slowly because they want to explain things rather than just keep moving and doing. That said, it's important the the tutor understands the principles as well as the practice.

Thanks again for taking the time with this.
Tricia Millar
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http://trt-for-teachers.com/
@TRT_Tricia

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Thu Aug 09, 2007 2:10 pm

Hi Tricia -

Let me hasten to say that I don't find you at all arrogant! And I'm finding this discussion very useful.

I suspect that the impetus towards a strong sounds-to-letters orientation came initially from people involved in teaching older strugglers rather than from people teaching first-time beginners. I taught my own children to read when they were very young, starting with my eldest when he was 19 months old and doing nothing but teach him letter-shapes and a sound for each at first - then, when he was 24 months old, we started on sounding out and blending for reading (i.e. a letters-to-sounds approach). I once mentioned this to a very ardent and well-informed sounds-to-letters proponent, whose response was that this made absolute sense in the circumstances. So I think that when we start to unpick what works well in different circumstances (e.g. first-time learners vs. older strugglers) we may find that it's not very appropriate to take a hard-and-fast line about what's 'best' in absolute terms.

Jenny C.

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Post by maizie » Thu Aug 09, 2007 2:11 pm

Tricia,
As for teaching segmenting, all you have to do is ask the person to listen and tell you the sound. "What's the first sound you hear when I say 'bit'?" "what's the next sound?" etc. Once they have said the sounds clearly and found the matching symbol for the sound and written it, they're beginning to discover how the code works.
Is that really all you ever do?

I ask because, yes, that is the way I would have started with my 11 - 12 year olds in the past, but the responses I usually got were either 'bee', 'bi' or even 'bit'.

So I do start by telling them that we are listening for the smallest distinct sounds we can hear in the word, and modelling it for them. Even though they appear to pick this up quite quickly, when we get to words like 'street' I'm still likely to be told that the first sound in the word is 'str' (good old blends :sad: ).

I'm a great believer in the child doing all the work, and in not supplying the answer unless the child couldn't possibly know it, but, if they are not used to it, they do find segmenting difficult.

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Post by Tricia » Thu Aug 09, 2007 4:44 pm

Hi Maizie,

If they say, "bee" then I say, and "what sound is bee?". If they don't know, I give them the answer.

As I said before, always give them an answer if their only alternative is guessing. So yes, sometimes you need to model something but not explain or use the kind of language that I would use training good readers to deliver the programme. And I would never start a session with an explanation of sounds and words or anything else. I would always (after assessments) jump right into listening for sounds in spoken words and building up the words with the suitable level of support.

And I agree - blends :sad: sigh.
Tricia Millar
http://www.thatreadingthing.com
http://trt-for-teachers.com/
@TRT_Tricia

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