Advice needed on which training programme to take.

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Debbie Hepplewhite

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Mon Jan 12, 2004 12:50 am

The later ORT are more decodable than the earlier books.

You might need to write out your own little stories at the children's level of knowledge and skills.

See our link to decodable books from the RRF homepage. Nelson Thornes Soundstart books are very handy and provide quite a large number of books.

Once the children can sound out and blend, they need text level material to practise their skill and give the reason for doing the blending in the first place. This is where many teachers lose the gains made.

Just remember 'no guessing' the words!

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Vicki Lynch
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Post by Vicki Lynch » Mon Jan 12, 2004 8:10 pm

Just to support the decodable books issue, we have resource concerns in our school and so I have put together a mix and match arrangement:

I begin the children on Nelson Thornes Soundstart which they like although I am still disappointed that words like 'down' and 'like' appear to early on. There is also a big jump between the red, orange, yellow and green levels which are cvc, cvcc and ccvc words, to the blue level which includes all sorts of long vowel digraphs.

Before moving to he Blue level, I use lots of the Jolly Readers which incorporate vowel digraphs and once on the Blue level, move to Stage 5 ORT which is the school's resident scheme.

They are very decodable by then and the children move effortlessly onto them, really enjoying the stories and move rapidly through the next few stages. My most able readers have read from STage 5 in the Summer term of Reception to Stage 9 now and they are capable of more but just enjoying their abilities to read fun stories.


Post by quipg. » Mon Jan 12, 2004 10:07 pm

Thanks,Vicki, for this information - exactly the same criticism of the Soundstart books: the intro of a very few sight words or words in advance of children's decoding knowledge is annoying (but less so for remedial children as they constitute only a small% of the text and children of 6/7 have come across these words many times)and there is a big gap between green and blue levels. But the earlier books are wonderful somehow and never fail. I must add the jolly books to list...have not seen them yet as it's difficult to find books at the green level when books with too many difficult words can be a hugh switch-off. best g.

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Post by nelly » Mon Jan 12, 2004 11:13 pm

Debbie - I've just read your post about the Early Literacy Support Programme. I already understood the basic principles of a 'synthetic' phonics approach but hadn't realised how much of the information we are given, from what we assume to be reliable sources (DfES), could be so wrong. Your example of Guided Reading is a prime example. 'Look at the front cover, what does it tell you, walk through the book, what do you think the story is about', this all rang great big alarm bells in my head, as I can recall vividly being taught that this is the way to teach reading (and recently taught). I hear examples of the 'wrong teachings' all the time in school. The frightening thing is that they are totally unaware of it.

I remember when I first saw the ELS programme thinking how wonderful, that all this information is provided for you. I thought, why isn't material like this provided for us to teach children who do not need additional support. What I didn't know, and probably thousands more teachers out there don't know, is that the princples they use are setting the children up for failure.

I remember reading last year a post on the TES saying that Teacher Training Universities were not 'training' teachers how to teach children to read - only put much more bluntly than this. At the time I would have argued against this. Now I know they are not, because I qualified two years ago and was taught to use the 'searchlights' model. The emphasis was on comprehension rather than decoding text. We were introduced to phonics and an explanation about blends and digraphs was given but it ended there.

I think it was purely by chance that I even found out about this whole debate. Most teachers are totally unaware that this is going on.

Anyway, what the above was leading to is, after reading your posting about ELS, I understand why you say I may need to 'make my own decodable text'. What I am unsure of is when you say 'write my own little stories' are you referring to whole class teaching, or for each child? Sorry if this sounds a dumb question.

Also whilst I'm asking questions can you point me in the right direction of good guidance for guided reading in reception. We were taught to do all the things that you are not meant to do.

Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and especially for taking time to reply.

Debbie Hepplewhite

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Tue Jan 13, 2004 1:19 am

Nelly - type up short stories on your word processor. Photocopy them for your children in groups or whole class. You could perhaps extend the story in smaller font for the more able children for your differentiation.

No pictures for clues! Give the children chance to decode them BEFORE you intervene. Sit with the less able children and encourage them to identify the digraphs (circle them, or underline them if you want). Give them a chance to rehearse the knowledge and skills you have given them.

DO NOT tell them the difficult words before they have had a chance to work them out. Let them think rather than totally prop them up or give them the answers.

The first few days they might find this a bit challenging but then they will totally take off and love getting their pictureless stories. The idea is that they practise their skills then illustrate the stories when they have read them for themselves.

Of course you may need to intervene and give them a little nudge now and again (some more so than others) but believe me, they will soon get the idea.

I introduce joined script from Y1 term 1. An extension might be to convert the writing to joined writing in their own exercise books, or on paper so they have something to take home and show off. They could also add descriptive words with arrow heads in the appropriate place, or extend the stories with their own sentences.

Believe me, this is so successful. Soon they will be reading anything, working out the story (comprehension), adding to it and illustrating it. Use your imagination for appealing little story lines. It does not take long once you get the idea.

Good luck. Let me know if you try it, what the results are.

Then, keep your stories for future use.

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Vicki Lynch
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Post by Vicki Lynch » Tue Jan 13, 2004 5:40 pm

nelly - it's so exciting to see someone else discovering what reading is and should be all about and being enthused by finding the right method. I was so enlightened and amazed when I started all my reading and research and especially once my changed practice resulted in such tremendous achievements. Having tried then to share this with colleagues, it has become so much more disheartening, so always good to hear someone else is on board! You sum it up by saying "I think it was purely by chance that I even found out about this whole debate. Most teachers are totally unaware that this is going on." With such an important issue, it shouldn't be like that, should it? But that's exactly how I felt.

Just to share the sorts of things that I do - by no means as the definitive answer, as I'm still learning, but just to pool ideas - I produce my own 'texts' at the sentence and sentence level as little books, sentence strips and cards and at the whole class, group and individual level. I did this mainly in Reception and for my less able Year 1 group now. However, once their reading gets past the very early sound/letter recognition and blending they are capable of reading much on the market - if you have the funds to buy it or if you posess suitable texts in school. (I do nick some ideas from decodable texts I read - it's hard to think of stuff ALL the time!)

I do Guided Reading in a half hour slot separate from the Literacy sessions. It happens on a rotational basis with the other groups also rotating through independent , reinforcing phonic activities. In Reception the groups read the same book but at their own pace. They didn't seem to disturb each other and I could check their sound/letter knowledge and blending was secure and we would stop at some points and discuss interesting/tricky parts of the text. Now in Y1, the group like to read around the circle, one at a time, talking about the story as we go. I'm not sure as to the thoughts about best practice of this method, but the kids love it, so I go with it. By now, the important thing for me as far as they are concerned is getting meaning from the text and enjoying it, which is what happens. Guided reading has never been an majorly important part of the reading process like the NLS would like to think it is, as with all the other work we do I know my chidlren can read. But I do enjoy it as a way to have closer contact with the children on a regular basis and keep an eye on their reading and discuss any problems at a more personal level. But it's not where I do the teaching - just the reinforcing and recapping.

Hope this helps a little - best of luck on your exciting journey!

Debbie Hepplewhite

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Tue Jan 13, 2004 7:49 pm

A 'round robin' approach to group reading is not supposed to be the most effective form of group reading, but I also choose to do group reading this way discussing the story as we go.

It is positively UNCANNY the number of times Vicki has described her choices and practice and it mirrors my own. Especially when so much of what we both do bucks the current approach in so many ways.

We have not collaborated on the practices we have in common and it never ceases to amaze me that Vicki has made the same or similar professional judgement about teaching the children. It would be really interesting if any teachers try out our ways and get back to us about how they have found the changes to their style of teaching.

I am afraid that where the NLS is concerned, it is usually to do the opposite of what is recommended.

I, like Vicki, take out half an hour to cover basic skills and then devote a literacy 'hour' to quality text work and extended writing, editing and feedback.

With the teenies, I recommend some drawing activities interlaced with reading and writing. Then the children are also illustrators and develop observational and fine coordination skills.

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