Last Chance Kids

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Last Chance Kids

Post by g.carter » Sat Oct 27, 2007 10:10 am

Sam Wollaston, Guardian TV critic, has a lively and apt review of the first of the Channel 4 programmes:

'I hate the children of Monteagle Primary School, I hate the children of Monteagle Primary School, you're all ugly, and you smell, na na na na na ...

I'm thinking I'm OK writing that, even if they've all got big brothers. Because I know, from watching Last Chance Kids (Channel 4), that they won't be reading this. Reading's not really their thing. It's not that they're just a bit behind; in a recent literacy test, a quarter of them didn't register a reading age at all. Liam and Jordan, for example. Why don't you like reading Jordan? "Cos I hate it."

Not being able to read is a big problem. If you can't read, you can't do any other subject, you'll fail at school and, chances are, you'll fail at life. Two thirds of inmates in British prisons have reading difficulties. So even if you do have big brothers, they're probably inside, so I'm doubly safe. You smell, and so do your smelly big brothers ...

Wait, though, because here's Lynna Thompson. "We're not in the business of throwing children on the scrapheap," says Lynna. Why ever not? Is it not the best place for them? Luckily for the kids, then, that I'm not their head teacher, and Lynna is.

She's a brilliant head. Her assemblies alone are an inspiration as well as being fun. But she's got her work cut out with the reading issue. The government's literacy programme isn't working; £900m has been spent, but Jordan and Liam still aren't reading. Drastic action is needed. Drastic action is called Ruth Miskin. R-u-th, M-i-s-k-i-n. Synthetic phonics is her thing, learning to read using the sounds the letters make........

What's the betting, though, that there won't be a single mention of the programme or of the reading debate in Guardian Education next Tuesday?

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Susan Godsland
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Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Nov 02, 2007 10:01 am

TES have a follow-up article to the Dispatches programme. Look who they get to comment on the Read Write Inc. programme :roll:
A Dispatches programme broadcast last week on Channel 4 suggested that synthetic phonics schemes were the answer, focusing on the Read Write Inc initiative.

Judith Graham is the reading recovery teacher at Little Mead Primary in Bristol, which featured in the programme. “We have Read Write Inc and I’m not knocking it – we wouldn’t have it in school if we didn’t think it worked,” she said. “But there are still children who at age 6 are not reading.

“There are varying reasons why children don’t learn to read. It’s a bit like if you have a sore throat and go to the doctor. You don’t expect to be lined up with all the other people with a sore throat and be told you all have flu and are getting the same treatment. You can’t lump children who can’t read together and find one thing which fixes all.”

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Post by elsy » Fri Nov 02, 2007 7:51 pm

The reason they are not at level 4 is that they are not using inference and deduction.
I though that was needed for level 3 at KS1.

For example, she said, a little girl, Priya, who featured in the programme, couldn’t read because she was a Punjabi speaker and didn’t know the sounds of English when she entered reception. Priya is not alone: about 13 per cent of primary children do not speak English as their first language.
That doesn't make phonics an inappropriate strategy. After all, it is common for foreign language teaching books to have a pronunciation guide so that learners can pronounce (SOUND OUT) words in the language.

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Post by g.carter » Fri Nov 02, 2007 8:36 pm

I hope this series will be followed by opportunities to learn about other ways of tackling literacy problems rather than presenting just one possible school response.
We've had that for 40 years, and with RR for 25 years - picking up the detritus that Whole Language left behind.

...and the weasel words eminate not only from 'just one possible school response' but throughout the article.

We don't meet the needs of struggling readers by returning to the phonics-phobic instruction of Marie Clay (now amended). We don't need Reading Recovery. We do need help for autistic children, those afflicted by foetal alcohol, premature and multiple birth and we do need smaller Reception and Year l classes. We do need specialists trained in speech and language problems, with knowledge of Lindamood Visualising and Verbalising, and other effective speech and language programmes, we do need decent school libraries, time for 'story' weeks, drama etc.etc. in place of those spurious 'tests'. What teachers don't need at this moment in time is a quasi-instructional/social work/conscious raising 'personal instructor'. They need time to absorb the arguments for code teaching to automaticity...then why not let decently trained teachers get on and do the job with consistency AND convey their love of language, books, words,ideas........

And we don't need lectures in the cost to society of failing children - Reading Recovery must take its share of responsibility for this failure, not try to cover it up. I wonder if KPMG have totted up the cost of Whole Language/Reading Recovery failure in the States, Australia, New Zealand where they used to throw flour bombs at teachers daring to teach phonics, according to a NZ contact?

The author of this article must be very ignorant or disingenuous if she doesn't realise just how effective (and cost-effective) synthetic phonics teaching is where there are large numbers of ESL children.

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Post by mtyler » Fri Nov 02, 2007 9:35 pm

I have not seen or heard the program, but am bewildered by the response to a school that is implementing synthetic phonics. The responses seem to indicate that synthetic phonics was tried and failed at some point, which is just not true.

When they say "We need a variety of methods," How do they know? They have never tried the SP method.

It seems that once again they confuse content with method. Lindamood-Bell has a completely unique method for teaching the content of the alphabetic code. Ruth Miskin's activities are the method, the code is the content. I agree that having multiple methods that teach the core content is important.

I don't think they realize that SP is a new generation of understanding of phonics. The phonics of the sixties is fundamentally different in that it relied more fully on rules and did not generally address the depth of the code. With the change in the population in the last 50 years (more immigrants, more TV, less talk and parents, mainstreaming), the systematic approach of SP is more needed now than ever. It presents a clear road map of what is needed to reach full literacy. The actual activities, sequence, and timetable will have to be adjusted for individual students, but the heart of the matter-the code, blending and segmenting- do not change.

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Last Chance Kids Recording?

Post by MDavis » Sat May 24, 2008 3:35 pm

My staffers and I watched the snippets of Last Chance Kids when they were on the web and enjoyed them very much. We were not able to see the full program. Now it looks like even the snippets that were online have been removed, and Channel 4 does not sell a video of the program(me) -- and does not intend to. This moves me to ask whether anybody there has a recording of the program(me) that they would be willing to share.

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Post by AngusM » Wed May 28, 2008 2:08 am

Does anyone know why Channel 4 has not released a for sale version (DVD) of Last Chance Kids? Didn't they produce The Dyslexia Myth - which is still available through TeachersTV? Why not LCK?


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