Tag Archives: teaching reading

Readilearn: What’s in a name? Teaching phonics, syllabification, and more! – Readilearn

teaching phonics syllabification

The first words children learn to recognise, read and spell are usually their own names. It’s not surprising, these words hold significant meaning and power for them. Why not harness that energy to teach the skills that are basic to literacy development?

Even before they begin formal schooling, children are able to read and spell their own names; and possibly the names of significant others in their lives, including parents, siblings, other close relatives and friends. When we write their names on pictures they’ve drawn, inside the covers of books they own, on letters and envelopes written to them, as well as on their belongings, they come to understand “that word means me”.

However, not all children are exposed to the same opportunities for learning prior to beginning school. It is important that we make connections with the children and help them learn in ways that are both fun and meaningful.

In this post I suggest some strategies that can be implemented in the first three years of school, starting from the very first day when children can write their names to demonstrate their knowledge of letters and sounds and fine motor coordination. Throughout the early years, children’s names can be used as a starting point in teaching phonics, initial sounds and syllabification.

The ideas suggested in this post are presented in more detail in a new resource uploaded this week:

name phonics syllabification

Name Games – teaching phonics, syllables and reading long words

Suggestions for before, or in early days of, school

Teaching letter sound relationships

An easy way to teach young children to recite the letters of their names in sequence, is to utilise their love of music, singing and recall of lyrics. Even if sung out of key, children enjoy special songs about them and their names. Simply adjust the tune of B-I-N-G-O to the children’s names as you sing.

After just a few repetitions, they are able to join, and even sing their names independently. If you sing

Continue reading: Readilearn: What’s in a name? Teaching phonics, syllabification, and more! – Readilearn

How should reading be taught in schools?

The ability to read is empowering and a fundamental right. Sadly, many children leave school either unable to read or disinterested in reading. There are many reasons for this. Unfortunately, for many children, it is a learned disability. There are almost as many opinions about how how reading should be taught as there are people willing to give them. I don’t always agree with those opinions, but I do with this one by Misty Adoniou, which first appeared in The Conversation on June 21, 2016.
Thank you
As always, thank your for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

How should reading be taught in schools?

Misty Adoniou, University of Canberra

When my son was nine years old, he put aside the large Harry Potter novel he had been slowly, but enthusiastically, reading each evening and instead began ploughing through lots of fairly uninspiring books that he brought home from school each day.

It turned out the Year 4 teachers had devised a competition at his school – whichever class read the most books would be rewarded with an end of term pizza party.

The aim, I presume, was to motivate the children to read. It is ironic then that the effect was that my son stopped reading for pleasure and instead began reading for the numbers.

Reading is now increasingly being reduced to a numbers game in schools.

What level is your child at?

At pick up time, parents quiz each other about what reading level their child is on. Inside the school staff room, teachers are directed to have children on level 15, 20 or 30 by the end of the school year.

Six year olds are deciding whether they are good readers or not based on how many books they have ticked off on their take home reader sheet.

These levels are based on algorithms that calculate the ratio of syllables to sentences, or measure word frequency and sentence length.

The rationale is that these formulae can be applied to rank books on a scale of readability and thus guide teachers to match books with children’s reading ability.

There are two key problems with this numbers approach to reading. First, the algorithms are faulty. Second, publishers misuse them.

What makes a book hard or easy to read?

The missing variables in readability algorithms are the authors’ intentions, the readers’ motivations and the teachers’ instruction.

These are key omissions, and they seriously reduce the usability of the algorithms and the credibility of the reading levels they produce.

Fictional stories often use familiar and high frequency vocabulary, and many authors use relatively simple sentence structures.

However the use of literary tools like allegory and metaphor, along with challenging text themes, increases the difficulty of works of fiction in ways that are not captured in readability algorithms.

For example, readability formulae give Hemmingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” a reading level suitable for primary school students. They may be able to decode the words on the page but comprehension of the book is less likely.

The same formulae may rank a non-fiction book on dinosaurs, for example, as only suitable for high school students because of its uncommon vocabulary, lengthy sentences and multi-syllabic words.

Yet a child’s interest and familiarity with the topic, or a teacher or parent’s support and instruction, can make that non-fiction book very readable for younger children.

Reading schemes

As readability formulae are not always a good fit for books, the solution has been, instead, to write books which fit the formulae. And publishers have been very keen to supply those books.

These are the books that our children take home each evening. They are written according to the numbers – numbers of high frequency words, numbers of syllables, numbers of words in a sentence.

What is missing in those books is author intention and craft, reader engagement and interest, and teacher support and instruction.

Essentially, then, what is missing in these books is the very essence of reading.

What books should children read?

We have been using the reading scheme system for decades and we still have children struggling to read.

When we use these quasi books to teach reading, we are not adequately preparing them for real reading.

These books, written to fit algorithms, don’t build broad vocabularies in our children. They don’t teach our children how to read complex sentence structures or deal with literary language or read between the lines. In many cases, they turn children off reading altogether.

Children learn to read by reading a book that is a little beyond what they can already read. The gap between what they can read and what they could read is reduced when the child:

  • is highly motivated by the content of the book;
  • has existing background knowledge about that content;
  • is receiving good instruction from a teacher.

We don’t need books arranged in coloured boxes labelled with level numbers to teach a child to read.

Beautifully written pieces of children’s literature will do the job.

Books full of carefully crafted writing by authors whose intentions are to engage, entertain and inform.

Books that teachers can work with in the classroom showing how sounds work in words, and how words work in sentences to make us feel, see or think new things.

Beautiful books that parents can also buy and delight in reading with their children.

Why it matters

The way we teach children to read will fundamentally influence what they understand the purpose of reading to be.

When we teach children to read through schemes that tally their books, we teach them that reading is simply about quantity. If reading is about getting a reward of a pizza, then children are less likely to read for intrinsic rewards.

The claims made for well-written children’s literature are many and varied.

Reading books to your children brings you closer to them, can teach them philosophy and about world issues.

But they can do something else. They can teach our children to read.

The Conversation

Misty Adoniou, Associate Professor in Language, Literacy and TESL, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Sharing circles

On Tuesdays I have regularly published a post and response to the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Today I am breaking with tradition as I wrote the prompt this week and included my flash with it.

In that post I mentioned classroom sharing circles where everyone comes together to share their work, thoughts and ideas, not unlike the sharing of stories and ideas at the Carrot Ranch. In the classroom everyone in the circle is equal, with equal opportunity to see and hear, and to be seen and heard. The focus is lifted from the teacher and shared equally among class members, creating a democracy.

In this post I describe some of the sharing circles I used in my classroom and show how these processes are not all that dissimilar from our own blogging circles.

reading

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) is a daily quiet reading session lasting about 15 minutes. In these sessions everyone, including the teacher, chooses a book and finds a comfortable space for reading. Some children sit at desks, some on cushions in the reading corner, others prop themselves up against the wall, and others lie on the floor.

The one rule is:

  • Everybody reads without interruption.

This means:

  • Nobody talks
  • Everybody chooses enough reading material for the session
  • No outside interruptions are permitted (unless it’s an emergency)

It is essential for the teacher to engage in personal reading, along with the children, to show that reading is valued and to provide a model of “expert reader” behaviour. Inviting other school personnel to join the session is also valuable. It is particularly important for children, who may not see adults engaged in regular sustained recreational reading at home, to see adults enjoying reading.

I always concluded my D.E.A.R. sessions with a Reader’s circle. Children would bring their books to the circle and share what they had read. While there wasn’t time for every child to share every day, I ensured each child had an opportunity of doing so at least once a week. Children would:

  • Tell the book’s title and author
  • What it was about
  • What they liked about it, and
  • Read a small section to the class

I loved the way children would look to each other’s book responses to guide their own selection, often asking others to help them find a book that had previously been talked about. We do the same in sharing and reading book reviews on our blogs.

If a love of reading is contagious, Reader’s circle is one of the best ways of spreading the contagion.

love of reading

A love of writing can be equally contagious. One of the things children enjoyed most about writing, other than the actual writing, was sharing it with others. Children would have opportunities to discuss and read their writing to each other in pairs and small groups as well as in the Writer’s circle.

Sometimes we would have a pre-writing circle to share ideas and inspiration. It was rare that anyone would leave the circle without an idea. Surprisingly perhaps, it was even rarer that two would write about the same thing. Bouncing ideas off each other seemed to encourage a diversity, rather than similarity, of ideas. I guess the responses to Charli’s flash fiction prompt demonstrate the same principle.

Post-writing circles provided opportunities to discuss what had been written and to read sections to others. Writers might share what they liked about their writing, or what they were having trouble with. Others might ask questions for clarification, to understand character motivations, or to find out what will happen next. Sometimes, with the writer’s permission, I would use a piece of writing to discuss an aspect of the writing process that would have application for many. If any children were reluctant to read their own writing, I would be more than happy to read it with them.

If a love of writing is contagious, Writer’s circle is one of the best ways of spreading the contagion.

love of writing

Discussion circles could occur at any time, in any subject on any topic where a sharing of ideas was required. I had a lovely smiley face ball that children would sometimes pass around, or across the circle, to each other, to indicate whose turn it was to talk. This ensured that everyone had an opportunity to share their ideas and thoughts, as well as to hear the ideas and thoughts of others. Topics could be as diverse as:

  • “I feel happy when …”
  • “When I lose a tooth …”
  • “On the holidays, I …”
  • “I think children should be able to … because …”

discussion circles

Each of these sharing circles gives children a voice, demonstrating that they, their thoughts, their ideas and their opinions are accepted and valued. Each encourages children to listen attentively and respectfully to others by providing a supportive environment in which they can test out ideas, then reflect and reassess in response to the reactions of others.

These discussions are not unlike those we engage in on our blogs; sharing books and articles read, and videos watched, along with our ideas and opinions and, most of all, our writing.

Thank you

Thank you for the opportunity of sharing mine. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Formal Schooling and the Death of Literacy

Paul Thomas in this post describes the literate home environment of his early childhood days, an environment that created his advantage, his privilege in becoming literate.
He also describes the tedium of school days that had to be endured rather than enjoyed, and decries the cult of measuring and labeling texts and students that “murders literacy among our students“.
He goes on to say that “The very best and most effective literacy instruction requires no textbooks, no programs, and no punitive reading policies.
Literacy is an ever-evolving human facility; it grows from reading, being read to, and writing—all by choice, with passion, and in the presence of others more dexterous than you are.
I couldn’t agree more.
If you enjoy this post by Paul, check out this follow-up post Everyone Learns to Read by Direct Instruction on his blog the becoming radical. You may find many other posts of interest as well.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

radical eyes for equity

My privilege is easily identified in my being white and male, but it is the story of my life that better reveals my enormous privilege established by my mother when I was a child.

I entered formal schooling with such a relatively high level of literacy and numeracy that from those first days I was labeled “smart”—a misnomer for that privilege.

From Green Eggs and Ham to Hop on Pop, from canasta to spades, from Chinese checkers to Scrabble—games with my mother and often my father were my schooling until I entered first grade. And none of that ever seemed to be a chore, and none of that involved worksheets, reading levels, or tests.

Formal schooling was always easy for me because of those roots, but formal schooling was also often tedious and so much that had to be tolerated to do the things I truly enjoyed—such as collecting, reading…

View original post 1,019 more words

Hear ye! Hear ye! Read all about it!

This week over at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is ripped from the headlines. Look at local, regional or global news.

Now if there is one thing I have noticed about “the news” over the years, it’s that the news reported in the media is generally bad. Often the stories are meant to alarm or frighten. I think it must be easier to control a population through fear. A little scaremongering may go a long way.

Although the song is called It’s Good News Week, it doesn’t have much good news to tell.

I selected a few headlines (expressly for my purpose) from a recent Conversation:

  • The role of water in Australia’s uncertain future
  • The scariest part of climate change isn’t what we know, but what we don’t
  • Stop, go back, the NDIS board shake-up is going the wrong way
  • We’re overdosing on medicine – it’s time to embrace life’s uncertainty
  • Australians less likely to survive home ownership than Britons

“They” can do it with Education too:

  • Is your child less likely to be bullied in a private school?
  • Uni drop-out rates show need for more support, not capped enrolments
  • The slide of academic standards in Australia: a cautionary tale
  • The absurdity of English spelling and why we’re stuck with it

F

All of these headlines state the existence of a situation or condition as irrefutable, like falling standards and failing students. I’m sure most of you will be familiar with headlines such as this one from the Conversation nearly two years ago:

Lost for words: why the best literacy approaches are not reaching the classroom

In this article Misty Adoniou attributes the failure of some Australian children on national and international literacy tests to their lack of exposure and experience with standard English – they do not speak standard or “school” English at home. Adoniou says that is up to teachers to improve the language used by students and to make their understanding of correct usage explicit. However she says that many teachers do not have an explicit understanding of English and, as a result, are unable to teach it to their students.

 

I’m not sure how true that statement is. However, what I do like about this article is the advice Adoniou gives about teaching. She says that “all our teaching about language must be done in context and in the course of achieving real outcomes.” I couldn’t agree more.

Daily news – learning in context

In fact, from their first weeks of school I was explicitly teaching students about language and literacy using a strategy I borrowed and developed from the ubiquitous “show and tell”. I called this strategy simply “News”, and found it to be a powerful tool for teaching the skills of both reading and writing.

Its strength came from the familiar context, the connection to children’s lives and the importance it placed upon them. The teaching could be adjusted to suit different stages of development, to reinforce learning for some and extend the learning of others. For me, as teacher, it was a powerful learning tool. I was able to gauge children’s developing strategies, understand their needs and identify next steps for learning.

How it worked

Talk

A few children each day would have the opportunity to share their item of interest or “news” with the class. Class mates could ask for additional information or clarification if they wished.

Compose

We (teacher and children) would collaboratively compose a report, initially just one or two sentences, of what had been shared.

Write

I would model the composition and the writing process, rehearsing what to write while involving children in thinking about what to write and how to write it. How much they were involved, and the detail of language and skills discussed could be easily adjusted to suit their development.  There was always ample practice and repetition, in a meaningful context, for children who needed more time; and discussion of strategies and ideas to extend the most advanced students.

Some of the writing strategies children were learning include:

  • Composition or rehearsal before writing
  • Directionality of writing
  • Translating conversational language into written language
  • Changing first person spoken text into third person written text
  • Identifying letters used to spell the sounds of language
  • Awareness of punctuation
  • Tenses, past and future, depending on what the children shared
  • Rereading to ensure message is correct and what to write next
  • Proofreading and editing
  • Identifying the main idea through choosing a suitable headline

Read

After the news was written, we would read it together to ensure it was correct and the child was happy with the way the news had been reported.

The text could then be used for developing a number of reading skills, for example:

  • Recognising words by sight
  • Noticing similarities in spellings, or differences in spelling of words with similar sounds
  • Punctuation and its effect on reading
  • Comprehension and grammar: who, what, where, when, and (sometimes) why
  • Reading with expression

Share

Each day I would print up the news for the children to take home to share with their family. It was a great first reading experience – about them, their friends and their families.

While this is only a brief overview of the strategy, the learning that can take place using children’s own language is obvious. Used as one small part of a rich literacy focused and literature-based classroom environment it is a powerful teaching tool. One day I will explain the strategy in detail so that others can use it too.

Flash fiction

But back to the headlines and Charli’s challenge.

Over recent years I have noticed an increased use of ambiguity in headlines and the introduction of (attempted) literary expressions into the body of articles. I have drawn on that for my flash. I hope it works.

 

Bridge plans in jeopardy

She scrolled through the headlines, searching …

Minister passes over bridge in favour of tunnel

Minister fails to dig himself out of tunnel fiasco

searching …

Minister reveals hand on bridge impasse

Minister’s tunnel vision blocks bridge improvement

searching …

Minister jumps from bridge over tunnel plans

Talks with Minister over bridge collapse

searching …

Bridge closure forces Minister’s hand

She was sure she had heard something … it must be here … why couldn’t she see it?

Scrolling … scrolling …

“Finally,” she sighed.

Bridge players wanted, Tunnel Street Community Hall, Wednesdays 10 am!

 

A Day in the Life

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.