Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The teaching of reading. ;-)

When I was training to be a teacher, I was fortunate enough to attend a College of Education,
where part of my three year course concentrated very much on the teaching of reading.

Reading is a vital part of a child's education; there can be no debate about that! And thus I became very knowledgable in the many facets of teaching children to read.

I found out all about 'pre-reading' and all the things that should be done before a child is ever given his/her first reading book. Nowadays, this isn't considered to be as important and I am often shocked to see a child being given a book (and maybe a tin of words) and yet that child has not had the experiences of all the very important pre-reading activities. Pre-reading is a vital part of teaching a child to read and I spent many hours researching and then making the appropriate pre-reading apparatus, which I then later used with my own reception class.

I also remember the book which became my bible: 'The Teaching of Reading' by Donald Moyle.

This book, well thumbed, still sits on my shelf, today.

This was the 1970s and indeed there seemed to be many very knowledgable experts on the subject of teaching children to read. Along with Donald Moyle, there was Fred Schonell, Cliff Moon, Betty Root, Diana Bentley and many more. These people all played an important part in my life, at that time.

Furthermore, I soon became an expert on Reading Schemes. We had to undertake a large assignment, studying different Reading Schemes and looking at the pros and cons of each; whether they were phonic based or whole word; the type of children which they might they suit etc etc etc. I found this subject fascinating and I spent hours working on this assignment. I'd been lucky enough to use many of these reading schemes when I helped my mum in her classroom before I even went to train to be a teacher. So I was lucky to have had a head start. There were, at this point, many excellent schemes being used in schools....and not just Janet and John!

My assignment gained me an 'A' and I still have that tucked away in my file, 40 years later!

When I left college, proudly carrying my qualified teacher status out of the gate with me, I felt fully equipped to go forward and teach children to read (amongst other things!).  Since that day, I have taught hundreds of children to learn to read; in my opinion it really is the biggest gift that you can give to anyone!

My first teaching post was at a school in Lightwater, Surrey. I remember looking around the school ... one of the first things that I noticed was the reading scheme:

So, this was the scheme that I'd be using!  Yes, I knew this scheme...
Dick, Jane, Spot, Puff...and Sally were about to become a very big part of my life!

I've already mentioned this scheme on this blog, once before:

OK, it was a bit dated! But old fashioned or not, I had to use it... and use it with enthusiasm.
Actually, I quite liked it! It was 'sound' and I felt that I could make it succeed, no problem!
And that's what I did for three years. It suited our children, who could all read well, and we did have other schemes in the school to supplement this scheme. But we always knew that at some point we would have to, 'move with the times'!

It was at this time that I gained promotion. The 'responsibility post' for literacy was up for grabs!
I so wanted this post and indeed I got the job... which coincided with the decision to replace our old fashioned (but very successful) main reading scheme with more 'up to date' reading schemes and real books. What a task!

What to choose? Well...we all had our favourites and we all made suggestions! I recall that many teachers were keen on 'Roger Red Hat' of the 'One, Two, Three and Away' scheme which was now becoming so popular in schools. I wasn't so sure. I wasn't overly keen on schemes where you were stuck with one 'type' of character. (That's why I've never really gone a bundle on 'Biff and Chip!') But hey ho...if the children enjoyed them and felt inspired then there was that to consider. I tried to keep an open mind.

However, our school was also only 30 minutes away from the Reading Centre at ....Reading (how apt!) So the headmaster closed the school for the day and off we all trooped to meet the experts and
have a fantastic day!  I remember it so well and I loved every minute of that day. There was much to do before we could decide on how to go about replacing Dick, Jane, Spot, Puff (not forgetting Sally!!) I crossed my fingers that it wouldn't be Roger Red Hat! Couldn't he just go off and play with Spot, Puff etc etc? ;-)

We chatted with Diana Bentley and Cliff Moon. We talked about the children at our school and their
needs. We looked at so many schemes and we listened to some very good advice. This was after all,
a BIG decision. Much money would be spent and we had to get it right.  And we did get it right.

Cliff Moon had been devising his 'Individualised Reading' which categorised reading scheme books and non reading scheme books into colour coded levels. Diana Bentley advised that we adopted this at our school along with a new main scheme, which had just been released. Published by Ginn and Company, this was called 'Reading 360'.  Well before visiting the centre, I'd signed up to receive the regular news about this scheme. It looked good but being new, it wasn't really tried and tested. It was different in so much that it covered fiction, non fiction, poetry, plays and gave the children real 'width' in their reading (Hence the '360'). I felt sure that this was the way to go. Everyone agreed. Phew!

After that, I had a lot of fun ordering so many books for a whole school, colour coding books, reading the books and most of all, introducing the children to them. The children adapted well; the parents seemed to love the new approach too. The rest is history!

I left Lightwater in 1980, feeling happy that I had left behind something worthwhile. I'd love to know what they are doing 36 years later! I do know that it's still an outstanding school.

Fast forward to 2016!

For many years, Cliff Moon produced his book, 'Individualised Reading'. He updated it each year with new additions, new schemes...slotting them into the correct band. Each year I bought this as it had in effect become my 'bible'.

I still use Reading 360 (Ginn produced an updated version, ''New Reading 360' a few years ago; I use both the old and the new versions, along with the extra resources/back up materials, as they have so much to offer!) and even though I have purchased many new books and reading schemes since my happy days at Lightwater, I still believe that Reading 360 is one of the best I've ever used. If you use something with enthusiasm, you will succeed and the children will succeed. I believe that just because something is 30 or 40 years old, it doesn't mean that it has no value....and this certainly applies to books. You get out of them what you are prepared to put in....that's how I see it! I also taught my daughter and my son using this scheme. Reading 360 is still in use in my room every day.
Sometimes, I might dip into certain parts of a book; sometimes I use the whole book.

My study is crammed full of reading scheme books...some are old... some are not so old... and some are new. All are selected with care, all are carefully graded. I believe in structure and choosing the right books for the child. I believe that children should read widely at one level before moving on to the next. And I do not believe in giving an 8 year old 'teenage fiction' as I was recently asked to do!

I treasure all of my books but in particular the 'oldies'.

I'll show you a few of these in my next post! ;-)

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Sally Hall Tuition ;-)

It's certainly 'all go' at Sally Hall Tuition, right now!

Jan 2015 has started off very well.

My places are full... but if you are thinking of some English

tuition for your child then do give me a call so that we can talk about

your child's needs and put you on to my waiting list.

My room is an inspiring place to be and indeed I love to work in it 

when I am preparing my lessons. 

I listen to music as I work and my tastes are varied!

I have a wealth of books and materials in my classroom. 

Part of my tuition service is to offer the loan of many of my reading books 

at no extra cost.

I'd sooner see the books off my shelves, being enjoyed!!

Each child has a book bag and can take as many books as they please, 

for the week.

I'm a huge believer in daily reading and my shelves are full

of fiction, non fiction, poetry, plays etc.

When I first started my business, I invested very heavily in good books.

I had come across another tutor who had very few books and

was happy to use the child's school reading book.

That, to me, was limiting and so I set about

putting my knowledge of children's literature

into practice...and I haven't looked back.

That's partly what makes my tuition business unique; I am

so well equipped when it comes to children's literature.

In order to write, children need to be inspired!

They also need to be shown how to write, properly!

I've been blessed with a good imagination and so I don't find this

a difficult task.

At the moment, I'm spending a lot of time tackling

creative writing with many of my pupils.

I'm always on the look out for things which inspire and this week's

inspiration has come from a piece of art which I found in Sherborne.

Thus, winter stories and poems have resulted from it.

But there is much in my room to grab one's attention, be it football,

sailing, dancing... or pirates and adventures on the high seas!

I think, most of all, that I want to give the children a happy place in which to

 learn. Happy children will succeed. Simple as that ;-)

Sally Hall Tuition looks forward to hearing from you!

And now...all of this chatting has made me ...

Sunday, 28 December 2014

She doesn't know what she is talking about!!! ;-)

Absolutely disgraceful comments (which I've heard that she has now withdrawn). 

Firstly, she should've engaged her brain.
Secondly, I challenge this silly woman to come and see what I do. I have a skill, which would be wasted if I didn't teach. It means that I've taught hundreds of children to read, write, spell..but more importantly, I have built their self esteem, which enables them to go forward in their lives with greater confidence. Every child who comes to me, comes in with a smile and leaves me with a smile. We are talking about one hour a week of good, quality teaching,in a lively and stimulating environment. This woman needs to wise up, get out and take look at the bigger picture of private tutoring. It's far more positive than negative. I'm sick and tired of narrow minded people, casting judgement on private tutors; labelling them all with the same 'money making' tag and then using the, 'It's not fair as not everyone can afford it' excuse. I'm standing up for all hard working private tutors who make a massive difference to many children's lives...and it's about time someone stood up and said it!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Learning by accident! Oh no!

Talk about waking up to something that really makes my blood boil!
 I have never heard anything so stupid in all my life !! 

There are already too many teachers who think that children can just 'catch' learning to read...caught not some 'fool' is suggesting this.

I thought we'd left these trendy ideas behind us. There's only one way and that's to teach the subject properly. 

There some idiots around! ;-)

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Exam factory schools...let's throw a test at it!

Whichever government is in power, the story is always the same…LET’S THROW A TEST AT IT!

The powers that be ALWAYS evade the real problem. They have done for years and years.

If as much energy was put into ‘how to teach the basics’ FROM THE START, then things would be a whole lot different in our education system.

I saw a child this week who can’t read very well, can’t write very well and can’t spell.  I gave up my own time because her mum is so worried about her and quite rightly so. An eleven year old who is struggling…and why? I’ll tell you why. It’s all to do with the phrase ‘caught not taught’.  She has ‘caught’ certain things and hasn’t been 'taught'…simple as that.  That’s because too much emphasis is put upon testing what they know…which is the most stupid thing, if you think about it…if they haven’t been taught it then how the heck can they be tested? Children like her only ‘catch’ part of what they should know…and it is all to do with good teaching…or lack of it. Children like her will be entering secondary school, next year and then what happens then? It’s not easy teaching an eleven year old to read when she has only got a reading age of 7 or 8 ; finding the appropriate books and materials is a big problem and I wonder how many schools have the right resources, let alone plenty of them.

I see it all the time:  huge classes (this doesn’t help matters); too many schools, where reading IS NOT a priority (OF COURSE IT SHOULD BE!); too many schools, where books are not sent home (I have more books in my study than many schools own!) ; too many schools, where children are lucky if they read once a week to a teacher, if that! (DISGRACEFUL!); too many schools where a spelling programme is non existent (HOW THE HECK ARE CHILDREN MEANT TO LEARN?); too many schools where handwriting isn’t taught properly…my goodness, the children I see are not even shown to sit PROPERLY at a table, let alone hold their pencil CORRECTLY. Good practice…it’s non-existent, in some places.

I’m not saying that all schools are like this and, yes, there are some excellent schools and many superb teachers out there… but there are also many classrooms where good practice is, very sadly, lacking.

And what the heck does an Education Secretary know about teaching the basics?!
Nothing. Whether he/she is Conservative or Labour or from the flaming moon…(well they might as well be! ) They know nothing. So….what do they do?

They chuck a test at it, convinced that it will do the trick and raise standards!!
It’s not good, it’s not clever and it’s very, very worrying indeed. Children shouldn’t be meeting exams until GCSE level. Any other tests undertaken in the primary school, should be reading and spelling assessments, which take up little time, in order to identify problems.

The worst thing is that all of this is not rocket science; the remedy would be a simple one, if only someone would adopt some common sense and consult people who really do know. Until that time, we will never achieve our ‘rounded and grounded’ education system…whichever party is in govt!