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! ;-)

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