Teaching reading and spelling in your school


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A note from Miss Emma (The Reading Whisperer) about the teaching of reading and spelling in your school

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Teaching reading and spelling in your school

  1. 1. Teaching reading and spelling www.facebook.com/readaustralia / Emma@ReadAustralia.comWhen reviewing the strategies at your school, you may be able to identify one approach as being theone most teachers support.The three theoretical reading instruction models are top down, bottom-up, or interactive and thesetheoretical orientations have differing ideas about the emphasis that should be placed on variousaspects of reading education. Instructional practices will be governed by the reading instructionmethods of the model and on student expectations (Fang, 1996).Research has found that the model to which teachers subscribe can have a profound influence ontheir teaching styles, the materials they choose for their classrooms, and their flexibility ininstructional design. I find that when presented with the SSP Approach they can either then see it asa fit, or be somewhat threatened by it - as it goes not just against their current practice, but againsttheir belief system.The process of reading within the bottom-up model moves from a focus on print to a focus onmeaning.The bottom-up model emphasizes specific teaching of decoding skills and word recognition. Withinthe bottom-up model, teachers typically believe in a skills approach to reading instruction andexpect the children to learn in the same sequence.SSP very much starts from the bottom-up in that it actually goes back to oral language before print isintroduced as the way we represent these smaller parts of spoken words, on paper. There is a clearsequence of teaching, even though children may progress through this sequence at different paces.However there is a focus on meaning ALONGSIDE the focus on print (decoding and encoding)The top-down model is connected to the whole language belief which posits that reading instructionshould focus on semantic cues, or meaning, rather than a skills approach. Proponents of this modelfeel that children should learn skills in authentic experiences and construct their knowledge througha child-centered approach.This is the model shown to be least effective for schools, and yet is still the most commonly usedwithin Australia. It is furthest from the SSP approach, which seeks to help children gain meaning as aresult of having the skills to read and spell (and not guess) and takes neuroscience research intoaccount ie that many brains cannot learn to read and spell effectively in this way. Brain networksneed first to be modified, and this approach includes nothing that will achieve this. However the SSPapproach very much embraces a vision of surrounding children with rich language and literacyexperiences, rather than simply focusing on teaching skills.An interactionist model combines the bottom-up model and the top-down models in order to form abalanced view of reading instruction.This more closely describes SSP.Research indicates that excellent reading instruction entails multiple instructional components(Pressley et al., 2001, Reutzel, 2007). Therefore, for reading programs to be effective, they must
  2. 2. include instruction in the following concepts: phonics, phonemic awareness, oral language, wordidentification, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, assessment, and the management of literacyinstruction across various grades (Feilding-Barnsley & Purdie, 2005).SSP seeks to address all of these elements, in ways that are most useful for the individual child.Teacher beliefs are difficult to change, and so being told of, or even seeing the results achieved usingSSP, does not mean they will embrace SSP easily. I actually find, following training, that many feelvery angry with me. I realise it’s not really anger at me, but a reaction to being presented withsomething that goes against their belief system. What matters then, is whether they allow it to sinkin, and to consider it, or if they instead choose to dismiss it, or even to discredit it.In order to bring about wide spread change, and encourage teachers to use SSP (which is possiblythe most effective approach that can be used in Australia, within primary schools, and especially inPrep and Year 1) it isn’t enough to offer it mainly for free, and to show videos etc, but teachers needto ‘do’ it; they need to experience it for themselves. Mayor (2005) states that preservice teachersknowledge regarding effective teaching is enhanced through their engagement in activities withintheir teacher preparation programs. That is, that their practice may change, when they arethemselves engaged, mainly as their beliefs will change regarding its effectiveness. However, whilethe goal of teacher education programs is to foster preservice teachers knowledge regarding theinformation they will need to be effective educators, researchers have found that students are notalways open to learning new information. In Australia this situation is even more dire, as many canundertake a teaching degree having spent less than 2% of their whole degree learning about theteaching of reading.Preservice teachers begin their education with preconceived beliefs that may not be dissuadedduring their teacher education programs (Rath, 2001). This appears to be the same for qualifiedteachers. Understanding and addressing pre-conceived beliefs will provide teacher educators aplatform on which to build new information that teachers will need in order to be effective in theclassroom. We can focus not just on what should be happening, to bring about the best results for allchildren but how to get teachers to want to use these strategies. We can mandate change, as in theUK, but change does not really happen, positively, unless the teachers want it to happen.I am faced with this every time I train a staff team. In order to help those who do want to enhancetheir practice I have spent a long time developing a program, with resources, that teachers can use.This helps them ‘do’ far more easily. However many still choose not to watch videos, or to use the
  3. 3. free resources available to them. I can bring them to water, make sure the water is fresh and theideal temperature, but can’t make them drink. What can? This is something I am currentlyresearching. My solution is SpeedySSP, that can be used by a teaching assistant (doesn’t have to be aqualified teacher) outside of the classroom, and independent of the class teacher. The children getwhat they all need, in intensive doses, and the aim would be that these resistant teachers see theresults, and start to wonder at their beliefs, and take an interest.The ideal scenario of course is that the school offers regular training, resources and support fromsomeone who understands the approach. It has been my experience that some school leaders areeasily dissuaded from this, by teachers who a/ believe they already know what they are doing (withexcuses given for why ALL children aren’t reaching their potential) and /b who consider a consultantan interference. What is really happening, is that their beliefs are being challenged and they are indissonance. Only by school leaders holding firm, and putting the well being of the children first,rather than the feelings of resistant teachers, can schools really use a whole school approach,embracing a program such as SSP, that meets all criteria for success across the board and has alsobeen proven to do so.There are no other program in Australia that I know of, that more effectively addresses ALL of theelements needed for ALL children to learn to read and spell within Kindy, Prep and Year 1, facilitatesdifferentiated teaching (reading and spelling should ideally not be taught within whole classteaching, as there will be at least 4 different levels of ability within that class- if you are a schoolleader please check and see if ‘phonics’ etc is being taught to a whole class, or if teaching isdifferentiated. If not, then SSP is ideal for your school.)SSP also offers most of what is needed, for free. Without facility leaders being aware of the beliefsystems of their team however, they just wont drink. Leaders need to support teacher trainers suchas myself, to see the water as nectar, not a something that needs watering down with their own juice, and certainly not poison. They then need to help teachers to try it, while supporting them as they learn, and also make sure that the nectar is available to the children in the meantime – so get your teaching assistants trained in SpeedySSP !
  4. 4. There is now a 2.5 hour workshop for teaching assistants, that show how they can work with smallgroups outside of the classroom, to modify brain networks ie SpeedySSP. It starts with phonemicawareness, not print, so that every child can develop a reading and spelling brain. The 15 modulesincluded in the SSP Level 1 Reading and Spelling Coach are covered briefly, with access given to theonline course to all participants and the opportunity for them to participate in ongoing free training.This intensive work can be used with older, struggling students.All modules can be seen here - http://www.speedyssp.com/#c18wb
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  6. 6. Why is there such a focus on being able to hear the smaller parts in words, blend, segment andmanipulate them – before even looking at print?Research has identified phonemic awareness as the most potent predictor of success in learning toread. It is more highly related to reading than tests of general intelligence, reading readiness, andlistening comprehension (Stanovich, 1986,1994).
  7. 7. Hallie Kay Yopp, Ph.D, Professor, Dept. of Elementary and Bilingual Education,CSU FullertonProfessorYopp addresses the critical role of phonemic awareness in the early stages of reading acquisition.She defines phonemic awareness as "the awareness that phonemes exist as abstractable andmanipulable components of spoken language. It is the ability to reflect on speech and experiment(play) with its smallest components (phonemes). Phonemic awareness is not phonics and notauditory discrimination.“The research outlines a progression of phonemic awareness development in pre-school,kindergarten, and early first grade that includes the ability:to hear rhymes or alliterationto blend sounds to make a word (e.g., /a/-/t/ = at)to count phonemes in words ( how many sounds do you hear in "is"?)to identify the beginning, middle, and final sounds in wordsto substitute one phoneme for another (e.g., change the /h/ in "hot" to /p/)to delete phonemes from words (e.g., omit the /c/ from "cat")Interestingly, as many as 85% of educators – when surveyed- do not understand the importance ofchildren being able to hear the difference between ‘pen’ and ‘pin’ when the words are said orally.In numerous studies, correlations between a kindergarten test of phonemic awareness andperformance in reading years later are extremely high. Thus, phonemic awareness has beenidentified by researchers in replicated studies in many countries as a very potent predictor ofsuccess in reading and spelling achievement. In fact, Professor Yopp indicates that such highcorrelations remain even after controlling for intelligence and socio-economic status.The lack of phonemic awareness is the most powerful determinant of the likelihood of failure tolearn to read because of its importance in learning the English alphabetic system or how printrepresents spoken words. If children cannot hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words, theyhave an extremely difficult time learning how to map those sounds to letters and letter patterns -the essence of decoding. (Adams, 1990).It is the most important core and causal factor separating normal and disabled readers (Adams,1990).It is central in learning to read and spell (Ehri, 1984).Phonemic awareness can be developed in children by providing them with rich language experiencesthat encourage active exploration and manipulation of sounds. These activities lead to significantgains in subsequent reading and spelling performance. Most children will learn basic phonemicawareness from these activities. Some children need more extensive assistance. Children should bediagnosed mid-kindergarten to see if they are adequately progressing, and if not, given moreintensive phonemic awareness experiences. For all children, the more complex phonemic awarenessabilities are learned in the context of learning letter/sound correspondences.A close relationship exists between a childs control over sounds and his reading ability. Some quicktest instruments that reliably assess development of phonemic awareness in about five minutesinclude the Rosner, the Yopp-Singer tests, and the Roswell-Chall. There is also a free SSP screen.
  8. 8. For more info about SSP please visit the new site for adults www.speedyssp.com and do make use ofthe new free site for children www.MySpeedySSP.com As the site develops, there will be onlinelessons to watch in the classroom with children, as well as a wide range of free resources to use onwhiteboards, and within SpeedySSP sessions. You can see the level we can expect of Prep agedchildren, in less than 3 terms, if you watch this clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPofLnzGi8EChildren must be able to easily identify the speech sounds in words, be able to count them, anddraw lines as they say the speech sounds, if they are to develop exceptional spelling skills. Withoutthis, then choosing the right speech sound representations is going to be harder for the child.Using the sound pic cards shown in this clip helps children recognise the sound pics, also reinforcedon the whiteboard, and can be used by the child while working independently. Using the SSP booktier and other SSP resources, ensures that experiences are well organised and scaffolded to offergreater independence, confidence and reading success. Speech Sound Detective helps childrenproblem solve, and link speech sounds to their representations in meaningful ‘natural’ contexts.Letter formation phrases reinforces the speech sound to sound pic link and also helps the brain‘flow’ as the letters are formed correctly. There are cards for this as well, for Prep children.These cards cost around 50 cents each. Even if you don’t have a budget for decodable readers, toorder for the SSP book tier, you can download, print and laminate the decoding practice material forthat level. Everything used within SSP from speech sound puppets to stuffed animals (the SpeechSound Family) is for a reason that is not just based on fun and enjoyment.If you are an educator I plead with you to at least consider sipping the water. And if you’ll dip yourfeet it it, Ill do everything I can to keep you floating and kicking, until you are able to swim on yourown  YOU can then teach others. Now that really would be something for us to celebrate, acrossAustralia.EmEmma Hartnell-Baker BEd Hons MA Special Educational Needs
  9. 9. SSP Book Tiers are Vital in Prep and Year 1