This past week, John Walker, UK founder of the Sounds-Write Phonics Program has been in Perth with Mary Gladstone (Sounds-Write Australia) running training groups as DSF South Perth and staff at a local school. Tutors and Teachers who were trained last year also had the opportunity to spend several hours with John and Mary, before both departed for their homes overseas and interstate. I was very fortunate to partake of this opportunity.
Not only did I reap the rewards of John's and Mary's experience and expertise, I also benefitted from the experience and questions of my Sounds Write colleagues. Many thanks to DSF South Perth for the opportunity to spend time with all these amazing teachers. I picked up a few tips for working with students who have been so traumatised by their journey in trying to learn to read that they can barely participate. I learned that our brains are hardwired for recognising faces, learning language, picking up social practices, hunting and learning to recognize predators. All other learning builds on this primary hardwiring.
The book 'Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn' by John Hattie and Gregory Yates was mentioned more than once - I will post more on that in future blogs. Reference to this book reinforced what was presented in an educational psychology seminar I attended the previous evening - if we want children to be able to spell well they must have explicit instruction with a lot of repetition - at least 4 repetitions for each word if a representation of the word is to be retained in long term memory. The real work in teaching spelling is in the 'extended code' - understanding the sounds represented by more than one letter.
We talked about the reality that there are no 'rules' in spelling and that probably no teacher could cite all the 'exceptions' that are often referred to when the illusion of 'rules' is taught. We discussed the use of good old fashioned encyclopedias when working with the extended code. I have another list of professional books I need to purchase as well as non decodable books we can introduce whilst teaching the extended code. So much for curtailing my expenditure on books .....