Sunday, August 30, 2015

Another confession of a teacher

The following is extracted from a blog by Melinda Crean  found here:  

“You know at the end of university I didn’t have a clue how to teach kids how to read, write and spell.  I came through university with the whole language approach to teaching reading.  This approach is based on the visual memorisation of whole written words and doesn’t teach the skills or conceptual knowledge needed to read.  When I came through uni, phonics was a bit taboo, and we were told that we don’t teach literacy like that anymore.  I have had no exposure to phonics and don’t really know much about this approach to teaching reading”.

This was her response to my comment in her blog in 2014.

I think sometimes it’s not the classroom teacher’s intention, as I know when I was a teacher I hadn’t received the appropriate training to know even where to begin to assist a student that had learning difficulties. This also goes back to what training teachers are taught at university. As in my experience, many teachers are not taught about good quality phonics and how this way of teaching reading can benefit all students.

Note: I don't believe whole language memorisation is a visual memorisation as said by Melinda but we'll leave that for now as it is not relevant for our discussion.

The following is another post in the same blog:

Dated 10.2.2014

Do you have students in your class that are poor readers and spellers?  Or are you a parent who is concerned that your child isn’t where they should be with their reading?

In the past I’ve had students in my class that had very poor phonemic skills (being able to hear, identify and manipulate sounds in words).  I had one boy, in Year 5, that didn’t know how to identify the individual sounds in words.  I spent many hours of one-on-one time with this student to help him with being able to read.  Some of the activities I tried with him included using mastery folders, flash cards, looking for patterns in words, finding words in magazines, LSCWC (look, say, cover, write and check) and I’m sure many more…..But this was to no avail….by the end of the year he could still only read a handful of words.  As a classroom teacher I felt like a failure and I didn’t know what to do in order to help students that had reading difficulties.
If you’ve come across this problem in your class too, you’re not alone.  Since then I have made it my mission to learn all I can about teaching the essential skills needed for reading and spelling.

My comments: All the students who had come to me for tuition had this exact problem. However, this is not 'very poor phonemic skill' but a case of 'shut-down' learner or 'disengaged student'. Having been shut down for at least 5 years it will be not easy but not impossible to re-engage such a student.

Note: She did not have a clue as to how to teach and I believe she is just one of many who did/do not know how to teach. AND that is why the illiteracy level in Australia is as high as it was more than a decade ago.

I wrote a few e-mails to the blog owner about 10 days ago and I am looking forward to some response which I hope to post here soon.


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