Month: March 2014

The Road Goes Ever On

‘You will always have students who will fail.’ This response from my tutor teacher to my concern about two six-year old boys, Charlie and Joshua*, who were not progressing in reading, really floored me. Surely, as the classroom teacher, their learning was my responsibility? I was entrusted to teach a class of 27 Year 2 pupils and was therefore accountable for their progress. In this, only my second year of teaching, I concluded that my ITT had not equipped me to carry out my role effectively namely, as a teacher of reading – the most fundamental skill that these children needed. What could I do? My own children started reading very early, and were reading chapter books at six years old. All of us were avid readers. We had taught our children the way that many parents do – by reading to them and with them; letting them read the story, and helping them with the words they were stuck on; talking about books and stories all the time, and enjoying the magical glow of …

Why We Can’t Remember How We Learned

One of the major problems with teaching reading (and training teachers to teach reading) is that of the Universal Expert: “I read, therefore I can teach reading.” As we have argued elsewhere, the knowledge base for teaching reading is “extensive, hidden and complex”. The truth is that teachers often underestimate the difficulty of the process  – at least for some learners – because we do not take a sufficiently systematic approach. In other words, we cannot remember how we ourselves started ‘at the bottom’ and worked our way up. This is not surprising. Some readers intuit the code much more quickly than others. Some of us come from homes where print was everywhere, where talking about books and stories was common, where reading aloud and sharing books was part of normal, everyday life. There is, however, a significant proportion of students who do not intuit the code, or who only receive regular exposure to print once they get to school (and even then, not enough). These students must be taught the knowledge and skills they …

The Case for Design in Curriculum

There is more than one way to teach. These can be summarized into four categories: Naturalistic Incidental Guided Sequenced Naturalistic teaching is when the environment teaches us as we interact with it. This can include both the physical environment and the social environment. For example, if a child shares with other children, they find that they make more friends and that play is generally more extended and more enjoyable. By listening to the speech of others, and experimenting with sounds, the child also learns that words have meaning and certain words will help them to achieve specific things. Naturalistic learning can go on throughout life as we move into new environments and situations: when we start a new job, for example, or we learn to negotiate the idiosyncracies of the workings of a new kitchen. Incidental teaching takes advantage of particular situations to communicate ideas and to shape responses. For example, when the child wants some food, we remind them to say ‘please’. After a few occasions, we expect the child to know what to …