Day 7: Core Literacies

As Sam has posted, today we connected with Wendy Rundle who is an expert in literacy development, and was involved in the development of the reading progressions at Stonefields.

There were two main parts of our learning today: how reading is taught at Stonefields, and how reading is used to learn at Stonefields.

Firstly, Wendy explained about the approach taken at Stonefields to teach reading.  I will try to avoid repeating what Sam has already posted, but there might be some crossover.  The reading progressions are aligned with the Stonefields learning process. The composite parts of the progressions were developed by synthesising multiple sources of information from the NZ Ministry of Education exemplifications and expertise from practice.  These objectives are in child speak and form the learning intentions for sequences of lessons.  Watching teachers teach reading, they use a variety of strategies, of which guided reading is an important part.  The part when children work with teachers is when the meaning is made and children learn how to do something new.

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As children progress through the school, particularly in Years 5 and above, reading is taught less as an explicit skill but rather progression is made by integrating reading with the concepts they are learning.  This links with the Stonefields vision of ‘Building Learner Capacity’ of which reading is a core skill.  In Year 6/7/8, the children were building knowledge about atomic structure by using their reading competencies to learn (an interesting link where they are applying their understanding in reading to build knowledge in science).

Another factor of how literacy is taught, is that reading and writing are not separate lessons.  Wendy explained this as increasing the connections children make between reading, writing and spelling.  She said that if children see constitute parts as discrete entities, they are less likely to transfer the skills between the different areas.  Perhaps this might explain the problem of children getting full marks in a spelling test, and then failing to use these spellings correctly at any point thereafter.  Wendy told us that the Stonefields literacy lesson is structured so that children are best placed to make the links between reading and writing.

Within literacy lessons, children do both reading and writing.  As much of the learning at Stonefields is indepdaily5endent, the children will have a familiar reading task to build knowledge set by the teacher, a make meaning input from the teacher, a follow up activity to apply understanding and then the Daily 5.  This means that children are reading and writing independently every day.  The use of technology here seems important in providing access to resources, but children also have ‘free writing’ when they handwrite in exercise books about whatever they choose, and have the opportunity to share with others.  It was a pleasure to observe some Y2/3 children taking such pleasure in their free writing, when I was in their writing lesson earlier today.  Alongside the resources to which 1:1 devices provide access (see Sam’s post), the hubs are also scattered with spelling and reading games, and of course lots of books.

Wendy’s comments made me reflect on the skills we value teaching children, and how these values are shaped by our perceptions and experiences.  As Sam has explained in her post, Wendy mentioned how the accessibility of information from the internet, and an emerging pattern of readers not taking the time to consider the information they read, itself poses a new issue.  Wendy spoke of the increasing need to teach children how to evaluate and synthesise information from various sources, which are of course higher order reading skills.  It made me reflect on a new literacy which is needed. I made links with how our civilisation has made huge advances in correlation to increasing literacy rates, with that step being because bodies of knowledge contained in books were accessible to more people.  Now, with Google and the plethora of information available on the net, being able to decode and understand might not be enough.  In order to learn from this huge amount of written text, people in the future will need to be able to think critically when reading and have the skills to gain a deeper understanding of what they read.  While these skills are just as important with physical texts, the importance of multi-modal literacy is something which I had up to this point never really considered.

I also had a discussion with another teacher, about handwriting.  Noticing that most writing was done via typing, I asked how relevant she thought handwriting was.  This made me think that most of the writing I do is on a computer and I am a much faster typer than I am at handwriting.  One of the reasons it takes me so long to mark is making sure I write neatly and model the style and joins we expect at school.  Looking at the children’s writing books, I would not say that for their age, handwriting is an issue.  They do not use a joined cursive script (possible cultural reasons perhaps), but it is definitely legible.  In contrast, I spoke with a Y7 girl who had emigrated to New Zealand from England.  She told me that she prefers to write by hand and feels that her handwriting is not very good because she doesn’t get a chance to practise it regularly at school.

It was a privilege to learn with Wendy today.  It has provided another source of inspiration to make me really think hard about how what we teach today will prepare our learners for their future lives.  Doing what has always been done, is perhaps not the best way to prepare children for the future.  It all links back to that Stonefields mantra: Think Big, Be Brave.

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