The Golden Oldies are still important. Resurrecting the tools from long ago happened at our last session on April 8, 2013. The session ‘Building a Bridge ~Linking Reading and Writing’ was well attended by passionate Primary educators. Lillah and I began our teaching using the ‘Ann Ingham’ tool sounds and their stories. We noticed that somewhere along the journey, these valuable tools have disappeared or are often hidden in classrooms. One teacher commented on how she felt relieved that she “doesn’t have to feel bad about using the tools with the stories” with her students. Somehow she felt that these ‘tools and their stories’ were not seen as ‘best teaching practices’. We revived and recreated the tools to be more appealing and updated for today’s classrooms.
Students need to make connections and learn to apply ‘phonetic tools’ to their reading and writing. Explicitly teaching these tools and allowing the students to explore, discover and make inquiries with them is required. Our role as a teacher is to fill the students’ lives with engaging, interactive and developmentally appropriate experiences that are both playful and purposeful. Asking students to fill in worksheets does not meet the criteria. Searching for words, applying the tools, and authentic practice ways allows students to make connections.
Research supports that reading and writing are different processes that share a reciprocal relationship. Understanding this will allow us to scaffold and differentiate our instruction for our learners. By providing them with the right ‘tools’ they will ensure what they read and write makes sense, sounds read and looks right.
One of the most frequent requests I get asked in my job is “Do you have an ideas for Literacy/Numeracy centres?” Teachers are often looking for ideas to incorporate into their balanced Literacy and Numeracy programs. When setting up Literacy or Numeracy centres the focus should be on providing opportunities for children to explore and develop understanding with concepts that have already been introduced. Students should be given choices of tasks that will enable them to solve problems, use reasoning skills and communicate their understanding.
Centres can provide a wonderful mean to differentiate instruction for our students. ‘One size does not fit all!’ is one of my important messages these days. Students have different learning styles, interests, personalities and needs.
As a result of these requests, I have developed ‘seasonal’ Numeracy and Literacy centres. Since the last 6 years of my career I have focused on Numeracy, I was able to create kits for three seasons (Falling into Math K -2 Winter Math Fun K- 2, Spring into Math K – 2, and Sliding Into Math- Building Fluency Games). So far for Literacy I have created Winter Literacy Bliss.
These centres were developed to give teachers some ideas to use in their classrooms to provide problem solving tasks, authentic practice, and assessment for learning. When planning for Literacy or Numeracy centres, always consider the ways they will meet the needs of your students and how you will assess their learning to inform your instruction. It is not about how ‘cute’ the centres are. Let me know what you think about the centres!
Today Lillah Martin (Early Literacy Helping Teacher) and I went on an ‘Alphabet Adventure’ with over 80 Surrey teachers. This is the first of a series of workshops focusing on emphasizing ‘play’ as an important part of classrooms.
Somewhere along the line, the word ‘play’ was replaced with ‘work’. There seems to be pressure for teachers to teach students how to ‘read’ at an earlier age. The focus on letter names and sounds, as well as words, has changed. It is far too common to see students sitting at desks completing worksheets rather than playfully discovering the joys of sound-symbol relationships.
Our students need to be curious, engaged and have a love of learning that will support literacy development for a lifetime. Research supports that students know about, and participate in, the functions of literacy long before they learn about alphabet letters and sounds.
Early learning experiences must provide a balance of play–based learning and explicit instruction. An effective program is structured in such a way to respect the learning processes for all students and to help them reach their full potential.
Our role as a teacher is to fill the students’ lives with engaging, interactive and developmentally appropriate experiences that are both playful and purposeful. It is time to put the ‘purposeful play’ back into our classrooms. There are so many possible ways to fill our young learners’ literate lives with engaging, interactive and developmentally appropriate experiences with letters and words. Many of the ideas presented at the workshop are located on the ‘Alphabet Adventures’ page.