The belief that we are critically harming a child if they are not not 'taught' to read in the first couple of years is to me, very flawed when you look at progress from a developmental perspective. The idea that if we are not 'directly instructing' them in reading from the day they enter school we are hindering their progress is a in my opinion scaremongering. If a child is not developmentally ready to read or write and we apply direct instruction in literacy, we are likely to be doing more harm than good. A child's brain does not stagnate if we are not 'directly instructing' them, the brain will constantly be stimulated in a rich environment and because children have a natural drive to learn, they are developing new understandings constantly.
In fact if we use developmental readiness and interest as our guide and provide quality exposure to the early building blocks of literacy, they will make progress when they are ready. Yes there are children with learning difficulties, but we are not doing those children any favours by engaging early either. To put the cat amongst the pigeons, I think in some cases, our forcing of cognitive learning on a child that is not ready for it, could cause later difficulties for many.
I am not saying we don't teach, what I am saying is that we need know when it is appropriate to do so. With these factors in mind I have been giving a lot of thought to my classroom this term...how do I know when they are ready for more, and what is it that I need to be doing.
For those that have been following my journey for a while, will know that I use this framework and our early goals for gross motor skills, fine motor skills and working memory to gauge this readiness, along of course with the key factor of interest!
When children have moved into early literacy (more cognitive) based goals we will start engaging with greater understanding of phonics...easing slowly into the process of reading and writing. We try to do this individually and each child's journey is quite different. Some are very ready and will move onto Red 3 or Yellow straight away and not look back, we will still teach phonics but it seems to be second nature for them, like a duck to water with building blocks in place they become quite fluent quite quickly, as and when needed we will 'teach' a new sound pattern and it sticks.
However some really need an increased focus on phonics, with lots and lots of practice and much repetition in a variety of different ways.
There is no one fixed approach, and if we take one approach, that is where our programmes fall down. This term I want to trial using decodable texts more often with those early readers that need this for fluency, I am hoping that it will deepen their understanding of phonics and in turn really assist their growth as readers and writers.
In the reflecting on literacy building blocks, I really want to deepen my understanding of literacy acquisition, what do we need to do, to make this process more natural for children.
This video is really interesting, and backs up the need for phonemic awareness and the explicit teaching of the correspondence between letters and words.
In our play based class we do use a lot of whole group exposure, but a lot of the specific teaching is done as and when needed for the individual. We do include the learning of words after children have a good basic grounding in phonics, but after watching this video I am wondering if we need to do this at all, are we benefiting them, or are we confusing them. Maybe we would be better off giving them a series of decodable words instead of high frequency words that are not able to be decoded...hmmm that has got me thinking and is definitely something I think we might change once we've had a closer look at it.
As an aside to this, I have created a building block diagram/framework of my own that basically takes off, where the other diagram ends. It is not concrete as yet and requires a lot of my thought this year, but I will share anyway.
I love learning more about the brain, how it works and how I can adjust my practice accordingly. I think far too often we don't take enough time to think about the 'why' of what we are doing...I think the worst line I hear from teachers is "we've always done it this way."
Enjoy Term Two everyone!