26 August 2006

What I learnt this week

So I'm trying out a volunteer thing right. A bit of "giving back to the community" as they call it. Once a week I scoot over to a southern suburbs primary school in my share car, and do reading exercises with one of the childers for 45 minutes. Its pretty cool. We practice phonics, which is the way you would have been taught to read if you went to primary school before 1985. Phonics lets you break a word up into its component parts if you've never seen it before, and work out the sound so you have more chance of recognising it in the written form. So the letters "aw" can equal an "or" sound, or "ai" can sound like a long "a" , for example.

The curriculum for early education changed a bit in the 80s and 90s and kids learnt a method called "whole language" where they were encouraged to read whole words and get the gist of English that way. But it seems this only works if you're immersed in reading and writing all the time, and kids who don't get much practice outside school end up faced with longer words, with no way of breaking them down into component parts. The course coordinator told me that they actually see a word differently to you and me - a bit more like an 8-digit phone number, if they haven't learnt phonics. You'll be pleased to know that schools are switching back to a mix of phonics and whole language, so the wee tackers have more of a chance to get the tools in place to help them later on.

But to the really interesting thing I learnt. This teacher wants to move on to do practice with descriptive exercises. Basically, "what I did on my holidays". Communicating something you've seen to someone who wasn't there. You see, nowadays, any kid with a mobile phone camera can send a photo of where they are to a friend. If they're doing that a certain learning stage, they may not ever use or possibly even learn written descriptive language.

Mind you, probably make for a lot less boring blogs, down the track.

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