We can learn from our mistakes and lack of quality knowledge and practice or we can sit in silence. In my mind what you choose to ignore you choose to accept and there was no way I could choose to ignore an ill-equipped system of teaching literacy in our amazing first world country once I knew better.
I am certain that when I share the following with you, you may feel the same way to a certain degree.
As a teacher, I wanted to do the very best for every student in my class. As a leader, I wanted to do the very best for every teacher and student under my watch. How could I actually do this though if I didn’t have the knowledge, practice, appropriate assessments, and resources at hand? I have to admit that I wasn’t equipped with the tools of the trade I needed at that time.
Throughout my teaching career I have vivid memories of students I had taught who were unable to read and write. As a beginning teacher I often thought that perhaps it just hadn’t ‘clicked’ for these students. I was unaware however, of the implications of a student going through 6 years of schooling not being a confident and or capable reader or speller. I feel somewhat ashamed sharing this, but, it is this very realisation, and the strong desire to create change for many students and teachers across the country that led me to the development of the iDeaL platform.
Over the past ten years, I have been on an amazing learning journey. As many of you will know this began in a school principalship and then the founding of Learning Matters, an evidence-based private support option for parents. My vision however, was to create an organisation that had the ability to change the landscape of education on the classroom floor. For far too long students had received support through privately funded tutors and specialists but this had failed to influence the practice on the classroom floor where students spent most of their time. Eighteen months into the Learning Matters journey and with over 120 students on board we began to see incredible progress for many. Students enrolled with us who had had all sorts of previous interventions; the obvious and most common was Reading Recovery. What was wrong? Why were these students needing to come to us for continued support after a so-called first-class intervention, and what was missing? What was present in our practice that wasn’t in schools?
A diagnostic, systematic, cumulative approach to literacy had been learnt, adopted, and further developed. A lesson sequence that saw the implementation of direct and explicit teaching principles and an understanding and application of the role of executive function in learning. Students’ needs were identified individually, foundation skills were explicitly taught. Phonological awareness and Alphabetic Principle are absolutely crucial, and further to this the teaching of these skills in a sequential manner and the use of decodable texts to build reading fluency needed to be adopted.
As a team we soon realised that for too long in New Zealand we had been programme focused, our teachers didn’t have ready access to professional learning opportunities based on the Science of Reading and the assessments being used in, and across schools varied. Teachers were choosing what and how they taught based on their beliefs of a whole language theory and reporting requirements from the Ministry of Education. Ultimately, as concerning as it sounds we had been leaving reading to chance and when it didn’t go well, we were implementing and or adopting a programme by means of a fix to the problem. That ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach and or mentality has failed to serve us as professionals, and our students. If there was ever a time for a change it is certainly NOW. We all know that doing what we have always done continues to lead to getting what we have always got. The change is here and we are incredibly proud to be sharing with you what this looks like for the movers and shakers in literacy education in New Zealand.
So what were we missing? In a nutshell, the Science of Reading and all that follows on from years and years of research studies. Many of you will be familiar with the term Structured Literacy. You will have seen and heard various things. You will likely be wondering where do you start to bring your practice up to speed with the decades of research, and also asking what this looks like in your classroom? You may have wondered how you can get started when PLD funds are limited and experienced consultants specialising in this area scarce? Maybe you are a single teacher wanting to implement Structured Literacy in your classroom but you feel alone and unsure where to start?
Like you, we want all children to become literate. We know some children luck into reading and some flounder. We believe that teachers hold the key to success in literacy. But how do you start as a teacher or homeschooling parent you may ask? Enter the iDeaL platform — your Individualised, Diagnostic explicit approach to Learning in Literacy. The iDeaL platform supports teachers and leaders to have the knowledge, assessments, information, and resources they need to develop school-wide consistent pedagogy in Structured Literacy.
Join us on the iDeaL platform and you will be able to:
- Build your knowledge through the completion of the Professional Learning Modules. Work through these as an individual, a team and or whole staff.
- Assess your students using iDeaL Stages 1–4. Enter your data for automated analysis, generate a report for an individual, a group, or your whole class to identify immediate teaching needs.
- View the series of instructional videos to help you develop direct and explicit instruction teaching crucial foundation skills. Become confident with the lesson sequence all the while realising the importance of word-level reading, dictation, vocabulary, and the development of a sight word bank.
- Access quality resource material for teaching, scripted teaching lessons (imagine no planning), a cumulative scope and sequence, and electronic decodable texts.
We are excited to introduce you to the iDeaL platform. A revolutionary online platform. Your one-stop Structured Literacy shop. If you too want in, simply click here to learn more