Irrespective of whether or not we have National Standards in place we have a huge problem in New Zealand with our literacy rates. The outlook is grim, to say the least.
It is time to turn that finger around and get it working. Let’s stop pointing it at policy and the ministry and point it to research and the evidence base which clearly states we should be teaching both a code and meaning based approach.
Schools in New Zealand are fortunate enough to be guided by a wonderful curriculum document. Further to this though we have the scope to frame our own teaching philosophy and implementation plans to reflect this and our school vision and values. Whilst we have legislation from the education gods requiring us to report against expectations in the past there is also a lot of freedom to teach according to best practice. I wonder what will happen to these rates when the expectation to report changes?
So if the above is the case, why the problem with our literacy rates you may ask? I wonder is it anything to do with the following generalised observations:
Teachers and leaders have a tendency to take a consensus and anecdotal based approach to what they teach. Asking the teacher or principal next door what they are doing and hanging onto this as if it were gospel. If they say it works and or it is the way to go all too often this is what we go with.
- Teachers have a lack of knowledge and understanding of both a code based and meaning based approach. We swing like a pendulum and then say phonics or whole word doesn’t work.
- Computers cannot and do not and teach children to read, write and spell.
- Dyslexia and other SLDs are not understood by teachers as a general rule. We take a WAIT To FAIL approach due to a lack of understanding of the implications when doing so.
- Reading Recovery is our main funded intervention. It is ineffective when we consider the cost and the lack of sustained outcomes for students.
What will you do in your school community to make a difference to literacy rates? Effective reading instruction for all — what does this look like in your school?
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