'Perceptual reading'

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by Anna » Fri Apr 12, 2013 4:25 pm

I wanted to send a belated response to Kestral and Volunteer as I found your comments on the lack of non-fiction reading in schools (especially at secondary level) very pertinent. I have worked as a private tutor for the last 8 years. The core of my work is tutoring primary pupils in English and maths, using synthetic phonics for reading and spelling, plus punctuation and grammar. As some of my pupils have stayed with me, I have extended my work to Key Stage Three English.

Kestrel, your experience with your daughter really chimes with what I have learned from working with my Key Stage Three pupils. Structuring a formal essay has been the area the pupils have most commonly asked for helped with and I have seen how they have required input not only into how to structure their paragraphs but also helping them express their thoughts by the use of appropriate vocabulary. They need sentence frames to help them to structure their sentences. I have been wondering what I could suggest as writing models for this sort of formal essay writing I could recommend to parents. My older pupils can read well now, thanks to synthetic phonics remedial programmes and most choose to read fiction for pleasure now. However, I feel they need reading models for expository writing.

I have also noticed the lack of textbooks and parents have commented on this, too. In addition, pupils are encouraged to look up information for homework tasks on the internet. This can be very time-consuming as they may find websites which are either irrelevant, too in-depth, perhaps written for university level, and in any case they will find different websites so I am unsure how their teachers can compare the pupils' homework, if they have all found different information.

I have recently read E.D Hirsch's book The Knowledge Deficit, which is very relevant to this topic. One of Hirsch's core recommendations is for teachers to read high-quality non-fiction to their classes from the earliest years in school, to develop factual knowledge, vocabulary and written language structures. I think the reinstatement of quality textbooks would be an important adjunct to this.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by geraldinecarter » Fri Apr 12, 2013 10:30 pm

I am truly shocked at how little sustained reading of fiction and non-fiction books occurs in primary schools - how on earth are 20% of children able to access the secondary curriculum unless they are reading fluently by the age of 7? When I collected children's books (lost in flooding) what was so apparent in these books was the amount and degree of 'core knowledge' - and within elegant and interesting context.
It's the lack of sustained reading in primary years that surely causes so many problems in secondary schools - in addition, of course, to malinstruction in early reading and lack of awareness of the Alphabetic code.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by Anna » Fri Apr 12, 2013 10:44 pm

Yes, I totally agree, Geraldine. However, what I have learned recently about secondary school practices suggests that these compound the problems created at primary level. These are analysed in depth in Andrew Old and Daisy Christodoulou's blogs.

In addition to the lack of independent reading, I am wondering whether daily reading to the class is also declining? I recently asked a pupil whether his class teacher read a story book to the class and he said no. I am going to question all my pupils to see how widespread this might be. :sad:

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by kestrel » Sat Apr 13, 2013 2:56 pm

Hi Anna,

One reason I was aware of my younger daughter’s mild but unexpected difficulties was because I have an older daughter with dyspraxia who is now at University, and I have been working with her intensively on her university-level academic writing skills.

One interesting thing I discovered was that a very good source of materials is the publications and websites on Academic English for foreign language speakers. I’ve been focusing on university-level materials mainly but, for example, the book “Academic Vocabulary in Use” by Michael McCarthy might be of interest to you or at least give you some ideas. There is also a website called “Using English for Academic Purposes” which has a lot of material, including vocabulary arranged flowchart-style.

Another extremely well done website that you might find useful is called “Clearer Writing” accessed through the University of Sydney website. It has a brilliant interactive demonstration of how to link sentences in order to make them flow, and other good stuff as well – for example under “body” paragraphs.

There is plenty of other material online on university level writing, since nearly every university seems to have a website and staff devoted to trying to teach their students to write (!!I) But material for Keystage 3 and GCSE seems much thinner on the ground. Well, I supposed that’s why there is so much at university level!

What I personally initially found helpful was to take a well-written essay or article and use a highlighter to highlight all the vocabulary that is not content-specific – in other words, that could be readily re-used to write an essay on a different subject. This really helped me see the underlying structure, as well as the phrases used for introductions, conclusions, transitions and other specific sentence-functions. I have in fact wondered whether doing this themselves would be helpful to students who are learning, rather than just providing them with templates or sentence frames.

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by JIM CURRAN » Sat Apr 13, 2013 9:16 pm

"It's the lack of sustained reading in primary years that surely causes so many problems in secondary schools - "

Totally agree Geraldine. The lack of core knowledge makes it impossible for most disadvantaged children to burst out of the bubble of ignorance that enslaves them. I have been a big fan of E.D Hirsch ever since I read,"The Knowledge Deficit"

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by volunteer » Sun Apr 14, 2013 9:43 pm

I spent 3 weeks observing in an outstanding secondary school a couple of years ago. So little reading was done in any lesson that, along with heavy use of verbal group work, a child who could barely read could quite possibly have got by for a very long time. "Dyslexia friendly" maybe?!

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Re: 'Perceptual reading'

Post by Anna » Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:34 pm

Hi Kestrel, apologies for the delay in replying. Thanks for all the helpful links. I have had a look at the websites you recommended and the content covered seems similar to what I have been teaching, albeit at a more advanced level. So that is reassuring:)

I use the P.E.E (point, evidence, explanation) structure for the paragraphs which form the body of the essay, as this what most secondary schools use. I found You Tube to be a good source of information, as several GCSE teachers have made very informative podcasts for their pupils.

I agree with you that KS3/GCSE level books on essay writing are much harder to find. I could only find one book on Amazon which was appropriate. This is called How to Write Essays by Don Schiach. This includes sample paragraphs.

Just last week I found a really useful book. It is called GCSE English writing skills from CPG. This is a really excellent summary of essay writing skills and very well laid out. I am currently using this for revision with a Year 9 pupil and we are making revision cards from it. It would be good for pupils who are put off by a book which is too wordy but it only has brief examples.

I agree with you about analysing essays with pupils. I did this with some examples which I found and also modelled the writing process with my pupils. I then asked them to make a plan, organise their ideas into point, evidence or explanation and write their PEE paragraphs, using my suggested linking phrases as needed.

I have done some work on academic vocabulary - specifically expository writing terms sch as compare, contrast, summarise, analyse etc. I found an online list of academic vocabulary. I'll post the link shortly.

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