What does this spell? Answers on a (virtual) postcard please.ghoti

Spelling causes all sorts of problems, not least for teachers. In an increasingly complex world and with the advent of a new curriculum, we need to re-evaluate our methods of teaching literacy. We all know that language learning is holistic and develops in relation to the context in which it is used. However, given the complexity of each mode of language, it is helpful to have a continuum for oral language, reading, writing and spelling. While CfE moves away from the prescriptions of 5-14, it does provide some guidance although every-day pedagogy is to be designed by teachers in accordance with the needs of the learners in their classes.

I find it really useful to have descriptors of behaviour that help us identify how children are constructing and communicating meaning through language, as long as these indicators recognise that language development is not a linear process. Individual children may exhibit a range of skills from various phases at any one time. When this is extreme (for example, when a child’s oral skills far outstrip reading ability) we know there is likely to be a specific difficulty which warrants further investigation. Then we need to think what bridges and supports to put in place.

Teachers’ (and parents’) actions, strategies and ways of interacting with children reflect particular values and assumptions about learning. Through these interactions children construct a view of what ‘counts’ as literacy in a particular learning setting.  The decisions made by adults play a role in how children come to understand what is valued.

More often than we would like to admit, there are major conflicting and competing value systems at work which cause confusion.

Newly qualified teachers, with whom I spent a busy afternoon recently, had a great understanding of the importance of creativity and content in writing. A poignant question from more than one NQT focused on the advisability of displaying work that is not beautifully presented.

These new teachers were conscious that, away from the theory, different standards were sometimes being applied when it came to spelling. The laminator held dominion. Once a piece of work was deemed to be finished, nay perfect, it was made glossy and durable. The shiny surface protects but is also a shield, denying the opportunity to make alterations, to have second thoughts, to review, to develop or to scrap altogether when a better idea takes hold.

There was little time to develop this thinking but we agreed that however uncomfortable, it was partly their responsibility to challenge this thinking. Old habits often remain in schools even when experienced practitioners embrace new theories. We all take time to consolidate our learning; we all have inconsistencies in our practice, and we rarely alter our methods of working in one fell swoop.

Sometimes new colleagues help us bridge the gap between the theory and the practice. I hope they are encouraged to make meaningful contributions. Best of luck to them all.

 I’ll be thinking more about spelling in future posts.

 dysc writing