I spent over 10 years in Australia mentoring a wide range of teachers in different settings. I would share my work by uploading videos to youtube. The quality isn't always great, but I am a teacher and not a videographer! Why do this? I wanted a record, to see 'how far travelled' and also to critique my own work (watching yourself can be really useful, and also quite embarrassing at times!) and I wanted others to be able to see 'real' unedited teaching of real kids.
In 2011 for example I worked with an early years teacher, supporting 12 of their pre-school aged children who were due to start school 6 weeks later.
I wanted to video the intervention to show the importance of teaching phonemic awareness as a way to ensure that children will not only be able to learn phonics but also to 'arm' them with the skills needed to avoid difficulties when being taught at schools that are not yet embracing phonemic awareness and the mapping of phonemes to graphemes as the foundation on which to teach reading and spelling. Furthermore, I wrote reports for their schools; I had identified what I call 'red alerts' - children who will not be reading by Grade 3 without specific phonemic awareness and phonics work.
At the beginning of the intervention, Lara had poor phonemic awareness. 3 years later she was in the top NAPLAN bands for literacy. Early intervention matters.
Over a decade ago.
These children are now in Grade 10!
I don't just mentor early years teachers! High school teachers often reach out and ask for help too. This was a student in an intervention project I was involved with in around 2013. Teachers found that upwards of 100 children were starting high school without the literacy skills needed to cope with the demands of the high school curriculum. We needed to get these kids back on track quickly. Less than 5% actually had a specific learning difficulty. They were instructional casualties. I find these videos fascinating as they show how the resources have evolved eg the Spelling Clouds and the Tech designed to support those students. Offering a systematic and DIFFERENTIATED approach to teaching phonemic awareness and phonics has always been at the heart of everything I do. I have just been getting better at it! The resources I create are constantly evolving and improving.
In 2012 I supported a Prep teacher for 2 terms. A new school leader took over, who wanted the children to stop 'sounding out' words, as 'taking so long to get to the word' and instead use three cueing strategies, and so my mentoring services were no longer required. Enough said.
I am still in contact with some of the parents, even to this day. Even 2 terms were enough to show them a different way to support their children at home.
Not to be put off, I put a 'shout out' on facebook offering to support a teacher in class for a year. A year 2 teacher who had become rather disillusioned with teaching got in touch; she wanted something different and to feel excited about teaching again.
I mentored this Grade 2 class for a year. This is when I introduced the Coding Poster, as a way for every child to work at their level. By then they should have been out of the 'explicit phonics' teaching stage, and so I wanted to speed up the process. The Coding Poster worked so well I introduced it to the Prep classes at the school.
As these children had not mastered the high-frequency graphemes I would have wanted them to learn in Prep, and then consolidate in Year 1 (and no longer be working on by grade 2) I needed to create 'tech assisted teaching' solutions, which I called 'brain training videos' at the time.
They free up the teacher to offer 1:1 help where needed.
I knew that children needed something they could carry around with them, that showed all spelling choices. The Spelling Cloud keyring continues to be popular with children a decade later.
Some children become obsessed with the systematic approach used; they know where everything is located, they enjoy the order and 'mathematical' approach to mapping phonemes and graphemes.
Challenging the three cueing system got me in hot water sometimes. I was threatened with legal action a few times when uploading videos like this, as challenging 'benchmarking'. Change can be messy.
I have been obsessing over phonemic awareness and the mapping of phonemes to graphemes for longer than I can remember. These videos are over 10 years old and make me feel very old! They also remind me of how slowly change occurs within the education system. Mapping phonemes to graphemes with an eye to ensuring that children use the process known as 'Orthographic Mapping' should be something every teacher does. We still have a long way to go.
I am back in the UK undertaking doctoral work and would love to mentor a teacher who wants to teach children phonemic awareness and phonics skills in a different way, with a focus on intervention and differentiation!
Are you in the Dorset area? Get in touch! I do this on a voluntary basis (there is no charge)