Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Look and Guess

Do you remember learning to read? I don't, really - my first memory of any part of it is starting to read a page of a Noddy book and then realising I could go on, and on, and on - - and it was a great feeling. Yes, I know, I was reading Enid Blyton, but then again there was no Quentin Blake in those dark days.

Little Noddy was at least different from the Janet and John books, used universally in schools, where Janet was helping Mummy with the dishes and John was helping Daddy to mend the car. In the school I went to there were some Dick and Dora books, which predated even Janet and John. I have no memory of the plot of these - probably Dora learned to starch aprons whilst Dick told the stable lads to saddle the horses.

Emily seemed to learn to read by being read to - I am convinced she was determined to do it from when she was very small indeed, because as soon as she learned where those good stories came from she wanted to be able to get at them for herself. Though, like all children, she still liked being read to long after she could read.

They used to teach reading by a method called Phonics, where you learned the sound of letters - t, d - and combinations of letters - ch, gh. It was somewhat unreliable because the English language insists on having words like bough, cough, chough with are pronounced differently, though written with similar endings. But hell, it was a start. It did mean that, if confronted with a sentence such as "The four brown Labradors are in the kitchen" you did at least stand a chance of being able to work out what it meant.

Another system they tried was ITA - the Initial Teaching Alphabet. This exciting new system meant that children were taught to read a whole new set of letters, supposedly to simplify things, and then once they had learned it, they were told it was all wrong and they had to learn the proper letters now. A brilliant scheme, enough to put any child off reading for life.

Phonics became thought of as old-fashioned and not interesting enough, so they brought in Look and Say. The reasoning behind this was that, because adults read by looking at the shape of a word, not letter by letter, they thought children could learn this way too. Children with an aptitude for reading could indeed learn very fast by this method - but let's face it, those children with such aptitude would learn to read by any method you liked, no matter how daft.

However, for less able readers, it was a disaster. You either knew a word or you didn't. It was like reading Chinese. If you didn't know the word, you had no possible method of working it out. So, with Look and Say, "The four brown Labradors are in the kitchen" would be exactly that to some children. To others, however, it would be something like "The four brown Jiobrpdrs are in the pvythwn." with no hope of ever cracking the mysterious code of the words you didn't know.

So now they have hit on a brilliant idea and it is this. PHONICS. I heard a man explaining it on the radio. Apparently children are going to learn the sound of individual letters, and the sound of combinations of letters, and then they will be able to work out how to put them together. Amazing.

Sometimes I feel very old.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, so the name of the system was Look and Say, was it? I thought it was Leave Them Flounder And Work It Out Themselves.
One of my earliest memories was the teacher at the front of the class, pointing to words on a big printed chart, and I knew them all.
We kud lurn to spel funeticlee; it wud be ezeur.

11:23 pm  
Blogger Jennytc said...

Daphne, it could have been me writing this post! Phonics eh? Now why didn't we teachers ever think of this before???

9:21 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home