Research suggests reading schemes might not be necessary
England’s strategy for teaching children to read could be
overloading them with superfluous words, researchers have
suggested. The strategy recommends teaching them to recognise 150 words initially.
An ongoing study at the university of Warwick says 100 will do to read most written English, including books intended for adults. Far fewer phonic skills than in the official strategy were needed to understand various letter combinations.
Warwick researchers Jonathan Solity and Janet Vousden analysed a range of books including adult fiction and non-fiction, and two popular reading schemes. By learning 100 key words, children found they could understand books designed for both youngsters and adults.
The 16 most frequently occurring words:
a, and, he, I, in, is, it, my, of, that, the, then, to, was, went, with
The 100 high frequency words:
a, about, after, all, am, an, and, are, as, at, away
back, be, because, big, but, by
call, came, can, come, could
did, do, down
get, go, got
had, has, have, he, her, here, him, his
I, in, into, is, it
last, like, little, live, look made, make, me, my
new, next, not, now
of, off, old, on, once, one, other, our, out, over
saw, said, see, she, so, some
take, that, the, their, them, then, there, they, this, three, time, to, today,
was, we, were, went, what, when, will, with
Progress is varied
We work through the words in stages and each group is learned independently as well as being incorporated into sentences that she constructs herself. We have gathered resources from some excellent websites and I am amazed at the wealth of information there is out there. Where possible, she mixes with other children who are home educated very frequently and she has started to attend street dance and ballet classes at weekends. The problem I find hardest to manage is my own frustration when she refuses to continue with the work, due in no small part to her exhaustion and me forgetting she needs brain breaks. It is quite difficult to rein in my enthusiasm for a subject and remember she is only one child, not a class full who would take up more of my individual time but leave them free to relax occasionally.
Recently we went to the local zoo armed with task list. We walked all the way round once, then had lunch and a drink then got down to the business in hand. We completed as many of the questions as we could, then came home to look at our evidence. We made a display of the photos we took as well as the things we had discovered about the animals. This was great fun but for me the regret is that no one apart from her family get to see the wonderful work she now achieves.
Good days and not so good
Because my grandchild has numerous difficulties to overcome, there are times when she cannot think at all. Her brain and her behaviour do not allow this. We can look at the same sets of words or numbers and within seconds she has completely forgotten everything. This makes her very prone to screaming rages as she fights against herself and it pushes me to doubt my ability to teach as she is one child and I have all the resources I can muster.
The battle is being won albeit slowly. My philosophy is to push in the information and eventually it will pour out of her in a recognisable form. I am relying more and more on good old-fashioned humour. Getting her to laugh at herself gets rid of the anger much more quickly. I am also learning to back off instead of persisting with something that is clearly forcing her to have a headache of sorts. I actually do think she gets pains in the head due to the muddle in her thinking processes.
Last night she came back from visiting friends with her mother. The man’s father had recently died and the adults were discussing this. She asked if he was in a cave and was told ‘no’ he wasn’t. She then asked if he was in a box and whether the box had been sawn in half, clearly confusing magicians and funeral directors. Despite the obvious grief as such a recent sad loss, her questions created such good feelings that he phoned his mother to tell her and they laughed together.
Today we worked on bigger numbers and next numbers for about half an hour after which she couldn’t remember letters linked to particular sounds, so has gone for a rest and a snack whilst I complete this article in time for publication. Let’s hope we both achieve what we need to.