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Inside Teaching : October 2010
www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org PROFESSION 15 the literacy practices of early childhood staff – Kindergarten to Year 2 teachers – aligned to current research on how the brain learns to read. The design of the project was simple: to have the early childhood staff complete a teacher knowledge survey about teaching beginning reading and then deliver a series of sessions to address gaps in their understanding and present current research on effective instructional strategies. The results of the survey, however, changed the course of the project. Based on American researcher Louisa Moat’s work in the field, the teacher knowledge survey is designed to measure teachers’ understanding of the nomenclature of early literacy concepts and their literacy skills, and, as in the example provided at right, to identify sounds in words. Moats, in ‘Knowledge foundations for teaching reading and spelling,’ reports that even the most literate of teachers experience difficulty with these items because an understanding of terms like ‘phoneme awareness,’ ‘segmentation’ and ‘syllable’ is a prerequisite to complete the practical task, which in itself is also tricky. The answer is a., because you must listen for the number of sounds or phonemes – the smallest units of sound – in each word, and not be distracted by their spelling. Taken in the context of Ruth Fielding-Barnsley’s recent findings, the survey results are further evidence of a worrying trend. While some participants demonstrated a high level of literacy knowledge and application, many of the participants – including new graduates and those with more than 30 years’ experience – remained uncertain about the meanings of terms that now proliferate in beginning reading instruction. Without a clear understanding of terms like ‘phoneme segmentation,’ ambiguity is rife. You only have to read the 2005 report of the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy to see the emphasis that current research places on the importance of phonological awareness and synthetic phonics. Given that emphasis, I was left wondering what my surveyed teachers had made of the terminology-laden suggestions other good-intentioned folk before me had offered. How much do you know about teaching beginning reading? Which set of words should a teacher select for a phoneme awareness activity to give children practice with segmentation of four phonemes in one-syllable words? a. thrill, sting b. shark, string c. witch, dodge d. all of the above e. I’m not sure.