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Liberating daily literacy

Children are benefiting as teachers develop a more integrated approach to early literacy classes. Raymond Ross reports.

DEVELOPING LITERACY IN THE EARLY STAGES. pound;79.95. Distributed by Kingscourt Publishing, PO Box 1427, London W6 9BR.

The holistic approach of a literacy teaching pack produced by Glasgow City Council's education department seems to be making an impact on local children.

"The feedback has been very positive and I think it's making significant differences," says Fiona Harrison, literacy co-ordinator for Glasgow.

Developing Literacy in the Early Stages contains guidelines for good classroom practice, a staff development booklet covering individual, group and whole school activities and a video.

"It's liberated teachers and pupils from time-consuming straitjackets such as hearing reading rather than teaching reading," says Ms Harrison, who co-edited the pack with Moya Cove of Glasgow University's education department.

"If you look at writing from P3 to P7, for example, P3 pupils who are the first to have been through the process outlined in the pack are freer and more enthusiastic than the older children and there's no doubt it helps them access the whole curriculum."

Moya Cove says: "It has raised expectations and attainment, particularly teachers' expectations of what they think children can achieve."

The pack develops Glasgow's 10 basic recommendations for primary teachers:u Every child should be taught reading daily.u Children should hear stories read aloud daily.u Children should be specifically taught the concepts of print.u Children should participate in regular contextualised activities to develop phonological awareness.u Every child should be taught phonemic knowledge independently of handwriting.u Children should be taught writing skills as early as possible.u Children should be given many chances to reread known texts.u Children should be progressively taught to read he 100 most common words in context.u A multi-sensory method of spelling should be taught.u Children who are at risk of failing should be supported by an individualised daily programme.

"Developing literacy begins in the home and the nursery, and the pack spans nursery and primary so that primary staff are aware of what goes on in nurseries and vice versa," says Fiona Harrison.

"It's an integrated approach also in the sense that it covers phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, metacognitive awareness, onset and rime and analogy, as well as concepts of print, interactive storytelling, classroom organisation, word level study and so on, bringing reading and writing together in order to promote independent learning."

Moya Cove says it takes an overview, so phonics are not taught in isolation but as part of a range of strategies to be taught in a real reading situation. "It's about giving pupils the strategies to work it out for themselves, promoting independent learning strategies like the use of onset and rime, sounding out phonemes and recognising contextual clues.

"It's about teaching them to behave like readers and making them familiar with terminology like 'author' and 'illustrator' so that they are aware something has been written for them to read and they can write too."

Fiona Harrison says: "You start by encouraging parents to stimulate literacy at every opportunity and remove the fear that they might be doing it wrong. You encourage closer co-operation between nursery and primary.

"The pack encourages teachers to think about their own practice on an individual and a school level. It's user-friendly, practical and helpful."

"The pack is not resource driven," says Moya Cove. "We were anxious not to be prescriptive so that teachers could use their own resources and professionalism and what they know of their own pupils. It allows them to update. It's practical and adaptable."

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