Small price for a big advantage

5th October 2001 at 01:00
Accelerating Reading and Spelling with Synthetic Phonics. Staff development package, CD-Rom with handbook. Joyce Watson and Rhona Johnston. Spalefield Publishing, pound;10. Customer Services, Learning and Teaching Scotland, Gardyne Road, Dundee DD5 1NYtel 01382 443600

Good nursery education practitioners carry out many aspects of introducing the joy of language to young children that are mentioned in Accelerating Reading and Spelling with Synthetic Phonics, but there are additional starting points for even the best of teachers to use.

It has been well acknowledged that children "read" environmental print and that the sound of language, rhyme and storytelling is important to the developing child. The scope for development in the early years is immense.

This literacy pack is primarily geared for the infant classroom. Teachers are provided with a ready made teaching method which is advantageous for all the children in a class, at minimal cost for their school. All styles of teaching are supported: some of the work is whole class, some paired, some parallel and much of it is co-operative.

Its "mathematical" approach to language offers simplicity and quick and successful means of attaining goals. It is lively and interactive, promoting positive approaches to learning. Most importantly, it is fun for all.

This approach lends itself well to integrating the aesthetic components of the curriculum and reinforces the importance of areas such as music, art and drama to the overall development of young children. The scheme aims to instil confidence in the individual child and, importantly, may highlight earlier than the conventional methods deployed in schools those children who may encounter difficulty with written words.

Clearly, used as a supplement to a variety of teaching methods and dependent on the type of learner the child is, the scheme has merit.

It appears to be a one-track approach to multiple skills, each reinforcing the other, and promotes a positive aspect of rote learning.

The guide is step by step. Teachers can have the CD-Rom on their class computer for ease of reference until they are fluent in the teaching approach, and the accompanying handbook is simply and clearly laid out.

The package claims that reading can improve over a six-week period. Children are involved in their own learning through the discussions recommended and ultimately gain confidence in themselves and their capabilities.

As an aid to reading readiness, and not a final or overall solution, it could certainly be worth investing part of the school development budget on this pack and the limited additional resources required. The cost of a magnetic board and magnetic letters for each child - about pound;10 - is a small investment for potentially a major return.

Gillian Kulwicki is headteacher at Belhaven Nursery School, Glasgow

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