On Friday, The Shine Centre conducted a training session. After literacy hour from 9 – 10, I headed next door to the training which was already in progress. It was interesting listening to effective methods for working with the children to improve their reading, writing, and speaking skills. There were about 75+ enthusiastic volunteers in the training session led by two women – Elizabeth Nadler-Nir, a speech and language therapist, and Kathryn Torres, a reading teacher and Director at The Shine Center. Elizabeth and Kathryn worked together with a team to create the games used during literacy hour. Kathryn teaches at the Zonnebloem center on Tuesday mornings.
Literacy hour sessions are subjective depending on the child involved the how things are going for them that day. Some of the more experienced volunteers teach two children at a time. That is challenging as it’s rare to find two children at the same level in developing their reading and writing skills. There are also personality differences with some vocal, active children and others who are shy and subdued.
We divide the literacy hour into four 15-minute segments:
• Word play games
• Paired reading
• Have-a-go writing
• Shared reading
There are four levels of word play games and each level targets specific reading skills. For example during level one the children learn the first sounds in words, the five short vowels, the difference between the five vowels, end sounds in words, and sight words. During levels two, three, and four we target skills developed during level one as well as more complex word play activities like segmenting, blending, and rhyming and reading and writing two-syllable words.
During paired reading you read together with the child from a book at their level of reading. Often the child takes over the reading and reads the entire book with little help. When that happens it’s a sign they are ready to begin reading books at a more difficult level. During the literacy hour it’s important to talk with the children and make sure they comprehend the story being told by the words they read in the book.
The have-a-go writing segment is challenging for both the child and the teacher. Much of the training session yesterday focused on being more effective in this area. During have-a-go writing the children use their skills to write sentences. It’s important to get them to write about something of interest that has meaning in their life and to interact with them to draw out and improve their knowledge of sounds and words for self-expression.
Shared reading is the last segment in the literacy hour. The child chooses a book they want their learning partner to read out loud to them. Discussing the story is important and this is a good time to introduce new words into the children’s vocabulary. The children are often totally captivated during this part of the hour. They love having someone read to them.
As mentioned before, literacy hour ends with a handwritten recognition or “praise note” for each child. We read the note out loud to the child and they take it home tucked inside a new book to read and return next time. The goals of literacy hour are simple – focus on improving reading, writing, and speaking. Honing your skills to improve effectiveness, keep the process interesting and fun, and match the specific abilities and needs of each child is the challenge.
Next week after morning literacy hour, I begin helping at the orphanage in the afternoon.