The teaching of reading

30 08 2008

Tuesday 15th July

The children were very late in coming to school today because it was really quite cold and really who can blame them as they could stay beside the fire in their houses or come to school to be in a cold classroom!

I started off the day doing maths with St1 and 2 to show them how to use washing lines – not that I have a great deal of experience in that myself but it gave them a start at least and they thought it was brilliant.

I had taken out the string needed, clothes pegs and laminated coloured numbers that my class had made. With everything like that that I took I explained how they could make durable enough ones with cardboard and left them whatever I could find of bits that I had, like from the cases of water provided to us.

I then went to do maths with St6 and 7 and specifically wanted to show things that got some thinking going on. First though we did the loop cards which caused great hilarity whenever someone did not get up with their answer when it had been quite an easy question, especially if they had already been laughing at others! Mr Kalivute’s favourite was countdown and he off his own back asked the children closed to the number required to come and explain how they did it, which would have been my next point! It was obvious the pupils had never done anything like that before as they were unsure of how to explain things so I hope he keeps this up.

Did some more maths again with St3,4 and 5 and this was really just reinforcing the things I had already done to make sure the teachers understood.

We were having a CPD session after school and I wanted to but fanta and biscuits for the teachers to have. I was not even allowed to walk the couple of hundred yards to the shop myself and Patrick and Philipo came with – as did half the school as it was break time! They thought it was great fun to come out of school as it was break time so I was like the Pied Piper of Hamlyn all over again. Patrick told me at this point that he wanted to come home to Scotland with me – I am not sure in what context though!

I did Scottish country dancing with St6 and 7 today as well and I laughed until I cried today. I started off with the Canadian Barn Dance as I thought it was quite straightforward but had not counted on so much resistance from the girls about dancing with the boys. I explained the boys usually asked a girl to dance so I explained how they would just go over and ask, quite self-explanatory I thought! So Mr Kalivute strutted across to the girls, and I really mean strutted (how I wish I had had the video camera ready) and made a big thing of asking politely etc. The boys then followed him with the strutting and the girls promptly ran away! I eventually just numbered them to split them up, so we sorted that out for the moment.

first attempts

first attempts

I demonstrated with Mr Kalivute which was fine for the start of the dance until it came time for the hand round the waist bit etc and that just had the boys in stitches and whistling and the girls looking as if they were about to run away again! Kind of went for just holding hands in the end as the girls could not cope! The bizarre thing was that they could not get the hang of continuing the dance on and not just doing it once, so needless to say we never got to the point of changing partners.

note the girls all dancing together

note the girls all dancing together

I went for the dashing white sergeant after that and that was easier and the girls preferred it as they just did it with same sex groups. Funny thing was that I would do a wee tune while doing the bit with partners and they all automatically copied me! They liked the spinning round aspects of it the best.

the boys really went for it

the boys really went for it

Tried rounders again after that and we got on a bit better as Mr Kalivute was a bit more clued up on it but it was still vastly different to our version and there were so many of them wanting to play that they did not really have much to do most of the time.

I led some CPD on phonics, now I knew before I went that this might be something I would do so I do not know what possessed me not to take information as having only taught infants once a few years ago I felt quite clueless. So I had spent the previous few days texting every teacher in Scotland I knew to get info and a couple of them came up real troopers and sent me pages of texts back with info. They had heard of it and kind of knew the concept but relating it to Chichewa and getting them to see how they could use it was hard. It would only really begin to filter up as infants start.

the teachers have now to think of Chichewa words to fit the sounds

the teachers have now to think of Chichewa words to fit the sounds

It was something I felt really strongly about though as I knew the reading was really poor. For a start having volunteer teachers did not help and they were very teaching by just copying what the teacher said, at least in English lessons. Now they were just copying the teacher’s guides so in a way it is not their fault but an example would be a few lines between two people about not coming out to play until you had done your homework. Now I remember my german teacher saying she would not speak in English during a lesson but in reality that never happened as she had to explain things that were out of context or she could not point to etc. This is what these teachers were doing though. They would read the passage or a line, the children would copy, often one at a time with her (how boring for everyone, the lesson went on forever and I was nearly in tears with frustration) and yes they might be able to say it but they did not have the faintest idea what they were saying as it was not explained to them.

I therefore spent a lot of time explaining how even if it was an English lesson it was okay to speak in Chichewa, that they had to understand what they were saying and trying to encourage them to let the children sound the words out and not just copy the teacher all of the time. I demonstrated by showing how I could read Chichewa because of my knowledge of phonetics but I did not have a clue what it was I was actually reading. I really hope that some of that sinks in and they do it as it was so blatantly obvious how hopeless it was for all but the brightest children. It was not just English either.

Some evidence for this was that for the first time link did some baseline assessments to see if they can measure the impact of our work by then doing them again 6 months or a year later. 20 St3 pupils were picked at random and given oral and written Chichewa and maths work over 2 days which proved quite difficult to organise. All of the teachers had to be involved for doing the oral work and so it was after school, and before I did the CPD training. I felt really bad for the kids as they had to come back in the afternoon and there was a lot of waiting around as they waited on everyone turning up and on their turn for the oral reading etc. They did not seem to mind but I did, especially as it was not that warm. I had an enormous stash of monkey nuts in my room as everywhere I visited people gave me them so I got them out and passed them around.The results of the Chichewa reading were awful. There were a few kids who scored really well, there was no middle ground and then the majority of kids scored really badly. I later found out this was quite indicative of all of the global teachers schools. I think, I hope anyway, that this would show the teachers that the way they are teaching reading is not working and that they will start to use some of the strategies we gave them but really this has to come from the top down. The teachers are only doing what they are told really.

St3 again

St3 again

When all of this was over I got the bubbles out and then Patrick turned up to make me a football, which I had asked if he would mind doing for me. I did not know it would take so long – 1 ½ to 2 hours I think! He concentrated on it so hard and was hard work too. We used the plastic that came off my mattress and I had brought plenty of string. Some of the younger children were about and quite a few of the older boys came and sat and played as well and they practiced their English! By this point I was getting left without a translator a lot as Mr Kaunda was off doing stuff for his new job with World Vision and to be honest I think was a bit fed up of having to hang out with me all the time – not surprising really, it was a big commitment. Lameck was about quite a lot though unofficially and a big help to me.

Patrick making my football

Patrick making my football

 

just hanging out

just hanging out

 

Philipo showing off his gymnastics skills

Philipo showing off his gymnastics skills

 

She was only four but carrying her brother on her back

She was only four but carrying her brother on her back

I was really shattered at the end of the day today as it had been so busy and it was definitely early bed. I had nsima for dinner with a green relish which was the leaves of a plant and a cabbage relish.

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