This newspaper article sparked a personal observation about "learning to read".
My own son struggled to read in Prep/ Grade One and Special Ed was suggested as a solution.
He hated reading...home reading had become a tearful chore, however I knew that all of this new trauma was so unnecessary and all would be fine if he was just allowed to make connections his way when he was ready.
Time to take the pressure off, and bring the enjoyment back, by reading to him once more.
My favourite Grade 5 teacher used to read to us for hours on long hot summer afternoons. I'll never forget listening to The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe under a shady tree. It nurtured a love of books in many of us.
So we dumped the mind numbing "readers" and chose real stories filled with excitement and adventure. He would be at my shoulder following the words as I moved my finger along them. Sometimes I would point out a word that recurred in the text and each time we came to it he would read it, if I left a small pause.
After 6 - 9 months of enjoyable reading together (without pressure to "learn" to read). He was reading chapter books suitable for children 3-4 years older! Sometimes stuck, but undeterred because he was engaged and eager to find out what happened! I'll never forget him running into a bookstore (when it all clicked) and declaring joyfully "I love books!".
The trouble with "systems" is they create an artificial timeframe for progress. Learning broken down into a one size fits all process. This is flawed because it is not how humans learn...
That's when educators make all the difference, by knowing their students and tweaking the stepping stones so they resonate with individual students but sadly even they can be constrained by outdated educational norms.
Learning is a unique and individual process.
One aspect may resonate with an individual student, which then inspires them to further exploration & more connections. Another student may need to take a completely different path. Outcomes achieved in this self directed way are long lasting and meaningful.
A one size fits all system will only ever deliver for a narrow defined band of students and that is a tragic waste of potential.
There is a thriving, innovative alternative education community out there and like Ken Robinson says...when alternative education becomes mainstream, then we'll be getting somewhere!
We need students to graduate that have essential skills, but we also need students that know how to learn. Students who know what questions to ask that will lead to the answers they seek. Self directed learners who don't fear mistakes but use them as a trigger for deeper exploration. Creative problem solvers prepared to tweak their answers after reflection or feedback, able to be flexible and creatively collaborate.
The era of the "sage on the stage" is over as we enter a new time of "the guide on the side". Less teaching and more facilitating, directing & guiding. Making resources available and then allowing the time and space to let real learning happen, not constrained by 45 min bells or rigid Naplan timetables.
Digital Canvas Workshop is expanding based on this innovative 21st Century model and we are eager to keep sharing our discoveries with you.