A Reflective Student Self Assessment Journal

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Today we had to read an article about a dyslexic person at an interview, then we had to use various craft materials to express how the article made us feel. I felt very panicky at first as i didn't really understand what was expected of me, i think on looking around the room most people felt the same. However, on rereading the article it made me realise how trapped the person had felt because they could not read or write as easily as others. So my interpretation was of two people one trapped being forced to study ABC's and the other of a happy person being able to express them selves using music, drama and the arts. I believe children should be able to use all forms of expression and that all subjects can be taught using music, art or drama.

28.9.10 Literacy in the curriculum - what is literacy?

Today we were set a task of defining literacy in 12 words, then we had to work in pairs to combine our definitions and then into groups of 4/5 to do the same again to agree on a final definition that we were all happy with. My definition was "literacy is an understanding and appreciation of the written and spoken word" I was pleased with this but when we discussed it with my group they all disagreed that the word appreciation should be in the definition. This turned into quite a deep discussion which i felt quite out numbered in. I believe that as an adult working in the educational process, we endeavour to help and encourage children to appreciate and enjoy literacy in all its forms... I argued my point as i feel quite passionate about, I gave an example of how we as lsa's try to being books to life, by acting them out and changing voices or using props to engage children. Another example I used to support my argument was my son trying to play sing star and how because he couldn't read the words on the screen he couldn't play so was excluded by his sister. I didn't just mean appreciation as in picking up a book and wanting to read it, being literate is like owning a key, I cant imagine living in today's society and not being able to read. The word appreciation did stay in our definition. Ours was the only definition to contain this word which surprised me. I feel strongly that being literate does include a degree of appreciation of the written word in all its different forms. Next we discussed the barriers of literacy and I found this very interesting, I had never thought about all the factors that influence the teaching or leaning of literacy. This session contained lots of good discussions and gave me a lot to think about especially in my setting. I am looking forward to the reading in this unit, however I have no idea what my focus will be for my essay.

5.10.10 Reading - code breaking task

I felt very anxious when I walked into the room and it was set up in exam conditions, especially as I had to sit on my own because I was late and everyone else was sat in pairs. I was more comfortable when i found out I could work with someone else. We approached the task using our previous knowledge of language, for example the vowels and high frequency words, then we used a process of elimination, we re-wrote the code using blanks and then filled in the words. The task made me realise how children feel everyday at school when presented with a page of text and not being able to read it. We decoded the text which is what teachers are trying to get children to do when teaching them to read. My thoughts about children learning to read relate to my children and the vast differences i have experienced. My daughter picked up reading very quickly and easily however, I spent a lot of time reading books to e and now at 13 she is still an avid reader, my son on the other hand is 8 and struggling to read, I also read los to him but nit as much time is available as he is second child and I work two jobs and am doing this course and am a single mother. I do feel that I have let him down to a degree. I strongly believe that the earlier you start with children the easier they find it. In my experience at home and in my job I believe girls do find it an easier skill than boys, girls seem to have more enthusiasm and drive than boys. I also believe that supportive parents are key in children learning to read.

Spelling quiz on victory

I rate myself as a good speller so I would say 2 on a scale of 1-5, 1 being excellent 5 being awful. I am good at spelling as it was something my parents were quite strict about it and pulled me up constantly. I don't remember what teachers have said about my spelling. I can remember having a list of spellings each week, having to learn them and then put them into a sentence and being tested. I did find these methods useful as it helped me understand the meaning of the word and the context to use it in. My parents also used to test me to prepare me for the test at school. I don't think spelling holds as much importance in today's society as it did when I was growing up. I feel its something that as educators we should focus on. I believe spelling is an important skill and that people do judge you on it, as it really annoys me when people spell simple words wrong and don't make an effort. But nowadays children use computers all the time with built in spell check so they don't need to be able to spell and also text talk is damaging peoples spelling ability. I feel dictionaries are no longer used now Google has been invented!

Learning Log.


For this learning log the resource identified from my workplace will be big books, these are used constantly in the teaching of literacy within our classroom. I would like to point out that I work in a class of ten children all with special educational needs, all requiring varying support from an adult. This report will describe how the book is used to take reading forward and evaluate its effectiveness with reference to reading on using visual strategies in the teaching of literacy.

Use in the classroom

A book is chosen which is relevant to the topic that will be taught that half term, for example "Amazing Grace" then several subjects will be linked to that story as much as possible for this book it was art, drama, and literacy. The book is used on a large stand at the front of the classroom, and the children are sat around the book, the children take turns in reading aloud a couple of sentences each whilst the teacher uses a pointer to point to the words, helping the children sound out any unfamiliar words. The teacher will then re-read each paragraph and discuss the pictures with the children asking questions such as what their thoughts are to what will happen next, how the characters are feeling, what they would do if they were the character, and such things. Each literacy session a couple of pages would be read, with the teacher recapping any previous sessions and prompting the children to see how much they can remember.

For the Amazing Grace story the children made puppets as she dressed up in the book, so each child had to decide which character they would like their puppet to be. They also acted out a very brief version of Peter Pan as this was featured in the book, posters were made in art to advertise their performance, and the children chose costumes from the drama room for their character in the performance, photographs of the performance were taken for evidence. The children drew pictures and wrote a sentence or a word depending on ability from the story to accompany it.

Effectiveness in supporting learning

A big book is a great tool for teaching literacy to a group of children, due to their size they can be viewed easily at one time by a number of children. The objectives of using a big book to support learning are to increase children's awareness that print and symbols convey meaning, to improve their ability to attend to print, in addition to pictures, when read to by others. To understand and use directionality of print and to recognize that punctuation guides the reader and helps to clarify the meaning. Big books also support children's understanding of the concept of print, the large print makes it easy to see the difference between a letter, a word and a sentence, and easier for the teacher to draw attention to the punctuation and its meaning. The big book can also be great for developing the children's basic book knowledge, looking at the front and the back cover and the information that a reader can get from these about the book, discussing the title, asking the children what they think the book may be about. The author and illustrator can be explained and discussed as part of the group looking at the book together. Big books are usually predictable books with lots of repetitive narrative, this makes it easier for children to make sense of the print as they see it over and over again so they begin to use their prior knowledge to identify words that come next in a sentence, as well as rhythm, rhyme, and repetition, all of which aid word recognition and identification. Children in my setting seem to love big books as they are eye catching and attractive and the children can handle them without worrying about damaging them. All the children in my class join in with all the activities and sessions supported by the big book, therefore making the same literacy lesson appropriate to several different abilities at one time.


A well chosen big book can be the basis of a brilliant lesson which allows all the children to enjoy the text, sentence and word level, just as the Literacy Framework requires. Using big books makes new language learning a fun and meaningful experience for both children and teachers. Big books typically use predictable texts which makes it easier for children to join in. Shared reading is an important component of a balanced early literacy program. The use of an enlarged text allows children to see the print while it is being pointed to and read by the teacher. Children begin to make the association between oral and written language. I believe the use of a big book makes literacy accessible for all children and can be appropriate whatever their level.

There are many different factors which contribute to the development of literacy. Identify one factor and examine how it relates to this process.

This essay will explore the development of literacy, and the stages that children progress through. This subject is huge and there are lots of factors to consider which all impact the development of literacy in their own ways. This essay will be focusing on synthetic phonics and discussing the impact they have on this process. Synthetic phonics has been chosen as it is a very relevant factor in the development of literacy and has been a key topic in several government initiatives especially recently which will be explored within this essay. The framework for teaching literacy and relevant research on this topic will be discussed along with the advantages and any disadvantages of using synthetic phonics within developing literacy.

Being literate could be defined as the ability to understand, comprehend and appreciate the written and spoken word. It could be said that learning to read is the most important skill any child will learn during their first years of education. Possessing the skill to be able to read is a key to unlock all the other benefits of their future education and has high implications for life long skills and confidence. The foundation for literacy development has been described as beginning much earlier than a child's first days at school, according to several researchers who say it starts in the womb and then describing it as happening through children interacting with adults and older siblings or children, and through their play and their experiences with literacy resources, such as stories, rhymes, songs, crayons and paper. Development of literacy as a skill is intensely complex and the value for communication should not be under estimated.

It could be said that English is one of the hardest languages to learn so presents a challenge, one letter or one cluster of letters, called a digraph, can have various different pronunciations, using an alphabet of twenty-six letters to represent forty-four sounds. There are lots of rules in the English language but they are not always consistent. English is made additionally difficult by regional differences. Only 80% of the English language is phonetically regular and we use that eighty percent only twenty percent of the time. Snow, Burns, & Griffin, (1998) suggest some children may also have difficulty understanding and using the alphabetic principle struggling with the idea that written spellings systematically represent spoken words. Another difficult skill for children to grasp is the ability to transfer the comprehension skills of spoken language to reading and to acquire new strategies that may be specifically required for reading. Also if there is an absence of motivation to read a child may not advance through the stages and may fail to develop a mature appreciation of the rewards of reading. Jenkins, Stein, & Wysocki, (1984) suggest that learners may need to encounter an unfamiliar word six times in context before they have enough experience to understand and recall its meaning.

The development of reading and writing behaviours or skills can be described as stages or phases of literacy development. It is believed that most children with or without disabilities tend to follow this same general path but progress in different ways and tempos.  Literacy development can be described as recursive meaning learners may move forward in some areas but seem to step back as they consolidate understanding in others. Therefore, reading and writing may not develop at the same time producing a child that may be fluent in one area and emergent in another. Gentry (1982) identified five stages of spelling development these are pre-communicative, semi-phonetic, phonetic, transitional, and correct.

The development of reading skills begins with the child understanding the difference between words and pictures, perception of letters, some alphabetical and phonic knowledge, and an understanding of orientation of words and books. Then the child may move on to understanding text has a specific meaning, using pictures as cues and relying on memory of texts and familiar words, building up a growing store of words in different contexts. They may know the meaning of some punctuation but may not use it consistently in their writing. As readers get more fluent they will be able to recognize many words in and out of context and apply their phonic knowledge and other word analysis skills to figure out and confirm new words. They will begin to monitor their own reading for meaning and self correct as needed and therefore read with increased fluency, accuracy, and expression. Reading for understanding requires an active thinking method that is determined by the reader's previous knowledge and experiences. Procedures for improving literacy development focus not only on increasing reading skills, but also on developing the higher-order thinking skills that enable children to comprehend, analyze, and communicate about ideas. Early writers may just make marks on a page with a few letters mainly initial or final consonants they may write some whole words or word parts from memory. Children usually learn to write their name first and in emergent writing the letters from their name often appear throughout. At first children may not be able to read back what they have written but as they progress they can usually read their own writing. Children learning to write may have variable standards of handwriting often sloping across the page and quite big letters. Possible use of more lower case letters but still being mixed with capital letters irregularly throughout. In the early stages of writing children may reverse some letters often writing b instead of d and start using spaces between words, but not consistently. As writers get more fluent they become more comfortable with drafting, revising and editing and begin to show influence of the texts they have read expressing their ideas more elaborately. Their spelling becomes more accurate with increased use of punctuation in the correct places.

Synthetic Phonics is a method to teach sound-symbol correspondences in a clearly defined incremental sequence to children when learning to read. This process involves examining every spelling within the word individually as an individual sound and then blending those sounds in the order which they occur throughout the word orally to produce a spoken word, or read it out loud. The goal of synthetic phonics instruction is that children identify the grapheme-phoneme correspondences and synthesising their phonemes automatically. In a journal article Wyse (2010) suggests there is clear evidence that the teaching of synthetic phonics is the most effective way of teaching infant children to read, especially for those at risk of having difficulties with reading. Johnston and Watson (2007) suggested that a major advantage of synthetic phonics is its early implementation, meaning that children are able to decipher unfamiliar words when they are introduced to text. By learning to sound out and synthesise, children are given a process that they can employ for themselves whenever they meet an unrecognised word. Therefore they have a method for figuring out unfamiliar words when they meet them in any context. Also in their research they suggest that this may be a more effective method for teaching children to read.

Benefits of synthetic phonic approach are supported by copious amounts of research, Johnston and Watson (2007) report that research suggested that children from disadvantaged social backgrounds are succeeding more with this approach. The Rose report says that there is anecdotal evidence from teachers that once children start to recognise sounds they start to self teach and advantages seem to be sustained over time, especially in boys which raises another interesting point and is supported by the a six year study in a Gloucestershire primary school which in 2004 showed that phonics substantially boosted boys' achievement, although boys and girls seem to read words much better with synthetic phonics. Ehri, L.C., Nunes, S.R., Stahl, S.A. and Willows, D.M. (2001) conducted research using 66 treatment-control comparisons derived from 38 experiments, evaluating the effects of systematic phonics instruction compared to unsystematic or no-phonics instruction on learning to read Systematic phonics instruction helped children learn to read better than all forms of control group instruction, including whole language. Therefore they concluded that systematic phonics instruction proved effective be and suggested it be implemented as part of literacy programs to teach beginning reading as well as to prevent and remediate reading difficulties.

Educationalists in the 1960s were first gripped by the phonics versus whole language debate when the whole language approach emerged as a new way to teach literacy. There has been a renewal of government interest in synthetic phonics in recent years. Her majesty's inspectorate, who were replaced by OFSTED, produced a report in 1990 on the teaching of reading, this report didn't receive much government interest even though it was supported by evidence from visits to 120 schools, the report concluded that the phonic skills that were being taught using mixed methods but showed beneficial effect, having said that the curriculum was rewritten in 1992 with more phonics. In 1998 the National Literacy Strategy emphasised a more structured approach to teaching reading and it was noted by the DfES that half of all schools ignore phonics, so in 1999 lots of phonics materials were published for teachers by the DfES, but in 2001 Ofsted reported that teaching of phonics was weak. Wyse and Jones (2008) discuss research into synthetic phonics mentioning the research in Clackmannanshire in 2004, which resulted in a recommendation that there should be a government enquiry into the teaching of reading. This led to The Department for Education and Skills  announcing a review in 2005 of the teaching of early reading which was headed by Jim Rose. In his independent review of early reading Jim Rose confirmed that phonic work of a high quality is the best means for teaching most young children how to spell and to read, this was supported by international research. He also emphasized the significance of developing children's listening and speaking skills at the earliest stage in the home environment, early year's settings and in schools. The Rose report determined two obvious but linked procedures involved in teaching children to read these being recognising words and language comprehension. The Rose review had a huge impact on the teaching of literacy so much so that in September 2006 all schools in England were legally required to use synthetic phonics in the teaching of literacy to four and fiver year olds. It was suggested that teachers should observe children carefully so they can plan and implement a high quality phonics programme. More training for teachers was suggested to increase awareness of how phonic work could be taught throughout the curriculum. The final report was published in March 2006 and named the Rose report and was heavily influenced by the earlier mentioned Johnston and Watson's study. The Primary Framework and the Early Years Foundation Stage reflect these considerations, and promote synthetic phonics. Jim Rose's group has now reported and the UK Government has decreed that synthetic phonics should be the method of choice for teaching reading in primary schools in England after consideration of various evidence, although Wyse and Jones (2010) point out that HMI visited only 10 schools using synthetic phonics, these visits were deemed enough to prove that significant changes in the teaching of reading were needed. Interesting not as much attention was paid to the earlier mentioned report in 1990 by HMI where there was more evidence. Wyse and Jones (2010) raise an interesting point that there was no research to support the Rose report's most controversial recommendation that children younger than five years would benefit from synthetic phonics. In 2009 there was an independent review of the Primary Curriculum headed by Jim Rose resulting in the core criteria being revised by the government to enhance the 'phonics first' approach that the Rose Review introduced. The main changes are to make clear that phonics programmes should be synthetic programmes and to emphasize that texts provided should be appropriate for children to decode.

In November 2010, a government white paper looked at how the new coalition government will change the face of Britain's education system and in it contained plans to train all primary school teachers in phonics. This report highlights the importance of teaching synthetic phonics and reports that the evidence is clear that it is the best way to teach children to read. The paper also says that they will train Ofsted inspectors in the assessment of teaching of reading in particular the use of synthetic phonics.

So in conclusion literacy develops over time as children progress from emerging to skilled readers who can comprehend and analyze complex text. Well-designed literacy programmes provide learners with lots of opportunities to use language through reading, writing, listening, and speaking for varied and accurate purposes. However, whatever the path, the goal is for all children to become fluent and efficient readers and writers who can comprehend and express meaning in written language, to become thinkers and communicators who are actively evaluating and investigating information, to enjoy and appreciate literacy and to feel confident as users of reading and writing for an assortment of reasons.


Ehri, L.C., Nunes, S.R., Stahl, S.A. and Willows, D.M. (2001). Systematic phonics instruction helps students learn to read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel's meta-analysis, Review of Educational Research, 71(3): 393-447.

Great Britain. Department for education and skills. (2007). Letters and Sounds: Principles and Practice of High Quality Phonics. London: HMSO.

Hammersley-Fletcher, L., Lowe, M. and Pugh, J. (2006). The Teaching Assistant's Guide. New York: Routledge.

Hayes, D. (2004). Foundations of Primary Teaching. London: David Fulton Publishers.

Jenkins, J.R., Stein, M. & Wysocki, K. (1984). Learning vocabulary through reading. American Educational Research Journal, 21, 767-787.

Torgerson, C. and Brooks, G. (2005). A systematic review of the use of phonics in the teaching of reading and spelling; DfES. National Institute for Child's Health and Human Development (2010).

Torgerson, C., Hall, J. and Brooks, G. (2006). A Systematic Review of the Research Literature on the Use of Phonics in the Teaching of Reading and Spelling, DfES, University of York and University of Sheffield.

Wyse, D and Jones, R. (2010). Teaching English, Language and Literacy (2nd Ed) London: Routledge.

Wyse, D and Goswami, U. (2008). Synthetic phonics and the teaching of reading. British Educational Research Journal, 34(6) 691-710.