Thursday, 9 June 2016

Barking bloody mad!

Those who watched ABC's TV series Revolution School on Tuesday night would have learned that Kambrya College students were not studying books in English class.
Instead, they were learning from textbooks which published short passages extracted from books, and were asked to analyse the texts and answer questions.
It seemed students were not borrowing books from the school library. There was no apparent encouragement that students  read at home. 
It's unlikely that Kambrya is alone in this.
In Victoria, each school decides how it teaches students to read, write and spell. 
While teachers and principals are doing their best to teach students well, it seems they have conflicting ideas about how best to do this. 
In Revolution School, a literacy expert, Diane Snowball, suggests that Kambrya College encourage students to spend 10-15 minutes reading silently before class in a program called independent reading. 
Yet the suggestion is met with resistance from the assistant principal, Nalini Naidu, who accuses the expert of being judgmental.
"Unless you tell me there is research saying what you're doing right now is totally wrong and you're taking your kids backwards, I'm not prepared to listen," said Naidu. 
But there is mounting research highlighting the academic, emotional and cognitive benefits of reading. 
Australia's literacy grades are still higher than the OECD average, but mean scores have declined significantly from 2000 to 2012 on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, with top performers' grades slumping by 5 per cent over that period.
The situation is dire for Indigenous students, which according to the tests, are two-and-a-half years behind non-Indigenous students in reading.
Year 9 students struggle with writing, with NAPLAN tests showing nearly one in every five year 9 students is performing below the national benchmark.
The general manager of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, Stanley Rabinowitz, warned late last year that stagnated literacy skills could be improved if secondary schools encouraged more reading.
"The assumption is that because we think they are reading, we don't have to do reading instruction in years 7 and 9," he told Fairfax Media in 2015.
To Kambrya College's credit, the school took on Ms Snowball's suggestion and rolled out the new program of regular silent reading. 
And the students loved it.
A group of boys at risk of expulsion or drop out sat for the full 15 minutes immersing themselves in their books. 
One of these students said that before the silent reading program, he would only read posts on Facebook or anything related to bikes. "But now ... I'm doing a lot more reading," he said..
Other students reported that due to their reading, their spelling and vocabulary had improved

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I don't know where to start with this story. Of course reading is important and students need to be reading every day. Mine read for half an hour every morning on top of reading activities and guided reading for my Early Years students. If kids aren't reading in high school then they are buying them the wrong books! Di Snowball is still the best in the business.

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