When your children start school, and quite possibly in earlier educational settings, they will begin to learn how to read. Learning to read is a complex and challenging task but is such a vital skill that the more practice and the more little ones can be encouraged to read, the better. As a parent, you will play an important role in the journey to becoming a reader, but the overall burden falls on the teachers working with your children.
There are various approaches to learning to read, and you will probably hear different terms. Most methods are based on on of two fundamental approaches:-
Phonics: requires words to be broken down into sounds in order to help sound out whole words.
Lexical: reading teaches recognition of whole words.
Since 2005, the UK government has stipulated a phonic approach to learning to read, employing a particular model known as synthetic phonics. This encourages words to be broken into phonic sounds which are then blended together in order to sound out complete words. Other phonic and lexical approaches play their part - for example, teachers will encourage the learning of 'high frequency words' so that young children can recognise some of the most common words in the language.
The emphasis on synthetic phonics does not mean that other approaches to reading are invalid, and as a parent you do not need to worry about the intricacies of different learning models. The best contribution that you can offer as a parent is to ensure that you read regularly to your little ones, and that you support them in their reading when the time comes.
If your children attend a nursery, there's a good chance that they come home talking about what they've done on a smartboard, and you're possibly left wondering what on earth a smartboard is?! Classroom technology has shifted from blackboards to whiteboards, through acetate projectors and onto computer projectors. The smartboard is your children's generation classroom presentation equipment!
A smartboard is an interactive whiteboard. A computer projects a video display onto a touch sensitive screen and children and teachers can interact with the screen using their fingers or special 'pens', which may also have buttons on like a mouse. Smartboards can be used for a variety of purposes including:-
- watching television and videos
- playing interactive games
- drawing and writing
- story telling
At one level a smartboard can be used just as a large screen for a computer, but it is enhanced with interactive games that allow people to interface in all sorts of fun ways.
In nursery schools, smartboards are often used for projecting children's TV programmes, telling stories (sometimes interactive) and for educational games to introduce colours, numbers, letters, shapes and other basic learning.
All of this is introducing children to information and communication technology from the age of 3 years and upwards. There's no doubt that children are growing up in a world very different from the one we grew up in; by the time they are starting school at the age of 5, most children already have varied exposure to computers, ICT and numerous digital gadgets!
It has been reported that teachers and carers who are afraid of spiders and creepy crawlies are stopping our children learning about the natural world! Children are not getting involved with nature because teachers and carers are afraid of getting mucky from soil in the great outdoors and are too scared of insects to teach about them.
Experts have said that natural history and nature in general is not being taught in schools. Not so for the childminders and parents who enjoy ToucanLearn! There are some great outdoors activities that introduce insects and teach children about their natural environment. We don't agree with the 'don't get mucky'! philosophy of learning and teaching! The whole idea is to get children involved. Get them interested and inspired! The muddier the better!
The Chairman of the Association for Science Education said teachers need more support to carry out experiments and take children outside. Perhaps these teachers should join ToucanLearn!
He also said that Parents should take their children outside to enjoy the natural world, to learn where their food comes from, what grows in the woods and what goes on in nature.
So, let's take his lead, pull on some wellies, grab a magnifying glass and get out there in the undergrowth! Have fun, explorers!