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Learning to Read by Masha Bell

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by Old SENCO, Jun 21, 2007.

  1. Having been advised to forget all about Reading Recovery and to look at alternatives... "Learning to Read" by Masha Bell was recommended.

    Dont usually but did this time... bought it.

    Arrived today.

    Masha how do i get a refund?
    It tells me nothing.
    All it is is a series of work sheets with poor illustrations (the bridge looks like a pair of underpants) and poor font type with "a" not how we write it.

    "This book teaches pupils how to read"

    Nope this book teaches me that it is £8 down the drain.
  2. Having been advised to forget all about Reading Recovery and to look at alternatives... "Learning to Read" by Masha Bell was recommended.

    Dont usually but did this time... bought it.

    Arrived today.

    Masha how do i get a refund?
    It tells me nothing.
    All it is is a series of work sheets with poor illustrations (the bridge looks like a pair of underpants) and poor font type with "a" not how we write it.

    "This book teaches pupils how to read"

    Nope this book teaches me that it is £8 down the drain.
  3. Old Senco,
    If the book only arrived today, I doubt that you have tried it out on any pupils yet. Give it a try.

    The Verdana ?a? is as it is printed in most books. I had long discussions about this with several people and decided to opt for this in the end, because the book is more about learning to read than to write.

    The pictures are deliberately simple, so that pupils concentrate on learning to read by learning to sound out all the basic English graphemes, from single letters (c, a, t) to letter strings like ?dge, ight and ation?. The pictures are there just for starting them off.

    No pupil can become a fluent reader without learning the sounds for the 61 basic graphemes first. Children who still struggle with reading by age 7 and beyond, will be able to sound out quite a few of them already. They need help with those that they are still unsure about.

    By letting them read the words on the Contents page, you will see which ones they stumble over. This serves as a simple test of their phonic knowledge. You stop at the first word they stumble over, go to the relevant page and use it to help them plug that particular gap in their knowledge.

    If you find that a pupil knows them all already, go straight to the ?Tricky letters and words? part.

    The book does consist mainly of worksheets ? ones which I found effective for helping struggling readers.
  4. i am afraid it does nothing for me. I shall look at the new phonics materials.
  5. Old Senco,
    The book is not meant to do something for you but the pupils who find learning to read difficult. U won?t find anything better in the new Letters and Sounds materials. As Chris Jolly says in today?s TES, ?it has no classroom materials. It?s just guidance for teachers?.

    When I was working as voluntary reading assistant with 6-7-year-olds I was doing reading recovery of sorts: assessing exactly what problems they had and helping them to address those.

    Their main difficulties were with decoding words which contain phonically tricky elements, e.g. bEAutiful, peOple, cOULd. But they had some serious gaps in their grasp of basic phonics too. I plugged those by producing worksheets matched to their phonic needs and also taking them through some of the words which are now listed on the Learning to Read page at www.englishspellingproblems.co.uk

    Perhaps my main reason for writing the book was the idea that the 6-7-year-old strugglers who had been taught phonics but had somehow not really learnt them would benefit from having the whole system set out in a single book that they could keep for a while and mostly work through in their own time, with just a little help from a teacher.

    I am also fairly certain that the book can enable TA?s to help the strugglers far more effectively than most currently do.
  6. Children learning to read and spell with a good synthetic phonics programme do not need death by worksheet.

    Once they have begun to learn their letter sound correspondences they need good decodable text on which to practise their reading skills. Spelling is primarily an auditory/kinaesthetic skill; children need to learn to discriminate the sounds in the spoken word and write the appropriate grapheme in response to each sound.

    Neither activity is particularly appropriate to 'worksheets'.
  7. Spot on Maizie!

    No child learns to read, particularly the strugglers, by working through a set of worksheets 'in their own time' with a 'little bit of help from a teacher'.
    They need regular, rigorous instruction by a trained adult who has a sound understanding of the alphabetic code along with plenty of opportunities to practise these skills by reading text.
    This sounds like one of these books bought by desperate parents in WHSmiths.
  8. No at least the books "bought by desperate parents from WHS" are colourful and sometimes attractive to kids. This book is printed on horrible yellow paper and with worksheets I would have produced 20 years ago.

    Marsha I take in your comments, I have kept the book but I must admit, as you have gathered, it was a little disappointing.

    But mind you at least you have written a book - I havent!
  9. Sorry pressed send too early !!

    Anyway I disagree - we have Learning to Read by M Bell at School and it is used alot. It is simple and uncluttered and I like it. I work with KS1 & KS2 and it is a well worn copy. We dont need flashy pretty books to get the message through.
  10. Britgirl tell me more as I would love to give this book a go.
  11. Do you know, old SENCO, I am seriously beginning to believe that you are just a wind up merchant.

    If you are what your username says, why on earth don't you already know how to teach a child to read? I have already pointed you at the best and most effective synthetic phonics based programme around. The Dfes programme will tell you all you need to know but you just keep on and on. Now you are getting interested in a completely unknown book ...why?

    BTW. I much appreciated your critique of mashabell's book!!
  12. Rude Maize....
  13. As my "title" suggests i have been a SENCO for many years and yes i do know how the majority of children learn to read thank you rude maizie. However as i am sure even someone as rude as you are aware, us SENCOs work with pupils who have had every system and they still cant read. I am interested in new ideas and resources and I dont see anything wrong in that - so go and be patronising to someone else.
  14. Britgirl 19, I am obviously really pleased that u like the book.

    And I am glad, Old Senco, that you are still considering giving it a try. It may not be perfect for the children u teach (I think u said age 9-10 somewhere else), but I hope it will help them too. I wrote it initially mainly for struggling 6-7-yr-olds.

    I would have liked better paper, but Pegasus use just that quality, and it?s environmentally friendlier... Not having colour was a deliberate choice, because I wanted the children to concentrate on the letters and words, without too many distractions.

    It?s main difference from other phonic schemes lies in having all the essentials of English phonics IN ONE BOOK. I am worried that little kids now race through the phonics in a very colourful and stimulating way, but they have nothing to hang on to and to go back over by themselves.

    This is fine with a child like my daughter was, but would not have suited me or my son. We are a bit slow on the uptake during live instruction and need something for going over in our own time, in peace and quiet. So I tried to make learning to decode words like a series of solvable puzzles that children can mostly work out for themselves, without needing too much adult help - because strugglers often don?t get this at home.

    I don?t envisage the book being adopted by any school for their basic phonic instruction. Most already have their schemes and the new Letters and Sounds package does not require them to change. But that guidance puts much emphasis on revision and consolidation. I think that for many children my little book will prove extremely useful for that, and for TA?s helping children 1-1.

    And thanks for replying to Maizie. She left me speechless.
  15. Old Senco - have you actually tried a synthetic phonics programme?

    I teach children with a lot of difficulties (and bad habits from the way they've been taught) and they ALL learn to read with SP! You don't need anything else.
  16. helikettle excuse my ignorance (I am a TA and not sure of terminology!) but what do you mean by "synthetic phonics programme"!. Sorry if being dense.
  17. Glad you asked. Britgirl!

    eg Jolly Phonics, Read Write Inc, Sounds~write or even the new government Letters and Sounds programme, for which I'm sure someone can come up with the link.

    BTW Have you read the Rose Report?

  18. The Rose report and the new DfES literacy package Letters and Sounds both recommend ?systematic? phonics rather than synthetic phonics. They both define this as teaching children ?the correspondences between graphemes in written language and phonemes in spoken language, and how to use these correspondences to read and spell words.?

    The only new thing in the Sounds and Letters guidance is the faster pace: the main 19 letters in six weeks, then another 18 graphemes (ch,sh, th, ng, ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er)over the next 12 weeks or so. It also says that other graphemes for those sounds could serve just as well (e.g. a-e, ea, -y...). It's not nearly as well thought out or definite as I expected it to be.

    My Learning to Read certainly qualifies as a systematic phonics course by DfES criteria, but with the main emphasis on learning to read. It can obviously be used for teaching writing as well, because the first two thirds of the book use only phonically regular spellings and allow for the two processes to be taught as reversible.

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