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Uprising about the early years foundation stage becoming legislation. Take the chance to investigate and respond.

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by debbiehep, Nov 30, 2007.

  1. AnnaLetts

    I enjoyed your post.

    I was wondering if your setting was outside U.K ? Tell us a little more please.

  2. Yes, I do work in a Steiner kindergarten.

    I can understand it seems strange not to want to tell children lots of information about the world. As adults we love information, but there is something behind the reels of information which speaks of a single truth or essence which can not be reduced to words. Children exist in a different state of being to adults, and are especially receptive to this essence. Their experience of it is highly therapeutic and meets very specifically their individual needs.

    Whatever we think we know about the leaf, according to scientific 'fact', our religious orientation or otherwise, represents one of many points of view regarding the leaf. It is only when the leaf is unnamed that its truth is accessible.

    We don't refuse children access to information in our kindergarten; if a child was to hold out a leaf and ask me 'what is this?' I would say 'it is a leaf'.
    We are just careful about how freely it is assigned.

    Indeed the older children (nearing 6) begin to yearn for a little more information, and the teacher will respond to that. The younger children however are not at all concerned what the names of things are or what they are made of etc., they are much more interested in simply experiencing what they are like to touch,smell, look at closely, whether you can balance one on top of the other,or whether they would make a suitable chimney for the house they are building.

    There are two fantastic books which are very pleasant and easy to read, and which give a very clear picture of what I am referring to.

    They are called 'Free to Learn' by Lynne Oldfield
    and 'The Genius of Play' by Sally Jenkinson.

  3. My setting is in the UK in Gloucestershire.

  4. It is in the leaf's unnamed essence that nature is at its most amazing.
  5. NellyFUF

    NellyFUF Lead commenter

    Anna this is right.

    I remember when we exhorted to
    "ask children lots of questions" that was considered good teaching in early years.

    But my children in my school seldom ask questions. They don't answer them either. Ok they need language to learn and build concepts but it is so fine and delicate built on relationships and understanding. They are so damaged and so limited. They need to "be". All that stuff about emotional literacy as if it can be tacked on to lesson plans. Today's learning objective is to correctly label being happy. Oh no, oh no, oh no. People doing this with the little mr and miss men books. Argh.

    But synthetic phonics is fun and can be an add on to a good child led setting. Finding people who understand how little and fragile children learn and grow, not that is rather more difficult.
  6. AnnaLetts

    I can see why EYFS does not sit happily with your setting.

    I feel that this might be hijacking the thread but I am interested to find out:

    Do your children have any difficulty sdjusting to state education post 6, or do they usually continue in Steiner education so this is not an issue

    Is there anyway of monitoring the longterm success of this philosophy on the individual ?

  7. Hello Hedda,

    Do you mind if I reply tomorrow?, as it is getting a little late.

  8. Have had some connection with Steiner schools having had friends who have been there and having taught a number of older Steiner struggling readers. There are undoubtedly good things about Steiner education - the co-operation between children and the lack of precociousness and over-materialism.

    But it is quite distressing to see those who don't 'pick' up reading (in spite of parents who read constantly to their children), in spite of the 'good' back-up, special needs teachers, cranial osteopathy for instance. 9, 10 year olds are generally very fragile if they haven't picked up our complicated orthography by that age. Steiner schools really have to address this.
  9. I have actually read the book you mention (Free to Learn) when I moved into Reception and visited a Steiner school. I would recommend both highly as a good insight into the Steiner philosophy.

    The kindergarten is an amazing environment to be in and I have tried to bring some elements into my setting.

    I was wondering if you felt all children would suit and thrive in this environment? Surely much is to do with the family and and ideals of the parents. I agree with Debbie that most parents tend to favour a midldle ground and parents putting their child in a Steiner education are looking for that certain sort of schooling. The parents surely need to buy in to the philosophy at home to support what is happening at school.
  10. Re. post 56

    Perhaps there is nothing in the campaign literature referring directly to synthetic phonics, however I have issues with an extract from:
    ?Child development is enormously diverse and some children learn to read and write at three while others, including Nobel-prize winners like Einstein, don't learn to read or write until they are 11 or 12.
    Supposing Einstein had been subjected to a system of synthetic phonics, what would have happened to the theory of relativity??

    I have trawled through 7 biographies of Einstein online so far and have found no mention of the fact that Einstein could not read or write until he was 11 or 12.

    Whether or not this is fact, why on earth does Richard House pose the question "Supposing Einstein had been subjected to a system of synthetic phonics, what would have happened to the theory of relativity??

    Is Mr. House seriously implying that Einstein would not have arrived at his theory of relativity (which, incidentally, was not what he won the Nobel prize for) had he been taught to read and write using synthetic phonics.

    Mr. House may just as well have asked:

    ?Supposing Einstein had not been a ?late talker?, or supposing Einstein did not begin to learn the violin in 1885, what would have happened to the theory of relativity??

    I agree that child development is enormously diverse, however as we have a system of state schooling with relatively large classes, we have to plan our teaching content and methodologies for the average child, and then differentiate for those at either end of the bell curve.

    Having taught children in a mixed YR/Y1 classroom (4-6 age range) for 17 years, I know that the average child is well ready and eager to begin learning to read and write at this stage, and I have discovered that explicit teaching of the alphabtic code and the skills of blending and segmenting, using systematic synthetic phonics, is the most effective way to help children become competent and confident readers and writers.

    When teaching using mixed methods, I would certainly have felt that many YR children were simply not ready and would have agreed with another statement by Dr. House from article at the link above:

    "If you are trying to get children to read and write so young, many of them are going to fail because they're just not going to be able to do it.
    "These children will be labelled as failures which could damage their self-esteem."

    However when taught to read,using SP, in a varied, language and literature rich, interesting and creative and environment, the children become totally engaged, excited and enthusiastic about their wonderful achievements.

    Self esteem is at an all time high and they approach tasks and challenges with an attitude of ?I know I can do this? rather than the regularly seen ?learned helplessness? of before. There is no hint of failure.

    P.S.I wonder how much more might Einstein have achieved had he been taught using a systematic synthetic phonics programme from the age of 4 ? especially given the fact that the German alphabetic code is transparent and so much easier to learn than the complex English code?!!

  11. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Kat what you see as an "attack" on synthetic phonics I see as an example of the different developmental stages achieved by children at different points.
    My own very brief google of Einstein produced this from the Scottish Dyslexia website

    " According to various sources, Albert did not begin to speak until he was three years old. Maybe five, or even seven years old, depending on the report. " hmmmmmmm wonder if we can tick him for the enjoys babbling point?

    " In school, his teaching staff described Albert in less than stellar terms. Apparently nothing came easily, except, I suppose, Physics, when he finally got there. In the meantime, he could not remember the time's tables, he couldn't read very well, and spelling defeated him."

    Perhaps Einstein would have thrived on synthetic phonics. What is certain is he did thrive on being allowed to develop at his own pace.
  12. cinderella1

    cinderella1 New commenter

    my children ask questions and investigate themselves all the time and we are not a steiner School. Their maths and literacy skills are amazing for chidlren so young. They have developed through being given access to a high quality fun learning environment, planned but not formal.

    I think prehaps it comes down to us, how we give access and our environment, how we resource and develop learning in it.

    If your children are thriving and developing well, are you a classroom that promotes questioning, do you model and play with the children and provide resources to stimulate their curiosity and interests?

    If the child a loves counting and numbers..............is very able etc......... the same with literacy why shouldnt we progress and support their development. Surely they will get bored if left to plod along because there not yet 7.

  13. Msz. I think that it's entirely counter-productive to pluck the example of Einstein from the sum achievements of human beings. This could dribble on for ever - what if...papa Mozart hadn't given Wolfgang a rigorous musical training from the age of 5,what if Beethoven hadn't gone deaf, would we have his final quartets, or would we have the best precussionist in the world in Evelyn Glennie if she hadn't become profoundly deaf by the age of 11....and on and on.

    What we do know is that, as Kat so eloquently describes, young children love to learn if they are given the right instruction. And what we do have - here, in Australia, in America, for example - is the mountain of evidence to show how disadvantaged are those people, and how low in self-esteem, who have not become fully literate.

    Surely the logical step to take, if direct teaching is a no-no, is to shut all primary schools and give parents the money to be with their children until they are 7 years old? This would be a wonderful opportunity to engage mothers, free them from the pressures of having to work, build up their communities, self-help groups etc.etc.

    If you believe in the right to read for all children then everything points to some direct instruction and 4-5 is not too young if the instruction is right.

    What teachers should be pressing for very hard is for good basic knowledge for student teachers while they are in college. This would save a lot of pressure, mal-instruction and would enable teachers to make informed decisions .
  14. "If the child a loves counting and numbers..............is very able etc......... the same with literacy why shouldnt we progress and support their development. Surely they will get bored if left to plod along because there not yet 7."

    cinderella1, I certainly can't argue with your overall point - children should be supported in their own learning. But the EYFS says that children's learning 'must be supported AND EXTENDED' (my emphasis).

    'Extending' learning takes control away from the child and gives it to someone else. I know that if I'm enjoying something and then someone else comes along and says, 'No, don't do it your way, do it my way,' it can suddenly become much less interesting to me. Why should I expect a child to be more able to deal with that?

    I believe I'm still seeing the effects of the 'adults must extend young children's learning' philosophy in my own son. He arrived in reception class bright and eager to learn, and very interested in reading. He zoomed up through the Oxford Reading Tree stages, being taught how to sound out words; and every time he mastered a stage he was moved on to the next one - because, of course, we can't just support children in their learning; we have to extend them.

    By the end of the year he'd got to stage 5; and that was where he began to find it difficult. And that was when he stopped wanting to read.

    By that time, we'd already decided to move to the Steiner system; and after a few months of nobody asking him to read, he started taking an interest again. He's 7 now, and a few months ago suddenly - out of nowhere - he started reading words he couldn't possiby have worked out from the phonics knowledge he'd been given.

    The thing is, though, he's still reluctant to sit down and try to read a text - even, for instance, a short email from his grandfather. Children don't always learn the lesson you intend to teach them, no matter how thorough your planning; and I believe the lesson my son learned was that reading for yourself is much less fun than he'd thought it would be. I don't believe that would be the case if his teachers hadn't tried to 'extend' as well as 'support' his learning in the early years.

    In the interests of fairness, I should probably out myself here as someone who's involved with Open EYE; I'm part of a group that's campaigning against the compulsory nature of the EYFS on behalf of my children's kindergarten, and Richard House contacted some of us and invited our involvement in the wider issue. My son's experience is one of the reasons I believe the Open EYE campaign is vitally important.
  15. Visitingauthor - this is a tragedy. Those teachers with a proper grounding in synthetic phonics don't use Oxford Reading Tree. This is part of the problem; because teachers are not given background information and the opportunity to explore and learn about synthetic phonics in their training, they can 'catch on' to some aspects of phonics as the initial National Literacy Strategy did, with enormous consequences for some children. It was certainly better than what had gone before - pure Whole Language learning that so blighted the chances of thousands of children in the 70s and 80s. It simply isn't fair for Richard House to use such examples as your son as a reason for returning to a Whole Language approach.

    I have known such miserable Steiner children, unable to read. This is what an authentic synthetic phonics approach in the first years avoids. Please support proper and appropriate help for ALL children.
  16. "It simply isn't fair for Richard House to use such examples as your son as a reason for returning to a Whole Language approach.

    I have known such miserable Steiner children, unable to read. "

    Woodpecker, I think you're both making assumptions and misreading what I've written:

    1. I haven't even mentioned my son to Richard House. I'm the only one using him as an example of anything; and what I'm using him as an example of is why the pressure on teachers to 'extend' young children's learning is a Bad Thing. I don't believe the method of extension is relevant.

    2. The Open EYE campaign is not advocating a return to a whole language approach. I don't know whether Richard House personally advocates a whole language approach, but he hasn't advocated it to me.

    3. My son is not miserable.

    4. My son is not unable to read.

    Both my children are flourishing in their Steiner school. They're happy; they're learning all kinds of skills that I don't have; they're developing in confidence. I feel happy that they are learning and developing at an appropriate rate; no-one's holding them back, and no-one's pushing them faster than they are ready to go. I believe my son will start reading texts of his own volition when he's ready to.

    You're clearly passionate about synthetic phonics as a way to help children read. But you raise concerns about teachers doing damage because they're not properly trained. The EYFS makes it compulsory for not just EY teachers but also child-minders and nursery staff to extend children's reading and writing. Do you think the government's going to stump up for all of them to have the correct training? I don't. This is one of the reasons I think the EYFS learning and development requirements are misguided.
  17. On the otherside of the coin...

    I have a child who is 6 and is just about to complete 4 terms of school. I have worked with this child consistently and tirelessly over the last 15 months. Today I gave her a Ruth Miskin ditty she hadn't seen before and she read it to me for the first time without any support.

    Personally I find it very hard to believe that if we had left her until she was 7 that she would have been 'ready'. I think she would still have had the same difficulties and we would need to work just as hard. Are these not the sort of children that need the targeted support early on to give them the best chance of success. She will also need continued support right through primary school.
  18. Visitingauthor -
    i. I do apologise for misreading your post in respect of your son's progress and Richard House.

    ii. Of course there are children who are happy, fulfilled and reading at Steiner Schools. My point was simply that if your son had been taught with the early OXFORD READING TREE books he would not have had a good synthetic phonics grounding. period. It is not atall surprising that his reading fell apart when he could no longer contain any more words in visual memory - this happens to around 20% of children who have a little bit of phonics tacked on to 'sight'word reading and Whole Language multi-cueing strategies.

    iii. Children become very pressurized when the teaching of fundamental principles is bastardized - many simply cannot understand what is happening and all around them they see their peer group picking up reading by inference, osmosis or with a little bit of practice. This is what makes them panic, give up, attention seek or become introverted. Properly taught there isn't this pressure you talk about - I'm amazed that you don't find the 'method'/approach important.

    iv. There are a number of things I like about and find beguiling about Steiner schools but there are aspects that disturb me greatly.
  19. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I don't think at any point Richard House has advocated substituting Look & Say/Whole word/Real books or any other form of reading instruction. What he and the campaign are advocating (from my limited knowledge) is that there should not be rigid developmental stages for children from BIRTH to FIVE but that children should progress at an appropriate rate for them. I think as professionals we can all think of examples of younger children who are more than ready to read and older children who are clearly not ready yet.
  20. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I think this issue has for whatever reason developed into a synthetic phonics v other methods debate which is clearly not the aim of the campaign as I see it and this "diversion" has obscured what is the real issue.
    The real issue as I see it is ~ Should we have a statutory curriculum for children from birth? I fear that such a curriculum will lead to the kind of angst we already see too clearly displayed on this forum. Are we to have practitioners pondering whether to mark off a developmental point ~ was the child moving the rusk around in their bowl in attempt at mark making or did they purely enjoy the tactile experience? was the child enjoying babbling or not? and we thought the FSP was difficult!!!

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