Start of a New School Year! – here’s one reason why some children won’t succeed and how more could succeed.
28th August 2014 Start of a New School Year!
The uniform has been bought, the new school bag has been chosen and your child is all set for the first day of thirteen years of schooling. How will he or she get on? It is a scandal in our country that about a quarter of all children who enter primary school will not achieve the expected levels of literacy and numeracy by the time they move onto secondary school: and their chances of catching up are slim. No wonder that the 2013 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed that England is 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy out of 24 countries.
For nearly thirty years, successive governments have sought to address the issue of underachievement in our schools and have implemented a vast array of reforms and new initiatives. Standards have improved for many but there is still a very large group of children who do not succeed. ‘Failure’ to learn to read and spell is not confined to a certain section of society – many bright, creative children who are well supported at home and keen to learn will struggle to learn the basics.
A government focus this year is on improving literacy and numeracy standards and neither the schools nor the teachers can be blamed, they do a great job with the training they have. The thing is that we are not addressing the underlying problem. The fault lies with the education system that doesn’t help children develop one vital skill.
So what is happening? Let’s take a child, Freddie, who is starting school this year. Freddie will most likely be introduced to reading and spelling through the government approved teaching method of synthetic phonics. He will learn the sounds each letter makes and then start to blend them together as in c-a-t =cat. He will then move on to more complex sounds and blends such as tr-ain. At some point, the brain links together the sounds with an image of the whole word and stores it in long term memory. Freddie sees his classmates gradually able to make sense of all the strange shapes and begin to read, then they manage to put the right letters together to spell words. Seems like magic!
But this doesn’t happen for Freddie, no matter how many times he sounds out a word, it just doesn’t stick in his mind – he can turn the page, see the word again but it’s as if he’s never seen it before. How come his friends are finding it so easy? His teachers and parents look worried, he gets extra help, especially after he failed the test at the end of Year 1. Now he has more lessons, misses PE, art and other things he loves and keeps going over the same words again and again but still they don’t stick. “I must be really thick,” thinks Freddie.
Fast forward to Year 6. Freddie is still reading and writing at the level of a seven year old even though he has had extra help every day for the last five years. Ever since Year 2, he has really hated school. What’s the point? He started to misbehave at the end of Year 4 and that got him out of a lot of lessons. He still loves building models, comes up with the best ideas in science and computer coding is so easy. But all that counts for nothing if you can’t read or write. In Year 5 Freddie was diagnosed with Dyslexia.
What happened? Well, back in his first year, Freddie’s brain did not make that leap into being able to recognise and remember whole words. It is generally accepted that in order to read and spell, you need to be able to distinguish sounds, combine them, match them to the shape of the letter and create a visual representation of the word. Among others, Dr Sally Shaywitz, professor of Pediatric Neurology at Yale University, has done significant research into this. The process of moving from a sound based strategy to a visual one is the essential step in developing fluency in reading and the ability to spell accurately. The visual aspect of learning is even more important in a language such as English which is so irregular. All fluent readers have a bank of words they can recognise automatically without sounding out; all really good spellers have the ability to ‘see’ words in their mind’s eye. Every parent and teacher should know this. By the way, this works for maths too – to be good at maths, you need to be able to ‘see’ numbers in your head and manipulate them.
If children don’t make the leap into reading fluency and/or accurate spelling, they are said to have a phonological deficit, a visual processing deficit or a combination of the two. Interventions commonly used are more phonics for the phonological deficit and perhaps coloured overlays or glasses for the visual. There is little understanding of these underlying causes of literacy difficulties in schools and up to now, no specific strategy available to enable teachers to help children develop the essential skill of forming mental images.
Mental Imagery – the missing link!
Mental imagery has long been recognised as playing an essential part in the learning process and developing long term memory, yet has been almost completely ignored by the education system. Teachers are taught to show children pictures; this is visual teaching. Visual learning entails checking how children are processing and storing information and if there are problems with visualising, helping to overcome them.
?Empowering Learning™ – the way forward!
The Empowering Learning™ process can help children discover how to access, control, manipulate and store their mental images in just a few hours – sometimes it’s a matter of minutes before the child has the ‘breakthrough’.
Empowering Learning™ is not another literacy intervention programme – it goes directly to the heart of the learning process itself as it uncovers and makes explicit the child’s individual way of receiving, storing and retrieving information and then teaches the skill of creating clear, stable mental images. These images are vital not only for success in literacy, numeracy and all other areas of the curriculum but also for skills such as sequencing and short and long term memory. The Empowering Learning™ process can be taught easily to a young learner alongside any other reading strategy, especially phonic programmes.
Empowering Learning™ – private coaching for children and families
We have Practitioners all over the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and several more worldwide who can work with children and their families to give them this vital skill. “This is too easy! It must be cheating,” said a boy of 9 after being shown the Empowering Learning™ Process.
Empowering Learning™ – coming into schools
From September 2014, we will be expanding our work with schools through our new 2-Day Empowering Learning™ Practitioner Training Programme. This has been piloted in Ireland and the UK with tremendous success. A Headteacher in Ireland who has introduced Empowering Learning™ into his school said, “This is here to stay! Teaching mental imagery has made all the difference to those children who, we felt, were still not achieving!”
Our aim is to change the focus of learning difficulties away from simply supporting the individual with a perceived deficit, to instead offering our teachers and parents the skills to enable our children to learn in a way that works best for them and allows their unique gifts and talents to grow.
Empowering Learning™ – helping to ensure there are no more Freddies!
Olive Hickmott, Founder of Empowering Learning
Sara Haboubi, MA, Empowering Learning, Ireland
Paula Montie B.Ed Hons, Retired Primary Headteacher
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Notes to Editors:
For more information, or to speak directly to Olive Hickmott, please contact her on one of the following: Olive Hickmott Tel: 07970-854388 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Olive Hickmott
Olive herself showed signs of Dyslexia and ADHD when growing up. She is a NLP Master Practitioner and Certified Coach. She is the architect for the New Perspectives series of personal development books for Health, Wellness and Learning Difficulties. Her book, Bridges to Success – How to Transform Learning Difficulties, takes a major step forward in offering simple skills to anyone with other learning difficulties such as ADD, ADHD, Autism and Asperger Syndrome.
About Empowering Learning
Olive has trained over 100s of Practitioners throughout UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, Brazil, Cyprus, Switzerland, Belgium, Singapore, USA and Africa.They work together to enable people to know about how these simple skills can affect them and their families. Together they have worked with 1000s of adults, children and schools. Our Practitioner in Ireland achieved a 1st class Masters in Adult Learning and Development, based on this work and is currently running a pilot project with three primary schools. This project is already showing great results with many students now achieving higher marks for spelling and literacy than preciously possible.