I am even more bewildered today with this government contradiction. Our Prime Minister talks about wanting to promote creativity, innovation, problem-solving skills etc. At the same time, Lee Owston, Acting National Director of Education, at Ofsted, writes about the importance of reading and then says that phonics is the only way. Phonics is a sequential auditory strategy that is quite frankly alien to many visual thinkers. The 21st-century diverse thinking skills we need for creativity, innovation, problem-solving etc., are based on excellent mental imagery skills and mental imagery of words is an easy way for these children to start their journey into a love of literacy.
Before phonics came along, adults who were good at literacy might realise they had naturally developed the skill to picture words.
Quoting from Lee Owston “Teaching sight words alongside phonics is confusing to pupils because they are unclear about which strategy to apply, often resorting to guessing.” This is certainly not true. When you are taught properly to visualise words, there is no guessing involved, just a speedy reference to visual representations of words in your Word Form Area.
Once you have mastered familiar words, often 100s of them, you can use your phonics detective to see how the phonemes are located in the word and then move on to using phonics for words you have never seen before. Once you have decoded a new word a couple of times, it should be added seamlessly to your Word Form Area. Visual skills are also vital for homophones and silent letters in English.
This route to reading seamlessly scaffolds onto the child’s visual skills, reducing stress and increasing enthusiasm for reading and spelling.
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I should be delighted to receive your views.
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My name is Olive Hickmott, I am a health and learning coach, specialising in working with neurodivergent students. I would be pleased to support you in any way I can.
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My latest books are:
The Elephants in the Classroom: using every student’s natural power of Mental Imagery to enhance learning: Neurodiversity through the lens of mental Imagery.
Bridges to Success – How to transform Learning Difficulties
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