Thu | Jan 17, 2019

Converse with students in class - literacy specialist

Published:Sunday | December 20, 2015 | 12:00 AM

A literacy specialist says teachers, particularly in primary schools, need to develop the habit of conversing with their students in order to improve their understanding and oral fluency in the English language.

"Fluency is important because it helps children to grasp meaning," said Beverley Gallimore-Vernon, a consultant literacy specialist to the iLead educational leadership programme being implemented by the Jamaica National Building Society Foundation and the Ministry of Education in 10 rural schools in St Mary, Portland, and St Thomas.

The schools under the programme were selected based on the National Education Inspectorate's assessment of their needs.

"Parents don't converse with their children and when they come to school the teachers don't do it either," said Gallimore-Vernon as she wrapped up a two-day workshop at the Windsor Castle All-Age School in Portland.

"Therefore, their language development is retarded because of this lack of conversation and discussions," added Gallimore-Vernon.

The literacy specialist was addressing teachers from four primary schools participating in the three-year iLead programme. The other primary schools are Port Maria Primary and Retreat in St Mary, as well as Buff Bay Primary in Portland.

"The culture, particularly in rural Jamaica, that 'children should be seen and not heard' is still pervasive in many areas across our country; and continues to impact negatively on language development. As a result, you don't have a lot of talking with children.

"Teachers 'speak to' but not 'speak with students', and that has really impacted on their language development," said Gallimore-Vernon.


Unexposed teachers


She added that many teachers were not exposed to language education training; therefore, most educators at the primary level are unaware of the issues that may affect learning. As a result, they employ teaching methods that cater only to the general population.

"Teachers can't identify some of the issues that the children are facing, such as memory problems, or dysnomia; problems with perception; dyscalculia, dyslexia, visual perception, visual discrimination, and so on," she explained.

"Many may be aware of the practices; however, they do not have the know-how to deal with these issues in the classroom."

According to Gallimore-Vernon, primary school teachers also need to develop phonemic awareness among pupils, where sounds of letters are repeated daily to develop their memory.

"You must teach letter sounds; and it should be systematic and explicit, because you need to develop the students' memory by stretching a sentence; or by giving them just a word; and they add to it, using the who, what, when, where and how.

"And then you need to illustrate that this is how they would develop their writing skills, with a thought then continue to add to that until

you are able to write a paragraph; and from a paragraph you are able to write a complete essay," said Gallimore-Vernon.

Ouida Goulbourne, a grade four teacher at the Windsor Castle All-Age School, said the skills she learnt from the workshops would prove beneficial to her students, as she moves to improve the conversations she has with them, to encourage better use and fluency in English.

"There are several students in my class who are very talkative; however, Standard English is not used at all times. Therefore, what I do is to encourage them to respond in a sentence when I ask questions; and, if they make a mistake, we try to correct it on the spot," said Goulbourne.