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Creative language-based learning making a difference in students’ achievement

Published:Monday | June 17, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Mandy Melville, founder of Creative Language-Based Learning has been working in tandem with local educators and institutions to recognise and apply effective intervention of the negative impact of language-based learning disabilities.

In addition to picturing your children being well-mannered, perfectly behaved angels, we also envision them devouring books the way we did as children. However, one in every five students in Jamaica has a language-based learning disability that may include challenges with listening, speaking, reading, writing, mathematics calculations, reasoning and problem solving skills.


Mandy Melville, founder of Creative Language-based Learning and Mary MacDonald, who has 15 years experience working with Lindamood-Bell in Learning Centre, have been working in tandem with local educators and institutions to identify and apply effective interventions to counter the negative impact of language-based learning disabilities.


Melville indicated that several discussions have been held with teachers and others across Jamaica about the issue. From these discussions she said it became obvious that there was the need for more systematic approach to training early childhood and special needs educators.


In addition, Melville said these teachers were eager to learn the process-based instructional model of Lindamood-Bell.


For more than 30 years, the research-validated, Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes programmes have proved to improve the lives of students with dyslexia and other language-based difficulties.


MacDonald indicated that the development of concept imagery improves reading and listening comprehension, memory, oral vocabulary, critical thinking, and writing.


“If the brain can change, the behaviour can change. Rather than trying to teach students compensatory strategies to access content, these programmes develop the component parts of learning and change the way the brain itself processes information,” MacDonald said.


“The former method often keeps a student locked in an endless cycle of remediation, struggling to keep up and falling further behind,” she added.


Partnership with the Ministry of Education

In April 2017, for the first time in Jamaica, Creative Language-based Learning, with the endorsement of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, and in collaboration with the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, as well as Sandals Foundation, facilitated two Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes Professional Development Workshops.


These workshops have grown since then to include working in tandem with the year-round job embedded professional development that fosters a cadre of teachers from across the island. These teachers are equipped with skills in diagnosing sensory cognitive deficits that impact learning ability and to develop and implement programmes that maximise the student’s ability to learn, allowing these students being reintegrated into a regular classroom and to expand instructional leadership development, thereby giving the programme a greater reach through local instructional leaders and so ensuring sustainability.


The Seeing Stars programme, by Nanci Bell, develops symbol imagery, the ability to visualise sounds and letters in words, as a basis for orthographic awareness, phonemic awareness, word attack, word recognition, spelling, and contextual reading fluency.


Although the Visualizing and Verbalizing programme, also by Nanci Bell, develops concept imagery, the ability to create an imaged gestalt from language as a basis for comprehension and higher order thinking.


Efficacy of Seeing Stars Programme

Georgetown University’s Center for the Study of Learning in collaboration with Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes conducted an experiment involving adults with dyslexia. This study investigated the efficacy of the Seeing Stars, and Visualizing and Verbalizing programmes, which develops symbol imagery, concept imagery, and phonemic awareness.


Subjects were pretested on phonological processing assessments, received approximately 112 hours of Lindamood-Bell instruction, and were post tested. In addition, pre and post test brain scans were obtained using functional magnetic resonance imaging’s (fMRI). Instructions were delivered by specially trained Lindamood-Bell staff.


On average, Lindamood-Bell subjects demonstrated greater improvements, statistically, in comparison to other subjects on both measures. In addition, following instruction, Lindamood-Bell subjects had a larger increase in brain activity, when compared to other subjects, that lead to improved reading and increased brain activity.


“The main target group is 50 primarily early childhood and special needs educators, from infant, basic, primary, proprietary schools and special needs schools in urban and rural areas around the island,” Melville said.


“The ultimate beneficiaries are children with language-based learning difficulties and those struggling to meet literacy benchmarks. There will be an immediate effect on the first group of students, the approximately 1,000 children with whom these teachers already interact daily, as well as those students who attend the summer school (approximately 50-90 students each year),” she added.


Children benefiting to increase

Melville and MacDonald indicated that each year, the number of children benefiting will grow. They believe that the increase in teachers acquiring the ability to identify and address language-based learning difficulties and early literacy challenges will ensure this.


“The goal is a sustainable incorporation of process-based instruction across the education system. Jamaica as a country has the most to benefit, as without early identification and effective intervention, the negative impact of language-based learning difficulties will not be addressed,” they said.


This neglect they said will have significant and long lasting effects for the individual and the population at large.


The 2018/2019 Creative Language-based Learning teacher training in the Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes® methodologies has been achieved through the support and generosity of several major sponsors, donors and volunteers, with the endorsement of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and the Early Childhood Commission.