Great Results Start At The Beginning

By Ann Mathers, Head Of Junior School

As today’s young learners are faced with a myriad of traditional and digital literacies, it is essential, that as teachers, we teach them the foundation skills of reading, writing and spelling, in their early years. At Mentone Girls’ Grammar School we have the advantage of having small classes devoted completely to the education of girls focused on how girls learn and the results we are seeing highlight the benefits to this approach.
The power of spelling lies not just in the ability to read and write, but rather in our student’s capacity to apply these skills to effectively connect, interpret and comprehend the world around them.
We have focussed on developing our spelling curriculum that aims to make meaningful connections between our Units of Inquiry, as well as giving us powerful strategies to teach the girls spelling patterns.
In Prep – Year 2, our teachers work with students to build their phonological knowledge, which helps them break words into syllables and individual sounds, whereas our Years 3 – 6 students focus predominantly on morphographic knowledge, which involves choosing the correct letters that make a sound in a word.
Consistent across all year levels, our spelling program isn’t just an approach to spelling, it’s an approach to literacy. It proves that early intervention is best when developing those literacy foundation skills in our youngest students. Of course, learning to spell ‘clicks’ with our students at different ages and stages of their life. For some students, it could be clear in Prep, whereas for others, it might take 2 – 3 years to fully grasp the concept of spelling and its relevancy to reading and writing.
Our Preps learnt ten new words in their very first week at Mentone Girls’ Grammar which is a tremendous result! By the end of the year the girls are one to two years ahead of the national Benchmark for Prep students in reading and writing.
Along with our teaching approaches to literacy we have ensured our classrooms cater to the learning requirements young children have.
An example of this is that auditory learning accounts for as much as 75 percent of a child’s school day. The teacher uses his or her voice to convey instructions, information, and other messages. The students must effectively receive and comprehend these auditory signals to carry out tasks and learn. As basic as this transaction sounds, children often miss up to one-third of what their teacher says.
The five levels of auditory skill development, from lowest to highest level, are detection, discrimination, recognition, identification, and comprehension. Comprehension is achieved when one can answer a question, follow directions, or hold a conversation. Each level is built upon the prior one, and the latter four levels are dependent upon the brain’s processing of auditory signals. In other words, you cannot comprehend if you have not detected and discriminated, or identified, a sound. Therefore, all children need to attend to auditory stimuli in order to develop the next level of auditory maturation.
All of our Prep to Year 2 classrooms are fitted with A Plus Auditory Processing Units where teachers wear a device around the neck during group teaching times, which delivers their voice clearly to the students in surround sound through speakers placed around the classroom. This enables all instructions to be clearly heard by all of the students, therefore giving them more opportunity to develop their auditory skills.