Most educators will admit that their love for teaching started with an affinity for children. While some yielded to the call of this great vocation early, others tend to find their way after dabbling in other industries. The latter was the case for Mrs. Linda Golding, Grade 1 Team Leader at the Victoria International School of Sharjah (VISS). Linda works closely with Mrs Kerry Graham, Head of Primary and the Early Learning Center in creating a number of innovative literacy programmes at VISS.
Linda was born in Wales but spent most of her life in Australia. After a few years working as the secretary to a solicitor, she embarked on her dream of becoming an educator and has been teaching for the past 35 years.
Below she shares with us some of the dynamic programmes that are in place within her school that promote literacy among the students.
Share two programmes geared at improving literacy at VISS.
Readers Workshop: The English PLT collated as much information as they could about different types of reading programmes. After much reading, discussion, observation and the analysing of data from this information, they developed a programme that was suitable for our students from Foundation to Year 5. We wanted a programme that was appropriate, easy and consistently conducted across the breadth of the Primary School.
2-hour literacy block in Foundation to Grade 2: This is not a programme, per se but it has certainly helped teachers to focus on literacy in a meaningful way. We have an hour reading and an hour writing session daily – explicit teaching of skills happens during this time.
Spelling Programme: Last year, we implemented our own Spelling programme that the English PLT created, using a variety of different programmes that they had reviewed over the previous 12 months. After assessment and analysing the collated data, the VISS spelling programme was created, which supports the literacy needs of our students. This programme scaffolds the learning from Foundation to Grade 5 incorporating and extending the knowledge our students need to improve their literacy in both reading and writing.
How successful have these programmes been in raising the literacy level of students?
Our literacy standards have always been of a good standard but over the last eighteen months, we have ‘raised the bar’ and are seeing the results of putting these programmes into effect, ensuring they consistently occur on a daily basis. This year, we are seeing that a lot more reading is happening daily with the students being allocated a regular period of independent reading time of at least 15 – 20 minutes. We are already seeing an increase in the literacy standards throughout the school.
What steps does the school take in developing a love for reading for pleasure amongst students?
There are a number of activities in place. A few of them are:
- Some classes have a classroom library designed and organized by the students themselves
- ‘Book shopping’ days where the students can select a number of books they wish to read from a range of levels for their independent reading sessions during Readers Workshop time – shopping is done fortnightly
- Book Fairs are a regular feature at our school and are very popular including Arabic and English Book Fairs
- Entering our Arabic readers in the recent Arabic Reading Challenge
- We also take students to the Expo Centre when they have the Book Fair there too.
- Weekly Library sessions – children select their own library books and read for pleasure
- Teachers read on regular basis – picture story books or story of interest – sometimes related to a topic they may be doing in the classroom
- Increase of books purchased in last twelve months for the library and our Take Home books
- Author visits
What technology has the school utilised in order to assist students with reading?
- Interactive Whiteboards throughout all classrooms – texts are often put up on whiteboards
- iPads for the children
- Computer programs such as:
o Study Ladder
o Reading Eggs
o Spellodrome – part of Mathletics
o MyOn for our Grade 5 students
What are some challenges experienced and what steps did you take to remedy them?
Professional Development – The school is addressing this by recognising that their own staff have skills in certain areas which they can utilise in developing colleagues,through regularly scheduled CPD sessions. As staff changes over from year to year, we now have a manual on what literacy looks like and how literacy is taught at VISS.
What is the best professional advice that you have received and how has this helped you?
“No matter what you think of someone or how they may seem, you can learn something from everyone. Instead of focusing on what you think of them, find out what you can learn from them.”