Guidance for using books, especially for young learners.
This text is for teachers, assistants, parents and other carers. It may be obvious to teachers, but people at home are also keen to know how best to help young children with their reading and understanding skills.
This guidance is all about the teaching method, but set out in a way that parents should be able to work with.
Guidance for Starters and other early learner books:
These are books for helping with knowledge and also observation skills. The core ones are called 'Starters' at the top of the book cover.
Starters are made of many pictures and very short sentences. Some parents express surprise that there is so little text. That is because they are thinking of themselves, whereas the books are meant for young children. Also, we do have higher level books in these topics, so if your child is very advanced, search for others.
Also the fact that they have few words doesn't mean you should pass through the pages quickly. Quite the reverse!
The layout is designed to allow young students to focus on one thing at a time, and to see it large. Digital books don't have to worry how many pages they take up. But printed ones do. So printed ones tend to try to cram information in. These digital books can take a different approach.
We still use the book format. One reason is that it is familiar. Another reason is that it allows the topic to be split up and so slows the student down . Many web sites have vast amounts of text. That is quite inappropriate. So we do something different.
Talking of differences. Don't just turn the pages using the page arrows. Make a fuss of turning the page. Pull the corners (mouse to corner, hold down, drag across the page) and open the page slowly. Make the next page tantalising, especially for students who may not at first be interested. Close the page back down, then open it again in a way that encourages students to have to guess they know what is next. They can even make suggestions. Say something like "What do you think is next?" And after a bit, get students to take turns in turning a page, so many students can join in. This kind of page turning takes a bit of skill, but is far more exciting than using the left and right arrows. It is also active engagement, and develops motor skills. The intro videos on the web site main page (at the bottom) show you how to do this. All of the pages in the tutorials (academy) are turned this way, too.
When you arrive on a page, pause and then make a starting remark. But DO read below to find out how to develop meaningful questions. EVERY remark you make must have a PURPOSE.
The purpose of this first remark is to give time for the picture to sink in. Also to appreciate the elements on the page: picture, text, audio icon, video icon (if present).
The pages have audio, to help those who find reading a challenge. Play the audio on every page, and then play it again as you read the words together. Then play it again and then have the student read the sentence aloud. If they have trouble, play the audio again.
You may think this is repetitive. But it is meant to be. Learning at this level advances with the help of repetition.
If students are at a suitably advanced level ask curriculum English questions for all or selected questions - which word is a noun (subject) which word is a verb (action word) which word is a noun (object)? Which is a capital letter? Which is a full stop? Get students to point to each one. In the case of nouns and verbs, have students read them out as well as identifying them. If they are not at this stage, skip this bit.
This book is not just a reader, or an English book. It is also a simple introduction to some parts of the curriculum subjects. It is thus multi-functional. Please treat it as such.
For example, a book of creepy crawlies helps understand the food chain. The food for each animal is written out. So does a book on squirrels, and so on.
It helps understand life cycles which is part of year 2 Science Curriculum.
It helps to understand where each animal is found (habitat). You can ask why...for example, worms live in the soil? (to save drying out; protection from predators). Worms are also plant eaters.
Always ask for observational details such as: what colour is it? How many legs has it got? How many wings has it got? And generally ask about each part of the body or whatever is in the picture. In that way students familiarise themselves and learn through observing in detail.
Remember, this is not just a reading and browsing book; it is a learning and developing observational skills Curriculum Visions book.
The videos are short.
Here is how to get the most out of them:
Play the video and observe one thing (for example, nest). Don't worry about shape, size or anything else. Just nest.
Can you write that down? (Help may be needed, but guide words are in the text on the page)
Now we are going to replay the video and I want you to find one detail. They may answer with: twigs, eggs, round, dish-shaped, chicks, beaks, closed eyes, and so on. Most videos have lots of observational things.
Remember, you have only asked for one extra thing. Do not go on to a list yet. Slow down!
Do you think we have observed everything?
No, then let's try to find one more thing.
Now we have built a short list of three things.
(And for those who wish) Watch the video again and make a list of as many things as you can.
This list could be very long, but that does not matter. Short or long it requires writing skills. By seeing how many items are in the list you get an idea of how visual observation skills are progressing for each student.
For those who are not good at this you help them this way:
On an individual level: let's look at the video again. Can you spot the eggs (or whatever) (and if not point to them). Repeat with a couple of other examples of things to find.
Don't go on forever. A couple will do. There are plenty more videos. The purpose is, over a range of videos, to develop observation skills.
Down the line we will want to build on this ability to ask the next questions, such as why is it like that? how does that fit? and so on.
But not yet. Unless they are ready.
In a classroom setting: ask for one thing, and then, for one of the students who did NOT put their hand up, ask them to point to it. Now they will have located the detail, and so the class is levelling up.
You are building a ladder to success. The top rungs cannot be achieved unless the bottom rungs are firmly in place.
Once students have started to observe, make sure they always do it in other contexts, for example, textbook diagrams, anything. Always present it as a challenge. Make them (and you) curious. Then it will be a kind of game - but you know it has a purpose.
When you open a page, or open a video, you must do it in such a way that the student wants to go to the next page, or open the video. You must have a task in your mind, so that everyone does not just look at the video or page picture with a blank face.
So for example, having seen one page of a creepy crawly book, before turning the page ask "do you think all creepy crawlies have legs? (Knowing what is to come). Wait for an answer. Then: "let's turn the page and find out if the next example does (does not)".
With a video it is even more important.
Ask: "why do you think we should look at a video of this creepy crawly?" (if one is present on the page). Answers include: because we can see how it moves, look at it in more detail and so on.
The purpose of the video is to get more information and increase observation skills. The video is not a jolly on the side.
So for that to work, you will have to have been through the book, watched the videos and asked yourself appropriate questions.
So, in the case of a bee, the video shows the bee wandering among the flowers, brushing off pollen. You could not have seen that from a picture. Also, as it blunders about, it does not damage the flower! Had you noticed that? It means the petals and (stamens, the ring of sticking up bits inside a flower) have to be springy, so they can take a battering and recover. Note we have now covered a bit of science curriculum materials! You see, everything has a purpose.
Do you see that the opportunities are endless and in every domestic situation, too? A dog's lead is not just a dog's lead, but made of materials with properties. So if you have a dog, talk about the materials and why they were chosen. Something like: "if I had made a lead, I would have chosen rubber for the lead, what do you think?" (Waiting for the response: "no, it would not stop the dog walking away and so not give precise control…" that is, the student is correcting you and gaining self esteem because you have clearly presented an unsatisfactory suggestion. If the student does not respond to this, go back a step and say: "I was just wondering if this lead is too weak. Perhaps we ought to buy another", or some such down to whatever level the student is at.
Well, that is a start on how to do it. Hopefully the books will not just seem like a bunch of pictures thrown on a page any more, but a purposeful collection of materials designed for multi-level teaching or working at home. Enjoy.