Why is rhyme important?

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Why bother with nursery rhymes?  They are so out-of-date!

The LTR Language & Literacy Program uses many of the traditional English rhymes because they are part of our great English language heritage and too much fun to be forgotten.

Children enjoy the rhythm of the English language and the rhyming of words.  They quickly learn to manipulate words and build confidence and enjoyment in oral language skills.  When hearing rhyme, listening and thinking skills are sharpened and the skills of identifying and analyzing the sounds in words are enhanced.  Vocabulary is extended as children hear words they do not know and have them explained.

Playing with rhymes and learning of rhymes leads to improvement in memory and thinking skills.  Movement to the words of songs and rhymes improves coordination and concentration.  Silly rhymes bring fun into learning and help to develop a sense of humour.

Learning rhymes off by heart builds confidence and prepares children for meeting them in print.  Children enjoy making up more verses to simple rhymes, and this builds confidence with the manipulation of the language.  They love to share their efforts with others.

For more information about LTR Learning (Listen, Think, Respond) products and how they meet the Australian Primary School English Curriculum for Foundation/Reception to Year 2/3 students, click on the links.

Early Intervention in Literacy

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Let us say that by the middle of Term 2 in the first year of school, you notice that a child is not keeping up with the rest of the class, or has skills in one area of literacy but not another.

Question:  What can you do?

Answer:  Think backwards and identify the area of need!

This sounds easy, but it is not always easy to know where to start.

  • talk to the child and determine the mindset
  • set up a folder of appropriate tests and checklists to be administered in a distraction free environment – check gross motor and fine motor skills, hearing, sight, phonemic awareness, memory and concentration, reading, spelling and writing skills
  • having determined what is known and what is not known, set up a folder of appropriate activities and games to reinforce the skills needed – this can be given to support staff to work with the child until the skills are mastered
  • having determined the blockage point, inform the parents of your concerns and what actions you have taken
  • supply the parents with a folder of appropriate activities and games to be practised at home
  • monitor activities in the classroom with appropriate challenge in the area of need

In the LTR classroom, the culture is set up early for caring and supportive behaviour from peers and frank classroom discussion of errors.  Therefore, understanding develops quickly that mistakes are a natural part of learning anything new.  They also know that not everyone learns the same way or at the same rate.  In the LTR classroom, the Language & Literacy Program contains all the resources needed to be able to assess and check language and literacy skills as well as provide appropriate games and activities for support staff and parents.



Executive Function in Five-year-olds – observations

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If we have a low expectation of what a five-year-old can achieve, we may think this is silly stuff.

Can a five-year-old plan?  ‘I want’ is the simplest form of a plan and most preschool children know how to get what they want.  They also work out the most successful way of getting what they want when it seems to them that their plan is going to be thwarted.  This ‘action plan’ can be switched on and off at will.  Clever little bodies!!!

Can a five-year-old filter out distractions?  Most adults have encountered the young child who fails to hear when they are engrossed in an activity that is very satisfying.  However, even an apparently totally absorbed young child will hear a whispered conversation about a special treat.  Amazing!!!

Can a five-year-old engage in multi-tasking?  Can they make something with play dough, conduct a conversation and plan what they are going to do next, all at the same time?  Watch!!!

Can a five-year-old focus attention on something new and ask questions about it?  Given the opportunity, young children are naturally curious about the environment and fascinated with small creatures, plants, rocks and shells.  They want to know all about it.  Listen!!!

Can five-year-olds remember complex instructions?  For example,  ‘take your dirty dishes to the bench, put the cutlery in the sink and then go and choose a book to read together.’  Try it!!!

Can five-year-olds organize themselves?   Have you ever listened to them organizing a game?  Some can not only organize themselves, but everyone else as well!   Watch and listen!!!

Can five-year-olds control impulses?  Picture this, a Grandma had grandson in the trolley at the supermarket.  He was performing because he knew Gran had put a treat in the trolley and he wanted it ‘now’.  Gran told him to wait until she had paid for it.  He kept performing – loudly.  Gran took the treat out of the trolley and put it to one side and told him that if he didn’t stop, she would not buy it and she would leave it behind in the shop.  Grandson continued to perform but he watched Gran carefully.  She moved the treat further away.  Grandson went quiet.  Gran’s turn came at the checkout and she left the treat till last, watching Grandson carefully.  He stayed quiet.  When it came time for the treat, she took it up and looked at him.  He stayed quiet, so she put it through the check-out and put it in the shopping bag.  She told him he had done well but to wait until they got out to the car.  He stayed silent and waited.  When they got to the car, he was very delighted to get his treat.  It was worth waiting for and he learned a valuable lesson in the process – that he could control himself.  Try it!!!


Boys and Learning

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Recently, I was enthralled with Andrew Fuller’s paper, ‘Teaching Boys’ because the LTR Language & Literacy Program is built on a pedagogy that has developed over some 50 years and it works particularly well with boys.

As I read the paper, I realized why it works so well and it was a ‘light bulb’ moment for me.  LTR teachers have high expectations for all, no matter the starting point and no matter how long it takes to gain mastery.  Respect for children’s enormous capacity to learn is paramount to success and the classroom culture is one of mutual respect – teacher to student, student to teacher and student to student.  The ‘listen, think, respond’ framework provides simple boundaries and reinforces respectful behaviour in all contexts across the whole day.

Quick fire quizzes are part of the daily routine and everyone becomes excited as the pace increases and success is achieved.  All learning begins with visuals which stimulate the listening, thinking and discussion.

LTR meets the needs of boys and builds their resilience because the learning is active and social and built on the belief that everyone can be a champion if they work hard and practise to improve.  Mistakes are accepted as a natural part of the learning process.  Early success is crucial to getting over the ‘I can’t’ barrier.  Listening, thinking, talking, doing (making, reading or writing), thinking, talking is the routine.

I have also realized that if the pedagogy suits the boys, it meets the needs of everyone and the result is well-being for all, even the teacher!

Impact on Students (2)

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“The biggest evidence of student progress in Term 1,” said Nicole (Reception 2016), “was that I had Reception children coming to school saying they couldn’t wait to learn.  I also had many parents tell me that their children were going home and having afternoon school … for the parents!  The children wanted to go home and read and write.  They were always talking about what they learnt at school.  The evidence is in the children’s work – moving from tracing words to writing independently, from being unable to spell to sounding out words and using punctuation correctly.  Children who couldn’t read when they first started are now reading and spelling.  They can work in groups, think and solve problems.  They enjoy learning – it is exciting for them and for me!”



Impact on Students (1)

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To compare last year’s students (without LTR) with this year’s students (who have learned the LTR way for three years), Damian (Yr 3 teacher 2016) said, “Academically, they are generally more advanced.  The most noticeable area of difference is in their writing, particularly in creativity and the articulation of ideas.  Another noticeable difference is in the overall culture of learning.  Firstly, in how well they work collaboratively and the positive impact that the stronger students have on the weaker ones.  Secondly, in the students’ general passion for learning.  Last year’s extension students were generally quite cooperative and dedicated, but they didn’t show nearly the kind of enthusiasm that my current extension students do.  They are only unhappy if they are not being challenged enough!”


Impact of a boy’s enthusiasm

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At the beginning of 2018, a 7 year-old boy from another school joined a Year 2 class.  He was diagnosed with specific learning issues and was included in a group of 5 boys who all had similar difficulties.  They were given to the Learning Support teacher (who uses LTR Language & Literacy Program) for a 50 minute lesson every day.

After three terms, his mother came to the Learning Support teacher to say that her son was coming home from school every day and teaching her what he was learning at school.  She was excited about what he was learning in phonics, spelling, reading and writing and was most impressed with the love of learning that he displays and his eagerness to improve.

LTR works particularly well with boys because of the pace of delivery, the activities, the challenge and the accountability.

Some thoughts about ‘Sight’ words

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As a community of teachers and learners, we need to think about why we do what we do in our classrooms.  I have been thinking about the issue of ‘sight’ words recently, and have put my ideas down on paper.

I have always taught phoneme-grapheme correspondence because I believe that unless the alphabetic code is known and understood, students struggle to read, spell and write.  English is de-codable, and memorization of every word is an unnecessarily daunting task!  Most schools are now using phonics instruction as the most effective way to teach students to read and write.

The faster we can get students reading and writing, the better.  This means that words with spelling patterns that have not been taught yet, should be learned as ‘sight’ words so that fluency and comprehension in reading can occur quickly, but not without grapheme and phoneme explanation.

Having said that, I think it is important to consider which words should be learned as ‘sight’ words.  Why do students need to recognise ‘and’, ‘to’, ‘am’, ‘went’, ‘we’, ‘had’ and other words that have no grapheme complications and can be easily blended together?  These are certainly ‘high frequency’ words, but not needing to be memorized as ‘sight’ words.

We also need to consider how many ‘sight’ words students really need to know, when we are explicitly teaching phoneme-grapheme correspondence.  They only need a small number of ‘sight’ words to get them started with reading, because as they are taught in greater depth about the alphabetic code, they will be using their decoding and comprehension skills to read all words.

If phonics is the way we are approaching literacy learning, we should be teaching the grapheme-phoneme correspondence in these ‘sight’ words as well as expecting students to memorize them.  Then the reading of the words will naturally flow into the ability to write them with understanding and fluency.

Michelle Johnson, LTR Learning (2018)


Why teach traditional rhymes in a multi-cultural classroom?

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Australian Standard English readily lends itself to playing with rhyme.  Playing with language is a lot of fun and this builds confidence in students who are learning English as an Additional Language in an English speaking classroom.  We have a great supply of traditional rhymes in the public domain which we can use.  They are simple, easy to remember, often have a story with a message and even have a tune!  Well, some of them!

Familiarity with traditional rhymes has the following benefits …

  • Development of memory, linking words together in phrases and sentences
  • Development of the ability to anticipate the possible
  • Sharpened listening skills help students to focus on sounds in words
  • Development of the skill of identifying and analysing the sounds in words
  • Exposure to the quirkiness of English when sounds match but spelling does not, for example ‘high’, ‘sky’, ‘pie’
  • Improves articulation with careful pronunciation, emphasis on the correct syllable and maintaining the beat of the rhyme which are all enjoyable aspects of language learning, especially when embedded in a melody
  • The development of a sense of humour through the ridiculous, the obvious and the unexpected
  • Extension of vocabulary as unknown words are encountered and discussed
  • Familiarity with rhythm and rhyme is the easiest form of poetry
  • Evokes emotional responses to texts
  • Enjoyment of the social group context for communal recitation and singing, particularly relevant to many students whose home culture is saturated with rhythm and song
  • Understanding of the different purposes of language and the connection between print language and spoken language
  • Rhyme and rhythm used as a conveyor of a message make it easy to remember
  • Historical research is possible with older students

English as an Additional Language – a mother’s story

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In August 2015, our family made our final move to Adelaide from the Netherlands, having previously moved there from Asia.  Adam was 6 years of age and fluent in Dutch and his mother tongue.

One of my biggest worries was how Adam would fare in English as he had only had limited exposure to the language in Holland.  At his new school in Adelaide South Australia, I expressed my concerns to the Principal.  She told me not to worry as the school was using an English language program in the primary classes which would help Adam.

When Adam joined Grade 1, his reading level was 6.  His teacher helped Adam by starting from the beginning of the program with the single letters of the alphabet.  In four months, by the end of Grade 1, his reading level had moved up to level 17.

Grade 2 was the champion year for Adam, not just to improve his language, but to fall in love with it too.  In seven months, by July 2016, he was reading novels – that is in less than a year after moving to Australia.  In addition, his writing skills also improved exponentially.

As I write this in March 2017, in Grade 3 Adam recently passed a grammar test with 19/20.  At 8.30pm yesterday, he was wide awake in bed reading.  I told him to go to sleep and he answered, ‘Mamma, you know I love reading!’

I have no words to thank the creators of this wonderful English program and the amazing teaching skills of the teachers using it, that has had an immense influence on Adam.  Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts.

Adam’s mother