Thursday, 25 September 2014

Combining the Dwyer approach with Jolly Phonics

I always meant to use the Dwyer approach to reading and writing with Finley. The Muriel Dwyer approach, as opposed to the traditional Montessori way (edit: it seems that AMI have always used what I call the Dwyer approach, and that the Pink-Blue-Green series approach is actually a modified version), emphasises the importance of phonemic awareness before the child is introduced to the symbols (letters). There are no language boxes of increasing difficulty for the child to work on as the child learns to blend sounds by reading the words they have composed using moveable letters. To know more about the Dwyer approach, read A Path for the Exploration of any Language leading to Reading and Writing. The booklet is very detailed and comprehensive.
 

25 months old

I wrote a bit about the sound games to play with your child to build their phonemic awareness. As a reminder, phonemic awareness is the ability of the child to segment words into their component sounds. For example, to be able to hear the sounds "c", "a" and "t" in the word cat (not the letter names but their sounds). In the Pink-Blue-Green series approach, the child progresses very gradually as they are first introduced to 3 letter words, then blends (st, bl, pr...), then digraphs (sh, ch, oi...). In the Dwyer approach, we want the child to become skilled at hearing sounds in ANY word so that when they start composing their own words and start reading them, they are not limited by exposure to certain words only and can fully express themselves. You build this strong foundation through sound games and ear training.
 
I have been doing plenty of sound games with Finn since he was 2 years old. I can clearly see the results in that he can tell me the beginning sound of any word. He is becoming more consistently able to hear and say the last sound in words as well.
 
The Dwyer approach insists on introducing the child to the symbols only after they have a strong phonemic awareness so that they can start composing words right away. By strong phonemic awareness is meant to be able to decompose any word into its sounds, not just the beginning and end sounds, but also all the middle ones for multisyllabic words. So, for the world "music", the child must be able to hear the sounds "m", "you", "z", "i" and "c". Dwyer emphasises the importance to withhold the letters from the child until they are ready to use them.
 
4 months old
 
I always had my doubt as to whether it was actually feasible for us not to introduce letters to Finn so soon as we live in an environment rich in writing and he was bound to become curious. Which he did. When he was 2, he found a Jolly Phonics book stashed under our bed for future use, and insisted that I read it to him. Jolly Phonics is a reading scheme that is mostly in line with the Montessori approach as it uses phonics. However, it teaches reading before writing, as opposed to Montessori who emphasises the importance of writing first. So we have been reading Jolly Stories for the last 8 months almost every day and it has been Finn's favourite book for many months. Each short story introduces one letter sound and Finn learnt all of the sounds in two weeks (talk about sensitive periods!). So that was it for withholding symbols!
 
Since he was loving Jolly Phonics and its characters, we thought he would love the games CD. We got it for him and I didn't fully realise how much it would clash with the Dwyer approach. The games are good; some of them reinforce phonemic awareness and others blending sounds. Finn dislikes the "hearing sounds" games but likes the blending ones. I wouldn't say he loves them, but he is motivated by the short animation at the end of each game to finish them.

Last week, Finn very suddenly started to read words in books without any prompting. Three letter words. I can honestly say I wasn't expecting that to happen just yet! Of course, this is great, but where do we go from here with our Dwyer stuff? Finn clearly is in a sensitive period for language and has a strong, unconscious desire to learn to read. By observing him, I have noticed that he is working on blends (yes, by himself). I overheard him say to himself: "st, st, strawberries. Strawberries begins with st". I can hardly believe he couldn't talk six months ago!
 
12 months old
 
We will continue with Dwyer (almost) as if nothing happened as his phonemic awareness of all sounds in words is not up to scratch yet. As for supporting his reading, I will use some of the Montessori word and picture matching games from the PBG scheme, as well as "planting" words around the house for him to decipher. I feel that now is the perfect time to label some objects in our house, such as "cup", "nut", "hat"... and play some games such as CVC action words (the child reads a piece of paper with a 3 letter verb written on and must act it, such as "hop", "sit", "run"... ).

It's likely that our sound games contributed to Finn being able to read so early (he is 2 and 8 months) and of course Jolly Phonics has made it all very appealing to him. So can Dwyer and Jolly Phonics work together? I believe so. Add a magic ingredient called the sensitive period for language, and there you go.

12 months old

Who else has experience with Jolly Phonics and/or the Dwyer scheme among the readers of this blog? If you do, then please leave a comment! And if you don't, then leave a comment anyway as I love reading them!
 

15 comments:

  1. I don't think the pink blue green series is the traditional montessori way. At least not according to the AMI. The Dwyer approach is more in line with the language development method taught in the AMI training.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your comment! I was trained by MCI in London and I realise that some of what I was taught is actually a modified version of the original. I'm reading "Child of the World" by Susan Mayclin Stephenson and was surprised to see the Dwyer approach described there without any mention of Muriel Dwyer. It was the same in Basic Montessori (Gettman). So where did the Pink-Blue-Green thing start? I will correct my mistake in the blog post, thanks so much for pointing it out :)

      Delete
  2. By the way the pictures of your son at 13 months remind me of mine now. Can you share the names of the books he is reading? I am always on the look out for good books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The book in the first photo is "Pip and Posy - The snowy day" by Axel Scheffler.
      The black and white baby book is "Hello, bugs!" (in French) by Smriti Prasadam. Finn's very favourite book almost from birth.
      The third photo shows "Head, shoulder, knees and toes" by Annie Kubler.
      I will try and find the time to write a post about our favourite books soon.

      Delete
  3. Hi Elisa! What an exciting post! I can't believe Finn is reading!!!! Thank you for sharing about the Dwyer method. It sounds similar to the reading program I followed when I was teaching (Randall Klein Early Reading Mastery). I'll have to check out the book you mentioned, as well as the Jolly Phonics books. Elise and I play lots of phonemic awareness games - and she is beginning to isolate the beginning sounds of many words - although not always accurately! Lately, though, she is getting extremely curious about letters. I am dying to make her an alphabet box! Looking forward to catching up with you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great to hear from you, Anne! I think there are lots of differences in what teachers are taught in the UK and the US. Four years ago, I remember commenting to my fellow training teachers how unimpressed I was with the language approach we were taught. It's only now that I realise it's not "the real thing". What's an alphabet box? It wasn't part of my training. Is it a cabinet with a drawer for each letter/sound and corresponding objects?

      Delete
    2. Yes, that's exactly what an alphabet box is. I'm trying so hard to hold off on symbols! :)

      Delete
    3. So is that what you did at school with your students? You would only introduce the symbols when they had a firm grasp on phonological awareness? I don't have any experience with this approach since that's not the way I was trained, and I'd love to know more. I guess what I want to know is, is it really worth holding off on symbols? Finn learnt the sounds of symbols so quickly and effortlessly a few months ago, it seemed like that's what he needed at the time. He was so eager to learn them. I wonder if he would learn them so easily at a later date.

      Delete
    4. Yes, sort of - but it was tricky because my students came in with such a mixed knowledge of the alphabet already. Some already knew the names of the letters, etc. In the language program we used, we played lots of phonemic awareness games until a child was able to identify the beginning sounds of words - /t/ table for example. Then, we taught the "alphabetic principle" - that a symbol represents a sound. The alphabet box was one of those lessons, but we used various card materials, too - oh, and the sandpaper letters. Once a child knew what sounds each letter made, we introduced building words - little pockets with an object and three letters - a cat and the letters c, a, t, for example. Children would often build words for a long time before being able to read words. It sounds like you introduced symbols to Finn at the right time, though - I'm tempted to start teaching them to Elise soon because she is already learning them just because she is such a little sponge!

      Delete
    5. http://www.reading.org/downloads/regional_handouts/12th_rocky_klein.pdf

      Here's a pdf of the program we followed!

      Delete
    6. Oh wow, thanks for the link! I really enjoyed reading all of it and will read it again at the weekend. One thing strikes me; You only "teach" phonemic awareness until the child can identify the FIRST sound in words, not the others? Do you consider it enough for the child to start word building? If I believe this method, since Finn can identify first, ending and almost the middle sounds in words, he should be ready to build words. Which he isn't. I think I still prefer Dwyer as a language approach as I really love the fact that the first words children spell are their own, not imposed words such as "cat" or "pin". "Chocolate" is much more likely to be Finn's first spelt word!!!

      Delete
  4. Very interesting, we've used pink, blue, green boxes but I have to say my eldest doesn't seem too interested in them. But my girls also ended up learning the symbols earlier than they 'should' for Montessori or Dwyer. It's hard to avoid in books, puzzles and my youngest has been sounding out for ages, nonsense at first just trying to copy her sister but now can get some right.
    This is the first time I've read your blog. I'm looking forward to reading through it. Looks like lots of great ideas. Do you mind if I share this post on facebook?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Marie-Louise, nice to hear from you! I have read about many families switching from PBG to Dwyer successfully, so it's never too late to make a change if the current scheme isn't working too well for your eldest. I would recommend reading this very comprehensive post about Dwyer http://pinkprincesskingdom.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/approach-to-reading-and-writing-best.html
      Yes, feel free to share my post on Facebook :)

      Delete
  5. I just happened upon this post - browsing for something somewhat different.

    What an awesome experience with your son! If you've not done it yet (and/or for anyone else in a similar situation), definitely go for the sandpaper letters - once he can hear "some" letters in a variety of positions, it is fine to start showing him how to "see" the sounds too. Especially if he's already reading, don't hold him back ;)

    What an exciting time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jessica, thanks for your comment! He was introduced to the letter symbols through his Jolly Phonics books from 2 years old and we also have handmade "sandpaper" (felt, actually) letters. He is very confident with all symbols now, including the digraphs. I think it's fine to introduce the symbols as soon as the child can play the first part of the I spy game (identifying beginning sounds of words).

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...