I have just returned from the Spalding International Conference in the US. This was a wonderful opportunity to share what is happening in Australia and to find out about the new ideas and resources which Spalding USA is developing. Overall it is clear the Spalding brand is growing and exciting things are on the horizon. Below I share some key aspects.
Spalding Australia’s additional rules (Rules 30, 31 and 32) were discussed and we looked at whether to include this information in the next edition of the Writing Road to Reading or to just leave it as errata sheets for those who have completed the MILA 1 course. A final decision is yet to be made. Consideration needs to be given to the cost of continually releasing new editions of texts.
The new Spalding Comprehension books were discussed. These are exciting new products which give explicit guidelines in using the mental actions with students and developing comprehension skills. They also look at whether the level of thinking required is base line or higher order in line with Blooms Taxonomy of Cognitive Process Dimensions. The assessments are used with a range of different text types and assess all aspects of text structure, vocabulary and literacy appreciation. The series comes with teacher’s guides and student work books.
These books will dovetail nicely with the new fluency assessments which are currently under development. These will be explicit tests which will provide an authentic, impartial measure of fluency. Level of fluency is one of the vital preskills in developing sound comprehension strategies and is an aspect of the reading process that is often overlooked or underestimated in its importance. Fluency rate is much, much more than the number of words read per minute. Learning how to develop fluency is begun in the MILA 1 course and developed in much more depth during MILA 2.
Spalding is also looking at introducing a range of online worksheets and assessments. This is at the very fledging stage of development as we have to work out how to sync this between Australia and the US. At this stage, we are planning that the links would be available through a subscription service and only to those teachers and schools who have completed Spalding training and thoroughly understand the multisensory approach to teaching literacy. As with all other Spalding assessments we will also need to adjust the levels slightly to co-ordinate with our National Literacy Standards.
I was also discussing with the US the possibility of introducing a specific grammar/writing program to supplement MILA 1 and 2. As more and more younger teachers enter the profession, it is becoming apparent that those who have learnt through the whole language approach sometimes have significant deficiencies in their grammar knowledge. I am continually asked how teachers can help students to improve the calibre of their written work, once basic literacy levels are established. Work reaches a base level and seems to stagnate for many even though they are genuinely trying to improve. Student achievement is enhanced when teachers’ professional decisions are based on a thorough understanding of the content, sound principles of learning and clear diagnostic, sequential and systematic instruction. Both the student and the teacher know the work could improve but specific advice as to how to make the language more precise, clearer, richer, more eloquent often alludes.
So, you can see, there are many fronts that are being used to continue our mission to develop life-long learners who are deep, analytical thinkers by “helping all children learn to speak precisely, spell accurately, write proficiently, and read fluently with comprehension.”