I had an interesting two days in Tasmania recently listening to William van Cleave speak on “Writing Matters – developing writing skills in students of all ages.” Spalding is currently in the process of developing a writing program and it is important that we are aware of what is in the market and the approaches others are using to teach literacy skills.
William is an engaging speaker and has a wealth of knowledge on morphology and teaching writing. One of his areas of training was through the Orton-Gillingham institute. I am always attracted to hearing people talk who have had a background in training from Dr Orton’s philosophy. Samuel Orton worked with both Romalda Spalding and Anna Gillingham and oversaw their work in developing their programs during the early stages. The underpinning philosophy of both schools is very, very similar. Consequently, it is interesting to learn where the programs overlap and where they diverge.
The first day focussed on why it is better to teach in a multisensory way. William talked about our brains and how the various sections of the brain are used in the acquisition of language. He talked about the importance of developing fine motor and handwriting skills. This is completely in line with Spalding training. William then went on to discuss morphology and how to use this knowledge to decode words and develop vocabulary. Morphology is also taught in MILA 2, but the concepts presented in this workshop were for more advanced students, that is middle and upper secondary.
Day two looked at the parts of speech and why grammar remains an integral part of learning to write well-constructed, interesting sentences and paragraphs. Spalding training also covers this work. William looked at what needs to be included in basic paragraphs and expanded paragraphs. He had many suggestions for activities to engage students.
The most striking difference between attending workshops such as these and Spalding training seems to be in the “how to”. Spalding not only covers similar content to William’s workshop but we spend considerable time in training teachers in exactly “how to” teach the concepts to students. Teaching involves much more than providing interesting activities to consolidate a particular skill. The skills have to first be taught and then imbedded into students practice. Mrs Spalding spent many years developing a highly successful methodology to ensure maximum success for students. Learning and practicing this highly successful method for teaching any skill is one of the many aspects that Spalding training offers which other programs often overlook.
In summary, I would definitely recommend attending one of William’s workshops should the opportunity arise. I do believe that they would be much more valuable if you had the prior knowledge of Spalding training. Understanding and imbedding the philosophy, methodology and method of instruction taught through the Spalding Approach would give a really solid base on which to place any skills covered during William’s sessions.
For further information about William’s ideas and products go to http://www.wvced.com/