MY EXPERIENCE IN ENGLAND
("WRITING AND READING" AT READING)
SANDRA BOTELHO *
Based on the experience I had in Reading, England, and speaking about reading, I can say that children, there, love to read, much more than in Portugal.
They start reading since they are very young (4, 5 years old). They have books since they are very young.
They begin by learning the alphabet and the sounds of the words. Then, the teacher gives them small books that they start reading with the help of the teacher or the help of their parents, at home.
In the classroom, at the beginning, the teacher uses big books and reads the story to the children, explaining it. Then he/she asks some questions about the story and the children have to answer. This is good for them not to forget the story.
The books they begin with have no words, just pictures and they have to guess the story by the pictures and tell the story to the teacher in their own words. Then, they start reading words and small sentences.
They start reading by memorising words and their sound. They donít know what the word means but they know the sound of that word, thatís why most of the books for small children are made with rhymes so that they can memorise texts or words in an easy way.
Children are encouraged by the teacher to discuss the story they have read, they read poems and give their opinion about them and sometimes they role-play the story they have read.
If a child doesnít want to read itís because he/she doesnít want to or he/she doesnít like doing it. If he/she canít do it, we should try to start with easier books and help the child to read. If he/she doesnít like or doesnít want to, we should try to give him/her different activities which he/she likes most and that, in a certain way, makes him/her read anything. The most important thing is that he/she has to read something, anything. We have to explain the child what reading is and that it is good to read.
In English schools reading is very important. The children like reading and they like to touch books. The book is an instrument with which the child has contact very soon in his/her life and with which the child has a great relationship. Even if he/she doesnít know how to read, the child is encouraged to touch the book and see it, look to the pictures, etc., and this makes him/her like the books and like reading since he/she is very young.
In what concerns writing, children start doing it very soon too, at 5 years old. As soon as they learn the alphabet they start writing small sentences and not only words. Even if they donít know how to write, they are encouraged to write the sound they hear and say, even if no one understands what they are writing.
In the most difficult words, the teacher gives the children some help and sometimes he/she spends a whole week with just one word and during that week they write small sentences using that word. That way they start memorising words.
The most important thing is that they pick up their pencil and write anything, even if they donít know what they are writing.
In the second year, children start writing simple poems, and they put them on the wall so that everyone can see them.
Another way for them to practise their writing is when the teacher tells them a story and they have to tell it again in their own words or pick up the part they liked most and write it down. They can also choose another end to the story or draw the whole or a part they liked.
Sometimes the teacher asks the children to think of a story that has happened to them and try to wite it. The teacher helps the children when they need, but sometimes, when they donít know a word they can replace it for a picture or put the first letter of the word followed by a line. Other times, when a child canít write the story, the teacher writes it for him/her but he/she dictates the story to the teacher.
These stories are put on the wall and sometimes they are published and books are made so that kids can read for themselves and for their colleagues.
This method develops childrenís writing and reading and is great to their self-confidence and to their self-esteem because they know they are able to publish a book of which they are the authors.
The fact that the stories of the kids are published gives them the opportunity of:
- writing with a purpose (they know why they are writing);
- writing with consciousness that they are writing to an audience;
- writing knowing that they are going to publish their own work.
All these activities/strategies make the process of writing more public and helps the children work with each other because they work in groups or in pairs most of the times.
As a conclusion I just want to say that, as future teachers, we should make our students enjoy reading and writing. We should try to improve their reading and writing.
Speaking of my experience in England and particularly in the fact that I had the opportunity to go to an English Primary School, I just want to say that I really liked being in an English Primary School because I could see the differences between the English Primary Schools and the Portuguese Primary Schools.
The English are much more organized, as they are almost in everything else. In what concerns parents, they are much more present in the school-life of their children. They help in some activities of the school. They go to the school frequently. They have a day per week in which they go to school and they stay in the school library helping the children to read or do other things.
They have meetings with other parents and teachers in which they learn how to deal with their childrenís difficulties in what respects reading and writing, so that they can help them at home.
Talking about the teaching practice, the children have many activities. They go to school at 5 years old. They donít use textbooks (at least in the primary school). Each teacher teaches the contents at his/her own way adapting them to his/her students. Thatís why schooling is not rigid but flexible, it depends on the studentsí necessities (learner-centredness teaching).
The relation between student and teacher is great, the teacher is seen as a friend and not only as a teacher that teaches contents. He/she is always near the students, helping them in everything they need.
The school and the family work together for the well-being and the apprenticeship of the student. Itís just as if they are a big family in which everybody wants the student to learn. The atmosphere that we live in the school is a very friendly, healthy and familiar one.
Children like going to school because they feel safe and happy there, itís just as if they were at home. The school is their second home.
I think the Portuguese schools could learn a lot with the English schools. Well, Iím speaking about this particular school where I was, I donít know if the other schools are like this one but I think they are quite similar.
Maybe one day our schools will be like this one, letís hope!
* Aluna do 4ļ Ano de Português/Inglês do Pólo de Lamego.