Chapter 11 - But what if you start late?

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But what if you start late?


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to identifying the next frontier, the third-wave children - that small core who do not appear able to accelerate at the rates of the majority of pupils for whom the scheme is the appropriate measure."28
  Despite that international praise, many New Zealand primary schools say that combinations of other programs - as reported in this chapter - are much more effective, and certainly much more cost-effective, in teaching youngsters to read.

Personal key vocabularies
  Other than Marie Clay and former Director of Education, Dr. C.E. Beeby, the New Zealand educational innovator best known in other countries is probably the late Sylvia Ashton-Warner. She first burst to prominence internationally with her book Teacher in 1963. It was based largely on her work teaching primary school in New Zealand rural areas with a mainly Maori population. And her supporters* would say it provides one of the main effective answers to that "third wave" reading problem. In the early 1950s, New Zealand introduced into its schools the Janet and John series of readers, a British modification of the American Alice and Jerry series. But even then teachers were encouraged to make up their own books based on children's own lives.
  In listening to young Maori children, Ashton-Warner"came to realize that some words - different words for each child - were more meaningful and memorable than others." When she asked a young child to write about a "train" he wrote about a "canoe".
  She then started to listen to each child and selected the key words "which were so meaningful to him that he was able to remember them when he had seen them only once". As Lynley Hood writes in Sylvia, her biography of Ashton-Warner: "Her pupils learned to read from their personal key vocabularies. Nearly every day, from their experiences at home or at school, Sylvia helped each child select a new key word. She wrote the word with heavy crayon on a stout piece of cardboard and gave it to the child. The word cards became as personal and precious to the

* Those reading Sylvia Aston-Warner's work for the first time should, in fairness, be made aware that, among her many excellent other qualities, she was also eccentric and prone to exaggeration. While she can claim credit for inventing the key vocabulary concept, many of her writings wrongly imply that she was a lone voice crying in New Zealand's educational wilderness of child-centered education. In fact, Beeby, as head of the Department of Education, was pioneering that very concept, in a rational and effective way.

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