[Simplified Spelling Society Pamphlet No. 7. Part 3.]
Parts 1, 2, and 4 are on other pages.
The best method of teaching children to read and write.
Reports of experiments conducted in sixteen schools, part 3.
VII. ST. KATHERINE'S INFANT SCHOOL, TOTTENHAM.The Head Mistress, Miss McLeish, reported in 1923:-
"A few years ago an experiment in the use of Simplified Spelling by little children, as an approach to reading, was initiated with a small group of 25 children in St. Katharine's Infants' School.
The success attending the experiment was a great surprise to all concerned.
In six months, not only were twenty-two out of the twenty-five children reading fluently from the conventional spelling, but they had attained a clearness of speech and a fluency and originality of expression in written composition hitherto unapproached by children of the same age in the school.
"It was suggested at the time that the evil effects of the Simplified Spelling might re-assert themselves as the children progressed through the Senior Schools and writing was made more use of.
"I am now in a position to say that such is not the case, and those responsible for the same children now in Standard IV, are not only delighted with the ease with which they make use of the conventional spelling, but are among the most ardent supporters of the method.
"The success of this first experiment emboldened us to continue experimenting.
"We have modified our plan of working considerably, and by making use of the new edition of Jinglz and Storiz, with its excellent grading, have embodied reading by means of Simplified Spelling as a definite step in the school reading scheme.
"As soon as the children are able to discover words of one syllable from sounds - with ease - they are allowed to make use of the Jinglz and Storiz with its carefully graded preparatory pages.
"Here the principle of one sign for a sound is strictly adhered to.
"Great care has been taken before this stage that the children attach the correct sound to each sign as it is met. Consequently, once the discovery has been made by the child, that certain sounds in sequence produce words in his own vocabulary, a tremendous incentive to investigate further is provided.
"A recent visitor to the School (Sir Mark Hunter) was considerably interested in a little girl, who was absorbed with her book, and was surprised to learn that only the day before had the discovery of words come to her.
"Once this stage is reached, nothing hinders progress. The signs are there - the child attaches the correct sound - the word is discovered, and word following word reveals meaning.
"It is here, I think, that the secret of the success of the method lies.
"The children are always reading for 'meaning and sense.' The signs, or letters representing the 39 sounds of their own vocabulary soon become familiar, and, after repeated use, mechanical, so that the subject matter alone stands out.
"At the transition stage from the Simplified Spelling to the Conventional - this habit of reading by 'sense' stands the child in good stead.
"Slight differences in the forms of words are unnoticed, others, less like the Simplified forms, intelligently guessed at, and only the most glaring anomalies prove hindrances.
"Our experience has been that no child who has been allowed sufficient time to become fluent when reading from Simplified Spelling has failed to transfer that fluency when reading from the orthodox.
"When writing, one sign for each sound of the child's vocabulary, provides him with a means of intelligible expression, and us with a sure evidence of his exact speech.
"He is able to write - phonetically exactly what he wishes to say, and has not to alter his own phraseology to include only those words with the spelling of which he is familiar.
"Natural and childlike compositions are possible.
"As soon as the children are thoroughly at home with the 39 letters or signs - the use of them soon becomes mechanical and thoughts are allowed free play, unhindered by the burden of remembering the forms of the various words.'
"It is obvious then, that more attention can be given to developing forms of expression and sequence of thought than would otherwise be the case.
"The form of a word as a whole in Simplified Spelling is never given to a child. Once the signs or letters are known, each one can reproduce his own speech.
"This reproduction has been of great value in enabling us to detect hitherto unsuspected speech defects and inaccuracies.
"The common use of v for th in mother, father, etc., the substitutions or omissions of sounds, as taiboo for taibl, hanz for handz, flourz for flouerz, cau for caul, widoe for windoe, have been revealed; also inaccuracies due to the yet undeveloped speech of little children as chesh ov drauz for chest ov drauerz, sisd for sister, fendh for fender, among others.
"Other interesting inaccuracies have appeared in jrum for drum, chrumpet for trumpet, chrain for train.
"In all these cases the ability of the child to represent his own speech accurately has been demonstrated, even in the case of jrum and chrumpet, to an appreciation of the voiced j and the voiceless ch, which in his speech were substituted before r for voiced d and voiceless t.
"Once having detected these inaccuracies, the correction is an easy matter.
"The word presented to the child in Simplified Spelling enables him to cover the correct form for himself, and so learn by the eye what he had failed to learn by the ear.
"Children whose speech is in any way defective, derive great benefit from the method of reading by Simplified Spelling.
"The longer time devoted to the sounds of words, instead of to the variety of their forms, enables many of these defects to be overcome.
"We have had many instances in which children's speech has been entirely transformed.
"At present we have under observation a little girl of six, whose ordinary conversational speech is practically unintelligible, but she reads from the Storiz and Jinglz, enunciating perfectly. Her compositions, which are quite fluent, reveal the many inaccuracies of her ordinary speech, and enable us to deal with them; while her reading encourages us, by revealing what it may eventually become."
VIII. YORK ROAD SCHOOL, LEEDS.Mr. Ezra Sykes, in 1918, reported on the experiment conducted in this school:-
"The York Road School may be described as a typical poor district school in the heart of Leeds. The children are sturdy little Britons, charming personalities, but obscured and handicapped by a sordid environment. Their speech is a mixture of broad Yorkshire dialect and slovenly English. School speech to them is a strange tongue, interspersed with a few familiar words. Very few of the children possess such a luxury as a book: the play books, picture books, and story books that delight children in better circumstances are unknown to them, and the only books they ever see are the school books. I mention these facts in order that you may realise the difficult conditions under which the experiment has been made. The difficulties, however, enhance the value of the experiment; because, if success can be achieved in such adverse circumstances, one may imagine what the results would be under more favourable conditions.
"Now, at the beginning of the experiment, the children had all passed through the babies' class, and had a slight acquaintance with the simple letters.
"Such was the class with which the experiment began on the 1st of May, 1917. For the first two weeks, in order to give the experiment a good start, by the courtesy of the Head Mistress, I spent much time with the class, assisting the class teacher with each reading lesson. The teacher was capable and sympathetic, and, owing to her splendid efforts, the class made remarkable headway.
"At the end of six weeks I was able to report: The work is making satisfactory progress, the children are already beginning to read easy sentences. That means they are two or three months ahead of what they would be doing under normal spelling. Now I felt that I could safely leave the work to the class teacher, who was by this time familiar with the scheme and quite enthusiastic because of the rapid progress that had been made. Within a fortnight, however, that is towards the end of June, the teacher fell ill, and had to undergo an operation, and she did not return to duty until the 1st of November. From the end of June to the summer holidays in August the class was left to the tender mercies of supply teachers, who knew nothing of Simplified Spelling, and who had no sympathy with it. In September, after the summer holiday, a new teacher was put in charge. This teacher was not unwilling to take up the experiment; but, not knowing the scheme or its possibilities, felt somewhat nervous, and diffident. The Head Mistress decided to stop the experiment, and for a time it was in abeyance. The local Inspector, however, when appealed to, decided that the experiment must go on, and the teacher must do her best. I again visited the class about the middle of October, to give the new teacher assistance, and I found the work almost at a standstill, and very little in advance of what it was at the beginning of July. The new teacher was an excellent embodiment of perseverance and sympathy, and only needed confidence and assurance. She soon picked up the scheme and set to work with commendable spirit. From this point the work again began to show signs of rapid progress.
"By the end of November, the brighter children needed little or no teaching. They were able to discover words for themselves, and to make out the stories in the Ferst Reeder. This self-help feature of the Simplified Spelling, by which the child of its own initiative discovers the words and, unaided, reads and understands sentences, did more to convince the class teacher of the immense advantages of Simplified Spelling than any amount of theorising could have done. Here was practical proof, and both the Head Mistress and the class teacher expressed surprise at the amount of work accomplished beyond anything they had expected or hoped for. Even the little girl who named every letter 'ber' at the beginning is now able slowly to make out words, and to read the simpler parts of the book; and the dullest children in the class have all read once through the whole of the Ferst Reeder. Some of the brighter children have almost finished the Sekond Reeder. If you will consider the difficult words which appear in the Ferst Reeder, I think you will agree that for the whole class to read it through once is no mean accomplishment. Such words are to be met as 'afterwards, gathered, squirrels, curtains, violin, twinkle, together, journey, mountain, northern, music, pleasure, and feather.' Not a bad selection for five-year-old children.
"Thus far our experiment has gone. We have not yet reached what we anticipate will be the most difficult stage - the transition from the Simplified to the normal spelling; and, in the light of this experiment, it seems a pity that such a transition should ever have to be made. Everything in the experiment points to the fact that, whereas learning to read under normal conditions is a long and tedious process, extending more or less throughout the whole of school life, under the Simplified Spelling scheme a complete mastery of reading - except for the meanings of new and unfamiliar words - would be accomplished in the first two or three years. When once the children have overcome the initial difficulties of associating sounds with signs there is nothing more to learn. The children can proceed on their own initiative to decipher any and every word.
"So far, our experiment has been made mainly on the 'reading' side. The saving of time, and encouragement of individual initiative and self-reliance of the children, have been amply and practically proved. Yet, to my mind, the greatest advantage of Simplified Spelling lies in the writing or reproductive side. Reading appeals to the eye. Each word, regardless of its spelling, becomes a word picture. It is possible for me to recognise at a glance a person, place, or object, from a drawing; yet I may be quite incapable of reproducing that drawing even approximately. So it is with reading and spelling. The child may easily recognise a word in reading and yet be quite incapable of reproducing the word accurately in writing or spelling. To acquire this power of reproduction with the normal spelling the child has to undergo a course of spelling drill, with innumerable dictation exercises. Dictation exercises are at present a necessary but sinful waste of childhood and of teachers' time and effort. Simplified Spelling ensures not only that a child recognises a word, but it gives him the power to reproduce the word without the wasteful drudgery and necessity of spelling drill, as it calls to his aid both visual memory and reason. In the old spelling, he who reasons is lost. During this experiment it has been repeatedly demonstrated and found possible for children to write correctly words which they had never before seen. How may people dare do that in the old spelling?
"To sum up: the experiment, so far as it has gone, has been a decided success, realising all the expectations we hoped from it. The class teacher - to whom, it will be remembered, the scheme was strange, and who was nervous about undertaking the work - has now only praise to bestow upon Simplified Spelling. Her diffidence has vanished, and in its place there is a cheerful confidence. The teacher is now hopeful, and firmly convinced that during the next few months the class will advance far beyond the possibilities of work under normal spelling. The progress that has already been made clearly indicates that if Simplified Spelling were officially recognised and adopted, all spelling difficulties would be overcome by the time children had passed out of Standard I, which is the time under the old spelling when the real difficulties begin. Spelling lessons could with safety be omitted from the time-table, and as spelling occupies so much time in dictation and spelling exercises, in composition and in reading, think what a saving of energy and time there would be in the child's short school life. No longer need the child rely on his teacher or his spelling book: his own intelligence is sufficient."
Mr. P. L. Gray, H.M.I. reporting on the work done at this School by "two similar classes of very ignorant children, aged about five, one taught on ordinary lines, the other on Simplified Spelling," says: "It certainly appeared at the end of a year that the Simplified Spelling class could read more fluently and more advanced reading matter, than the ordinary class."
IX. ELLERSLEA PRIVATE SCHOOL, VICTORIA PARK, MANCHESTER.The following is a Report from Miss R. Lobel, dated 12th March, 1924:-
"We have used your method for teaching reading for some twelve months now, and I must say we are more than delighted with it. Quite apart from being quicker, the methods interest the children much more and they enjoy their reading. The change from the Simplified to the usual method comes quite simply, and the children seem to forget all about the former, so that there is no danger of it interfering with their spelling.
"It may, perhaps, interest you to know that we had a good deal of opposition from parents at the beginning, and so we allowed them to choose which they would have, then. Now, however, after proving the simplified method, we have adopted it for all."
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