(Simplified Spelling Society Pamphlet No. 7. Part 4.)
Parts 1, 2, and 3 are on other pages.
The best method of teaching children to read and write.
Reports of experiments conducted in sixteen schools, part 4.
X. LYONS COUNCIL SCHOOL, HETTON-LE-HOLE, DURHAM.The sympathetic interest of Miss B. Davison enabled an experiment to be made in this School. Miss A. E. Thompson, who taught there, reported as follows on the experiment at this school:-
"We began our experiment on the 5th November, 1917, with a class of fifty children, whose ages ranged from six to seven years. Up to the time of beginning the experiment, the children had practised sounds from the Dale Reading Primers, so that they already knew many sounds common to both Simplified and Standard reading up to that stage.
"To begin with we made charts containing the vowels, consonants and digraphs, and the children worked at these till they knew them. This took two weeks. The children made good progress in remembering these sounds. As the number of spellings required for Simplified reading is much smaller than the number required for ordinary reading, the children always read all the sounds in one lesson, instead of spending the usual length of time necessary in the ordinary spelling.
"The children now began syllable-building with the sounds already learnt. Simple stories, simple poems, connected with the ordinary every-day life of the children, were printed on the blackboard. The children made rapid headway and thoroughly enjoyed reading them.
"The secret of their success lay in the fact that the children found they could easily make up their words and actually read as soon as they could do so. The moment when a child finds he can read and make words without any help is a great moment for him, for he knows he can proceed further himself and enter into storyland himself to find what is there. The children also had little Montessori games, which proved most interesting, for they found they could proceed alone, making up each word without help.
"On the 22nd of November we began reading from the Ferst Reeder in Simplifyd Speling, still practising the sounds from the sound chart at intervals. There was great excitement at the introduction of the Ferst Reeder, and the children were very keen indeed to read from it. This they did remarkably well. To the upper section of the class it presented no difficulty at all, by the lower section some of the longer words were slowly made, but every child could make the shorter words - and the longer ones only needed practice.
"At this point the children were greatly helped by the introduction of Manuscript Writing. The children printed exactly as they spoke as well as read exactly as they spoke, and at once they could do dictation.
"There was a drawback to this. The children in this district do not finish their words when speaking. It is a common fault to drop final letters and endings of words - for example, the children invariably wrote an for and, singin for singing, and so on. The method of Simplified Spelling does a great deal to improve the ordinary speech of the child, and we have noticed a great improvement in that direction. Simplified Spelling, in fact, bringing the eye to the assistance of the ear, makes it possible to correct such mispronunciations in a systematic and scientific manner.
"We finished the Ferst Reeder by the beginning of January, the children reading well - very well indeed, and they were ready for the Sekond Reeder. The brighter children of the class needed no help in their reading. This is one of the great advantages of a Simplified System, the child can discover for himself, can read unaided; the dullest child of all being able to do this to some extent. A new world of interest is opened out to the child as soon as he can read unaided, and he finds he can do this very soon when the Simplified Method is taken - much sooner by far than in the ordinary method with its many hindrances, exceptions and difficulties. The old 'look and say' method entirely disappears, the child can make every word, and finds himself master of every word, by his own intelligence and his own effort.
"I often wondered, as the children made progress under the new method, how they would transfer to the ordinary spelling. We are just entering the transition stage. I have great faith now that it will be a great success. Several children have already told me they can read their story-books at home, and so now we give them ordinary story-books to read from. I quite believe the thorough training which Simplified Spelling gives the children will make the transition stage easy. They acquire a firm foundation - know how to use their own power of building up words, speak much more clearly and read more fluently.
"The experiment has been, and is, one of very special interest, and both children and teacher have been very happy in making it, which goes to prove the success of it as far as it has gone."
A further report was received from the same school:-
"The class was now divided for sectional work. On examination I found that there were two sections, two-thirds of the class reading very well and fluently from the Simplified Spelling Readers and from the blackboard in Simplified Spelling. Amongst this section were several children who at the beginning of the experiment in November made no attempt. This is worth noticing.
"The remaining third was composed of children who had been absent from school for long periods at a time on account of illness, and including two children who seem incapable of benefiting by mental training.
"The upper section were now given ordinary story-books and were allowed to read them alone, while the lower and smaller division continued with the Simplified Spelling Method.
"As the children in the upper division could read, and very fluently too, from the Simplified Readers, they at once tried to do the same from the ordinary book, in a way which was amazing to the teacher. The children had never been taught the ordinary spelling of a long sound, such as gate, nice, rose, use, etc., or such exceptional words as might, brought, would, etc., yet they did not hesitate to tackle them. Very often, as the child proceeded, the sense of the reading seemed to give the children the clue to these difficult words.
"As the children in the lower division reached the stage when they could read fluently from the Simplified Readers, they joined the upper division and proceeded on their own. It was found that these children who were behind on account of absence from school - a few really dull - only needed practice in reading to read fluently from the Simplified Spelling. Several of these children who reached the transition stage, after having a little further practice from the Simplified Method, then joined the upper division.
"The remaining two or three who have not yet reached this stage include a boy who had just returned after eight weeks, the two very dull boys referred to above - and now even they can make a fair attempt with the Simplified Spelling - and a little girl who has infantile paralysis.
"None of the children have had any practice in the various spellings of long sounds, peculiar words, etc., in the ordinary reading. There are none of these in the Simplified Method, yet the children can read fluently and well now from ordinary reading-books.
"The children have learnt to read in eight months, from November, 1918, to June, 1919, by first reading fluently from the Simplified Method, then transferring go the ordinary spelling, and being allowed to proceed on their own with the latter.
"The results can be summed up as follows:-
"The children can now read fluently, with the exception of two or three children, and a great number of the former read very fluently indeed, from books in the ordinary spelling, the transition stage having been more than successfully passed over. And these results, in spite of the fact that there have been many drawbacks on account of children's absence from diseases, more than ordinary.
"And another important side, not to be neglected, is the amount of time saved on the part of the children and teacher - less drudgery for the teacher, more interesting work for the children - who find they can read sooner; even if the reading seems different from the ordinary, this does not matter to them, as at this age the child is only concerned with wanting to read, not of how the words appeal to him. There is a real saving of time which can be much more profitably spent . . . .In just over a month we have gone through the course, which by the other spelling takes at least a year. The average age of the class is six years."
XI. NEW VILLAGE COUNCIL SCHOOL, WEST RIDING.The Head Mistress wrote:-
"Many thanks for the Readers. We have tried the System for about three months with splendid results. With the help of the Readers we expect the progress will be doubled whilst the preparation will be halved."
XII. GRAMMAR SCHOOL, HALESOWEN, BIRMINGHAM.Miss Eveline Matthias, a teacher in this School, wrote:-
"I have great pleasure in saying that I have found the experiment with Simplified Spelling most successful. I find it follows on so excellently after the learning of the Montessori Sounds, and it is possible with this method for children to do, as Dr. Montessori says they should, 'burst into reading.' I find that children learn to read much more easily and much more quickly than children taught in the old way. They are also able to reproduce their stories and poems in writing much earlier than children who have to wait until they have mastered the difficulties of English spelling."
XIII. ST CLEMENT'S SCHOOL, LONGSIGHT, MANCHESTER.Mr. F. Ashworth, Chairman of District Committee No. 7, Manchester Education Committee (August, 1924), wrote:-
"I am pleased to confirm the success of the experiments we have conducted in the use of Simplified Spelling as an aid to reading.
"We continue to use the books of the Simplified Spelling Society, which we find helpful as preliminary to ordinary Readers.
"The reform of our spelling by the removal of even a few of its glaring inconsistencies would remove from the schools a difficulty which necessitates a wasteful expenditure of time and energy, and which is a constant source of irritation to all concerned."
XIV. THOMAS STRATTON INFANTS' SCHOOL, HULL.Miss M. Brook, Head Mistress, wrote (August, 1924):-
"In reply to your letter of 20th August, asking for the result of my experiment in the use of the Simplified Spelling System as the basis of teaching reading, I have to say that, like others who have tried it, I have found it thoroughly successful. More than that, the effect on the development of the children's character and capacity has been shown in greater self reliance, wider reasoning power, and stronger and more stable memory. These results I did not expect when I began the experiment. The changing over to the ordinary reading presents really very little difficulty, and the children certainly enjoy reading. The teachers also like the system, and would be very sorry to have to go back to the old method.
"His Majesty's Inspector was not by any means prejudiced in its favour when he gave me permission to try the experiment, but when he tested the reading of the children who had just changed over, he said the result was 'eminently satisfactory.'"
XV. BODENHAM SCHOOL, HEREFORD.The following letters written in 1922, and 1924, by Mr. Wm. Mellers and Mr. C. F. Grant, show the successful results of the experiments in this school:-
From Mr. Wm. Mellers, Schoolhouse, Bodenham, Herefordshire, 10th October, 1922:-
"Next week we re-open, after six weeks' holiday for hop-picking, to commence work in earnest. Mr. Jackson may be interested to know that I am introducing his Simplified Spelling method of teaching Reading for I think it is topping. Everyone who has seen its results says, 'How wonderfully well the children read.' My own kiddie, a girl of six years old, can read an ordinary Standard II Reader (for eight years), intelligently and fluently, after passing through the S.S. course. Another schoolmaster here has enthusiastically taken it up after seeing the results."
From Mr. Wm. Mellers, 9th January, 1924:-
"Our Reading is progressing splendidly under the S.S. System. An Inspector said he had never in his experience seen children so advanced with their reading - children seven years old reading books intended for children of nine. We have also had a party of students from our local Training College, sent to see our methods - the first time this has taken place in the County."
From Mr. Wm. Mellers, 25th February, 1924:-
"Simplified Spelling as a time saver."
"In our Rural Schools the children in the Infants Class (range, five to seven years of age) are in the charge of a teacher without any scholastic qualification. Please note that. In the first school I introduced S.S. I found that after twelve months of S.S. they were six months ahead of the standard required in City schools for that age; after two years - one year three months ahead, and after three years (or on completion of Infants' course), they were two years ahead. They had covered Readers fluently and intelligently, which, in the ordinary course of events according to the publishers' age standard, would not have been completed until two years had passed. This is with a class of three sections, and I have often wondered how much progress could be made if a teacher had only one class.
"Since coming here I have had three changes within eighteen months, and, strange to say, the rate of progress is only two months behind the Lingen rate, and in two more years I am certain we shall equal if not pass, the Lingen standard.
"An Inspector told me he had never in the whole of his experience seen children so advanced in reading. The children were in no way exceptional. They live in thatched cottages, thrive on bread, cheese and cider (a family to be brought up on 23s. per week). It is the METHOD that is exceptional. Now as to our method. The Charts were taken in their set order, but special attention is given to 'ringing the changes' for a few minutes before a new lesson is commenced, for this practice acts as revision of previous lessons, and prepares the vocal organs for the pronunciation of new combinations of sounds. Then the transition stage. The teacher privately reads over the chapter for the day, and makes note of exceptions to the phonetic rule. Individual children are asked to read, and very often the exception is pronounced correctly - possibly because the child knows from the context what the word should be, but at the same time the unusual formation of the word makes an impression on the child's mind, and when silent reading takes place (at least once a day) the child looks up that funny word. If no error is made, there is no comment by the teacher, but if an unreasonable pause is made the teacher tells the word, and writes it on the blackboard with, perhaps, four or five others of a similar nature (e.g. wrote, write, wrap, wrong). These are then placed in sentences to make sure they understand the word. The children who can read them in any order later in the day are, perhaps, allowed out to play or home a few minutes before time. It is surprising how quickly they pick up the exceptions. OE was the combination which caused trouble - goe for go, and groe for grow, and thoez for those.
"Until I can find a method which can show greater progress than the above, S.S. is the method by which Reading will be taught in any school under my control, and I wish to thank you very very much for introducing me to it in 1919."
From C. F. Grant, Bodenham School, 29th January, 1924:-
"When first I became acquainted with S.S., I was not favourably impressed, but now I should not care to be in an Infant School where the method was not in use. My interest was aroused when, after a few weeks, I saw what a delight the children took in the subject. The Reading lesson has now become a pleasure to all, instead of the drudgery with which it is regarded in schools in which I have been, where the old method of spelling is a wearying task to both teacher and taught.
"The progress of the dull child has revealed to me the superiority of teaching by the Simplified method. Working at his own pace, the dull child makes progress, while by the spelling method he loses interest because he cannot keep up with his brighter companions.
"As regards spelling, it is surprising how quickly the little ones forget the phonetic way. Mistakes do arise, sometimes through carelessness, but more often because the child is not thoroughly acquainted with the word. I have noticed that generally the word written wrongly is put as the child would sound it.
"It may be of interest if I add that on coming to Bodenham School, ten months ago, I was inexperienced as regards the teaching of Infants, and therefore felt nervous of the undertaking. However, the progress made in Reading (being more rapid than I had known elsewhere) seemed to awake in the little ones a deep interest, not in this subject alone, but in other branches of their work, and therefore half of the difficulties anticipated by myself were overcome."
XVI. SOUTHALL STREET SCHOOL, MANCHESTER.Miss M. Warrener, Head Mistress, wrote as follows, in September, 1924:-
"Simplified Spelling, as arranged by your Society, has been in use here for about four years, and I have not yet found any other method to equal it as a means for teaching young children to read easily and fluently. For varying periods, according to the intelligence of the children, the classes read from Jinglz and Storiz and Ferst Reeder. When they take up the books printed in the ordinary spelling they seem to find no difficulty in reading at sight. I am amazed at the ease with which the transition is made, and I appreciate fully the saving in explanations and memory work which so often, in other methods, render the first lessons in reading dull and uninteresting. Our children like to read; they are reading fairy tales in the Simplified Spelling at a time when other children are trying to memorise words. The age for beginning is about 5½ years. Before the seventh birthday they can read with ease."
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