Firstly, apologies for the name of the blog. It’s awful. But I like a dreadful pun and I thought it might be appropriate here.
I decided last year I would never create a blog. But here I am. For my Digital Humanities project, we have to create/ develop something involving a digital component. Since I am largely inept with technology (perhaps this module isn’t the best choice for me) I decided to backtrack and make a blog.
Some of really clever people in my class are making video games and a variety of others things I wouldn’t have the technical expertise to make in a couple of weeks, so decided to do something I could do: read.
Being an English Literature student, I would hope my reading skills are by now pretty advanced. What has really interested me on the module so far are the different skills and techniques between reading print and reading online.
I want to explore this relationship between print and digital text further, by delving into the ways in which we are taught to read and how these translate into an online environment.
In primary school, the National Curriculum sets phonics as the standardized approach to teaching children to read. This means breaking a word down into simple units of sound e.g. st-r-ee-t and then orally blending the sounds together.
It’s been a while since I consciously used phonics to sound out a word; after you recognise individual phonemes and patterns, this process becomes subconscious. So I decided to return to my Mum’s classroom to see how this way of decoding language is actually taught to six to seven year olds.
Here is Mrs McKenzie’s tutorial on teaching phonics (she is an Advanced Skills Teacher; Head of Early Years and KS1):
The children practise these basic units of sound (phonemes), with corresponding actions, in order to recognise the grapheme (sound-image) which is represented by the alphabetic letters. By learning these individual units of sound, the children can blend these different sounds together in order to decode the word.
In the video, the children are presented with ‘alien words’ to decode; it doesn’t matter that these words aren’t dictionary words, but it is important because phonemes provide a method of decoding how the arrangement of letters might sound.
This phonetic approach to reading is embedded within the NC and shapes the we, as readers, approach printed texts. However, with children increasingly needing to develop their digital literacy, we need to ensure these phonetic reading strategies are not lost in a digital environment.
I hope by watching this short video of phonics not only exposes how we are taught to read in the U.K, but the ingrained process of reading that has been internalized, and is a near automatic process for a fluent reader.
By making this phonetic approach to reading more apparent, I hope this can alert people how we still need to teach ourselves to improve our digital literacy, using the methods we have already been taught.
Let’s go back to basics and become a better digital reader for it.
* Please note I have parental permission to show the children in this video. Please also note the children pictured in the video have volunteered some of their lunch break to participate in the video and didn’t feature the whole class.