The Steps To Reading Series

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STRS……teaching a child to read, one letter at a time.

As a teacher with a background in physiology, I flowed while some of my colleagues had difficulties in understanding children who had difficulty in learning and (unfortunately) were put in “normal” classrooms in an otherwise, hostile, Nigerian educational environment. Don’t get me wrong, I worked in a good environment but my colleagues in other schools didn’t. And despite my own good environment, we were still incapable of providing for children who were below a certain level of intellectual ability.

Nursery is a good place to start when going into the teaching profession, and soon enough, I fell in love with my job and the children (ages 2-5 on average). I am a very creative person in a lot of areas so I  easily adapted my lessons to themes (back then – as I am no more in the classroom). One area that struck a chord in me was Language, and especially getting children to read. Maybe it was because I was fresh from learning Montessori or because the transition you see a child go through from non-reader to fluent reader is just magical! And I had somehow stumbled on some neurophysiology articles that had to do with cognition – now that had my juices running!

Fast forward 5 years later, I had this urge to train teachers to teach reading properly. So I birthed the Steps To Reading Series (been on it over a year). Through endless research and self-study, I was able to come up with a material that was technical but not too technical for the average Nigerian teacher to comprehend (as long as the teacher is qualified enough to be able to read the material).

WHAT IS THE Steps To Reading Series?

It is a mini-course I developed from a compilation of different works (mostly international because we still depend more on diaspora curriculum in schools here) based on the curriculum we use here in Nigeria. It is divided into 4 phases: Preparatory, Pre-Phonics, Phonics, and Post-Phonics Phases.

Preparatory has 2 module: Neuro 101 & Teachology 101

Pre-Phonics has 4 modules: Alphabetic Principle, Literacy & its stages, Print Awareness & Concept of Word, and Phonological Awareness.

Phonics has 3 modules: Phonics, Phonics the Jolly Way & Phonics the Montessori Way.

Post Phonics has 4 modules: Fluency, Vocabulary, Comprehension 1 and Comprehension 2.

Each module is meant to explain the topics thoroughly so as to ease a lot of headaches for the typical Nigerian teacher.

WHAT PROBLEM DOES THE STRSeries ADDRESS?

Plenty!!!!

Neuro 101 gives a simple insight into how the brain works in learning.  Hopefully that will make it easier for teachers to easily recognize that children with learning difficulties shouldn’t be labelled as dull.

Teachology 101: address our attitudes to teaching as a profession. Basically, if God willed that you are a teacher, accept it and make the best of it. Learn to love it, it’s a noble profession! We can always talk about the salary later……

As for the remaining set of modules, it is meant to highlight aspects of teaching reading that is highly overlooked in training schools. The first four modules are usually clumped under phonics….and there is this never-ending war between Jolly Phonics & Montessori Phonics. Then of course, fluency is skipped, Vocabulary is just a normal daily act of living and comprehension?!?!? O dear! Don’t get me started.

I hope to keep developing the series each year, adding and subtracting as appropriate. I hope that sometime in the future, even a secondary school certificate holder would be able to use it to learn to teach reading (with some internships). This is Africa after all, not everyone has the “luxury” of getting into a good university. 

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Reading is a prelude to so many things, including mathematics, physics, chemistry, and all other analytical sciences. If they don’t read it properly, they would never understand it enough to solve the problems.

If we can just teach our children to read properly and to actually love the act of reading, we would have a nation of happy, literate, and empowered youths to steer the nation into a naturally positive course.

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Basic needs?!

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Back then, in primary school days, I never heard of a computer – even though it existed!

Then, fast forward to my senior secondary school days, it became a far-off fantasy, because though it existed, I never had the opportunity to use one. THIS was in the ’80s and ’90s!

Fast forward again to my university days, it was definitely a very distant dream (a Personal Computer that is); and that was the most uninteresting, or should I say interesting part of my educational experience with a COMPUTER!
Now, times have changed and not just that a lot of people have access to a computer,Β  people also have access to all sorts of technologies from video games to smart phones, tablets, xbox,Β  and whatever else is out there.

And yet, despite the availability of all these technologies, the standard of education in Nigeria (my dear country) seems to be nose-diving at such an alarming rate.

About two years ago, only 98 (NOT 98%) of students passed the WAEC Physics examination with Credit and above grades in the whole country, SHOCKING?! ALARMING!

So I am beginning to think that if only we can invest in the basic needs of the education of young people, may be – just maybe, that will be better for a developing nation like Nigeria at this point in time, rather than all the dream promises of technology (by those in charge) and the distraction from the task at hand – which it can cause, especially in the classroom (when/if not properly administered).
For me, my ideal classroom basic needs are the following (not necessarily in order of importance):

  • clean portable water (if it can be sourced)
  • a balanced diet (school lunch)
  • appropriately lighted room(that’s a tough one for PHCN!)
  • appropriate room temperature
  • resourceful and caring teaching staff (close to impossible)
  • writing and reading materials (uuuuuhhhhmmm!)
  • exploratory play space
  • curious and happy pupils (Nigerian kids are eager learners)
  • inspiring teachers (I’m beginning to think this is an old school trait)
  • and good sanitary facilities (…..no comment…..)

Lastly, I have nothing against technology because I use it daily and I do see and experience the immense benefits it offers, but in a scenario whereby resources are limited, then it’s better to look into the cost-benefit analysis of whatever investment we make.

 

 

Abdulghaniy Kayode Otukogbe.
The man who is afraid to risk failure seldom has to face success.

Teachers are a Gift!

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It was during one of my PGCE classes that the lecturer asked us about one main resource we found most influential in our learning life right from childhood, and I wrote down the PEN.

So when it was time for all of us to show the rest of the class what we had written, my course-mates saw my – ‘PEN’. Some were like ‘hmmm, – just pen?‘ One of themΒ  said: ‘didn’t you have any teacher that was influential in your educational life?

Poor me, I felt like a betrayer but I could only murmur out: “actually we were too many in the class for any teacher to have that required influence”.Β  Since then, I have been asking myself: ‘Are you an ingrate?’ ‘What of teachers like:

  • Mrs. Kuti (my Primary 2 teacher), Mrs. Oransaye (my Primary 3 teacher), who used to teach us with so much energy and passion that everyday, when I got home, I kept on singing the rhyme she had taught us: “there is an engine…”, ‘dear me, I really have forgotten most of it now.

Also, back in Secondary school,

  • I had my Junior Secondary Agricultural Science teacher, my After-school lesson teachers:Mr. Rotimi and Mr. Adesanya;
  • my English language teacher: Mrs. Amadife and
  • my Chemistry teacher.
  • Also I remember Mr. Eniola who wasn’t an assigned teacher to our year but always gave me the required attention whenever I go to him with a Physics problem.

Finally, I have to say that every teacher I have passed through in life had contributed in one way or the other to my education. There are also some key people that weren’t teachers but were very helpful and important in my learning experience. Some of these people are:

  • my cousin – Aunty Kehinde, who taught me, in those early years of my life, reading and maths (never mind the use of Aunty for a cousin because that is a colloquial use in Nigeria);
  • Jubril Adelakun, a classmate in Primary 2 who told me that the secret to knowledge is revision; and
  • Victor Akhindenor who helped me to improve my essay writing skills whilst we were preparing for WAEC, because my writing skills prior to that time was – to say the least – abysmal.

These, and others I haven’t mentioned deserved to have been penned down by me in class that day, not my PEN. Now, tell me, if today you are asked what or who is the most important resource you have had in your learning life, what or who would it be?

 

 

Abdulghaniy Kayode Otukogbe.
The man who is afraid to risk failure seldom has to face success.