Conas go mbíonn Litriú á mhúineadh agam // How I teach Spelling

spelling

Le blianta fada anuas tá bunscoileanna na hÉireann ag tabhairt faoin litriú sa bhealach céanna. Bíonn liosta focal ag na páistí gach seachtain, foghlaimíonn siad cuid acu chuile oíche don obair bhaile i rith na seachtaine agus bíonn scrúdú litriú gach Aoine. Ar an gcéad dul síos, ní ag ‘múineadh’ litriú atáimid sa bhealach seo agus ar an dara dul síos, níl buntáistí le fáil ag éinne mar sin, na páistí láidre nó na páistí laga. Faigheann cuid dóibh 9 nó 10 as 10 seachtain i ndiaidh seachtaine ach ní bhíonn dúshlán os a gcomhair go minic. Tá cuid eile dóibh go mbíonn torthaí isle faighte acu chuile seachtain agus go mbíonn siad ag cailliúnt féin-mhuiníne. Bhí an t-ádh liom go pearsanta nuair a thosaigh mé ag obair sa scoil ina bhfuil mé, scoil nach bhfuil éinne ann eaglach faoin status quo a athrú, nó sean-modhanna a athrú . Deirim go bhfuil and t-ádh liom mar, i mo thaithí féin, níor mhúin éinne domsa conas litriú a mhúineadh fad is a bhí mé sa choláiste. Mar MNC, leanann tú polasaithe na scoile agus tá gach seans, agus mé in aon scoil eile, go mbeinn i ndiaidh dul síos bóthar scrúduithe an Aoine chomh maith.

For a great many years spelling has been dealt with in the same ways in Irish primary schools. Children are given a weekly list of words, instructed to learn to spell them for homework, a few each night, and they then have a Friday spelling test. Firstly, this is not ‘teaching’ spelling and secondly, this method does not benefit anybody, the weaker or the stronger spellers. The strong spellers get 9 or 10 out of 10 week after week and are rarely challenged by the words on the list. Weak spellers get low results week after week and their self-confidence takes beating after beating. I was lucky in many ways when I began working in a school which was not afraid to challenge the status quo, and not afraid to replace out-dated methods. I consider myself lucky because, in my experience, I was not taught how to teach spelling during my teacher training. As an NQT, you follow school policy and I suspect that had I been in another school I may well also have gone down the route of the Friday spelling test.

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Baineann muid úsáid sa scoil as córas Brendan Culligan chun an litriú a mhúineadh agus feicimid go bhfuil an córas páistelárnach seo  ag cabhrú le gach páiste ar a leibhéal féin, nach ligeann sé do na páistí a bheith comórtasach  agus tugann sé dúshlán nuair is gá leis. Tosaíonn an córas le go leor cluichí litriú, pátrúin a fheiceáil, sreanganna litreacha a aimsiú, litriú a fhoghlaim i gcónaí i gcóthéacs trí deachtú agus ligint do gach páiste na focail atá de dhíth orthu go pearsanta a fhoghlaim. Tá an deachtú bunaithe ar na focail a bhíonn litruithe go mícheart go minic. Ba cheart go mbeadh páistí ag foghlaim conas na focail atá de dhíth orthu a litriú in ionad focail atá sa ‘chlann’ céanna ná na focail eile atá ar an liosta. Cé gur i gcás an Bhéarla go raibh córas Brendan Culligan cruthaithe, tá an próiséas céanna in úsáid againn don Litriú Gaeilge agus tá ár gcleachtaí deachtú féin déanta amach againn bunaithe ar na focail ba mhinicí a bhíonn litruithe go mícheart. Tá siad deartha chomh maith againn le tabhairt faoi na haimsirí éagsúla – an aimsir chaite, an aimsir láithreach, an aimsir fháistineach agus an modh coinníollach.

We follow the Brendan Culligan system for teaching spelling and are seeing that this child-centred approach helps each individual child at their own level, does not foster competitiveness or comparison and provides appropriate challenges when necessary. The system begins with lots of spelling games, recognising visual patterns, identifying letter strings, learning spelling in context through dictation and allowing each child to learn the spellings that they need to learn. The dictation exercises are based on the most commonly misspelled words. Children should learn to spell frequently required words as opposed to words that just happen to be in the same ‘family’ as the others on the list. While Brendan Culligan’s approach was only created with English spelling in mind, we use the same processes for Litriú Gaeilge and have created our own dictation exercises based on the most commonly misspelled works as Gaeilge. We’ve also designed these to contain verbs in the past, present, future and conditional tenses.

Conas mar a oibríonn sé go praiticiúil, go laethiúl? Bhuel, seo mar a dhéanaim é le Rang 6. Tugaimid faoin deachtú ceithre lá in aghaidh na seachtaine – as Béárla faoi dhó agus as Gaeilge faoi dhó. Bíonn cúig abairt á léamh amach agam. Nuair atá gach ceann acu scríofa acu, cuirim an abairt iomlá, agus é i gceart, ar an gclár bán.  Déanann na páistí féin-cheartúchán orthu (Tógann seo tamaillín agus bíonn ort breathnú go gear orthu ag an tús). Tá foclóir pearsanta ag gach páistí agus cuireann siad isteach ann aon focal a litrigh siad go mícheart an lá sin. Roghnaíonn siad ansin cúig focal ina raibh botúin acu le foghlaim an oíche sin. Caithfidh siad focail a roghnú don obair bhaile a bhí cheana féin san fhoclóir pearsanta acu (toisc nach seo an chéad uair go raibh botún san fhocal sin acu). Muna bhfuil cúig botún déanta ag aon páiste, líonann siad na bearnaí sin le focail ó na liostaí Word of the Day nó Focal an Lae. Is féidir níos mó a léamh faoi na liostaí sin anseo.  Sa bhealach seo tá an méad céanna obair bhaile ag gach páiste ach le focail éagsúla a thugann dúshlán cuí dóibh.

So how does it work on a daily, practical level? Well, here’s how I tackle it with 6th class. We do dictation 4 days per week – twice in English and twice as Gaeilge. I dictate five  sentences. After they have written each one, I put the entire sentence, correctly spelled, on the board. The children self-correct (This takes time and initial strict moderation). Each child has a personal spelling dictionary into which they add any words they have spelled incorrectly that day. They then choose five of their mistakes to learn at home that evening. If any of the words were already in their personal dictionary (indicating that this is not the first time they’ve misspelled it) then they must be chosen as one of the five homework words. For those children who have less than five mistakes, they fill the gaps with words from our Word of the Day or Focal an Lae lists. You can read more about that here. Each child then has the same amount of homework but with words that they are individually challenged by.

Is i gcónaí obair bhaile scríofa atá sa litriú le cleachtaí a bhíonn simplí agus difriúil. Déanaim iarracht leis na cleachtaí seo go mbíonn siad ag díriú ar phatrúin a aithint. Uaireanta, mar shampla, bíonn orthú dathanna difriúla a úsáid  – gutaí le dath amháin, consain le dath eile nó b’fhéidir litreacha árda le dath amháin, litreacha ílse leis an dara dath agus litreacha atá ar chrochadh leis an tríú dath, srl.

The spelling homework is always written and the exercises are simple and varied and I aim to focus on pattern recognition with these exercises. Sometimes I ask them to use two or three colours – vowels one colour, consonants another or maybe tall letters one colour, short a second colour and hanging letters a third, etc.

Ní bhíonn aon srúdú litriú na seachtaine – níl siad de dhíth. Is féidir leis an múinteoir agus an páiste measúnú a dhéanamh ar líon na mbotún sa deachtú. Déanaim measúnú tapaidh ó bhéal chomh maith fad is atá na cóipleabhair obair bhaile á cheartú agam gach lá  – ag iarraidh ar gach páiste focal amháin a bhí ar a liosta féin a litriú.  Ní chun an litriú é féin a mheas a dhéanaim seo, ach le cintiú go mbíonn an litriú á fhoghlaim acu sa bhaile agus nach mbíonn na focail díreach á chóipeáil isteach sa chóipleabhair acu.

There are no weekly spelling tests, nor are they required. Both teacher and student can assess progress through the amount of errors being made in dictation. I also do a quick oral assessment as I’m correcting the homework copies – asking each child to spell one of the words that was on their list the previous night.  This is not so much to assess the spelling but more to ensure that the children actually do learn to spell the words at home, rather than just copying them into their homework.

Mar is eol daoibh uilig, bíonn botúin á dhéanamh le focail áirithe níos minicí ná le focail eile. Ar an lá gach seachtain nach bhfuil an deachtú á dhéanamh againn, bíonn ceithre nó cúig focal mar seo roghnaithe agam agus bíonn muid ag obair, mar rang iomlán, ar stráitéisí chun iad a fhoghlaim agus a chuimhniú.  Uaireanta, is cuimhneolaíocht a bhíonn in úsáid acu, ar nós BECAUSE : Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants. Uaireanta eile, cabhríonn sé leo páistí áirithe sa rang sin a úsáid, ar nós : B’FHÉIDIR. D’úsáid siad an téarma simplí ‘Bhuaigh Fiachra Héileacaptar’ le cuimhniú ar an tús agus mar sin, ní fhaca mé ‘Béidir’ go minic i ndiaidh sin. Straitéis eile a bhíonn in úsáid acu ná focail a aimsiú taobh istigh de focail eile, mar shampla, is féidir an focal AOINE a aimsiú taobh istigh den focal smAOINEamh.

As you will all have encountered, there are some words which are more commonly misspelled than others. On the one day each week that we don’t do dictation, I choose four or five of these words and we work, as a whole class, on strategies for learning and remembering them.  This is sometimes done using mneumonics such as BECAUSE : Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants. Other times it will be through using specific children in the class, for example : B’FHÉIDIR. The simple term ‘Bhuaigh Fiachra Héileacaptar’ helped them to remember the beginning and meant I rarely saw ‘Béidir’ after that. Another strategy they sometimes used was to identify words within words, for example SMAOINEAMH contains the word AOINE  – smAOINEamh.

Ag deireadh an lae, fiú nuair atá an litriú dírithe ar an páiste féin, beidh fós páistí áirithe a bheidh ag streachailt leis an litriú, ach go háirithe páistí a bhfuil disléicse orthu. Tá sé fíor-thábhachtach go ndéanann muid cinnte gur rud dearfach an litriú do na páistí seo, ag cinntiú gur féidir leo tabhairt faoi. Le linn deachtú, ní bhím ag iarraidh orthu abairtí iomlána a bhreacadh síos ina mbeadh an-chuid botúin. Iarraim orthu focal amháin a roghnú as gach abairt sa deachtú. Bíonn orthu an focal amháin sin a litriú le stampaí nó leis na litreacha beaga. Déanann seo nach féidir leo na mílte botún a dhéanamh agus cabhraíonn sé leis an bhféin-mhuinín a ardú.

When it comes down to it, even when spelling is individualised, there will still be some children who really struggle with spelling, particularly those who are battling dyslexia. It is important that we do everything we can to make spelling a positive experience for these children, keeping it achievable. During dictation, rather than asking them to write entire sentences which will inevitably contain a high proportion of errors, I ask these weaker spellers to choose one tricky word from each sentence. They should then either spell that word using letter stampers or lettered beads. This keeps their potential for error much lower and helps to build confidence rather than destroy it.

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