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WELCOME TO THE I CAN READ INDONESIA BLOG!

Each month we will be adding new articles on the broad subject areas of Education and Teaching. Some articles will have a teacher focus, some will have a parent focus and some will be of equal interest to both. Whichever you choose to read, we hope that you find them thought provoking and informative.


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'IT'S ALL IN YOUR HEAD, ALICE!'



Back in 1998 when I was 6 years old, the first Disney movie I ever watched was ‘Alice in Wonderland’. It was about a wacky world full of crazy impossibility that made no sense, but yet felt very real to me at that time. I remember that I started to talk to my cat and pretended that I understood its meow and that we were having conversations, as Alice did with the Cheshire Cat.  When I grew up, I re-watched the movie and found that my reactions to the movie were very different. This got me thinking about why I had thought the way I had at age six, in comparison to the way I think now.


If you can remember, in the story Alice found herself confronted by different ‘out-of-this-world’ situations involving various curious animals. Alice freed her mind to think differently, to play with possibilities and changed her perspective through-out her journey. Alice thought about where she might be able to go after her fall down the rabbit hole or how she might be able to get to the garden through the small door. To do this she had to open her mind and truly engage her imagination to the idea that not all everything is always as it seems!  From this story, I learned that imagination is important in inviting potential and possibility.

‘Imagination’, as Sir Ken Robinson, an educationalist, in his keynote address said, “is what makes us human.” Everyone is born with creative potential; which if given the right opportunities continues to develop. A child’s imaginative potential grows when they are given the freedom to explore liminal space - that space between what is known and what is not yet known.

Children are constantly imagining, thinking, feeling, and learning through their senses. They are doing it everywhere (if you have children, they are probably doing it right now!). They are curious and eager to learn. They alone inhabit their imagination – this unique inner world of their creation. For some children however, finding this inner world requires our help, therefore, we as parents and teachers must provide our children with room to explore, to dream, and to seek answers by themselves. As Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge’’ Why? Because new knowledge is often created through being imaginative.

Let’s briefly look at a few benefits of encouraging imagination in our children:

·       
Imaginative children tend to be better critical thinkers - according to child psychologist Sally Goddard Blythe, imagination allows children to tap into their creativity and really run with it without any boundaries in a very freeing way. In doing so it is they who get to decide the; who, what, when, why and how’s of a situation.

Imaginative children often have stronger problem solving skills - when children are encouraged to freely explore their world, it builds their confidence and therefore stimulates their desire to solve any problem they might face. Imagination helps children to integrate the experience with the knowledge. 

Imaginative children are often adventurous and physical - imaginative children have the ability to seek out and embrace adventure, often this can be of a physical nature as the child explores navigating their place in the environments around them.

Imaginative children have superior language, communication and social skills - when children are exposed to something/someone/somewhere… new, they are able to experiment withdiffering social roles, as well as new language and vocabulary, and also with how to communicate in new ways to those around them. Likewise, when children read, they are expanding their language and world perspective, and are able to create new ideas about the world around them, while being exposed to differing versions of the social aspect of being ‘human’.


An imaginative child must never be restrained or limited - sadly for many of us this happens naturally as we get older and recognise the norms of the society in which we live. So what can we, as parents and teachers, do to foster an imaginative child?

Here are some tips and tricks to try at home and in your classrooms:

1. Literacy activities, ensure that your child has EASY ACCESS to books, and lots of them. Put aside regular time for reading, tell or read stories to your little ones every night before they go to sleep, use yourself as a role model and read with your child, talk to your child about what they are reading – make reading exciting!

2. Art activities, provide your child with the resources and time to be artistically creative - perhaps enroll your child in art lessons – it doesn’t only have to happen in your home. Get involved in the local art community, take them to art exhibitions, participate in events related to creativity – if you do this regularly, art and creativity becomes a natural part of their daily lives.

3. Imaginative play, support your child to use their imagination in play and talk with them about their thinking and ideas. Observe your child as s/he plays or play with them – get involved. Give your children plenty of unique experiences from which to spark their imaginations.

4. Outdoor activities, encourage children to engage with nature. The natural world provides countless opportunities for discovery, creativity, and problem solving. The natural world inspires children to think, question, make suppositions, and develop creative minds. Children can draw in sand, make design with twigs, build forts with branches, or simply lie on the ground and look up at the sky.

Let’s finish by returning to Alice in Wonderland’s most famous catch-line, ‘I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date’ –if you recall, the Mad Hatter was muttering this as he rushed from place to place… Imagination however, is not something that should be rushed, but rather it should be understood and nurtured, and not just in our young children, but in everyone, including ourselves!

September 2021
Meiva Mutia R

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TAKING IT ONE STEP AT A TIME



‘Little by little, a little becomes A LOT’

Many years ago, as I handed my students their shiny new books, telling them as I did so, that together we were going to read the stories in these books, a little voice piped-up and said ‘But Teacher Inge, we don’t know how to read!’ Six months later, this same child again sat in my classroom, this time reading almost independently from her very first ‘chapter’ book.

Whenever we embark on a new learning journey – whether it be learning to read, or trying to understand algebra, or play the flute, or how to sew, surf or drive … we tend to start pretty much at the beginning - from a place of little or no knowledge.

Unless we are incredibly gifted, most of us learn step by step, over a period of time. My young reading student is a perfect example – each week during her reading lessons, she mastered one skill at a time, until eventually these combined new skills led her to the wondrous world of reading literacy.

When teaching, we likewise tend to choose a step-by-step approach in our desire to be successful. If we return to my reading student once again, when teaching her to read, it wasn’t the simple case of merely handing her a book and expecting her to ‘go forth and comprehend’, but rather, I used a laddered approach, in which she was continuously supported as she climbed to the top, one rung (or skill) at a time.

When teaching and learning in this way, it’s important to be constantly aware of how our students are performing and progressing – in other words, are they in fact learning the little steps? In I Can Read we do this by carefully and consistently monitoring each student’s progress through regular, skills-targeted assessments.

I Can Read uses three broad types of student assessment, Diagnostic, Formative and Summative.

We use a diagnostic assessment to assess the skills that a new student brings with them when they enrol in I Can Read – this helps us place them into the course best suited for them. We use formative assessments to assess what our students are learning during their course and we use summative assessments to assess what our students have learnt through-out their course, or, what they are going to take away with them.

We assess our students in many ways, often informally, sometimes more formally. We can assess through having a conversation with a student, or through listening to a student speak. We can conduct quizzes, tests, concept checks. We can assess through marking written work or through having our older students complete term review papers – often we will use a combination, or even all of these options.

So, why do we assess? Because without it, we have little or no idea if teaching and ultimately learning has occurred, – all three, teaching, learning and assessment are intrinsically linked. We assess to gather information about individual and class performance and progress, to identify gaps in learning, to determine if ‘we’ as teachers are successfully doing what we have set out to do, and we assess to be able to give parents specific evidence and feedback as to how their child is doing under our tutelage.

As soon as a child becomes an I Can Read student, we start monitoring their progress. For us this is especially important as our courses, particularly for our younger students, are ability-based - meaning that as soon as a student can demonstrate that they have mastered the learning and social objectives of each course, they are promoted to the next course.

To keep a record of how their students are performing, our teachers maintain individual progress sheets. These are consistently updated and are used as a source of meaningful and specific feedback for parents, to be shared during casual end of lesson chats, formal parent-teacher meetings and in

written term reports. By regularly completing these progress sheets, our teachers gain a good insight into whether each student is in fact making all of those necessary little steps of progress – and if not, it allows the teacher to quickly make necessary changes to how or what they are teaching to better benefit their students while the problem is still small and easily remedied.

As eluded to in the above paragraph, when we assess, we are not just assessing our students, we are also assessing ourselves – if during our student assessments we discover that they are not performing or progressing as expected, this allows us as teachers the opportunity to stop, reflect and identify ‘why’ before taking the necessary action to adapt our approach to better support the student.

There are many similar versions of this saying, ‘With the falling of just drops of water, the pot gradually fills’. While there is much truth to this, there are also many hazards that may prevent the pot from filling – perhaps it has a hole in it? Or, perhaps something is blocking the fall of the water… without checking how would we know?

Teaching and learning new academic skills is exactly the same, little by little the skill is gradually learnt. But like the pot in the saying, we should never assume that our students are learning what we are attempting to teach, but must instead conduct regular assessments to check that they are making the little steps of progress required to lead them to mastery.


Inge Wilhelm

August 2021

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REACTING FOR CHANGE



Even as very young babies, we quickly learn that if
we behave in a particular manner, those around us will most likely respond in a certain way E.g. As a baby, if I cry, someone will most likely pick me up, cuddle me, feed me, or change my diaper, or, as a toddler, if I throw an embarrassingly loud tantrum in the local Supermarket, my mother will very likely buy me candy or a treat (if only to keep me quiet), and as a teenager, if I complete my homework, it’s more likely that I will be allowed to go to the cinema, or swimming with my friends…

Anyone interested in popular psychology will probably be aware of a famous series of experiments commonly known as ‘Pavlov’s Dog’.

Pavlov, a Russian scientist, conducted experiments using dogs, food and bells. He started by measuring the amount of saliva (aka dribble or slobber J) that a dog produced when it was given a bowl of food. In doing this he was really testing how the dog responded to stimulus – the stimulus was the food, the salivation the response.

Pavlov then became interested in finding out what would happen if the stimulus was changed. To do this, he introduced the sound of a bell ringing to the dog, and tested whether hearing this sound alone caused the dog to salivate – it didn’t. Over time he then amended his experiment by also ringing the bell every time the dog was given the bowl of food. So now it was food plus ringing bell = stimulus, while salivation = response.

Eventually Pavlov removed the food altogether to see what would now happen if the dog heard the ringing bell without the food being offered, and what he discovered was that the dog now salivated at the sound of the bell alone.

Pavlov learnt therefore that over time, he could modify or change the dog’s behaviour (or response) by changing the stimulus.

This is not news to parents and teachers! We spend our entire waking hours acting as amateur scientists and psychologists, trying to positively influence the behaviour of our children by experimenting with the processes of stimulus and response.

But, how can we take the learnings from Pavlov and make them work for us?

Let’s take this into the classroom. It’s a new school year, you are meeting your students for the first time and you ask them a question… immediately 15 voices shout out the answer, while 5 students raise their hands – you now have a choice, do you accept a shouted answer or do you select a student who raised their hand to answer?

Think about it… if you choose to accept the answer from the students who yelled at you, essentially you are indicating that whenever they want your attention, all they have to do is yell. If however, you ignore the yellers and concentrate instead on those who raise their hand, you are clearly showing everyone that as their teacher you will only respond to students who raise their hand when they want your attention. Yelling vs hand-raising? I know which I’d prefer!

Another way to think of stimulus and response is to think of ‘stimulus’ as an action and ‘response’ as a reaction e.g. if I study hard (action or stimulus) I will pass the test (reaction or response). If we want to our students to act in a certain way, then it’s up to us to show/tell them what we expect. How we do this is by taking great care in how we react to their actions.

So, yell your answer at me and I won’t respond, but raise your hand and I will, or, work hard and we’ll finish the lesson with a fun game, or, play around and waste time and we’ll work right up until the bell, or, complete your homework and I’ll give you a stamp as a reward, or, don’t complete your homework and you’ll walk away with nothing… Eventually, over time (yes, this doesn’t happen over-night!) and with a consistent and committed approach to how we respond, we will slowly but surely bring about behavioural changes in our students/children.

Changing your students behaviour through how you respond to their actions, is not a super-power, but it does take a super level of commitment if you want to do it successfully. Below are a few tips for ensuring this works for you in your classroom (or in your home).


  1. First, be very clear with yourself about which behaviours are acceptable in your class/home.
  2. Communicate these clearly to your students/children – let them know what to expect by telling them AND showing them (and whenever necessary, reminding them).
  3. Be consistent in your responses – regularly check-in with yourself to make sure you’re following your plan.
  4. Be committed to seeing it through – some days it might feel easier to give it all away – but DON’T!

We spend our entire lives responding to stimulus, or reacting to others actions – on a personal level, sometimes we get it right and other times we don’t. But, as a teacher and/or parent, by knowing the behaviours that we want to see in our children and students, and by guiding them towards that behaviour through how we respond to their actions, we are far more likely to create environments in which we all succeed.


Inge Wilhelm

July 2021

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A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN I CAN READ (ICR) TEACHER



As teachers, we know that no two days are exactly the same and that when teaching young learners we must always be willing and ready to adapt our approach to meet the ever changing needs of our students. However, in order to adapt we must first have an original idea, or plan, or schedule, or routine… For today’s article, I thought it might be interesting to take you through a typical working day in the life of an I Can Read Teacher, and in doing so shine a light on what happens behind the scenes (or the closed doors of an ICR classroom).

I always really enjoy the first 30 minutes of arriving at my ICR Centre. During this time, I catch-up with my work colleagues – we’ve worked together for a few years now and have built strong personal friendships, so the first few minutes of each day are always spent checking-in with each other to share news and make sure that everyone is happy. I usually follow this with a quick talk with my Centre Manager to find out if there are any messages from parents for me, or if I have any assessments scheduled for the day.


Once I collect my daily class folders, I head to the Teachers’ room to start preparing for the day’s lessons. My preparing starts with choosing/identifying which ICR lesson I will be teaching in each of my classes. I then make myself aware of the learning goals for each lesson, the activities that my students will be doing and of the teaching materials that I will need to collect or prepare. Most importantly, I must also make sure that I can confidently teach each lesson in a way that my students can understand and learn from. I also use this pre-teaching time to look at my student’s progress sheets and remind myself if any are ready to be assessed for promotion or, if I need to put aside some 1:1 time with any of them.


Early each week we all get together for a team meeting. For teachers, these meetings are important as they give us all the opportunity to listen, seek/offer help and support, and to learn from one another. During my time as a teacher, I’ve probably learnt more from my fellow teachers than from anywhere or anyone else! Our team meetings are also a good time to share ideas, problem-solve, give feedback and of course also have fun – getting together like this helps build a great team spirit in our ICR Centre.


Most of my classes start at 1pm. Before each lesson, I ensure that everything is ready then greet the students at the front of the center and escort them to the classroom. I give the students a set routine to follow for beginning their class. During the lesson, I always follow the ICR lesson structure and my lesson plan so that I have the best chance of helping my students meet the learning objectives.


However, teaching is not always straight-forward and easy, and I must be prepared to adapt to any situation that may arise – as all parents and teachers know, with ‘children being children’, sometimes things just don’t go according to plan! To help minimize this from happening too often, I employ different methods to manage my students’ behavior to ensure that everyone in the classroom (including myself) can teach and learn without unnecessary disruption.


I spend most of the afternoon teaching different ICR classes – on any day I might have a few pre-reading classes with our youngest students, a reading class and an English 1-6 class with older students. I like the variety of teaching different ICR courses and different age groups during my day.


In between lessons, I might be asked to do an assessment on a new student to assess their literacy skills so that we can place them in the correct ICR class. I enjoy doing assessments, as they give me the chance to also speak with parents about what enrolling in I Can Read can offer their child – both academically and socially.


Following each lesson, I always try and speak with a few of my students’ parents. I keep parents informed about their child’s progress, classroom updates and give them suggestions on how to help their child complete their homework. These short, informal meetings require little preparation, and I’ve learnt over the years that if parents are able to regularly speak with their child’s teacher, even if just for a few minutes, it helps create a strong, clear sense of working together.

 

Before leaving for the day, I complete my administrative tasks, which include; checking the attendance sheets have been filled in, updating the students’ progress sheets and completing the lesson summaries, before passing the class folders back to the Centre Manager.

 

I often end my day exactly as I started it by catching-up with my colleagues and seeing how their day went, before saying goodnight to everyone and heading home.


Riagus Izzan

June 2021

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WHAT MAKES A TEACHER STAND OUT?



Through-out our lives we have many teachers, BUT, how many of them are truly memorable? And for those that you can remember, have you ever taken a moment to think of why you are able remember
them so vividly?

As the world’s fourth-most populous country, the education system in Indonesia is also reported to be the fourth largest in the world, with more than 50 million students, 300 thousand schools, and – the oil that keeps it running, I believe – 3 million teachers1. In I Can Read alone, we currently employ more than 200 teachers. I wonder how many of these 200 ICR teachers, will be remembered in the years ahead by their students of today?

I, for one, can say that of those teachers that I remember, I didn’t know or even really care about their qualifications or years of teaching experience. I can even barely remember how they looked! Yet for some reason these teachers have continued to be influential sources of inspiration in my life as an educator.

Why though? Why are there teachers that we remember, while others quickly fade from our memories? What makes a teacher stand out? To answer this, I conducted a brief interview with a variety of people with direct relationships to teachers to give me different perspectives. Significantly, although they had many differing thoughts and ideas, there was one characteristic that they all seemed to agree upon and that is, Heart.

No matter where, when, what subject, or what age group of students we teach, no matter how we dress, what qualifications, and teaching experience we have, no matter whether we are teaching in I Can Read or not, the number one factor that makes teachers stand out, that makes them distinct from the rest run-of-the-mill teachers, is when they teach from the heart. Teaching for them is a passion, not merely a means to make ends meet. They love the act of teaching, the subject, and the students they teach. They regard each of their students as an individual to be nurtured and developed, not a project to be finished

Those that teach from the heart, live and teach according to these qualities:

  • Preparedness - We will always come to class well prepared. We familiarise ourselves with the lesson content, we think of how we want to deliver our lesson, we prepare the materials needed, etc. We don’t just wing it and hoping that our class will run smoothly.
  • Resilience - We do not abandon our students just because they are hard to teach. We do not ‘relocate’ our students to other teachers just because our students misbehave and give us headaches. We need to genuinely care and try to understand them. Do the extra miles, not just as an act of professionalism. The key thing is: Do not give up on our students however tempting it may seem.
  • Resourcefulness - There is no one size fits all when it comes to teaching. Each student comes with different educational background, individual needs, and abilities. We need to be a gear shifter and be creative. When one way doesn’t work, we always look for other ways.
  • Spirited Enthusiasm - Because we enjoy teaching and delivering the lesson, we are always emanating energy and enthusiasm. In turn, that dynamic makes students feel energetic and enthusiastic to study.
  • Communicative - Raising a child takes a whole village, and so does teaching students. We won’t be able to do it all alone, and the good news is, we never have to! Ask our colleagues for their advice on various things like how to deal with students throwing tantrums, or how to improve engagement in the class... And, communicate with the parents of our students too. Let’s not forget that parents know their children better than we do. Ask them for some suggestions, but also inform them about their children’s progress. Our mutual respect and understanding with the parents stem from the mutual love we share towards the children/students.
  • Driven to Improve - There will never be a time when we have reached our most potential and at the top of our game. We can always improve ourselves and should always look for ways to do it. Either we deepen our understanding of the subject we teach (in ICR case, English), or learn the different ways we can deliver our materials to suit different students’ needs, or even learn how we can communicate better with our colleagues. It can be anything as long as it improves us as a teacher. And there are a lot of ways to do this: read a self-study book, join a webinar or a workshop, enrol in an online course, or even, watch YouTube videos. Remember that the goal of this is not just to earn a certificate and make our CV look impressive, but rather to improve ourselves so that we can be more positively impactful on those that we teach.



The scary thing about teaching from the heart, is that most often it is your students and their parents who can best tell when someone is not. One of the parents I spoke with commented, ‘as a parent, I can somehow ‘sense’ whether a teacher teaches my children from their heart or just to fulfil a job description’. As teachers therefore, we must consistently be asking ourselves, ‘what is my purpose?’ and if you find you have strayed away from the heart, then you owe it to both yourself and to your students to find your way back.

To return to the teachers that I remember so positively, their teaching me from their hearts inspired me to want to do the same for the next generation of young learners, and as I teach today, I am hopeful that sitting amongst those that I teach are the next wave of ‘heart led’ teachers patiently awaiting their turn to do the same…


Agus Haris Munandar

June 2021
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PAPER VS SCREEN



Here in May 2021, those amongst us choosing to take a ‘glass half-full’ approach to life, find ourselves still trying to make ‘sense’ of this new world in which we now live by continuously searching for the ‘up’s’ or the positives that have come from our experiences of the past 12-16 months.

As literacy educators, one huge positive that we’re extremely happy to share, is a dramatic increase in the reading rates of our children during these ‘study from home’ times. In a recent study conducted by the UK’s National Literacy Trust, over a quarter of the sixty-thousand, 8-18 year-old respondents, reported that during lockdown, they both read more and got more enjoyment from what they were reading.

Another particularly interesting result of this study was the discovery that in general, during these digital heavy times, many children were choosing to ‘go back’ to reading paper books rather than electronic books, aka e-books. Perhaps purely for nostalgic reasons and a return to the familiar or perhaps due to digital fatigue, either way, when it comes to our children reading for pleasure, Paper vs Screen? Is one better than the other?

Although traditional paper books still dominate the reading experience of most young readers, in the past 5 or so years, children have had increasing experience with books in an electronic format. This is not surprising, given how prevalent digital devices are in homes (and increasingly in schools) these days.

Fans of e-books present some strong arguments in favour of using digitalisation as a tool for encouraging reading in children, and research has in fact shown that for boys in particular, the use of gadgetry has encouraged an increase of reading in previously reluctant readers.

In support of electronic books:
  1. They allow access to a near limitless selection of books with a simple click of a button, at anytime from anywhere.
  2. You can create your own personal library of ‘books’ without needing a huge space in which to accommodate them all.
  3. They can come with animations, music, games and means to be made interactive, thereby, encouraging the ‘reader’ to really get involved in the story.
  4. They can come with access to electronic audio pronunciation applications, allowing a reader to check pronunciation of unfamiliar words.
  5. They come with built in access to dictionaries/thesaurus, allowing for immediate clarification of a new word meaning.
  6. They are adaptable, e.g. the print size can be increased.
  7. They are environmentally friendly – reducing the need for the 10’s of millions of trees that are cut down each year to make traditional paper-books.

Detractors of e-books, likewise have solid reasoning as to why the book in its paper form consistently out performs it’s electronic ‘cousin’ as the reading medium of choice.

In opposition of electronic books:
  1. If they’re only exposed to e-readers, young readers lose the tactile experience of handling a traditional book, turning its pages, creating a physical book collection, or sharing their favourites with their friends.
  2. They can effectively limit the variety of books that a child may read. When visiting a library or bookstore, a child has the opportunity to view (and touch) a huge variety of books before making their reading decisions, whereas for e-books these decisions are generally selected from a narrow range of titles that pop up on the screen.
  3. The music, animation, and games that are loaded onto children’s e-books can end up being more distracting than useful. Potentially these interactive features can lead to a decrease in comprehension and ultimately learning.
  4. By being inundated with interactive features, children are being required less and less to use their imaginations, their analytical and predictive skills and their ability to think creatively. 
  5. The adult-child (parent/teacher-child) interaction that is so positively compelling with traditional book reading, changes dramatically when collaboratively reading using e-books,
  6. In fact, research has found that parents/teachers often become more controlling, concentrating more on what their child is doing with the device instead of talking about the story. The technology is so exciting that the conversation focuses on what button to push instead of the content.
  7. A paper book doesn’t need to be plugged in!

From personal experience, I was a bookseller during the extraordinary Harry Potter years, when the release of the latest edition had children lining the streets, dressed as their favourite characters, talking about plots, predicting outcomes, analysing character traits… as they waited for the book shop doors to open so they could rush in and get their hands on the next Harry Potter adventure. 

This literary phenomenon was experienced at a community level right through-out the world, and was driven I believe (obviously by the story-telling mastery of JK Rowling) but also equally by the power of the physical book in hand and the shared experience of millions of readers as they turned each page. Had Harry Potter only been released as an e-book, I very much doubt that there would have been the same outpouring of love and excitement each time a new edition was released – clicking a button to download, has nowhere near the same impact as gathering collectively as a united group, counting down to the exact launch time, rushing through the bookshop doors, holding the book in your hands and then opening to the first page…

I have to admit to being a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to books and for me the presence of books transform a house into a home, BUT, I will admit to also having an e-book device these days. I find them easier to carry when travelling, or for being able to buy a book 24/7, or for being able to access free/cheap books when the budget is a bit tight. 

Ultimately I think that in 2021 this is the way to go, and that there is no need for an ‘either or’, but rather an acceptance that both are legitimate modes of reading and that they can work extremely well in combination.

So rather than Paper vs Screen, an alternative view could be Paper and Screen. The bottom line being that we just want our children to start reading and then keep reading!

Inge Wilhelm
May 2021
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KNOWING WHICH I CAN READ COURSE IS RIGHT FOR YOUR CHILD?



All children are the same
All children progress academically at the same rate
All children adapt quickly to new situations and environments
All children are equally confident and emotionally resilient
All children have the same access to resources, their parents’ time, learning opportunities…
When it comes to parenting and educating children, the above 5 statements could not be further from the truth!

Each child is an individual with their own unique characteristics. Some children leapfrog from baby to toddler to school with apparent ease, while others take a slower more methodical approach. Some children exude confidence, others experience anxiety. Some children take to reading or maths or science, others to art, or sports, or music. Some children are talkative, opinionated, questioning of everything, while others are quiet, reflective, introspective…

At I Can Read we know that no two children are exactly the same, which is why all children enrolling in an ICR course must first attend an assessment. The assessment is a series of stress-free literacy activities designed to highlight each child’s current English Literacy skill level, together with the child’s emotional readiness to attend an ICR lesson without the constant comforting presence of Mum or Dad.

We’re often asked by parents about how they can ‘prepare’ their child for the assessment. To best answer this, it’s important to realise that this assessment is NOT a test in which a child either passes or fails. There is no failing this assessment!

By all means prepare your child for a new experience in a new environment, by telling them where they are going and who they are going to meet, but there is no benefit at all to be gained by subjecting your child to a rush course in phonological awareness or spoken English or English grammar… before the assessment – ultimately this may even do more harm than good!

I Can Read Courses are ability-based, meaning that a child is placed in a course according to their individual literacy skills (and emotional readiness). During the assessment, the child is led through a series of activities that enables the assessor to gain an understanding of whether the child has the English vocabulary to identify a selection of objects, or is able to understand that different letters make different sounds and that when blended together correctly, these sounds make words, and that when we put these words together they make up sentences…

The information acquired during the assessment then allows the teacher to recommend the ICR Course that is best suited to the child’s current skill level. By doing this we are placing a child in a course that is neither too easy, nor too difficult for ‘them’ and therefore giving them the best possible chance to succeed in their ICR studies.

To get the best out of your child’s assessment we recommend:
1. Prepare your child for a new experience, but do not ‘coach’ them academically prior to the assessment – perhaps arrive at the ICR Centre a few minutes early to allow your child a chance to settle down before the assessment begins.
2. Attend the assessment with your child – seeing how your child performs, will help you better understand why the assessor recommends a particular course.
3. Allow the assessor and your child to complete the assessment without interruption – it’s hard to sit quietly while your child searches for an answer, we know! But, it’s very important that we find out what your child knows, rather than what you know!
4. Listen as the assessor explains which ICR course that they are recommending, they will explain:
- Why they are recommending a specific course
- The learning objectives of the course 
- The literacy skills that your child will learn
- How we are going to teach your child 
- The skills your child will need to gain and become confident in before being promoted
- The next ICR course they can be promoted to
- What you as a parent can do to help your child succeed
5. Ask questions to clarify what the assessor is saying, but avoid asking how long your child will need to stay in the course that is being recommended – as mentioned, each child is different, so each child will progress at a different rate. Once your child starts their lessons, their teacher will be able to give you regular updates as to how they are progressing.

I Can Read Assessments are free of charge, and come with no obligation to enrol your child. If you are interested in your child attending an assessment, please click on the location button on this website for the ICR Centre nearest to you.

Inge Wilhelm
May 2021
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PARENTING WITH RULES AND ROUTINES



Raising a happy, confident and well-behaved child can be equally rewarding and challenging. As parents, our children’s behaviour is often seen as a reflection of our parenting skills. In our minds, a consistently well-behaved child indicates clear evidence that we are successful in our role as parents, while a regularly misbehaving child perhaps indicates the opposite?

So, what does it take to raise a happy, confident, and well-behaved child? Of all the mums and dads I’ve spoken with, there is one common thread from our conversations, and that is the establishment and following of rules and routines. They all believe that the setting of practical family rules and the following simple agreed routines have helped them as they raise their children.

When talking about family rules and routines, what we are really meaning is the known ‘guidelines’ that we as a family, have in place to ensure that we all know and understand what is, and equally, what is not, acceptable behaviour in our family e.g. never wander away in a public place, or always hold mum’s hand when crossing the road, or always do your homework before watching TV, or listen when an adult is talking or come inside before it gets dark…

If we want family safety and harmony therefore, let’s just throw a few rules and routines at our children and then we can all get on with living ‘happily ever after’.

Sounds easy, but in reality, parents know (or learn very quickly!) that establishing rules and routines is often far easier said than done, and can in fact be massively challenging for the simple reasons that:

  • For most children, curiosity outweighs rule-following e.g., in the mind of a child, ‘I know I am not supposed to wander-off in the Mall, but over there, is a TOY SHOP!’
  • Children are attention seekers e.g., in the mind of a child, ‘I know I’m supposed to be quiet when mum talks to my teacher, but I want them both to know that I AM HERE!’
  • Children are gifted ‘testers’ of their parents’ limits e.g., in the mind of a child, ‘I know I’m supposed to brush my teeth every morning, but I wonder how long I can get away with not brushing them?’

But while challenging, the establishing of these family rules and routines are worthy of your time and effort.

Why?

  • They provide children with a sense of comfort and certainty – yes, they will undoubtedly question them and you at times, but even so, they secretly like the security of having them.
  • They provide children with reassurance that their parents are there for them.
  • They clearly show children what is expected of them.
  • They help teach children e.g., when children are given rules on screen-time limits, you are helping them develop skills such as how to manage time, or make considered decisions…
  • They help prepare children for a future of constant and ever-changing rules. The world in which they live is filled with rules and regulations, so in living with and understanding your family rules you are better preparing them for their rule-heavy lives ahead.

Just like rules, routines are used by parents to help family-life run smoothly. Routines are simply sequences of behaviour that we regularly follow in our daily lives. In establishing routines for our children, parents are effectively taking away the need for countless ‘little rules’ and replacing them instead with specific and stated (as with family rules, your children must be clear of what the routines are, and why it is important to follow them!) actions, that ultimately become nearly automatic.

Some examples of common child friendly routines being:

  • Wake-up and get out of bed (at a given time), get dressed, have breakfast, brush teeth and hair, pack schoolbag…
  • Putting schoolbag in the designated area when arriving home from school, having a snack, doing homework, enjoying free-time, dinner…
  • After playing with toys, pick-up after yourself and tidy away.
  • Turn off the TV after watching or when not watching.
  • Putting important notes or letters on the notice board (or on the fridge door) so mum and dad can easily spot them. 

As with everything when it comes to encouraging our children, the acceptance of family rules and routines will be more successful if they are delivered with ample encouragement and positive reinforcement - it is vital that parents show their appreciation of their children’s efforts and improvements, no matter how small they are – here are a few ways to acknowledge their efforts:

  • Give praise.
  • Thank them.
  • Discuss your family’s rules/routines and allow them to offer suggestions for changes.
  • Star charts or achievement charts, later to be exchanged for a bigger reward.
  • Arrange a special, fun family activity.
  • Have their friends for sleepovers or playdates. 
  • Favourite food treats 

For children, specific and known rules and routines bring certainty at a time when their lives are constantly changing. As parents we can help our children accept the introduction of these into their lives by clearly explaining why each is important, by being consistent in expecting them to be followed, and by following through with consequences if they are not. 

Georgia Marias
April 2021
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WHY, OH WHY?



Will it be Mama? Or, will it be Dada? A child’s first spoken words are often much anticipated and celebrated.

But… barely before the excitement has died down, a new reality quickly emerges and with it the realisation that from here on in, your life as a parent is once again about to change.

On average, in the first 5 years of life, a child will learn around 5000 new words, increasing to 10,000 – 12,000 words by the age of 10 years.

Nouns (lots of nouns!), Verbs, Adjectives, Adverbs… Whether implicitly or explicitly taught, these new words allow the child to expand their view and understanding of the world and their place in it.

Within these thousands of newly acquired words will be ‘the many’ that are used in typical daily conversations (hello, swim, dog, school, green, no…), some that signify themes (train, car, airplane, bus, bike…) and some that highlight cultural niceties (please, thank-you, excuse me, sorry, you’re welcome…).

Most words once accessed, become part of the child’s ever evolving vocabulary base, to be used as or when needed. But occasionally an especially powerful word will arrive and with its arrival comes a degree (often many degrees) of challenge, not just for the child, but also for everyone around them, especially parents and teachers!

Arguably one of the most testing of these words is the humble, ‘why’. On the face of it, a simple one syllable, 2 phoneme, 3 letter word, but delve a letter deeper and the importance (and challenge) of this powerful little word soon becomes clearer.

The arrival of the ‘why’ into a child’s everyday vocabulary, appears with lightning-like speed almost as soon as their spoken language first emerges – one day it’s Mama, and the next it’s why, why, why, why, why…

  • Parent: ‘It’s time to brush your teeth’. Child: ‘Why?’
  • Parent: ‘That’s enough story-time for tonight’. Child: ‘Why?’
  • Parent: ‘It’s raining’. Child: ‘Why?’
  • Parent: ‘Let me peel the orange first’. Child: ‘Why?’
  • Parent: ‘Be gentle with the puppy’. Child: ‘Why?’

But, why all the ‘why’s?’

At its most simple, children, like adults, ask questions, because they want to know the answers (both facts and explanations). If you can recall a time when you have visited a new country or perhaps learnt a new skill, you may also recall that in the beginning you had a lot of questions as you tried to make sense of it all. This is the exact same for our children - they are constantly visiting new places, learning new skills, having new experiences, being introduced to new ideas… so it’s no surprise that the questions just keep on a-coming!

Just how many questions? You may well ask. On average, a child will ask around 40,000 questions between the ages of 2 and 5 years*. (Spare a thought therefore for parents of more than one child, e.g. three children = 120,000 questions!). 

Being on the receiving end of this ever increasing and seemingly never ceasing barrage of ‘whys’ can frazzle even the most patient of parents and teachers, but… be patient we must! Because in allowing our children to ask the ‘whys’ we are setting the foundations for a life of curiosity, knowledge seeking and critical thinking. 

In those moments when you may be inclined to ignore the incessant ‘whys’ (in addition of course, to the when’s, what’s, where’s, who’s, and how’s), remember that the more questions your child asks, the more they are learning – and this is a GOOD thing, as highlighted in this quote by Warren Berger.

‘Knowing the answers to questions will help you in school, knowing how to ask great questions will help you in life’                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
So, what about us as parents and teachers? What is our role in the encouraging of the ‘whys’?

1. A Listener
Actively show that you value their questions and curiosity by listening and responding.
2. An Encourager 
Create environments in which children feel safe asking questions and praise the asking of good questions with equal positivity as you do for the correct answering of questions.
3. An Answerer 
Become a walking, talking, breathing ‘search-engine’ for the 100’s of smaller, simple, fact type questions that come at you on a daily basis.
4. A Researcher 
Show your children that at times finding answers, especially for the higher-order thinking questions, takes hard work and research. Encourage them to consider a variety of possible answers, rather than believe the first one they hear or see.
5. A Co – Learner
Turn it around and also ask your children questions. In doing so you are demonstrating that gathering new knowledge and understanding is life-long, and that you as their parent or teacher value their thoughts and opinions.

As parents and teachers, we along with all of our other responsibilities are the primary enablers and nurturers of our children’s need to expand their knowledge and therefore view of the world. This knowledge is built question by question by question by…

Sending our children into the world as questioners, equips them to follow their own paths, make their own decisions, evaluate, re-evaluate, discover, agree, disagree, theorise and so much more. 

Let’s therefore actively encourage our children to become super questioners, starting right from their very first ‘why?’

Inge Wilhelm
April 2021
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