Teacher’s teacher casts a literacy lifeline to next generation
By Paige Taylor
https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation ... afdf291b83
Lorraine Hammond arrived at her first high-school teaching job in the West Australian farming town of Morawa with copies of Tim Winton’s Lockie Leonard and a sense of excitement about sharing her passion for reading.
But the 21-year-old soon realised something her teaching degree had not prepared her for: an alarming proportion of her adolescent students were not literate enough to attempt Winton’s short novel for young adults.
“I thought it was morally reprehensible that children could get through 10,000 hours of primary school unable to read,” she said.
“I embarked on a journey to help these kids but I had no idea what I was doing because at university the assumption was, at the very least, the students we would be teaching could read.”
Twenty nine years later, Dr Hammond is a teacher of teachers — an associate professor at Edith Cowan University’s school of education — and committed to something better than what she describes as the antiquated and ineffective methods that failed so many of her first students and continue to fail some Australian children today.
Dr Hammond is one of 993 Australians to receive a Queen’s Birthday honour, this year’s list marking the highest ever proportion of women recipients at 40 per cent. In addition, 221 meritorious and military awards have been announced.
Dr Hammond has been appointed a member in the General Division of the Order of Australia, or AM.
Dr Hammond’s citation says she has been awarded the AM for “significant service to higher education, and to the community.”
While up to a quarter of Australian school students have some form of reading difficulty, Dr Hammond says international literature suggests that figure should be closer to 3 per cent or one student per class. “It’s because of our instruction, we need to get our instruction right,” she said.
Through her work with teachers, including remote teachers in the innovative Kimberley Schools Project, Dr Hammond is slowly changing the way reading is taught to align it with current research on phonological awareness and explicit decoding instruction. It is an approach that guides kids as they develop the ability to hear sounds in words.
When they start to understand that words comprise of sounds, and learn to map those sounds to letters, they start to read.
This research-informed method is a far cry from her approach as a graduate, when she recalls telling another teacher she would never use such explicit and direct instruction for her students.
“I said ‘I am going to continue to love them to literacy’,” she said.
It did not work.
“It’s a myth to assume that just surrounding children with books will be enough to teach them reading,” she said.
The rewards of her job include watching a child begin to understand the words on a page for the first time.
Last week, a teacher mentored by Dr Hammond sent her a video of a Year 3 student she had met a year earlier at a remote Aboriginal community in the far north Kimberley region of WA.
The little girl could not read then but she had clearly made progress. “Nothing makes me happier than seeing them progress and feel successful in their work.”