Learning from this project
A key success of the Spelling Club was learner feedback on how the approach helped towards rapid, ‘adult’ achievements. Sessions ended with a plenary conversation with learners about ‘what we liked and what worked.’
Most of the learners arrived with very low self-confidence. For some, it was the first time they had attended a literacy session since childhood and for others it was as an alternative or alongside a course of study where negative experiences were still lingering. All learners had an initial conversation with a tutor during their first club session, which explored feelings towards literacy and specifically what role ‘spelling’ played in this.
Vocabulary chosen by learners indicated the extent and impact of the barriers with words like ‘scared’, ‘stressed’, ‘depressed’ being frequently linked to the word ‘spelling’. Although not all learners continued to attend, those who did gave positive feedback about the following contributory factors to their ongoing involvement:
• Moving rapidly in one session from a single sound or CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) word to a range of relevant multisyllabic words e.g. fun to misunderstanding
• Use of concepts which recognised and valued learners’ prior knowledge such as the learners having a ‘database of sounds’
• A set routine of activities developed over the first weeks of the course enabled learners to feel confident about their own spelling and also empowered to support new learners and introduce them to the concepts as ‘knowledge experts’
• Small group size with one tutor and a volunteer meant that no-one was left to struggle or feel lost.
• Focusing on the phonics-based approach, rather than a series of rules, meant that key issues could be highlighted, addressed and then implemented within the rapid extension activities giving more ‘success points’.
Other points of learning observed by the project participants were that:
• Learners took to the sound-based approaches at different rates. As the majority of learners needed rapid improvement, this would affect being able to use this approach with a larger group.
• Session preparation was labour intensive because of the lack of available and relevant resources.
• The ‘Club’ approach where the project was on a separate day to most accredited courses was helpful in encouraging a safe and inclusive atmosphere but also limited the reach of the project.
• The profile of the volunteer on this project was raised and she was appreciated across the service as ‘non-specialist expert’.
• Professional discussions included and valued the input of non-teaching staff leading to an improved atmosphere of collaboration and pedagogical understanding across the service.
• Non-teaching staff began using newly acquired knowledge to support