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An alternative to scripted teaching

Direct Instruction, the umbrella under which scripted teaching sits, is set up as the antidote to Discovery Learning, the Traditional answer to Progressivism, the Behaviourist reply to Constructivism. What one side has done for the word "phonics", the other has done for the word "script" but, at the risk of coming across all 1990s, there is a Third Way and we've been walking that alternative path with all sorts of educators for many successful years.

I think we'll call it Directly Indirect Scripted Discovery Learning.


Here's what we don't mean by "script":

The clip is from this video on YouTube is you want to watch the whole thing. It is pretty much 100% what we don't do in That Reading Thing.

Here's what we do mean by "script":

Here's the analogy. Your student is with you at the top of a mountain. At the bottom of the mountain is everything that can be read or spelt in English. The student can usually climb down part of the way without any help fom you. When they get stuck on a ledge ('I don't know that word', 'How do you spell?' etc), you have a few words to say to them consistently, (a "script"). This serves several purposes:

  • It talks them towards a correct answer in that moment without giving them the answer thus demonstrating that reading and spelling involve process and are not just things you know or don't know.
  • It leaves them with an automatic strategy when they encounter an unfamiliar word for reading or spelling when you're not there.
  • It creates independence and calms anxiety.

The feedback from That Reading Thing students is they ‘hear’ their TRT tutor’s voice when they’re in stressful literacy situations, whether taking an online test to get into the army, writing an exam or filling in a job application. It stops them from panicking and gives them something to do other than guess wildly. For others, it stops a confusing rush of images from years of trying an assortment of visual methods. It gives them time to breathe and think before writing or reading.

Our script is not about control or uniformity and it is not about any educational -ism. It's simply a lightweight strategy for helping students feel safe as they become independent readers and spellers, giving them a way of talking themselves off their own literacy ledges when you're not around.

If you're a classroom teacher looking for a strategy for spelling that's cheap, effective and won't burden you beyond what you can bear, please have a look at That Spelling Thing. For KS2 and beyond.

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