Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 6th 2014 Contents B5
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The Alta Programme has effective tools
and strategies organised within a structure
to overcome low aptitude for literacy. In
the early years of Alta, the field of literacy
instruction was fraught with conflicting
The challenge today is not a lack of mate-
rials and approaches, but the multiplicity
of these---albeit with much overlap and
often just different packaging and termi-
nology. A collection of strategies and tools
without coherence does not lead to reading,
especially for people with dyslexia.
My particular talent, I ve discovered, is
seeing through the fluff to the core strategies
that work, applying and adapting these to
match the needs of the adults we teach and
weaving them into a comprehensive pro-
gramme of literacy instruction---reading
order, structure and sequence. For example,
The Little Red Hen. It s a story with order,
structure and sequence too, with much rep-
etition and picture clues. A reader can predict
the repeated words on every page and use
the pictures to guess the words that don t
follow the pattern.
At an International Reading Association
(IRA) conference I attended, one workshop
discussed predictable books for children like
these and the effect reading an entire book
gives the student---a feeling of accomplish-
ment. I thought, "Why not make predictable
books for adults?" From this idea, I created
18 predictable books which form most of
the reading for the beginner level and the
context for teaching high frequency sight
words. Alta added games by adapting
Rummy and Suck the Well to practise sight
words as well as letter identification and sequence. We created six board games using folklore,
local maps and Carnival.
The dyslexia programme was designed for indi-
vidual remedial teaching, but I had a class of ten to
20 students so I divided the programme into levels
and began to build lessons around the skills, the les-
sons that would eventually develop into the Alta
Not all my students were dyslexic and they were
coming to reading as adults with thinking skills and
often with some reading skills. I included words that
could not be avoided. Level one, for example, face
words like dengue fever and mosquito in an early
lesson on this topic, with the pre-discussion, pictures
and context enabling students to work out the words
they cannot decode. Structure was certainly not
abandoned and once a skill has been taught, it is
incorporated within the following lessons, being
repeatedly reviewed, then extended and built upon.
Like the dyslexia programme, Alta lessons must be
taught in sequence to progressively build each skill.
When students face their Mount Everest climb to
literacy, Alta looks for the tools to make this easier,
more fun and just different from what they ve tried
before, so they ll keep climbing.
Against the Odds by Paula Lucie-Smith was
first published in 20 Years of Alta magazine, 2012.
Alta is looking for volunteers for the 2013/2014
academic year. Become an Alta volunteer tutor, a
Reading Circle guide or assist students with the
Reading Companion software on the computer.
Volunteers are unpaid. Call 624-ALTA (2582) or
e-mail email@example.com to set up an interview.
Strategies that work for adults
John Travolta has apologised to Tony Award
winner Idina Menzel for mangling the pro-
nunciation of her name during the Oscars
telecast, saying he d been "beating myself up"
On Sunday night s Academy Awards show,
Travolta took the stage and introduced Menzel,
but he seemed to say Adele Dazeem instead.
An estimated 43 million people were watching,
and social media has been mocking him relent-
lessly ever since, especially since he attended
Menzel, who played Maureen Johnson in
Rent onstage and on screen and Elphaba in
Wicked, seemed unperturbed by the flub as
she sang out Let It Go, from the animated film
Travolta said in a statement released Tuesday:
"I ve been beating myself up all day. Then I
thought ... what would Idina Menzel say? She d
say, Let it go, let it go! Idina is incredibly tal-
ented and I am so happy Frozen took home
two Oscars Sunday night!" (AP)
John Travolta apologises
to Idina Menzel for flub
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