Post: In conversation: How to bring spelling alive



In conversation: How to bring spelling alive

Author Kate Lloyd answers questions about her teaching background, the Bring Spelling Alive Series and what it is like living in Vanuatu. Read through her interview.

Kate LloydKate Lloyd has 25 years’ experience in primary education as a classroom teacher and a manager. Passionate about literacy, Kate began implementing literacy programmes into schools in 2002. 

Due to her solid, manageable approach to embedding sound teaching practices, she is in demand as a consultant within this field. Kate and her family currently live in Vanuatu.

Spelling tools transcend culture

Can you tell us about your teaching and education background?

I have been a primary school teacher for 23 years. I have taught across Years 0–8 and been involved in all aspects of a primary school structure from AP, DP, Acting Principal, SENCO and Literacy Leader. I have always been passionate about all things to do with literacy.

The Bring Spelling Alive books are based on the Sounds Alive spelling programme that you developed. This programme is a huge success and is used in about 80 schools all over New Zealand. What inspired you to develop this programme?

While teaching at Wanaka Primary I developed the Sounds Alive programme in response to a perceived need. There was a flood of phonetic based programmes becoming available, however they were (in my opinion) weighted disproportionately towards learning the vast amounts of sound knowledge, rather than the focus being strongly placed on the habitualising of strategies to ‘unpack’ and ‘build’ words.

The programme was initially written and trialed at Wanaka Primary School and through word of mouth other schools requested implementation. This created an opportunity for me to leave full time classroom teaching and devote my energy and time to the programme. The jungle drums did the rest. I was soon fully committed to supporting other schools on their implementation of the Sounds Alive Programme.

How do the Bring Spelling Alive books support or add to the ‘Sounds Alive’ programme?

Those schools that have already implemented the Sounds Alive programme will benefit for the Bring Spelling Alive resource. The new programme is the ‘best of the best’, with new ideas and activities to support the programme. Bring Spelling Alive is the most effective aspects of the Sounds Alive programme refined and presented in a clear and concise way.

How did you come to live in Vanuatu?

In 2010 we made the decision to come to Vanuatu for a three-month period to spend some quality time with our two daughters and experience life in another culture.

We LOVED it!  My daughters and I spend time volunteering at a local village school, supporting them in their English programme. The conditions are so primitive but the desire to learn so encouraging. There are now many children who can use the Sounds Alive ‘tools’ to support their learning! After my husband had secured employment as a pilot we made the decision to come for a year. That has now become two!

How does working in Vanuatu schools compare with working in New Zealand schools? What new ideas and/or strategies about teaching literacy have you learnt and/or developed from working in Vanuatu schools?

I am currently teaching at Port Vila International School as the Literacy Leader and working with teachers and students to improve effective practice in literacy. The students are international with about 40% of them being Ni Vanuatu.

Many aspects of teaching transcend location, however there has been some adjustments needed when teaching the local Ni Vanuatu children. They are very respectful and reluctant to ‘risk take’ in their learning. They take time to learn and transfer strategies.

When volunteering at the local school, in the village where we live the curriculum is very knowledge driven and there is a lot of rote learning practice. They are very focused on the product rather than the process. The teaching resources are very limited. There is a great need to not only increase these but to ‘show’ teachers how to use them.

When learning to speak and spell in English, learning the sounds is a real challenge. The Sounds Alive programme has been a very useful resource to help them in this regard. It is very rewarding working with the local children. Their beautiful smiles and sparkling eyes shine with gratitude.

We will all be richer for the experience of living and working in Vanuatu.

About the author

Kate Lloyd is an educational consultant and teacher. She has 25 years’ experience in primary school education as a classroom teacher and a manager. Passionate about all aspects of literacy, Kate began implementing literacy programmes in New Zealand schools in 2002. Thanks to her solid, manageable approach to embedding sound teaching practices, she is in demand as a consultant within this field.


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