Who is the author of Action Words?
During my teaching career I’d been Literacy Co-ordinator for two schools and had a strong interest in how children learned to read and which methods worked best for each child. I’m not an advocate for one size fits all, we all learn differently and what will be effective with one child may not be effective for all.
I’d seen evidence of this during my teaching. One example that still stands out was a little boy called Anthony who I’d had in reception. He struggled to learn his letters or words. No matter how hard he (and I and his mum) tried. I had Anthony again in Y2 and was saddened to see almost no progress had been made. In the meantime as Literacy Co-ordinator I’d introduced Letterland to reception. So I had a go with Anthony and the results were amazing. The addition of an image and story made such a huge impact on him and he was soon a happy reader. One image that stands out in my memory is Anthony hopping out to play singing ‘Oo I love me boots’ over and over again.
He’d found his way. Through an image and a sound.
Two memory pathways.
Letterland also added humour. Very important. Adding fun into the learning process removes the stress children are placed under when struggling to read.
Anthony’s success made me think. What if all we had to do was find the right way in to reading for each child?
So, when I heard about a system that used actions to demonstrate each letter (Jolly Phonics) I introduced that. I blended the two systems using the Letterland images and the Jolly Phonics actions.
So now I had an image, a sound and an action.
Three memory pathways. More success for more children.
But I still had some children who struggled. They had difficulty blending and segmenting. So I applied an image, sound and action to high frequency words.
Another breakthrough for the children.
An image, a sound, an action but even more – comprehension. The actions reflect the meaning of the words. The phrases, which are such a big part of the system, develop vocabulary and thinking skills.
Action words was created and then tested in six schools in Redcar and Cleveland. The results were so good that I left the classroom and concentrated on creating a system that could be used by schools and parents.
A local artist Jenny Fionda created some very cute images to go with the actions.
In 2004, Action Words became a family business when my husband (Geoff Lynas) took over as the publisher. Realising the scheme was also being used by older children, he redesigned the materials and introduced more humour into the characters using images by Andrew Liddell.
So that's the Action Words story. We've been publishing for fifteen years now, we're used in many schools across the UK and have fans in international schools too. Our favourite days are those where practitioners or parents get in touch to say thank you. It’s a great feeling to be part of a child’s reading breakthrough.
So my message is:
Use anything. Use everything. Use the technique that works for the individual child. We are all different.
You can find out more about me on my website (If you want to!)