A threshold timetable Part 2

Reading continued


National standards gone. Well – all-but. 

My principal and senior teacher already give me a pretty free rein. I’m going to go for it.

Back to me: These are the expanded notes I used as I travelled the country after I had left the education system in 1990 to put forward a simple framework to encourage and enable teachers to get on to the holistic continuum. They are largely pre-computer times so, for today’s programmes, teachers would have to insert useful computer work into the various parts of the programme. These are not particularly sophisticated curriculum ideas because the main intention is to get teachers and children going on a timetable that flows and provides children with the choice as to when, where, and how they undertake learning. Large numbers of teachers used this threshold timetable as a starting point then proceeded to take in various directions that suited them and the children. Full-scale examples of such directions will be made available. 


In the context of a discussion on developmental, a threshold timetable is one which places teachers conceptually on the developmental continuum. This writing is not intended as a deep discourse on curriculum areas but a way of encouraging teachers to make key curriculum decisions, and a timetable to suit, based on the holistic philosophy.

Developmental is the holistic in classroom practice – in another discussion, the whole school education system could be discussed in relation to the holistic, as Peter Fraser did with his main aim – but it is learning in classrooms that is addressed here; the holistic being teaching and learning organised by dynamic aims that are a combination of the cognitive and affective. An outcome of this is that evaluation occurs using criteria not objectives, meaning the dynamic main aim is systematically supported as the unifying driving force for teaching and learning, a single main aim for a curriculum area or an integration of areas (but care has to be taken with this last). A dynamic main aim is a main aim that has a powerful, unified, though discriminating effect, on teaching and learning. For instance, in expressive writing, a main aim could be writing with sincerity – dependent matters occurring in the course of pursuing that main aim then expressed as criteria – if they are not dependent then they should be omitted. A dynamic main aim is powerful in guiding what should be both included and excluded. (In reading, a main aim could be children becoming independent readers; or in mathematics, children’s ability and willingness to solve mathematical problems.)

For the teacher, developmental is a state of mind, that once held allows the teacher to go in many directions but unified in overall effect by the holistic philosophy


If reading is, indeed, a highly valued activity:

Then the freedom to read should have considerable precedence throughout the day

Of course, it is not absolute freedom of choice

But teachers should go out of their way to accommodate that choice.

In a threshold developmental reading programme, children should have considerable choice in the materials they read:

A central reading philosophy will be the ‘I can read’ developed so beautifully developed by stjcs – a gift

Younger children should choose their Ready to Read and supporting reading materials, and have an even wider choice in their independent reading

Older children should always have an independent reading book on hand

And teachers should make it their business to know what it is, and celebrate it when completed

They should challenge children: What book are you reading at the moment?

They should further challenge children by encouraging them to widen the scope of their reading.

There are plenty of other opportunities for choice in reading:

If thematic reading is being taken, children should choose from amongst a list of journals, bulletins, books, articles, and so on

For activities at the end of reading there should always be a choice

Children should never do worksheets, templates, book reviews, written analyses, written-question answering, unless they have chosen to do so.

Children’s reading is enriched by having the stimulus of other children’s ideas –

As a result there should be:

  • Shared reading using enlarged print books or sets of books
  • Language experience
  • Story reading to children
  • Thematic reading
  • Drama
  • Partner reading
  • Interactive reading using computers
  • Story reading from tapes
  • Song and poetry reading
  • Investigative reading (using reference books and other reading material)
  • Reading material on display around the room (often associated with partner reading)
  • Certain reading activities within context (cloze, alphabet, matching, and construction of sentences
  • Own written language reading.

This variety of reading brings further opportunity for choice:

Children can choose to continue with an activity in preference to a subsequent activity suggested by the teacher

Or choose to do an activity produced on their initiative.

The concepts of print should occur throughout the reading programme in a contextual way:

There is a tendency for teachers to become overly involved in the ‘pathology’ of reading

That is, analysing and making moves to correct reading failure

Care should be taken not to allow techniques developed for children with serious reading problems to become techniques for general use in regular reading programmes.

Children with dyslexia (and all children with serious reading difficulties) should be taught reading within the same reading philosophy as all children are taught within, that is holistically, in context, and with meaning:

But there should be generous amounts of one-to-one reading (one-to-one provides a magic all of its own) with the same person, and the reading should maintain meaning and interest – compared with some other readers, though, more attention will need to be given to the parts of words

On the understanding that children with dyslexia should be taught holistically, children, if possible, should be taught reading within schools rather than through outside organisations (I know this can be very difficult to maintain given the meagre allocation of special teaching funding, but that would be the ideal).

The greatest challenge in reading is not to teach children to read, it is to get them to enjoy reading:

A major cause of children not enjoying reading is a lack of fluency in reading

And a major cause of a lack of fluency in reading is learning to read in a highly structured, rather than a holistic, naturalistic way

Highly structured teaching is an impediment to reading fluency and enjoyment in the longer term

Teachers should focus children on clusters of words and their meanings

Rather than on single words and their insides.

The best way for children to build up letter-sound associations is by participating in a range of holistic, contextual reading language activities.

The best way to achieve a holistic, naturalistic approach to reading is to:

  • Build on, and maintain the ‘I can read’ attitude to reading
  • Make reading enjoyable
  • Undertake letter-sound association and word study subtly
  • Encourage independence in reading
  • Allow reading to occur at most parts of the day
  • Use a variety of reading materials and experiences: enlarged print, shared books, individual readers, writing of language, reading of own written language, songs, poems, comics, language experience, tape recorders, computers, word processors, and so on
  • See language as something that occurs throughout the curriculum and the day
  • Make reading a highly valued activity.

That’s the threshold timetable so far.

Continued in Part 3

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1 Response to A threshold timetable Part 2

  1. Bruce Hammonds says:

    Hi Kelvin
    I am interested in the need to outline, in some general way, the shape and structure of the school day as it clearly indicates the belief system /philosophy of the school or teacher.

    Here are a few thoughts

    In early education centres the patterns of activity will be determined by the richness of the learning environment provided. I’ve always liked the quote from Jerome Bruner that ‘teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation’. We all have an inbuilt need to make sense of our world and to work happily with others as the need dictates. The role of the adults is develop such an attractive environment full of potential learning activities and to , with sensitivity, assist and challenge learners with a light hand.

    Problems arise when learners enter primary school as the expectations placed on teachers is to focus students to achieve in literacy and numeracy . Nothing wrong with this emphasis of course but one gets the impression that they will not be achieved without teacher determined programmes involving harmful ability grouping. In the early education centre such skills would be developed as the situation requires along with other equally important learning areas . It is this integrated approach that should continue.

    I believe that this developmental/holistic/emergent approach needs to be the basis of learning at all levels of education – the key is the provision of rich learning experiences with teachers integrating learning areas as necessary – talking, sharing , reading, writing, using maths, drawing, painting, acting, utilizing technology etc.

    Such an experiential programme requires real skill from the adults, not only in providing the ever changing range of ‘tempting’ activities to expose students to the range of learning areas, but also to assist students to dig as deeply as they can and to help them express what they have discovered. Teachers work with individuals, or small groups, to help students in need as required

    Teachers have a positive role to provide class experiences to motivate and help students share and draw learning ideas together. Authentic inquiries would the driving force of all learning, some focusing on specific learning areas ( for example a maths or science challenge), others integrating learning areas.

    Organisations to share materials and space would need to be negotiated with the learners and a full range of media would need to be available to help students ‘ seek, use and create their own knowledge’ as it states in the New Zealand Curriculum – and, I would add, display for others to share what they have learnt.

    Such a diverse pattern of work would be premised not only in developing positive attitudes towards all areas of learning but also to develop the dispositions, competencies and skills to become self motivated life long learners.

    At the secondary level integrated thematic/ contextual studies would be, in one way, easier as the demands of reading and mathematics can be more easily integrated and students would have access to deeper subject knowledge of specialist teachers, On the other hand integrating learning might be difficult in traditional buildings

    This developmental/holistic approach to learning is ideally suited to teachers collaborating in modern flexible classrooms requiring skillful teachers with the trust in their students to take a growing responsibility for their own learning.

    Does that make sense?

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