Slow Pedagogy in P1

What impact does slowing down the teaching of grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) have on overall literacy attainment in P1?

Project author:

Project summary:

A comparative study of the impact of slow pedagogy on literacy attainment in P1.

Introduction

The term slow pedagogy is becoming increasingly prevalent within early years education (Clark, 2022; Froebel Trust, 2021). The growing focus on slowing down and giving children time to develop is further demonstrated through the recent change to deferrals for pupils starting P1 (Scottish Government, 2023) and the use of approaches such as “slow writing” (Highland Literacy, 2024, para. 1) within primary school settings.

This practitioner inquiry will focus on slow pedagogy within the primary school environment; with a specific focus on the rate grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) are introduced in P1.

Firstly, I will outline my current setting and rationale for my chosen focus. Next, I will discuss the methodology and ethics for my practitioner inquiry. Finally, I will analyse my findings and conclude my project.

Context

Sue Lloyd (1998), author of the Jolly Phonics handbook, recommends “that the letter sounds are introduced at the rate of one letter sound a day” (p. 10). Furthermore, Lloyd (1998) claims that the “first letter sound can be introduced on the children’s first day” (p. 10) of school. However, I would argue that slowing down and allowing time for children to consolidate their learning would give better results by the end of P1 (Clark, 2022).

I currently work as teacher in a small, rural primary school where I teach the P1-3 multi-composite class. In previous years, teaching staff have used the Jolly Phonics handbook (Lloyd, 1998) in conjunction with planning documentation developed by the school’s cluster. Consequently, it is the culture to teach all the GPCs as quickly as possible. However, I believe slowing down the pace of teaching the GPCs will have a positive impact on overall literacy attainment by allowing time for children to consolidate their learning.

Thus, for my practitioner inquiry I decided to challenge the archaic thinking and slow down the rate the GPCs are introduced in P1 as a “Slow Pedagogical approach can greatly benefit both the child and the practitioners” (McNair, 2023, para. 2).

Methodology

“Slow pedagogy is an unhurried approach that aims to be more conscious of the relationship with time and its impact on both young children and practitioners. It is about valuing the present moment and being attentive to children’s pace, rhythm and interests” (Clark, 2023, para. 1). This approach reflects the Froebelian Principles and particularly “the value of childhood in its own right” (Froebel Trust, Undated, p. 1).

By applying the principles of slow pedagogy in P1 (Clark, 2022) and consciously slowing down the pace GPCs are taught in P1, I theorised that it would give better results at the end of the academic year by giving children time to consolidate their learning. Thus, I adapted the planning documentation used within my setting (Highland Council, 2023; Lloyd, 1998) and introduced one GPC a week.

Finally, I compared and analysed the assessment data from the current P1 cohort with a previous cohort that had covered the GPCs at a faster pace.

Ethics

My main ethical consideration was whether it is okay to teach the children less GPCs than previous cohorts. The difficulty is, Education Scotland (2017) do not explicitly state which GPCs should be covered by the end of Early Level so it will inevitably vary across settings.

To address this, I decided to use the same planning documentation that had been used for previous cohorts but make a few changes. The original planning documentation was developed by teaching staff within my school’s cluster and used in conjunction with the Jolly Phonics resources (Lloyd, 1998). I changed the original documentation by removing the GPCs that are irrelevant for teaching in Scotland (Smith, 2023) and teaching the consonant blends alongside the GPCs. Making these changes meant I would still have time to cover the relevant content from by the end of the summer term despite going at a slower pace.

New Spelling (Appendix)

“Slow pedagogy is an unhurried approach that aims to be more conscious of the relationship with time and its impact on both young children and practitioners. It is about valuing the present moment and being attentive to children’s pace, rhythm and interests”.

(Clark, 2023, para. 1)

Findings

Froebel “emphasised the importance of beginning where the learner is, rather than where the practitioner thinks the learner ought to be” (Bruce, 2019, p. 89). This statement poses a stark resemblance to Scottish education polices such as “Getting it right for every child” (Scottish Government, 2022, para. 1); yet, in my experience, teachers are constantly pressurised to rush through teaching the GPCs to “raise attainment” (Education Scotland, 2023, para. 8). Thus, I decided to apply principles of slow pedagogy (Clark, 2022; 2023) to my planning for my P1 children through consciously slowing down the pace of teaching the GPCs and compare my observations and assessment data with a previous cohort.

 

Table 2: P1 Cohorts

Academic year Number of children Number GPCs taught per week
2021-2022 3 2 (starting week 1)
2022-2023 0 N/A
2023-2024 2 1 (starting week 5)

 

Observation (October):

After the October holidays the children in the 2021-2022 cohort were only able to recognise an average of 2/12 GPCs whereas both children in the 2023-2024 cohort were able to recognise 4/4. Additionally, the children in the 2023-2024 cohort were able to decode/read ‘satp’ words e.g., sat, pat, tap etc.

Observation (January):

After the Christmas holidays the children in the 2021-2022 cohort were able to recognise an average of 9/26 sounds. As the class teacher, I felt very stressed as despite my efforts the learners were not retaining the GPCs. However, both learners the 2023-2024 cohort were able to recognise 11/12 and were able to decode/read the first set of decodable books (Jolly Phonics, 2024).

Observation (April):

The submission of the project was due at the end of February 2024 and therefore the observations and data for after the Easter holidays were not available at the time of submission.

 

Discussion:

The initial observations support the view that a “Slow Pedagogical approach can greatly benefit both the child and the practitioners” (McNair, 2023, para. 2), as the children in the 2023-2024 were able to retain more GPCs after the Christmas holidays than the 2021-2022 cohort; plus I felt far less stressed in my role as class teacher. However, these findings are based on a very small sample size thus further research is required before any definitive conclusions are drawn.

Additionally, there are several potential confounding factors that could have impacted on the results. Firstly, there was a difference in class size between the two cohorts. The children in 2021-2022 cohort were part of a P1-4 multi-composite class with 12 pupils whereas the children in 2023-2024 cohort were part of a P1-3 multi-composite class with 8 pupils. This is significant as previous research has shown smaller classes are correlated with higher academic performance (Finn, Gerber and Boyd-Zaharias, 2005; Nye, Hedges and Konstantopoulos, 2000). Additionally, the COVID 19 pandemic has been shown to have a negative impact on academic performance (Crummey, 2022; Lundie and Law, 2020) and the children in the 2021-2022 cohort experienced significant disruption to both their time in early years settings and in their transition to primary school. All of which may have impacted on the results.

Conclusion

This practitioner inquiry explored the impact of applying the principles of slow pedagogy in P1 (Clark, 2022; Clark et al., 2023) with a specific focus on slowing down the pace of teaching the GPCs. The findings show that slowing down the pace of teaching the GPCs in P1 can improve overall literacy attainment however due to the small sample size further research is required.

Overall, the findings support the view that a “Slow Pedagogical approach can greatly benefit both the child and the practitioners” (McNair, 2023, para. 2) as the children retained more GPCs than a previous cohort, plus, I felt far less stressed in the role of class teacher. Thus, I will continue with the changes I have made to the planning documentation for the remainder of the academic year and use it again with future P1 cohorts.

 

References:

Bruce, T. (2019). Educating Young Children: A Lifetime Journey into a Froebelian Approach. Routledge.

Clark, A. (2022). Slow Knowledge and the Unhurried Child: Time for Slow Pedagogies in Early Childhood Education. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis.

Clark, A. (2023). Alison Clark’s Slow Pedagogy: How to be ‘slow’ outdoors. Nursery World. https://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/features/article/alison-clark-s-slow-pedagogy-how-to-be-slow-outdoors#:~:text=Froebel%20emphasised%20importance%20of%20contact,not%20about%20lethargy%20but%20attentiveness.

Clark, A., Dickinson, B., Smith, K. & Taylor, L. (2023, March 1). Slow Knowledge and the Unhurried Child [Video]. Froebel Trust. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nEfsRBsESc

Crummey, C. (2022). Lockdown, Learning Loss and Rural Locations: a Review of the Literature on the Effects of COVID-19 on the Poverty Related Attainment Gap and Rural Scotland.

Education Scotland. (2017). Benchmarks Literacy and English. https://education.gov.scot/nih/Documents/LiteracyEnglishBenchmarks.pdf

Education Scotland. (2023). Education Scotland publishes third National Summary Report for the Scottish Attainment Challenge 2022 – 2023. https://education.gov.scot/news/education-scotland-publishes-third-national-summary-report-for-the-scottish-attainment-challenge-2022-2023/

Finn, J. D., Gerber, S. B., & Boyd-Zaharias, J. (2005). Small classes in the early grades, academic achievement, and graduating from high school. Journal of Educational Psychology97(2), pp.214.

Froebel Trust. (2021). Slow pedagogies in early childhood education. https://www.froebel.org.uk/training/films/slow-pedagogies-in-early-childhood-education

Froebel Trust. (Undated). Froebelian principles. https://www.froebel.org.uk/uploads/documents/Froebelian-Principles-Poster-A4.pdf

Highland Council. (2023). Highland Literacy Framework. https://highlandliteracy.files.wordpress.com/2023/03/highland-literacy-framework-march-2023-2.pdf

Highland Literacy. (2024). Slow Writing. https://highlandliteracy.com/writing-2/slow-writing/

Jolly Phonics. (2024). Jolly Phonics Orange Level E-Readers Set 1. https://www.jollylearning.co.uk/shop/uk-shop/phonics-resources/jolly-phonics-orange-level-e-readers-set-1/

Lloyd, S. (1998). The phonics handbook. Chigwell: Jolly Learning.

Lundie, D., & Law, J. (2020). Teachers’ responses and expectations in the COVID-19 school shutdown period in the UK.

McNair, L. (2023). Time, pace and rhythm. Community Playthings. https://www.communityplaythings.co.uk/learning-library/articles/slow-pedagogy

Nye, B., Hedges, L.V. and Konstantopoulos, S. (2000). The effects of small classes on academic achievement: The results of the Tennessee class size experiment. American Educational Research Journal37(1), pp.123-151.

Scottish Government. (2022). Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC). https://www.gov.scot/policies/girfec/

Scottish Government. (2023). Can my child defer starting school. Parent Club. https://www.parentclub.scot/articles/can-my-child-defer-starting-school

Smith, E. (2023). Scottish English through the ears of a native. https://www.ericpsmith.scot/scottish-english-through-the-ears-of-a-native

 

Appendix:

  Original Planning

(used in academic year 2021-2022)

Adapted Planning

(used in academic year 2023-2024)

Week 1 s, a
Week 2 t, i
Week 3 p, n
Week 4 Consolidation
Week 5 c, k s
Week 6 e, h a
Week 7 r, m t
Week 8 Consolidation and Introduce Work Boxes p st, sp
OCTOBER HOLIDAYS
Week 9 d, g i
Week 10 o, u n sn
Week 11 l, f m sm
Week 12 Consolidation d
Week 13 b, j c sc
Week 14 z, w k sk
Week 15 v, y e
Week 16 x, qu h
CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS
Week 17 Consolidation r cr, pr, tr, dr
Week 18 sh g gr
Week 19 ch o
Week 20 th u
Week 21 wh l cl, gl, pl, sl
Week 22 ee/or f fl, fr
Week 23 oo b bl, br
Week 24 ng j
Week 25 ai v
Week 26 oa w sw, tw
Week 27 ie x
Week 28 ou y
EASTER HOLIDAYS
Week 29 er z
Week 30 ar qu
Week 31 Consonant Blends (6wks)

bl, cl, fl, gl, pl, sl, br, cr, dr, fr, gr, pr, tr, sc, sk, sm, sn, sp, st, sw, tw

ch
Week 32 sh
Week 33 th
Week 34 ng
Week 35 ai
Week 36 ee
Week 37 Consolidation (4wks) ie
Week 38 oa
Week 39 oo
Week 40 ou
Week 41 wh

Dissemination/Impact Report

Due to a change in the number of pupils/staff allocation at my school I was transferred to a different setting before the dissemination stage of the research. I shared the attached poster with my previous setting but unfortunately that was the end of my involvement as I was no longer working within that setting.

Research implications

N/A

Practitioner enquiry

N/A

Leadership learning

N/A

Author and role

N/A

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

  1. Kayleigh Fraser
    Kayleigh Fraser
    22 Mar 2024 at 1:50 pm

    This is a great read and brought a smile to my face. Love reading about the improvements having a Slow Pedagogy Approach has had on your current teaching. Well Done.


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  2. Erin McGibbon
    Erin McGibbon
    25 Mar 2024 at 3:22 pm

    What a great read! This project shows what an impact that slowing down can have on literacy attainment. As a P1 teacher myself I would love to bring this idea into my own classroom and see the difference it would make. Well done!


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