Trageton – writing to read

Arne Trageton is a Norwegian pedagog who has done research on the writing to read (ICT)- method and also written about it. This blog post roughly summarizes his book “Lukemaan oppiminen kirjoittamalla” which is a book in Finnish, however he has written also in English in addition to Norwegian. As in my other blog posts, I make sense in things by writing and making notes, so if you’re interested in the writing to read –method, I can warmly recommend reading Trageton’s books as they are very interesting reads.

The “writing to read”-method didn’t get much attention during my teacher education, so I wasn’t completely sold when I found out that my school was using the method. In fact it took me quite a bit of reading, studying and thinking to really appreciate what it had to offer. In Finnish education system the “ABC books” are kept in a very high standard and they have such a big role in education, that I felt uncomfortable abandoning the books altogether. The traditional learning to read- method consists of recognizing first the letter (“A”), then learning to pronounce it, moving on to syllables and finally to words. At the same time the child learns how to write the letter and practices his fine motor skills by writing letters and syllables in his book.

Example of a Finnish ABC-book: http://www.digipaper.fi/otava/106074/

Trageton has very compelling arguments as to why to ditch the ABC-books. In a traditional classroom all the students “learn” the alphabets in the specific order that is determined by the book. If the child already knows the particular letter already is of no importance. In many schools the teacher teaches the “daily letter” or weekly letter and all students practice it until it’s time to move to the next letter. Trageton claims that children will learn the letters in their own pace without strict control from the teacher.

The method

All writing is done on computers where two children work together in collaboration. That way the children can share their ideas and narratives without actually writing by hand which is very laborious for young children. The computers don’t need Internet connection and only need to have some sort of writing program – nothing else. Everything the children produce is printed and worked on later.

Basically the children use ICT to first play with writing (“ghost writing”). The children play with the keyboard, pressing random letters and numbers and forming “play text”. It is vital that the children work in pairs in order to have social contact, learn collaborative work and help each other with words, language and technique. They use letters in their own pace.

After printing their “play texts” the children continue working on them. This part is very important for the learning. You can work on the text for hours finding new things to discover. The child can be asked to circle all the letters “U” from the text and also count them for instance.

Ghost text:

LAKSFOEOGUIOWIJELKDSLGJ((#()(/39983HAÖFUDSIFHAIDFijhfaiudf92U9öiushfafha++++,,,————–kaljg JSDFOiJUDFFDS__AJFIJEFOIJEOFIJOIEJF (six “U”s)

These “letter texts” or ghost texts are combined to form a book. The children learn that everything they produce is important, is worked on after and is presented in one form or another.

Lines of letters and my own name

The next phase in writing with computers is the child wanting to write his own name. He finds the letters from the keyboard one by one and tries till he gets it right. This is the first step in process writing. It is easier to try again on computers because you can add letters and remove letters fast.

The text might be something like this:

MMMMMMMMMMMMMM MMMMMMMMMMM EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII MEIRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR MEIRAFSLKJF#R#IOJALSK

The beginning of the story

In this phase the lines of letters (that might not make sense) are the story. The children might call it cryptic writing only they can read. In stories like these it is very important that they children draw a picture to accompany the text. Pictures and drawing is a very important part of the method as children must practice their fine motor skills without actually writing by hand.

Words and letters in a story

At some point the children start to write the words they know. They can write sight words they’ve seen outside school (“police”) or they might want to write a vital word for the story to be understood that they don’t already know. The teacher can carefully help the child figure out the letters in the words he wants to write. Because writing is still hard for the child, he might just add random letters to make up the rest of the story.

Police car asdfkjalsdkfjaoiwejoaiwjgaorgagrjaoje Joaijweofijalskdjflakjfdlsakjflksjd alskjdflkjoiwejfeioiMARTIN

Books of words

The children produced their own letter books in the earlier stage and in this phase they start to write individual words they know or want to know. These words will be combined into a word book that the child illustrates.

These stages are meant to happen in the 1st grade in Norwegian schools, when the students are around 6 years. In addition to writing on the computer the children write informally by hand. The formal handwriting starts later.

From words the children begin writing sentences and stories and continue illustrating them.  I’ve read quite extraordinary stories the 1st and 2nd graders (7-8 year olds) write on the computer in my school. The 2nd graders handwriting is also quite good considering that they don’t practice formal writing in the 1st grade. It seems that also the boys are very eager story tellers.

I met with my future 1st graders today briefly and I’m pretty excited! I’ve already acquired some old  computers from a neighbor school that was throwing them out – they will work perfect in our classroom. I’m planning on documenting my Trageton-journey next fall so I can really reflect later on if this method works for me.

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