Seeing the sounds of nature: Learning to read in the world

Dr Katherine Bates1
1University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, Sydney


Constant dialogue about the ways in which ‘pieces of habitus’ foster learning is documented in the literature (Kress, G. 1997; Pahl & Roswell, 2011). From this view, it makes sense to embrace visual ethnographic immersions for young students learning to read. Not only as a way to inspire self-expression and to engage them with the natural world, but for drawing on the outdoors as a way for students to learn in, about and from their habitus. In doing so, the project supports Bourdieu’s acknowledgement of the benefits of nature photography by involving students in photographing outdoor objects that represent the full range of initial phonemes in the alphabet. These photographs then form the basis of student-created gamified reading activities played back in the classroom.

The project supports literature which identifies the positive impact of direct instruction on students’ achievement in learning to read (Adams, 1990; Blachman, 2000; Carnine, Silbert & Kameenui, 1978). It also contributes to research which indicates early uninterrupted literacy learning and appropriate resources results in the highest levels of reading achievement (Buckingham, 2019; Mullis, Martin, Foy & Hooper, 2017). It also comes at a time where phonemic and phonological awareness is included in the National Literacy Learning Progression and a national curriculum review is underway (ACARA, 2019). It moves beyond the phonics wars to get on with maintaining a nature-connected pathway to literacy learning that is authentic, contextual and explicit. As such, it contributes to a wide body of research about the importance of building early connections with the natural world (Chawla, 2014). A unique aspect of this project is working with preservice teachers to investigate the influence of this approach on their skills in making informed decisions about what and how to teach phonemic awareness in their preservice teacher training (McCardle, P. & Chharbra. V, 2004).

Dr Kartherine bates completesd her doctoral study in 2015 which investigated the role of images as a stimulus for writing in national assessments. Her spcialisation continues to be the integrartion of visual literacy through nature-based immersions for teaching English. Her career in education spans over 35 years as a classroom practitioner, speciality literacy teacher, leadership roles in curriculum with private and department systems. She currently works with preservice teachers at the University of Technology Sydney and with inservice teachers nationally.

About OEA and Outdoors NSW

Outdoor Education Australia (OEA)  was established in 2006 as a national network of outdoor education associations. The organisation facilitates communication between state and territory outdoor education associations about the practice and delivery of outdoor education; advocates for outdoor education across primary, secondary and tertiary education; and provides policy advice.

Outdoors NSW is the go-to place for all things outdoors in NSW.

The peak body for the outdoors in NSW, the organisation, (formerly known as ORIC), represents the outdoor community, advances outdoor standards, safety and practices, and fosters greater participation in the outdoors.

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