A teacher in Þingeyjarskóli, northeastern Iceland, who holds a degree in reading instruction from Germany, claims she lost her job because she refused to adopt a controversial Icelandic method of teaching children to read, Vísir reports. Five years ago, when the method was introduced at her school, Cornelia Thorsteinsson questioned its effectiveness after using it in class. That did not go well with school authorities. She was assigned the teaching of other subjects and eventually let go.
The new method for teaching children to read, called Beginner Reading, was developed by Rósa Eggertsdóttir at the Center for School Development at Akureyri University in cooperation with six schools in North Iceland between 2004 and 2006. Altogether, about 80 schools out of 170 in various parts of the country have adopted this method of teaching children to read in the first and second grades, according to lesvefurinn.hi.is.
The reason for the controversy is a new analysis from the Institute of Education (Manntamálastofnun) revealing that students in schools which have adopted the Beginner Reading method perform worse on standardized tests than those from other schools, according to RÚV. The Institute of Education concludes that Beginner Reading methods do not improve student performance as measured by standardized tests.
The method involves analyzing a text, breaking it into word parts, and scrambling them to create as many words as possible, Ásdís Hallgrímsdóttir, a teacher in Ölduselsskóli, explains to RÚV. Then you might use the text to make up a story based on characters from the text. She believes the method needs adjustment and that perhaps not enough emphasis is being placed on teaching children the names of the letters and the sounds they make.
Cornelia describes the method as based on the ideology of an adult. “It’s like teaching children music by having them listen to a complicated opera and letting them learn the notes later.” She says the method involves repetitive activities, day after day, which bore the children. Also, it doesn’t suit boys as well as girls, she adds.
When she lost her job, she was told she was less qualified than others and difficult to work with. “In all the years I’ve been teaching, I’ve never had a student in class who can’t read,” she says. “I can find a new job, but the children get this one chance to learn to read.”