ALTA Online imprints Chrissie Trace with innovative community model

ALTA Online imprints Chrissie Trace with innovative community model

i May 27th No Comments by

For the past 6 years, ALTA has been engrossed in the development of ALTA Online, our web-based programme of literacy instruction built around Caribbean life skills content and designed for independent use by persons aged 10 and over who have low-level reading and spelling skills.

In 2020, our readiness to place this tool in the hands of real-life users was put to the ultimate test – a pandemic which necessitated school closures and stringent adherence to physical distancing.

A unique approach overcame these challenges to bring ALTA Online free of charge to residents of Enterprise Chaguanas. Through a series of virtual meetings starting in November 2020, ALTA established a partnership with the community police and Unicomer (Trinidad) Ltd to offer ALTA Online at Chrissie Trace Recreational Facility, Enterprise as part of the NGC-funded Alta Online pilot.

This four-way partnership involving the T&T Citizens Alliance mobilized by Unicomer, Enterprise Community Police, NGC and ALTA has established a successful community implementation model, ready for replication and expansion once community spaces re-open.

Working with the TT Citizens Alliance, Unicomer sourced and installed at Chrissie Trace Recreational Facility 25 desktop computers with full internet connection. Unicomer also plays a coordinating role, acting as godfather to the project and making the critical initial link between ALTA and the community police.

With their finger on the pulse of the community of Enterprise, the outreach efforts of Sergeant Jacey Small, Officer Arnold Richards and the entire Central Division Police team raised awareness and interest in ALTA Online in January 2021. Officer Richards stressed that it is crucial for officers to know their area, with the key being building trust between officers and community leaders – and of course doing the footwork!

Coming out of this effort, some 33 students were assessed using ALTA’s online assessment tool, 29 of whom were placed into ALTA Online Book 1. Two opted to access ALTA Online from their web-enabled computer at home.

ALTA planned and managed the delivery of ALTA Online, trained eight community police officers as mentors and provided ongoing support and weekly check-ins.

On Tuesdays or Thursdays, Officer Arnold Richards opens the facility and provides support to the 17 students, children and adults, who regularly login to their ALTA Online account at Chrissie Trace. Officer Richards has shown an exceptional level of commitment and engagement, even providing a Wi-Fi hotspot with his mobile phone when the Wi-Fi was down at Chrissie Trace.

Officer Richards describes the ALTA Online experience like this: “When you interface with ALTA Online you realise how simple it is to use. People come with two phobias – reading and using the computer. When they start the assessment they might want to go after five minutes, but once you encourage then they see that they can do it. Everyone is very comfortable with the programme now.”

He points out that while support was needed in Week 1, especially with login (usernames and passwords) and navigation, by week 4 users knew what they had to do from the time they entered the centre to when they completed their lesson for the day. Younger users, who are the primary target group for ALTA Online, understood ALTA Online quickly. The biggest challenge for older users was learning how to use the mouse.

While the NGC pilot ended on 30 April, users continued to access ALTA Online at the Chrissie Trace facility. Covid-19 spike forced the temporary closure of the recreational facility. However, ALTA Online allows students who have access to their own web-enabled personal computers to continue using the programme at home.

The success of ALTA Online at Chrissie Trace assures us that ALTA Online is on track, as an effective mode of delivery for the ALTA programme. ALTA thanks the community police, Unicomer and NGC for bringing ALTA Online to Enterprise, and Republic Bank for supporting the long process of software development to produce ALTA Online.

With sponsorship, this promises to be a game-changer for ALTA’s expansion into communities never before served by our community class model and students whose schedules never permitted them to attend scheduled classes.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

Spelling Myths vs Facts

i May 20th No Comments by

Spelling correctly is a skill that takes time and effort for everyone except the few who have very good visual memories. For most of us, seeing a word or reading it over and over is not enough to enable us to spell it correctly. We need to actively learn spelling.

Over the past two weeks we have debunked some common spelling myths- from the idea that reading more will make one a better speller and that some people are weak spellers because they do not speak Standard English. Many people are literate – they’re able to read and write but still struggle with spelling.

Today we will look at some spelling facts which ALTA tutors are exposed to during training. These can be useful to teachers who work with poor spellers or even anyone who struggles with spelling.

FACT: Review is essential after learning to spell a word, to move it from short term to long term memory.

Memory is aided by frequency, recency and value. That is, we remember things best that we use or practise frequently that we have learned recently, and that are important or meaningful to us.

How we organise information can affect how we retrieve it from the long-term memory. The way we structure, associate and link information gives us ‘hooks’ for retrieving it. Meaning, pattern, rhythm, images and reciting all help. After a period of learning, recall rises for a short while (about ten minutes) and then falls steeply. 80 per cent of detail is forgotten after 24 hours. However, with proper review after ten minutes, then within 24 hours, again within a week, and so on, recall can be maintained long-term.

MYTH: There is one correct way to learn spelling.
Many ALTA students are embarrassed about the methods they use to learn spellings. They commonly believe that unless you can spell in your head you do not have the ‘right’ spelling approach. Oral spelling is not only an incredibly demanding and difficult way to spell, but also awkward and unrelated to the circumstances when we ordinarily use spelling – in writing.

Some people are able to learn to spell accurately without any (or very little) practice. Most times this is because they have excellent visual memories and can draw on this to remember how to spell. But only a small proportion of the people who write are like this.

Through experimenting with different spelling strategies ALTA students become successful spellers. It’s important to know that there are many effective ways of learning to spell and you just need to identify the ones that work for you.

MYTH: If you want to learn to spell, you should read more.
It is true that spelling is a sub-skill of writing and that writing is a language skill related to reading. However, as skills, the two activities differ enormously. The reading process is both more complex and less demanding than spelling. In reading, we do not want to concentrate on the ordering of each letter in a word in order to get meaning from the text.

We want to read as efficiently and quickly as possible in order to understand the content of what we read. Reading is dependent on recognition skills. Spelling, on the other hand, is dependent on skills of recall. To spell accurately, we must remember all the letters, in sequence. We must pay attention to detail.

ALTA looks forward to the launch of the ALTA Spelling Chart in June.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

Spelling Myths vs Facts

i May 13th No Comments by

Spelling correctly is a skill that takes time and effort for everyone except the few who have very good visual memories. For most of us, seeing a word or reading it over and over is not enough to enable us to spell it correctly. We need to actively learn spelling.

Nevertheless many associate one’s ability to spell with their intelligence. In the same way that some people need to work harder than others to develop their reading and writing skills, spelling skills also take practice. This week we continue sharing some common spelling myths which many believe to be fact. If you’d like to see what you missed be sure to check our Facebook page: ALTA TT

MYTH: You make spelling mistakes because you don’t speak properly.

Both Creole English and Standard English pronunciation cause spelling mistakes. No accent or dialect has a particular advantage. Since the English spelling system is irregular and compels us to learn words visually (how they look) as well as how they sound, all English language learners are in the same position when learning to spell. No accent or dialect has a particular advantage. For example, people who pronounce ‘b a t h’ as ‘barth’ will have to visualise the word to eliminate the ‘r’ sound. People who pronounce ‘t h r e e’ as ‘tree’ will have to visualise the ‘h’.

FACT: Guessing at how to spell a word helps learning.

It’s important to understand that if we make a guess at how a word is spelled, even if it is wrong, we are attempting to apply to print what we know about the English language; that is, we are forming a hypothesis, or theory, about a spelling. This ‘having a theory’ about something makes us more likely to remember an amendment or correction to our guess than to remember a spelling we have never attempted. Thus guessing helps learning.

Less emphasis should be placed on correctness in spelling than on better guesses. Students who have significant spelling problems or who are beginner writers should be encouraged to invent spellings and then be given a correct version if the piece needs to be rewritten.

MYTH: When you are writing, you should stop at every word you cannot spell and look it up in the dictionary.

Dictionary skills are useful is some contexts, but of limited applicability with beginning spellers or students with spelling difficulties. Many students have had only frustrating experiences with dictionaries. If the student’s guess at a spelling puts him or her in the wrong section (for example, ‘inuff’ for ‘enough’), then a week spent in the ‘i’ section of the dictionary will only leave the student furious at words, writing and language in general. Dictionaries are useful, however, for students who are making minor spelling errors such as ‘independant’ for ‘independent’; ‘compleately’ for ‘completely’; ‘seperate’ for ‘separate’, etc.

Look out for the third segment of Spelling myths and facts in next week’s column. Look out for the ALTA Spelling Chart coming in June.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

SPELLING – MYTHS VS FACTS

i May 6th No Comments by

Spelling correctly is a skill that takes time and effort for everyone except the few who have very good visual memories, that is, they can remember the letters and their exact order in a word just by looking at the word once or twice.

For most of us, seeing a word or reading it over and over is not enough to enable us to spell it correctly. We need to actively learn spelling. Written English is phonetic, that is, it uses letters to represent the sounds within words. Therefore to spell a word you must identify the sounds in it and write the letter that corresponds to each sound.

However because English has taken words from many other languages, many of the sounds may be spelt in more than one way. It’s important to use rules and strategies when learning to spell or practising spelling but even then, it is quite a difficult skill for some to master. Unfortunately many associate ability to spell with intelligence. In the same way that some people need to work harder than others to develop their reading and writing skills, spelling skills also take practice.

There are many myths surrounding spelling, which many believe to be facts. Today we happily kick off a new “myths vs facts” series with the loyal readers of our column.

MYTH: There is no logic or pattern to English spelling. That’s why it’s so hard.
The fact that the English spelling system is not 100% phonetically regular (it is, in fact, 85% regular) does not mean there are no conventions or regularities which can make sense of the spelling system. Learning these patterns or rules makes spelling much easier. It is easier to learn the exceptions than all the words in the language. Dyslexics need to be taught these rules and patterns since their brain does not pick these up as they don’t think sequentially.

FACT: The sound of a word is a guide to how you spell it.
Knowledge of the letter–sound relationship is essential to spelling. While English is not completely phonetic, the sound of a word does enable you to write a readable version of the word or give you options to choose from. Knowing spelling rules and choices as well as phonics guides you to the right spelling.

However sounds cannot be relied on as your only spelling strategy. Once a word is not phonetically regular, teachers should help students and praise efforts that represent the sound, even if the spelling is not correct, e.g. becus for because.

In next week’s instalment of this series we will continue to look at more spelling myths and facts.
Look out for the brand new ALTA Spelling Chart coming in June.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.
Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT