R2L at Swedish school for hearing impaired
Since 2015, the Manila School, a special school for students who are deaf or have hearing impairments in Stockholm, has been working to develop Reading to learn (R2L) in their pedagogy to strengthen students’ reading and writing development. Yesterday afternoon, the Manila School invited both internal and external stakeholders to talk about this work. At the same time, diplomas were awarded to 16 teachers who have worked according to the R2L principles.
R2L is a language-supporting and language-developing pedagogy that includes all students regardless of language level, where all students are given the opportunity to develop and feel that they can. R2L is a pedagogy that was developed in 2000 by Dr. David Rose from Sydney University in Australia and has proven to be effective for second language learners. However, this is the first time that R2L has been used in a context where the Swedish sign language is used as a mediating language in teaching.
In short, R2L has the following parts: preparation for reading, text marking, writing support words and writing common text. In all parts, the Swedish sign language serves as a mediating language that explains the meaning of a text in Swedish.
We have seen fantastic results with our students since our teachers started applying the R2L principles in their teaching, says Ann-Sofie Montelius, principal at the Manila school. It is a democratic pedagogy that really includes all students regardless of language background.
It started with the teachers getting an introductory lecture on R2L during the spring term of 2015. Then a competency development effort was started during a total of three semesters involving the whole school. The teachers have then gradually implemented the principles of R2L in their teaching and continuously have the opportunity for feedback and individual guidance.
As a language teacher at the Manila School, Åsa Helmersson is responsible for implementing opportunities for collegiate learning, such as workshops, supervision and for new teachers to be introduced to R2L.
We have always focused on our students developing two full languages, both Swedish sign language and Swedish, says Åsa Helmersson. At the same time, we have found it difficult to break the reading and writing code of some students. With R2L, my colleagues and I have noticed that we succeed in developing the abilities of all students, not just students who can already read and write.
Previously, there was a lot of focus on how students should develop themselves and that students had difficulties or obstacles in their learning. Nowadays, there is a greater focus on how teachers can design a teaching that develops students’ existing abilities. Ann-Sofie thinks the results have been above expectations. With R2L, all students see the same texts, different words and phrases and can participate together, says Ann-Sofie. They get to practice, together with their classmates, express themselves plainly and clearly and construct texts. By allowing all students to learn together, they learn more. When all students are present, they are more involved in the lesson and feel they can achieve more. Not only that, they also get greater joy in the classroom and develop greater confidence and motivation.
Increased joy in the classroom is a message that comes back several times. In the afternoon, four of the sixteen graduate teachers presented how they have worked with R2L in their teaching. Everyone talked about how their pedagogy has led to increased joy among their students, which also positively affects their involvement in their learning.
Although R2L requires a little more from the teachers to prepare for lessons in a completely different way, the teaching at the same time becomes more fun, says Ann-Sofie. I think today’s teachers are more confident in their teaching. They have become more linguistically aware, and teach in a more structured way with a deeper understanding of how texts work since learning R2L strategies.
According to the curriculum for the special school, students develop two languages, Swedish sign language and Swedish, while also developing knowledge in all subjects. The aim is to increase the students’ opportunities for further study and participation in society. In order for R2L to contribute to this and have the positive effects and results that the school believes are possible, it is necessary that all teachers are willing to learn new skills by participating in the learning process that involves developing a new educational approach. Although the Manila School has been working on developing the R2L pedagogy for just over five years, the development work is far from done. R2L is not a “quick fix” concludes Ann-Sofie. It is a continuous development process that the whole school is involved in. But the results are worth it!
Published 20th February, 2020