Review: Lorna Whiston's Short Course on Reading & Phonics for Adults

Children in Singapore today are mostly taught to read by learning phonics. I was from the generation where phonics was not taught in school, and when I saw Bubbles having to learn it, I found that I had to learn along with her.

When I was asked by Rise & Shine if I wanted to attend a sponsored short course on reading and phonics by Lorna Whiston, one of their partners, I could not say no. Prior to this, I had no idea that such a course was available! This programme is designed for teachers and parents supporting children aged 3-7 years in reading and phonics. Each class is 2-hours long, held over four evenings, one evening a week. As I have no prior knowledge or formal experience in this subject, I attended Level 1.

The cohort I was in had about 13 students. Among us were teachers, parents of young children, a volunteer who helps underprivileged children with their schoolwork, and a grandmother of a pre-schooler. It was a cozy group of interested participants.

Our class lecturer was Rose Griffiths, a teacher from Lorna Whiston. She brings with her years of teaching experience both in Singapore and in the UK. Primarily an early childhood educator, she teaches a number of classes for children at Lorna Whiston. Her experience helped her provide breadth and depth of examples of what works, possible challenges, and common issues early readers face. I found her to be succinct, patient and deliberate in her teaching, making the class worthwhile and interesting.

It was clear from Day 1 that the base knowledge of the class was quite varied, and I was curious to see how this would be handled. I found that she was able to create a safe environment for questions to be asked, and kept herself available after each class for quick discussions about specific issues that were beyond the scope of the class. Being a facilitator myself in my day job, I observed that Ms Griffiths included many techniques to engage the group, many of whom were naturally tired after coming by from a day's work. While she is not a high energy lecturer, she was able to give a good pace to the lessons through different group and individual activities, including games, to effectively engage the class and increase participation in discussions.

The course objectives and class dates are stated in the poster below:

What did I learn in the Level 1 programme?

Some of the content covered include:
  • Teaching Phonics - Where to begin?
  • Teaching Letter Names
  • Sight Words 
  • Different Approaches to Teaching Reading 
  • Stages of Phonetic Development 
  • The Importance of Alliteration 
  • Phonemic Awareness 
  • Blends 
  • Word Families 
  • Focus on Rhymes, Rhythm, Print, Meaning 

For all of these topics, Ms Griffiths gave many examples of games and activities that we can use to teach our children. The class had the opportunity to play some of these games and try out a few activities. We were taught how to help children to be aware of sounds and shapes/letters that will form the basic foundation of reading. We were also pointed to many useful resources that we can consider using - things like books, learning materials, toys, and websites. I found many of the ideas shared very useful, and wished that I knew some of them earlier, when Bubbles was younger! I really liked that Ms Griffiths emphasized many times that every child is different - each child learns at a different pace and in different ways. She was however also able to empathize with many of the parents in the group, as most knew about the high standards children here are expected to hit once they reach primary school! She did her best to offer helpful suggestions as solutions to problems some of us faced with our children.

All in all, I found the course well-worth the time spent, and for the price of S$240 + GST, a reasonable investment. Light refreshments like drinks and biscuits are provided in class but if you think you will get hungry, do try to grab an early dinner! There are many options in United Square. You may want to bring along a cardigan/jacket too as it can get a little chilly. I also carried my own ring file along to serve as a table-top to write on, and a place to keep the handouts.

If you are a homeschooling parent, my feel is that this course will be really useful to you. The ideas and tips shared are quite invaluable. As a parent of children who are (and will be) attending a Montessori pre-school, I found some of the ideas familiar as my children's school use similar methods of teaching. It was encouraging for me learn of ways where I could continue similar threads of learning at home. The course also highlighted some mistakes I made in "teaching" my children to read - mainly things I did not even think of doing, and how I emphasized on certain wrong things. As I mentioned above, I really wished I attended this course earlier so that I could have been a better support to Bubbles. Still, I am glad is not too late, and I will be doing some fun activities at home to encourage her to read.

If you are interested to sign-up for the next run of the classes (dates above), do contact Jane at 6348 7550. If you would like to find out more about the programme, you can email Ms Rose Griffiths herself at

Lorna Whiston has offered a set of storybooks from Scholastic that teach key phonic skills to one of A Dollop of Me's readers. Look out for the next post on the giveaway!

(Credits: Photos and Image used in this post are courtesy of Lorna Whiston)


Anonymous said...

the course looks very interesting, pity I can't make the July dates.

Corsage@A Dollop Of Me said...

That is a pity! Perhaps you could drop them an email to asked to be informed about future course dates?

Anonymous said...

Okay I will! I'm Cayce from IG by the way. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this article! Nv knew that there were such courses for parents, will call to enquire more :) have a great day:)