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Jenny Lamond and her valuable contribution to education!

Pat Grayson

Jan 27, 2024

Jenny Lamond and her valuable contribution to education!

The Jenny Lamond Method, also known as the Easy-Spelling method, is an effective spelling practice created by the well-known educator, Jenny Lamond. If you are not familiar with her, let's learn more about who she was.

Born in China to Scottish parents, Jenny completed her early education at The China Inland Mission School. As a teenager, she continued her education in Scotland.
As she was dyslexic (which was not well understood in those days), the learning processes were never easy for Jenny. Consequently, she had to work harder than her peers to get through. But Jenny was not an ordinary student, she had a keen mind and determination. She always asked herself how she could improve her spelling?
With a goal of helping children in need, she studied hard to become a teacher. Little did she know that her dyslexic disability would pave the way to help thousands of children and adults.

After qualifying as a teacher, she returned to China to teach. It was not so easy though, as she understood that 'standard’ spelling methods taught by teachers made little sense to students whose native language was not English. In fact, in her memoir, she shared that  she had challenges applying these methods.

Jenny was never one to give up, and she always looked for ways to improve her spelling skills. As a result, she restructured the lessons to include the following:

  • Being more reliant on sounds (phonics) in early lessons
  • Implementing interesting and fun content
  • Appealing to all the senses: listening to the word-sounds, looking to see if it looks correct, and feeling by using drawings and images (kinaesthetic).
  • Encouraging students to use their senses for ‘detective steps’, to decode words, thereby enabling them to learn independently.

The fact that learners enjoyed these newly planned lessons and displayed enthusiasm for further lessons showed that the methods worked well.

When her time was over in China, Jenny immigrated to Australia and joined the NSW Education Department as a teacher. A few years later, she was co-opted by the Department of Education in Sydney to help investigate the high I.Q. students who had difficulties in reading and spelling. At that time, there were no exact answers whether or not they had learning disabilities. Irrespective, these students were behind their peers, and as a result they felt demotivated. The following is what Jenny wrote about her first student: 

When I think of David, the first little boy I helped, I am just so ashamed. He came to me for reading because he was far behind. So, we read. He just couldn't read. And we read – and he couldn’t read! Well, how crazy was this? I tried for a couple of appointments and then thought, 'This is mad, I'm making him feel worse instead of better; he's got to feel better!' I realised that I was at the wrong end of the whole thing by trying to teach him using the same methods that he had been given by his previous teachers.
So what is the answer? How can we take the pressure off the learner and still develop the language experiences necessary for reading competence? Perhaps by helping the student to synthesise words by listening to their sounds. This means working through spelling. Poor readers are also poor spellers. Spelling ability and reading ability are closely related. While it is true that a good reader may also be a poor speller, a poor reader is always a poor speller.

 

 

Jenny Destiny Fulfilled

 

Then Jenny retrieved and dusted off the fledgling methods she developed in China. After witnessing an instant improvement, Jenny, now fascinated, further developed these methods in the hope of helping as many people as possible, irrespective of age.

Wanting to devote all her time to these students, she left NSW Education and continued helping pupils with poor reading and spelling competence on a full-time basis. Her success was so profound, and she had helped so many learners, that Jenny and her methods gained widespread credibility. Upon being interviewed frequently by the media, newspapers, and magazines, Jenny was in great demand and was invited to schools all over NSW. She was always delighted when she saw the light in a child's eye after seeing significant progress in spelling and reading. It was about this time that Jenny formed the first teachers’ Remedial group in Australia. From this group of dedicated teachers, a tutor training program was developed to teach the 'Jenny Lamond Method'. It did not take long for over 1,200 individual children and adults to be helped by this method. In addition to this learners age group, she also offered spelling help for adults.

Thanks to her growing reputation, she came to the attention of Paul Whiting (PhD) from the Faculty of Education, University of Sydney, who at the time was in charge of the Dyslexic unit. Dr Whiting wrote:

When I first came across the work of Jenny Lamond, I attended one of her training sessions in remedial reading and spelling for teachers. I went reluctantly, not wishing to reject out of hand a method which I assumed would be old fashion or eccentric. Eccentric it was: eccentric enough to fascinate the children and adults who were learning how to do it. I thought parts of it were silly. So did the children, and they were delighted. It was so different from every approach they had experienced, and yet it did all the important things.
It recognised that it was not the child’s fault that they failed. It recognised that most children and adults who fail to learn to read do so because they cannot easily manipulate the sound symbol system of the English language, with all its complexities. It recognised the importance of multi-sensory approaches in tutoring reading to these children. And it recognised that the only motivation that counts in the end is what educators call 'intrinsic motivation: the motivation that comes from success in doing the task itself.

Those are good principles. Jenny’s method is also based on painstaking analysis of the structure of words in English. This is something which children with problems in reading and spelling have found chaotic and incomprehensible. Jenny’s method is able to introduce students to the English written language as a system which can be understood. Understanding leads to confidence and, ultimately to competence.

There are those who will reject the methods because it appears to be mechanical, and to teach skills out of context. To those people, we should say that the most important context is that of the life experience of the child or adult who is seeking help. That is the context that should first be considered. And for most of these people, their experience of reading is an activity which is to be avoided at all costs. It is stressful and unrewarding in the extreme. To urge therefore that reading itself will provide the best context for remediation is nonsense. That is why Jenny’s method starts with listening and writing, not reading. Only when the student has regained some of the lost self-esteem and confidence in handwritten English is reading context introduced. That is another reason the method is so successful.

Finally, the method is flexible. It is adapted to the needs of the individual student and can be used either as a total reading and spelling program, or as an element in the broader program. It has been used successfully now for nearly thirty years in individual tutoring, small groups and even with whole classes of children. The result is children and adults who feel that they understand how the English orthographic system works. They are willing to 'have a go', are experienced in checking their own work, used to recording what they have learned, and confident about looking up anything that they are unsure about. Most teachers would be delighted to have a class of these 'process' skills.

But like every other successful method, it will be largely dependent on the teacher. Jenny Lamond believes in children. She assumes that they are capable of succeeding, and she communicates that confidence to them. She knows many learning disabilities can be overcome, and she teaches that through her approach. The effect of such an attitude on self-esteem is obvious. In the hands of a committed, enthusiastic teacher who also believes that all children can succeed, this method will work as I have seen it work over the years.

Jenny Lamond was awarded the Order of Australia, the highest civil recognition in Australia, for her contributions to education. In her memoir she wrote:

At school I was never commended for having top marks, always in trouble for the lack of success at anything to do with letters and words, therefore a failure! Yes, I the author of this program was that child and all I wanted was to understand, so that I could remember by knowing how to 'work it out' and become successful.

My discoveries were to come from my own experience of failure as a child, remembering where and why I failed, and from my knowledge of trends in education during training in Edinburgh. This was to influence my approach later in programming for students. Understanding from the very beginning must be paramount for some students, so success will depend on each progressive step being logical, truly from the known to the unknown all the time. Now for today: still with students experiencing English failure, they are failing to understand from the beginning of their schooling that letters must be interpreted and not just to be looked at.

This Easy-Spelling website follows Jenny's methods and is based on the workbook that Jenny wrote in conjunction with Paul Whiting Ph.D. The following is from that book:

The tutoring and the book are intended for parents, teachers, and anyone else who wish to help children or adults with reading and spelling problems. It is a practical handbook, setting out in detail a method of applying theoretically sound principles of reading remediation to the needs and abilities of students. Anyone who has a love for children, a desire to help them, and a sensitivity to their responses will be able to use it.

It is a method of tutoring poor readers and spellers who do not understand about written language. Research has shown that deficiencies in comprehension can often be traced to difficulties with processing print itself. A remedial program must begin by replacing faulty habits of hearing and seeing words with reliable ones. Only then can reading be successful.

This method began as an attempt to face the problems typical of remedial situations.

It follows that, if we teach a person to spell, reading ability will almost certainly improve. At the simplest level, once the difference between alphabet names of letters and the sounds made by these letters has been made clear to students, it is possible, with some training, to write any English word that is approximately phonetically regular.

Students of average or better intelligence progress quickly using this method, but it has also been found helpful for students with more severe problems. Though developed as an individual tutoring method, it is adaptable to classroom use and has been used with success, in both infant and primary classes as part of the normal reading program, as well as in special classes as part of a remediation program for primary and secondary grades. Any remedial work is best done individually, but where necessary, can be achieved using small groups (2-5 is the best number). Working with larger groups is difficult because of the individuality of the students' reading problems and their differing stages of development.

Finally, this is a practical program and was developed through practical experience. It will only be fully appreciated as teachers and parents put it into practice, making modifications to suit their own, and their pupils' strength and limitations.

Jenny’s material development process first aimed at helping non-native English speakers develop their spelling competence;  however, now it is assisting individuals with learning disabilities,. Yet, the methods are the same. We have had wonderful success with people with learning disabilities, too. Because of our program's user-friendly interface, the e-Dictation and e-Reader applications we've developed, the course will continue to help all learners who require our support. 
 

The Jenny Lamond Method

If you are interested in becoming an accredited tutor of the Jenny Lamond Method, kindly reach out to us via our contact us page.

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