Effective Literacy Practices

Every now and again the media reports that Australian students are not learning to read the ‘right way’. Some ‘experts’ have their own preferred style of teaching reading (e.g. an emphasis on phonics) and do not acknowledge the benefits of  ‘Whole Language’ (an emphasis on meaning and strategic actions). During Reading Recovery, and across our school, the students learn to use what they have already learnt about language through listening and speaking. They learn that the stories they hear (and write) are made up of sentences, sentences are made up of words, and words can be broken into chunks and individual letters / sounds. ‘Phonics’ (sounds within words) IS taught within Whole Language, but it is only a part of reading, not the starting point of learning to read.

The following 2 videos are from the Reading Recovery Council Of North America. They show some practices that your children experience at our school during Reading Recovery and within their classrooms.

Effective Literacy Practices – Learning About Phonology & Orthography

Teachers explore ways that children learn about relationships between letters of written language and sounds of spoken language.

Effective Literacy Practices – Making It Easy to Learn

Teachers build on a child’s strengths to create situations where the child will experience success in early literacy learning.

The main points of the videos are:
Teachers should start with what the children already know and build on those strengths.
Students enjoy a challenge that is within reach.

A writing sample

One day last week Miss N was told she could write about anything, and I would not be helping her with the spelling. (I wanted to check what she would do by herself.)She chose to write about a familiar story from her book box. Grandad had helped Max to rehearse his role as the wolf in the class play. Unfortunately on the day of the play Max was not well and Grandad took his place.  Miss N wrote:

Max was sick because he had a sore throat. Then Grandad pretended to be the wolf.

Miss N showed that she could easily compose 2 sentences that made sense. She began each sentence and name with a capital letter and she finished each sentence with a full stop. She confidently wrote the words that she knew and she willingly had a go at unknown words. She regularly reread what she had written so far and she often said the next words aloud before she wrote them. She made some changes as she went. She self corrected ‘he‘ and she crossed out ‘a’ but then chose to write it again.

What she did not do was stretch out any words aloud in order to hear the parts. After she was finished I helped her to think about the words that were not correct. I drew a letter box for each letter of a word and I slotted in the letters that were correct in her version. She easily recognised what was missing from ‘sick‘ to make it look right. (She wrote ‘ck’ in the one box until I clarified that only one letter was to go into each letter box.) After I pronounced the word ‘throat‘ for her she easily added ‘th‘ to replace the ‘f’ in her version. I told Miss N to stretch out ‘sore‘ before she wrote it and she quickly realised that the word contained ‘or‘, a word she knew, and then she added the ‘e’ on the end herself.

The trickiest word was ‘pretended‘. Together we said the parts pre-ten-ded. She wrote pre-en-ted, so I had her slowly say each part again until she heard all the sounds in order.

The following day Miss N independently stretched out some words as she was writing. Every day there are opportunities for Miss N to try out ways of solving words. She knows that some letters go together to make a sound, e.g. ‘oa‘, ‘th‘. She knows that some words are a bit like other words she knows, e.g. or / sore, and she thinks about what she would expect to see, e.g. ‘e’ on the end of sore.

Words ‘taken to fluency’

Words can be solved in many ways. (See Ways of Solving Words for Writing.) Every day the student writes a sentence or sentences during the lesson. The more words that he or she can write down quickly(without a lot of working out), the more time and energy there is to add  further detail to the little story.

High frequency words are words that are used a lot. A high frequency word is often used as a word to take to fluency. As an example, 1 of my students wrote ‘dey‘ instead of ‘day‘. This is a word that will be very useful to know in the future, and as he almost wrote it correctly, it was a suitable word to take to fluency.

He was asked to slide his finger underneath my copy of the word and to look at it from left to right to get a ‘picture of it in his head’. He was then required to write it many times on the working-out page. He also wrote it with his finger on the table. He was encouraged to write it quicker each time so that it was becoming more automatic with each experience.

The next time I see him I will check to see if he is still able to write the word. (If he can’t he will go through the process again. Perhaps also writing it on the whiteboard and in the air.)

An example of taking the word ‘she‘ to fluency.

Reading Levels and Strategies

Have you noticed the page on this blog called Levels? The purpose of it is to gain an understanding of the expectations for the students as they reach each reading level. Parents of our new students might like to have a look.

I have previously posted the following information- As the students move through the reading levels, they are required to build upon what they already know and to gradually demonstrate a shift towards independence.

The Levels page contains a summary of the expected skills at each reading level BUT it is only a guide. Children rarely move through any predetermined list of behaviours in the same order as each other. Some skills / strategies will need a lot of revision, and others may be well knownlonger text before the levels listed on the page.

The aim is to always read fluently and to seek to understand what is being read.