Sunday, 2 December 2018

Reading - my discoveries this year

Reading in a classroom based on play has been one of my professional inquiries over the past few years.  This year, we have made a few tweaks here and there, but what has most dramatically changed, is my understanding of how the brain learns to read.

The seven minute video below is a good summary of what I have been working on this year, the understanding that the brain has to rewire itself for reading is crucial I believe for all teachers.  Key also is the fact that spoken language is integral to later success and that in reading the brain is always translating one letter at a time, even though it gets better and better at this with practice. 

Basically the brain is linking the visual, to the sound and initially this is a slow and very deliberate process.  Adding on here to what I know about brain development, it is a process that happens effectively and efficiently if we wait to engage with reading until a child is developmentally ready.


From my new understandings I developed this framework for literacy development in my class.

This diagram shows clearly how I guide the acquisition of reading skills long before we ever engage in formally 'teaching' children to read.

We have had enormous success with helping children to develop a readiness for reading this year, but it is really important to note that to do this, we must put our old teaching brain to the side as some of our children, even after a year at school are not yet formally reading with us, and that is absolutely appropriate for that child.  Hugely important to note here is that when children do start formally reading with us, they understand what they are doing, are interested and because of the strong emphasis on phonetic awareness, have the skills to be able to solve unknown words.  Given time and patience, they don't really need us at all.  We are free to help them develop strategies that will assist this process.

The more practice a child has at this, the faster their brain gets and then the more able we are to build from an excellent vocab to develop comprehension.  Kind, patient help at home becomes even more important...with the most important word here being 'patient.'

What has most changed is the way I interact with the reader, engaging with readers that are ready has allowed me to develop my own awareness of just how much of the work I was doing before.  When I cast my mind back to those emergent-red-yellow groups where I used to have my voice 'just' in front of children, like I was trained to do way back when....pausing to teach strategies etc, I realise that many children were little more than parroting me....later on, further up the school, they were more inclined to sit back and let someone else in the group solve the word for them.  Their brain wasn't doing what it needed to do to wire itself to read successfully.  I now let the child read, I wait, as long as it takes for them to solve the word, prompting with the stretching of sounds if really needed and re-reading the text just in case the sense has been lost.  We share the reading, in this process a few pages is hard work for the brain, I am quite happy to share the reading process.

What has worked well this year?

1) Decodable texts.  These were a breakthrough for us. We have been using books from Liz Kane Literacy.  They have been excellent at building strong foundations and developing independence in using the code.  They have also helped to build our own understandings of the teaching of phonics.https://lizkaneliteracy.co.nz/  This led me to think about our older children with code issues and I found these books.  https://global.oup.com/education/content/primary/series/projectx/project-x-code/?region=international  These have been breakthrough for us, children love them and wow they are just wonderful!  Engaging, intriguing, perfect!  We have now purchased a superhero series and an alien series in the project x range.  All decodable.  We have gone through https://www.edify.co.nz/ to import these and they have been super helpful, I really recommend them!

2) Individual reading as an when children are ready.  We read one on one, twice a week with children, this has proved to be more than enough.

3) Shared reading of big books and chapter books.  Our current chapter book is Amelia Jane, comprehension has come along in leaps and bounds since I started routinely reading a chapter each day to them.  They can paint the picture in their head, comprehend what is happening and predict what will happen.  They laugh  at the story and the characters very much come alive for them.

4) Interest books, each day children spend time browsing books that interest them, there is no burden on them to be able to read it, but they get a huge amount of pleasure from sharing with their friends...oral language off the hook!

5)Rich discussion in a play based class has made such a wonderful different to vocab and comprehension.  Talking about my world, allows me to understand my world.

6) Not taking things for granted.  Occasionally in books children will encounter words that we think they should understand, but they actually don't.  Simply asking them 'do you know what that means...' allows us to feed in just in time vocab.

7)Telling - children work so hard to learn to read and write when they are ready and interested, if they ask me how to write something, or what a word says, I tell them.   I know that with the mindsets we are establishing, they will have tried hard to work it out before they come and ask me.

8) Developmental goals- the have continued to be very effective for us this year.