Effective Literacy Teaching and Learning for all Students

Unit 6

Effective teaching of reading and instructional practices

The important issue in this section of the course is to examine the idea that Independent Reading is supported by other literacy experiences, particularly experiences that involve some kind of teaching. To be the most effective teachers of reading all primary and secondary teachers need to know what should be taught about reading ('the reading curriculum') and how to do this with the whole class, small groups and individual students.

Go to the article: Effective Reading Teaching to read about the content of the 'reading curriculum' and other information that will help you teach all of your students to read successfully.

Reflect on:

  1. The content of the reading curriculum
    • What do you need to learn more about?
    • Are all of these components included in your teaching program?
    • How do you plan your teaching to ensure that comprehension, vocabulary, fluency and decoding are taught, as necessary?
    • Do you plan your teaching based on the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model of teaching and learning or some other principle of learning that includes explicit teaching as required?
    • Does your planning include a balance of whole class, small group and individual practices as required? What do you need to know more about?
    • Is your planning based on what you know about each student's strengths and needs in literacy?

Make some decisions about what you need to learn more about and how you will achieve this. For example, at this point you may decide to follow the links to the units of this course where you can find out more about comprehension, vocabulary, fluency or decoding before you learn more about instructional practices in the next part of the unit.

The term 'Reading Block' is frequently used by primary teachers to describe the block of time primary teachers set aside for daily reading experiences, including Independent Reading, Read-aloud, Shared Reading, Guided Reading and other whole class and small group work focused on teaching and learning about reading.

However, other teachers may not have a set block of time for reading or they may integrate reading with other literacy experiences. Secondary English teachers are usually expected to be the teacher of reading but all teachers need to take responsibility for ensuring their students are able to read (with comprehension) any of the texts their students need to read in each curriculum area. Secondary teachers may not operate in the same way as primary teachers, but they still need to have times for whole class teaching and learning plus times when students independently read while teachers assess the students' reading, and times when groups are taught according to like needs.

Throughout this course there are interviews that Diane Snowball and other literacy consultants have conducted with teachers about Independent Reading and reading conferences. In this first interview Diane talks to Hannah, a Prep teacher at Newport Lakes PS about her Independent Reading and other instructional practices in her reading block. They cover a range of issues so you may want to view this film clip more than once. Teachers of older grades and secondary students should view the interview to listen for the ways that Hannah links her whole class, group and individual instruction.

Also note the questions that Diane asks. Perhaps they are questions that you could ask yourself to more deeply understand instructional practices.

Go to film clip:

Newport Lakes PS: Diane Snowball interview with Hannah Beckman.

View the film and note:

  • specific aspects of Hannah's overall planning;
  • how she records what she is finding out about her students to guide her planning;
  • how she uses a Gradual Release of Responsibility model for her teaching;
  • how she uses a parent volunteer in a very useful way for the students who need to be read to more often; and
  • how she is continuing to learn about teaching.

Hannah mentions one of her students, Eve, who you will also see later in a film clip of Hannah conferring with Eve during Independent Reading time (Newport Lakes PS: Prep Hannah & Eve Conference).

Go to the film clip:

Manor Lakes P-12 College: Year 7 Maryanne Pearce interview with Kate Sykes.

View the film and note how Hannah (as a prep teacher) and Kate (as a year 7 teacher) have similarities in their planning, organisation, model for teaching and learning and recording about their students. Reflect on these in relation to your own practices and learn more about them in the next document about these issues.

Go to: Instructional Practices for Teaching Reading document. Ask a colleague, perhaps your literacy coordinator or your team leader if they would be prepared to read this document, and then work with you revising and clarifying your understandings of practices involved in the teaching of reading and how Independent Reading does not stand alone.

Read the document yourself and highlight important details prior to meeting with your colleague. Reflect on the document, and discuss your practices that focus on the teaching of reading.
Some questions you might consider - Does your time for teaching and learning about reading include:

  • Read-aloud and Shared Reading with your whole class?
  • Some small group work such as Guided Reading where you have gathered a group with the same need for further support in their reading?
  • Some Independent Reading time where students are reading and you are conducting reading conferences?
  • Small group Shared Reading or Read-aloud as required?
  • Other small group work such as Reciprocal Teaching or other routines that support reading development?
  • Language Experience work as required?
  • Some feedback and sharing time?

These may not all happen in one literacy session and for secondary teachers in particular they may occur over a number of days (and hopefully not just in English classes). The fundamental issue in both primary and secondary situations is that the planning of work with small groups is dependent on knowing about the students and this best happens during reading conferences.

Language Experience is one of the instructional practices briefly described in Instructional Practices for Teaching Reading. For students who are initially learning to read, students who are struggling as readers at any year level and students at all year levl who are learning to read English as a second language, Language Experience work is extremely valuable because the students' personal language are being used as the basis for writing texts that those students then use for reading. This means that the students already have a great deal of knowledge to bring to the content of the text and the language is at a level that the students can easily read. To learn more about the Language Experience approach go to websites such as the following:

  • www.literacyconnections.com/InTheirOwnWords.php
  • http://www.trevorcairney.blogspot.com.au/ to read his blog about Language Experience (2008)
  • Also refer to Language Experience- Talking, Writing, Reading which provides detailed information about implementing Language Experience work with students in Prep and Year 1 but the ideas could also be implemented with any student learning English as a second language or needing help as a struggling reader.
  • When you are viewing the film clips later in the course you will be able to see many reading conferences at various year levels, where teachers are learning about their students' needs and therefore can plan for the most effective teaching. You will also be able to infer what each teacher has been teaching, using the Gradual Release of Responsibility model, in order for the students to be able to articulate what they know about reading.
  • Hannah had mentioned in the interview with Diane Snowball how she uses parent volunteers to read to students.

Go to film clip:

Newport Lakes PS: Small group Read-aloud with parent Loren Bentley

Note how engaged the students are and how easy it is for them to make comments and interact with the text in the small group situation.

Prep year parents are often used for other tasks such as selecting students' books for take-home reading, a task they are probably not properly trained to do. However, there are many students at all year levels who benefit from small group or 1-1 Read-aloud and this task is ideal for many parents or other volunteers. It is particularly helpful if such volunteers develop a relationship with the students by reading to the same student or students, frequently and therefore learning about students favourite authors and books, interests and needs. Make sure they read with expression and encourage comments and questions from students.

Parents and other carers do play a very important role in students' literacy development. If you are interested in helping parents/carers to know more about ways they can help their own children refer to websites such as:

  • The National Council of Teachers of English, Read Together: Parents and Educators Working Together for Literacy and the DEECD website, downloadable booklet 201 Literacy and Maths Tips to help your child
  • Go to: Best Practices in Literacy Teaching: the Basis of the Best Preparation for Standardised Assessment and browse through this document. Note that it provides many suggestions for overall planning of literacy work using research as the basis for decision making about teaching practices. These suggestions link to the documents you have already read about Independent Reading and Classroom Libraries and to documents you will meet later in this course about teaching comprehension, fluency and vocabulary.
  • Share this document with colleagues, particularly with schools leaders. Due to stress on results of standardised tests some schools place too much emphasis on test practice or other kinds of test preparation that may not be most helpful for developing students' literacy OR for improving test results. Discuss the research cited in this document, refer to the related teaching practices and reflect on aspects that your school may need to reconsider when planning the year's work.
  • Continue to refer to this document as you learn more about the most effective ways to teach comprehension, fluency and vocabulary, which affect all literacy tasks in all curriculum areas, including test taking tasks.

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