How reading is taught from Kindergarten to Year 2 at Mandurah Baptist College
Being able to read well is an essential skill, not only for success at school and in life beyond school, but also to experience the joy that reading brings. At MBC we want every child to be successful in reading. Staff at MBC are continually learning more about what research says regarding how children learn to read, how to make sure that every student learns to read, and about what to do if a child has difficulty learning to read.
Reading, unlike speaking, doesn’t just happen through constant exposure. It needs to be explicitly taught in a systematic way. If you’ve been part of the MBC community for a while you may notice some differences in how we now teach reading. Our strategies for teaching children to read are based on the ‘Big Five’ of literacy development which are Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary and Comprehension.
These strategies are explained below along with some tips on how you can support your child in learning to read, and some opportunities to develop your own knowledge about reading.
Phonemic Awareness: This is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate sounds in words, aurally and orally, that is, by listening and speaking, without seeing them written down. Research says that this ability has a huge impact on reading development. Phonemic Awareness is taught daily from Kindergarten to Year 2 using the Heggerty Phonemic Awareness Program. Further information on how you can use this program to help support your child is available here.
Explicit and systematic phonics instruction: At MBC we use the Sounds-Write program to explicitly teach children to ‘crack the code’ of the written language. Students from Pre-Primary to Year 2 are taught phonics skills (the relationship between the sounds of the English language and the letters we use to represent them) in a systematic way, from simple to complex. These skills are practiced using reading books with easily decodable text that matches the code being taught in class. These books are also sent home for your child to read to you. If they get stuck on a word encourage them to build their decoding skills by asking them to “say the sounds and read the word”. Don’t ask them to guess the word or look at the picture – we want them to work out the word using their code knowledge. Sounds-Write has produced learning modules available to parents to help them understand the program and support their child. They are freely available here.
Fluency: Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with expression. Being able to read fluently has a direct impact on a child’s ability to understand or comprehend what they are reading. Reading fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding the words, they can focus their attention on what the text means. Good fluency begins when a child is just learning the relationship between letters and sounds and continues throughout the teen years when they are reading novels or textbooks. Intentional fluency practice takes place in classrooms daily through modelled reading, paired reading and group reading. Fluency is also built when your child reads their decodable books to you at home.
Vocabulary: Research shows vocabulary is key to reading comprehension. Readers cannot understand what they are reading without knowing what most of the words mean. As children learn to read more advanced texts, they must learn the meaning of new words that are not already part of their oral vocabulary. The vocabulary of students from Kindergarten to Year 2 is explicitly developed through planned play experiences such as small world activities, indoor cubby learning centres, planned indoor and outdoor learning activities, and through the development of subject knowledge in Science, Art and other learning areas. You can support your child’s vocabulary development by talking with your child lots, answering those endless questions, and enjoying expanding your own vocabulary as your child pursues their interests!
Comprehension: Comprehension is the reason for reading. If readers can read the words but do not understand or connect to what they are reading, they are not really reading. Similarly, when the foundational skills and processes of decoding text are compromised, so too will be reading comprehension. Reading comprehension requires good phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and phonics. Essentially, it is what you get when you weave all the previous skills mentioned above, together. In Kindergarten to Year 2, reading comprehension is developed through the shared reading of storybooks and picture books in all stages of learning. Shared reading means hearing the text and looking at the text as well as the pictures and other features – not just listening to it. Storybooks and picture books (fiction and non-fiction) are important for oral language, vocabulary, comprehension, and the sheer delight of books. Each week your child brings home quality children’s literature in the form of a library book or an oral language pack. These books are books that your child is not expected to read, but that you can read to them to support their comprehension and their enjoyment of reading.
This special time of reading together, enjoying the pleasure that books can bring, and creating special memories and bonds, can continue long after your child is able to read for themselves.
While learning to read may seem like a complicated process, our practice in teaching reading can be summed up by the ‘simple view of reading’ presented by Gough and Tunmer in 1986 as:
Decoding x Language Comprehension = Reading Comprehension
This simple formula makes it clear that strong reading comprehension cannot occur unless both decoding skills and language comprehension abilities are strong. Our teaching practices at MBC, based on the ‘Big Five’ of literacy development, aim to develop strong skills in these two areas in our youngest students.
Alison Fallon | Primary School Deputy Principal – Curriculum