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reading instruction

10 Tips for Teaching the Complex Code

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You may have heard that English is way too complicated and illogical to teach explicitly.  This myth is one of the reasons that memorising words persists as a spelling strategy, but it is simply not true. What is true is that English has an opaque orthography. This means that the relationship between phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (letters that represent those phonemes) is, well….busy. The ‘basic code’ is reasonably simple. One alphabet letter represents consonants and the short vowels, with a …

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Decodable texts - how do we get it right?

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It is now generally accepted that decodable texts of one sort or another are a key part of a systematic approach to reading instruction. Decodable texts provide the practice students need to develop strong decoding skills with reading material containing limited graphemes and sentence structures. In light of the announcement that all NSW Foundation classrooms will receive a delivery of decodable texts, let’s dive deeper into the what, when, who and how of decodables in learning to read. 

What, when, who

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Clarity for the next 6th months of reading instruction.

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If you are an Australian or New Zealand teacher you are more than likely actively planning for Semester 2 and if you are a US or Canadian teacher you will be contemplating your new class and the brand new school year ahead. Whether you are looking down the barrel of online lesson delivery or in-person school, the same principles apply when it comes to comes to creating a classroom program to maximise student learning in reading.

The first thing we need to do is understand what reading developme…

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Simple Steps for Big Change

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It is the school holidays and I know that it is very likely you have half of your brain occupied by what you’ll be doing next term to create great learning opportunities for your students.  You might have big plans that you are excited about, or you might have big wishes that you know you can’t implement because your school still follows a balanced literacy approach.  Whether you are in the first or second situation, I want you to know that while our goal is to have a fully evidence aligned cl…

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“Watch out!” – Avoiding the pitfalls of shifting practice

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With all that we hear about the science of reading, we can get caught up in the idea of ‘one big thing’ that will make our reading instruction the best in the universe. If only it was so!  The reality is that creating a really strong, systematic reading approach in our classrooms comes from an infinity of small things (that might seem massive as we make the leap) that we will never finish learning about. Now, before you log off and reach for the ice-cream, know that I am not saying the task of l…

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Harnessing the 4 Pillars in Phonics Instruction

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In last week’s post, ‘Phonics without the Froo Froo’, I wrote about the need for phoneme grapheme instruction to be direct, simple and explicit. If you haven’t read that post, you can find it here.  In this post I also outlined Stanislas Dehaene’s 4 pillars of learning. You can learn more about these pillars in his book, ‘How We Learn’.

How We Learn : Why Brains Learn Better Than Any Machine... for Now - Stanislas Dehaene

This week, I’d like to take the discussion even further and evaluate some common classroom practices against Dr Dehaene’s 4 pillars to help you maximise the i…

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Phonics Without the Froo Froo

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We all know that phonics is one of the 6 essential components of reading instruction and, in and of itself, is not sufficient to help children become proficient readers.  It is, however, critical that we get the teaching of phonics, starting with phoneme grapheme correspondence, right so that children have a firm foundation on which to base their reading skill development.

The title of today’s post gives away where my head has been this past week! A slew of Facebook posts and shared links revea…

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Decisions that Define Our Practice

6 Key Decisions of Early Years Reading Instruction


We teachers make literally hundreds of decisions each day about a great many things. When it comes to reading instruction, there's a very real chance that we are using methods, resources and techniques without having given them a great deal of thought.  This doesn't happen because we are 'thoughtless' in our work, but because in our complicated professions, there is always an element of 'doing what we have always done'. Now, let's be clear. There are no perfect decisions, but there are often b…

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The Value of a Quality Program

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Imagine going to the hardware store knowing you need to fix the mould in your bathroom. You look for ‘mould products’ and discover a wonderful looking bottle of mould killer that promises to eradicate all of your bathroom problems. You take it home, spray your bathroom liberally and regularly and the problem seems to clear up (you can forgive the bleached areas of paint on the untiled sections of your bathroom. After all, the mould is gone). Except, that it hasn’t. Your tiles look lovely and c…

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Vocabulary Instruction Made Easy

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In  a previous post about vocabulary, I discussed how we can choose great Tier 2 words and suggested a couple of ways that we might teach them. You can read that post here.

This week, I’d like to unpack a little more from the absolutely fantastic book, ‘Bringing Words to Life’ and share more about how we can make it all happen in our classrooms.

May be an image of text that says 'SECOND EDITION Ower450,000mPrint! Over 450,000 in Print! Bringing Words toLife Instruction Robust Vocabulary IsabelL Beck, Margaret G. McKeown, and Linda Kucan'

The first thing to know is that there are three phases to vocabulary instruction.

  • Introducing the words
  • Working with the words
  • Keeping the word…

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