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reading instruction

8 Reasons the 'Same Page' is a Great Place to Be

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If we were to go for a visit to many a local school we would likely find a great deal of variation in reading instruction from one classroom to the next.  It’s not uncommon for one teacher to be using one program for phonics and decoding and another to be using something different. Even if both of these programs are evidence informed, this difference in programs and approach is problematic.   In far too many schools, teachers are left on their own to ‘figure out’ how best to teach reading.  This…

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The Motivation Myth

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I woke a few days ago to this image having been shared by a teacher’s page on Facebook. It should have come with a trigger warning because reading it certainly did raise my heart rate. 

And here’s my smarty pants reaction

You might be wondering why I would be opposed to children having access to great books. The truth is, I’m not.  Of COURSE I want every child to have access to books that ignite their imaginations and take them anywhere in the world they want to go. Of COURSE I want that a…

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Words, Words Everywhere!

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This post was first published in 2020 and is now re-released with revisions. 


‘Environmental print’ is something that we have heard about forever and there are many different ways to look at this concept.

I have seen environmental print placed around a room with the hope that children will ‘pick up’ the words and be able to use them for a variety of purposes.   This might take the form of labels around the room or lists of words placed on the wall by the teacher.

I have also seen word…

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Context Embedded vs Context Reduced Reading Instruction

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The release of John Sweller’s recent report about inquiry learning has been followed up with a range of tweets, Facebook posts and articles either coming out in favour of either explicit teaching or inquiry learning.  In this post I am going to share my own thoughts on this in a way that I hope is measured and nuanced. But let’s be clear, I am not going to go down the road of ‘teachers use a range of techniques based on what they believe is best for students so just leave them alone to make thei…

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My students are learning things. Aren’t they?

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 Early in 2021 I held a Masterclass called ‘The Top Three Mistakes Foundation Teachers Make in Reading Instruction – and How to Avoid Them’.  This week’s post revisits mistake number 2

Assuming that because you have taught something, students have learned it.

Every single one of us has made this assumption at one point or another only to realise later that we were so wrong!

The first thing to consider are three little words -

Engage, practice, apply

Essentially, students need to do something with and think about…

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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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