By Cochrane, Kirsty
Practically Primary , Vol. 14, No. 3
In January 2008, I attended the Literacy and Numeracy Summer School (AGSS) in Wollongong, NSW. This experience both required and inspired me to explore and enhance my professional practice through the process of Action Research. It saw me refine my skills and abilities in teaching many aspects of literacy and numeracy, but through the workshops I participated in I enjoyed a special focus on how to teach reading. I was also enabled in my ability to work productively with my peers to enhance their understandings and inspire them to further their own learning in this area.
As a teacher I struggled with the teaching of reading. I was an avid reader myself, kept up with current technologies and practices, remained informed of curriculum changes and could explain the aspects of an effective reading program within the classroom. However, despite my best efforts students were not reaching the benchmarks expected of them. This was not just in my classroom; it was school-wide and was causing concern amongst the staff. Many were concerned that this lack of reading ability would create greater problems for the students than just being unable to read. Likely problems were;
* Implications for success at school, occupational opportunities, socially and for satisfaction across most of life's endeavours
* This includes comprehension as well as decoding
* Childhood depression, acting out and long term stress (Faulkner & Konza, 2007)
While reviewing the study modules at AGSS I came across The Four Resources Model (once called Luke and Freebody's Four Roles of a Reader) describing the four resources students need to access to be literate: code breaking resources, text participating resources, text using resources and text analysing resources. I further investigated this concept and realised that this could be effective in my classroom to support literacy. This was a very different approach to reading from what I had used in the past and incorporated the use of old strategies as well as some new. New strategies incorporated into the program included:
* The need to keep accurate records of student progress to motivate students to keep working. This information also informed my classroom practice and pedagogy and allowed me to properly scaffold student learning.
* The benefit of exploiting students' interests when designing the reading program. High interest material encouraged their reading and provided connectedness.
* The use of a student interest inventory to establish student interest areas.
The reading, Instruction and Development of Reading Fluency in Struggling Readers (Pressley, Gaskins & Fingeret, 2006) also influenced me by demonstrating that fluency is not just reading clearly at an age appropriate pace with good expression. I learnt that fluency is reading accurately, expressively, and with a good level of understanding. This reading indicated that a child's fluency can influence their comprehension of a text. For example a child with a high level of fluency is able to slow down and interpret troublesome texts to suit their needs, but a child with poor fluency cannot. Likewise, poor comprehension levels can influence levels of fluency so the two are intertwined entities and should be targeted simultaneously.
I concluded from this text that I should combine multiple methods to teach fluency because not every method would suit every child. I proceeded to incorporate these techniques into my literacy block as part of my Code-Breaker strategies to assist my students in becoming more fluent in their reading. Such methods included:
* Systematic Decoding Instruction,
* Frequent Student Oral Reading, and
* Developing Sight Words.
The course notes provided during my literacy modules also provided me with specific detail on how to implement different reading strategies (Guided Reading, Reciprocal Reading) in the classroom. …