Classroom Translation Series: READING

The next 4 posts are a series (highly requested), as parent educators ask; “What does (subject) learning look like?” We will walk through what Reading, Writing, Spelling and Mathematics look like in the classroom, unpacking the learning process for parent educators.

Literacy = Reading, Writing and Spelling learning, often referred to as ‘English’ within the curriculum (some schools will use the terms such as ‘Reader’s Workshop.’)

Research in 2009, declared that the best time to teach Literacy was first up in the morning. It is the ideal time of day for high impact learning. Use it strategically. Therefore, Literacy learning at a primary level is generally the first two sessions of the day, beginning with Reading, then Writing OR Spelling.

Let’s start from the top and unpack an ideal Reading lesson;

Setting Up for Success. In Reading we have our ‘Book Box’ with our notebook, at least 3 predetermined texts of three different genres. Our ‘Learning Space’ is organised, ready to go once the focus skill has been introduced – YES, they may read on the couch!

Our vision as educators (teachers and parents alike) is to grow independent learners. We do this within Reading by moving the learner towards sustained reading within every session. In the classroom, we follow four stages (research-based) that home education can follow too.

  • Introduce or revise a skill – Educator-led
  • Apply the skill with high support – Educator and learner together
  • Learner explores the skill with some support – Educator steps back, learners together
  • Learner applies skill independently – Learner-led
Reader’s Workshop. Created within a Level 4 classroom to show HOW we learn. The learner/Reader moves down the triangle, guided by the educator. The triangle represents effort, we begin by watching a skill applied and move to independent application.

So how does this translate to home?

Now let’s piece together these four stages specific to Reading (within Prep to Level 6):

  • Introduce or revise a Reading skill/strategy – Educator-led; often reading a picture story book and modelling the strategy (10 minutes)

e.g. Text-to-Self Connections (Based on the Level 2 Curriculum; they select ideas in texts that relate to their own lives).

“Let’s focus on ‘The Gruffalo’ today and think aloud to learn Text-to-Self connections. ‘A mouse took a stroll,’ oh my brain is already sparking, I went for a stroll across the school this morning, let’s see where the mouse went. ‘A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood.’ Okay, I didn’t go through a wood, but let me write my Text-to-Self connection in my notebook to the ‘stroll’ component. I’m underlying stroll and writing ‘The mouse took a stroll and I took a stroll through the school into the classroom today.”

(A brief example of Reading focus lesson can be found here)

A fabulous text, ‘The Gruffalo’ by Julia Donaldson. Don’t feel you need to read the whole text. A page or a minute of a clip is often fine, you may focus on the text for a few days.
  • Apply the Reading skill/strategy with high support – Educator guides the learner into applying the strategy (5 minutes)

“Let’s see if we can do it together on the next page. ‘Roasted Fox! I’m off Fox said.’ Any connections so far? ‘Goodbye little mouse and away he sped.’ Let’s take a think pause.”

(pause silently, longer than you would expect; research shows we give children about 3 seconds to respond, they need more for deep thinking!)

“Wait, I sped into the classroom today, remember? You told me to stop running?”

“Perfect text-to-self connection. Write or sketch that thought in your notebook. A quick, grey-lead sketch to capture your thinking but keep our focus on the text.”

  • Learner explores the Reading skill/strategy with collaboration – Educator steps back, learners together (may not be possible in home education)
  • Learner applies the Reading skill/strategy independently – Sustained reading and independent focus on strategy (10-40 minutes)

This is the DEEP learning.

Why? The learning here is two-pronged. Our learners are aiming to;

  1. Build their independent reading stamina (reading aloud, silent reading, reading-to-self) AND
  2. Apply the focus strategy.

They are independently reading, which is one strand of thought and tracking their thinking for the focus strategy, which is a second strand of thought.

They may begin independent reading with your focus text (e.g. The Gruffalo) if they are not quite confident, but if they are beginning to master the strategy let them spread their wings and fly! Can they explore the focus strategy with another picture story book? Yes. Their favourite novel? Absolutely. An online text? Of course. Even a short clip of a video! (Fabulous if you have reluctant readers, “today we read a text, but tomorrow our text is a video!”)

Our children will naturally stray with their focus, that is why we have a strategy element. By sketching, writing or jotting some thinking (our Text-to-Self connection) we reset attention, but stay on track.

As parent educators, this is the part where you step back, open your laptop, make that phone call, sip that coffee. Pop a timer on (10-40 minutes based on age and reading stamina), set a small goal (e.g. two sketched connections, three sentences or three written post-its) and let the learner READ. Encourage from afar, let them be uncertain and carpark those questions, “Mum, what does ‘stroll’ mean?” And you (dear parent educator) release control, “Great question, write it down, as that is valuable thinking.” Come back to them after their sustained reading. You are encouraging them to sustain a focus.

What happens next?

Our learners have finished reading. The timer has rung. BEFORE you pack up and prepare for the next subject, pause. Read their thinking, that post-it, that sentence OR sketch. Don’t tick or cross it. It’s their valuable thinking. Ask them about their thinking and really listen, prompt them to elaborate or respond to a reflective question.

Their learning today is your teaching tomorrow.

NB: It is best practice to follow the lesson focus or skill that the teacher has provided within your remote portal or communication. If you have some time up your sleeve, view the curriculum and see if you can locate the focus strategy. Or view the CAFE Reading Strategy PDF for a synthesised version of the curriculum.

Some handy resources;

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