Learn to read – Read to learn

Over the past few months there has been quite a bit of media coverage regarding the introduction of a Year 1 Phonics check being introduced across Australian schools, to identify students that may be falling behind at an early stage in their literacy development. In turn, this has given rise to debate about the role of phonics in learning to read, and the need for another national assessment, particularly at such a young age.

Reading involves making sense of print and constructing meaning from written language, and draws upon many skills that need to be developed at the same time.  In the Junior School our goal is for students to build strong foundations as they ‘learn to read,’ so that in turn they can transfer and apply these skills to ‘read to learn’.

Research has clearly shown that for students to be successful readers it is essential that they develop strong foundations in phonics. In the Junior School, we use explicit, sequential, systematic and multisensory phonics programs to build these foundations. We also regularly assess each student using a number of different formative, diagnostic and standardised assessments – carefully monitoring progress and identifying any students who may be having difficulty. Students who are identified as requiring further support work closely with the Learning Plus department in small-group or one-on-one programs.

The proposed Year 1 Phonics Check would be conducted orally and one-on-one with the classroom teacher. As we already assess and carefully monitor students’ development from Prep onwards, this assessment would not be anything new to Junior School teachers or students. However, we would need to consider carefully how the addition of the Year 1 Phonics assessment would fit with our current assessment practices. It may potentially replace an assessment we are already using so as not to ‘over test’ or it could provide us with one more measure to ensure we are identifying the individual needs of every student. This will be looked at closely if the initiative is implemented nationally.

In addition to the explicit and systematic teaching of phonics in the early years, the Junior School Reading program from Prep through to Year 6 incorporates:

  • Guided and reciprocal reading sessions that focus on fluency and comprehension
  • Explicit and sequential programs that focus on building core comprehension strategies
  • Many opportunities throughout the year for oral language development through reading groups, listening and speaking activities and public speaking
  • Building of general and subject specific vocabulary through classroom Units of Investigation and Specialist classes
  • Spelling programs that also focus on phonemic awareness and phonics through an explicit and systematic approach
  • Developing a love of literature through exposure to good literature and the Library program.

Our goal is to build strong foundations and foster a love of reading in every student.

 ‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you will go’. – Dr Seuss

Ms Catherine Samuel

Deputy Head of Junior School

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