Child's face  MyRead: strategies for reaching reading in the middle years
beliefs
who
what
how
explicit teaching
scaffolding
monitoring and assessment
classroom organisation
professional development
further readings
acknowledgements

 

Beliefs

MyRead is based on the beliefs that:


All students can be successful readers

Reading is a complex and challenging process. Yet for all but the 5-10% of students who have intellectual, sensory or learning disabilities the issue is one of underperformance rather than ability. For the majority of students reaching the middle years of school, recurrent experience of failure and negative perceptions about themselves as readers will be major obstacles to learning. For these students, performance in reading is likely to be a consequence of a well-learned self-preservation strategy of non-engagement.

Underperforming middle years readers must first be motivated to engage and re-engage with texts. Specific reading skills can only develop as an outcome of that engagement. Engagement is an interactive process. It requires teachers to have a close knowledge of students and their reading, and so be able both to provide sufficiently challenging learning experiences as well as the necessary support for those experiences to ensure successful learning. Student engagement can only occur as they recognise that they can be successful partners in this process.


All teachers are teachers of reading

Traditionally the teaching of reading was seen as the domain of the early primary teacher. Once basic, usually code breaking, skills were established, exposing students to more complex texts would be sufficient for them to meet the literacy demands of the middle years.

However, it is now recognised that early literacy is no ‘vaccination’ for future ability to handle the vastly different and complex texts of the middle years. This is especially so for students whose learning is ‘fragile', whose prior cultural and linguistic experience is not confirmed by what they encounter at school.

These students will not have encountered the numbers and types of texts with which their peers are familiar. They will not be sufficiently cognisant with the information, ideas and attitudes expressed in the texts they will encounter in the middle years of learning. These texts shape students’ cumulative understanding and mastery of the increasingly complex language on which the accessibility of the educational curriculum depends.

At the same time the middle years of school are characterised by differing and more complex literacy demands across the learning areas. The varied communication styles and expectations of teachers can make it difficult for many students to process the content and structure of information.

Different learning areas have different ways of organising information and use diverse language and linguistic structures to convey that information, eg science and history. How underperforming middle years students engage with each learning area and access the information and values expressed within them will depend on how explicit the teachers are about the literacy requirements of their particular learning area.

When literacy is taught routinely by all teachers as part of in-class practice, all students can engage with the curriculum and participate in learning.


Teachers make a difference

The increasing sociocultural and linguistic diversity of students, and society's increasing expectations and demands in literacy, provide plenty of challenges for teachers.

The complexity of reading and the dynamics of teaching ensure that there is no simple formula or package of answers. Performance at school is influenced by many factors and good teaching builds on that. When teachers take a non-deficit approach to underperformance, recognising that students have different starting points, and bring diverse resources to the classroom as well as diverse needs, they can do much to improve the learning outcomes of all students – but, especially those underperforming in literacy.

The teacher who makes a difference has knowledge of her students, is alert to the literacy demands of the curriculum, and has a repertoire of flexible practices.


Monitoring and assessment inform teaching and learning

Assessment is a cyclical process. It is part of both the planning of the teaching sequence and its evaluation. It will be informed by what is taught and it will indicate the extent to which the teaching of those understandings and skills was successful. It will then be the basis of planning for further teaching. It is an essential component of reflective teaching.

For many students the complexities of new learning and classroom dynamics are bewildering. However, when assessment is part of a planned teaching sequence whose aims are made explicit, all students, including those who are grappling with new concepts and situations, are let into the ‘big secret’ of the purpose of what is being taught. Because there is no longer a ‘hidden agenda’ focused student learning is optimised.

The interactive nature of the teaching and learning process means that as well as specifically planned assessments, student learning generally will be closely monitored. Often these will be recorded in a range of observations such as anecdotal records and checklists. As well, there are the many unrecorded judgements that inform each class every day, based on the professional understanding and experience that enable teachers to fine tune each teaching moment according to the needs of the individual students. Such monitoring strongly contributes to successful outcomes by enabling student engagement and the skills and understandings developed to reinforce each other.

Large scale formal assessment is designed to gather data on trends and provide system-level accountability. It is the in-class assessment – developed by teachers and based on what is taught to a specific student community – that is powerful in setting the directions for further teaching and enhancing learning outcomes for students.

When teachers identify specific outcomes to be assessed as part of a unit of work they are demonstrating a professional responsibility for both their students and their own teaching integrity.

Monitoring and Assessment strategies


Teachers need a repertoire of flexible practices

Responding to the diverse range of skills, knowledge and experience of students in classes is a challenge for teachers. While some students may spend time in ‘pull out’ programs, a major part of their school day is in a regular class. Teachers need to draw on their knowledge of their students and familiarity with the curriculum to provide learning experiences which will engage students and enable new learning to take place.

The demands and understandings of what it is to be a literate person have changed and become increasingly complex. At the same time publishers and the media have often promoted single method approaches as a panacea for literacy ‘problems’. Such approaches are at odds with the knowledge and experience of the informed teacher. It is the teacher who has a wide range of strategies that suit the diverse resources of their students and the demands of the curriculum who can craft learning experiences that are rich and sustainable.

This resource demonstrates how these different elements can be woven together or highlighted by the teacher who is alert to the complexities of the teaching and learning experience.

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