Connecting the Science of Reading with the Art of Implementation
Updated: 2 days ago
Curiosity built around the Science of Reading? Check.
How this works in the real world of the classroom? (chirping crickets)
Although 2020 will be remembered for the few most obvious events, I will remember it as the year that drew teachers to the science of reading in droves. Granted, this curiosity was bourgeoning before 2020, but when the lockdown happened, teachers and administrators had the time and freedom to do their own research & to step around the status quo.
Drawing is from my son! Petrie, J. L. (2021). [drawing]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/groups/256714862221038
As an experienced tutor for children with (often profound) dyslexia, I am confident about how to implement the science in a one-to-one setting. It truly is an art, and it never ceases to amaze me that there is so much to learn. Implementation into the general classroom, however, is a whole other kettle of fish.
Although the “Science of Reading” (what we have gleaned from the scientific method used by a variety of disciplines about how we learn to read) has been around for decades, the “Science of Implementation” (how we implement this information effectively and efficiently) has not had as much traction.
Technically, the “science of implementation” includes not only the study of research into practice via informed educators, but also the capacity building, decision making, and policy creation required on many levels (schools, school boards/divisions, ministries, etc.) to "identify, allocate, and effectively utilize them time and space needed to actually implement the programs or systems as intended" (Wilson & Duda, 2018, p. 7).
For an outstanding overview of the science behind implementation, listen to this Amplify podcast (S6 E3): Focused implementation: Doing less to do more with Dr. Doug Reeves:
Even just the first 10 minutes will help you understand the critical nature of what science tells us is necessary for lasting and meaningful change. The most enlightening part of this podcast for me was the focus on "DE-implementation", and how we need to be very specific about what initiatives we are NOT doing any more before providing the big plan for what we are now doing.
Some quotes from Doug Reeves (from the Amplify Podcast):
“When was the last time in education, anybody heard of de-implementation? All we do is pile one thing on top of another, on top of another, and then we don't then, then we wonder why it didn't work.” —Doug Reeves
“If you're not gonna have deep implementation, which requires a level of focus and allocation of time and resources, then don't bother.” —Doug Reeves
However, while waiting for implementation science to secure systemic and longterm change, many teachers are overwhelmed with the knowledge they have been gaining this year, and are struggling to understand how reading instruction should now look in their classroom. While training is critical (see Step Two: Training on this LetsGetReadingRight.com website to get started), here are some ideas for implementing what you are learning:
1) View this Ontario IDA webinar about Structured Literacy in Kindergarten presented by Kate Winn. There is some impressive data here. Even if teaching an older grade, this is where an effective program begins:
2) View this recording of the webinar that I presented with the Ontario International Dyslexia Association about Structured Literacy in Grade One:
*starts at min. 2:00
3) Make a Copy of my Primary Code Pack and add, change, or delete as needed.
4) View the Scope and Sequence that matches the Primary Code Pack above, and view an example of a 90-minute Daily Literacy Block Schedule. Again, even if you are teaching an older grade, this is still where effective literacy instruction begins.
Remember that much of our language, reading, and writing instruction can be taught within our social studies and science curricula. See Natalie Wexler's "The Knowledge Gap" for more about this.
Here are a few details that go along with the Grade One Daily Schedule document above. It would be best to follow an actual program that the school district has vetted so that everyone is on the same page, however in the absence of this, here is (just one example) how I would get started:
1. Meet and Greet. As reading, spelling, and writing depend on children’s overall oral language proficiency and warm and engaging relationships (to reduce stress for the brain to be open to learning), the first thing I would do is greet the children warmly, check in with students personally (if even with a warm look or welcome), sing a song or two, and have them do an "oracy" activity in pairs. I would explore discussion prompts that would support their speaking and listening skills, social skills (not interrupting!), and critical and creative thinking. My discussion prompts may also be connected to what we have been learning in science or social studies. See Structured Literacy in Grade One webinar above for details.
2. Large Group Activity. As systematic and explicit phonics instruction is a core strategy that will kickstart a lifetime of reading success for all, I would use a clear scope and sequence and introduce one new spelling pattern at a time. The following Purple Page provides details for many of the spelling rules and patterns.
But within this document, I have created a simple scope and sequence that roughly matches the free Journeys decodable readers (which are free online):
The webinar above outlines a daily schedule in more detail, but here is a synopsis:
After reviewing the sounds/letters that have been previously taught (see "grade one daily schedule/slides above for details), I would introduce a new pattern (or reinforce a previously learned pattern that needs review) to the WHOLE GROUP.
Let's use "ar" as an example:
Say several words and guess the "sound of the day" (e.g., star, cart, march);
Trace the spelling pattern 3x (on a white board, blackboard that has red electrical tape for the top and bottom lines) (e.g., trace the letters and say "a" "r"; trace the letters again and say "car"; trace the letters again and say /ar/);
Build some words with magnetic letters on the board, or use popsicle sticks with letters at the top so each child can build their own words (e.g., car, far, bark, chart, shark) ("ar" would go on one stick). And then, “change (car) to (tar)” etc…
Tap the sounds in about 5-8 words using blocks/buttons/cubes (with red for the vowel pattern) or on their fingers (e.g., /t/ar/, /sh/ar/k, /b/ar/k);
Tap again, but this time say the letter NAMES that match the sounds;
Print the word and say the letter names as they print; (see webinar above for details about what all of this looks like).
Students go back to their seats. Dictate 3-5 sentences for them to print (using /ar/words, plus only previously learned patterns).
Have them work with peers to edit these sentences.
Another large group activity would be "Interactive Writing" (which is a specific instructional technique that has been highly studied with good results). It is my understanding that this is a very effective use of time. A student's writing is a window into their phonemic awareness, phonics, and language comprehension soul!
3. GROW Centres: While working with small groups (e.g., doing phonemic awareness activities, sound-spelling activities, reading, and assessments, etc.), the rest of the students would go to GROW centres (Game; Read (with partner, with other adults or older students, or listen to audiobook; Or Write (about topic from morning discussion) TO REINFORCE and PRACTICE reading/spelling patterns that they have already learned.
Games would be the SAME GAMES every week - just using different spelling patterns. No need to explain instructions, no chaos. Fun! Everyone knows what to do. Engaging games get them reading LOTS of words that contain the new pattern they are learning, along with previously taught patterns. Different students would be working on different spelling patterns.
Mondays: Board Games
Tuesdays: BINGO Games
Wednesdays: BOOM Games
Thursdays: Roll & Read Games
Fridays: Card Games
Videos to explain all of this are available HERE: https://www.soundreaders.ca/training
And all of the games for cvc words can be purchased ready-made at SoundReaders.com.
After playing a game, students could then read books to each other and/or listen to audiobooks using audio from Epic! They could also write about the morning discussion topic. And most importantly, they need lots of practice reading these words in text, so utilize any and all adults to help you (including older students). Be sure to show them how to help and what to say when students get stuck on words.
4. Reading Aloud. Again, as oral language is so critical to later reading and scholastic achievement, I would read aloud beautiful, stimulating, content-rich, high-quality children's literature to round off the morning (and afternoon!). I would nurture children's critical and creative thinking skills by asking questions like "What do you see?"; "What do you think?"; "Why do you think...?"; "Who do you think...?"; "What are you curious about?". I would make comments like, "I wonder if..." and "I wonder why...?". I would follow their lead, explain new words, and nurture a stimulating discussion - paying close attention to the children who require extra time and attention to express what they know.
Penfold, A. (2018). [Digital Image] Retrieved from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36959643-all-are-welcome
In the end, students need lots and lots and lots of practice writing and reading real text that reinforces the spelling patterns they are learning (plus previously taught patterns). So much of what they are learning in their literacy block can also be reinforced in their science and social studies and math blocks. The Knowledge Gap (Natalie Wexler) is a MUST READ to understand how building knowledge is the key to later reading achievement.
In grade one, it is also critical to gather as many parents, older students, and other volunteers as possible to listen to students read and practice sounding out unknown words using the spelling pattern knowledge they have been taught. Between this, a focus on comprehension and fluency, writing, and listening to (and responding to) good quality children's literature (including literature that builds knowledge), I think it lays a solid foundation for access to, curiosity about, and motivation to pursue a lifetime of content knowledge.
And as the old adage goes - knowledge brings pleasure. :)
Eccles, M.P., Mittman, B.S. Welcome to Implementation Science . Implementation Sci1, 1 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1186/1748-5908-1-1
Wilson, B.A., & Duda, M.A. (2018). Theme editors’ introduction: The art and science of implementation. Perspectives on Language and Literacy, 44(4), 7-9.
Science of Reading: The Podcast (2022). S6 E3: Focused Implementation: Doing less to do more with Dr. Doug Reeves. Retrieved from https://www.buzzsprout.com/612361/11416051