We have been working long term in a number of South Australian schools, showing leaders and teachers how the purposeful and effective teaching of literacy combined with access to 'high success' texts (that are already in every school library) can greatly improve outcomes for students. Teachers are amazed how changes in their teaching approach can so enthuse their students, affect results, and so improve their their own satisfaction as teachers. A common cry from teachers we work with is, 'I wish we had learned all these things 20 years ago.'
With knowledge of the research, and ways to powerfully apply that research, change is lasting and effective.
What is the research?
Richard Allington and Rachael Gabriel outline six elements for every child, that should be occurring for them every day. These can be implemented in any school without any additional funds.
We will outline each of the six elements in coming blogs and how we have applied them in schools.
Six Elements for Every Child
1 Every child reads something he or she chooses
Texts need to be readily available and students need to become powerful selectors of what they read.
"The experience of choosing in itself boosts motivation. In addition, offering choice makes it more likely that every reader will be matched to a text that he or she can read well. If students initially have trouble choosing texts that match their ability level and interest, teachers can provide limited choices to guide them toward successful reading experiences. By giving students these opportunities, we help them develop the ability to choose appropriate texts for themselves—a skill that dramatically increases the likelihood they will read outside school (Ivey & Broaddus, 2001, Reis et al., 2007)."
Research has in fact demonstrated that access to self-selected texts improves students' reading performance (Krashen, 2011), whereas no evidence indicates that workbooks, photocopies, or computer tutorial programs have ever done so (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998; Dynarski, 2007).
Application in schools
We have supported schools in setting up classroom libraries, where students have input in selecting the texts. The texts can come from the existing library, book sales, internet, homes, simply wherever they can be found. They can be in the form of books, comics, big books, magazines, poems or songs printed on cards etc. Students help to categorise the texts into groupings (e.g. baskets) that are of interest to their class. 'Paul Jennings', 'Scary Stories', 'Humour' are some category examples. The chosen texts become a part of the literacy culture of that classroom. Students can share their successful experiences with those texts and other students can easily access those texts to have the same successful experiences.
We will expand on the other 5 elements in future blogs.