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The way we teach kids to read is changing — but will it work?

by News Desk
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All students in New Brunswick will be taught to read in a new way this September and a new curriculum will be rolled out in kindergarten, first and second grade English classrooms.

The state has long suffered from low literacy rates. According to the latest test results, only 59.5% of fourth grade students will meet the required reading proficiency standards in 2021-2022.

Department of Education’s new curriculum is called Building Blocks of Reading. It moves away from the approach known in the educational world as balanced literacy to a new approach known as the science of reading.

This is a change that has already been made by some educators outside the New Brunswick public school system and has already been successful.

science of reading

Rebecca Halliday has been teaching and tutoring for 13 years. She is the principal of Riverbend Her Community School in Riverview, which is a private school.

Halliday was taught a balanced approach to reading and writing while completing her teaching degree in college.

Rebecca Halliday teacher has been using scientific reading rather than balanced literacy for years and says the difference for her students is life changing. (Vanessa Branch/CBC)

Introduced in the 1990s, Balanced Literacy uses what is known as a queuing system. In this system, students are taught to look at a picture in a book, look at the first letter of a word, or think which words make sense before guessing the meaning. It may be the word.

In addition, the central idea is that students who are surrounded by books and read to them become readers.

Halliday abandoned that approach five years ago. This is because it encouraged students to “be guessers” rather than readers. She said her teaching includes teaching students “what a good reader looks like” rather than “explicitly” teaching them how to decipher language. .

“And then there are the kindergarteners who are not actually reading the book, but are turning the book upside down and acting like a good reader,” she said.

“Balanced literacy was that if you let them read enough hours and expose them to books and great literature, they will learn to read. But that is simply not true.”

Halliday has moved to a science-based education in reading.

Photo of a black classroom door that says
Rebecca Halliday’s approach to teaching students to read is based on scientific research and clear instruction to get the many tools they need to decipher and understand language every day. (Vanessa Branch/CBC)

She spends hours each day with 16 students in grades 2 to 6 on how words are made, how they sound, and how they fit together to become a reader and writer. I’m in.

Standing in front of what she calls a “reading lab,” Halliday holds up cards with various letter combinations and asks, “What does AR say?” or “This is tricky: DGE,” a chorus of children call the answer.

Julie Smith, Executive Director of Elementary Literacy, also made the switch from balanced literacy to the science of reading.

A New Brunswick charity focuses on tutoring second grade students and has completely reinvented the way they teach struggling second grade students.

Balanced literacy “left much to penetrate basically” to teach children, but the new process has “30 years of evidence on how children actually learn to read.” is based on”.

She said the change means that volunteer tutors now teach “much more precise and scripted” lessons.

Close up young woman with long brown hair
Julie Smith, executive director of Elementary Literacy, said the old approach to teaching children to read relies heavily on ‘penetration,’ while the new method is highly scripted and structured. I’m here. (elementary literacy.ca)

In addition to breaking down the various parts of words, Riverbend and Elementary Literacy have moved from so-called leveled books that encourage memorization to what are known as decipherable books.

Smith uses the example of a leveled book her niece brought home from first grade school. The character in the book was named Anastasia.

“Think of Anastasia. It’s not a very decipherable word without an inaccessible memory,” she said.

However, decodable books focus on one sound that students have already been taught, such as all words containing the letter SH.

Without these building blocks, students just memorize, and when the text becomes more complex and the pictures disappear, many struggle.

“By the fourth grade, the ability to memorize is so well developed that it’s no longer an effective strategy. We need tools to tackle language.”

Halliday added that being unable to read leads to many other problems for children in middle and high school.

“Middle school guessers learn to guess words in elementary school, so by high school they are really really angry kids and often drop out or fail to graduate,” she said.

“We weren’t born with the ability to read. It’s a very specific and direct skill that needs to be taught.”

Department says change needed

On January 20, Ministry of Education officials appeared before the Public Accounts Commission to answer questions about the new literacy curriculum.

The department’s director of learning and outcomes, Kimberly Bauer, said it’s been in the works since 2015.

“We worked stateside and teachers said they didn’t have the information they needed to respond when a child wasn’t learning to read,” she said. .

Woman sitting at table behind microphone
Kimberly Bauer, Director of Learning and Achievement for the New Brunswick Department of Education, answered a number of questions from MLA about the new literacy curriculum rolling out to all K-2 grade classrooms in September. (New Brunswick Legislature)

Since then, research has been completed and materials developed.

Bauer said the new curriculum will roll out to all schools in September, with K-2 grade teachers expected to complete their professional training in the new approach by June.

However, she said some teachers are already implementing the new approach now that the training is complete.

CBC News asked for an interview with someone in the education department, but no one was available.

Instead, spokesperson Morgan Bell sent out a statement that “a curriculum change was necessary because some children were not properly deciphering and understanding the text.”

On Tuesday, in Part 2 of this series, students who struggled with literacy in public schools share their stories, and educators share early results from schools piloting new curricula. It also explains why not everyone is convinced that this new method of teaching students to read will solve the problems of the New Brunswick education system.

Information Morning – Moncton13:06science of reading

The way children in New Brunswick are taught to read is changing, and there is great promise for changing literacy outcomes, as reported by CBC’s Vanessa Blanch.

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