How HighScope Teaches Reading in Kindergarten Through Third Grade
No educational achievement is of greater concern to parents, children, and the general public than a child's learning to read and write. Literacy is the key that opens the doors to further study, academic success, choices in the job market, and the personal fulfillment that comes from reading for information and for pleasure. Some elements of literacy development require instruction in specific concepts and skills, such as phonemes, letter-sound correspondences and spelling patterns, and letter formation. Other aspects of literacy development are acquired through innumerable repetitions of the literacy acts themselves-reading literature in a variety of genres and styles, reading for information and enjoyment, writing to convey information or as an act of creative expression, and carrying on a communicative dialogue with others.
The importance of reading and writing in grades K-3
The literacy strategies employed in the High/Scope K-3 approach and described in this paper are based on the most recent research findings and the practical experiences of High/Scope teachers. These strategies are part of the High/Scope teaching and learning framework-a comprehensive approach to all aspects of curriculum, instruction, assessment, classroom management, staff development, supervision, and program operation that has a substantial history of success with diverse populations of students and teachers in the U.S. and abroad.
While approaches to elementary education vary in style and emphasis, most effective models subscribe to similar principles of reading and writing instruction. Most are successful, to some degree, in helping the majority of children learn to read. Many children, however, fall through the cracks and perform below other children their age in reading and writing. These children often (though not necessarily always) come from family backgrounds that did not provide them-as infants, toddlers, or preschoolers-with the kinds of early language and literacy experiences that many of their more reading-advantaged peers benefited from (see other position papers).
These "at-risk" children usually begin elementary school without thousands of hours of storybooks read to them, without extensive experience with the printed word, without the range and depth of oral English language experience their more advantaged peers have had. If these same children have grown up in homes where English is the second language, they may have missed hearing many of the sounds of English in their early years. These at-risk children are not and will not be ready to effectively benefit from even well-developed elementary-level reading instruction until they progress through the pre-reading, emergent-reading, and developing-reading levels on their way toward fluency. Effective reading instruction for these children must meet them where they are and guide them through the early literacy levels to construct adequate foundations for subsequent learning. Engaging these children in reading experiences appropriate to their current levels of literacy is the best approach to closing the gap between their skills and those of their more reading-advantaged peers.
For the early elementary students with the lowest performance this means going back to strategies outlined in the infant-toddler and preschool position papers-back to experiencing word sounds, hearing stories, exploring picture books, and developing book and print knowledge with simple texts (geared to the interests of older children). Teachers must find the reading level that works for each child and build from there. Even in second or third grade and beyond, effective reading instruction must start at the child's current reading level, building from the top of that level toward the next.
Although not seen as a compensatory model, the High/Scope approach has proven effective with "at-risk" pupil populations as well as with the general population. It is not a magic remedy that overcomes serious deficiencies in a few teacher-proof lessons; in fact, no instructional method can guarantee quick or simple success for all students. However, High/Scope is a tried, tested, and complete method that teachers and schools can use effectively to help all children, including those at risk, learn to enjoy, value, and benefit from schooling. The High/Scope method can and does teach students to read, write, and in general, become productive and well-adjusted citizens.
Reprinted with the permission of the HighScope Educational Research Foundation. © 2007 All rights reserved.
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