It is not difficult to make the case that reading is one of the crowning achievements of the human race. Nor that its use transformed and continues to transform the world in which we live. You would think therefore that we would by now have mastered the means to teach this fundamental skill; the bedrock of much of what we subsequently learn.
Curiously, this is not always the case. Some government strategies, such as the one controversially pushed by the UK Government, place an emphasis on phonetics which present a clear danger that children will simply end up ‘barking at print’. In other words, that they will be able to correctly decode and reproduce the correct sounds of words but possibly without the far more important necessity – comprehension.
Most parents of course, want their children to be able to pronounce words properly. But they would surely place the comprehension of the written word some way above this in the hierarchy of reading skills.
There is evidence from Australia that strategies which place comprehension at the top of their value chain produce better readers by far than any other method. As an added bonus, early attainment in comprehension skills acts as a springboard to the rapid understanding of more complicated written texts.
In the Australian system which you can read about by clicking the link below, the six key elements to comprehension-centred teaching approaches are:
- Prediction and prior knowledge
- Thinking aloud
- Text structure
- Visual representations
These are all really strategies for comprehension. In execution, the teacher explains each strategy before working with pupils to apply it.