27 SES 03 B, Beginning Literacy : Reading and Writing
Reading comprehension is an essential component of functional literacy. Some decades ago literacy comprehension was thought to develop as a natural result of reading, that is decoding and understanding of included vocabulary. Now comprehension is understood as a complex process involving knowledge, experience, thinking, and teaching (Fielding, & Pearson, 1994). The RAND report defines reading comprehension as a process of simultaneously deriving and constructing meaning through involvement in a text, based on three elements: the reader, the text, and the purpose of reading. The reader brings cognitive and social skills to the process, as well as the purpose (RAND, 2000). According to the National Reading Panel (2000) there are three dominant themes to focus on: vocabulary development and instruction; use of interactive strategies and the role of the teacher According to Zimmermann and Hutchins (2003) good readers use seven common sense strategies to create meaning. While reading they 1) Create mental images to become emotionally involved in the text by using visual, auditory and other relevant sensory images. 2) Use relevant background knowledge to enhance understanding. 3) Ask questions to clarify, make predictions and focus attention on what is of importance. 4) Make inferences by using prior knowledge and information from the text to make predictions or draw conclusions. 5) Determine the most important ideas of the text to distinguish between important and unimportant matters. 6) Synthesize information as it evolves in the text to gain the overall meaning. 7) Use problem-solving strategies to be aware of when they understand and when they don´t.
As confirmed above comprehension needs to be taught but the methods used depend on the pupils involved, in the case of this paper students taking their first step in the formal reading instruction. According to recommendations from The Institute of Education Sciences (IES, 2010) literacy comprehension in the first grades of primary schools should include the main following themes: 1) Variety of strategies to help students to understand and retain what they read. 2) Help pupils to recognise text structure. 3) Discuss and explore ideas in the text among other thing by using modelling for how to think about text. 4) Choose text that supports the goal of improving reading comprehension. 5) Motivating pupils in constructing meaning while reading.
In recent years many compulsory schools in Iceland have implemented a literacy approach, called Beginning Literacy (BL) (Eggertsdóttir, 2009). The approach is based on an interactive reading model that assumes reading as a social and collaborating process (Vacca, Vacca, Gove, Burkey, Lenhart and McKeon, 2009). BL is aimed at pupils in the first and second grade of the primary school. In BL instruction the components of literacy are braided together, in a specific cycle, each cycle lasting one week.
A research project is now underway to identify how the schools implement the method. One of the aims of the project is to analyse the BL literacy programme and the literacy teaching and learning that takes place within it. In this paper the focus is on literacy comprehension and how it is addressed in the BL method in order to seek an answer to the following research question: How is reading comprehension improved in first and second grade in selected primary schools using the method Beginning literacy?
Eggertsdóttir, R. (2009). Beginning Literacy – An interactive approach. In B. Culligan (Ed.) The changing landscapes of literacy: Building best practice, (pp 279–293). Dublin: Reading Association of Ireland. Fielding, L and Pearson, P. D. (1994). Reading comprehension: What works. Educational Leadership 51, 5, 62-67. Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Improving reading comprehension in kindergarten through 3rd grade. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. National Reading Panel (NRP).(2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Washington, CD: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. RAND, Reading Study Group. (2002). Reading for understanding. Washington, DC: RAND Education. Serafini, F. (2012). Rethinking reading comprehension. In E. Williams (Ed.). Critical issues in literacy pedagogi (p.198-202). San Diego: University readers. Vacca, J. A. L., Vacca, R. T., Gove, M. K., Burkey, L. C., Lenhart, L. A. and McKeon, C. A. (2009). Reading and learning to read. (7th edition). Boston MA: Pearson. Zimmermann, S. and Hutchins, C. (2003).7 keys to Comprehension. New York: Three Rivers Press.
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