Meeting the need – An enhanced approach to early literacy

Issue: Volume 100, Number 2

Posted: 25 February 2021
Reference #: 1HAHHr

Changes to support early literacy means a literacy approach that offers structured resources for learners in their first few years of schooling.

Early literacy

The findings from national and international research in recent years have raised some concerns around literacy progress and achievement for learners in New Zealand.

Studies including the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS, 2016), Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA 2018), and the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA 2019) indicated a need to look closely at how we are approaching literacy learning.

In response, the Ministry is enhancing its support for early literacy to better meet the needs of all learners.

Supporting early literacy

Beginning this term, teachers and literacy specialists have a greater range of interventions and support for early literacy learning.

Schools will receive Ready to Read Phonics Plus texts, the enhanced Ready to Read instructional series, which has new texts focused on a systematic approach to teaching reading.

The texts will be supported by funded professional support through the University of Canterbury in the Better Start Literacy Approach: Te Ara Reo Matatini (BSLA). The BSLA includes the integration of explicit and evidence-based class instruction in phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, reading, writing, listening comprehension and oral narrative.

 The Reading Recovery programme is being enhanced and is now called Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Support. In addition to one-on-one support for learners needing intensive support, Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Support teachers will also provide small group support and whole-school literacy guidance.

Informed by research and practice

The enhanced support has a strong foundation of research, including Massey University’s Early Literacy Research Project, which involved a two-cohort longitudinal study.

Through a series of training workshops and associated materials, teachers were assisted to identify and respond to the specific literacy needs of children. The workshops provided teachers with the knowledge and skills to adopt explicit and systematic word-level decoding teaching strategies in their literacy instruction.

Researchers at the University of Canterbury Child Well-Being Research Institute and School of Teacher Education have led the development of the BSLA. The initial research and trials in Canterbury (2015-18) were funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as part of the ‘A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea’ National Science Challenge.

The successful pilot trials were extended in Christchurch and Auckland schools following investment by the Ministry of Education through an Innovative Foundational Learning contract (2019-20).

The results from the successful trials received positive international attention and have been published in leading journals which are freely available via open access. In the trials, teachers reported rapid improvements in aspects of learners’ oral, writing and reading skills and there has been enthusiastic support from teachers, school leaders and whānau about the positive impact of BSLA.

A recent evaluation of Reading Recovery has also helped shape the enhanced supports. Chief among the suggestions of the evaluation report was to extend the reach of the programme by increasing the allocation according to need, adapting delivery to include small groups, and broadening the eligibility criteria.

Another suggestion was to integrate Reading Recovery with other literacy supports and establish processes to continuously monitor, evaluate and improve.

Professional support

Professional support delivered through the University of Canterbury and funded by the Ministry will be the key focus of the enhanced supports.

Support is being targeted at new entrant and Year 1 teachers alongside literacy specialists, equipping them with the know-how to then coach and support their colleagues with integrating the components of ELA into their teaching and learning programmes.

The first cohort is focused on literacy specialists who can build expertise across the education system. Professional support will be delivered to cohorts during 2021 and 2022.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:27 AM, 25 February 2021

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