Sandra Janzen and Theresa Hyrich explain grouping techniques (Photo by Allison Aitken)
A dedicated group of educators attended RCGW’s latest Pizza & PD session, “Current Trends in Literacy Assessment and Instruction,” presented by Reading Clinicians Theresa Hyrich and Sandra Janzen on Thursday, Feb. 6 at MTS McMaster House.
We began by discussing Regie Routman’s activity “Examining Beliefs about Reading,” found in Read, Write, Lead (ASCD, 2014). Hyrich and Janzen noted that determining a common framework for reading assessment and instruction begins by exploring what we believe about reading. They encouraged us to note how our thinking evolves over time and how such collaborative exercises promote collective teacher efficacy, a major determinant of student achievement according to Drs. Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie in Visible Learning for Literacy (Corwin, 2016).
Grounding their session in reading research, Hyrich and Janzen highlighted the Five Pillars of Reading identified by the National Reading Panel: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Strategy teaching in any one of these areas must be systematic (i.e. planned, logically progressive, and sequential) and explicit (i.e. clear, effectively modeled, and capturing students’ attention), even at the middle- and high-school level. According to Visible Learning for Literacy, teachers should work on these important surface-level skills in order to take learning deeper and to promote skill transfer.
We also received a taste of many activities that help students crack the reading code. For instance, Hyrich and Janzen recommended Sharon Zinke’s Rime Magic (Scholastic, 2017), an intervention tool that builds students’ word-recognition skills by using onset and rime to help them look into the middle of the word. Dr. David Kilpatrick’s Equipped for Reading Success (Casey & Kirsch, 2016) was also recommended as a must-have resource for developing students’ phonological awareness skills. Teachers could use Kilpatrick’s Phonological Awareness Screening Test, available for free online, to assess a student and could incorporate his one-minute follow-up activities into daily routines.
A crash-course review of the Fountas & Pinnell’s Benchmark Assessment System, 3rd Edition (Heinemann, 2016), highlighted the Comprehension Conversation scoring rubric, which differs from the expectations found in previous editions. Using observational and formative data from such assessments can help teachers form guided-reading or strategy groups based on students’ needs. Hyrich and Janzen reminded us that teachers often need a few reading assessments to discover the full range of a student’s instructional reading level. A helpful tip was to also consider students’ spelling stages from Words Their Way (Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton & Johnston; Pearson, 2019) when designing and refining reading groups.
The two-hour session flew by, and we left with many ideas to take back to our classrooms. Other highlights were the many contributions from the enthusiastic audience, which included classroom teachers, resource teachers, clinicians, and school leaders from K-8. RCGW also received a number of topic suggestions for future Pizza & PD, such as a closer look at phonological awareness and basic literacy skills.
RCGW extends special thanks to The Manitoba Teachers’ Society for providing the meeting space and to the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Awards for providing each participant with a free book.
Annual General Meeting: Tuesday, June 9, 2020 at 4:30 PM on Zoom.
All other RCGW events are postponed at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We welcome book reviews, articles about teaching strategies, and other submissions. Please contact the Editor.