Teachers talking about using decodable texts in the classroom

Year 1 teachers from Cronulla Public School talk about how they use decodable texts in their classrooms during guided reading sessions and for independent practice of the strategies that students are being taught [Duration: 16:03].

Decodable texts in the classroom

Transcript

Shannan Salvestro

Hi, I'm Shannan Salvestro, Literacy Coordinator part of the literacy and numeracy team for the New South Wales Department of Education.

I'm here at Cronulla Public School, having a chat to some stage one teachers. I've got Laura Evans, Laura Barter and Jess Kovacs and relieving assistant principal Amy Page, They've been lovely enough to let me come along and have a talk about what they're doing, to include phonics instruction with students and the way they're using decodable texts. Thank you so much for letting me come along and have a chat to you. Great. So first of all, I know that you recently came along to the effective reading in the early years of school professional learning, so I'd love to hear about how things are going since then. How has that changed what you're doing in the classroom?

Laura Barter

I think it's definitely changed the way I do my practice and it's just a lot more, going with that rapid recall. And so the phonics program's a lot faster and the kids are really engaged because it's really like, energetic and they're really motivated to get into the practice, which I think is a big change, since starting that program.

Laura Evans

Yeah. And I agree. I feel that when, with the fast pace, there's no time for lagging, so they are all engaged, they're all really excited to learn what's around the corner and it's really short and sharp explicit teaching and a lot of revision as well at the beginning. So they can actually find the success on the learnt sounds that they've already explored and looked at in detail. So yeah, it's, it's a large change from what we used to do.

Shannan Salvestro

What have you noticed, has been the impact of, of that teaching with students?

Jess Kovacs

Well even the other day and again today, which is awesome, one of my lower students who's just even when in the before phonics instruction just wasn't remembering the sounds, but since we've introduced the repetition the fast, recall, I've noticed that in his writing. So, I can see the diagraphs and the blends in his writing now, which has just been such a huge success because he's felt confident, had the confidence to put it into his writing and he's reading. Even today we were spelling 'with' and before this new phonics instruction, he would not have known that t h makes /th/. But today when we were just prompting, prompting /th/, remember the decodable texts that we used and remember the /th/ sound and he just said to me, oh, t h and was able to write it down. So yeah, the students are feeling really confident, and feeling success with the new phonics instruction and really engaged as well.

Amy Page

I have to say as well, even I get the pleasure of going into all of their classrooms just to see how everything's going. I've watched all of them do, a few phonics, new phonics lessons now and the kids like they're excited for phonics now, which is really good. So they're so engaged and it's because it's fast paced, it's active, you know, it's happening all at the same time really quickly. They really loving it. Yeah.

Shannan Salvestro

Awesome. So Laura, I heard you mention decodable texts. So tell me about using decodables. Why the decision to use some decodables?

Laura Barter

Just because particularly with those lower students that weren't, recognising the learnt sounds, it's really helped them in their reading as well as in their writing as well because the sounds are repeated and, if they are struggling with the sound, the decodable readers, they get that feeling of success because once they learned that sound it helps them then read the rest of the story or the text and then make those words as well. So they're really using what they're reading and what they're reading and into their writing and applying it that way as well.

Laura Evans

Yeah, and I find that with, the decodable readers as well, it's not just at the beginning, so the blend, or even the initial sound won't be at the initial start of the word. It might be in the beginning, the middle, and then the end. So they've actually got to, look for those sounds that they do recognise and understand. And they can, they can find it, in a word, and blend through those sounds instead of just having to sit there and not even sure how to attack the word. So I feel that when we're using them in like in the classroom as well, it's helping the kids know how to apply those reading strategies and stretching through a word so they don't get to just a word that they're not sure of they will give it a go because they know that it's like, it's almost like a safe environment in the book. I guess it's kind of, you know, it's very familiar for them because it's the, that'd be the sound of actually lining for that week or that time in particular.

Jess Kovacs

And also with the, new phonics instruction that we do, like we did the model blend, they're seeing how we blend the words as a whole class and your model it, and then they can apply it to the decodable texts. So they're not just guessing because they are decodable words so they can really implement.

Shannan Salvestro

So they've had that explicit instruction first.

Jess Kovacs

And then they can put it into practice. And they get the success because it is decodable and it is explicit to the sound that we've been taught. So they get really excited when they go and make that connection between what we're doing. So it's not, oh, they're just, they're doing this for a reason. Like it actually helps us.

Laura Barter

You can, you can hear it when they're discussing, even in their groups, when they're talking about they're doing word work. 'Oh I remember it was in this word that we learned' and even mentioning the name of the book. 'Oh, it was in the book, so and so'. And they're just, yeah, they really find them engaging.

Amy Page

It's nice for them to have that practice. So it's all well and good to look at sounds in isolation. But having the decodable straightaway consolidates the sound, but it also gives them that point to have a look at it in a book. And they get that success of yeah I can read and they can use those sounds that they've been recalling really fast, in those modelled lessons, but then I get to do it in a real life situation and have that success.

Jess Kovacs

And it links to the like the learning intention. Like we always have the start of our model lesson. Like the intention is to recognize and identify this sound. So then when they go to this, you know, the text as well, that's part of their goal and they can see that they've achieved.

Shannan Salvestro

So Jess, when they go to the text, how do you do, do you do that in a guided reading, scenario or independent reading, bit of both? Talk about that.

Jess Kovacs

I've been doing a bit of both, so I have used like a guided, especially for my kids that their goal at the moment is to blend. So I use that and in that guided instruction and then as like a follow up activity, they can look for those, the sound that we've been working on. And they do that independently and look for those words and blend those and use the magnetic letters to make those words.

Laura Evans

Yeah, that's what I think magnetic letters had been a really big change from what we had previously done. So, I know that I had used a few lessons with magnetic letters and, but now with the decodable readers, they're always on hand for the kids. So they, they know that their follow up activity from the guided reading group is they're going to do the word work with those magnetic letters. They need to go and identify the words with that sound in the middle or in the beginning in the word and they're going to actually make them and blend them themselves. So we always explicitly model how we're blending them on the board, in like a short and sharp lesson, and then they can go and have a turn for themselves and actually identify the sounds that will make that digraph or blend.

Shannan Salvestro

So Amy, this might be one for you. So as a school, it sounds like, decodable readers are being used across the school, sounds like across stage one. What, how have you built up those resources, to get them into the school?

Amy Page

Yeah, so I suppose after we went to the effective reading course and we were given that funding to be able to come back and purchase resources and I mean, we came back straight away and we were so excited to, to buy the readers and to get kids using them. And you know, they are so engaging and they're colourful and the illustrations are lovely, so we bought them straight away. We didn't wait for our funding to come through. We sort of jumped on board and we did a bit of research I suppose, about the different readers that we could purchase. And we had the chance to have a look at some different readers at the conference as well.

Shannan Salvestro

So it sounds like they've really, those, readers have really complimented, the program that you've put together so that that's a program that you're following. Did you develop that yourself as a, as a school? Was that something you worked on together?

Amy Page

Yeah, it's something that's sort of evolved over time. So after we went to the conference, I mean we knew we needed to make some changes with our phonics instruction, but being able attend the conference and we've done our own sort of research around how phonics instruction works best. We've sped up the introduction of the sounds. So we didn't start that at the beginning of the year. We've only really started it probably since this term I suppose with the, the focus next year to be introduction with those sounds in that fast, faster manner. But we developed that, we used the research. We didn't just, you know, make up our own sort of scope and sequence we used the research and then we've also made sure that now that the decodable readers match that introduction of sounds so that when we're introducing it with our scope and sequence are readers are then consolidating that knowledge.

Shannan Salvestro

But a fairly easy process though to....

Amy Page

So easy, I mean it was given really wasn't it?

Shannan Salvestro

So there wasn't any, you didn't ever, you didn't feel the need to have to go and purchase, a bought program or, anything like that?

Amy Page

We don't buy any programs, we sort of think that we can, we need to make it context specific. So we're happy to go and do our own research, look at what works already. If we have a look at programs, that's fine. There's nothing wrong with looking at them, but we make it work for our school.

Shannan Salvestro

Great, so tell me what the kids think about decodable readers, what's their reactions?

Laura Barter

My kids love it. They're just so excited because it is achievable for them and there's always that success. So they know that, you know, yeah, they can achieve something from it, which is really good. And they love finding the sounds like they love and being able to apply it and seeing all the different ways like a sound is like even the 'ee' and the 'ea', they just were like, oh my goodness. Like they made that connection and it was just really engaging and to make like phonics it's fun for them, which is, you know, a really great success.

Laura Evans

And yeah, like I said before, they looked forward to it. And another thing is that when they're reading, it's more challenging for them when they actually have to, like they have to use their phonic knowledge so that they can see that 'ee' also sounds like an 'ea' that blend

Amy Page

You had that conversation in class the other day didn't you?

Laura Evans

Yeah. So yeah, exactly right. We were focusing on the 'ee' sound, but then they also picked up on and now having like a self, like a little recognition kind of like

Laura Barter

Same with the 'r' controlled vowels words, 'ir', 'er', 'ur', lots of students knew that 'er', because we had practiced it, in phonics instruction, then modelled and explicit teaching, knew that, that /er/ was 'er' obviously. But then when we choose a decodable reader with also 'ir' and 'ur' it was like, oh wow, wow. It can be made three ways.

Jess Kovacs

And also because it's, it comes up so often in the book, like it really it's that repetition again, it really sinks in and like I didn't expect them to pick it up, but I had a group with controlled 'r' and they picked it up really quickly and cause I've thought, you know, sometimes they just forgets but then by the end of the store they still going, oh, there's /ir/ and /ur/, and all those different ways. So they really,

Laura Barter

They love it. It's kind of like I spy [inaudible] It makes it fun. They really look forward to posts, after the guided reading doing the post reading activity or the word work activity. Yeah. It's enjoyable for them

Yeah. And they come out of it feeling like they've achieved something. So, and that's the purpose. They know their purpose and it's explicit for them. And we always let them know that the purpose of these texts that we're reading today is to identify this sound. So they always know that it's to blend and to identify those sounds and yeah. Now I just..

Jess Kovacs

I love them. The repetitions. Great. Even for the higher readers, they get that consolidation as well because they can be unsure. You've learned, you've learned a sound last term, bring it back and they, and you can see it

Laura Evans

And they're not bland stories either. They're exciting. They're interesting. They're very visually appealing. It's a bonus.

Shannan Salvestro

Great, so, are decodable readers, the only readers that you will use with students?

Laura Evans

Definitely not, no. We have a wide range to choose from here, so we're really lucky, but yeah, we just, we use the decodables when that's our learning intention.

Shannan Salvestro

So what would be your advice to other teachers when choosing to use decodable texts with students?

Jess Kovacs

I think embrace it. Like don't be scared by it. Like I think it's a really, the first one I heard about it, I was excited, something new and then when I got into it I was like, oh no, this is a really great resource. And I think it's, you know, something that, yeah, just give it a go and embrace and from our experiences, the kids have really done it. It's just been a real success. So I think, you know, go for it. And really I think if you've got that explicit learning intention, then yeah,

Laura Evans

And I also feel that the kids have also, you know, the first weeks of using them, my kids just like they're faces lit up because you know, you've got so many different learners in your classroom and such a wide range of differentiation too. And so when you actually can target and you can see the kids learning and having that I can do this moment, it's amazing to see the ones that you know need that explicit really, really heavily, foundation And then the ones that are just, you know, exploring kind of themselves. It's great to see success in all areas.

Laura Barter

Yeah. I'd say don't feel that the repetition in the, in the text is going to be boring because it has not been boring, you know, looking at it honestly, I was like, oh, they're going to get over this. But they have not got over it because as they read the text, they become more confident. They feel better about it and they are engaging, they are really engaged in like we've all said, we've seen just from using the decodable readers this term, the effects of it in their writing and their confidence and decoding skills.

Laura Evans

Especially in the word work afterwards. So like the response to the text, having a look, playing around with those sounds in the words and substituting different sounds to make new words using that, you know, identified learning intention of that one sound or blend, it's been, yeah, you can see it from their reading, from their writing and it's just amazing.

Jess Kovacs

Unlike those other readers that we've been using, like they can pick up on the sounds there and I go, oh, remember when we did that in those decodable texts? So it's been really good. So embrace it.

Shannan Salvestro

So any final comments?

Amy Page

Just give them a go, you can't do any harm by using them. I suppose my advice would be why wouldn't you try using decodables in the classroom?

Shannan Salvestro

So thank you so much for having a chat with me this afternoon. I'm sure your comments will be invaluable to other schools and teachers listening out there who, might pick up on some of that advice and inspiration. Thank you very much. Thank you.

For teachers in New South Wales. If you would like to learn more about using decodable texts as part of explicit and systematic phonics instruction, you can complete our Effective Reading: Phonics online modules, which you will find details on via the literacy and numeracy website. Follow the link in the podcast notes. Bye for now.

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