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Empowering all learners through an Inclusive Reading Curriculum (IRC) Part Two!

From Sensory Engagement to Literacy Learning (Including Sight Words, and Phonics!)

Welcome back! As promised, here is part two of my discussion about the teaching of reading, with a special focus on supporting all learners to be part of an Inclusive Reading Curriculum (Moseley 2023). Over the past few weeks, I've had the privilege of working closely with schools and presenting my new online training sessions. These have been well received with a deeper dive into assessment of reading (ways in for all learners including those who are minimally verbal), the role of interventions and importance of designing a curriculum where reducing barriers to learning is built in from the start.

This blog moves onto my second tip and a question I am often asked about interventions and support around sight word learning techniques.

Tip #2 Teach the Reading Rope - What's the Role of the Word Recognition Strand?

If you have read my book or attended my training you be familiar with the image below. I advocate that structured literacy teaching must be built on a strong foundation, that is revisited each time we learn something new or challenging.

The Reading Rope provides us with a way of visualising our curriculum, using dynamic and more formal assessment to understand our learners strengths and needs. The word recognition strand is a crucial part of a learner's literacy and reading journey. It works hand in hand with the language comprehension strand, helping readers identify words accurately and understand the text.

The word recognition strand includes three sub-components as shown above:

  1. Phonological Awareness: Recognising and playing with sounds in spoken language, like phonemes, syllables, rhymes, onsets, and rimes.

  2. Decoding: Translating written words into spoken language by understanding letter-sound relationships (phonics) and other decoding strategies.

  3. Sight Recognition: Instantly recognising and reading familiar words by sight, without needing to decode. These are high-frequency words learned through repetition.

As well as further sub-compents of:

  1. Orthographic Knowledge: Understanding letter patterns, spelling rules, and how words look. This includes recognizing common letter combinations and spelling patterns.

  2. Fluency: Reading words accurately and quickly with expression, which allows readers to focus on understanding the text.

  3. Vocabulary Knowledge: Knowing word meanings to recognise words and understand their context in a sentence or passage.

  4. Morphological Awareness: Understanding word parts, like prefixes, suffixes, and root words, which helps decipher unfamiliar words.

  5. Syntax Recognition: Grasping the grammatical structure of sentences and phrases to determine word meanings based on their context.

  6. Visual Processing: Efficiently recognising and differentiating visual symbols (letters) and patterns (words) on the page.

An Inclusive Literacy Curriculum provides opportunities to experience many of these aspects in a meaningful and engaging way. Learners are provided with the foundations of these skills and this is built on as understanding and engagement are demonstrated.

Tip #3 - Understand the Role of Sight Word Learning and Phonics

Sight word learning and phonics are two essential aspects of word learning, especially for learners who struggle or learn in a different way. We need to include both within an IRC rather than consider it a case of either or.

Sight word recognition refers to the ability to recognise and read words quickly and automatically by sight, without the need to decode or sound them out. These are often high-frequency words that appear frequently in texts and don't necessarily follow regular phonetic patterns. The inclusion of sight word learning approaches can support:

  1. Building Reading Fluency: Sight words help early readers read more smoothly by recognising common words without decoding. This boosts confidence and makes reading more enjoyable.

  2. Building a Strong Foundation: Sight words and phonics go hand in hand. Sight words provide a foundation for recognising high-frequency words, while phonics equips learners to decode unfamiliar words.

  3. Supporting Comprehension: When children can recognise sight words and use phonics skills, they can focus on understanding sentences and passages, improving reading comprehension.

To ensure these are effectively supporting learners we need to ensure our curriculum contains:

1. Diverse Teaching Methods: There are various ways to teach sight words and phonics, including games, activities, and phonics-based materials. Sight word learning approaches, such as "see and learn," can play a pivotal role in early literacy instruction for beginning readers, alongside phonics teaching/SSP. The crucial aspect is that we adapt teaching methods to suit each individual learning needs.

2. Progressive Learning: Start with a small set of sight words and gradually introduce more. Ensure learners can build on their knowledge progressively.

3. Real-World Context: Teach sight words and phonics in the context of sentences and stories to show how these skills are used in actual reading situations, emphasising meaning and relevence for all learners.

Some usual information to support an Inclusive Reading Curriculum (Moseley 2023)

Christian Foley raps nursery grime

Karen Erickson, a renowned literacy expert emphasizes, "Exposure to print for all is not only good, it is essential"

Tip #5 - Read my book and next part of this blog!

In summary, the Inclusive Reading Curriculum (IRC) embraces the diverse needs of learners. While key drivers such as sight word learning and phonics are crucial components, sensory engagement, motivation, participation, and communication must be at the heart of every Inclusive Literacy Curriculum (Moseley 2023). By weaving these elements into the fabric of literacy instruction, the IRC creates an inclusive reading environment where learners can thrive, regardless of their unique learning profiles. It can empower us all, fostering a love for literacy that lasts a lifetime.

Have a wonderful week all! Sarah

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