Our Fall Quarterly meeting centered around literacy development and instruction from birth to early elementary. The question of “what is the best way to teach reading?” has been discussed for ages among schools, educators, and researchers. 20 years ago the National Reading Panel convened and found that effective reading programs combined instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. In most classrooms and reading programs, there’s no debate about the importance of these components. But for many classrooms today, explicit and systematic phonics instruction has often been absent – or, at most, a haphazard add-on to an existing literacy program.
The discussion about the place and importance of phonics in the literacy classroom has recently been the focus of countless debates, articles, podcasts, and even Twitter discussions over the past year. We believe this is due to a few factors:
- Kids are still not reading. Only 37% of fourth graders are reading at or above grade level. While this is 8% higher than 2000, 37% is still an abysmal amount.
- The dyslexia community has been very active and well-organized, and thanks to strong leadership, resources, and social media, they have commanded more attention on the need for strong phonemic awareness and phonics instruction, especially for students with reading difficulties.
- More mainstream education reporting is focusing on how we teach reading
Panel Discussion with Oakland Educators
featuring Margaret Goldberg, OUSD; Lani Mednick, OUSD; Erin Cox, Aspire Public Schools; Dana Cilono, SEEDS of Learning
In order to better understand how this conversation is playing out here in Oakland, our Fall Quarterly meeting featured a panel of four Oakland educators who shared their experiences with understanding cognitive science reading research and implementing a structured phonics program in their instruction. Some of our main takeaways from their experiences included:
- While it is important to have a strong curriculum, curriculum is not the magic answer. Teachers and educators need to understand the science of reading first in order to implement explicit phonics instruction.
- It takes time and support for teachers and educators to understand and process the research, and it takes time and support for them to change their practices.
- In the same vein, it takes intentionality and time to build a community of educators. Schools and school districts have to be willing to create and sustain systems where teachers stay and feel supported in this work.
Early Literacy Workshop
with Sara Rizik-Baer, Tandem, Partners in Early Learning
We also recognize that literacy development starts well before a student arrives at school in TK or Kindergarten. We had an interactive workshop by Sara Rizik-Baer from Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, focused on building literacy rich environments for students from birth through age 5. Sara highlighted strategies educators can use to develop the American Library Association’s Six Skills of Early Literacy.
In the months to come, we will be diving into this topic in depth. We’ll be exploring the cognitive science behind reading instruction more closely in our upcoming Member Meeting in November. We’ll also take a closer look at literacy instruction, research, and outcomes for students across Oakland. We’d love to hear your questions – what are you curious about? What does this mean for your work or your experience in literacy in Oakland? Drop us a line at email@example.com and let us know.
Below you will find some resources shared throughout the meeting.
General Resources & Links
- Fall 2019 Quarterly Meeting Notebook
- Fall 2019 Meeting Powerpoint
- Songs and Word Games for Early Literacy
- Songs and Word Games for Early Literacy (Spanish)
- 6 Skills of Early Literacy Handouts (English, Spanish, Chinese)
- OUSD Early Literacy Cohort One Pager
Thank you to Janet Heller and the team at Chapter 510 & the Department of Make-Believe for the use of their wonderful space!