SharpReading BLOG

Thoughts About Teaching Reading


Does Structured Literacy include Comprehension Instruction?

The big news in NZ education is our government's pledge of $67 million dollars to fund the implementation of Structured Literacy in all NZ schools in 2025.

While one gets excited about talk of funding increases in education (rather than cuts) I also get nervous about politicians making decisions about what teachers have to teach and the way they teach it. Do they really know what they are talking about?

Here are some quotes from "Transforming how our children learn to read" by our Minister of Education.

“Domestic and international evidence shows this method (Structured Literacy) is the most effective way of equipping children with strong reading skills that are critical for their futures.

“A number of schools in New Zealand are already teaching structured literacy and have experienced significant improvements in student achievement. I want all children to have this opportunity.

“That is why, beginning in Term 1 2025, all state schools will teach reading using the proven structured literacy approach.

“Structured Literacy is about getting back to basics and teaching children to read by using sounds and phonics to understand words.

“This Government has set an ambitious target of getting 80 per cent of Year 8 students to curriculum level by 2030, and teaching structured literacy is a critical part of how we plan to get there.”

I am glad she has acknowledged that 'structured literacy is a critical part..' (that is, let's get the foundation right), BUT it must be recognised as only the beginning if 'the target is getting 80% of Year 8 students to curriculum by 2030' is going to be achieved.

My point...I can't find anything about the explicit instruction of comprehension in there. When I comb through the most obvious iterations of Structured Literacy (and there are many of them) I find some mention of comprehension tagged on the end but no details about the how. 

I assume that these course designers are referring to the gains made in comprehension when students become more fluent word readers. I agree that this happens BUT it is a by-product of decoding fluency (the working memory is freed up to process larger chunks of words) not the result of an obvious intervention to develop the active reading brain which is the hallmark of skilled comprehension. (Please let me know if you think I have misinterpreted this).

This is what our holistic developmental progression to skilled reading looks like. Note that word recognition occupies only one-third of the process.


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