SharpReading BLOG

Thoughts About Teaching Reading


Where does Phonics fit with SharpReading?

It is important to understand how SharpReading aligns itself with phonics instruction. It is based on what we consider to be a balanced approach to developing decoding fluency in the beginner reader.

With our SharpReading Stages 1&2 course "Teaching Reading to the Beginner Reader" we  don’t claim to do it all. In fact we say that SharpReading SHOULD snuggle into a separate phonics program. We don’t particularly mind what program, just as long as there is one in place.

What we do major on is what we think is an important link that is often missing from a balanced approach to achieving decoding fluency in the beginner reader...Independent Practice.

EXPLICIT INSTRUCTION (Explain, Model, Guided Practice)

The Phonics Program
We don’t prescribe which phonics program should be used, just that there should be one. 
This is where the ‘Explicit Instruction’ takes place - the development of phonics skills and strategies for attacking and decoding words. 

This often revolves around skilling and drilling words and word families in isolation or using ‘decodable text’ I am a bit nervous about decodable text but I do acknowledge that it can have a place.

Shared Reading, Big Book … whole class lesson with enlarged text
Another opportunity for explaining, modelling and guided practice of decoding text. The chance for the teacher to guided the reader into USING the skills they have acquired.

This is what we call the ‘Explicit Teaching’ of reading for the beginner reader. Unfortunately, junior classroom teachers tend to get stuck in guided practice - many many teachable moments, cueing and prompting students all day which is debilitating for the learner.


Guided Reading

This is the piece that is missing - the bit that we think is essential for building confidence, success, engagement in ‘reading’.

And this is the piece that SharpReading offers - “The 5 Bits’ - the guided reading lesson which is NOT where the teaching occurs.

This is the opportunity for students to appropriate all the strategies they have learnt in phonics and practiced during guided practice into an authentic reading context - a real book that has been chosen at a level which will provide just the right amount of challenge for their developing skill set. That is, provides one or two words per page which require a nanosecond of ‘work’ to decode without the teacher having to intervene.

This is where the habituation of the skill occurs, not in the guided practice. This is where the teacher can monitor and collect really good data on what the student is doing (because they are not interfering) and feed this back into the explicit teaching.


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