SharpReading's Developmental Progression

Michael Pressley's research with beginning readers has resulted in him making the following pronouncement.

“When a reader slowly analyses a word into component sounds and blends them, a great deal of capacity is consumed with little left over for comprehension of the word, let alone understanding the overall meaning of the sentence.”

“Reading Instruction that Works" - Michael Pressley Fourth Edition 2015.

This suggests that, for the beginning reader, an attempt to teach the three subsets of reading skills (Decoding, Constructing Meaning, Critical Thinking) all at once from the very beginning is flawed and inevitably leads the beginning reader into cognitive overload. The result is frustration, confusion, and an ongoing sense of not being good enough as the teacher micro manages the learning situation with lots and lots of teachable moments.

To simplify the process and allow the learner to experience success and consolidate learning before tackling something more demanding, we have created our developmental continuum which provides direction for instruction across the school.

This gives the teacher of students in their first 2-3 years of instruction, the mandate to focus on decoding and not clutter up their teaching with any unnecessary attention to Constructing Meaning and Critical Thinking - they are just not ready for this while they are wrestling with cracking the code  (decoding). By all means explore this higher order thinking in Shared Reading and after reading discussions but we think it is important to steer way from this during Guided Reading.

Please be reassured, we know that those first years MUST be about more than phonics. There must be a strong engagement in the message of the text, and we have ways of doing this without asking the reader to construct meaning WHILE they are decoding.

Once decoding fluency has been established and word attack and word recognition has become an automated process, there is now enough cognitive space in the head of the reader to develop mastery of the active reading skills required for constructing meaning and critical thinking that are the hallmark of the truly proficient reader (SharpReading Stages 3-6).


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