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06 Sep 2019
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St Therese Primary School flipping literacy practice on its head

St Therese Primary School at Colonel Light Gardens has achieved significant gains in both literacy and numeracy across the school through the introduction of a multi-sensory, phonic-based language approach (MSL).

The school’s NAPLAN literacy results experienced significant growth over a two-year period – increasing the average literacy reading age of each child by one and a half to three years above what is expected.

MSL involves de-coding words for both dyslexic and non-dyslexic students. Traditionally, children are taught to recognise whole words instead of sounding them out. This method was leading to a plateau in literacy growth at Year 3. Children who once seemed to be satisfactory readers early on, were struggling when faced with more complex texts and curriculum demands.

When Amanda Humeniuk was appointed as Principal of St Therese in 2017, she and her team looked to multiple sources of historical research to discover the most effective teaching approaches informed by evidence of how children learn to read.

The research they found flipped everything they knew about literacy teaching on its head...

The research suggested that teachers should be providing explicit, direct and systematic phonics instruction so children can master the essential code-breaking skills required for reading.

Most of the teachers (including Amanda herself) were trained very differently in how children learn to read, so the first step was to ensure all their educators had access to high quality professional learning and coaching.

In 2017 Amanda and her team of educators began their ‘Structured Literacy Approach’ journey toward explicit, phonic based instruction to help all children ‘unlock’ the code for both reading and writing. This approach not only helps students with dyslexia, but there is substantial evidence that it is effective for all readers.

2017 saw the implementation of a range of evidence-based programs and approaches to help identify, support and monitor children who demonstrated difficulty in both reading and writing. The school employed a literacy mentor to work with staff.

Teachers undertook professional development in the teaching of phonics, spelling rules and patterns. Educational Support Officers were trained alongside teachers to help implement the approach. St Therese now employ 6 ‘tutors’ to work alongside teachers to provide school-based intervention and extension where needed.

Since 2017, St Therese have seen significant NAPLAN gains in both literacy and numeracy mean scores. Data has consistently demonstrated student growth in reading ages, ability and most importantly, confidence.

“Seeing huge literacy growth in both our learners and teachers has been most powerful and rewarding. This aligns with our CESA Living Learning Leading Framework whereby we aim to educate literate, numerate and effective communicators for the world God desires”, said Amanda.

St Therese has worked in partnership with Code Read since 2018, a dyslexia advocacy group of parents, carers, educators and health professionals. Code Read supports and recognises the needs of people with dyslexia and ensures they are given the assistance they require to learn.

St Therese are running an open morning for other educators, to showcase their learnings and how it has transformed their literacy teaching, on November 6 at Colonel Light Gardens, 9.00am – 12.00pm.

Bookings are essential at https://www.trybooking.com/BETQK
Limited places available.

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