“Think of reading as a two-lock box, requiring two keys to open. The first key is decoding skills. The second key is vocabulary sufficient to understand what is being decoded.”
E.D. Hirsch, Jr. and Robert Pondiscio in “There’s No Such Thing as a Reading Test” in
American Educator, Winter 2010-2011 (Vol. 34, #4, p. 3-11, 53)
Ask your child and they will tell you… if you don’t understand the words you are not reading.
Decoding = using sounds to help you (phonics), breaking words down to pieces you can read.
Understanding = getting meaning from the words.
So what do you do at school to develop vocabulary and understanding?
We read lots of high quality literature with very challenging vocabulary. We may spend days rereading books, finding the parts we love the most. We have conversations about what the author means. It is like having a long lovely bath in books.
On the walls you will have seen photocopies of the pages of books the children loved the most. They picked out their favorite words that help you see the story in your mind.
Here is an example ‘a child’s garden, a story of hope’ Michael Foreman.
You can get many of these books from the library. The sakura nominated books for 2011 are all wonderful.
Can you show an example of my child using descriptive language?
Here is a voicethread the children made. They picked some of their favorite illustrations and described the pictures. Listen to their words.