A year ago our school implemented Barbara Brann’s framework – building blocks for literacy – which looks at identifying and addressing the skills necessary to be ‘curriculum ready’. This means that a student is ready to take advantage of the school curriculum, and has the skills necessary for this. Any gaps that existed prior to the programme have been addressed, similar to plugging the holes in a bucket before trying to fill it with water.
This framework was started in its entirety by a very talented teacher at my school, after some PLD was provided to myself and her courtesy of the RTLB (resource teacher of learning and behaviour) service. I incorporated aspects of the programme with the older children I mainly focussed on, and tried to implement it later on in the year when I shifted to working with younger students.
Now, a year later, the framework is still in use, although less intensively than it was a year ago. It has been incorporated far more naturally into our daily programme, with key aspects still being applied.
- Blocks for teaching spelling
- Blocks/counters to help young students hold a sentence in their head as they write it
- Blocks/counters to help students visualise a target number of sentences for writing
- Casey Caterpillar – teach letter shapes and the order they go in to turn into letters – when kids are ready
- Casey Caterpillar – Use a means of teaching skills such as differentiation and patterning
- Have physical objects handing as prompts for writing (and let the children handle them as they talk and write)
- Develop fine motor skills and oral language – these are essential to success in writing
- Explicitly teach oral sentence structure and questioning techniques – in a practical context
- Shore up the foundation before adding to the building
- Look at the stage not the age
Has it been successful?
This depends on your view of success. In terms of academic achievement gains it has a two year span, so the jury is still out. It has definitely not harmed/limited the students’ learning. In terms of teacher gains, it has been an outstanding professional development tool which has vastly improved my understanding of how students develop their literacy and what potential blocks or ‘holes’ are preventing their learning for moving forward. From that view alone, the training is worth goin through.
Am I convinced?
The jury is still out on that one too. The framework is absolutely valuable and worthwhile. I would be interested to see the results further down the track.
I think adopting the framework in its entirety is outside my current headspace of working with year 0-3 students (pre-k to 2). In a situation where students were of a closer age/stage I can see myself implementing this in more detail. However halfway through last year we introduced play-based learning, which I believe complements this framework and has provided a means of covering the framework more authentically than previously.
The Casey Caterpillar leaves me with no doubt whatsoever of it’s benefit. I wouldn’t want to teach it any other way (unless it was a rose by any other name).
I hope that this has been of some help to you if you are interested in building blocks. Even getting the giant chart which identifies all of the skills would potentially be helpful as a PLD tool.