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Learn from a Kindergarten Teacher

Updated: Jun 10

We’re happy to bring back Still Learning with a post featuring an article in The Reading Teacher: Incorporating Decodable Books into an Early Grades Literacy Curriculum: Tensions and New Learnings from One Teacher.” Good news: the article is open access! The article features teacher Kerry Elson’s first hand kindergarten classroom experience with decodable text. Elson is a teacher at Central Park East II in East Harlem, NYC.

Also listed as co-authors are teacher educators from Appalachian State University: Ashley Pennell, Rebecca Payne Jordan, Kindel Turner Nash, and Woodrow Trathen.

Here are some highlights:

We admire Elson’s stance when she selects books for children:

  • “Consistent with this research and as one part of my curriculum, I strive to be intentional in selecting decodables that have meaningful storylines, are nonstereotypical, and authentically and respectfully reflect students' life experiences, cultures, languages, and interests (see More to Explore). When considering this research, ultimately, I agree with Brown (1999), who suggested that in any text selection, the critical questions teachers should ask are what type of text, for what purpose, for whom, and when?”

We appreciate the questions at the start of Elson’s journey with decodable books–similar to those that we have asked in the past as well: 

  • Would students only focus on decoding and ignore the story? Would decodable books sound like how my multilingual students talk? Would students relate to them?” and “Would students self-correct? Would they balk at words that did not match phonics patterns they learned?”

In the end, Elson shares experiences consistent with our own: 

  • “[Students] still self-corrected and inferred accurately when reading, demonstrating that decodables fostered their comprehension (Mesmer, 2010). For example, when reading a book about a student on her first day of school, one child reasoned that at the end of the book, a character was happy “because she had made a new friend.” Children also seemed more confident in figuring out words. “I know how to read. I'm good at reading!” they would say. Families felt proud of their children. “She's really reading – for real!,” one child's mother told me. In previous years, by contrast, I felt that more students were unsure of how to read and thought they were not good at reading. I remember observing more students looking disengaged during reading time.”

Check out the full, open access article here.


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