Literacy Teaching–Grade 3 and 4
Literacy Teaching – Grade 3 and 4
Close Reading for Literacy Improvement
By ‘close reading‘ is meant reading of challenging text. Every word is important. Every word bears meaning. Think of a letter from a solicitor for example. For adults that may well require ‘close reading’. Children choose their own books for extended reading time in classrooms. This kind of private reading is usually at a lower reading level. And that’s fine – all grades of text have a place. But, in Grade 3 and 4, many children don’t get enough reading at a higher level.
A slightly higher text level will extend the learner’s ability.
The reading tasks in classrooms are often short grabs of text. Text is broken up into boxes. There are bullet points in one quadrant of the page. There may be two or three short paragraphs in another quadrant. There are cartoon-type illustrations. Reading material of this kind does not encourage left to right and top to bottom eye movement. And this is what a child needs to develop reading ability.
A competent reader in the final years of high school should be able to read complex sentences. It is a sentence with possibly two main clauses, two or three dependant clauses with a few phrases. So we aim to provide students with the skills to handle this kind of text.
The reading and writing tasks in our lesson packs provide longer texts.
About our Lesson Packs
Pitching Text At The Right Level: So usually two readings of the text are required.
- If a child hesitates five or six times over one and a half pages, I would say the text is correctly pitched.
- If a child reads fast and fluently for close reading, then I would say the text is too easy.
- If a child remains silent on the second sentence of text, I would suggest stopping immediately because it is too hard.
There is emphasis in primary school classrooms on fluency and expression. To read in this way, the text will be under the child’s level. So on first reading of a text aloud, a child reads fluently and with expression. This implies that the text is too easy for the child. This type of text has its place of course. The classroom lesson could be science and content based.
There is a big difference between early Grade 3 and late Grade 4, so it’s important to read the descriptions provided for each lesson package to make sure it is pitched at the right level for your child.
The Quail And The Hunter is an example of a literacy unit of work for this age group. Here is the link:
“Quail and the Hunter”, Literacy Grade 4
- spelling words such as quail and sail.
- Words with ai spelling are the focus words.
Hints On Using These Literacy Packs
- Let your child read aloud. It is a good idea to take it in turns, a paragraph each.
- If you find he or she skips words or reads the first letter of a word and guesses the rest of it, I suggest you slow down.
- Use a ruler to help your child to stay on the right line.
- The teaching cue from teachers, “What do you think will come next?” is counter-productive to the reading process. It means children guess and are too often wrong. So encourage your child to read what is written and sound the phonics out to decode any difficult word. Then go back and re-read that sentence.
- A second reading is often helpful for understanding and I always encourage it when the reading is demanding. If your child doesn’t need a second reading then possibly the text is too easy.
- Discuss what happens in the story between readings. Ask questions. Find some common experience your child has had with the events presented.
Let the Literacy Tasks Drive the Lessons
There are lots of explicit instructions that any parent will find easy to follow.
- Encourage your child to read the instructions for the writing tasks that follow the text.
- This will reveal to you whether your child has understood the questions.
- “Let’s go back and check what the story says,” helps your child appreciate that the text is there to inform.
Writing Tasks in Lesson Packs
Writing skills lag behind reading skills. Writing and reading skills need to cycle along together. Imagine that the writing skills form the back wheel on the bike. But together they are called ‘literacy skills’. They are different skills in the child. I have heard many parents say that their child’s writing needs a lot of work. Even though a child can read a word quickly this does not mean they can write it correctly or use it when writing text themselves.
If you are unsure where your child is at with writing, try a few quick tests.
- Firstly, have a set of the 100 sight words written out, or printed out. Parents can use the Word Walls of the 100 sight words available on this site. Print the sheets out. You could cut them into columns for this purpose. Here is the link: “Word Wall” Early Primary School
- Then, lay each sheet or column in front of your child. Point to each word and give an equal amount of time to each word for recognition. If a child in Grades 3 or 4 takes 3 seconds to recognise a word and say it, then mark that word as Not Known.
- You can assume your child knows all the sight words but you won’t really know until you test. This is informative.
Or make your own flash cards of the Sight Words. Here is the link to instructions.
“Flash Cards – How To Make”, Blog
Then work on the ‘Not-Known’ words according to these directions:
- place each card in front of your child and say the word yourself. Go through this once or twice.
- Then go through again. Say each word again. Ask your child to repeat each word after you.
- Do this, altogether, about three or four times. Or until the child is tired but try to build your child’s staying power.
- Then test. Again, place each word in front of your child. See what he or she recognises. Tick off on your own records for that date if your child recognises a word immediately on sighting.
- Repeat this process every day or every second day. Expect some regression after the break but this is normal.
- Don’t wait for your child to know every word before moving on to the next set. You may have three sets going at one time.
You may be able to shorten the process listed in the bullet points above. Keep in mind the purpose is to get instant recognition. When you do it a few times, you will get the hang of it.
- The words that your child does recognise immediately become the spelling words.
- Give your child a few days to learn the first set of ten words.
- Then test. Say the word. Put the word into a short sentence. Then say the word again.
- This should take a few minutes. Don’t give your child too much time. If it’s not written, then he or she can’t write it.
- Set the wrong words aside and allocate along with the next set of ten words.
Always bear in mind that writing skills lag behind reading skills. Overall, writing and reading is termed ‘literacy’. The link below may help you further when your child is asked to do creative writing, a report or similar.
“Creative Writing – Help Your Child”
Here, I have discussed many aspects of literacy teaching at the Grade 3 and Grade 4 level. Persevere with the guidance I give here. After doing it a few times you will get the hang of it and then do it your own way. I hope this helps parents to understand different levels of reading and to recognise what texts will drive your child’s skills forward.