Clara Maria Fiorentini
Some of you might have heard of a strategy called accountable talk?
Accountable sentences are a little bit like that. A helpful approach to support children in early reading development, early sentence formation, word recognition and high frequency word reinforcement. It's also something that can be incorporated into multiple curricular areas. Don't you just love a strategy that works as a multitasking wonder?
The more we do something, the more it becomes natural and automatic to us. The same goes with our literacy practices. The more we expose the children to letters and high frequency words in context, the more likely they are to recognise them when they see them somewhere else!
Remember, the more we do something, the more it becomes natural and automatic to us. The same goes with our literacy practices. The more we expose the children to letters and high frequency words in context, the more likely they are to recognise them when they see them somewhere else! (If you want to learn more about High Frequency Words and Sight Words, check out The Literacy Channel's HFW video.) Renowned literacy researcher, Isobel Beck made a fabulous analogy about robust word instruction when she described the necessity of how we need words to leave a deep, dark imprint on the brain, not a light grey one that could easily fade!
Also, before you think, 'I might not have time for another routine'....it's not about reinventing the literacy wheel, it's about enhancing practices and routines that are already in place in your classroom. The day is jam packed, the schedules are tight, it's about bringing letters and words to life and enhancing our literacy practices so they are purposeful, effective and contextualised.
Take my typical phonics lesson, for example. For me, the isolation approach or discovery method never made sense. It was a priority for me to keep those letters connected to words and reading from the get-go! It helped ensure our reading development was connected to our early writing development. It also helped the children transfer those early reading and writing skills across to areas like History, Geography, Science...and even more importantly, their play.
(Please note, the sketchy photos to follow are from a Samsung circa 2014 - fortunately phones and my photography skills have improved slightly since then! Had I known I would be digging these photos out for a blog post seven years later, I would have endeavoured to take clearer photos with neater handwriting!)
When introducing a new letter, have the supporting visuals to hand so the children have something to associate the new letter with.
(Hello, previous related knowledge & visual association!)
Usually I spent about a week on each letter and a few times during that week, we would have practised reading the words and building sentences with our high frequency words. I provided a scaffold sentence for the children containing a few HFW words and then the children had the option to choose from their list of visuals to write about.
As our high frequency knowledge grew, we used different scaffolds. Like:
I can see ________
I like the ________
This is the _________
Here is the __________
I don’t like the _________
I know the word _________
Look at the _________
I liked when _________
You can see now how these scaffolds could be transferred to activities like responding to a story, or a learning experience about a lifecycle. Again, another way to connect the literacy learning across the curriculum.
As always, the goal is ultimately to remove the scaffold, or get to that point where the children no longer need the sentence stem.
Repeated exposure can be engaging and interactive and still part of daily routines without becoming tedious or dull.
Let me know if you give Accountable Sentences a try!