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How to Plan an Effective Reading Curriculum

Reading Curriculum Essentials

Teachers’ knowledge of all of the strategies and processes used by effective readers is crucial because these strategies and processes form the content of what every teacher needs to teach all students to do when they are reading.

The processes and strategies are:

  • The reading process
  • Comprehension strategies
  • Vocabulary learning
  • Fluency
  • Word-solving strategies
  • Response to reading
  • Metacognition
  • Purpose
  • Habits and attitudes
  • Background knowledge.

Foundation teachers also need to include the following in their reading curriculum;

  • Learning concepts of print
  • Learning letter names
  • Learning literacy langauge
  • Phonological awareness
  • Phonemic awareness
  • Learning high-frequency words
  • Learning to read texts

Teaching students how to be successful as readers means teachers need to model how to apply each of the processes and strategies.

What do teachers need to know about in order to teach reading?

The reading process

  • Show students through modelling with authentic texts how to;
    • Purposefully sample the text, predict, cross-check and confirm or self-correct throughout the reading
    • Use semantic, syntactic and visual information or cues in this process (Does it make sense? Does the sentence sound right? Does it look right?)
    • Continually monitor one’s reading to make sure it makes sense, sounds right and looks right, cross-checking with all of these cues, and self-correcting when necessary

Comprehension strategies

  • Show students through modelling with authentic texts how to:
    • Set a purpose for reading
    • Preview and predict using prior knowledge
    • Visualise and making visual representations
    • Question
    • Summarise and retell
    • Infer
    • Monitor, clarify and fix-up
    • Think aloud
    • Use text structures and features

Vocabulary learning

  • Show students through modelling with authentic texts how to:
    • Monitor the meaning of words and phrases – realising when meaning is unknown
    • Recognise when the meaning of a word or phrase is essential for overall meaning
    • Use strategies for working out meaning, e.g. use context, use knowledge of related words, read on and reread to understand context, think about what would make sense, and seek assistance from others when necessary
    • Use a thesaurus or other resources to help clarify meaning, but realise that this may not be helpful unless the vocabulary in the thesaurus is suitable for the student and that a dictionary may be the least useful resource, particularly if the explanations are difficult to understand and if a wide range of example sentences are not provided
    • Know how to select the most useful words to learn because they will be more frequently used in a variety of contexts
    • Know how to effectively learn words so that they become part of one’s permanent speaking, writing and reading vocabulary
    • Know how to learn words that are mainly necessary for understanding a particular discipline or topic
    • Know that one of the most fruitful ways to extend one’s vocabulary is to read a wide range of texts on different topics and by different authors and especially to read texts with some vocabulary that is previously unknown


Show students through modelling with authentic texts read aloud how to read automatically so that fluency can enhance comprehension:

  • Accuracy
  • Expression
  • Phrasing
  • Pitch
  • Tone
  • Volume
  • Inflection
  • Appropriate rate

Word-solving strategies

  • Show students through modelling with authentic texts how to use word-solving strategies when reading (but for the most useful differentiated teaching it is essential to listen to students’ reading and analyse the spelling in their writing to learn about their knowledge and misunderstandings about how to read and spell words that are not automatically known):
    • Looking at the word and thinking about how many syllables are in the word, and figuring out the pronunciation of each syllable
    • Using meaning and syntax as a cue
    • Looking at the word to see if it is like another word you know
    • By starting with the base word and then adding the prefixes or suffixes to read the longer word
    • Exploring the 44 sounds in the English language properly, by studying how each sound has many ways to be represented;
    • Exploring common spelling patterns and the various ways they may be pronounced
    • Using suitable resources to help with pronunciation of a word that has not been seen or heard before.

Response to reading

  • Show students through modelling with authentic texts how to respond to reading including personal thoughts and discussing thoughts with others:
    • Knowing how to talk about your reading, including conversation about content, style, themes, messages, bias and other aspects of critical literacy, emotions
    • Knowing how to behave in a social group discussing reading of texts
    • Knowing how to make recommendations and present reviews


  • The awareness of the processes and strategies being used when reading and being able to articulate what you are doing as a reader and when you are using particular strategies and processes
    • Learning the labels and language to be able to talk about these


  • Having an authentic purpose for reading and how this affects the reading of a text
    • Knowing the various purposes for reading in various contexts and situations
    • Being able to set one’s own purposes for reading

Habits and attitudes

  • Habits and attitudes of readers and how these affect the reading of texts and general development of reading
    •   Establishing habits about when to read, how often, how long for, etc. and what are appropriate types of reading to be doing depending on time, place, mood, etc

Background  knowledge

  • The information readers use to construct meaning while reading
    • Being aware of the range of world knowledge needed to be able to understand a wide range of texts and the range of sources needed for building world knowledge
    • Recognising that lack of knowledge about the content of a text will affect the understanding
    • Realising the importance of experiencing a wide range of texts
    • Being aware of the connections we can and should make with personal experiences, world knowledge and previously read texts to assist with the reading of new texts.

Foundation teachers:

  • Some of these are also learned as part of the wriitng curriculum so it is essential that beginning readers write every day and that writing is modelled by the teacher, demonstrating how to use the following:
    • Learning Concepts of Print (e.g. direction of print, beginning to end, turning the page, etc.)
    • Learning Letter Names (a,b,c….) NOT one letter at a time, but multiple letters all of the time
    • Learning Literacy Language (e.g. page, letter, word, sentence, etc.) learned through demonstration of use of this language by teachers and parents
    • Phonological Awareness (e.g. onset/rime, rhyming words, syllables)
    • Phonemic Awareness when appropriate – developing an understanding of the relationship between sounds (phonemes) and symbols. This is mostly learned through Shared Reading, Interactive Writing and Language Experience Work.
    • Learning the most useful high frequency words when appropriate – which will occur mostly through multiple Shared Reading, Interactive Writing, Language Experience work (speaking/reading/writing) and Shared Writing experiences.
    • Learning to read texts – This is a developmental process:
      • Starting from pretend reading
      • Reading the text from memory
      • Making one-one match between spoken and written words and recognising some words
      • Using strategies for working out words (picture cues, known words, onset/rime, using semantics and syntax, developing sound-symbol relationships)
      • Using comprehension strategies and fluency
      • Extending vocabulary
  • In this reading development children begin with texts that are familiar through repetition, then from texts where they have experience with and knowledge of the content, to those where they may have no experience with the content, and gradually they learn how to apply the strategies with a variety of genres.
  • Development in writing is a huge influence on reading so teachers must ensure that students write daily.
  • Shared Reading, Interactive Writing and Language Experience work (Talking about experiences, composing texts, reading them) are essential experiences for reading and writing development.


Each of these components of reading needs to be taught at all grade levels, using multiple kinds of fiction and factual texts.
They also need to be assessed while students are reading, to ensure that every student is reading effectively and to know how to provide the most effective differentiated teaching.

The more that teachers know about each student’s knowledge and misunderstandings about reading, the more focused and useful teaching can be.  

Of course the main goal is for students to enjoy reading and to become life-long readers, but this is much more easily achieved if students are competent readers.

Teachers have a great deal of influence on students’ reading success and a major part of that success is each teacher knowing what to teach about reading and knowing about each student’s strengths and needs.



The Reading Curriculum: What to Teach and What to Assess, Diane Snowball


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