Reading at the FIS: A Parent’s Reflection


Earlier this month, I attended the reading workshop for the Early Years and Elementary School parents at the FIS.

The approach and overall teaching style for encouraging the kids with their reading efforts was thoroughly explained. We learned how the kids are learning to read but also reading to learn; that growth, understanding, and application of what they read are all elements of the program.

Let me explain further. The school uses a multitude of assessment tools to evaluate the skills of our young readers. The reading grade system was nicely explained. If you notice, the sticker on the back of the book your child brings home indicates the level of reading they have attained on an alphabetical system that extends across the grades and their expected reading level.

See below:
AA A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S and so on …

Now consider some very early readers beginning Early Years 4 with level AA with wordless books, then Early Years 5 adopting the A-D scale and Grade 1 adopting the E-J scale, Grade 2 progressing with K-M and so on. A few days ago, this visual scale helped me immensely as I was able to draw it and communicate it to our Grade 1 son who came across to the FIS from the German kindergarten system, where no previous reading or writing skills were taught. He jumped right into a reading system that, on an international scale, should see a Grade 1 child start at a presumed base level. I was able to explain to him that he has, in a very short period of time, proceeded through the foundation levels and is now edging toward the end of the Grade 1 scale: a tremendous achievement!

I am not writing this to “toot his horn” but to acknowledge his growth (an assessable item in the program) and be able to communicate to him, visually, how well he has done when he compares himself to an international classmate who may have entered the reading program in Grade 1, having already mastered the previous base levels at their previous international schooling system.

Mrs. Hertz clearly communicated that even with these expectations within grades, teachers focus mainly on the progress our children make through the levels, not only the level itself. She said a few times, “it is not a race. We want to know where the child is and then teach them so they can grow!” This was an important visual aid that I could use to build my son’s confidence with reading and to explain how the school assessment system worked.

Given our kids have entered into the FIS from a wide range of schooling levels from all around the world, the reading level and the reading progression of each child is assessed individually and in small groups of one to five children. How great is that! The teachers are able to work subjectively to ensure our kids’ previous, current and future progression of reading, literacy, and understanding is tailored to their needs.

The kids, then, also self-assess using a seed, seedling/sprout and blooming flower analogy to communicate their own sense of mastery to their teachers, which is such an important tool in self-reflection and showing an ability to communicate how they feel.

Many other important aspects of the reading program were also highlighted. The ability to connect emotion or expression to the written text also shows a deeper level of comprehension when reading. How we as parents can inquire, or probe our kids with questions that connect the text to an experience, or an emotion the child is feeling.

Ways to ensure the child has interpreted the text and not simply read words on a page; this was a point that resonated deeply with many of us parents in attendance who are eagerly trying to learn a new language ourselves and could also reflect on the experience of reading German words on a page, however not being able to assign meaning to them. We can sound them out, we can pronounce or read the words, but do we actually UNDERSTAND the words? This was a great example of how we, as adults, have learned to read and are now reading to LEARN – learning the meanings and context of a word or sentence.

Finally, it was stressed that the ‘learn to read’ program accurately evaluates our children’s progress across a range of areas. Accuracy, comprehension, and fluency are all required to become a “master” reader.

Note: Mrs. Hertz is facilitating another parent workshop on March 10, 2020, at 14:15. Please sign up on this Wejoinin sheet if you can make it.

Ayson Maier
Grade 1 parent

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