For decades, parents have had to wade through conflicting advice about the most effective way for children to learn to read. Now, with the accumulation of long-studied research coupled with the support of brain science, staunch supporters of "balanced literacy" are changing their philosophies and acknowledging the merit of phonics. That is good news for parents, but how do you choose the right school with the best reading program that effectively uses phonics?
At BASIS Independent Manhattan, we have spent years adjusting and improving our curriculum. We are resolute in our approach focused on teaching phonics so that our students love to read while advancing beyond standard benchmarks to excel in reading, writing, and spelling. In this blog, we explore the successful structure of our literacy program with insight from BASIS Independent Manhattan Early Learning and Primary Program teachers.
What They Learn
We use Ruth Miskin's Read Write Inc. program beginning in PreK, teaching students phonograms and blends along with the traditional letter sounds of the ABCs. In kindergarten, we start the Logic of English which teaches the 75 basic phonograms that make up our language.
By the time students reach grade 2, they have had Logic of English for three full years, and Ms. Kushner (Humanities Subject Expert Teacher) describes their reading levels as "staggering," saying that "the challenge is actually finding books with appropriate content for an 8-year-old reading at level U." Students learn all the basics by grade 3, and then move on to advanced phonograms.
Ms. Kushner has been teaching for six years, holds a Master of Arts in Teaching, and is our school's Master Teacher for the Logic of English. She continued to explain a BASIS Independent Manhattan student's reading trajectory, "I don't have to teach as many explicit reading instruction lessons at the 3rd grade level because the phonics carry over and students easily apply them to their reading. That paves the way for more advanced phonics work and an increased focus on written responses to text and deeper reading comprehension in both grades 2 and 3."
How They Learn
To acquire good decoding skills, students must learn phonics through systematic instruction and intentional practice, which sounds rigid and boring. Instead of doing drills or requiring memorization, the magic in BASIS Independent Manhattan's classrooms happens when our teachers utilize multisensory methods and games to reinforce learning in multiple ways, achieving repetition without redundancy.
A student-favorite game is hands down, phonogram bingo. Instead of a number board, each square contains a phonogram. Instead of the teacher reading out a number or letter, they give a sound. Students have to use their knowledge of phonograms to determine which letter combination makes the corresponding sound to fill in their board and get BINGO!
Once students master phonograms, they understand that words have a phonological pattern and do not have to rely on memorization. Phonics has unlocked the path to successful reading and writing.
Leaps in Reading Levels
Our teachers have found this investment in phonemic awareness -- hearing, replicating and manipulating sounds -- to pay off in dividends.
Following the Fountas & Pinnell reading level goals by grade, students in kindergarten are expected to reach a level C (New York State/NYC DOE) or D (F&P). At BASIS Independent Manhattan, our goal is for students to finish kindergarten at a level F. By Spring 2022, over three-quarters of the grade surpassed that benchmark, and 41% were assessed at a level M.
Results can be measured with percentages, but the true test of excellence comes from the satisfaction level of students, teachers, and parents.
Praise for our Program