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The Fab Five – Your Reading Curriculum

A strong reading curriculum will cover the five essential elements of reading, or what we call the ‘Fab Five’. You will see that Synthetic Phonics is only 1/5 of the bigger reading picture. It is so central to our program, because it gives children the ability to crack the code. Once they can lift the words off the page, they can then work out what the text means – comprehension.

What are the Fab Five?

1. Phonemic Awareness

The ability to hear, focus on and manipulate phonemes in a spoken word. Having good phonemic awareness is the strongest indicator of future reading success. Spend that time in kindy/prep/pre-primary, screening for and explicitly teaching phonemic awareness and it will make your job much easier when it comes to teaching phonics.

2. Synthetic Phonics

Phonic knowledge gives children the tools to crack the reading code so that fluency and comprehension follow. It’s pretty simple really, if children can’t read the words on a page, they can’t get the meaning! Synthetic Phonics is the most effective method to get all children reading. Why? Because it’s explicit and systematic, helping children master the code from the simple to the complex. As a result of its explicit and systematic nature it’s quick and gets awesome results. Read more about Synthetic Phonics.

3. Vocabulary Knowledge

Teachers can do a lot to enrich vocabulary by simply reading to children and encouraging parents to do the same. When using a Synthetic Phonics approach, we discuss the meaning of new words and use this as an opportunity to expand vocabulary knowledge.

Vocabulary is an unconstrained skill which means that there is no limit to learning; whether you are 5 or 35 you can still develop your vocabulary.

4. Reading Fluency

We don’t want children forever sounding out each individual phoneme, or sound, in a word: ‘c-a-t’. We want automatic word recognition which leads to fluency. When children read with speed, accuracy and expression, they are more likely to comprehend and remember the content, than if they read with difficulty.

5. Comprehension

To make meaning from texts. Using background knowledge and vocabulary knowledge to create sensory images and then to understand what is read. Without good comprehension, all learning, in all subjects, is affected. Synthetic Phonics gives children the skills to crack the reading code. Just like a systematic, Synthetic Phonics program, comprehension should be taught systematically and explicitly.

Like vocabulary, comprehension is an unconstrained skill, which means that there is no limit to learning; whether you are 5 or 35 you can still develop your understanding.

Whichever strand of the Fab Five you are teaching it is important that the content has:

  • Fidelity – choose a method of teaching and stick to it! For example, stick to our phoneme sequence and ensure that everyone in the school knows it and plans from it.
  • Systematically – teaching sequences should be planned. Content scope and sequence documents are the best way to achieve this.
  • Explicitly – teachers should actually teach! A good start is to share learning intentions and success criteria with children. These make it clear what children are expected to learn and how to be successful.

Read the Get Reading Right Curriculum Director, Jo-Anne Dooner’s, article in Teacher Magazine discussing the Fab Five.