Literacy Lift Off

“Literacy Lift-Off” is an intensive programme of Reading and Writing, which gives the pupils lots of opportunities to read books at their own level of competency. It gradually lifts the complexity of what they can do in both reading and writing by equipping them with the necessary problem-solving skills.

The aim of Literacy Lift-Off is to make pupils constructive learners. It teaches them ‘how’ to problem-solve independently. It is implemented in blocks of 6 weeks in the Junior Infant, Senior Infant and 1st classes in the school. The children are broken into four or more groups based on reading ability so that they are working at an appropriate level with other children of similar ability. Each group takes turns to participate in the following stations.

Phonics/ Word Study

Purpose: To show children how words work so that they can make a fast visual analysis of their reading. Activities include whiteboard work, using magnetic letters to show children how words are composed of letters, chunking words (segmentation: clapping out sounds etc., rhyming words) and Elkonin boxes (initially cvc words, blends and initial consonant digraph).

New Book

To allow daily practice in attempting to read new material. The child learns to use strategic activities to read new texts.

The teacher prepares the children for success by initiating discussion of the pictures and introducing them to any new vocabulary or unusual phrases in the book. The children are provided with opportunities to predict the plot and to connect and refer to personal experiences. As the children are reading the new text the teacher directs them to the most effective strategy to use at any given time. That might be:

A prompt to meaning e.g. Where are the children going?
A prompt from picture cues (look at the picture and question)
A prompt to visual information e.g. Cover the ‘ing’ or ‘can you see a bit you know.
A prompt to structure e.g. Predict how the phrase might end.
A prompt to read with expression (teacher models reading)

If the child is to read for meaning they needs to read in a phrased and fluent manner and this should be encouraged at all times. The child needs to be encouraged to monitor their own reading and writing. They should know that when it doesn’t sound right, look right or make sense they need to re-read and correct it. The children take home this book to read with their parents each night and it becomes the ‘familiar reading’ book for the following day.

Familiar Reader

Purpose: For enjoyment, fluency, comprehension and speed. Each child reads the book that they read at the new book station on the previous day. At this station, as well as listening to the reading, the teacher checks the children’s understanding of individual words. Children’s comprehension of what they have read is checked by checking that the children have a grasp of the bigger picture, understand the roles of the characters and explore other comprehension strategies such as prediction, connecting to own life, inferring etc.

Writing Station

Purpose: The children will learn how they can write their own messages by: hearing and recording sounds in words, and learning unusual words (by look, cover, write check, writing full sentences.  The emphasis is not on handwriting. The purpose is to encourage children to focus their thought so that they can create a concise well-formed sentence based on certain vocabulary. The process of transferring this thought to paper is a complex one as it tests the child in the following areas: identifying key points, keeping the sentence in their head while they are writing, word spacing, grammar and punctuation points, remembering sound structures for spelling.

Optional Independent Station

Sometimes Literacy Lift-Off may include an independent station. Although a teacher is not present at this table it is here that the children are really tested! They have to develop their independence and problem solving strategies as they learn to figure things out on their own. Activities at this station vary but listed below are some examples:

  • Handwriting activities
  • Assembling cut up sentences
  • Crosswords/ Word searches
  • Jumbled words/ sentences
  • Phonic games
  • Listening to stories with headphones and documenting the story through picture or text
  • Colouring/ playdough activities to develop fine motor skills
  • Making words with magnetic letters.
  • Work on initial sounds, end sounds, rhyming words etc

The teacher adapts the activities of each station to the ability of the group in front of him/her. Each station lasts between 10 to 15 minutes and then the children move to the next station. Lift off to Literacy generally runs for 6 weeks at a time in Senior Infant and 1st class classrooms. Research has shown that targeting children at this age yields the best results in later years.

How Can Parents Help?

  • Set aside 10 minutes each day to read with your child and engage in some of the following activities.
  • Discuss the cover of the book, the pictures, the illustrator, author etc
  • Listen to your child read
  • If your child gets stuck on a word ask them what strategy they could use – look at the picture, chunk it up, sound it out, look for a little word within a big word, read on for clues (but always remember to go back!)
  • Ask your child questions about the story and encourage your child to give as much information as possible.
  • Your child could ask questions to see if you were paying attention! – this is your chance to model answering questions correctly.
  • Can your child sequence events from the story correctly? What happened first, then what happened, what happened last?
  • Can they summarise the story giving the main theme in one or two sentences?
  • Discuss the characters, their favourite part of the story, what they didn’t like, what might happen next if there was another chapter in the story?
  • Is there anything in the story that reminds them of their own life? Talk about this with them.
  • The more you talk with your child the more their vocabulary and confidence in speaking and reading will grow.
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