As mentioned earlier, OELP’s two year Foundation Programme for Early Literacy and Learning enrichment has been based on three skill sets. These have been arrived upon through our work inside classrooms over a period of six years. These are:
1. Foundation skills for school based learning
2. Foundation skills for reading and writing
3. Higher order thinking skills
OELP uses an adapted version of the Four Blocks Approach, which is a Balanced Literacy framework, created by Dr. Patricia Cunningham and Dr. Dorothy Hall in the late 80s. We have adapted this framework through trialling inside classrooms. We find it allows the daily time slots or “blocks” that address different aspects of language learning and literacy. This works as a scaffolding to support teachers to plan for a variety of learning opportunities for meaningful engagement, as well as developing skills / competencies under each of the three skill sets mentioned above. The Four Blocks also ensure that all aspects of language and literacy i.e. listening, speaking, reading, writing and thinking get adequately addressed in the programme
This is required to equip children to engage with learning in thoughtful and reflective ways and not mechanically and mindlessly through rote memory and recall. To make this understanding simple for teacher OELP has used the analogy of a hand. The role of the thumb plays a pivotal role for increasing the functionality and efficacy of each finger in the hand, is compared with “thinking” as the key factor for imbuing meaning to all the four aspects of language and literacy i.e. listening; speaking; reading and writing. In other words teachers are able to reflect and understand that these four aspects of language and literacy become active and meaningful only through their consciously planned linkage with “thinking”. We have found this to be a simple but effective way of communicating the importance of planned opportunities to build thinking into all aspects of the Four Blocks.
Class 1 – OELP encourages the use of themes. This helps to bring a focus into the conversations, oral work, vocabulary building, Read Aloud and other aspects of the programme. The themes can be linked to the available curricular materials or library books, but it is a good idea to begin with themes which are close to the children’s experience, such as ‘Me and My Family’, or ‘My Home’; ‘My village’ and so on.
Class 2 – There is greater emphasis on engagement with curricular materials, children’s literature and experience based learning – introduction of different reading and writing pedagogies – such as read aloud, guided reading, shared reading, sentence building, guided writing; linguistically controlled free writing;
shared writing, etc.
Some reading and writing pedagogies that are being explored through the OELP Four Blocks framework are:
a) Print awareness and building concepts of print
b) Read aloud
c) Guided reading –including decoding and comprehension strategies
d) Shared reading
e) Buddy reading or Pathan Saathi or
f) Independent or free reading
g) Vocabulary building – oral and written
g) Shared writing or samoohik lekhan
h) Experience based writing or anubhav lekhan
i) Responding to literature and information texts through a various forms of writing and expression.
j) Theme based project work
k) Linguistically controlled independent writing
In addition special strategies for building in higher order thinking are woven into the programme
An attempt has been made to design the Foundation Programme to provide a balance between opportunities for free expression and creativity, along with opportunities for building proficiency and accuracy.
Some areas of focus within the Four Blocks
1. Listening, speaking, thinking and reflecting are woven into all the above. Special focus is given to theme/ book based meaningful conversations in which children can share their experiences; listen to others; question; reason and respond in deeper ways.
2. Strategies for building higher order thinking and questioning are woven into the various types of reading, so that children not only learn to read with understanding but are also encouraged to respond critically to the texts they are reading.
3. Writing is allowed to emerge through a developmental process, which considers drawing, scribbling, and invented spelling as a part of writing. In the latter part of Class 2 the focus shifts to writing conventions and accuracy.