Debbie Matthews – Term 2, 2015

Debbie Matthews - Teacher of the TermDr Seuss posters, colourful Vietnamese paper lanterns, alphabet charts and a lady beetle clock line the walls of Debbie Matthews’ Reading Recovery room at Holy Cross Catholic Primary Woollahra.

But the smiles of the children who grow in confidence through the literacy early intervention program for Year 1 students are often the brightest thing in the room.

“A lot of the time they know that they’re coming into reading and writing not at the same pace as the rest of the children in Year 1, and they’re a bit self-conscious,” Ms Matthews said.

“When you bring to their attention the progress they’re making and give them lots of praise they beam. They’re so excited and so happy with themselves so it’s good for their confidence too.”

Reading Recovery gives Year 1 students who need additional support in reading and writing half an hour of individual instruction every day for between 16 and 20 weeks. The program is implemented by the Catholic Education Office in schools across the Sydney Archdiocese.

Ms Matthews became interested in the program after working with a reading recovery-trained teacher in Kindergarten at her previous school. She has since brought some of the techniques she uses in Reading Recovery to all students in the grade.

This includes having small whiteboards on the desks for students to practice words before writing them in their workbooks, and using magnetic letters in spelling activities.

“In the writing component of reading recovery they have a scrapbook and if they’re not sure about a word they’ll go straight to their problem solving page and have a go at it,” Ms Matthews said.

“I thought that would be great in the classroom because sometimes the children, especially the ones who are perfectionists, are a bit hesitant to have a go at a word because they’re a bit worried if they get it wrong they can’t rub it out.

“Literacy is a reciprocal process so the skills they learn to be able to read apply when they are writing and vice versa. The two different skills go hand-in-hand.”

When you bring to their attention the progress they’re making and give them lots of praise they beam.

Ms Matthews said rhyming books including Linley Dodd’s Hairy Maclary series and Jez Alborough’s Where’s My Teddy? were  great to read to Year 1 students.

“I love Dr Seuss too. I think he’s good for that age level and for adults as well, because a lot of the quotes he has you can apply to life in general. They’re quite deep.

“Every single child in reading recovery is so different. The one-on-one format gives you a chance to observe what they already know about reading and writing and take the next step from there.”


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