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F.A.S.T. Reading vs F.A.S.T. Language Program
by Steve Tattum
As noted in other presentations, F.A.S.T. Reading has five starts. The first two starts deal with the phonological stage, including the introduction of consonants, consonant digraphs, and short vowels. Starts three and four focus on the multi-syllable and phrase level, and the fifth start deals with fluency and the application of whole language techniques. These starts allow a clinician or teacher to begin at exactly the level that students’ language and experience deem appropriate. By accurate diagnosis, teachers do not lose any time with their tutoring and make much larger gains in a shorter period of time.
When schools adopt F.A.S.T. Reading, it is introduced in the context of the F.A.S.T. Language Program, which involves three levels. The first level is systematic phonics and motivating decodable books for all age levels (i.e. F.A.S.T. Reading). The second is utilizing directed reading by presenting classroom literature books, as well as Reading Workshop, which involves use of other books in the school library. The third is involvement in whole language, utilizing techniques such as literature circles, Readers Theater, great books seminar, etc.
In order to properly administer this program, we believe in performance grouping for grades K-3 for the language program (or any grades where there is a variety of reading levels). This means that we have to determine which start students are in so that we will have students deal with phonological starts 1 & 2, orthographic starts 3 & 4, and whole language start 5. These phonological, orthographic, and whole language starts are all in different classrooms, allowing teachers to spend their full language class working at the students’ appropriate level. Thus, in a 90-minute class, a teacher spends 90 minutes at the correct language placement, versus possibly having three different groups, allowing only 30 minutes for direct instruction in a students’ particular area of need. For example, a student needing systematic phonics at the phonological level would receive three times the instruction in a year, compared to classes that don’t utilize performance grouping. In essence, they will be getting three years of instruction compared to non-performance groups, who are only getting a year of instruction. The Manzano Study (see About Us, Research) indicates the power of performance grouping. Under no circumstances should students be tracked, i.e. that they are in the low class for all classes for years, which research proves is a disaster in the students’ learning as well as for self-esteem. There is total mobility in performance groups, where students will change groups as their skills develop. And by fourth grade (or after a year of instruction in upper grades), all students should be significantly above reading level and be heterogeneously mixed.
Because of the correlation between reading deficits and math deficits, some schools may choose to performance group math as well. It is extremely important that schools that performance group reading, math, or both courses, heterogeneously mix all classes, with an emphasis on multiple intelligences so that students’ strengths are acknowledged.
With the F.A.S.T. Language Program, when students complete all of the books in F.A.S.T. Reading, they change schedules, whereby they review F.A.S.T. Reading on Monday, but integrate phonics knowledge through spelling lists, phrase and sentence dictation, directed reading, and reading workshop for the rest of the week. A student's reading becomes fluent and comprehension is well established; they then move into whole language programs with emphasis on the love of reading and active engagement of the stories.
Schools that follow this paradigm will find that students will be able to decode and spell well, while also leaving school with a love of reading.