Foundations and Frameworks

Foundations & Frameworks is an instructional reading program*through sixth grade  that uses a collection of best practices for equipping students to fully understand ideas conveyed in text.

Thinking skills are explicitly taught and modeled. Because comprehension results from the thoughtful interaction between reader and text, improving student thinking positively impacts student comprehension. When a student fails to think while he is reading, he is not truly reading. By breaking thinking down into its component steps, teaching these steps explicitly, and modeling the use of these steps, teachers can equip students with the cognitive abilities needed to fully understand a text.

Time is dedicated to skill mastery. Learning to use a skill requires extensive guided and independent practice. Insufficient time devoted to learning results in insufficient learning; students must understand the structures of text and the accompanying thinking skills so that independent application and transfer of thinking skills to other areas of learning can occur. Developing such understanding, such automaticity, requires time. Foundations & Frameworks units devote adequate time and provide adequate practice for students to truly master each comprehension skill.

High quality literature is used as a natural conduit for skill instruction. Great literature captures a reader’s imagination and motivates further reading. Foundations & Frameworks uses real, complete works of children’s literature to engage students and provide adequate material for in-depth comprehension. The literature is clustered according to readability and is used for comprehension skill instruction. For example, a book with cliff-hanging events may be used to teach and practice understanding plot, whereas a book with great character development may be used to study and practice character or comparison/contrast. Small group interaction is a daily practice.

Small groups enable teachers to know their students and adjust instruction to meet the needs of individuals. Small groups also provide an opportunity for students to further develop their understanding of text through thoughtful discussion with the teacher and with others reading the same text. The small groups structure also gives teachers the flexibility to group students for re-teaching, reviewing, or for providing additional, individualized guided practice. While small group sessions take place, other students in the classroom prepare for their small group session by reading, adding entries to SPECS Logs, and completing practice with vocabulary words. SPECS Logs (SPace for Extending Comprehension Skills) are specially designed notebooks that foster student comprehension of text by providing space for the development of visual tools.

Visual tools are used to organize and represent patterns of thinking. Visual tools are graphic tools used to organize and connect information from a text. Because they represent the thinking process that has been explicitly taught and modeled, visual tools foster the thinking necessary to comprehend a text. With an associated visual tool for each skill, Foundations & Frameworks equips students to think effectively in reading and in every other area of learning. For example, a flow chart used in the study of sequence of events provides an image of the process – sequence looks like a chain of boxes arranged in order. This understanding helps students understand the sequence of history, the sequence of the scientific process, the sequence of steps involved in long division, the sequence of throwing a ball correctly, and much more content in every area. Vocabulary instruction emphasizes complete word understanding.

Vocabulary instruction must emphasize complete word understanding to be effective. Definitional, contextual and conceptual word understanding leads to ownership, allowing the student to not only comprehend new words, but to use them effectively in speaking and writing. Foundations & Frameworks emphasizes all three areas of word understanding through individual, small group, and whole class instruction and activities. Frequent feedback from teachers enables students to refine their understanding of words and promotes intentional and accurate word usage.

If students can learn thought processes that enable them to consider an author’s intended message at the deepest levels, they will be equipped to understand ideas not only within text addressed in reading but in other content areas as well. Therefore students exposed to deep learning in the Foundations & Frameworks instructional reading program would be equipped to transfer understanding to mathematics, science, and social studies classes, among others.

*SMCA is a certified Foundation and Frameworks school. Our teachers are required to participate in a two-week training to be certified as Foundations and Frameworks instructors. This program was implemented in 2016 in the fifth grade. The results from the program far exceeded our expectations and the love of reading has been once again been instilled in our students.

Information obtained from Dr. Kevin Washburn and Briarwood Christian School.